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 11 a.m.
The following paper was presented : -
Public Service Act - TenthReport on the Commonwealth Public Serviceby the Board of Commissioners, dated 20th November, 1933.
– The Assistant Minister for Defence has stated that a comprehensive policy has been formulated dealing with the manner in which the appropriation for civil aviation shall be expended; but in another place, the Minister for Defence has stated that no such policy has been evolved. Will the Assistant Minister give an explanation of that divergence of opinion?
-The statement of the Minister for Defence, and that which I made, are not at variance. My statement was that a definite policy had been arrived at, while the Minister for Defence merely indicated that the details of that policy had not yet been worked out. Evidently the so-called Air Convention, which apparently has advised the honorable gentleman, is anxious to split straws.
– In view of the statement of the Assistant Minister for Defence that the Government has now agreed upon a civil aviation policy, will the honorable gentleman say definitely whether the amount to be spent on civil aviation is to be determined by negotiation or by public tender, and whether preference will be given to Australians engaged in aviation?
-That question has already been answered on a previous occasion, and I have nothing to add to what I have already said.
– Is it the intention of the Government to hold an inquiry into the wheat industry, particularly in regard to the relation of the price of bread to that of wheat and flour, by royal commission or otherwise?
– The suggestion will receive consideration.
– Has the Assistant Treasurer received any representations to the effect that, if the date upon which the sales tax on flour operates is adopted, certain consignments of flour may be taxed as on sale from millers, and also as stocks held by bakers? If such representations have been received, has the honorable gentleman considered them, and is he able to inform the trade generally as to what arrangement may be made to obviate dual taxation?
– I rise to a point of order. As the matter raised by the honorable member’s question is covered by the provisions of a bill which will shortly be the subject of debate in this House, I submit that it is not in order.
– I submit that I am in order in asking a question on a point of administration that is of urgent interest to persons engaged in trade that will be affected by proposed legislation, who are under the liability to keep records and to make provision to paytax retrospectively on the assumption that it will be agreed to by Parliament. In such circumstances, it clearly would be unreasonable to declare the question out of order on the ground that a bill dealing with this point and other points will be debated at some time during the remainder of this session.
– The question asked by the honorable member for Wakefield is in order. The point is covered by Standing Order No. 92.
– When the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) rose, I was about to reply that the matter raised by the question of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) might more appropriately be considered when the Flour Tax Assessment Bill was under consideration. At the proper time, the Government will submit several amendments of that measure.
– I have received a wire asking whether poultry-farmers will be required to pay the flour tax on ground wheat used for feed. If ground wheat is to be subject to this tax, can it not be exempted from it, in the interests of poultry-farmers, whose condition is as bad as that of the wheat-growers?
– I direct the attention of the honorable member to the reply that I have just made, but I may add that amendments will be moved by the Government dealing with the matter raised by the honorable member.
– Did the Government, during its deliberations on the proposed sales tax on flour, take into consideration the fact that five years ago, the prices of wheat and flour were twice as much as they are to-day although the retail price of bread has remained practically the same? If so, will the Prime Minister make available to honorable members the results of any inquiries that were instituted by the Government at that time, and will the Prime Minister take action to see that the price of bread is reduced in proportion to the reduction of the prices of wheat and flour?
– This is a further question that can be better dealt with when the bill is in the committee stage, but I assure the honorable member that the Government has devoted a good deal of time to an investigation of the whole of the circumstances. Of course, we recognize that although the price of wheat is low compared with what it was a few years ago, the price of bread has not been reduced to any great extent, but we have not been able to satisfy ourselves that the fall in the price of wheat has been sufficient to justify a reduction of the price of bread.
– In the event of certain retrospective provisions of the law relat ing to the sales tax on flour being declared invalid, and in view of the fact that increases in the price of bread will have already been paid by the public, will the Prime Minister inform me whether provision will be made for refunds of such payments to the public?
– This question, like earlier questions that have been asked on the same subject, may best be discussed when the bill is under consideration.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether a paragraph which appears in to-day’s press correctly states that a rebate will be granted on flour consumed in the Northern Territory? If so, does not the right honorable gentleman think it proper that such information should first be conveyed to an honorable member of this House who has asked a question on the subject, as I did several days ago? Are not all honorable members entitled to information of this kind at least as early as it is furnished to the press?
– I agree with the honorable member that such information should be made available to honorable members of this Parliament when it is made available to the press, and I am afraid that there has been some oversight in that connexion on this occasion. It is the intention of the Government to provide for a rebate of this tax in relation to the Northern Territory as asked for by the honorable member on a previous occasion.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question arising out of a telegram which I have received from the Geraldton branch of the Primary Producers. The telegram reads -
Ask you protect satisfactorily against suggested discrimination wheat bounty. Consider all wheat-growers should participate.
In the amendments to the Wheat-growers Relief Bill which the Prime Minister proposes to submit, will he see that provision is made for relief being granted to all wheat-growers?
– The attitude of the Government was made very clear upon the introduction of the Wheat-growersRelief Bill. But the matter will be open for discussion when the measure is before the House.
– Within the last few days, reports of the Administrators of different territories of the Commonwealth, dated the 30th June, 1932- eighteen months ago - have come to hand. Will the Minister administering the territories take steps to have these annual reports made available without such a long delay?
– I shall see that the matter receives attention.
Petrol and Oil Supplies
– Is the AttorneyGeneral yet in a position to give to the House any information in regard to the Royal Commission on Petrol and Oil Supplies ?
– Answering a similar question yesterday, I informed the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), that I would obtain the information for him. I invite the honorable member to read the full statement upon this subject which the Prime Minister made in this House on the 21st November .last. Since that statement was made, advice has been received that it is expected that the examination of accounts will be completed early in the new year, and that the commission will shortly afterwards resume public sittings.
FELDSPAR - Oregon - Cotton Yarns.
– When does the Minister for Trade and Customs expect the Tariff Board report on feldspar to be available to honorable members?
– The report has not yet been received.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me whether he has yet received the report of the Tariff Board on Oregon? If so, has he read the report ? I should like to know what there is in the report that the honorable gentleman desires to keep dark.
– The answer to the honorable gentleman’s question is the same as that which I gave him yesterday, and on other occasions, with this addition, that this report is in the same category as other reports in the hands of the Govern ment. The Government will consider it and act upon it when it has time to do so.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he has yet received the report of the Tariff Board on cotton yarns, and if so, does the Government propose to take action in reference to that matter before the House rises for the Christmas recess?
– The report of the Tariff Board has been received, but finalization of action rests on the receipt by the Government of other reports by the board in relation to allied subjects such as blue denim, and cotton cordage.
– Some two or three months ago the Prime Minister was asked whether he would arrange for an inquiry into the Douglas social credit system which is beginning to attract a great deal of attention in New South Wales. The right honorable gentleman then refused to do that on the ground that the system was to be the subject of inquiry by a commission or some tribunal set up by the Government of New South Wales. No doubt the Prime Minister has seen the report of the State statistician. In view of the extremely technical nature of the report that was obtained by the Government of New South Wales and the fact that it is not likely to be intelligible to most of those who read it, if I may judge by my own experience, will the Prime Minister arrange for some popular inquiry to be made into the value and validity of the proposals contained in the Douglas social credit system, and have a report issued in language more readily understandable by the people?
– The honorable member was apparently not present in the chamber when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) recently raised this question on the adjournment of the House, and made a similar request. I then pointed out that the Government could not undertake such an inquiry unless it were prepared to have similar inquiries into other schemes that had been propounded for the solution of present-day problems. I also pointed out that there was no lack of in- formation upon this subject, and that no other scheme had been so well placed before the people by its supporters. An enormous amount of literature is available on the subject, particularly as the result of inquiries and debates that have been held overseas, in New Zealand, in New South Wales and in other parts of Australia. Surely there ds sufficient information available to enable any individual to make up his mind with regard to the merits or demerits of this proposition. I could not commit this Parliament to an inquiry that might probably be costly and might give no satisfactory result either to the supporters or to the opponents of the Douglas social credit system.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral yet in a position to announce the probable sites ‘in the large country towns on which automatic telephones are to be installed?
– I am not yet in a position to announce where these automatic telephones are to be established. The preliminary arrangements have been put in hand only since the announcement which I made on this subject the other day.
-Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the House whether the scheme which he mentioned in regard to the employment of waterside workers has yet been prepared, whether it will be put in hand before this House adjourns for the Christmas recess, and whether it involves the passing of legislation by this Parliament or may be given effect under regulations made by the Executive Council ?
– The scheme has been prepared and has been provisionally approved by the Government. It is at present being discussed confidentially between myself and persons interested who are in a position to give assistance and who are willing to assist in devising an effective scheme. It is unlikely that we shall hear from them before the House rises, but in any event the scheme will be introduced by means of regulations under the Transport Workers Act.
– Under the Transport Workers Act regulations are made according to the Acts Interpretation Act, and according to the Acts Interpretation Act, regulations must be laid before both Houses of the Parliament within1 30 days of the. making thereof, or, if the Parliament is not then sitting, within 30 days after the first sitting of the Parliament. If the regulations are not issued before the Christmas adjournment there may be a delay of eight or nine months before this Parliament will have an opportunity to discuss them, and in view of that fact I ask the Attorney-General to expedite this matter so that we may consider the regulations prior to the Christmas adjournment.
Mi-. LATHAM. - The provisions of the law will be observed in relation to the regulations. It is quite impossible to give any such undertaking as the honorable member seeks.
– Will the Assistant Treasurer inform me when the quinquennial report on the operations of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund is likely to be made available ?
– If the honorable member means the actuarial report, based upon the quinquennial report of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, I can only say that the Government has not yet had time to consider the recommendations contained therein.
– Is the Minister for the Interior yet able to inform me whether the Commonwealth Government will’ agree to the new conditions proposed in connexion . with the River Murray Waters Agreement!
– The matter has had only preliminary consideration by Cabinet, but it is evident that .it cannot be determined before the Christmas recess.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Interior been drawn to a statement to the effect that the establishment of a large fleet of pearling boats’ outside the Darwin and Broome pearling areas is contemplated in certain quarters, and that the fleet will he provided with fast trading’ boats to take cargoes direct to the overseas markets ? If so, what action does the Minister’s department propose to take to prevent such poaching ?
