13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at 2.30 p.m.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that cheap dangerous, unbranded electrical apparatus is being imported? In view of its dangerous nature, what power has the Department of Trade and Customs to prevent its importation?
– Under the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act the marking of imported goods can be made mandatory. About four months ago, under amended regulations, action was taken to enforce the marking of nil imported electrical fittings, the particulars to include wattage and voltage, from the 1st February next. It is necessary to give six months notice of such action.
– Those who are connected with the electrical trade believe that that is not sufficient. “Will the Minister see that all imported electrical appliances are subjected to a prescribed insulation test, so that the dangers that arise from the use of faulty apparatus may be obviated, and its importation prevented?
– I realize that the use of faulty electrical fittings may be dangerous. If the new regulations are not adequate, I shall be glad if the honorable member will furnish me with suggestions for their improvement.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral state whether the sites of the proposed new automatic telephone exchanges are to be in the larger country towns, or in the smaller rural centres which are now working on manual exchanges ?
– It is intended to place 30 of these exchanges in smaller centres, where the subscribers to an exchange number 40 or 50.
Quota on Imports Into The United States of America.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs official knowledge in confirmation of to-day’s press report that the quota arrangements made by the
United States of America with respect to imports of alcoholic beverages following the repeal of the prohibition law, being based on the percentages imported from different countries prior to the enforcement of prohibition, will exclude Australian wines and other alcoholic beverages, of which at that time there were no exports to America from Australia? If that be the case, will the honorable gentleman urge the Cabinet to represent to the Government of the United States of America the unfairness of excluding imports from Australia, in view of its unfavorable trade balance with America?
– I have no official information on the matter referred to by the honorable member, but I shall see whether Australia’s trade with the United States of America in wines and other alcoholic beverages may be increased.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is correct, as the Sydney Labor Daily affirms, that the Government has been forced by the Lang group in this House to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act; or is that merely another characteristic statement of this journalistic Tom Pepper ?
– I have to accept responsibility for many things, but thank goodness they do not include the statements published by the Sydney Labor Daily.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral yet able to make a statement concerning the application to Newcastle of the proposed reductions of telephone rates ?
– I shall obtain the information in the course of the day, and advise the honorable member by letter.
– Should a State refuse to participate in the proposed dairy produce’ marketing scheme, will the prescribed authorities administering that scheme have power to issue licences covering the export of butter to that State and fixing the price of it, even though the local production may be sufficient for the requirements of the State?
– The bill provides that, even though a State may not participate in this legislation, its terms will apply to individual traders within that State. It will also be possible for dairy products to be transported into dissenting States so long, of course, as the traders transporting such goods conform to the requirements of the federal law.
– In the event of a sales tax being imposed upon flour,, and being followed by an automatic rise in the price of bread and other wheaten commodities, will the Prime Minister take action to have a simultaneous adjustment of the basic wage? If he cannotdo that, at this stage, will he see that when the adjustment is made it will be retrospective to the date of the operation of the new law?
– No one knows better than the honorable member himself that the Government has no power to carry out his suggestion. He knows that if the cost of living rises, or any special circumstances arise, the workers through their organizations are free to make application to an industrial tribunal to deal with those circumstances. Even had the Government power to do as the honorable member suggests, it would take no action whatever to interfere with any arbitration court.
– In view of the claim that the flour tax proposals of the Government will result in an increase of the price of bread to the public, will the Prime Minister consider the appointment of a price-fixing commission to inquire into the price of bread? If the Constitution will not permit of such action, will the right honorable gentleman seek the co-operation of the various States to safeguard the public against any rise in the price of bread?
– I have previously reminded the honorable member that the proposals of the Government will have less effect in raising the price of bread than would the proposals of his own party, were they given effect. This Government has no power whatever to deal with an increase in the price of bread. As this legislation will operate only for about seven months, it would be utterly impossible to obtain the authority of the State Parliaments or of the people generally to carry out the honorable member’s suggestion in sufficient time.
– The flour tax must operate unjustly upon the poorer sections of the community.
– I remind the honorable member that the policy of his party,, which is to fix a payable price for wheat grown in Australia, could not be given effect without increasing the price of bread to the consumers.
– In order to prevent an increase of the price of bread and other foodstuffs, unless such increase is proved to be justified, will the Prime Minister ask the State Governments to transfer their powers of price fixation to this Parliament as provided for under placitum. 37 of section 51 of the Constitution?
– I understand that the New South Wales Government has held an inquiry into this matter, and other States would be free to take such action, within their own -powers, but I wish to make it clear that the Commonwealth Government would do nothing to increase the price of bread unless it ‘was absolutely essential. Honorable members who wish to get more money for the wheat-growers cannot perform a miracle in order to make that possible. If this assistance is to be given, the extra money must come from the Australian community. Therefore, I am hoping and trusting that the trade itself will not take from the people more than is absolutely essential to pass on to the primary ‘ producers the benefit tobe conferred on them by the bill. To pretend to the consumers of bread that we could prevent part of the burden being passed on to them would be only to mislead them. As I pointed out in introducing the bill providing for a flour tax, the Government is merely, passing on to the consumers the cost of one-half of the benefit that will go to the growers. The other half will be contributed this year and next year by those who pay federal taxes.
– Is it not a fact that when Mr. Lang was in office in New South Wales he imposed a flour tax amounting to £2 15s. a ton?
– That is a fact, and it is the only instance in Australia of the imposition of such a tax.
– Does the right honorable gentleman claim that the price of bread increased as the result of that tax?
– The price of bread is up because of it. If that tax were entirely removed to-morrow, the price of bread in New South Wales would be reduced.
– In view of the decision of the Adelaide Master Bakers Association to increase the price of bread by1d. per 2-lb. loaf, and as this increase is approximately 25 per cent, more than the amount set down as the tax to be imposed by this Government on the commodity which is used in the making of bread, what action does the Government intend to take to safeguard the public from exploitation as the result of legislation of this character?
– The honorable member has said that the bakers are, apparently, asking for more than they are entitled to as the result of the flour tax, but that remains to be proved. The calculations made particularly by the Treasury and the Department of Commerce indicate that the tax imposed by the Commonwealth will not involve an increase of more than1d. a loaf in the price of bread.
– How will you stop it?
– Honorable members must not interject when replies are being given to questions.
– It has been pointed out already that the Commonwealth Government has no power in regard to this matter. All that the Government is proposing, and all that the Parliament, I hope, will do, is to provide some assistance for the growers and to pass half of it on to the consumers.
– The Government will not allow exploitation?
– Not if we can help it.
– The Prime Minister did not answer the latter part of my question. I asked whether-, as the Government had said that the Constitution would not permit it to set up a price- fixing organization, it would seek the cooperation of the various States for the purpose of safeguarding the public against an unnecessary increase of the price of bread ?
– If the States find that any section is being exploited, they have power to take action in this matter, and the Government proposes to leave that matter in their hands.
– In view of the negotiations which are proceeding between the Defence Department and the Hobart City Council, concerning the removal of the Sandy Bay rifle range, has the Assistant Minister any information to give the House as to the progress that has been made?
– I am pleased to be able to state that it is hoped that before the end of the year the Defence Department will be able to give a definite reply to the Hobart City Council’s proposal.
– Does the Minister for Trade and Customs expect to be in a position before the House rises, to make a statement concerning the outcome of the negotiations with Belgium on the subject of trade embargoes?
– The Government hopes to be able to make a statement on the Belgian situation before the House rises.
Glass - Machines, Machine Tools and Appliances - Cotton
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet received the report of the. Tariff Board on the glass industry? If he has not, will he endeavour to make it available before Parliament goes into recess?
– The report has been received, and a statement on the matter will be made this week.
– With reference to the Tariff Board report presented in October of last year, in which the board recommends that the Minister forthwith obtain a statement in specific terms from interested parties as to the application of the second part of item 176 relating to machines, machine tools and appliances, has the Minister given further consideration to that recommendation and does the Government propose to give effect to it or to disregard it?’ Also is the Minister prepared to make a statement on the matter before the House rises?
– -The Government has already taken action in this matter. It has included in the Customs Tariff 365 items formerly admitted under by-law as articles of machinery and tools of trade in respect of which the duties are now free British and 15 per cent, general. The Government is now drawing up a further list for submission to the Tariff Board to ascertain whether other items should be placed in the same category.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs read the report of the Tariff Board on oregon and does he propose to make the report available to the House before the recess?
– I have read the report, but I have nothing to add to what I told the honorable member last week and during the previous week.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet received the Tariff Board report on the cotton industry, and can he assure the House that some action will be taken to give adequate protection to that industry before the Parliament adjourns?
– Both the cotton-growing and the cotton-spinning industries are well protected. A further inquiry has recently been held into further aspects of the cotton trade to ascertain whether certain items of cotton yarn, which are at present admissible under by-law, should not also be subject to protective duties. The Tariff Board in its inquiry covered the whole range of the cotton-growing and the cottonspinning industries, and its voluminous report of some 81 pages has been received but the Government has not yet had time to consider it. The report involves some questions of policy, but before the House rises I shall make a statement, to the House on the Government’s attitude to the industry.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to an article which appeared on Tuesday last in the Sydney Telegraph inquiring whether any. action has yet been taken respecting the sum of £15,000 included in the Estimates and approved by this House for the exploration of fishing areas on the Australian coast?
– I have noticed the paragraph referred to. At the present time the Estimates are before the Senate and therefore have not yet been finally approved, but I hope before the House rises, to be able to give the honorable member the information that he desires.
– Just before the assembling of the House, my attention was drawn to a statement in the Labor Daily in which I am said to have charged the Customs Department with having made a mistake in respect of the sales tax on cornflour. I wish to state that, so far as I know, I have had no interview with any reporter representing the Labor Daily. On Saturday last, I did have an argument with a pressman, and during that argument he produced a statement which had been given to him, I believe, by the Ministry in which cornflour was mentioned as being exempt with bran and pollard under the flour tax proposals now before the House. That statement was produced to prove that my view was wrong, but it showed nothing of the sort. There is nothing in the bill to prove it. In view of that prepared statement, I did make some remark to the pressman to the effect that the Government had certainly “ backed its barrow.” There was no mention at all of the Customs Department.
– When is the House likely to be informed of the progress made by the royal commission which is now holding an inquiry into the retail prices of oils and petrol, and when will the House be likely to receive the final report of that body?
– I am unable to answer the honorable member’s question, but I shall make inquiries to ascertain the position. Within the last seven or eight days the_ commission has had a sitting in Sydney, and I shall endeavour to obtain information from it forthwith.
– I have received a communication from a blind person in my electorate who points out that . he renewed his listener’s licence only last week, and he desires to know whether he will be entitled to a refund of the licence fee, in view of the announcement by the PostmasterGeneral that the blind were to receive free licences. Does the Minister intend to refund the amounts paid by blind listeners for licence fees since the introduction of the budget?
– I pointed out when the Estimates were under consideration that the issue of free listeners’ licences to the blind would take effect from the 1st January next, consequently nobody is entitled at the present time to any rebate. Some starting point has to be fixed, but I shall give consideration to the request submitted by the honorable member.
– On behalf of the Red Comb Egg Association, I desire to know whether the request of the Australian Egg Council for a subsidy on export eggs is likely to be granted, and whether the necessary legislation is likely to be introduced before the pending recess?
– I have not yet been able to place before Cabinet the request of the egg industry. I do not think that the Egg Council is a party to the application. The request has come from the industry generally, because of the effect of an investigation which is now proceeding in New South Wales, and will have a large bearing on the whole position of egg production and export.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey and read a first time.
– In view of the fact that the reduction of the vote for the Territory of Papua by £4,000 has necessitated a serious restriction of the Public Service of the territory, does the Government intend to make any restoration of the vote so that greater justice may be done to those associated with the administration of the territory?
– Last year the Government reduced the subsidy to Papua from £40,000 to £34,000, but quite recently the £6,000 was restored. I made an announcement to this effect during the discussion of the Estimates, but apparently the honorable member did nothear it.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1933 -
No. 24 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 25 - Commonwealth Foremen’s Association.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1933 -
No. 26 -Real Property.
No. 27 - Leases (No. 2).
Motion (by Mr. Stewart) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for financial assistance to the States in the provision of relief to fruitgrowers.
Bill brought up by Mr. Stewart, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Provision is made in the Estimates for £125,000 to assist the fruit-growers who have experienced difficulty in marketing their crop at reasonable prices, and this bill is designed to give effect to that provision. The amount returnable to the apple-growers of Tasmania has dropped during the last three years from 5s. a bushel case to1s. 8d. a bushel case. This collapse of prices is due to three main causes - record crops in some States; imports of oranges into Great Britain; and good seasons in Great Britain. Distribution of the grant is on the basis of export, this being considered the most equitable method of distribution among the States. Any other method would not return so great a proportion to the Tasmanian growers, who are the people in most need. Details of the amount allocated to each State are set out in the bill. The Apple and Pear Export Council are collaborating with ‘the department in order to improve marketing facilities, eliminate “ plain “ grade, restrict the period for marketing in Great Britain, and effect freight reductions. The result of such collaboration should lead to better prices in the coming season. Arrangements are now being made to allocate freight, &c, for the coming season. A reduction of freight charges would be of tremendous assistance to the industry, as at present they absorb approximately 56 per cent, of the gross returns. The bill is recommended to the House as a measure of assistance to put the industry on its feet for the coming season.
.- I shall not oppose this bill, but I point out to the Government the importance of developing the local market to the fullest extent. Speaking generally, the local market is of very great importance to our primary producers, and if it were fully developed our producers would be relieved to some extent at least from dependence upon the unstable overseas markets, and would not be so dependent upon the Government for assistance. Unfortunately, 300,000 people are still out of employment in Australia, and are unable to buy fruit, although this is a necessary article of diet. If the Government would concentrate its energies upon putting into operation an effective plan for providing work for our people, a wage fund would be established from which primary produce, including apples and pears, could be purchased. “While certain primary producers speak in condemnation of our protectionist policy, the fact remains that, were it not for this policy, the local market would be of very little use to them, for we should find even such common articles of diet as butter, potatoes, and onions coming from other countries into Australia. In these circumstances, I urge the Government to do something practical for the unemployed, and so develop a larger home market for primary produce.
.- Like the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), I also hope that the Government will adopt some method other than that provided in this bill to assist primary producers. I ask why the assistance to be given under this bill is to be limited to apple and pear growers ? Other fruit-growers are also in great need. Grapes are exported these days, and so are oranges and other citrus fruits, and I understand that losses have been incurred in this trade. Section 4 of the bill provides that -
Any money granted to a State under this act shall be so granted upon condition that it is applied by the State for the benefit and assistance of fruit-growers who satisfy on authority nominated in that behalf by the State that they have suffered losses in the export from Australia of applesor pears grown by them during the 1932-33 season.
– Order ! The honorable member has read practically the whole bill, and he must know that that is not proper in the circumstances.
– It is essential that the object of the clause which I have just read should be made clear. I wish to know why the Government is adopting a remarkably different method of assisting the apple and pear growers from that adopted in the case of the wheat-growers ? Under the bill relating to the wheatindustry, which we shall shortly be discussing, provision is made that no assistance shall be given to wheat-growers who had any assessable income last year. Apparently, no restriction of that kind is being imposed under this bill. It appears, therefore, that apple and pear growers who may have substantial income from other sources will not thereby become ineligible for assistance under this measure.
-We are dealing with a “baby” industry.
– If the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) supports clause 4 of this bill, I do not see how he will be able to support consistently an entirely different method of assisting the ‘ wheat-growers. However, I am glad that something is being done to assist export producers, for they are required to pay enormous prices for all locallymanufactured goods which they buy. It appears to me that there is “something wrong in the state of Denmark” to cause the Government to provide assistance for one set of primary producers in one way and for another set of them in an entirely different way.
.- In the first place, I should like to congratulate the Government on making this concession available to the apple and pear exporters of Australia, particularly in view of the fact that last season was so disastrous to them, many having lost 7s. on every case sent overseas. As Tasmania supplies the bulk of the apples and pears exported from Australia, that State, deservedly, is to receive a little more than half of the allocation.
Honorable members should keep in mind that none of this money is to be made available to apple and pear growers who cannot show that they have sustained losses directly attributable to the export of their products. That will exclude a number of growers who could make a just claim for financial assistance as a result of the tremendous slump that has occurred overseas, particularly in the price of apples. I know that it will be claimed that by selling on the home market, they have fared better than those who exported their apples and pears; but I am somewhat in doubt as to whether the Government is wise rigidly to exclude by legislation those growers who have not exported their products.
There is a vital principle involved in this bill. The Government has already expressed its policy in regard to the way in which it proposes to relieve wheatgrowers. It proposes to apply a special form of taxation, and, out of that revenue, to compensate the State of Tasmania to the extent of £7,500 a month. Under its fruit-growers relief proposals, however, a number of States will receive only a negligible assistance out of this allocation of money to relieve apple and pear growers, compared with the amount to be given to Tasmania. The Government is creating a dangerous precedent by providing compensation in the one case and not in the other. Those States which will receive little or no benefit from this assistance will have to contribute towards the special taxation to assist wheat-growers, and they will still have to contribute their quota out of revenue to finance this fruit export bounty, for that is what it amounts to. I think that the Government is making a mistake. I do not find fault with the principle, but I emphasize the fact that this is an export bounty which will be paid after the export of the product has taken place.
I appreciate the difficult position in which the apple and pear growers find themselves, and again direct the attention of the Minister to the fact that the bill definitely excludes every grower who has not suffered directly through having exported apples or pears from Australia.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has suggested that any principle applied in respect of assistance granted to wheatgrowers should apply also in this instance. The Government considers that there is a distinction between the two cases. At the moment honorable members cannot discuss the Wheat-growers Relief Bill, but I think that honorable members will agree that, generally speaking, those who grow apples and pears are, as a class, more specifically confined to the growing of those fruits than are wheat-growers to the growing of wheat. That, from a practical point of view, is a matter which the Government took into account. It also considered that the condition of growers in many fruit-growing districts was so utterly deplorable that there could be no doubt as to the need for assistance. In fact, I am informed that, in some places, growers are not even able to buy cases in which to export their fruit. It should be remembered that if the provisions which apply to the other measure were applied in this instance, there would have to be machinery for declarations, the examination of the declarations and tho determination of the degree of the need of the person involved. The Government considers that, having regard to the smaller amount of money involved and the’ overwhelming general need of those in the industry, in addition to the smaller relative proportion of fruit-growers who have other sources of income, it “was inadvisable to make this bill, which deals with assistance to the extent of £125,000, subject to the provisions which govern another bill dealing with an expenditure of £3,000,000. I assure honorable members that the provisions of the WheatGrowers Relief Bill were necessary, for it was found that a company received as much as £1,400 under the last Wheat Bounty Act, and it is understood that it paid a dividend.
– Not on wheat.
– I admit that. The Government considered that before putting a tax on flour, which increases the price of bread, it was necessary to discourage further subventions of that character.
.- I wish to add my meed of praise to the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) for making this assistance available to the apple and pear-growers of Australia. As I have said previously in this chamber, there is no doubt about the dire straits in which the Australian fruit industry has been in during the last two years, and that through no fault of the growers. It was estimated that, in Tasmania alone, the loss on last year’s export of apples and pears was at least £300,000. Since the Commonwealth Government has established the precedent of coming to the help of other industries it is only proper and just that it’ should help this industry in the same way. There comes a time when a government should use its revenues to the general advantage of producers and consumers. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) has referred to the assistance given to wheat-growers and made it appear that this legislation will confer a benefit on Tasmanian fruit-growers at the expense of the wheat-growers of Australia. For many years the fruit-growers of Tasmania have contributed to the revenue of the Commonwealth in order to assist the wheat-growers. As the Attorney-General pointed out, fruitgrowers cannot easily change over from fruit-growing to other pursuits; in that respect they are at a disadvantage compared with wheat-growers.
– Order !
– I find difficulty in dissociating the fruit-growing and wheat-growing industries. Long before the apples are picked an orchardist must requisition for space on the vessels trading to the other side of the world, and has to pay for that space whether he fills it or not. Many fruit-growers are in difficulties to-day from that cause. I regret that I cannot refer to the wheat industry in the discussion of this bill, but tomorrow I hope to do so, and I shall then quote facts which I think will convince honorable members of the need of the fruit-growers for assistance. The Government agreed to assist the growers of apples and pears only after, a thorough investigation by Mr. Murphy, of the Department of Commerce, whose report emphasized the importance of the fruitgrowing industry as an employer of labour. I am grateful for the assistance proposed to be given to the fruit-growers, and would be glad if the Government could see its way to do more for them.
.- I compliment the Government on the introduction of this bill. The granting of assistance to the apple and pear-growers is in accord with the accepted principle of government assistance to industries, but in giving that assistance this bill differs from another measure which, however, I may not discuss now. The fruit-growing industry, like other export industries, is of great benefit to the whole of the people of Australia, and, now that it is in difficulties, it should be assisted. The following letter which I have received from an apple-grower in Bridgetown, Western Australia, who also grows tobacco and keeps a few sheep, shows the losses which fruit-growers incur in sending fruit abroad : -
I am enclosing an account sales for 100 cases apples, one case being lost in transit. You will see I get a debit balance of £56s. 3d., oven with £5 4s.1d. exchange, and as this fruit cost me 4s. per case to put on rails Bridgetown, it shows that I am at a dead loss on 100 casus of a little over £25. Everybody who handles our fruit gets their full charges and expenses, and the producer, for all his outlay and work, gets nothing.
There are hundreds of growers getting returns like this, and it puts our industry in a very bad way. It simply means we must cut down our production, as the man who produces most is hit the hardest. Fruitgrowers have been trying to get strawboards for fruit packing in free, but cannot do so. We could save 12s. Gd. per 1,000 by getting imported cardboards. Shipping freights are too high-^48. 2d. per case - whereas they used to be 2s.~3d.
Accompanying his letter is the account sales from the agent showing a debit balance of £5 6s. 3d. on the transaction. The fruit-growing industry is a big employer of labour, and on that ground alone is deserving of every consideration. In my opinion, we have adopted a wrong policy in regard to our export industries. The burdens placed on them have made it exceedingly difficult for them to compete in the markets of the world. The pinch is felt most when prices fall. I do not regard this assistance as a dole paid to the fruit-growers by the taxpayers of Australia, but as a partial return to them of money which they have contributed in the past for the benefit of the community generally. The expenditure proposed in this bill will be a wise investment by the community in order to maintain a valuable export industry. Even though the price of fruit during the last year or two has been so low that the fruit-growers themselves have not made any profits, Australia has benefited by reason of the credit which the export of fruit has created abroad. I differentiate between export industries, and those which, as it were, take in one another’s washing, or cut one another’s hair. It is the responsibility of this Parliament to do all in its power to reduce the unnecessary burdens which this primary industry and others are at p resent carrying. Had the apple and pear-growers been able to carry on their industry without numerous unnecessary restrictions the Government would not have been asked to assist them in the manner proposed.
– I join with other honorable members in congratulating the Government upon the introduction of this bill. Several bills are now awaiting consideration .by the Parliament designed to assist the wheat-growing, dairying and dried fruits industries, and I am pleased to know that the fruit-growers have not been overlooked. I rose more particularly to ask the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) to pay particular attention to the requirements of South Aus tralian growers in the matter of shipping space. Last year the South Australian growers found that, when vessels carrying apples and pears to the overseas markets reached South Australia, most of the space had been allotted to Victorian and Tasmanian shippers. In these circumstances, there was tremendous waste and loss, as the fruit was left on their hands. I trust that there will not he a recurrence of the difficulty next shipping season, and that the Department of Commerce will ensure that the interests of the South Australian growers are properly safeguarded. According to the bill only £5,258 out of a total appropriation of £125,000 is to be allocated to South Australia, and I should like to ask the Minister if some mistake has not been made. In view of the number of exporters in South Australia engaged in the trade the “amount appears to be altogether inadequate.
.- I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this measure, which I trust will receive the unanimous support of the House, because, like other honorable members of the Country party, I consider that the apple and pear-growers are as much in need, of relief as are the growers of wheat. I know of no other industry in which, in proportion to the total returns, the exporting expenses are heavier than they are in connexion with the apple and pear export industry. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) quoted a typical case of a grower whose expenses were in excess of the total returns on his shipment. In this industry, the cost of cases, ocean freight, marine insurance, commission and advertising, amount to approximately 7s. a case, and, in some instances, the return on each case is less than that amount. The growers actually gave away their product and were then presented with a bill to cover shipping and other expenses. The extraordinary slump in prices which occurred last. year was owing largely to the fact that, although the British market can absorb only about 4,000,000 cases at remunerative prices, approximately 6,000,000 cases were shipped to the British market from Australia. The market was, therefore,- oversupplied by 50 per cent. Moreover, there would have been a better opportunity to dispose of the surplus had the industry the benefit of an export control board. Some years ago, legislation was passed in this Parliament to take a poll of the growers in the various States in connexion with the appointment of an export control board, and if a majority of the growers had favoured its appointment a board would have been appointed. Unfortunately, the growers of southern Tasmania failed to respond when the poll was taken, with the result that the requisite number of growers in favour of the proposal was not obtained, aud the legislation remained inoperative. I believe that if a poll of the growers were taken to-day a substantial majority would favour the appointment of such a board which would be responsible for the method of distributing the exportable surplus. The Dried Fruits Export Control Board has achieved satisfactory results on behalf of those engaged in the industry, and if a similar board were appointed to control the exports of apples and pears it would be to the advantage of the growers.
Reference has been made to the principle embodied in clause 4 of the bill under which all exporters of apples and pears who have incurred losses are to receive assistance. I do not say that that is wrong. If the principle incorporated in this bill is right, and I believe it is, the method proposed to be adopted in connexion with rendering assistance to wheat-growers must be wrong. On the other hand, if the principle under which the wheat-growers are to be .assisted is right, that embodied in this measure must be wrong. The principles are entirely different, and cannot both be right. I sympathize with the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) in his effort to show the House that there is a real and definite distinction between the primary producers mentioned in this bill and other primary producers. The case made out by the right honorable gentleman was hardly worthy of his outstanding talents, and I attribute his inability to convince those who find a difference between the procedure set out in clause 4 of this bill and the provisions of another measure to the hopelessness of the case which he was endeavouring to expound.
I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this measure, and I trust that the relief which it affords will be of assistance to the apple and pear growers. I find no fault with the proposed allocation of such a large percentage to Tasmania, because I realize .that the quantity of apples and pears exported from that State is greater than that from any other exporting State, and the growers in Tasmania have had a particularly bad time during the last twelve months. I express the hope that the Government will give the growers in all States another opportunity to say whether they are in favour of the appointment of a board to control the export of their produce.
.- This bill serves to show that the apple and pear industry, in common with other export industries, has experienced a deplorable time during the past few years. It also emphasizes the fact that, despite the handicaps to which the growers have been subjected, they have maintained their production, thus enabling Australia to accumulate funds with which to meet her commitments abroad, and to rehabilitate her credit overseas. The apple and pear industry has experienced two exceptionally bad years. In my own district, the apple crop during the year before last, was practically negligible, but this year the growers have had somewhat better luck which was offset by the poor prices realized. I am glad that the Government has seen fit to endeavour, in some small degree, to recoup their losses. The industry is worthy of every possible assistance. Proportionately to its size, it is one of the biggest employers of labour in Australia. Further, our apples and pears are admittedly the best in the world, and consequently there should be some means of extending our markets for them abroad. If export prices are unprofitable to the growers, there is a grave danger that these fruits may become unobtainable in some of our overseas markets, and that would be disastrous to our- future trade. Any assistance which can be given to the exporters of apples and pears, therefore, should be forthcoming. There is also need to consider the bringing into being of a board which, in co-operation with existing advisory bodies, will regulate exports from Australia, and so prevent ‘the .glutting of overseas markets and the collapse of prices. I heartily congratulate the Government on the assistance to the apple and pear industry which is contained in the bill.
. -The Minister for Commerce ‘(Mr. Stewart) stated that this bill is necessary to meet the situation which has been created by reason of the low prices of apples and peats on the overseas market. He also affirmed that conditions had arisen in this country, apparently partly due to low consumption on the part -of our own people, which were responsible for a glut of ‘these fruits, so that if the growers were to be kept upon their blocks, it was imperative that some assistance should he forthcoming. From my viewpoint this ^assistance involves acknowledgment of social conditions which &. fairly lar-gc number of our primary .producers have (hitherto (refused to recognize. There has al ways been a disposition on the part of ‘some to disregard entirely the necessity for .building up a home market for their products. In their struggle to maintain low-wage conditions in Australia -quite a number of them >have lent their aid to <a ‘policy which has brought about the difficulties that mow .surround them. Some of them have, not only advo, Bal,ea low-wage conditions at home, but also -the establishment of similar conditions abroad. Surely, it must be clear to them to-day £hat if wages are low, the purchasing power of the workers is necessarily diminished, ‘-and this circumstance must react .to the injury of the fruitgrowing industry itself. The root of the trouble through which we are (passing -is, -therefore, the lack of purchasing power, lay -our own people. If they lack employment, or -have only partial employment, obviously they are not in a position to purchase the commodities “which otherwise would be the case, and as a result, the fruit-growing industry, in common with other industries, must -be adversely affected. If *he crisis we ‘are ‘experiencing does nothing more than impress this idea upon the minds of our primary producers, we shall mot have suffered in vain, -because, in future, those producers will realize that *he payment of ‘higher wages -creates a -home market for our primary industries, particularly so in the case of the fruit-growing industry. I hope that they will he influenced to take this view of the matter instead of the view which they have hitherto adopted.
The fall in the prices -of our products overseas is also due mainly .to the financial inability of the people of Britain to purchase them. In that country, hundreds of thousands are absolutely dependent upon the Government for -sustenance. Whether fruit forms a portion of that sustenance I cannot say, -but I do not think that it does. Consequently, -the overseas .market is affected in precisely the same, way as is the Australian market. The necessity has, therefore, arisen for the granting of a subsidy on export to retain our apple and pear-growers upon their holdings. I am not opposed to the assistance to them for which -provision is made iti this hill. I realize that they are ion a parlous .plight, just as are the industrial workers throughout Australia. But I hope that the conditions which are at present being experienced by all sections of the community, will lead -our fruitgrowers to a better realization -of the objective for which the Labour party has consistently fought. If the conditions of the lower-paid workers .are improved, if they are placed upon a nigher level, obviously, that improvement must be reflected in all industries; and that has
Deen the policy of the Labour party ever since its entry into -the political -arena. The trade agreements, particularly the Ottawa agreement, into which we have entered, and w”hich -may be said to he apart from this Hil, “but which may .still he regarded .-as having some connexion with the maintenance of world’s parity prices at levels in keeping with the cost of production, have evidently not borrie the fruit that was expected of them. We were told that if w.e reduced duties on British manufactures, Britain would reciprocate so that we should obtain an ever-expanding share of the British market for our primary produce. We reduced “the duties, but the increased overseas market has not materialized. Our secondary industries have suffered, while our primary industries have not benefited. In fact, -they, .too, have suffered because our secondary industries cannot now provide so much employment as before, the spending power of the workers has been reduced, and even the home market for primary products has weakened. Australia has lost both ways, and that is what wo complain of.
Clause 4 of the bill provides that assistance is to be applied by the State, and that some authority is to be set up to govern the distribution of the money. The Minister should inform honorable members how this authority is to be constituted.
– It will be appointed by the State.
– The Commonwealth is providing the money, and we are entitled to know how the controlling authority is to be constituted. When there was in power in New South Wales a government of which the Commonwealth Government did not approve, the Commonwealth Government was most careful, in the distribution of any moneys in that State, to control the manner in which it was expended. If this control were necessary then, why the change now ?
– This is another industry which, for the first time, has asked for government help. Up to the present, those engaged in it have always been able to look after themselves, and they are independent enough to think that, after this season they will be able to do so again. Notwithstanding what was said by the- honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) 68 per cent, of the apples grown in Australia are in normal seasons consumed in Australia, but this season was unusual. Instead of there being an exportable surplus of 1,330,000 bushel cases, there was, because of an extraordinarily heavy crop, an exportable surplus of more than 4,000,000 cases. This, added to an unusually good crop in New Zealand, made a total of 6,000,000 cases for the British market. That in itself caused a glut, but the position was made worse by the fact that the season, for soft fruits in Britain was six weeks earlier than usual, and these fruits crowded the market to the exclusion of our apples and “ pears. Owing to the deplorable lack of organization in the industry, it was not possible to divert our fruit, which had been consigned to
London, to a more favorable market on the Continent. When apples were selling for 4s. a case in London, they were fetching 14s. a case in Hamburg. In 1927, un act was passed permitting the fruit exporters to organize their industry, but the growers of southern Tasmania refused to join in the scheme, with the result that no effective control was established. The growers had to ship their fruit overseas in the best way that presented itself, and had to take what’ shipping space was available. On one occasion last season, the Victorian growers chartered a ship, but, not being experts in such matters, failed to specify the route by which the ship should travel. The ship-owners took advantage of this, and sent the vessel round the long way via the Cape of Good Hope, with the result that three full ship-loads of fruit arrived in London in the one week. The market was glutted, and prices fell. One capable and experienced grower, who is a personal friend of mine, had to send £700 overseas after his fruit to pay expenses. If the industry were properly organized, that sort of thing should not occur. The Apple and Pear Export Council, at a meeting in Sydney a few weeks ago, decided that the growers should cease the production of uneconomical varieties of pears and apples. In Victoria alone, 101 varieties of apples, and 84 varieties of pears, were exported last year, though only five or six varieties normally fetch satisfactory prices on the London market. There is practically no demand for the others except, perhaps, in drought years. Of course, it takes time for orchardists to switch over from one variety of tree to another, but it will have to be done if the export market is to be catered for. I believe that most of the growers are sensible men, and are prepared to go to this trouble. Apple and pear growers cannot turn their properties to the production of something else when prices fall. As a rule, once a man becomes an orchardist, he remains one throughout h.i.s lifetime. That is one reason why I support the granting of this assistance to the growers. Once a grower has planted his orchard, he becomes responsible, under State law, for spraying the trees and keeping them free from disease, and this must be done whether the season be good or bad. I trust that, before next season’s crop is sent overseas, some system of control will be established in connexion with shipping, and the destination to which fruit is sent, so that the growers will have a chance of securing a reasonably satisfactory return for their labour. The fruit-growers’ troubles are due noi to the world depression, but to one or two unusual circumstances. As I have explained, there was an unusually large crop this year, and heavy supplies of soft fruits .came on the market six weeks earlier than usual. The orchardists appreciate what the Government has done in the way of reducing the sales tax and primage, thus enabling them to lower working costs and costs of production. I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this bill, but I hope that it will be necessary for one season only.
.- I appreciate the action of the Governmentin coining to the assistance of the apple and pear-growers, and I join with other honorable members who have spoken, in expressing the hope that it will not be long before growers are again able to carry on at a profit. I note that the assistance is to be given only to those who have suffered losses in connexion with the export trade. I should like the Minister to consider the case of growers who have suffered a total loss of crop from disease, hailstorms, or other causes. I do not suggest that those who have made partial losses should be assisted, but I contend that growers who have suffered a total loss from any of the causes mentioned should receive consideration. I, therefore, hope that the Minister will embody in the bill some provision to meet their case.
.- In another measure which we shall be discussing later, the Government proposes to grant financial assistance under certain conditions to those engaged in one branch of primary industry. If seems to mo that if the principle contained in this bill is right, namely, that assistance is to be given only to those fruit-growers who have suffered losses in the export trade during the 1932-33 season, the principle involved in another measure to be submitted must be wrong. But I submit that the principle in both proposals is wrong. If a section of primary producers who suffer losses in certain directions are to be subsidized, notwithstanding that a large proportion of those engaged in it have, in past years, made sufficient money to make good the losses suffered last year, I am not sure that what has been said by other honorable members in criticism of this bill may not justify their opposition to another bill which will be discussed later in the afternoon.
– Only 4 per cent, of the primary producers pay income taxation.
– I am not concerned with that aspect of the position of the farmers ; I am concerned with any proposal to make good losses sustained by primary producers, because I hold that this country cannot afford indefinitely to come to their aid. If the principle is sound, then every storekeeper throughout the country who made trading losses last year would be equally entitled to ask the Government for assistance.
– Other sections of the community get relief through the tariff.
– That is always the cry of the honorable member. He secured election to this Parliament by exaggerating the position of the industry which he claims to represent, at the expense of other primary industries.
– Is the honorable member eli all en gi ug the Government’s proposals ?
– I claim the right to speak on behalf of the consumers. Shortly we shall have before us a bill to give relief to 60,000 individual farmers. I represent 70,000 householders. Members of the Country party have one object in view, namely, to get from the Government financial assistance for unpayable rural industries, and, in many cases, inefficient farmers and orchardists. They all know that, in past distributions of subsidies, wealthy primary producers have secured more than their fair share, due to the manner in which their case was presented. I have studied the methods of these honorable members during the last few years. The honorable memberfor Calare (Mr. Thorby) took advantage of his position in the New South Wales Parliament to secure concessions for primary producers by threatening that, if they were not given, he would withdraw support from the Government and force it to go to the country within 24 hours. The trouble with the apple and pear industry is that it has not adapted itself to changing conditions. If the organization controlling it were effective, it should he able to ensure for growers a reasonable price for their products, because the consuming public often has to pay high, prices for fruit. The other day in Canberra, I paid from 2§d. to 3d. each for Granny Smith apples. So ineffective is the organization that last season it allowed 4,000,000 cases of. export apples to be placed on the London market at practically the same time.