– My attention has been drawn to a rumour of the nature described by the honorable member, and steps are being taken by my department to ascertain whether there is any foundation for it.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs yet in a position to give me a ‘reply to a question I asked two or three days ago relating to the price of tea, apart altogether from the incidence of the tariff ?
– The Customs Department is still continuing its inquiries to ascertain whether reductions in the retail price of tea will be made in consequence of the remissions of duties. The department has knowledge of. certain circulars issued by tea traders to the effect that increases in the price of tea have been made in tea-exporting countries. Similar circulars have doubtless come under the notice of some honorable members. Undoubtedly, some increases have occurred overseas, but the question arises whether tea-exportingcountries should benefit by the remissions of taxes made by this Government. The department has in its possession invoices which show that during the depression period heavy reductions were made in the price of tea, which were not proportionately passed on to the public. When the department has completed its inquiries the Government shouldbe in a position to determine whether the taxes on tea should be reimposed if proportionate relief has not been given to the general public.
– Has the Minister for the Interior yet received a report regarding the efficacy or otherwise of the parasitic wasps released at Brock Creek, Northern Territory, and Derby, Western Australia to combat the buffalo fly? If the Minister is not able to give me any definite information on the subject before the recess, will he forward a reply to me ?
– I shall forward a reply to the honorable member at the earliest possible moment.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1933 in relation to claims of the Commonwealth against property of pensioners.
Motion (by Mr. Perkins) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Immigration Act 1901-1932.
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Tariff Board Act 1921-1929.
Bill brought up by Mr. White, and read a first time.
(Nos. 1 to 9) 1933.
Motions (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions in regard to the introduction, first and second readings, committee’s report stage, and third readings, being put in one motion covering several or all of the Sales Tax Assessment Bills Nos. 1 to 9, and the consideration of several or all of such bills together in a committee of the whole.
That he have leave to bring in bills for acts to amend the Sales Tax Assessment Acts (Nos. 1 to 8) 1930-1933, and the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 9) 1930-1932.
Bills brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the Sales Tax Assessment Bills Nos. No. 1 to 9, to be passed through all stages without delay.
Mr. LATHAM (Kooyong- Attorney-
General) [3.7]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Last May abankruptcy amending bill was introduced to this House. It con- tained quite a number of provisions dealing with various aspects of the bankruptcy law. In March last - that was well before May - a conference of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and the Bankruptcy Trustees Association had been held, and the representatives at that conference had very fully examined bankruptcy legislation as a whole. The conference, which assembled in March, agreed upon certain recommendations, which it resolved should be transmitted to the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth. But owing to an oversight by those associated with the conference those recommendations were not received until after the Bankruptcy Bill had been introduced to this House in May. Many suggestions made by the conference were of a far-reaching character and involved questions of public policy. It will be understood that bankruptcy law involves, not only questions of method in relation to the administration of estates, but also important questions of principle relating to the protection of the public against fraud of one kind or another. During the past few months, a very active interest has been evidenced in bankruptcy law. Unfortunately a great many people have had to submit their affairs to some sort of supervision, and acts have been passed by the States dealing particularly with the affairs of farmers who are in embarrassed circumstances. The interest in this subject has been very widespread. It is desirable that all these suggestions should be carefully considered, but owing to the pressure of other work it has been quite impossible to spare the requisite time to deal with a subject of this nature. Accordingly, the bill, which was submitted to this House in May last, has been withdrawn, and the present measure, which deals only with a limited number of urgent matters, has been substituted. These matters have been submitted to the informal bankruptcy committee of this chamber, which has been good enough to review and approve them subject to some draf ting amendments.
The first matter dealt with in the bill relates to the State acts I have mentioned - the State acts which deal with what is generally known as farm debtors’ relief. Clause 2 of the bill provides that when a bankruptcy petition is presented, information shall be supplied to the Bank.rutpcy ‘Court as to whether or not the debtor’s affairs are being controlled under any State act which provides for “ the management, administration or control of the business, property or affairs of the debtor.” If they are being so controlled, notice must be given to the appropriate officer administering the act, and the Bankruptcy Court will then consider whether it is desirable that the bankruptcy petition should be proceeded with’ or whether it is wiser to leave the affairs of the particular debtor under State legislation. Iri sub-clause 4 it is provided that this section shall apply in relation -to any State act specified by the Governor-General. At present the following acts relating to the relief of debtors are in force in the various States: -
New South Wales - Farmers’ Relief Act 1932.
Victoria- Unemployed Occupiers and Farmers’ Relief Act 1931 as amended.
South Australia- Farmers’ Relief Act 1932, as amended.
Western Australia - Farmers’ Debt Adjustment Act 1930-32.
Queensland - Mortgagors’ Relief Act 1931-32 and the Financial Emergency Relief Extension Act 1932.
Those acts are particularly designed to alleviate the difficulties of farmers. If further acts of a like nature are passed it will be possible to proclaim them under this clause, which has been drafted as a result of conferences between representatives of the States and the Commonwealth. Arrangements made under these State acts are often of such a nature as to involve what are called deeds of arrangement under the federal act. It is important to secure that such arrangements shall not be invalid by reason of non-compliance with the federal act. Accordingly, it is provided that arrangements made under State acts of the character mentioned shall not be voided by non-compliance with the specific provisions of the Federal Bankruptcy Act, which require registration of such deeds and the like, or in any case where the Bankruptcy Court has so determined that administration shall proceed under the State act. That provision appears at present in clause 5 of the bill, but the suggestion has been accepted that that clause should be moved from its present position and become sub-clause 5 of clause 2, ‘ which is better from the drafting point of view, and will have the effect of keeping together matters dealing with the various State acts. I may say that all these things were dealt with in my secondreading speech last May, but I think that it is desirable to draw the attention of the House, at least briefly, to particular matters which are revived, rather than refer honorable members to my secondreading speech.
Clause 3 has been inserted to remove doubts which have arisen as to the position of certain property of bankrupts, and a memorandum which has been circulated will show precisely what the proposed amendments are and will make it easy to follow their effect. It was intended by the 1932 act to provide that, if a trustee in bankruptcy were prepared to pay off the encumbrance created by a bill of sale or the like over personal property of a debtor, the trustee should be at liberty by paying off the liability to release the assets concerned and make them available for the creditors in the bankruptcy, but that the interest under the bill of sale should be fully protected. However, the section as it stood has been interpreted by the court, and I cannot see that there is room for criticism of the interpretation, in such a way that, it fails to produce its intended effect. Although there is a saving clause, which it was intended should operate in respect of assets covered by bills of sale given by the bankrupt, there is also a clause which provides that goods in the possession, order or disposition of the bankrupt at the time of bankruptcy shall be assets of his estate. The result is that the words, “ except as provided in this section . which appear in section 91 e, have produced the result that the creditor under a bill of sale given by the bankrupt has lost his security if the goods are still in the possession or disposition of the bankrupt. That was not intended. The amendment is a simple one, to alter the words “except as provided in this section “ to “ except as provided in paragraph 4 of this section,” which paragraph is the provision that specifically refers to goods covered- by a bill of sale. The proposed amendment, which has been improved as the results of the suggestions of the committee, will be made retrospective to the date of the 1932 act, provision being made not to interfere with any judgment which has been obtained in the interim.
Clause 3 of the bill deals with another matter affecting bills of sale. Putting it shortly, at present an exception is provided in relation to goods included in any registered bill of sale, and judicial attention has been called to the fact that it is possible, by describing a document as a bill of sale and registering it, to obtain that protection. The word “valid” is being inserted before the words “bill of sale “ and similar action is being taken in regard to the assignment of book debts at the end of the proposed section.
Then, there is clause 4, which, I have to admit, is an exceptional one. It provides for a speedy and inexpensive method of transfer of trusteeships. As a rule, when a trusteeship is transferred from one trustee to another, notices have to be posted giving not less than three days’ notice to each creditor, and they have to be accompanied by forms of proxy. Many creditors, being distant from the capital city, might not he able to attend for the purpose of choosing a new trustee, and there might be difficulty in obtaining a quorum. There is a gentleman who is a trustee and who has recently assumed an important public position, and there is no reason why his name should not be mentioned ; it is the Honorable E. S. Spooner, Assistant Treasurer of the State of New South Wales. Mr. Spooner is, with or without his partners, trustee in no fewer than 280 estates. To go through the prescribed procedure in relation to 280 estates would cost all those estates money which would, in effect, have to come out of the pockets of the creditors. It would mean the posting of thousands of notices and proxy forms, and the holding of at least 280 meetings, together with a great deal of other work, which,. I suggest to the House, it would be reasonable to avoid if that can be done in a proper manner, consistently with principle. It is quite unlikely that anything like this will happen again, but honorable members will see that the work in many of these cases is done’ substantially by the firm. Possibly one partner is the sole trustee, but the work is done in the office. The object of clause 4 is to provide that where there is a continuity of partnership in the sense that is set forth in the clause, and the trustee is the trustee of at least 50 estates and satisfactorily demonstrates this continuity, if he is desirous of retiring, then the court shall transfer the office of trustee. There is, however, a proviso that has been strengthened oh the suggestion of the committee, and that is designed to enable the creditors to control the matter fully if they so desire. It reads as follows: -
The Court shall not, in pursuance of an application under this section, transfer the office of trustee in regard to the estate of anybanker, unless fourteen days’ notice of the proposal to make the application has been published in the Government Gazette; or if, prior to the transfer being made, one-sixth in value of the creditors of that banker, or the registrar, lodges with the court an objection to the transfer.
This represents an endeavour to save expense to an estate. Some of these estates have been under the administration of a trustee for many years, and it would be unfair, especially during this time of depression, to insist on the sending out of thousands of printed circulars.
– It was necessary to choose some number, and it was thought that if the number were less than 50, the -meetings might as well be held. This position has arisen because the particular trustee in question has entered public life, and is unable to attend to his business in the ordinary way. It is most unlikely that a situation similar to this will arise again. As a rule, the Government does not like bringing individual matters of this kind before Parliament, but this seems to be a case that calls for special action, and the proposal put forward is one that Parliament might well accept.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Baker) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the bill is set out concisely in the title. Most honorable members will be familiar with the terms of the agreement entered into between the Government and the company to which the dockyard hasbeen leased. At the time the agreement was made much uneasiness was shown by certain honorable members because they thought that the Government was parting with the dockyard for too small a consideration, and that it was, moreover, endangering the safety of the country by handing over this important undertaking to private enterprise. Some honorable members went so far as to say that the transference of the dockyard to private management would lead to an increase of unemployment. Nine months have, gone by since the company took over the dockyard, and during that time the agreement has worked without a hitch. It is true that, during the preliminary stages, certain employees were put off, but the total number employed now is considerably larger than at any time during the last two years of Government control. Government work is proceeding satisfactorily at the dockyard and, generally speaking, there is satisfaction among the men. Admittedly, a few men who were formerly employed have not been taken back, but, after all, the companyhas the right to choose whom it shall employ. The majority of the present employees were also employed at the yard when it was under government control. I was assured only this week by, the management that its policy is to give preference, when engaging additional staff, to those who were formerly employed at the dockyard. Moreover, there is not now the same amount of rationing among employees as there was twelve or eighteen months ago. Every month the volume of work is increasing, and I have also been assured by the management that prospects are even better for next year.
During the last year of government control of the dockyard losses amounted to £72,000, and for the last five years losses totalled no less than £250,000. The dockyard was first established by the Government of New South Wales, and was taken over by the Commonwealth in 1913. During the war the amount of work offering naturally increased, so that, at the peak period, an average number employed was 4,000. Profit was shown during that time, but, with the conclusion of the war, the volume of work fell away, and everincreasing annual losses were incurred. The yard at that time was administered by the Commonwealth Shipping Board, but, towards the end of the regime of the Bruce-Page Government, the position became so serious that negotiations were entered into for leasing the dock. That Government, however, was defeated before negotiations were concluded, and the Scullin Government allowed the matter to remain in abeyance. Meantime the losses kept mounting up, and the dock was becoming an ever-increasing burden upon the Government until it was leased early this year.
– Can the Minister explain how the company obtained possession of the dockyard without any enabling legislation having been passed?
– The matter has been brought before Parliament at the first available opportunity after the making of the agreement. It is expected that, instead of there being a loss of £72,000 this year, there will be a slight profit. It is true that the annual rental is small - only £1,000 a year - but it is much better to be receiving £1,000 a year than to be losing £72,000 a year. Not only was the Government losing an enormous sum every year, but it had also to go out of its way to provide work for the dockyard. Some of these jobs were not really important, and might be regarded as relief work. The amount of government work that has been carried out by the dockyard during other years has been- 1930-31, £42,463 ; 1931- 32, £27,224; 1932-33, £21,583. These figures are exclusive of those relating to the Cape Otway, which were £55,836 in 1930-31, and £61,508 in 1931-32. That it was unnecessary to give so much work to the dockyard is shown by the fact that this year the cost of government work undertaken by the company that now has the dockyard is only £16,000.
One of the principal clauses of the agreement provides that any loss sustained by the company in the first three years shall be shared in equal proportions by it and the Government up to a maximum amount of £16,666. There is a proviso that that provision shall not operate if the Government entrusts to the company government work to the value of £40,000 per annum. It is anticipated that that amount will be exceeded this year because, as honorable members probably know, certain necessary works will have to be carried out. While the dockyard was under Commonwealth control, the work that could be given to it by the Government declined to such an extent that it seemed as though it would have to be closed down. The position has now considerably improved. That was to be expected, because the judgment of the High Court of Australia in the Bunnerong case prevented the Commonwealth from undertaking work for private enterprise. That restriction is not imposed on the company, whose turnover is consequently larger than was that of the Government.
– Who fixes the prices of the £40,000 worth of work that is given to the company by the Government?
– A good deal of that work consists of the docking of war vessels, and other operations in connexion with the Navy, the prices of which are fixed by the agreement. These are considered fair and equitable. A lot of other work is now done by contract. When the company took over the dockyard, 368 men were employed there.
– Whose figures are those ?
– They are authentic departmental figures. The employment figures have been : In April, 367 ; in May, 360; in June, 420; in July, 489; in August, 434; in September, 478; and in October, 619. The increased activity that has been shown during nine months of depression surely proves that the Government’s action was a wise one, and that fears of unemployment, which some honorable members may have entertained, were groundless.
The agreement provides adequately for the maintenance of the buildings and the repair and upkeep of the machinery. Inspections have shown that the condition of the buildings and machinery is to-day as good as, if not better than, it has been in the history of the dockyard. The agreement is for a period of 21 years, but is terminable at any time should the Government find it necessary to resume control of the dockyard. Provision is made for the carrying out of government work at reasonable rates.
For the first three years, the rental is to be £1,000 peT annum; but should a profit be made .by the company, the Government will receive 2$ per cent, of the turnover in the first year, 3 per cent, in the second year, slightly more in the third year, and, subsequently, a maximum of 5 per cent., equal to £50,000. The management’s hopes have been more than realized. It ‘was greatly feared that the loss this year would be large, but it is now considered that, if there is a loss, it will be only small, and there may be a slight profit. That must be satisfactory to all honorable members. The employees are working quite amicably with the company.
– Who says that?
– I say it without hesitation.
– The honorable gentleman knows nothing about the matter.
– I claim to be more in touch with it than the honorable, member.
– Does the Minister know that when, in reply to a question in this House, he said there had been no prosecutions for breaches of awards, he stated what was not a fact?
– I am quite unaware of that circumstance. But, in any event’, it could not be contended that the position is unsatisfactory if there were only an isolated breach of an award in the employment of 600 or 700’ men.
– There were two cases before the court when’ the honorable gentleman made the statement.
– The agreement should be accepted without hesitation. I submit it in all confidence, in view of the satisfactory nature of the operations during the last nine months, and the faith which the Government has in those who have taken over the dockyard. They are discharging an important public duty, and deserve the plaudits of the whole of the people of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Rosevear) adjourned.
£16,647,000 CONVERSION LOAN.
– by leave - During the last few weeks the Loan Council has been in close touch with the High Commissioner in London, Mr. Bruce, in connexion with negotiations for a further conversion loan. It was hoped that an operation would have been announced earlier, but unfortunately, conditions in the international monetary world- had become unfavorable and the matter was delayed. Despite these conditions, however, negotiations have been carried on, and the Loan Council has authorized Mr. Bruce to arrange for a further conversion loan of £16,647,000. The negotiations are now approaching finality, and it is expected that a loan for this amount will be underwritten in London to-day.
The operation will cover £2,980,000 of New South Wale’s 5£ per cents., £6,S88,000 of Victorian 5$ per cents., £5,633,000 of South Australian 5 per cents., and £1,146,000 of Tasmanian 5 per cents. It is expected that the terms will be 3i£ per cent, at £99 for fifteen years, with the option to the Government to repay after .twelve years. On these terms the yield to the. investor, allowing for redemption at the end of fifteen years, would be £3 16s. 9d.
The last conversion operation was for £20.951,000, the terms being 3 per cent, at £98, and the period twenty years with the option of redemption after fifteen years. The yield to the investor in the case of that operation, including redemption at the end of twenty years, was £3 17s. lid.
It will be seen, therefore, that the proposed terms of the new loan are a slight improvement on the terms on which the last conversion loan was arranged.
As was the case with earlier conversions, the Chancellor of the ‘ Exchequer has agreed to the proposed issue as an exceptional measure.
So soon as -advice has been received that the loan has been underwritten, a further announcement will be made.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. -
This measure is designed to remedy certain defects in the Income Tax Assessment Act which have come to light within the last twelve months, and also to effect fair and necessary reforms.
Clause 2 of the bill deals with the averaging, provisions of the act. It is designed to remedy defects of verbiage which have rendered the department liable to challenge by taxpayers. I assure honorable members that the only result will be to allow the department to administer the averaging provisions in the manner intended by Parliament, and to prevent taxpayers from evading the full rate of tax, as there is some reason <to believe they oan legally do in existing circumstances.
Clause 3 extends the exemption privileges to certain savings banks that are not owned by governments, but are controlled by trustees, without profit, for the benefit of depositors.
Clause 4 seeks to remove the unjust provision under which certain Australian companies that have raised money on debenture issues outside of Australia are obliged to pay to the Commonwealth tax on the interest on those debentures, by reason of the fact that the Commonwealth is unable to collect it from the debentureholders, who reside in countries that are ou’tside our jurisdiction. Under a decision of the English courts, a company is unable to avail itself of the provisions of the Australian law to enable it to deduct, from the interest payable under an ex-Australian contract, the amount of tax payable by it upon that interest. That is patently unfair, beause the company is thus being made to pay tax on part of its own charges, with the result that the cost of its materials and services to Australian users is increased. The law was never intended to act in that unfair way, and this provision is designed to remedy the position to the’ extent that the company is not now made liable for the payment of income tax on debenture interest that is sent overseas to countries where we cannot follow and tax it.
Clause 5 re-enacts the exemption of £250 in respect of the special property tax. That is a clear-cut exemption and does not fade out as the income rises. It is necessary to re-enact that exemption. Last year it was enacted by the Financial
Relief. Act, and now it is being inserted in its proper place - in the Income Tax Assessment Act.
– What becomes of the original enactment?
– It was made only for a limited period of time.
– Was not the exemption under the special property tax £500 ?
– The exemption -has never been more than £250. This is the special property tax which has lately been reduced to 6 per cent, and in respect of which there is a flat rate exemption of £250. It is a recent tax, having been in existence for only two or three years.
Clause 6 corrects a verbal omission in the principal act, and gives- the right to taxpayers to seek to secure re-assessment in their own favour on incomes that accrued prior to 1932. That is done by adding to the provision after the word “ is “ the words “ or has been “.