– That quantity was exported, not at the one time, but over the whole season.
– The honorable member for Bendigo said that the reason for the present position was the flooding of the market. Honorable members know that there is no organization in this particular industry. Surely there are in it men with sufficient business knowledge to establish an organization that would make provision for fair and. reasonable marketing condition? that would avoid gluts and prevent calamitous reductions of price. Generally speaking, the appearance ‘of inferior ‘ fruit on the Sydney market, which is a very good one,’ is due to the failure of growers to adapt scientific methods of production. A grower of citrus, fruits, with whom I am acquainted is able/ to dispose of his crop only by offering it for sale in the suburbs, of Sydney. Fifteen years ago, I advised him to plant a. better class qf orange if he wished to keep, his orchard. The good class, of apple is so expensive, as to, i>e beyond the. reach of the large middle-class consuming public,, while the inferior class of apple m arise ted is hardly worth buying
M.r. Thorby.- This bill refers to the very ‘ best apple that Australia has produced.,
– I want the Government and-, the people of Australia to realize thai this Parliament cannot be expected to. recoup all. the losses, that are roadie by prima??-)? producers. Nearly every primary industry is appealing for assistance from the Government. One primary industry was given a bounty of £3,500,000 two years ago, and of £.2,0.0,0,0.00 last. year, and it is asking for £3,000,000 thisyear. Other methods will have to be adopted. Matters of this sort should be considered on non-party lines, and the Government should disregard the threat of political reprisals by a party that may hold the balance of power. In all Parliaments, including those of the States, this “ balance of power “ party exerts its influence almost for immoral purposes, so as to extract money from governments to recoup losses made by . primary industries.
– On a point of order, I take exception to the statement of the honorable member for Barton (Mr.’, Lane) that the party to which I belong is an immoral party. Our morals’ stand on a much higher plane than his.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Barton referred to any party in this House, but if he did he was distinctly out of order.
– I think that I made it clear that I was referring to State Parliaments as well as to the Commonwealth Parliament. I know, of course, that the honorable member for * Calare (Mr. Thorby) was at one time a member of a State Parliament. X did not rise to order when the honorable member made a reflection on me.
-Order !’ The honorable member must discuss the bill.
– I am. making this protest on behalf of the consumers of fruit throughout Australia. If the principle which underlies the bill is affirmed, every other industry and every individual who. is helping to develop Australia will be- entitled to he, recouped losses. Honorable members know that all primaryindustries in New South Wales, arecatered for by the Farmers Relief Act.
Br. EARLE Page.: - That does; not apply in Victoria and Tasmania.
– In New South Wales this industry will benefit, not only from this bounty-
– Only to an amount of £8,000.
– I am dealing, with the principle which is involved.. Under the Farmers Relief Act in- New South. Wales, advances may be made to. fruit-growers, at an interest rate as low as 2f per cent.,. and the Government’s claim Las priority over the claims of all other creditors.
– Order ! Does the honorable gentleman intend to obey the ruling of the Chair that he must discuss the bill? If he does not, I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.
– I am endeavouring to show that this bounty should not be paid, because fruit-growers in New South Wales receive other concessions. Am I not entitled to do that?
– The ‘ honorable gentleman is -not discussing the bill as he should.
– I submit, sir-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will resume his seat.
.-I cannot allow to pass unchallenged the assertion of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) that this bill is part of a plan that has been adopted by different governments to play off the interests of primary producers against those of other sections of the community. I regard that as a misrepresentation of this class of legislation. I am afraid that another section of the House adopts a similar attitude towards the protection of manufacturing industries. My colleagues and I strive to hold the balance fairly between all sections, whether they be primary producers, manufacturers, or wageearners. Rightly or wrongly - rightly, in my opinion - Parliament has made provision for the protection of the earnings and the earning capacity of all those sections. There is a tariff wall for the protection of the Australian manufacturer against the competition of goods that are produced by sweated labour in other countries. So far as is practicable, but not to the extent that I should like and I hope for improvement in the future, similar provision is made for wage-earner3. Therefore, we are in duty bound to take like action with respect to primary industries. It is lamentable that measures of this character always arouse the sectional argument of city versus country, of manufacturer versus primary industry, or of working man versus some other interest, from one quarter or another of this House. Some persons would repeal our arbitration laws, on the ground that they serve the sectional interests of the wage-earners.
In my opinion, the fruit-growers are just as much workers as are those who are employed on a daily wage in a factory, and if they require assistance to keep themselves employed and to provide employment for others in the packing, processing, transporting, and marketing of their fruits, it is in the interest of the nation that the National Parliament should furnish that assistance and encourage the export of their product, so that Australia’s credit overseas may be maintained and payment made for ‘its. imports. I agree with the Deputy. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that the interests of fruit-growers and other primary producers would be much better conserved by the strengthening of the purchasing power of the valuable Australian ‘ market. If the tens of thousands of persons who. are now out of work were placed in employment, they would be able to purchase a large proportion of the surplus fruit, and the growers of it would not. then be so greatly dependent as they now are on the vagaries of the overseas market. But until that be done, we must foster both our primary and secondary industries, in order that we may stimulate employment and maintain a better standard of living in Australia. ‘
.- I congratulate the Government upon having made provision for the expenditure of £125,000 in assisting those apple and pear-growers who made losses on the export of their fruit last season. I disagree entirely with the contention of the honora’ble member for Barton (Mr. Lane) concerning the principle that is involved in this legislation. At the present time, the Government appears to be assisting almost every industry; consequently, I fail to see why this hardlabouring section of the community - as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) described it - has not the right to expect some assistance at an unprofitable period of its existence. The honorable member for Barton claimed to speak on behalf of the consumers. In their relations with this industry, the. consumers as a rule have no cause for complaint. I know that in South Australia recently 40-lb. cases of apples were sold at the doors of householders for from 2s. 6d. to 4s. a case. Although not of- the highest class, they were good eatable apples. In these circumstances, it cannot be said that the consumer has been exploited. Honorable members who represent metropolitan electorates in this House should not attack primary industries. I do not think that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) would know the difference either between a Dead Sea apple and a Cleopatra, or between Granny Smith and Clever Mary. I presume that the amount of £5,25S allotted to South Australia has been determined upon an export basis, and, if so, I should like to know whether it is based on the export figures of last year or of a number of previous years, because it seems to me that, taken on the basis of last year, the allotment is hardly fair to South Australia. It will be remembered that last year the apple exporters of that State suffered considerably as compared with the exporters of the other States owing to lack of shipping space at the early part of the season; and when I asked a question in this House on the matter, the Minister replied somewhat tartly that he was not responsible for the efficiency or otherwise of those managing the apple industry in the State. I ask the Minister, if he has not the necessary power, to use his influence, to ensure that South Australia is in the early part of the season allotted the shipping space to which it is fairly entitled.
– The States have to look after themselves in that matter.
– If the apple exporters of the other States insist on asking for more shipping space than they actually require, the South Australian exporters, who have in the past played the game, will be forced to lie as much as the other exporters in respect of their shipping space requirements.
– I express my appreciation of the general chorus of approbation on the part of honorable members in respect of the Government’s action in assisting the apple and peargrowers of Australia, although I am sorry that at least one member of the chorus has been out of tune. The honorable member for -Swan (Mr. Gregory) found fault with the measure because no provision was made in it for assisting tho grape exporters. As a matter of fact, there are a number of other sections of fruitgrowers, such as the growers of paw-paws, passion fruit, and many other fruits, who are not included in this measure. The Government has no evidence of the needs of the grape-growing or other industries to which I have referred. The honorable member also suggested that some provision should be made for the citrus fruit-grower. Perhaps he has forgotten that this Government has made generous provision for the citrus fruit exporters of Australia, and it is probable that they have been treated more generously than the apple and pear growers are likely to be treated under this- measure.
The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) has complained that in the distribution of this money discrimination is to be exercised in favour of those growers who exported most of their crop as against those who exported little and sold the bulk of their crop on the home market. This season the price of apples on the home market has been quite satisfactory, and it is only because of the serious fall of prices in the market of the United Kingdom that it has been found necessary for the Government to assist the growers in the way now proposed. It is only right and fitting that assistance should be given to the appin exporters who suffered severely because of the depressed prices in the United Kingdom.
The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) made reference to the burden imposed on the fruit exporters by reason of the tariff imposts on strawboard and other packing requisites, but I remind him that, so far as the export trade is concerned, full provision is made for drawback and rebate of import duties on wrapping and packing materials.
The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) and also the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) have complained of what they consider to be the inadequate allocation of money to South Australia. As a matter of fact, the allocation was made in strict conformity with the participation of South Australian growers in the export trade of last year.
– Then the figures are based only on one year’s operations?
– That’ is the only year in which the prices on the market of the United Kingdom have been depressed. The honorable member for Angas has suggested that the Minister was in some way responsible for the faulty shipping arrangements last year, which resulted in the loss of export trade to South Australia; but if I were responsible for the restriction of shipping space, I did the apple-growers of that State a mighty good turn, because they received much more remunerative prices on the Australian market than they would have received hud they secured adequate shipping space.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has suggested that the Government might again afford to the Australian apple-growers an opportunity which they had several years ago to vote for the establishment of an export control board. As a matter of fact, the Australian Apple and Pear Export Council which met in Sydney only a few weeks ago, did not, unfortunately^ show any particular enthusiasm for a renewal of that opportunity.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), and also the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), have suggested that the circumstances leading to the necessity for this assistance to the growers had been brought about by the diminishing purchasing power of the community; but the figures do npt support that contention, because, whereas in 1931-32 the consumption of apples in Australia was 4,849,000 cases, and in the year previously 4,451,000 cases, last year the quantity consumed was nearly 6,500,000 cases. Despite that considerable increase of consumption in the home market, prices were reasonably well maintained. An increased consumption of apples to the extent of something like 2,000,000 cases does not suggest a diminishing purchasing power on the part of the people. The cause of the trouble is the increase of production. In 1930-31, the total production was 7,268,000 cases, and in 1931-32 it was 9,500,000 cases, whereas the total production this year was 12,250,000 cases. That increased production accounts for the serious glut in the overseas’ market.
– Will the Minister consider giving assistance to growers whose crops are destroyed by fire or storms?
– I take it that the State authorities, in allocating this money, will take into consideration the circumstances of the recipients.
The honorable member for West Sydney asked what was intended by “ an authority and who was to be the authority referred to in the bill. The authorities will « be set up by the States to which this money is allocated. That arrangement has been made because in the several States authorities are already set up which are quite competent to assess the needs of the producers, both primary and secondary. It would be quite wrong for the Commonwealth Government to attempt to set up an authority of that kind. Quite a number of safeguards have been provided in the bill, some of them making particular reference to the difference between these proposals and those contained in another measure which is still to be considered by this House. It is not intended that any of this money shall find its way into the pockets of growers who do not require assistance, and if this legislation operates unsatisfactorily, the Government will give due consideration to its amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Application of moneys paid to States).
. - During the discussion on the second reading of the bill, various honorable members on this side of the chamber contended that the assistance which it is now proposed to give to the growers has been rendered necessary because of the reduced purchasing power of the community and its consequent inability to purchase fruit to the same extent as it did in normal times. The Minister-for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) tried to refute that contention by quoting figures which showed that the consumption of apples this year had been much greater than in the previous two years. The depression has existed for over three years, and had the Minister quoted figures for three instead of two years, a different position altogether might have been revealed. No one will deny the fact that the purchasing power of the people is nothing like what it was in normal times.
– We are all agreed upon that.
– Another aspect which has to be considered is that this assistance has been -rendered necessary because of the increasing intensity in certain classes of primary production. The increased attention given in recent years to the poultry industry, with the result that the production of eggs has increased, has a bearing upon the lack of purchasing power. Many persons have taken up. poultry farming on a moderate scale for the purpose of augmenting their incomes.
– Once a fruit farm is established, it gives a return from year to year ; but in the case of wheat production, a fresh start has to be made each season. ‘
– An orchard must be regularly cultivated and attended to in many ways, if it is to be kept in a profitable condition. . Many orchards have been reconditioned of late years. During the week-end I met a gentleman who recently took up an orchard, and who was formerly associated with an engineering business at Woolloomooloo. This indicates that numbers of people are being attracted to fruit-growing on account of the general depression in other trades. If the purchasing power of the consumers in Australia were increased by the provision of higher wages, all sections of the primary producers would benefit. Attention’ should first be paid to the importance of developing the home market because of the many difficulties surrounding the export trade at present. All governments, irrespective of their political colour, would do well to realize that the first essential in any scheme of national recovery is to increase the purchasing power of the workers. If this is accomplished, the fruit-growers particularly will derive great benefit.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Application of moneys paid to States).
.- Many growers may have suffered serious losses,but the relief, proposed under this bill will be available only to those growers who can show that they have sustained losses in connexion with the export trade.
Does the Minister intend to help those growers who are in serious financial difficulties, although they may not have exported many apples and pears last year?
– The whole object of the measure is to grant relief to those growers who suffered as a result of the unfavorable export ‘season last year, and a wider distribution than is now proposed could not be made under this bill.
Clause agreed to. :
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 30th November and the 1st December (vide page 5297) on motion by Mr. Casey (vide page 5295).
.- The proposed reductions of income tax were fully discussed during the budget debate. These comprise a 15 per cent, reduction of the rate of tax payable by individuals, a reduction of the company tax from 1s. 4.8d. to1s. in the £1, and a reduction of the special tax on property income from 10 per cent, to 6 per cent. The original proposal in the budget was to reduce the special tax to 5 per cent., but the amount of revenue that will be retained by lowering the rate to 6 per cent, instead of 5 per cent, is to be used for the purpose of helping to provide assistance to wheat-growers. During the budget debate I submitted an amendment, which, if adopted, would have prevented these remissions from being made. It would have resulted in a restoration to the public servants and pensioners who have suffered special reductions under the financial emergency legislation, and provision for the relief of the wheat-growers could have been made from the surplus revenue. That course, I- believe, would have been preferable; but the Government has determined to remit taxes on income, and not wholly to restore to the public servants the wages formerly received by them. Of course, it is not competent” for me to move that these taxation rates be increased, and if, on the other hand, the proposals were rejected no income tax could he collected. I regret that the Government did not restore Public Service salaries and pensions instead of remitting taxes, particularly those on large personal incomes, and the incomes of companies. The utilization of surplus revenue for the assistance of the wheat industry would have been far preferable to the imposition of new taxes, notably that to be placed on flour.
.- I congratulate the Government, in the first place, upon the initial reduction of taxes with which this motion deals. The personal exertion rate is to bo lowered by 15 per cent., and the company -rate by about 30 per cent. I believe that these proposals are an appreciable first step towards the reinstatement of men in employment. The fact that more money will be left in the hands of private individuals will result, I believe, in the provision of extra work, and the reduction of the -tax on income from personal exertion will make more casual jobs available. Many city men who have been in the habit of employing gardeners for two or three days a week have been forced by the depression to retain their services for perhaps only one day in the week, or even to do without such assistance. I am glad that the company tax has been reduced, because joint stock companies, to which are entrusted the investments of thousands of small shareholders, are the backbone of investment in new industries, and of expansion in wellesta’blished enterprises. These companies have experienced difficult times in the last four years. A few months ago, I ascertained from the lists of one of the stock-brokers the actual position of companies registered on the Sydney Stock Exchange. More than half of the companies quoted on that list were showing no profit at all, and hardly one-fourth of them were paying dividends, so small was their profit. Goldsbrough Mort and Company, for instance, is behaving in an exemplary way by using the reserves accumulated in good years for the specific purpose of helping its own client’s by reducing their rates of interest. Though, in some directions, a certain amount of profit is being made, the company is not paying dividends, or only email dividends, hut itf wisely and prudently using practically, every shilling at its disposal to help its clients.
Although I congratulate the Government upon the reductions of taxation now proposed, I greatly regret that the tass on property is not being reduced to 5» per cent., as was promised iu the budget’ speech. The reduction provided in this1’ motion is to 6 per cent. only. The PrimeMinister (Mr. Lyons) has said that the difference, of 1 per cent, will mean the retention of revenue to the amount of £220,000; but unfortunately, there may be other unsatisfactory reactions. Certain business organizations undertook, I understand, that if the taxation on property were reduced to 5 per cent, they would reduce the rate of interest chargeable on loans made by them. The Australian Mutual Provident Society, for instance, has already made arrangements to reduce from 5 per cent, to 4i per cent, its interest charges on money lent on mortgage, which amounts to about £19,000,000. .
– Can the right honorable member mention any other company which has taken similar action?
– I have referred to the action of Goldsbrough, Mort’ Limited, and other companies could be mentioned. I fear, however, that certain other insurance and money-lending companies which were reluctant to give an undertaking to reduce interest rates may use the argument that, as the Government has not reduced the tax on property to 5 per cent, as promised, they are relieved of any obligation to reduce their interest rates. The reduction of interest rates is of paramount importance to Australia, and is of much more importance in country centres than in the cities, for, generally speaking, the overhead due to capital charges on primary undertakings is proportionately greater than that on city business enterprises. Manufacturers and retailers are usually able to get their capital turned over once or more a year, whereas those engaged iri primary production are fortunate if they turn theircapital over once in four years. The reaction of outside interests to this change of policy on the part of the Government is referred to in the following paragraph, which appeared in the Melbourne Argus on Saturday morning: -
Disappointment is felt by life assurance companies and other leading organizations at the announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that the super tax on income from property will be (i per cent. The Ministry announced in the budget that the rate would be reduced from 10 per cent, to 5 per cent., and it was on that assurance, together with Other relief from taxation, that the companies re-arranged their mortgage rates. Some of the companies decided to treat individual cases on their merits, but the Australian Mutual Provident Society publicly announced a reduction to 4J per cent, iu accordance with a promise made several months ago that such action would be taken when the Federal Government relieved life companies from portion of the heavy burden of taxation that they were required to carry.
The final paragraph of the article reads as follows : -
One life company manager, who was reluctant to commit himself to any course of action on the strength of the announcement in the budget, preferring to wait until the promise was translated into law, considers that his caution has been fully justified.
– “Who has made that declaration ?
– The name of the person who expressed that opinion is not given.
– The insurance companies have received concessions of £750,000 apart altogether from the concession in the rate of taxation on income derived from property.
– That is quite true; but I fear that the failure of the Government to fulfil its promise to reduce the rate of tax on property to 6 per cent, may have unfortunate effects. For that reason I intend to move that the rate be reduced to 5 per cent, instead of 6 per cent, as proposed in the motion. I suppose that no impost, except customs duties, has a greater influence in keeping interest rates high than the tax on income derived from property. Some time ago the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) compared the returns from investments in government stocks with private investments subject to this property tax, and showed that private investments needed a return of 6 per cent, to make them of equal value to investments in government stock yielding 4 per cent.