Clause 7 obviates the necessity that exists at present for the Commissioner of Taxation to appear in person in court to give evidence of the assessment of a taxpayer. This clause seeks to relieve the Commissioner himself of what would be an onerous task and makes the production of the assessment notice sufficient evidence that the taxpayer has been assessed.
Clause 8 requires the Taxation Board of Review to state reasons, both of law and of fact, in support of its decisions. There is no appeal from a decision of that board to the court on a question of fact. It merely gives a decision and does not state the reasons on which it is based. Under this provision the board must give reasons both of law and fact for its decisions.
Clause 9 merely states that this legislation is to take effect in respect of this financial year. The second part of clause 9 makes the provision retrospective, in that it gives the taxpayers the right to a re-assessment of their incomes in respect of years prior to 1932. *
There is nothing contentious in this bill. It extends the machinery of the act and provides for two reforms which honorable members, upon examination, must regard as just and proper.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 4th. December, (vide page 5442), on motion by Mr. Stewart -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- It is with considerable pleasure that I take this opportunity to support the bill, because I worked hard to have introduced into the Victorian Parliament the legislation to which this measure is really “ supplementary. The major reason for the introduction of this bill is the necessity to ensure to the dairymen something approximating a payable price for their output. That need, I think, is well understood by all honorable members and requires no stressing on my part. Dairying is probably the most arduous occupation in Australia, from the point of view of hours and working conditions. For a considerable period, the dairy-farmer has’ been receiving a most inadequate return for his arduous labour, and for that reason I think most honorable members will be prepared to support the general principles of the bill. The second and equally important reason for this legislation is the need to maintain the improvement that has of late years taken place in the standard of Australian butter exported overseas, and to prevent its deterioration in the future. At the beginning of the year I, in company with a well known dairyman of the “Warrnambool district, had the opportunity to make inquiries first hand into the marketing of Australian butter in London. Our inquiries were restricted and somewhat inadequate, but, nevertheless, we obtained some definite information respecting the marketing of our butter overseas. What interested us was the London price of butter. Owing to the tremendous increase of supplies of butter on the London market, it was obvious that prices would fall. In three years, up to the end of 1932, the supply of butter on the London market increased by 93,000 tons from 313,000 tons to 407,000 tons. There was, therefore, specific reason for a fall of prices.
The majority, however, of those . interested in the ‘ Australian dairying industry were not satisfied with the big disparity between the prices of Danish and Australian butter, because, ,in spite of what has been wrongfully said to the contrary, our choicest butter, is admittedly quite equal to the best Danish. I make that point, because, shortly before I returned a prominent Australian who arrived here had made some rather slighting references to Australian butter and other Australian products. His remarks were without substantial foundation, and I think did considerable- harm to the industries concerned. With the aid of the High” Commissioner and others, I had an opportunity to consult the grea’t majority of those who handle our butter . on the London market- the wholesalers, a certain number of retailers, and all the general consumers with whom I came in contact; and in no instance was it suggested that the best Danish butter was superior to the best Australian. On one occasion I saw a press article written by a well-known London medical man, recommending the people to use Australian butter rather than northern European butter, because Australian butter was produced from cows which are out in the sunshine for 365 days of Hie year, and must, therefore, contain more vitamins that butter produced from cows which are housed for six or more months of the year.
The reasons for the disparity in prices to which I have referred are quite apparent. The first reason is the enormously increased supplies of Australian butter. I have already mentioned that in three years the imports of this commodity increased by 98.000 tons, the Australian proportion being 53,000 tons. The Australian exports thus increased by 137 per cent, and the Danish exports by only 18 per cent. Naturally as we had to find a market for a considerably greater quantity of additional butter than the Danes, the price of the Australian commodity fell.
Another factor which operates adversely in the marketing of, Australian and New Zealand butter in London is that on account of the long sea trip to England, the butter has to be of a stiff consistency and when used in England during the winter months has what is termed a difficult “spreadability.” The Danish butter, which is of a softer consistency, appeals to the careful housewife because she can get a little more use from a pound of that butter than she can from a pound of Australian butter. I have been assured by authorities that this disability can be. rectified by a process which has to be undertaken in England, but which at existing prices is not at present justified.
One of the principal reasons for the low prices ruling for Australian butter is our export of a considerable quantity of low-grade butter. I took every opportunity to obtain information on this matter so that I could impart it to the various .dairying organizations in Warrnambool on my return, and I was advised by various authorities that Australia should concentrate upon regulating its supplies of butter on the London market. That, of course, presents great difficulty, because our supplies fluctuate tremendously according to the seasons; but steps are being taken to rectify the great inequality of supplies which has taken place in the past. Another point which was stressed was the danger of exporting low-grade butter. We export choicest butter, firstgrade butter, second-grade butter, and pastry butter, whereas the Danes prohibit the export of any butter below a certain grade, which is somewhere between our first grade and choicest grade. What happens in Great Britain is that a grocer will place some of our second-grade butter on the counter and label it “ Australian butter,” and, of course, there is nothing dishonest either morally or legally in his so doing. The housewife enters the .shop, and, having read the Empire marketing propaganda, decides to give Australian butter a trial and purchases a pound of Australian butter. Quite naturally the grocer does not go out of his way to advise his customer that it is second-grade butter. The housewife takes the butter home, uses it, and considers that it not as good as Danish butter. That is quite correct, for it is not meant to be as good, being second.grade butter.
– Would such a grocer keep first-grade butter?
– It would not be incumbent upon him to do so. In consequence of such happenings as I have described a great deal of harm is done, for the people who buy Australian secondgrade butter, imagining it to be the choicest butter, find that it is not so.
– Do the people buy it at second-grade price?
– They buy it at a local price. Such an experience would influence them adversely against Australian butter, and they would go back to Danish butter having made only one experiment with Australian butter, and probably not learning of the mistake that they had made. In such cases this legislation should have a very definite effect.’ It is not practicable for us to forbid the export of our lower-grade butter, for we would not be able to consume the amount of lower-grade butter at present manufactured in Australia. It is therefore essential that we should increase the quantity of choicest and first-grade butter that we export. The only way in which we can do this is to have a greater proportion of our butter made in butter factories under supervision.
– All our export butter is made under supervision.
– Yes ; but if legislation of this kind were not passed a greater proportion of the butter consumed locally would very shortly be made under other conditions than those of the Paterson butter scheme, and thus no contribution would be made in respect of it towards the bounty on exported butter. We should, therefore, soon find that our butter factories were only producing export butter, the remainder of our butter being made apart from the conditions of the Paterson plan. If that should ever occur no bounty could be paid on export butter; it would be impossible for us to turn out a sufficiently high grade butter if we had only the export market available to our factories. It is, therefore, essential that the butter consumed locally should be taxed to help in producing the very highest grade of butter for export. This is most important. It is imperative not only that our butter standards should not deteriorate, but also that they should continue to improve as they have been improving. Almost everyone in England who spoke to me about the quality of our butter referred to the improvement of it. Shortly before my return to Australia, I and my dairyfarmer friend, visited Denmark because we had heard so much about the great ability of the Danish dairy-farmers. We did not go in a critical spirit. We hoped to learn a great deal about the dairy- * farming methods of Denmark. We spent a most interesting and delightful few days there. The thing that amazed me most was that, except in one quite important direction, the Danish dairyfarmers were not as up-to-date as the Australian dairy-farmers in their actual farming methods.
– At what season of the year was the honorable member there?
– In the spring. We found that their methods of farm management were year3 behind those of the average Australian dairy-farmer, but in one respect they were very much ahead of us. They have for a great number of years, and almost universally, practised herd testing. I understand that almost every herd in Denmark has been, at some time or another, under herd testing conditions, though perhaps only 30 per cent, or 40 per cent, of the herds are being tested at any given time. The explanation of this is that a man will test his herd for several years and get it up to a certain standard, and then dispense with herd testing for several years as a measure of economy. But practically every herd in Denmark has been established by herdtesting methods. For this reason, and because their industry is very much older, is much more stabilized than ours, and is not expanding at the rate at which ours is expanding, one does not see the unprofitable herds in Denmark that one sees in Australia. In every dairying district of the Commonwealth there are still a certain number of definitely uneconomic herds. This is probably unavoidable because a man newly setting up as a dairyfarmer can only gather his herds by buying culled cows. This is so because our industry is rapidly increasing, whereas the Danish industry is probably stationary, if not, at the moment, actually decreasing. I think that at present the number of cows in Denmark is lower than it was recently. But if in herd testing the
Danes are still very much ahead of us, they are in other respects far behind Australians. We found, for example, that it is still the practice of probably 95 per cent, of the dairy-farmers in Denmark to follow the old-fashioned method of tethering their cows. We travelled over Denmark by aeroplane, and looking down we were amazed to see in every paddock cows tethered in lines like soldiers. In -one case about 70 cows were tethered in a straight line. The cows are shifted three or four times in the day as they eat out the patch of grass upon which they have been standing. What surprised us also was that the unfortunate working horses were then tethered over the same spot. The cows are also watered artificially. They cannot get water every time they require it. This must be unhealthy, for the’ beasts. Tethering must be inefficient in dairy farming. A certain percentage of the more efficient men are now adopting the paddock system and, to a certain extent, rotational grazing. I mention these points because I think the dairy-farmers of Australia need a little encouragement. People are far too inclined to say that our methods are a long way behind those of our competitors. Personally we did not find that to be so.
In another respect, also, we found that our dairy-farmers had. a tremendous advantage over our Danish rivals, for the Danish cows have to be housed for six or seven months in the year. I discussed this subject with a man who, I was informed, was one of the most efficient dairy-farmers in Denmark. We worked it out as well as we could, through an interpreter, and after allowing for differences in currency, concluded that this man spent about £9 a cow in fodder during the period his cows were housed. Australian dairymen should, therefore, be in a very strong position in comparison with competitors who have to spend in the vicinity of £9 a cow for fodder during the housing period. I am convinced that if we could, by proper publicity, inform the butter users of the United Kingdom that our cows are kept under healthy conditions throughout the year, whereas the Danish cows are living for six or seven months each year under conditions that, notwithstanding every possible effort to ensure the cleanliness of stables,* are extremely smelly, there would be a very definite swing in our favour on the English market. It must be apparent that if our cows are breathing fresh, clear, open air, they must be in better condition than Danish cows breathing the tainted air of stables.