– But the right honorable member knows. very well why the rate of 6 per cent, is stated in the motion.
– I do. The Government has made the difference in order to provide a portion of the money needed to’ assist the wheat-farmers and to make it unnecessary to impose the sales tax on flour for a whole year. It has decided that, instead of imposing a tax of £4 5s. on the whole of the 650,000 tons of flour used in Australia in a year, which would yield, roughly, £2,900,000, it ‘will impose the tax only until the 30th June next, and so obtain from it £1,600,000. In that connexion I submit that the effect of the sales tax on flour in increasing the price of bread is practically identical with that which the international wheat agreement was expected to have in increasing the price of wheat. The wheat agreement was signed by the Government, because it was believed that the effect would be to increase the price of wheat in Australia.
– And that has not occurred.
– That is so, and the Government has adopted this alternative. If the Government would introduce a provision for a sales tax on flour under conditions which would make its removal after the 30th June next contingent, either on an increase of the price of wheat to a figure which would be payable to the producers, or on the introduction of marketing machinery which the Prime Minister says is already in contemplation, and will be brought down early in the New Year, there would be no need to make the rate of tax on property 6 per cent, instead of the promised 5 per cent. The Government has intimated that in order to find money to assist the wheat-growers it will use about £1,000,000 from the accumulated surpluses of the last two years, and make up the balance by imposing a sales tax on flour for a limited period, thereby securing £1,600,000; by increasing the tax on property as against the budget’ proposal, yielding £220,000, and by increasing the import duties on tobacco leaf, thereby securing £130,000. I point out, however, that in the. first five months of this financial year the revenue from- the Trade and Customs Department has exceeded the budget estimate hy £300,000, or £80,000 more than the £220,000 now provided for from the property” tax.
– But surely the right honorable member does not suggest that the increased revenue from the Trade and Customs Department will continue. The November increase is duc to Christmas trade.
– The Government knows from past records how the customs revenue varies from month to month, and has, no doubt, taken into account variations due to Christmas trade. The comparison published a few days ago was for the corresponding periods of this and last year. It is possible that the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has in his possession other taxation returns which show a favorable variation as compared with the budget estimates. If that is so, he should make them available to honorable members. In the circumstances eli at I have outlined, I submit that it is quite unnecessary for the Government to impose a rate of 6 per cent, on property, and that it should carry out its promise to reduce the rate to 5 per cent. Unless this reduction is made the reductions of interest charges promised by commercial enterprises may not be made, and that would be a severe blow to the whole community. The reduction of interest is greatly needed, and I do not know of any way in which taxation could be reduced so advantageously to bring about this end, except by a general reduction of customs duties. If interest rates are reduced, industry will be stimulated and reemployment given to many of our fellow citizens now out of work. For these reasons, I move -
That the word “ six clause 2. he omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ live “.
.- I support the amendment. It would be exceedingly unfortunate in many ways if the. promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in his budget speech to reduce the rate of tax on income derived from property from 10 per cent, to 5 per cent, were not fulfilled.
I hold no brief for the property-owner, as such; but I am extremely concerned about this Parliament doing everything that it can to reduce the rate of interest. I am satisfied that one factor which makes for a difference in interest rates on mortgages, as compared with interest rates of government bonds, is the very great disparity between the taxation levied upon the income from one source as compared with the other.
We have been told that the change of government policy, which will mean an increase of 1 per cent, in the property tax, has been occasioned by the need to provide revenue to assist wheat-growers.
It seems to me that the most logical and reasonable way to obtain revenue to assist wheat-growers is by a sales tax on flour, which does not do injustice to any section of the community.
If, instead of reducing this tax from 10 per cent, to 6 per cent., the Government carried out the policy enunciated in the budget speech, and reduced it to 5 per cent., and if it looked about for a substitute method of obtaining the money desired, the simplest one would be to continue the sales tax on flour for an additional month, to the 31st July, 1934, which would bring in a further £230,000 in revenue - more than sufficient to cover the £220,000 that is needed. That would be the fairest and most logical way of obtaining money to relieve wheat-growers, and I appeal to the Government to give every consideration to the amendment that has been moved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page).
– I was greatly interested in the speech of the leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), and I followed it with what attention I could. He rightly gave praise to certain pastoral companies for the efforts they have made to relieve those persons to whom they had made advances. He might have added that certain companies, in particular the one whose name he mentioned, and which it is not necessary for me to repeat, have also made appreciable reductions in the capital amounts owing to them where the borrowers have been found to he in distress. I think that they warrant all the praise that can be given to them for having acted in this way.
Generally speaking, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has intimated on more than one occasion, when reducing taxation the Government has been actuated by a desire to help industry and to provide employment. However, it has reluctantly had to retract in small measure in respect of the super tax on income derived from property. It is reducing it from 10 per cent, to 6 per cent., instead of from 10 per cent, to & per cent.
I draw the attention of the right honorable member for Cowper to the fact that the relief from taxation that has been given to insurance companies generally -and I am not selecting any one companyunder the three headings under which relief is given, amounts to £800,000, and that the 1 per cent, remission that the Government is withdrawing diminishes that amount by only £18,000. If it will serve to relieve the mind of the right honorable gentleman, I can tell him that the Government has it on the very best authority that the increase from 5 to 6 per cent, in the special property tax will not affect in any way the interestreductions of the Australian Mutual Provident Company. While I think that that company is deserving of praise for its action in this respect, I point out that it is the only insurance company that has made an announcement of its intention to reduce interest.
– We are not concerned only about insurance companies.
– Insurance companies were specifically mentioned by the leader of the Country party. For that reason I have told him that the Government has it on the best of authority that this increase of 1 per cent, will not make any difference, or cause any embarrassment, to the Australian Mutual Provident Compan y. I know nothing of the other, cornpanies; but I cannot imagine that they will suffer embarrassment; because, already, they have enjoyed relief to the extent of many hundreds of thousands of pounds, and, so far as is known by public announcement, they have given no relief to those to whom they have made advances.
As honorable members know the fact that the special property tax is being reduced only to G per cent, will mean that the revenue will benefit to the extent of £200,000 odd over and above that contemplated in the budget. This has been done in an effort to obtain from a source other than bread consumers a certain amount of money to assist towards paying a bounty to wheat-growers. The Government has been actuated by the determination not to let the sales tax on flour operate for a single momentlonger than is absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, the state of the Government’s finances and revenue makes it impossible for the budget to carry the whole of this bounty, and the Government has been compelled, reluctantly, to impose a sales tax on flour. That, however, will operate for the minimum of time, and will be discontinued at the end of the current financial year, or, possibly, before then. The suggestion of “the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) that this imposition should remain in existence for an additional month is one that the Government cannot entertain.
I was also interested in the analysis which the right honorable member for Cowper made of the Government’s financial position. In answer to questions that have been asked, at least once in this chamber during the last week, I stated that the- revenue up to the end of October was in no measure beyond what the Government contemplated when the budget was framed. Admittedly, there has been a certain increase of customs revenue, and, so far, sales tax figures have been quite satisfactory. But I point out, as I have already done before, that remissions of taxation and increased expenditure have not yet begun to reflect themselves in the figures. Up to the present, nothing has justified the Government in assuming that the revenue at the end of the financial year will beappreciably more than was anticipated when the budget was prepared. I also point out once more that an appreciable amount of unanticipated additional expenditure has already been incurred, and I have no doubt that before we finish with the matter of pensions, considerable further expenditure will be authorized. Honorable members of the Country party must get rid of the idea that there is a cornucopia upon which the Government can draw. ‘
In paying a bounty to the wheatgrowers, the Government has had to draw upon whatever source is available - additional taxation, customs duties, and a reasonable amount through the medium of a sales tax on flour. I repeat, however, that the flour tax will operate no longer than the state of the Government’s finances makes absolutely essential.
I was also interested in the reference of the right honorable member for Cowper to the anticipated effect of the international wheat agreement. I took some trouble to follow his argument carefully, and, as I understood him, his proposal was that the Government should make the flour tax dependent in some way upon the price of wheat. The Government has to distribute £3,000,000 to wheat-growers practically at once, and it seeks to recoup itself partly through the medium of the sales tax on flour. If wheat should increase in price, the Government would obtain no benefit, though the wheat-growers might do so. In the circumstances, I cannot see how the right honorable gentleman connects the price of wheat and the sales tax on flour.
– If we have a wheatmarketing scheme, there will be no opportunity to get any money from the home consumption price until after twelve months have passed.
– The right honorable gentleman is talking of the far-distant future, with which we are not concerned at the moment. “We are dealing with the present financial year, which ends in about seven months’ time, and I must pin him down to that period. I have no doubt that any unbiased person will admit that if the Government were to lower the sales tax on flour at any time owing to an increase of the price of wheat, the farmer would not gain and the Government would deny itself an opportunity to recoup the money already paid out by it to the growers.
– The position of our wheat-growers would be improved.
– If the right honorable gentleman suggested that wheat-farmers should hand back any portion of the £3,000,000, his suggestion would have real point, and would be considered by the Government. As it is, I contend that there is nothing constructive in the proposal that has been advanced by him, and submit that the method proposed by the Government should commend itself to every honorable member.
– The only point that I wish to make regarding this matter is that, following the budget speech, many remissions of taxation were made which had no relation to additional taxes imposed under the financial emergency legislation for the purpose of raising revenue. Honorable members of the party to which I belong hold the view that before anything is done to reduce taxation generally, the Government is under an obligation, first, to restore what was taken away under its financial emergency measures. Afterwards, it could quite properly take action to reduce the incidence of taxation. Had the Government acted wisely, -it would notnow find it necessary to impose another form of indirect taxation, the flour tax, upon those who have suffered so severely from its emergency legislation. However, I realize I am not in order in discussing that matter now. That is the only observation I want to make in agreement with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) on that aspect of the question.
Another point that is worthy of mention is that, when dealing with taxation measures generally,many fail to realize that over 50 per cent, of the money raised is used for the purpose of paying interest and exchange. For a long time my colleagues and I have fought strenuously to reduce those charges. It is useless for sections of the community on the one . hand to complain about excessive taxation, and on the other to condemn organizations and individuals whose policy it is to reduce, even by arbitrary measures, these unfair interest and exchange charges. Although the leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) declared this afternoon that such a course was desirable, three years ago he refused to support this party when it endeavoured to effect such a reform, and declared that the financial mechanism of the world was so delicate that chaos would result if it were upset by an arbiratory reduction of exchange and interest. We have apparently passed that stage.
What was condemned then, is now so popular that it has the support even of the Country party. The members of tho party with which I am associated have striven to obtain redress from unjust interest charges, and, if necessary, they are prepared to take arbitrary action to force those responsible to recognize the capacity of this country to meet its commitments. That has been the basis of our actions throughout. We shall continue to expound our .views in. the hope that eventually effect will bc given to them. We believe that the Government has no right to make concessions to persons not directly affected by the financial emergency measures until after restoration has been made to those who suffered from that legislation.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; report adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Archdale Parkhill jio prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Rill brought up by Mr. Casey, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 30th November and the 1st December (vide page’ 5299), on motion by Mr. Stewart -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
– I support the bill, which gives effect to the policy of the Federal Labour party in that it proposes to allow those engaged in a great primary industry to control the marketing of their produce. The Labour party stands for assisting, not only the workers in secondary industries, but also those in rural industries, recognizing that no section of the community is more deserving of assistance than are those engaged in the production of dried fruits. The Scullin Government promised the growers of dried fruits an amendment of the then existing legislation to deal with tree-fruits - principally prunes, apricots, peaches, pears, and nectarines - and had it remained in office that legislation would probably have been passed two years ago. The growers of dried treefruits keenly desire that this legislation shall be placed on the statute-book before Parliament adjourns before Christmas, because the harvesting of apricots will commence towards the end of this month and the gathering of the other fruits a little later. The Governments of Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales - the States mainly concerned with this legislation - have already proclaimed dried tree-fruits as “ dried fruits “ under the acts of the respective States, and have taken steps to declare the maximum quantities of dried tree-fruits which may bo marketed within each of those States during the present season. The proposed interstate control of dried tree-fruits is similar to the system already in operation in respect of dried vine-fruits, and,” therefore, it can be said that this is not a contentious measure. Those who desire to help the dried vino-fruits industry are just as willing to give to those engaged in the production of dried tree-fruits the control of the interstate trade in such fruits. There are now in operation two Commonwealth and four State acts to control the marketing of dried vinefruits - currants, sultanas and lexias. In 1928, the Commonwealth Government first introduced legislation of this kind, and, later, four of the States passed legislation to regulate tho trade within their respective boundaries. Ono Commonwealth act provides for the regulation of the interstate trade in dried fruits, and another for the sale and distribution of dried fruits overseas. The organization of the dried fruits industry is an example to the producers of butter and wheat. The dairy farmers of Australia are waiting for the enactment of legislation similar to that which controls the driedfruits industry; and the wheat-growers, who have experienced bad times for a number of years, want’ an Australian-wide marketing scheme for wheat similar to that which applies to dried fruits. The opponents of the control of industry by governments opposed the introduction of legislation to control the dried-fruits industry on the ground that it was a form of socialism which would increase prices to the consumers, and would be an unwarranted governmental interference with private enterprise. However laudable a theory that might have been, those in control of private industries found a measure of governmental control to be necessary in order to enable them to derive the greatest possible benefit from the local market as a measure of compensation for the losses incurred through selling their products overseas in competition with the products of cheaplabour countries. The fear that the control of this big primary industry by representatives of the industry itself would lead to the exploitation of the consumers, has proved groundless. Those engaged in the industry were not slow to realize that if they raised the prices of their products unduly, sales would be restricted, and they would be no better off; in fact, that they would ‘be worse off. Were it not for the home market, the dried fruits industry would to-day be in the condition in which it was eight or ten years ago, before those engaged in it put their house in order. In those days, many farmers who worked from daylight to dark found that after giving six or eight of the best years of their lives to. the production of dried fruits they had lost everything, and had to start afresh. In these circumstances those engaged in the industry having been compelled to form an Australian-wide organization, induced the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments to pass the necessary legislation to give them control not only over the local marketing of their product, but also over the marketing of the exportable surplus. This enabled them to be recouped sufficiently from the local market to bear any losses incurred on overseas sales of their products. The control of this industry ensures to growers of currants, sultanas, and lexias a fair share of the advantages and disadvantages associated with selling within Australia and overseas. The regulation of sales within Australia as well as overseas is of great importance to the producers. I have received a letter from the secretary of the Prune Packers Association of New South Wales, dated 24th November, 1933, from which I quote the following paragraph -
You will remember that Mr. Parker Moloney, whilst Minister for Commerce in the Scullin Government, promised the dried fruit-growers of this State un amendment of the present act so as to include dried tree-fruits.
I am glad to find that a Nationalist Government is adopting a plank of the Labour party’s platform. That party has always advocated the control of industry in this way in order to give the primary producers the greatest possible return for their labour. Such a policy has been found very beneficial to those engaged in the industry ; and this Government, having been forced to recognize the claims of the growers, has now introduced the necessary legislation to assist them. As similar consideration has been extended to the producers of dried vinefruits, those producing dried tree-fruits should also be assisted.
.- Clause 3 of the bill lays down the procedure to be adopted in connexion with the poll to be taken, and I should like to know if the Minister proposes to amend the clause so as to adopt the principle embodied in the measure covering the dairying industry.
– I propose to amend the clause by striking out. “ a majority of votes” and to insert in lieu thereof “ sixty per centum of the votes “.
– In all legislation passed by this Parliament with respect to dried fruits, or canned fruits, or the products of any other similar industry for which export control has been provided, polls have been decided by a majority, and I do not see why that principle should be departed from in this instance. I understand that the amendment to be moved by the Minister is to provide for a 60 per cent, majority. I think that the bill should be passed in its present form with respect to the bare majority, and the Minister should amend it to enable its provisions to become operative immediately it has been passed by Parliament, and allow the poll to be taken afterwards to determine whether it shall remain operative.
.- I am glad that, after careful consideration, the Government has been able to meet the request of those engaged in the production of dried tree-fruits. The bill embodies the principle of a quota or control of organized production as is common with respect to primary production in many parts of the world. There is very little difference between this proposal and a quota system as exercised in a- number1 of European, countries, including Great Britain, under which- local production, is. protected from, undue competition from other countriesby restricting importations’ to quotas. The- principle embodied’in- this bill is: to. ensure that the local market shall- be sheltered1 from ruthless price cutting- due to a local surplus brought a-bout because no- one- will shoulder the responsibility- of exporting a-t prices lower than- those likely tobe obtained on the- local- market. This bill- embodies the principle of a fixed export quota1 of a certain percentage of each packing company’s pack. The local market is- protected’ from a glut, and’, if the Government and the industry are strong- enough the local’ market cannot be exploited during periods of high export prices. The Australian dried vine-fruits industry has had’ the advantage of this- form- of organization- for a longer period than perhaps any other industry, and I have no hesitation in assuring the House that, under this form of organization, the consumers of currants, raisins and lexias have had a fair deal. During most of the time- the quota system has been in operation world prices for dried vine-fruits have been extremely low, and’ it was only natural that the quota system should have been employed to maintain a payable price for at least the proportion of’ the production of dried’ vine-fruits’ supplied to Australian consumers. During a part of last year world prices were considerably higher than they have been for some years-. There was a shortage in thecrops in other- countries, and the depreciation of the £1 as against sterling gave the Australian producers of driedfruits additional protection* in- certain overseas markets. In those circumstances the export prices of dried’ vine-fruits were greater than those obtainable in the Australian market, but the operation of the quota system prevented the industry from exploiting local consumers, which, under market conditions, would have, been possible,. Moreover, the tariff assistance afforded to the industry by the late Government, which was greater than the. industry sought, or what it considered fair in the interests of the Australian public, has not been used to- force up prices against the Australian consumer to . a level above- those which prevailed under a duty of 3d. perlb under’ “the old tariffs In these;circumstances, honor ablemembers will agree that those1 engaged- in the dried fruits industry have given the Australian consumer a fair deal, and that the industry is worthy of the assistance1 it is ableto obtain- by theenforcement of a quota.
As a general rule this form of control should’ not be imposed upon a minority in an- industry until’ a poll, has been taken to ascertain the wishes- of those engaged in it; but in this instance there has been so much delay in deciding whether this legislation should be proceeded with that I am glad to hear that, the Minister is prepared to grant that request of the industry. I do not like the provision, for a bare majority,, and at a. later stage I intend to move that it be- amended to provide that a proclamation, shall’ be issued’ only if 60 per cent, of those concerned favour that being done.
– I propose, to move an amendment to that effect.