But we must control and improve the standard of our export butter. The Danes insist that only their highest grade butter shall be exported. They themselves consume all their low-grade butter and even margarine. It will, probably, surprise honorable members to know that a large quantity of margarine is eaten in Denmark. “We must insist, like the Danes, that our exported butter shall be of the highest quality. Although we cannot prevent the export of a certain quantity of lower grade butter, we must, by the adopttion of standardized methods to a greater and greater extent, export an increasing percentage of choicest butter. Our choicest butter is the best in the world. Only’ this morning I received a letter from the friend who made these investigations with me, and in it he said that he had just attended a big dairy products, show in London, at which all the principal prizes were taken by Australian butter - to be fair I must say by Queensland butter. We should, therefore, concentrate upon the organization of this industry so that an increasing quantity of high standard butter may be exported.
I turn now for a moment to a consideration of safeguards for consumers. I do not think that there can be any argument against this legislation from the point of view of the industry; but many people may ask whether anything is being provided in this measure to safeguard the consumers. I should have no objection to the insertion of provisions for such safeguards if I thought that they would be practicable; but I do not see any way in which greater safeguards can be provided than those already operating. To enact that the provisions of this legislation should not be enforced after butter rose to a certain price would be far too inelastic, because prices which may seem adequate, even to dairymen, at the moment may, with a return to higher prices generally, become quite inadequate. To fix a price which butter must not exceed would, in my opinion, be unsafe.
– Certain provisions for safeguards are made in the State legislation.
– I take it that the honorable member is referring to the powers of the State Ministers for Agriculture. The greatest safeguard, and the one which satisfies me most, is the great moderation and common-sense that those concerned with this industry have already displayed in the administration of the Paterson butter scheme. This moderation has been due, in my opinion, not to any particular concern that the administrators have had about the price of butter to the consumers, but to their realization that it would be unwise, in the interests of the industry, to increase the price above a figure which the people would willingly pay for it. They have doubtless realized that to do that would arouse a spirit of hostility throughout the community and cause people to use substitutes to a greater degree. It has been considered wise by the administrators of the Paterson stabilization scheme to raise the price of butter moderately, and to use their powers moderately. I am quite sure that they will also use moderately the greater powers that they will have under this legislatior . They will display common-sense in the interests of the dairying industry. There i3 also the tariff safeguard. If the administrators of this scheme use their power unwisely, the, Commonwealth Government has a means, through the tariff, of safeguarding the consumers. There is also in the Victorian legislation a very definite power vested in the Minister, presumably the Minister for Agriculture, who will be able to fix quotas. I realize that these quotas will be determined upon the advice of the board, but I take it there is nothing in the bill to prevent the Minister from refusing to accept the advice of the board. It should, therefore, be impossible to impose upon the consumers. I have no fears that the consumers will be inadequately safeguarded.
The final point with which I shall deal relates to the principle of such legislation as this is. Many people fear measures of this kind will allow of undue governmental interference in industry, which tends towards nationalization or socialism. I do not take that view. I consider that there is a vital difference between government interference, or imposition of handicaps upon industry, and government assistance to enable an industry to organize itself adequately. This legislation does not provide for governmental control or tend to governmental interference with industry, its purpose is purely to provide power for those engaged in the industry to organize it adequately. Every other country in the world is going in more and more for planned industry. If industries are going to plan themselves, or to organize themselves adequately, it is essential that governments should vest them with proper powers. I have never had any objection to this class of legislation, and I do not fear it. But I am not satisfied with the Government’s provision in respect of taking a poll of those who are engaged in the industry. Under the bill. I consider that those who are genuinely engaged in the dairying industry incur a risk of being outvoted by those who are not genuinely engaged in it. I live on the border of a dairying area, but most of the adjacent country is sheep country. During the last few years, practically every sheep-farmer and wheat-farmer in that district has started to milk a few cows and sell a certain quantity of butter-fat. Primarily, these men are not dairymen. It is quite likely that many of them would view this legislation with suspicion, and as they are only in the dairying industry temporarily, it is not right that such men - and I include myself in their number - who sell perhaps 500 lb. or 600 lb. of butter annually, should have equal voting rights to those whose whole livelihood depends upon dairying. Therefore, I think that amendments to the provision relating to the taking of a poll are essential. I am, however, strongly in accord with the main principles of the measure. It is essential that the man who devotes himself entirely to the dairying industry should be assured of an adequate return for his labours, and it is equally essential that we should produce an increasingly greater volume of choice butter for export. No section of the community has anything to fear from the measure, which I com mend to the favorable consideration of honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. White) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
– I listened with very great interest to the speech of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), and I congratulate him on the great practical knowledge of the dairying industry which he displayed. This bill is designed to regulate the interstate trade in butter and cheese, and I commend the Government upon having brought it forward. It is a necessary measure in view of the desperate position of the dairying industry to-day. The powers contained in the bill are really an essential part of the statutory machinery required to enable a fair and reasonable price to rule throughout Australia for locally consumed butter and cheese. In case certain honorable members do not recognize the need for legislation of this kind, I propose very briefly to analyse the position of the dairy-farmer to-day. The man who produces cream for butter manufacture is in a position no whit less desperate than is his brother who produces wheat. To-day, the net, return for butter-fat, like that for wheat, is just about half a reasonable price. I am not referring to the retail price of butter, nor suggesting that its price should be double what it is to-day; I am referring to the net return obtained from cream for butter making, because the costs of manufacture are about the same always, regardless of whether butter is realizing10d. per lb. or1s.10d. per lb. In Victoria, which is the largest butter-producing State, the wholesale price of the choicest butter to-day is 98s. per cwt., or 10½d. per lb. In that State, the dairyman sells his cream upon the basis of its butter-fat content, but in some of the other States it is sold on a commercial butter basis. The average price to-day for butter-fat in Victoria is 7£d. per lb., which is equivalent to Bid. per lb. on a commercial butter basis, because 100 lb. of butter-fat will produce 120 lb. of butter. Now 7£d. per lb. for butter-fat is such, an unremunerative price to the dairyman that something must be done for him. I submit, that after allowing for very modest overhead charges for his farm, stock and plant, the most efficient dairyman cannot possibly get a return pf more than 3d. an hour wages for the time which he actually devotes to dairying. As mentioned by the honorable member for Flinders, the industry is one. which involves him in very continuous work. He has to work seven days a week. For him, there are no Sundays in the the ordinary sense, there is no Christmas, and there are very few holidays. Indeed, his calling approaches more closely to perpetual motion than anything I know of. Even if we allow him nothing for interest upon the cost of his land and nothing on account of interest and depreciation for stock and plant, and, if we regard all his returns as wages, his wage per hour, based on the present price of butter-fat, is considerably less than that of the basic wage.
– Why do they remain in the industry.
– Because they cannot do anything else. There are many dairy farmers who, if they would, could not possibly change over to any other industry. Some are engaged in dairying as a sideline, and will eventually revert to wool-growing, because it is so much more profitable. But many of the men in the dairying districts, which are suited only for the production of butter and cheese, must continue in that form of primary production.
It has been said that those who have embarked upon, the industry, should endeavour to get out of their difficulties not by increasing the price of their products, but by greater efficiency. I admit that the charge of inefficiency might have been levelled against many dairy-farmers some years ago. But there is, perhaps, no industry which has made such tremendous, strides towards complete efficiency during the last few years as has the dairying industry. In the district I represent the dairy-farmers have gone in quite exten sively for pasture improvement and herd testing, so that their dairy cattle to-day are much better bred and fed than they used to be. In the manufacture of butter, while some factories are not so efficient as they should be, there are others which are almost the last word in efficiency. In my own electorate one factory, which is producing the largest quantity of butter manufactured under any single roof in Victoria, can boast of having brought down its cost of manufacture to .S06d. per lb., and its selling cost to .875d. per lb. It can further boast that, 97^ per cent, of its production is graded choicest. These are very remarkable figures, and evidence of the great strides that have been made towards efficiency in manufacture. In one district where not long ago I attended the annual social of a herd testing association - an association which has 78 herd owners connected with it - no fewer than 50 of those owners were awarded certificates from the Royal Agricultural Society because their herds had averaged more than 300 lb. of butterfat. That speaks for the efficiency of many of our dairy farmers to-day.
– Who gets the benefit of the efficiency in that factory ?
– The dairymen, because the factory is thus enabled to pay for butter-fat a slightly higher price than it would be able to pay if it Were less efficient. It is a co-operative factory.
– What dividends do the shareholders get?
– If the honorable member will look over the balance-sheets of the different factories for last year he will find that a very modest dividend is paid to their shareholders. But I wish to advert to “the average price of 7£d. per lb., which is the ruling price in Victoria for butter-fat to-day. Even that extremely low price is made possible only by two forms of premium that are enjoyed by the dairymen - the currency premium exchange, which accounts for 2d. per lb., and the Paterson plan, which accounts for another 1-Jd. per lb. These two forms of premium thus represent 3id. out of the 7£d. per lb. that is being realized to-day for butterfat. If these premiums were not in existence, the dairymen of Victoria would be receiving only about 4Jd. per lb. for their butter-fat. I do not wish to weary the House, but I should like to make another price comparison, because I wish to deal with this question along different lines from those followed by honorable members who have already spoken. The consumers of milk are accustomed to make their purchases by the quart and these purchases are delivered at their doors. The usual price of fresh milk delivered in the large towns of Australia ranges from 5d. to 7d. per quart. In Sydney, recently, it was increased to 7d. per quart. The equivalents of 5d. and 7d. per quart are ls. 8d. and 2s. 4d. per gallon. Now, let us turn to what the dairyman is paid for milk. It takes 2 i gallons of 4 per cent, milk to produce 1 lb. of butter-fat. When butter-fat is sold for 7id. per lb., the dairyman gets exactly 3d. per gallon for the milk from which that butter-fat is extracted, as compared with ls. 8d. to 2s. 4d. per gallon paid for fresh milk in the metropolitan areas. Even the most efficient dairymen cannot possibly continue operations, on the present basis. Unless this bill is translated into law and dairymen are enabled to obtain a reasonable price for that portion of their product sold in Australia, I can visualize the time when they will send representatives to Canberra in the same way as has been done by those engaged in the wheat industry, to beg from the Government some kind of assistance such as is being provided for the wheat-growers.