– I disagree, with the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson): who- favours’ a bare- majority. A great deal of legislation! of this description provides for- a- bare, majority which, has. the right to- coerce a. large, number of those concerned. I do; not think that any system of control or compulsory organization of industry can be really effective when a large- number of producers who are opposed, to compulsion are1 controlled by others: It is bad principle to coerce a large. section, of the community and to- deprive them of their rights. History shows- that during” the last 100 years any effort to deprive individuals of their liberties in this- way or in similar ways has been ineffective. Such schemes can be satisfactory only when a large majority favours: the policy adopted’. I was glad to hear the. Minister say that he proposes to’ move an amendment in- the direction I have suggested, and I trust that it will’ be the guiding principle- with respect to- compulsion in other similar industries. As a matter of fact export industries’ have supported control boards by majorities of more than 60 per- cent., although the. legislation under which they were appointed has- provided for a bare majority: Control of the dried: fruit industry has’- never been imposed ona minority of- the growers by a bare, majority, it has been imposed only by a large majority of producers’.. Under- these circumstances, I welcome the assurance of the Minister that this very reasonable saf eguard- will’ be provided-. I have- not the slightest, doubt that much- more- than 60’ per cent, of; the- growers- in- the industry will, at the poll, express themselvesin favour of this- control. I shall, therefore, support the amendment to- provide that the bill shall only remain in forceprovided a- vote of 60- per cent, of thegrowers in the industry has been recorded in its favour. I commend’ the measure’to theHouse,, and hope that it will have a speedy passage through committee.
– I congratulate the Government on having brought forward this bill before the close, of the. session, because I realize- how important, it is- that amending- legislation should- be immediately enacted, to enable the. dried tree-fruit growers- to- market this season’s, fruit under that, legislation.. Thelegislation at present operative: in all. the States in respect of dried, fruits has now been extended; to include,, by proclamation,, dried tree-fruits. I desire strongly to impress upon- the Minister the desirableness of passing- the bill- at the earliest possible, moment,, so that it may apply to this year’s- dried tree-f ruits, because legislation is absolutely necessary to. the. propercontrol of our interstatetrade in conjunction- with our export trade. Under existing State, laws, the various’ States have power, by proclamation, to extend the operation of their Dried Fruits Acts to include any other form of dried fruits. Such proclamations, have been operative for more than twelve months,, yet; no protest has. been, made by the dried tree-fruit growers. Therefore,, the Government would have, been quite justified in passing this legislation definitely- to include within its provisions the dried, tree-fruit growers of Australia, and in bringing’ it into operation, immediately without troubling to- take any poll upon it. Polls of the growers, were taken before the Dried Fruits. Bill was introduced into this Parliament, and before similar legislation was submitted to the
State Parliaments. At those polls the growers approved of the legislation which has been in operation ever since. By proclamation, the provisions of all the Stateacts have been, extended, to- include- as dried fruits-,, dried tree-fruits. Had there been any objection to; that, legislation on the part of the growers,, there would have been some justification for the. Government’ hesitating to bring this measure intooperation’ immediately so as- to- enable it to apply to., this season’s: crop, of fruit. But there has- been- no> such objection’. I am- pleased that the Minister has. intimated his willingness to accept an amendment which will make- it unnecessary to hold back the proclamations, and that he is prepared to take the. poll immediately,, and to- proclaim’ the act within six months.. But 1 protest against the- suggestion’ of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker)1 to alter the measure so as to require a majority of 60 per cent; to approve’ of it before- it can become effective-. Obviously, that course is wrong, because the- dried fruits industry is already operating under this class- of legislation. This’ bill will make legislation uniform- throughout the States. The polls taken previously were taken on the basis that only a. bare majority was. necessary to give effect to the legislation in question.Now the honorable member for Wakefield suggests - that 60 per cent, of the growers in the industry shall be required to approve this bill before its. provisions shall apply to dried tree-fruits. I’ shall strongly oppose any amendment to alter the majority already providedfor in the measure. It is. very well for the Minister to say that the. Government desires a 60 per cent, ‘affirmative vote.. If it has a definite policy on this matter, surely the bill, as introduced, should be indicative of it. In its present form,, the measure provides that a bare majority shall be necessary to bring it into force, and that is the policy by which the Government should stand.. If we alter the bill to. provide for a majority, which must represent 60 per. cent., of the growers, we shall be handing the: industry over to., a minority rule;We shall be accepting the decision of. a: minority because any such provision means that 40 per cent, of the growers’ could prevent the bill from coming into operation at the end of six months. Is it reasonable that 40 per cent, of dried tree fruit-growers should be able to prevent the other growers in the industry from securing the benefits conferred by this legislation? If an affirmative vote of 60 per cent, of the growers is necessary before any form of control can be introduced, the Government will be bound to a, small minority, because 40 per cent, of the growers in any branch of the industry can flout the will of a majority of the growers. Everybody knows that unless this legislation is made operative throughout the length and breadth of Australia, we shall be denying to the dried treefruitgrowers, the same control over their industry as the dried vine-fruit-growers have exercised for many years. Can any honorable member point to any disability which has fallen upon any section of Australia, or any section of the growers, because of the operation of the Dried Fruit Act, which, for many years, has controlled the dried vine-fruits of Australia ? I say, definitely, that they cannot, because there is no such disability. The present act has been of very great benefit to the whole of those engaged in the dried fruits industry. It has enabled . them to build up export lines, and it has placed at the disposal of every dried fruit-grower in Australia a fair share of the home , market, in addition to an export market. In other words, it has stabilized the industry to a very great extent, and I urge that the benefits I have detailed shall be extended to the dried treefruitgrowers. Why insert in the bill a provision that, before it can become operative, it must be approved by 60 per cent, of the dried fruit-growers of Australia? Such a provision is quite unnecessary. If we acknowledged that existing legislation was based upon wrong lines, and had proved injurious in operation, there would be something to be feared from this legislation. But nothing is to be feared from it, and there is urgent necessity that it should be enacted immediately, so that its provisions may apply to this year’s fruit crop. That crop is almost ripe. Drying operations will commence almost immediately, and the fruit will be ready for marketing early in January - long before any poll upon this bill could be taken. In fact contracts have been entered into for the delivery of this year’s dried treefruits. Everything should be done to expedite the passage, of this legislation. In view of its urgency there is no necessity whatever for. a poll of growers.
– The honorable member must realize that the “proposal which he is now discussing is not before the House.
-I am aware of that, Mr. Speaker, but I thought I would be in order in replying to the arguments put forward by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) in connexion with the amendment which he proposes to submit when the bill is in committee. However, I shall not pursue that phase of the subject further. I urge the Minister to proclaim the act at the earliest possible moment. If he has any doubt as to the attitude of the growers, I remind him that meetings held in practically every part of Australia where this class of fruit is produced, and conferences of the various growers’ organizations, have strongly supported the introduction of legislation on the lines of the bill now before the House. I hope that the Minister will stand by the bill.
.- I am a thorough believer in the organization of growers connected with all forms of primary industry, and while I do not say that when producers are so organized they will take advantage of their strength, it is within the memory of all honorable members that, when the dried fruits industry practically controlled the local market, and had no ‘exportable surplus, serious complaints were made by consumers that the organization was nothing but a combine which fixed high prices for the sale of its products. I have no objection whatever to primary producers’ organizations fixing prices in the interests of their members, but I have a clear recollection of that serious accusation being made against the dried fruits industry on the occasion mentioned, and I should be sorry to think that similar complaints might be made in respect of dried tree-fruits following the passage of this bill. As regards the suggested poll of the fruit-growers to determine whether or not the proposals should be accepted, I remind the House that it is extremely probable that agents who, in the past, have handled these products would endeavour to prevent the necessary majority of growers from voting in favour of establishing a pool. This was the experience in connexion with a poll of wheat-growers a year or two ago. I believe that great good will accrue to the growers from effective organization, and I hope the day is not far distant when all forms of primary production in Australia will be organized on lines similar to those obtaining in Denmark where primary producers are now ina position to enjoy the full fruits of their labours.
– I am very pleased to know that the Government’s marketing policy is at last taking shape. The producers of dried tree-fruits, in common with other sections of primary producers, have been having a bad time in recent years. A few years ago, when prices for their produce were below the cost of production, the growers were in a desperate plight, and as a result of numerous conferences steps were taken to bring about a better form of control for the industry. As the result of pressure being brought to bear upon State Governments, legislation was passed through State Parliaments, and has operated with reasonable satisfaction from year to year. But, as happens so often whenever an attempt is made to organize primary producers, certain growers preferred to remain outside the organization, with freedom to do as they liked. Experience in the working of the State laws dealing with that industry has shown that, in order to make all individuals engaged in an industry take their fair share of an organized overseas marketing policy, it is necessary that federal legislation should be introduced to link up with State legislation. In other words, the State laws are ineffective without the consolidating effect of a federal law.
I notice that the bill proposes that a poll . of the growers is to be taken to decide whether or not the act shall be proclaimed.
– That is to be amended in committee.
– I am glad to hear the Minister for Commerce say that. I fail to see the need for a poll at all. The majority of the State governments, which are more closely associated with the growers than this Parliament is, did not consider a poll necessary before introducing State legislation for the organization of the growers. As the direct result of the organization of the dried fruits industry those engaged in it have been for several years in a move prosperous state than any other primary producers. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) voiced a complaint which, he said, was made by consumers at the higher prices charged in the local market by the organization. The honorable member will admit that growers are entitled to at least the cost of production. It is well known to all honorable members that, as regards producers of dried vinefruits, prices received in the local market were, for a reasonably long period, less than prices obtainable overseas; and it is a fact that growers who were not in the organization were the only people who, during that period, did not sell any of their produce on the local market, but took full advantage of the higher prices ruling overseas, by exporting the whole of it. The organization of the growers on the lines now proposed is necessary to require all growers to take their fair share of the export trade. No one can object to that principle in any system of organized marketing. No compulsion will be exerted in respect of any grower, except to see that he takes his fair share of the export trade. I hope that, the bill will be passed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Sitting suspended from 6.17 to 8 p.m.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
– I move -
That sub-clauses (1.) and (2.) be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sub-clause: - “ (1.) If at a poll of growers of the following kinds of dried fruits, namely, prunes apricots, peaches, pears and nectarines, taken in the prescribed manner throughout the Commonwealth within six months after the commencement of this act, less than sixty per centum of the votes are given in favour of the continuance of section two of this act, so far as it relates to those kinds of dried fruits, that section shall cease to have effect in relation to those kinds of dried fruits upon a date to bc fixed by proclamation not being later than one month after the expiration of thu period of six months from the commencement of this act.”
– What would be the effect if that amendment were not agreed to?
– In the bill as it stands it is proposed that the poll shall be a condition precedent to the proclamation. The amendment has been proposed at the request of the industry, so that the act may become operative immediately, and the poll can be held at any time within six months.
.- I move -
That the words “ sixty per centum subclause 1 of the proposed amendment, he omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “a majority “.
I can see no virtue in the provision that there, must be a 60 per cent, majority. This is a democratic agc, and Ave should support the principle of majority rule. This Parliament is not elected on a 60 per cent, majority; if it were, few of .us would be here. I am opposed to placing these difficult conditions upon the industry. I well remember the polls that were held in connexion with the wheat industry, and I recall the influence which was brought to bear on the growers by powerful vested interests to vote against the introduction” of compulsory pools. The more difficult you make it for the growers to decide upon a marketing scheme which shall be binding upon all those in the industry, the more difficult you. make it for them to achieve any measure of effective organization. If the amendment is carried in its present form, even though 59 per cent, of the growers are in favour of a system of organized marketing, they will be powerless to bring it about. If they are able to obtain a majority for such a proposal, they should not be thwarted by an undemocratic provision of this kind.
.- I agree with the principle enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin).
I have no doubt that there will be a majority of well over 60 per cent. It may be even 90 per cent., but there is a principle involved which I regard as of great importance. Polls of this kind have been taken in connexion with the dairying industry, the canned fruits industry, the dried fruits industry, and the wine industry, and in every case a simple majority was regarded as sufficient to decide whether a system of organized marketing should, be adopted. I cannot see why we should depart from that principle in the present instance. A provision for a simple majority will satisfy the Country party.
.- I hope that the Government will not accept the amendment. I can understand why the Leader of . the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) supports the coercion of a minority by the barest possible majority, because that is in line with the fundamental principles of socialism. There is throughout the world to-day widespread chaos in the agricultural industries, due largely to unregulated production and marketing. Great difficulties present themselves in arranging for the disposal of surpluses. The failure of voluntary organization to make possible the proper disposal of surpluses has brought ruin to most of the agricultural industries, and has been one of the most potent causes of the world depression. ‘Russia has solved some of its difficulties by the State taking over both rural and secondary industries. The Russian Government has not concerned itself with the interests of the individual producers, and thus has been able to bring about a measure of co-ordinated production and distribution with a minimum of unemployment; but this has been accomplished only at the expense of inefficiency and the most ruthless tyranny, and the most, drastic coercion of the producers and the workers. In fact, it has resulted in. the complete destruction of private liberty, enterprise, and initiative.
The problem before a government which does not hold those drastic socialistic opinions, is to bring about a system or organization which does not involve the destruction of initiative and private enterprise, and which can achieve its results with a minimum of coercion. It is necessary to achieve the maximum of organization in connexion with marketing, and, if necessary, with production, with the minimum of interference with ordinary economic activities. It is surely a ruthless proceeding to deprive a large minority of the producers of the right to dispose of their produce in their own way - to ruin themselves in their own way, if you like - at’ the dictation of a large minority of the producers of the change is at the expressed desire of GO per cent, of the producers, there is an unanswerable case for the taking of coercive powers in order to bring about the necessary measure of organization. I was surprised to observe such strongsupport for the amendment amongst members of the Country party. I well remember the late member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), who was strongly in favour of a compulsory wheat pool, saying that he considered it reasonable that there should not be coercion of a large section of the wheat-growers at the will of a bare majority. I trust that the Government will not accept the amendment, and that it will receive sufficient support to defeat this proposal. An important principle is involved, and the amendment should be opposed by every one who believes in the maintenance of individual judgment, private enterprise and initiative, in so far as they are compatible with a necessary measure of organization and control of industry.
– I am surprised at the attitude of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) on this matter, particularly in view of the events of the last three years. Of course, it is in keeping with the honorable member’s uncompromising conservatism. No one can deny that most of the primary industries are in a chaotic state, and during the last two years most of them have had to approach the Government for assistance in one form or another. The honorable member for Wakefield has never objected to proposals for the assistance of primary industries by the Government. He is, however, opposed to the introduction of a necessary measure of organization in those industries, and it is that uncompromising attitude of those who think as he does which is largely responsible for the difficulty in which the primary industries find themselves. Such people will not consent to the taking of one reasonable step forward. Every one who takes a reasonable view of the situation, no matter to which party he belongs, must agree that the old, narrow, individualistic system has utterly failed. The primary producers are in their present position largely because their leaders have been too obstinate to agree to those measures of reform which have been proved to be necessary. They have consistently opposed anything in the nature of compulsory pools, even in the face of the demonstrated failure of private pools. They have opposed the organization of industry by government, . and, because they have had their way, practically all branches of primary industry are now, in common with other sections of industry, asking for doles. Yet some honorable members would rather risk the continuance of chaos, and the ruin of those whom they are supposed to represent, than take a short step in the direction of complete organization, greater governmental control, or more collective assistance, because of their almost fanatical hatred of anything that has the slightest semblance of socialism. The whole world has been driven into the position that it occupies to-day by unrestricted, cutthroat competition, and the absence of an organized plan or collective control. Who would have thought five or six years ago that the time could come when governmental aid would be sought by the great primary industries of Australia, which have always taken the greatest pride in their ability to stand on their own feet? That they cannot do so to-day is not their fault; they, in common with all other sections of the community, have been forced into the’ position that they now occupy. Yet a few men, who claim to be the leaders of the primary producers, would prevent a majority from determining what is best in the interests of the whole. If the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) were asked whether he stands for a dictatorship at either end of the social ladder, he would reply that he does not; yet he is opposed to the democratic rule of government by the majority. This Government is doing its best, as the previous Government did, so to organize effort that primary industries may be placed on their feet; yet some of those who pose as the representatives of primary producers would prevent the taking of a step in the direction of what is inevitable. Because they will not progress a step at a time, they risk the ruin of those* whom they represent, or complete change of the economic system in one act. Those who belong to this school of thought do not really know what they want. The people of Australia will not countenance the continued payment of doles to primary producers or any other section who are not prepared to adopt the only methods that will make them selfreliant. If in the face of what has occurred during the last two or three years, the primary producers are not prepared to organize, and to allow the majority to determine whether they shall have scientific marketing, they will have to look elsewhere for assistance. The amendment should be carried.
– The question is whether a mere majority, or 60 per cent, of those concerned, shall be required to bring this legislation into operation. Views have been expressed on both sides. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has assumed that, f as a matter of course, planned governmental control is necessarily the fate of the industries of Australia, and that, because the foundation of such control would be the will of the majority of those concerned, it somehow or other would solve the difficulties under which those industries suffer at the present time.
– I suggest that the other system has failed,’ and that it would he wise to experiment.
– The honorable member alluded to a point that I was about to make; that is, that this is experimental legislation, reluctantly introduced under the pressure of necessity, and not because it is thought that in a clear and open field it is the most efficient and successful system under which industry could operate. The question is, whether or not the vote of one man shall determine the destiny of this industry. Honorable members realize, of course, that it is sought to apply these principles to other and larger industries. The hill represents a compromise between governmental regulation of an industry, and management under the proposed plan by the individuals concerned. It is founded upon the view that the subjection of industry to the detailed control that legislation of this character involves should be approved by a substantial majority. Surely, from a practical point of view, that is a fair consideration to submit to this Parliament. It has to be remembered that this legislation, whatever else is hoped from it - and I hope that it will assist out of its difficulties the industry to which it relates - will not increase the effective demand for the products concerned. It will not add one purchaser to the field, but it will afford an opportunity to organize the marketing of those products, and avoid the flooding of the market. This system of control, whilst it has advantages, is open to serious objection. It cannot be said of such legislation that all the advantages are on one side, and that they can be mathematically demonstrated. It is a matter of weighing the advantages and the disadvantages. It must be remembered that one of the risks of legislation like this is, that the inefficient individual increases his chance of obtaining a return. The introduction of that principle is a serious matter; consequently there is every justification for asking that it shall have the-approval of a substantial majority before it is adopted.
– The bill, as introduced by the right honorable gentleman, provided for a bare majority.
– That is so. I could give the honorable gentleman a reason for that which, I think, would satisfy him. The bill attempts to combine a degree of control under legislation with a recognition of the benefits of private enterprise and the principle that success should be in proportion to efficiency. The Government has considered very carefully the effect that legislation of this character might have upon success and efficiency in industry. Under all pooling systems - this is not one, but it is a step in that p direction - every one receives a dividend, whether he is efficient or not. There may bc advantages which offset that grave disadvantage. The view of the Government, after full consideration, is that, as this legislation, if adopted, will result in the restriction of individual action and the complete control of industry in marketing, the wiser course is to provide that there shall be a substantial majority in favour of it; that so radical a change shall not be brought about by a majority of one vote. It is, of course, impossible to argue the matter mathematically and precisely as between one percentage and another; it has to be regarded broadly. It is believed that there would be a real chance of success if the legislation had the support of a substantial majority, rather than of a bare or possibly a meagre majority. From a practical point of view, it must be recognized that an even division of opinion would make difficult the working of this legislation. It has been represented to the committee and the Government that, in fact, an overwhelming majority of those interested are in favour of this legislation. According to the information in my possession, that is the case. In those circumstances it appears to mc that, among those who desire that this legislation shall be put in operation, there can be no objection to the amendment proposed by the Minister.
.- It is rather strange to hear the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) arguing such a case as he has just made out. The right honorable gentleman said that his conversion had been rapid. It must have been slow to begin, because the Dairy Produce Export Control Act, which was passed by this Parliament so long ago as 1924, provided for the determination of a similar matter by a majority of the votes cast. None of the dreadful ^consequences have ensued which it is now suggested might result from failure to provide for a 60 per cent, affirmative vote. The AttorneyGeneral was not responsible for that particular legislation, but subsequently ho was responsible for the introduction of the original dried fruits legislation which provided for no poll and no majority at all.
– The industry was then practically unanimously in favour of that legislation.
– We might easily assume that the industry to-day is practically unanimously in favour of the proposal now before the committee. That presumably was the Government’s view when this bill was introduced, but now that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has suggested a majority of 60 per cent., for the first time the Government has seen the light and a new principle has been proposed which will effect a drastic alteration in this class of legislation. I know that there is great difficulty i:i explaining legislation of this sort to the producers and that they must ultimately trust their leaders. When the Dairy Produce Control Bill was being introduced into the State House of New South Wales by a great legal luminary,’ a representative of the dairying industry who was present, afterwards told me that the explanation of the bill was no clearer to him than it was to the gentleman who was making it. The producer has no opportunity to obtain expert knowledge of this subject. He rarely sees the full reports in Hansard; full reports are not contained in the press, and, therefore, this is a matter which the Parliament of the Commonwealth should decide, as it did in respect of dried vine fruits and other primary products.
.- The amendment proposed by the Minister, if accepted by the committee, will be hailed with delight by the agents and speculators who will endeavour by specious propaganda to defeat this measure as they defeated previous legislation which provided for the establishment of a wheat pool by a bare majority of the growers of Australia. At that time the Collins-street farmers became active. Men who had not been on the land for years were employed by the wheat agents to travel around the country urging upon the farmers the need to defeat the pooling legislation. “We have listened to-night to ‘the special plea of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), and I have, not previously heard him to greater disadvantage. He said that sheer necessity had forced the Government reluctantly to introduce this legislation. The Ministry is against Government interference with industry, but because of the breakdown of private control, sheer necessity, to use the words of the Attorney-General, has dictated the introduction of this bill. That being so, why is the Government now prepared to accept an amendment which will give 41 per cent, of the voters the right to reject the proposed control ? Surely we stand for majority rule? The bill as originally drawn states -
A proclamation under this section shall not issue unless and until at a poll of growers taken in the prescribed manner throughout the Commonwealth, a majority of votes has been given in favour of the issue of a proclamation.
What is wrong with that provision?
– Does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition want the original provision to Stand?
– -Unless the bill provides for a bare majority, we shall be simply playing into the hands of the agents and speculators who are doing everything in their power to prevent the Government from bringing about complete control by the producers, of the dried fruits industry. The amendment provides that, if. at a poll of the growers less than 60 per, cent, of the votes are recorded in favour of the continuance of section 2 so fax as it related to dried tree fruits, that section shall, cease. The acceptance of the amendment would he a retrogressive step and against the principle of democratic; rule. What better scheme could be. evolved than one that places the control of the industry in the hands of the producers, themselves? By accepting the amendment we shall make it extremely difficult, for the growers to obtain control of their industry ; we. shall most likely place them - at the mercy of their opponents who have unlimited funds with which to employ agents to disseminate specious propaganda, including open letters to the press, signed by “Farmer” and “Father of Ten,” all calculated to defeat the object of this legislationAll the similar measures - the Dairy Produce Export Control Act, the Canned Fruits Export Control Act, and the Wine Overseas Marketing Act, provide for majority rule. Why should 41 per cent, of the voters have the right to deprive the other 59 per cent, of this protecting, legislation? What influence has been brought to bear on the Government sincethe introduction of the original bill? The Dried Fruits Export Control Act of 1928, made no provision at all for a poll, aud I suggest that if the Minister acceptsthe proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) this measure will be passed without further delay.
.- I am surprised and disappointed at the Government’s attempt to alter the bill by providing for a 60 per cent majority instead of a bare majority as originally proposed. Majority rule is an accepted democratic principle of every British community. Every honorable member has been elected to this chamber by virtue of majority rule, every decision of this committee is made on the same principle. Provision is made in every British community and in every organization in it that where the voting is equal the chairman is to have - the casting vote. Yet. honorable members who profess to be democrats are asking that 41 per cent, of thevoters should be allowed to force their views on the other 59 per cent., of thevoters. Such a proposal is too ridiculous for any reasonable honorablemember to support. If this were,, as the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has. suggested, experimental legislation,, we were taking a step in the dark, there might be some justification for hesitation on the part of the Government arid for a proposal that a 60 per cent, affirmative vote should be necessary; but this is not experimental legislation. Manyyears ago acts were passed by the Commonwealth and State Parliaments, providing for the control of the export of dried vine fruit’s* and that legislation which required a bare majority has beenin operation year after- year without any question or suspicion- of anything wrong. The Attorney-General, himself, has’ introduced similar legislation. Is> it credible- that any honorable member would endeavour to force upon the producers of dried tree fruits some system of control that would be injurious to the industry? Is it reasonable to suggest that the State Governments would so act? The object of this legislation is to confer upon the producers of dried tree fruits benefits similar to those which have been enjoyed for quite a number of years by the growers of dried vine-fruits. When the original Dried Fruits Act was introduced by the Commonwealth the State Parliaments, in order to avoid delay in giving effect to it, passed complemetary legislation. I, as Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales at the time, was responsible for the introduction of amending legislation which provided that, by proclamation, the Government of the day could extend the scope of the Dried Fruits Act so as to bring within its operation any form or class of dried fruits produced in any part of New South Wales. That was agreed to free of party considerations. Every party that has held office in this country has contributed towards the dried fruits legislations; in the Commonwealth and State Parliaments the matter has always been dealt with with on non-party lines. This Government is now unprepared to trust to the decision of the majority of the dried fruit-growers of the Commonwealth. A few moments ago the Attorney-General suggested that this was socialistic legislation.
– I did not use the word “ socialistic “.
– I beg the right honorable gentleman’s pardon. He did, however, refer to the scheme as government control, and that is a worse mistake. This bill provides for co-operative control.
– I did not use the expression “government control.”
– I have before me the Attorney-General’s remarks as recorded in Ha,ward when he supported a similar measure on the 11th May, 1928. To-night he referred to the bill as experimental legislation, and said that it was reluctantly introduced under the pressure of necessity, but I challenge him to prove that. The measure must have been brought down for some purpose; if the justification did not exist the bill should not have been intro duced. If the Government desired to assist the dried fruits industry, it was justified in introducing the legislation; if the control of marketing was necessary to make the industry a success, why should the scheme have been introduced reluctantly? The various branches of primary industry in Australia have been brought face to face with serious financial and economic difficulties ; but, collectively, the producers can overcome their troubles if the Government will give them statutory power to manage their own affairs. The AttorneyGeneral asked why the destinies of industries should be determined by the vote of one man; but are not all the decisions of this Parliament reached on the principle of majority rule? Are not members elected to this House by bare majorities? Decisions of much greater importance than that to bc made by the growers of dried tree-fruits are made in this committee by a majority of one vote, and even on the casting vote of the Chairman; yet the AttorneyGeneral has the temerity to suggest that certain fruit-growers cannot decide for themselves by a simple majority whether they desire to control their own industry. Every honorable member, at some time or other, has appealed to the primary producers to increase production in order to keep the country on a sound financial basis. For the sale of increased production we must look to the export markets. If we ask one group of primary producers to send more products overseas, and accept export parity for them, while another section, with the assistance of a few of the financial magnates, captures the bulk of the more remunerative local market, then this bill should be rejected. If, however, honorable members desire all growers of dried tree-fruits to share both the home and export markets, this bill should be’ passed. The State authorities have already extended the benefits of, the principal act to the growers of dried treefruits. We should not mistrust the men who are engaged in this industry; their one ambition is to place it on a sound financial footing. Speaking on the Dried Fruits Export Control Bill in May. 1928, the Attorney-General said -
Tho bill does not represent a farming out of the responsibilities of the Government, but it gives effect to its very definite view that, while in some industries a degree of regulation is necessary, governments as a rule are the worst bodies that could possibly be chosen to exercise that regulation.
The authorities will be appointed under regulations. What csm be made, can be unmade. If the administration of a particular authority should be unsatisfactory, it will he entirely within the power of the Minister by regulation to change the constitution of that authority.
I agree with the Minister that government control is undesirable; but this measure does not provide for that method of supervision. We should hand over the actual business administration of the industry to those who have devoted their energy, brains and money to it from its inception. Surely we can trust the men who established the industry. Let them have the right to introduce the improved system of control, which is considered necessary to exploit the overseas markets, and distribute the burden of the cost of export evenly among all the producers engaged in the industry. What particular merit can there be in a 60 per cent, majority? Why not a 70 per cent, majority? The figure 60 has been selected at random, but substantial reasons can be advanced for allowing a simple majority to decide this issue.
.- In opposing the amendment I disclaim any desire to deny to the growers of dried tree fruits the right to avail themselves of the benefits of this measure. The bill indicates that the Government wishes to give them that opportunity, but the debate has not been centred upon the bill itself. Under the Dairy Produce Export Control Act provision is made for a 60 per cent, majority as in the present bill. Of course, the control contemplated under the present bill is not entirely experimental, because similar legislation has been in operation for some years in regard to the production of currants, sultanas and lexias. Surely, members of the Country party do not suggest that in consequence of the experience gained by the growers of dried vine-fruits, the producers of dried tree-fruits would vote against this measure. I should say that the majority of growers in favour of the bill would be about 80 per cent., so why does the
Country party advocate a bare majority vote ? I heartily endorse the Minister’s proposal to require, a substantial affirmative vote. Such a majority should be obtained before an industry is permitted to participate in any scheme for the control of the marketing of a primary product. I deny that control in the dried vine-fruits industry has proved the great success that has been claimed. I admit that at the present time those growers are enjoying good prices in comparison with those in other industries. This is due, not entirely to the legislation under which the industry operates, but largely to world conditions. In other countries production has declined, and in addition a substantial preference is given to Australian fruits under the Ottawa agreement.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) said that private enterprise had failed, and that it was essential that all primary industries should avail themselves of legislation of this character. I -refute that assertion, and point to the success of the wool industry, which, although it has refrained from adopting any system of control, is the one primary industry which at the present time is enjoying a measure of success.
– The honorable member will admit that other parts of the world cannot produce wool of the same standard as that produced in Australia.
– Australia produces only about 35 per cent, of the world’s output of wool, so that it has no monopoly of the industry.
– Australia has a monopoly of the production of merino wool.
– That is not so. However, these matters are irrelevant. I urge the Minister not to deviate from his expressed intention with regard to this bill.
.- The honorable member for Grey (Mr. McBride) stated that the Country party is endeavouring to create a precedent by asking that the poll shall bc decided by a bare majority instead of 60 per centum nf the growers voting. Actually, the Government and its supporters are trying to create a precedent, for the principle of a bare majority was established many years ago in this Parliament in connexion with the Dairy Produce Export Control Act, the Dried Fruits Export Control Act, the Cauned Fruits Export Control Act, and, more recently concerning a body which more closely affects the honorable member’s State, the Wine Overseas Marketing Act.
– The restrictive provisions of that legislation were entirely different from this bill.
– I do not think so. The powers of the export control acts are very complete, indeed, and make it impossible for any one to export a single pound of the product concerned unless he conforms with the conditions of licence > specified by the Minister after consultation with the board. That differs very little from the provision in this bill, that no grower of dried fruits may send any of his products over the border into another State unless he complies with the terms of the licence. I assure the honorable member for Grey that the only essential difference between the authority exercised in both cases is that the control boards may prevent export while this bill may prevent interstate trade. It has been said that it is unfair to impose regulations of this kind by a bare majority vote. I believe that in a vote of this kind the “ Noes “ invariably start off with a great initial advantage, for the simple reason that any one who fears a change votes “ No “. That is why, in ordinary circumstances, it is almost impossible to get a referendum carried. The immense natural advantage to the “ Noes “ is, I submit, a sufficient safeguard against any hasty change being made.
The claim of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) that this is experimental legislation has been discounted by the honorable member for Grey, who admits that it has been tried for a number of years. It was first introduced in 192S to deal with interstate trade, and has proved a great success. The right honorable gentleman also said that a great principle is involved. Admittedly that is so, but, tho only principle worthy of the name is that of majority rule. The remarkable thing about the new principle which the Attorney-General has enunciated is that it was discovered only after the bill was printed, for originally the Government had provided for a bare majority. Honorable members of the Country party merely ask that the Government should adhere to the original provision for a bare majority.
– Does the honorable member want the bill as it was originally framed ?
– All we ask is . that the poll shall be decided by a majority of votes as was originally intended. We agree with the Government’s proposal that control shall begin before the poll is taken, and that the poll shall confirm what has been done. I submit that it is but logical that the poll shall be decided by a bare majority, for, if the amendment of the Government were carried. 41 persons could prevail over 60.
– I do not wish to enter into the discussion concerning the relative merits of private enterprise and governmental control of industry, or socialization, as it has been termed. That is not the subject before the committee. The bill does not propose to socialize the industry, but merely to give to the growers an opportunity to control it.
All my past political training prompts me to vote for the poll- to be decided by a bare majority. That is a fair attitude, considering that that has been the action taken in so many other directions. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) indicated that, with pools, the reward to the inefficient was equal to that which went to the efficient. The experience of the dried fruits industry has proved that , contention to be incorrect, for the system of growers’ control has brought about a decided improvement in the industry; the Australian sultanas that were produced last year being superior to those from most other countries. The right honorable gentleman also forgets that a careful system of grading is used in the dried fruits industry, and that, if a grower is careless, his fruit simply goes to the lower grade, and he suffers accordingly. It’ is to his advantage to do his best ro produce an excellent article. Consequently, the system encourages efficiency.
The Attorney-General said that he was informed that an overwhelming majority of growers are in favour of the Government’s proposals. I am not so sure about that. I represent a district in which there are many growers of dried tree-fruits, and I am not foolish enough to assert positively which way a poll would go, although I believe that an affirmative vote would be recorded. “My chief concern is that full publicity shall be given to tie intention to bake a poll. I know that, when State action was taken in this connexion some time ago, meetings were held and a vote taken without proper advice having been sent to growers.
The Attorney-General seemed to question the wisdom of allowing a bare majority to approve the establishment of a pool, yet the Government is prepared this year to put the scheme into operation without any vote being taken. I do not object to that, because I believe it coincides with the desire of those in the industry. However, if there is a risk in allowing the scheme to be put into operation on a bare majority vote, surely there is even a greater risk in taking that action without any vote being taken. That vitiates the argument employed by the right honorable gentleman. I hope that the hill will be passed, and that a bare majority of growers will be permitted to decide whether they want the scheme or not. also that full publicity will be given to the intention to take a poll.
. -I support the original provision for a bare majority decision, and am surprised at some of the reasons that have been advanced by those who support the Go- vernment’s amendment. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) referred to the disastrous state of our primary industries. I contend that the proposal of the Government would tend to make their position still more difficult, by denying to the growers the very organization that could improve their industry. The honorable gentleman also likened the position of those engaged in the dried fruits industry to that pf the wheat-growers, and referred to the attitude of the previous honorable “ member for Wimmera, Mr. Stewart, towards a wheat pool. There is no stronger advocate for a ‘ compulsory wheat pool than myself, and it is not unreasonable to insist on a ballot of wheat-growers being taken- before a wheat pool is established. But there is a great distinction between a compulsory wheat pool and the organization contemplated by this measure, for under the former the wheat-grower hands his product over to some one else to market, while under this scheme the dried fruits, grower has only to take his specific share of the export trade and is perfectly free to sell his home consumption quota how and where he likes.
The honorable member for Grey (Mr. McBride) spoke about Australia’s great wool industry as an example of the way in which an industry can prosper without organization. He must be well aware that the position of the wool industry is unique, in that the demand for Australian wool is so keen that overseas buyers come to this country to compete for it. There is real competition for our wool among buyers, while on” the other hand, apart from our organized industries, instead of there being competitive buying, there is, unfortunately, competitive selling.
For a number of years State legislation has provided the growers with an organization, so that in the event of a ballot being considered necessary, it would be a matter for the States rather than for the Commonwealth. The weight of argument is in favour of no ballot at all. This bill is merely an extension of the scope of legislation in respect of vine-fruits which has been on the statute-book for years. When that legislation was introduced there was no ballot. “I hope that the committee will support the amendment; and thereby give to the growers an opportunity to organize their industry in the interests, not only of themselves, but also of the- community generally.
– The impassioned utterances of some honorable members to-night would give the impression that the Government was suggesting that this issue should be decided by an affirmative vote of 60 per cent, of, say, the miners at Cessnock, whereas the fact is that the only persons qualified to vote at the poll will be the growers of treefruits. In a matter which interferes with the freedom of the individual, to trade in his own product, the Government considers that there should be more than a simple; majority of growers voting in the affirmative. I wonder whether those honorable members who have so emphatically opposed the Government’s proposal would be prepared to incorporate in this legislation a provision that the power to regulate the trade in dried tree-fruits may be withdrawn at the request of a simple majority.
– The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) said that he had no complaint to make regarding the Government’s proposal that the poll should follow the proclamation rather than precede it; I should have been astonished if he had complained, because the honorable member was one of a deputation which asked me to do what is now proposed.
– I have at least been consistent.
– Legislation to control the dried vine-fruits industry has been in existence for about five years ; and if it has not commended itself to the growers sufficiently to produce an affirmative vote of more than 60 per cent, of the voters on this issue, it has failed. Most of the argument to-night has been based on an assumption that before effect is given to the Government’s proposal there must” be an affirmative vote of 60 per cent, of the persons engaged in the tree-fruits industry. That is not so; what is required is that 60 per cent, of the votes cast shall be in the affirmative.. It is conceivable that that might be less than 50 per cent, of the growers. If only 85 per cent, of the growers voted, a 60 per cent, affirmative vote would represent about 50 per cent, of the total number of growers.