Every one will admit that with world prices at such ruinously low levels, the dairyman should be enabled to obtain a just price for that portion of his product which is consumed in Australia. The question i3, how can that best be achieved? Some eight years ago I succeeded, as a private member, in getting the dairying industry of Australia to adopt the voluntary plan which is known by my name, under which the industry agreed to provide a bounty on export by means of a levy on production. It should be apparent, without an intense study of the economics of the problem, that an industry with an exportable surplus, more especially one the product of which is to some extent perishable, is at a great disadvantage in the Australian market compared with an industry which is not able to fill the whole of the local needs, unless the exporting industry has very complete marketing machinery. If an industry is not able to provide the whole of Australia’s needs, and the balance has to be made up by importations, it is automatically in a position to obtain import parity prices for its products ; that is, the world’s price, plus the cost of transport from some other country, and plus whatever percentage of the duty on that product the industry cares to make use of. It is, so to speak, in the enviable position of being two rungs above par on the ladder of commercial advantage. On the other hand, an exporting industry which has a surplus to dispose of, unless it has special marketing legislation, is in the position of being forced to accept for the whole of its products, whether exported or sold in Australia, world’s price less the cost of transportation from Australia to the other side of the world ; therefore, it is one rung below par on the ladder of commercial advantage. It will be realized how very lop-sided is the position when an industry has to sell at less than world prices, and when those engaged in it have to pay for everything they require for their farms and homes an Australian price which is frequently two or three rungs above par on the metaphorical ladder to which I have referred. It was in an endeavour to offset these obvious disadvantages that the plan which bears my name was brought into existence some eight years ago. A careful estimate indicates that the dairying industry has benefited by that plan to the extent of about £19,000,000. Yet, in view of the magnitude of the industry, the benefit has been moderate and the plan has never been abused. I agree with the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) that those who have administered the Paterson butter scheme have done so. with great, care, and have taken into consideration the interests of the consumer. But is is becoming increasingly difficult to secure the unanimous co-operation of manufacturers in shouldering the burden of providing the export bounty. Every one who has butter to sell in Australia automatically shares the benefits of the plan, but there are a few who escape its responsibilities, and those few are a real menace to the continuance of the plan. If one [factory is not providing its levy and another in close competition is doing so, the first factory has a tremendous advantage over the second, for it is able to pay a little more for its supplies of butter-fat, and is able to undersell its butter. That has necessitated the enactment of the legislation which is now before honorable members, and complementary legislation which has been introduced by State parliaments. When the Paterson plan came into existence it gave the advantage of an improved local price on two boxes out of every three that were produced, because at that time Australia was exporting only about one box out of every three. To-day Australia’s export trade has grown to such an extent that we export about four boxes out of seven and consume the other three. Consequently, the benefits of the scheme apply only to three boxes out of seven instead of to two out of three. That is due, not to any fault in the plan, but simply to the fact that our export proportion has grown so amazingly. It has led -some people to believe, erroneously, that it is the increase ill export which threatens the efficacy of the plan. Whatever system is adopted, whether it be the voluntary plan that I have been discussing, or the plan which will be possible under this legislation, the benefit to the dairying industry, so far as local prices are concerned, can never apply to more than that proportion ‘of our butter which is consumed in Australia. I wish to emphasize that it is the voluntary character of the present plan which constitutes the danger to the dairying industry, and that is the reason why this legislation is necessary.
It may be asked why the States cannot do everything that is required of them in view of the fact that they have complete power over internal trade. It is hardly necessary to point out to honorable members that the States have no power whatever in connexion with interstate trade. When two prices are available for a product, a local and an export price, that is to say, and when an attempt is made to maintain a reasonable local price for that part of the product which is sold. in Australia, a price which may be in excess of that ruling for export, human nature is such that every one wishes to sell the whole of his product at the more favorable price. A State Government can introduce legislation fixing the proportion or quota which may be sold on the local market. Supposing, for example, it provides that not more than 50 per cent, is to be sold locally, there is nothing to prevent a man who conforms to that provision from attempting to dispose of the other 50 per cent, in a neighbouring State, and from endeavouring to obtain the Australian price for that product which rules in that State. Obviously, if all States did the same thing, the maintenance of . a reasonable local price in excess of an export price would become impossible, and in a short time we should get back to the old economic law under which export parity rates foi’ both external and internal sales would prevail. It is for that reason that this legislation dealing with the regulation of interstate trade has been introduced, and it will make it possible to ensure that all engaged in the industry will get a fair share of whatever advantages pertain to the local price ruling, and will take a fair share of the disadvantages of export.] It may not be desirable for every man to export his actual percentage, but if he does not do so there will be a financial adjustment which will bring about the same result as if he did. It is unfortunate that human nature is not proof against the temptation to profit by the very elasticity of a voluntary plan. I admit that more than 90 per cent, can be depended upon to play the game, but there are always a few who will not do so, and it is because of them that this legislation has been made necessary.
The honorable member for Flinders referred to the suggestion that undue advantage might be taken by those engaged in the industry if legislation of this kind were passed. He” pointed out not only that the State- acts contain a clause which provides for this, but also that this Parliament has similar power, indirectly, through the tariff; for if any industry endeavours to over-reach itself and exploit the public, this Parliament can, by lowering the tariff on that commodity, bring the price back to a more competitive level.
– Can the honorable member explain the meaning of clause 5?
– I think that can better be dealt with in committee. It is identical with the corresponding clause in the Dried Fruits Act of 1928. Just as in our existing legislation we give to export control boards power to prevent the export of a product except in cases where the exporter conforms to the conditions laid down in the export licence, in the same way any one who wishes to indulge in interstate trade must conform with the conditions of the licence under which that trade is governed.
– How is that permissible under section 92 of the Constitution ?
– The honorable member is a distinguished lawyer, which I do not pretend to be. I understand that the High Court has ruled that section 92 of the Constitution is not binding on the Commonwealth, but that it was inserted in the Constitution with the object of preventing the States from imposing customs duties one against the other.
– “Was not that decision over-ridden by the Privy Council?
– I think that the honorable member is confusing two different issues. While I shall not presume to cross swords with him in legal controversy, I repeat that while this section is binding on the Stat.es, it is not binding upon the Commonwealth. The dried fruits legislation dealing with interstate trade has been on the statutebook for five and a half years without, so far as I know,, having ever been challenged.
– The court has not yet given a ruling as to whether the Commonwealth is bound by section 92. .There is a good deal of opinion to the contrary, including that of Mr. Menzies, the AttorneyGeneral in the Victorian Government.
– And yet, on the other hand, such a brilliant .legal luminary as our own Attorney-General believes that the bill is not ultra vires.
Doctors differ, and so do lawyers. I coin> mend the bill to honorable members. I realize that, even when this measure becomes law, the lot of the dairymen must continue to be a hard one, so long as world prices remain anywhere near their present level. This bill, however, will make it possible for dairymen to be treated, somewhat more fairly by their fellow” Australians.
.– I am prepared to support any proposal, whether it emanates from Parliament on from the co-operative societies or private companies, that I am satisfied would be of assistance to the producers of butterfat, for they certainly need and deserve assistance. I know as much about this matter as does anybody else in the House, having had over 40 years’ experience in the industry as a producer, a speculator, and a manufacturer. I do not oppose, condemn or criticize the bill, and. I only hope that it will do even half as much good as has been claimed for it by its sponsors. I .compliment the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) on his clear, able and informative speech. He told me many things which I did not know, because he has had the advantage of overseas travel, which I have not had.
Although the Dairy Produce Export Control Board, armed with certain statutory powers, has been functioning for some years, the- dairying industry to-day is in a worse position than it has ever been within my recollection, It must be conceded that the board has compelled the home consumers to pay high prices for their requirements. For the last four or five years the Australian consumers have paid on the average from 5d. to 8d. per lb. more for their butter than the export parity price, and it is questionable whether the producers have obtained anything like a fair share of the extra return. It is safe to assert that it now costs the producers twice as much to convert their cream into butter, and place it on the consumers’ table, as it did in prewar days. It is also safe to say that production and marketing methods in the old competitive times- even though there was profiteering and swindling in those times, also - were much less costly, and more efficient, so far as the home market is concerned, than they are now.
I cannot understand why the Export Control Board should have chosen to follow the policy it did. Sometimes I wonder whether it knows itself. For some inscrutable reason, the board decided to consign the butter rather than sell it on an f.o.b. or c.i.f.e. basis for cash, and it is well known that an agent will not devote the same conscientious attention to another man’s affairs that he will to his own. Though the board has no direct power to prevent the producers from selling for cash, it has power to fix a price below which the butter must not be sold, and, by fixing the price above the overseas market price, it can prevent cash sales from being made. That has been done quite recently. While- the board has been preventing cash sales in this way, New Zealand, has captured our cash trade. The New Zealand producers have been disposing of thousands of boxes weekly “on the f.o.b. or cash basis. It should not be forgotten that New Zealand some years ago tried with disastrous results the same method of marketing as our control board is now trying. The total output in New Zealand was pooled, and the New Zealand control board refused to sell for less than £180 per ton.
– But New Zealand is now going to do what is proposed to be done in this bill.