It has been contended to-night that in the legislation to control the export of wine, butter and dried fruits, a precedent for a simple majority has been established. I submit that a different issue was then involved. The various export control acts which have been passed by this Parliament lay down definite conditions under which producers may trade overseas. They must conform to certain standards and conditions imposed by the export control board. In the State legislation which this bill seeks to implement, there is power to put out of production alto gether many producers who are now engaged in the tree-fruits industry. While that might not be true of the measure now before u3, it is definitely true of another measure with which the committee will soon be asked to deal. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. McBride) was not far wrong when he suggested that that argument used tonight in favour of a bare majority was merely a preliminary canter in preparation for a later event. The other measure provides for a more severe form of restriction than that included in the export control acts of which mention has. been made.
– I do not agree with the Minister.
– Does not this bill provide for more restrictions than are provided for in the original dried vine-fruits legislation ?
– It is the same. In connexion with that legislation no vote was taken, and the Government is now correcting the oversight. Before imposing a form of control, the success of which depends on the enthusiastic support of those engaged in the industry, more than 50 per cent, of the votes cast should be in the affirmative” because a 50 per cent vote might represent only about 40 per cent, of the persons affected. .
The Paterson butter plan has been tottering recently because a minority of those who previously subscribed to it have fallen away.
– That is a voluntary scheme.
– Recent happenings in connexion with the scheme emphasize my point that, unless there is enthusiastic support for legislation of this kind, there is danger of the scheme failing to realize its objective. The Government believes that in asking for an affirmative vote of 60 per cent, of the votes cast, it is acting in the best interests of the industry.
.- I shall not delay the committee long, but as several statements of mine in support of the amendment have been criticized, I consider that I should explain them. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) accused me of obstructing a primary industry which needed the power to re-organize its marketing arrangements. I am not opposing, hut supporting, the bill, for I believe that it is a necessary measure which will help those engaged in the production of dried fruits. But I shall support an amendment which, if incorporated in the bill, would help to make more effective the exercise of the powers to be conferred on the industry. The original dried fruits control legislation was introduced in 1924, but because it was resisted by a considerable minority of vine fruit-growers, many years elapsed before it was really effective. Eventually, that legislation received the loyal and keen support of the vast majority of the vine fruit-growers; and now it is almost completely effective. Members who say that this bill is merely an amendment of the original act are using a specious argument. It is true that the principal act applied to some growers of tree-fruits who were also growers of vine-fruits. Particularly did it apply to the producers of dried apricots and dried nectarines on the irrigation areas who were also growers of dried vine-fruits. On the other hand, very few growers of prunes, however, are also growers of currants, sultanas and lexias. This bill is more than an amendment of the principal act, since it extends to prunes and other fruits the organization now in operation in respect of dried vinefruits. Whatever sanction was necessary by way of a poll for the control of dried vine fruit-growers is equally necessary if that control is to be extended to cover a completely new set of growers. I have little doubt that 60 per cent, of the growers of dried fruits will vote for the bill. I shall vote for the amendment, not because I believe that 60 per cent, is a majority which will obstruct the growers, but because it is a sound principle to apply when a drastic curtailment of the liberty of private citizens is contemplated. This is a form of compulsory unionism. For four years the members of the Country party have joined with the United Australia party to support the rights of minorities in the industrial movement, and they should apply the same principle to organizations in rural industries. When co-operation becomes coercion, there is need for more than a bare majority decision. I agree with the Attorney-General that, where opinion is fairly evenly divided, it is most difficult to make an organized system of marketing work effectively. A large number of small producers might easily outvote a smaller number of large producers, in which case it would be almost impossible to have efficient control. And while the control remained inefficient great damage might be done to the industry. For these reasons, and in order to make the organization more effective and stable, I shall support the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the proposed amendment - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - MR. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment upon the amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Clause, as amended agreed to.
Title agreed to. ‘
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 1st December (vide page 5380), on motion by Mr. Latham -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This measure provides for acceptance of the proposals made by the -British Government for the control by the Commonwealth of the Ashmore and Cartier Islands, situated off the north-west coast of Western Australia. In July, 1924, the Western Australian Government requested the Commonwealth Government to ask the British authorities if the Western Australian Government, through the federal authorities, could be given the right to control the islands, more particularly with respect to illicit fishing for beche-de-mer and trochus shell in that locality. At present, neither the Commonwealth Government nor the Western Australian Government has any control over the islands, which were annexed by the British Government some years ago. It was not until 1931 that under an Order in Council, the British Government agreed that they should be taken over by the Commonwealth Government, and until this measure is passed by this Parliament, the Commonwealth cannot exercise any authority. Ashmore and Cartier Islands, which are small in area, are situated 200 miles or more off the north-west coast, and’ are slightly nearer to Timor than they are to Western Australia. A good deal of illicit fishing by Malays for bechedemer, which is a sea slug very much in demand by the Chinese, and trochus shell, has been going on for some time, not only in the vicinity of the islands, but also off the Kimberley coast from Cape Londonderry to Derby. Some years ago, H.M.S. Fantome surveyed a portion of that coast. The Western Australian Government wishes the federal authorities to arrange for control by the State in order to check aliens operating in the vicinity of the Ashmore and Cartier Islands. On one- occasion, a pearler named Clark noticed a small Malayan vessel near Cape Londonderry. While the Malays were absent, he boarded it and seized the log. He went ashore and ordered them back to the ship, after kicking over the pots in which they were treating beche-de-mer, and later submitted a report to the Commonwealth authorities but no action could be taken. It has been found impossible for small vessels to exercise rigid supervision, but now that the Commonwealth Government has power to direct the control of the islands, the Moresby, at present carrying out survey work on the Barrier Reef, should be transferred to the north-west to undertake necessary survey work off the Kimberley coast, and ‘at the same time, patrol the waters in the vicinity of the Ashmore and Cartier Islands. A large portion of the north-west coast is uncharted, and vessels trading between Darwin and Wyndham have to keep outside the Holothuria bank. If the survey steamer Moresby were stationed there, it could survey the northwestern waters, thus enabling vessels to be navigated closer to the coast, and at the same time a vigilant watch on stray Malayan vessels that come there could be maintained. The visits of these vessels are frequent and prolonged, and there is undoubted evidence of the mixture of Malayan and aboriginal blood, all along the coast, just as there is in the Northern Territory, where natives of an entirely different type from our southern aborigines have been evolved - natives similar to those who are giving us so much trouble at Caledon Bay. It is interesting to note what The Australian Pilot has to say about these islands. The Ashmore Islets were formally taken possession of by Great Britain in 1878. A licence had been granted covering the exclusive right to occupy the Ashmore Islets for a term of seven years from 1st July, 1920, for the purpose of “mining for, excavating, removing and exporting from the said islets guano and other fertilizing substances “. West Islet, latitude 12 degrees 13 minutes south, longitude 123 degrees 1 minute east, is about 6 cables or 1,200 yards ‘long and 700 yards broad. It is from 8 feet to 10 feet high. Fresh water canbe ‘obtained “from. a roughlyconstructed well near . the centre of the island. Middle Islet is 3½ miles east of West Islet, . and is ‘composed of sand covered with coarse grass, the top of the island being depressed. It is 400 yards long, 300 yards in ‘breadth, and 9 feet high. East Islet is -3½ miles east of Middle Islet. It is also sandy and grasscovered. It is9 feet high and 400 yards square. Ashmore Reef extends miles west of West Islet, and 5 miles east of East Islet, so that it is 14½ miles in length. Turtles are plentiful in the . season, andbeche-de-mer exists in large quantities. Cartier Islet is (formed of sand and loose coral, and is 4 feet high. ‘This islet was annexed to Great Britain in . 1909. It is about 350 yards long by 25 yards broad. Turtles are numerous, and the reef is 2½ miles in length. I mention these facts to show that, whilst these islets are comparatively small, they possess considerable fish wealth, in addition to guano deposits. In the circumstances, the Minister is acting wisely in asking, Parliament to enact legislation which will vest them absolutely in the Commonwealth. In turn, they will be transferred to the control of the Western Australian Government, which has intimated its preparedness to assume full responsibility for their administration. I support the bill, and I am convinced that honorable members on this side of the chamber will do likewise.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 1st December (vide page 5295) on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill bo now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported* from committee without amendment or debate’-; report . adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Incommittee: Consideration resumed from the 1st December (vide page 5361).
Clauses 9 to 44 agreed to.
Clause 45 -
When any cause or matter has been heard at a sitting of the Supreme ‘Court held at any place, the ‘court may pronounce judgment or give further hearing or consideration to. the cause or matter at a sitting of the court held at another place.
– I move-
That the following words be added to the clause: - “‘being a place at which the court is empowered to sit.”
There has already been some discussion as to the places at which the court shall sit. If the bill is accepted, a proclamation will doubtless be issued empowering the court to sit in Melbourne or Sydney, and under my amendment it will then be a matter for the court to determine whether it shall hear or consider any cause or matter at any particular place.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause as amended agreed to.
Clause 46 -
The Supreme Court or the judge may, at any stage of any suit pending in the court, direct that the trial shall be had or continued at some particular place to be specified in the order, subject to such” conditions (if any) as the court or judge imposes.
Amendment (by Mr. Latham) agreed to.
That after the word “ place “ the following words be inserted: - “being a place at which the court is empowered to sit.”
Clause as amended agreed to.
Clauses 47 to 60. agreed to.
Schedules and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leaue - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third, time.
Debate resumed from the 1st December (vide page 5364), on motion by Mr. Stewart -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill provides for something which the, Federal Labour party, representing the official Opposition in this chamber, has advocated for many years. It marks the consummation of the efforts of the leaders of the dairying industry in Queensland to have introduced legislation to provide for the regulation by machinery, similar to that set up by the Dried Fruits Act, of the transfer of butter and cheese from one State to another. The measure is designed to ensure to all producers of butter and cheese a fair share, aud no more, of the advantages and the disadvantages of both the overseas and the Australian markets. It will prevent that cut-throat competition between States which led to the producers of one State in which prices had declined shipping butter into another State. This competition also led to certain butter factories breaking the price control arrangements by placing the whole of their output on the home market, v and declining to ship any of it overseas. The present haphazard method of marketing has also made, it possible for individual dairymen to manufacture butter on their farms, sell it locally, and thus prevent any arrangement for price- fixation in their particular districts.
The dairy-farmers have rightly claimed that the selling price of butter in Australia should not be dependent upon world parity prices. The Labour party has always held that, in a country which has adopted a protectionist fiscal policy, and in which an arbitration court fixes wages and conditions of labour - even though those conditions are not satisfactory at the present time - the dairyfarmers, and other primary producers, are as much entitled to enjoy an Australian standard of living as are other sections of the community. We have been told by the Minister that the attempts of the farmers to control their industry -by means of the Paterson butter scheme have proved more or less abortive, due largely to the increase of the exportable surplus from 45,000 tons five years ago to 110,000 tons last year. Certain of the factories have also broken away from the arrangement, and have placed more than a fair proportion of their product on the local market, declining to accept the disadvantages of selling overseas. This bill embodies the principle of the Dried Fruits Act, namely, an export quota on a Commonwealth basis, with a home market quota as a necessary corollary.
The bill has, however, some objectionable features. Clause 3, for instance, is as follows: -
If, within six months from the commencement of this Act, it is not proved to the satisfaction of the’ Minister by persons thereto nominated toy the several States that, at polls of producers taken by the several States, at least 60 per centum of the total number of votes has been given in favour of the continued operation of this Act, this Act shall cease to have effect to be fixed toy proclamation, not being later than one month after the expiration of the period of six months from the commencement of this act.
I hope that the amendment carried against the Government on the Dried Fruits Bill will be an indication to it that it is the will of this House that a majority of the producers shall have the power to inaugurate a scheme for the control of their industry.
– An amendment will shortly be circulated which will entirely remodel clause 3.
– The bill further provides that the States shall take polls of the producers within their borders. We know that the South Australian Government was actively hostile to this measure, largely because it was thought to be against the interests of certain alleged co-operative butter factories which were, in fact, co-operative only in name. I understand that recently much of this opposition has been withdrawn, and that the measure will he accepted in South Australia.
– If the bill is passed, will it involve an increase in the local price of butter and cheese? .
– Those who speak for the dairying industry say that it will not, but even if there is a small increase, I hold the opinion that the workers in the dairying industry are as much entitled to the benefits of an Australian standard of living as are those in other industries. At the present time, the dairy-farmers are at the mercy of merchants, speculators and market riggers, who are exploiting the 600,000 persons who depend on the industry.
– -How can the Commonwealth force this measure on South. Australia?
– I believe that the dairyfarmers of South Australia will realize that the scheme is for their good, and that they will agree to come under it. The honorable member will recall that the grape-growers in Western Australia were at first opposed to the Dried Fruits Export Control Act, but that later they accepted the system of control for which it provided. Similarly, many of the dairy farmers of South Australia, who at first opposed the present scheme, are now among its staunchest advocates. I object to the polls being taken by the State Governments. As this is federal legislation tho Commonwealth Government should take responsibility for polls of dairy-farmers throughout Australia. so .as to avoid the possibility of manipulation of voting by vested interests which are opposed to this legislation. This scheme has not emanated from the proprietary butter companies, but from the dairyfarmers themselves through their representatives on co-operative pools, boards and dairy councils, and we may be sure that it will be strongly resisted by those vested interests which have always opposed any proposals for the benefit of dairy-farmers.
– Why would not the honorable member trust a State Government to take a poll ?
– I should prefer not to trust the State Governments in this matter. The Premier of South Australia (Mr. Butler) is strongly opposed to this proposal, claiming that it will socialize the dairying industry. The poll should be taken by the Commonwealth Government. The dairying industry will abide by the result. I notice that in the definition clause, “ producer “ means “ any person who uses or supplies milk for the manufacture of dairy produce for sale.” I should like to see that definition tightened up, because in its present form it may embrace all kinds of producers and it will increase the chance of success of the specious propaganda that will be employed by vested interests to defeat a poll.
– Would the honorable member accept as a definition of the dairyfarmer a man who makes 10 lb. of butter a week?
– Under the New South Wales act a dairy-farmer who produces 500 lb. of dairy produce a year or 10 lb. a week which he uses for himself, or supplies for sale within a period of twelve months, is deemed to be a producer. The dairymen of that State are satisfied with that definition and if it is incorporated in this measure it will be acceptable to those engaged in the industry. Honorable members on this side have always had a clear-cut policy for the assistance of primary industries. It is set out in plank 11 of the Labour party’s platform, thus: - “Australianwide co-operative pools for the marketing and financing of farm products.” As a member of the Federal Parliament in 1924, I strongly supported the requests then made by the Australian Dairy Council for legislation having for its object the purpose to be effected by this bill. On that occasion a deputation waited on the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), but unfortunately it was not successful. I admit that the price of butter then was higher than it is now, but the principle was the same. Although the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) held the portfolio of Treasurer in that composite Ministry of Nationalist and Country party members, he found it impossible to put into operation the policy then supported by the Australian dairymen. The Daily Mail, Brisbane, of the 5 th August, 1924, reported the Labour Premier of Queensland as stating -
Owing to my brief stay in Melbourne, I was unable to see Mr. Bruce, but I discussed the matter with Dr. Earle Page. Dr. Page stated that the Commonwealth Government had considered the request of the Interstate Dairying Conference, but the Government had seen formidable difficulties in the way of giving legislative effect to the proposals, ‘ and regarded any scheme which necessitated a regulation of market prices as impracticable. I also discussed the scheme with the Premiers of Victoria and South Australia, who were in Melbourne at the time, with a view to considering joint action of the latter States acting independently of the Commonwealth Government. Both Premiers were willing to assist in any co-operative proposal calculated to secure stabilization of the home markets and better methods of export.
I am glad to know that the Leader of the Country party is now supporting this measure. No doubt he will point out that the position of the dairy-farmers is much more serious to-day than it was in 1924; yet the principle of government control of marketing is the same today as it was then. The Labour party has always held that the dairyman is deserving of the same consideration as is given to factory-workers, and employees in the cane-fields, the shearing industry, or any other industrial occupation. All that he is asking for from the community is a fair return for his labour. A glance at the returns of dairy-farmers for the last twelve months will show that they have been shockingly overworked and underpaid. Because of the huge decline in values 120,000 dairy-farmers throughout the Commonwealth, for some time now, “have been receiving less than £100 per annum for their labour, without taking into account the return on capital invested. No one will contend that £2 a week is a reasonable return for the work which the dairy-farmers and their wives and children put into the industry. Of the 184 suppliers to the Australian Chilling and Freezing Company at Aberdeen, in the electorate of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner), 96 receive under £10 a month. A similar position is occupied by 193 of the suppliers to the Clarence River Company, Ulmarra, 139 of the 156 suppliers to the Crookwell factory, 112 of the 136 suppliers to the Bathurst factory, and a large proportion of the suppliers to other factories. It will thus be seen that not only is there no return on capital, but the income is much below the basic wage. A large number of persons who lost their employment in construction works, mines and factories, have taken up dairy-farming in order to have an open-air occupation that would ensure them an ‘honest living and give to them some degree of independence, but owing to the phenomenal slump in world prices they, unfortunately, are unable to carry on, and it is urgently necessary to improve their position. “Why should they be expected to be subject to .the vagaries of the overseas market, and submit to a standard of living comparable with that of countries which employ the cheapest labour? I ask the dairyfarmers to bear in mind that their interests are interwoven with those of the organized workers of Australia, and that they must be prepared to concede to those workers the fair and reasonable return that they expect to receive. Whatever progress their industry has made has been due to organization, and it is only by organization aud the exercise of vigilance that they can hope to have this legislation sympathetically administered.
– Will the effect of it be to raise the price of butter to the workers ?
– I am assured that it will not result in any increase of price at the present time. The fear felt by some persons that Australian dairyfarmers or their representatives cannot be trusted to fix a fair price for local consumption, is dissipated by an examination of the history of such bodies as the Dried Fruits Export Control Board. Had that body abused the privilege extended to it by fixing too high a price, the local consumption of dried fruits would have declined to such an extent that a much larger proportion of the production would have had to be exported at a substantial loss, and the scheme of control would have broken down. I have never found that any body of industrial workers in Australia wanted butter to be produced under coolie labour conditions. The workers stand for a fair return to the dairy-farmer, but ask that they be not exploited by excessive prices. My experience has been that the representatives of the primary producers fix a fair and reasonable price for butter and dried fruits. The dairymen realize that the fixing of a price which would mean the exploitation of the consumers would lead to the removal of the protection against, imports from New Zealand aud the repeal of this proposed legislation, which, as was said in regard to the Dried Fruits Bill, is a slice of socialism.