– The result of the New Zealand experiment was that the overseas buyers obtained their requirements elsewhere, and millions of boxes of New Zealand butter accumulated. Ultimately, it was sold at from £108 to £112” per ton after storage, interest and other charges had accumulated. Only about six weeks ago my own firm telegraphed to me that it had an offer of £89 a ton for its accumu-lated stocks, and asked whether it should accept the offer or consign’ the butter. I wired back immediately giving instructions that the butter be sold for cash. That butter has not yet reached London, but already the price has declined by £20 a ton. The New Zealand producers lost millions of pounds by holding up their butter, and they are not likely to do the same thing again. I am. in favour of direct cash trading, and I hope that our control board will follow that method. I have been a long time in the trade, and, on one occasion, made the biggest butter deal that had. ever been brought off in Western Australia, and my considered opinion is that, in the long run, cash trading is the best. Honorable members who represent Queensland constituencies should know that the Kingston factory in Queensland, which has refused to consign its output, has always paid more for cream than any other factory in that State. The woollen industry in this country is conducted on a cash sales basis, and it is on a better footing than most of the other primary industries.
The net result of the control board’s operations is that the unfortunate producers in Victoria are to-day receiving from 6Jd. to 6£d. per lb. for commercial butter. If I were a Victorian producer, and were refused permission to sell f.o.b., I should put my butter on the Melbourne market in spite of what any one said. I would not consign it overseas to be at the mercy of agents on the other side of the world. The Victorian price of butter to-day is 96s. Sd. per cwt., and special concessions are being offered even at that price. At the present time, there is an accumulation of 4,800 tons ready for export, and Heaven alone knows how much is available for local’ consumption.
I trust that the bill will be amended to meet the special circumstances of producers in Western Australia, who would otherwise he most awkwardly situated. For about half the year we produce enough for our own requirements. Last year we had a surplus of 40,000 boxes at one period of the year, but, during the slack time, there was a shortage of 80,000 boxes. Under the bill as it stands, the manufacturers in Western Australia would be compelled to export their quota during the. plentiful season, and would then have to import supplies from the eastern States during the off season. That would be an anomaly.
– Would they not be allowed to store the surplus during the plentiful period ?
– I should like to receive an assurance on that point, but the bill makes no provision for it.
– The Minister should make that point- clear; South Australia is also interested.
– Yesterday I asked the Minister whether Western Australia could be forced into this arrangement whether the producers there wished it or not. South Australia and Tasmania will occupy a similar position. If a State does’ not come into the scheme voluntarily, the board will have the power to issue licences for the export of butter to it, and to fix the price of that butter at a price below the Australian standard price and thus force the State into the scheme. I hope that the biggest traders in butter will not bo appointed to the board, as occurred when the Dairy Produce Export Control Board was constituted, and vested with powers which enabled it to fix export quotas, the price for local consumption, a-nd practically the price to be paid for cream. Even if a man were honesty personified, it would not be fair to place him in such an anomalous position. Few persons would be able to resist the temptation to benefit personally. If this position is not safeguarded, there will be a loud outcry against it in Western Australia, where it will be regarded as another injustice to the smaller States. I do not know what views are held in regard to this legislation by interested parties in that State ; but I shall not vote against the bill, because I believe that it may do a power of good. If it is not properly administered, -however, it may do a power of harm. I should like to know where the major portion of the price of £72 a ton, plus exchange, in London, and £96 in Victoria, is going seeing that Victorian ‘dairymen receive on lv 6£d. per lb.
.- I shall not delay the passage of this measure, because- 1 am in favour of it; but I have an undeniable right to discuss it, because my electorate contains by far the largest number of dairymen in any electorate in the Commonwealth.
– With one exception.
– With two exceptions.
– In my electorate there are more than 5,000 suppliers to two companies only. This legislation is designed to stabilize the price of butter in Australia, and make it unnecessary to follow the London market, on which the fluctuations during the last few years have been remarkable. In an excellent speech, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) dealt with one aspect of the position overseas. I propose to touch upon other aspects of it, including the actions of the Dairy Produce Export Control Board, to which incidental reference has been made by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson). The violence of the overseas price fluctuations is illustrated by the reduction of from 30 per cent, to 40 per cent, in a period of only six months. So far as I am aware, that has no parallel in any other industry. At the beginning of November last, the price in London dropped in one week by £10 a ton.
The principle of the bill, with which I understand the House is in agreement, is that all producers shall be protected on the Australian market by being assured a fair price, and shall supply a reasonable share of the overseas market, which we know from dire experience is most uncertain. An important point, which should commend itself to every honorable member, is that the industry is not seeking financial assistance from the Government. This is one of the most efficiently organized primary industries in the Commonwealth. It always gives me pleasure to find a primary industry organizing, because I believe that the best results are obtained from collective bargaining. This legislation was considered by a committee of dairy experts about April last, and several points were placed before a conference of State Ministers for Agriculture, which met about the middle of May. The committee recom- mended, among other things -
The bill that’ we are now considering is complementary to, and in co-ordination with,, legislation that has been passed bv certain of the States, which deals with matters upon which the Commonwealth has not the constitutional power to legis-late. I hope that the result of the two
Bets of legislation will be the institution of the all-Australian organization which has been requested by the industry itself, and that legislative action will be taken by those States which, so far, have not moved in that direction. I feel sure that the State Ministers for Agriculture were appalled at the extent of the price fluctuations that had occurred, and the low price which rules at present. I have recently obtained from Norco, probably the biggest butter-producing company in the Commonwealth, the whole of whose production is in my electorate, figures which exactly define the position of the industry from 1895 to 1933. I have subdivided those figures, so that honorable members may have an idea of the prices paid by that company for the butter-fat content. En pre-federation days, from 1895 to 1900, the average price paid was 8.4d. In the succeeding decade, 1901-1910, it was 8. 2d. In the four years immediately preceding the war, 1911-14, it was 9d. During the war years, the Commonwealth had an agreement with the British Government, and it continued to operate until 1920j. in which year the highest average price ever received was paid, namely, 17$d. The average price for those six years was 14.5d. From 1921 to 1930 inclusive, the average price was 12d. During the last three years, however, it has been 8.6d., or only Q.2d. above what was received by the dairymen in prefederation days, when, as honorable members are well aware, the prices charged for everything that farmers have to purchase were, considerably lower than they are to-day: The present price is 7id. per lb.
– What dividend was paid by Norco last year.
– Norco is a cooperative concern, the suppliers being the shareholders.
– It paid 10 per cent., and the Sydney Bulletin has said that it ought to have paid 13 per cent, and 18 per cent.
– If it is such a safe concern, why are its shares not rushed, seeing that they are at par? I have additional figures concerning the point dealt with by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) in regard to overseas prices. A remarkable fact, of which I became aware only recently, is that the second week in November is the period of Australia’s peak production. In the district that I represent, and in Queensland, it is the latter portion of January, and February. Last year, the peak period was the week ended the 12t,h November. I have ‘figures showing the prices paid in London during 1931 and 1932 for finest salted butter from Australia, New Zealand, and Denmark. The lowest price in the case of both Australia and New Zealand was paid in December, the month following our peak production. In. 1931, it was 102s. 6d. for Australian butter, and 103s. 6d. for New Zealand butter, while in 1932 it was 84s. 6d. in each case The highest price obtained for Australian salted butter in February, 1931, was 119s. 6d. per cwt., and in September, 1932, 106s. 6d. per cwt. I have heard that in some instances the price reached 108s. per cwt., but the actual price for other than special consignments was 106s. 6d. per cwt. The highest price obtained for New Zealand butter in February 1931, was 122s. per cwt., and in September, 1932, 113s. 9d. per cwt. In 1932, the price of Australian butter was as low as 84s. 6d. In April of this year, it was 64s. per cwt., which is undoubtedly the lowest price recorded for some considerable time. During the years 1931 and 1932, at no time did the price of Danish butter on the London market fall below 100s. per cwt. The lowest price in 1931 was 118s. 6d. per cwt.,- and in 1932, 101s. 9d. per cwt., whereas the highest price in 1931 was 148s. 6d. per cwt., and in 1932, 143s. per cwt. My object in quoting these figures is to show the big disparity between the prices of Australian and Danish butter on the London market. The quotations for last week reveal the fact that the Australian price was 41s. or 42s. per cwt. below that of Denmark. There are several factors causing that disparity in prices.
One factor which was referred to by the honorable member for Flinders is the non-orderly marketing of Australian butter throughout the whole year. Other factors relate to the quality of the butter and the questionable administration of the Export Control Board. On account of the seasonal conditions in Russia, the exports of Russian butter to Great Britain have fallen off considerably, although a little while ago they were considerably in excess of Australian exports. In addition, South Africa, which is a potential competitor with Australia, is at present suffering from drought, and as a matter of fact, has been importing Australian butter. We have also to face the fact that our shipments to the East are falling off. At present, Holland, which is a butter-producing country, is making a definite bid to capture the butter trade of the Netherlands East Indies, and we cannot view with equanimity the prospect of losing, probably for all time, our butter trade with the island possessions of Holland. To-day,we supply Java with 97 per cent. of its butter requirements, and, of course, that trade is very valuable to us. It is admitted that Australian choicest butter is equal to the best Danish; but as has been mentioned by the honorable member for Flinders, we are handicapped by the difficult spreadibility of our butter, and the loss of a certain amount of its flavour due to its having been in cold storage for a considerable time.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) spoke enthusiastically about the operations of a Victorian butter factory, and quoted it as an example to be followed by the factories of other States. Let me point out that in 1931, a factory in my electorate manufactured 1,075 tons of butter, of which 99.893 per cent. was choicest, and.107 secondgrade. That was a remarkable effort.
– What were its manufacturing costs?
– I have not those figures. In 1932, this factory manufactured 968 tons of butter, of which 99.896 per cent. was choicest, and .104 per cent. second grade. If one factory canachieve such a measure of success, surely its example could be followed by factories in other parts of Australia.