– Organization in Queensland resulted in a reduction of the price.
– Co-operative marketing means the elimination of middlemen, speculative agents, market riggers, and others who batten on the primary producers. This cutting away of dead wood enables the lowest price to be charged to the consumers and the best return to be made to the primary producers. In Queensland primary products to the value of £18,000,000 are handled annually through pool boards established by a Labour Government, the primary producers thus being saved hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum, and the consumers being able to .obtain their requirements at a more reasonable price than .would otherwise be charged.
I wish to discuss the benefits that are said to accrue from the Ottawa agreement.’ We were told that the almost immediate result of that agreement would be a substantially increased price for butter on the London market, which would benefit the Australian dairyfarmers to the amount of millions of pounds per annum. Instead of increasing, however, the price on the London market has steadily diminished; and the British Government has -attempted to restrict imports from Australia and New Zealand at a time when thousands of returned soldier producers desire to extend and develop the industry. The Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) said, in effect, that it would be advisable for Australia to restrict its exports of butter to Great Britain. The adoption of such a policy would have had disastrous results to Australia. I am pleased that wiser counsels prevailed among the representatives of the Australian dairying industry. I emphasize the point that this panacea of the Government for the economic ills of the dairying industry has been shown to be absolutely useless. While valuable concessions have been made by Australian manufacturers, who have been compelled to share the local market with overseas manufacturers, no equivalent advantage has accrued from the Ottawa agreement to Australian dairy-farmers or any other primary producers, and the Government has now been compelled to take action that should have been taken when it was requested by representatives of the industry in 1924. Had the machinery been in operation since that date, with improvements effected from time -to time as they became obvious to successive governments, the position of the Australian dairying industry would to-day be very much better than it is. The fact must not be overlooked that this industry directly and indirectly provides employment for approximately 600,000 persons. There are 120,000 dairy-farmers engaged in the industry, and the value of Australian butter exports last year was approximately £9,000,000.’ This industry has suffered severely because of the depression, as is shown by the rapid fall in prices. In January, 1929, the price of butter on the London market was 175s. per cwt.; in March, 1929, it was 173s. per cwt. ; in March, 1930, 148s. per cwt. ; in March, 1931, 140s. per cwt. ; in March, 1932, 114s. per cwt. ; in March, 1933, 90s. per cwt. Early this year the price was 63s. per cwt., and to-day it is 72s. per cwt. That price will not enable the great majority of Australian dairy-farmers to make a profit. As a matter of fact, the average dairy-fanner is receiving only £100 per annum for his labour and interest on his capital, and no return for the labour of his wife and children. No one will contend that that is a fair return. Let me inform those honorable members who are- always decrying the value of the local market, that 79 per cent, of the whole of the dairy products of Australia i3 consumed locally, and only 21 per cent, is exported, whereas in the pastoral industry 44 per cent, of products is consumed locally, and 56 per cent, exported, and in the agricultural industry 65 per cent, is consumed locally and 35 per cent, exported. Those figures show the tremendous importance of the local market to the Australian dairy-farmers and other sections of the primary producers. That fact is frequently overlooked by those honorable members who wish to tear down our tariff walls, and so jeopardize the employment of the 500,000 people who are engaged in Australian factories, all of whom are consumers of farm products. .It is only by giving employment to an additional 500,000 people in our factories that we shall be able to build up the Australian market to such an extent as to make us independent of the uncertain overseas markets, in which we have to compete with the products of the cheapest labour countries of the world. These stabilization and equalization schemes would not be possible under a freetrade policy, and it is only by the payment of reasonable prices for dried fruits, butter and other primary produce that the primary producers will be able to carry on. I have suggested certain amendments, first, that the poll shall be decided by a simple majority of the voters in the industry; secondly, that the interpretation of u producer “ might be tightened up on the lines of the interpretation in the New South Wales act, and, thirdly, that the Commonwealth, and not the States, should be responsible for the taking of the poll.
– The honorable member is quoting amendments which have already been circulated.
– I have not seen the amendments. The Minister is resorting to a contemptible action. When I rose to speak he said that certain amendments were being drafted, but he did not disclose the nature of them. If they are in accordance with my suggestions, I welcome them, and hope that they will be agreed, to. If my suggestions are incorporated in the bill it will have my wholehearted support.
– I am glad that the Government has been able to bring down this measure, even though the request for its introduction was received late in the year, and I hope that its passage will be expedited, because much has to be done before it can be put into operation. The dairying industry is in a difficult position, and the Government is anxious to grant to it the assistance provided for in this measure. Dairying is one of our most important industries, and is playing a valuable part in the development of the Commonwealth. To facilitate the passage of this important measure I shall now indicate some of the amendments which the Government will propose. The first amendment is to omit clause 3 with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the following clause: -
Unless at a poll of producers held in the prescribed manner- within six months from the commencement of this act at least sixty per centum of the producers voting at the poll are in favour of the continued operation of thisact, this act shall cease to have effect upon a date to be fixed by proclamation, not being later than one month after the expiration of the period of six months from the commencement of this act.
The clause as originally drafted requires the several States to’ take polls, but the possibility of some of the States which are violently opposed to this legislation - at least one State Premier has indicated his opposition to it - upsetting the scheme by refusing to take a poll has caused the Government to decide that the Commonwealth itself shall conduct the poll.
It is also proposed that at least 60 per cent, of the producers voting shall decide as to the continuance of the operation of the act. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has rightly stated that Queensland introduced the first pooling and marketing legislation, and if he refers to that legislation he will find that for a long time an affirmative vote of 75 per cent, was necessary, that it was subsequently altered to 662/3 per cent., and finally to 60 per cent. The Queensland legislation provides that after it has been in operation for a certain period the organization for the marketing of produce is to continue unless 10 per cent, of the producers ask for a new poll, and if the request is acceded to, a bare majority is to be sufficient to continue the scheme provided that it has been in operation for a certain period. This amendment is on the lines of the State legislation, and I ask honorable ‘ members to accept it. The second amendment provides for an alteration of the definition of “producer,” and the insertion of the following definition is to be proposed: - “ producer “ means any person who during the year ending the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-three, has manufactured and sold at least five hundred pounds by weight of dairy produce, or has supplied to a manufacturer of dairy ‘produce sufficient milk or cream or both to produce at least five hundred pounds in weight of dairy produce.
A dairyman should have no difficulty in convincing the prescribed authority that he is a producer within the meaning of this legislation. A considerable number of dairy-farmers will be exempted by State legislation from the provisions of this bill, and should not have a vote as to whether this measure shall apply to the industry.
– Will those persons be subject to this legislation?
– No. The Commonwealth and State acts will be complementary, and those dairymen who produce less than the prescribed quantity of butter or milk will be exempt fromtheir provisions. The accredited representatives of the dairying industry who are now in Canberra solidly support the two amendments which I have outlined, and I appeal to honorable members to place great reliance upon their opinions.
– What period will elapse after the passing of the act before the poll is taken ?
-Immediately the measure becomes law, the Department of Commerce will set in motion the machinery necessary for the taking of the poll. The act will not come into operation until after the 31st December, 1933, because only those dairymen who produce over 500 lb. of dairy produce this year will have the right to vote. Most of the preparatory work for the taking of the poll can be carried out immediately, and the departmental officers report that they will be ready to take the poll within two months of the 31st December.
– The price of butter is very low, and the passage of the bill should not be delayed.
-r-I am particularly anxious to see it passed expeditiously, and I believe that it will definitely improve the conditions in the industry, upon the success of which several other industries are largely dependent. It is necessary to improve the herds and pastures and the methods of manufacturing butter and cheese; but, before this can be achieved, the work of dairy farming must be made profitable. The industry has experienced very difficult times, owing to drought and disease. In no other activity is the labour so hard and continuous. Holidays are unknown to those engaged in dairying. Any success achieved is “due to the unpaid labour of the farmer’s wife and family.
Since the cessation of the arrangment made by the British Government during the war, many efforts have been made to stabilize and develop this industry. These culminated in two conferences in 1924, which resulted in the passage of the Dairy Produce Export. Control Act, and, later, the Paterson scheme. That act gave a. measure of control of exports, but did not free the Australian market from the price influence of London values. This objective was achieved to some extent by the Paterson scheme, which came into operation in 1926 by means of a voluntary organization. It received the support of many of the farmers in the days when the dairying industry was prosperous, but much of that support has now been with drawn, and the scheme cannot be so successful as it formerly was. Nevertheless, it is a monument to the good work of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), and it . has returned many millions of pounds to the dairy farmers of Australia. . I hope that the present bill will compensate for the loss of support of the Paterson scheme. I should like to discuss many phases of this industry, but I rose mainly to indicate that the bill will ensure to it the help that it has long required. One of the principal provisions in the State measures is that which empowers the respective State Ministers, in conjunction with the proposed boards, to determine the quantities of butter aud cheese which may be sold on the home market. The States, however, are not empowered to regulate the interstate transfer of goods, and the absence of this power makes it impossible for them to ensure that the balance of butter and cheese, over and above that determined for home consumption, shall he exported overseas. To meet this position it is essential that there shall be Commonwealth legislation to prohibit interstate trade in butter and cheese except under licence, tho licence to be granted only on the condition that the licensee shall comply with the export quotas fixed by the Minister for Commerce. The application of export quotas will prevent price cutting on the Australian market, and ensure that producers will take a fair share of the less remunerative markets. It will distribute fairly the money received in both markets, and ensure a better all-round price to the dairy farmers generally. I assure honorable members that the measure, with the amendments which have been foreshadowed, has the definite support of the accredited representatives of the industry here in Canberra. I share their opinion that it will supply a long-felt want.
– I compliment the Government on the introduction of this measure, which marks the final stage of the co-operative organization of the dairying industry. When the bill becomes law, the dairying industry of Australia, which is already world renowned for its organization, and which is, in my opinion, as great an accomplishment in co-operation as is the co-operative dairying system of Denmark, will be, perhaps, the most highly organized industry in the world, and able to compete successfully in the world’s markets. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) commented adversely on the failure of the Bruce-Page Government to bring in legislation of this kind in 1924; but 1 remind him that the circumstances then were entirely different from what they are to-day. There was then no marketing organization in the States, with the exception of Queensland. The legislation which the Bruce-Page Government introduced to control the export of dairy produce was the first of a number of measures to deal with Australia’s export industries. It made possible the Stabilization Committee and the Paterson butter scheme, which was supplemented by a duty of 6d. per lb. on butter from New Zealand. In the years which have intervened, the dairymen of Australia have achieved satisfactory results. Fortunately during the last three years, they have received 2d. or 3d. per lb. more for their ‘butter than the price paid to dairy producers in New Zealand. The legislation which controls exports provides for control of the industry, not by government, but by the producers themselves. That is what is now sought in this legislation. Many of the dairymen of Australia.make only about £10 a mouth from their labour and the use of their herds and equipment, and out of that they have to pay interest on their farms. They will be in an even worse position if steps are not taken to protect them in regard to the export of butter. England is the world’s great market for butter: the condition of that market practically determines the success or otherwise of Australian dairymen. Last year England imported 442,000 tons of butter, 211,000 tons of which came from the northern hemisphere, and 231,000 tons from countries south of the equator. Of the butter imported from northern countries, 131,000 tons came from Denmark; and, of that produced south of the equator, 118,000 tons came from New Zealand and 97,000 tons from Australia. Examining the position more closely, we find that there was an almost continuous supply of butter to the English market from northern countries, whereas the supplies from Australia and New Zealand were not so regular. The effect is shown in the prices obtained. The months of July and August are the peak period in respect of northern hemisphere countries, whereas the peak period for Australian butter is from January to March. In January last, Australian butter sold for 75s. a cwt. in the English market, compared with from 133s. to 158s. a cwt. for Danish butter; while in August, the Danish peak, when Australian butter brought 104s. a cwt., Danish butter realized from 104s. to 112s. a cwt. Australian supplies of butter to the English market, are intermittent; large quantities are dumped there during four or five months of the year, and then for the next four or five months we lose contact with the English buyers, and have to recapture the market when supplies are again available. We must have an organization which will ensure that regular monthly quantities of butter shall be available in the English market, and in order to attain that result, every State must be in a position to determine both the export quota and the home consumption quota. Under that arrangement, all the States will share in proper proportion the proceeds- of both the export and the home market, even if some of them do not contribute their percentage of the export quota.
– Do the British people know when they are buying Australian butter?
– They would be more likely to know what butter they were buying if we could say that a defi-nite quantity would bc placed on the market month by month throughout the year. Australian butter is now being sold in lb. lots, and is clearly labelled in Great Britain as of Australian origin. This legislation will assist to bring Australian butter more prominently before the consumers in England, but to enable that to be done more effectively, State, as well as Commonwealth legislation, is necessary. The States must determine the export quota and the home consumption quota. In order to fix both the home quota and the export quota, some form of interstate control is necessary. The States are unable to pass legislation providing for interstate control, and, therefore, this Parliament, which is the only body competent to do so, is asked to pass legislation complementary to that of the States. I am confident that this measure has the support of honorable members generally, although in regard to some details there may be differences of opinion. Its passing will improve Australia’s position in the London market, and will provide for a better regulation of the industry. The monthly production by the Norco factory, which is the largest in Australia, varied between October and May of last year from 1,200 tons to 2,000 tons, averaging 1,600 tons, but from May to October in the same year it varied from 600 to 1,000 tons, and averaged about 800 tons. It will, therefore, he seen that some system of control is necessary to ensure that a regular quantity is available to supply the British market. At present’, 71,600 tons of butter is held in the United States of America; in November, 1932, the quantity was 29,000 tons, and in November, 1931, it was only 25,000 tons. What will be the position if the American dollar continues to depreciate? It has already depreciated to a sufficient degree to destroy the protective rate of 15s. per cwt. imposed under the Ottawa agreement, and if it continues to depreciate, American producers, who will be in as good a position as Australian butter producers in regard to exchange, will be our active competitors on the London market. That would be a calamity when the price of butter is so low. The present low price in Great Britain gives Australian manufacturers a better opportunity than they have ever had to secure a firm hold on the British market’. Moreover, these low prices are prevalent when producers in Denmark and in the Balkan States find it unprofitable to feed their dairy cows to the same extent as previously, with the result that during a period of five weeks this year there was a drop of approximately 3,000 tons in the quantity of Danish butter marketed in Great Britain, as compared with last year. We should endeavour to increase our exports to Great Britain, while prices are low, and discourage the use of margarine. Australian producers have an opportunity to secure the market which may never occur again, at least for some time; but unless we have a proper organization, we shall not o”btain. the results desired. Those engaged in the dairying industry are mak- ing an irresistible appeal for assistance, and a more opportune time has not presented itself since the industry was first established about 40 years ago. With the development of refrigeration, the dairy-farming became established’ as an exporting industry, and during the last 40 years it has made wonderful ex:pansion. I remember 40 years ago, when the Richmond and Tweed river districts,” which to-day are carrying 150,000 dairy cows and producing butter valued at £4,000,000, were so densely covered with scrub that the sunlight could not penetrate it. ,
– I must ask the right honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill, and not to discuss the dairying industry generally.
– I am giving reasons why we should assist the dairying industry, the development of which has resulted in many hundreds of thousands of acres of virgin scrub being converted into productive pastures. During the depression, it was one of the few industries in Australia in which employment increased. The value of its exports even when prices were steadily decreasing also increased, and it has always been highly organized. There has also been a systematic increase -of the average pro,duction from each cow throughout the whole of Australia; but that has been more marked in some States than in others. As those engaged in the industry believe that they can do even better under a proper system of organization, I trust that the House will give the assistance sought. I intend to support the second reading of the bill ; but, when it is in committee, I shall move certain amendments which, I think, will improve it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fairbairn) adjourned.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Customs Tariff 1933.
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Bill 1933. Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Bill 1933.
Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Bill 1933.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) proposed-
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I have been requested by the Australian Labour Party of South Australia, and. particularly by the Murray Bridge branch of that organization, to join with other honorable members in protesting against the action of the Commonwealth Bank Board in utilizing other than South Australian stone for the construction of a new Commonwealth Bank building in Adelaide. The reason given by the board is that South Australian stone cannot be ‘ obtained in sizes sufficiently large for the work required ; but building stone of the best quality can be obtained in almost any size. A choice could be made from the different classes of stone equal to the best available in Australia, and it is a poor compliment to South Australian products if the Commonwealth Bank Board secures from another State stone to build new premises in Adelaide. I ask the Government to request the board to recognize the claims of South’ Australia, which produces excellent building stone of any size required. On behalf of the organization which I represent I protest against the proposed action of the board, and trust that the Government will endeavour to influence it in the direction suggested.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) understands, of course, that the Commonwealth Works Department is acting under instructions from the Commonwealth Bank Board as to the stone to be used in constructing new premises for the board in Adelaide. The information available is that there would be difficulty in maintaining supplies of South Australian stone of the size required for the work. This is not a matter in respect of which the Government has any power; but if the Government were to lay down the principle that work in a particular State must be carried out with material produced in that State, there would be repercussions of a rather difficult nature. This Parliament is expected to deal with matters which come under its control upon a national basis. I am sure that the honorable member will recognize that there would bo some difficulty, for example, in the Federal Government’s preventing the use, in other States, of coal from New South Wales. Thereis rather an important principleinvolved here. I can only say that the matter to which the honorable member has referred is under the control of thebank board. A report of what has been* said previously on this subject in Parliament has been already forwarded to the board, which is, therefore, fully advised regarding the position.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.15 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t. - On the 30th November, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked me the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers are -
Common wealthoil Refineries Limited.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Can he inform the House of the reason for Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited (jointly owned by the Government) debiting such a high percentage (nearly 17 per cent.) for depreciation, in their last balance-sheet?
s. - The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited advises that the amount charged for depreciation represents approximately 8 per cent, on the capital expenditure.
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t. - Inquiries are being made, and the information will be made available as soon as possible, in reply to questions asked, upon notice, by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), in regard to maize prices in Australia and other countries. “Wheat-growers : Income Taxpayers.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Loans Raised in Australia.
– On the 1st December, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson), asked the following question, upon notice : -
What is the total amount of new loan money raised in Australia by the Loan Council since the 30th June, 1929, for all purposes, including that raised for State Governments?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is £118,435,268.
Army Medicalcorps : Flag Presented by King Edward VII.
s. - On the 30th November, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Jennings) asked if arrangements could be made for the King’s Colour, which was presented by His Majesty King Edward VII. to the Australian Army Medical Corps in recognition of service in South Africa, to be displayed at stated periods in Sydney and Canberra. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the display of the Colour at alternating centres is intended.
e. - On the 1st December, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked the following question, *upon notice: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 December 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19331204_reps_13_143/>.