I suggest to those honorable members who represent Victorian constituencies that the butter factories in their electorates can do quite a lot in the direction of improving the quality of their butter. According to figures supplied to me by the ex-Minister forCommerce, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), for the year ended the 30th June, 1931, the percen tages of choicest butter sent overseas were New South Wales 87 per cent. ; Victoria 37.55 per cent; and Queensland 61.48 per cent. In that year, Western Australia did not export butter. For the year ended 30th June, 1932, the percentages of choicest butter sent overseas were New South Wales 82.18 per cent; Victoria 59.5 per cent ; and Queensland 49.01 per cent. Those figures show definitely that New South Wales is to a certain extent carrying the other States on its back so far as the quality of the butter exported from Australia is concerned. Had it not been for the efforts of that State, the price of Australian butter would have been considerably lower than it is at present. I urge the honorable member for Flinders to reveal the true position to the dairymen in his constituency, and to inform them that they have a long way to go in respect of the quality of their butter to catch up with the producers of New South Wales. The fact that less than 60 per cent. of the butter exported from Victoria is graded choicest, is surely nothing to be proud of. In 1932, the percentage of choicest butter exported from Western Australia was only 11.6 per cent. That State, as well as Queensland, has a considerable way to go in the direction of improving the quality of its butter.
The Dairy Produce Export Control. Board has been referred to by the honorable member for Fremantle and other honorable members. That board consists of thirteen members, six of whom are from Victoria. There are two elected representatives of the co-operative interests, two elected representatives of the proprietary interests, one Government nominee, and one representative of f.o.b. and c.i.f. and e. interests. Two members of the board who were recently in England were expressly deputed to look into this matter and on their return to report to the board. They did so, and their reports were diametrically opposed to each other.
An Honorable Member. - Did they make similar investigations?
An Honorable Member. - But one of them was ill for a long period.
– I do not know anything about that. Ihave very definite views on this matter, and if the opportunity should again arise I shall give those opinions. I have nothing to say against the appointment of the Government representative, Mr. MacPherson. But I submit that Victoria has too great a predominance upon the board, particularly as the quality of the State’s exports is not up to the required standard.
– The honorable member docs not. suggest that I should have overridden a nomination by the industry itself?
– The Government has a nominee on the board.
– There has been no change in the Government nominee for years.
– I know that. Victoria, at present, is able to out-vote any three States. That is wrong. So much for the general position of the industry, and the necessity for the legislation contained in this bill.
There are one or two other matters upon which I desire to touch. First, I do not see any necessity for providing that an affirmative vote of 60 per cent.* of the dairymen must be cast in favour of the bill before it can become operative. When the measure was introduced, this provision was contained in it and according to the press reports of New South Wales and Queensland, the Minister stated that the bill would not be proclaimed until after the poll had been taken. I understand that these press reports were incorrect and that the proclamation of the act will not be required to await the result of the poll.
– Amendments are to be introduced along those lines.
– Will the bill become operative by proclamation before the poll is taken.
– If certain amendments to be submitted are carried.
– Surely the Minister can answer my question in a straightforward manner.
– I say that if certain amendments are carried, the issue of the proclamation will not be deferred until after the taking of a poll.
– I disagree entirely with the principle proposed in respect of the taking of a poll. Even in regard to votes in this House upon highly contentious matters, a bare majority is sufficient, and I cannot see why a 60 per cent, affirmative vote should be required before this legislation can remain operative. I understand that last night the Government attempted to embody this new principle in another bill, but that the committee would not agree to it. I hope that, a similar decision will be arrived at in the case of this bill. The Dairy Produce Export Control Bill which was enacted in 1924, and which was expected to confer immense benefits upon the industry, was carried by a simple majority. A simple majority is all that is necessary even for the election of a member to this chamber.
– Does the honorable member know anything of Queensland legislation ?
– I am talking of our. own legislation, not of the legislation of Queensland. Every measure submitted to this Parliament is decided by a simple majority. The establishment of the Commonwealth itself was determined by that method; and, unless reasons are advanced by the Minister which induce me to change my views, I shall not be satisfied with the provision in the bill relating to the majority required to give effect to it. I have no doubt whatever that a 60 per cent, affirmative vote will be forthcoming. In my own electorate there will be practically a 100 per cent, vote in its favour. But the principle which the House accepted last night in respect of another measure, should be equally acceptable here.
– By a majority vote we gave the producers the right to determine by a simple.majority whether they should come under this legislation.
– Yes, and if a similar principle is adopted here, everything will be perfectly satisfactory. I know that the industry is impatiently awaiting the bill. Only last Friday I attended a meeting of delegates of the Primary Producers Union in Casino. Everybody present at that gathering was very interested to learn the date on which this legislation was to be introduced. I trust that the Government will proclaim the measure as soon as possible so that before the season is over it will bave been placed upon our statute-boot.
– As I bave already spoken several times upon the principle underlying this bill, my remarks on this occasion will be brief. I congratulate those who are engaged in the industry upon having at last reached a stage at which this measure seems to be assured of a successful passage. The fight has been a long one, and criticism has been directed against the bill on the ground that it is of a socialistic character, that its provisions connote government interference with private enterprise, and aim at government control of the dairying industry.. But there is nothing socialistic about it. The people engaged in the industry are to be given power by the Commonwealth and States, acting together, to control it in their own way, and to manage their own affairs in the interests of the industry and of the public. Beyond that, the bill is not’ socialistic, and certainly does not represent government control.
It was incidentally mentioned during the speech of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) that doubt existed as to the power of the Commonwealth to legislate in this direction. But we ha.ve been exercising this legislative power continuously since 1928 without question. We have been acting upon the power asserted by the High Court in Commonwealth Law Reports, volume 28, McArthur’s case, page 556, where Chief Justice Knox, Justice Isaacs, and Justice Starke, in a joint judgment, declared -
The present case lias Involved a closer examination of this question than any previous occasion upon which the court has considered it. The result has been to convince us, notwithstanding dicta in previous cases, that the true office of section 02 is to protect interstate trade against State interference, and not to affect the legislative power of the Commonwealth.
Tho Commonwealth powers are thus clearly set out. There have been subsequent decisions, but these have not affected the law as laid down by the High Court.
– Would it not bo State interference if one State forced its butter on another State which did not want it?
– Whatever authority is exercised, is exercised under the authority conferred on the Commonwealth Parliament by section 51 of the Constitution which provides that -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for tlie peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to -
Trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States.
In the same volume from which I have previously quoted, page 562, Mr. Justice Higgins, in dealing with the contention that the Commonwealth had not this power, is thus reported -
Such a conclusion would leave an awkward gap in the Constitution; for it would mean that no authority in Australia, whether State or Commonwealth, could regulate any abuses of interstate trade.
He observed that this was not necessarily conclusive. This Parliament has thus been acting under the powers conferred by section 51 of the Constitution.
The purposes of the Federal and State legislation are, first, to provide that those engaged in the industry shall receive a fair return for their labour; secondly, to regulate interstate trade; and, finally, to deal with our export trade. The bill seeks to give effect to’ these three objects. The present bill entirely follows the drafting of the Dried Fruits Act, which contains power to deal with quotas. This legislation is complementary to the legislation enacted by the several States, including Queensland, where the Parliament in section 9 of the Dairy Products Stabilization Act, has laid »down that “ Subject to this act the board shall from time to time promulgate quotas. The quotas promulgated by the board shall be on the basis of the quota determined by the Minister for Commerce of the Commonwealth of Australia, or such other Minister of State of the Commonwealth as may for that purpose be appointed from time to time by tho Governor-General “. In the definition clause, quota ‘is thus defined -
No manufacturer shall sell in the course of into-a-state trade or commerce within the State of Queensland, dairy products manufactured by him in excess of the’ quota for the time being in force.
Although there is not in this bill the incorporation clause that was suggested in the original draft submitted to the
State Ministers for Agriculture, I understand that the power is to be exercised by regulation as in the case of the Dried Fruits Act.
On the whole, I think that- the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) is to be congratulated on the way in which he has presented the bill, and on the care and trouble he has given to his task. I believe that this is an indication of what Australia has to do. We- have seen the difficulty of trying to make international trade agreements, and of trying to restore prosperity through international effort. Our duty, in the meanwhile, is to turn to the organization of our own internal life, and so far as is possible, place our industries upon a stable foundation. I believe that that is what is being done in this instance; legislative power is being provided to complete the organization of the dairying industry so that those engaged in it may obtain a reasonable return for their efforts. This method of organizing should grow in Australia. After passing through many years of strenuous pioneering, those engaged in dairying in Australia have, by cooperative effort, developed a highly organized industry. This bill is securing that organization on an interstate basis. I hope that the measure will be passed speedily, and that those who have worked so hard in framing it will see their efforts consummated by having it placed on the statute-book.
.- In reality this bill is to give power to those controlling the dairy products industry, to regulate trade and commerce in that industry within the States of Australia and export to other countries. I emphasize that this legislation is not to enforce anything upon the dairying industry, but merely to give it power to control itself.
The first purpose of the State legislation to which this is complementary, is to compel those producing butter to contribute equally to a scheme that will provide an export bounty by a levy upon butter production in Australia. For the last eight years, a similar scheme, known as the Paterson butter plan, has been in operation. That plan has failed .mainly because it is on a voluntary basis, and as the industry is hot completely organized some of those, engaged in it have not been loyal to the- plan. Duringthe last year the levy upon butter production amounted to lid. per lb., and the amount of butter consumed in Australia being, about 40 per cent, of the quantity produced, the export bounty was 3d. per lb. However, there are in some States, and particularly in Tasmania, many who manufacture butter on their farms and do not contribute towards the export bounty though they enjoy the full benefit of the Australian price. There are also some proprietary factories which have refused to contribute their quota towards the export bounty. Clearly it is unjust that those who benefit by the Australian price should not contribute towards the scheme which enables them to enjoy a local price which has been 3d. per lb. higher than that, which would have been obtained had there been no equalization plan. The higher price is provided by the butter consumers of Australia. Those who do not contribute actually pocket 1 3/4d. on every pound of butter which they manufacture. Under a compulsory plan, that 1 3/4d. would go towards the export bounty. Under State acts those who manufacture butter, whether on a large or small scale, can be compelled to contribute towards the export bounty; but those who manufacture for sale less than 500 lb. perannum are exempted from the provisions of the law. The authority which is prescribed in this bill will also have power to fix the proportion of butter which shall be sold in Australia, which will ensure that all manufacturing this product are treated equally as regards the better prices obtaining for local as against overseas sales. That is simple justice. This? bill is necessary only because under our Constitution the Commonwealth and not the States has power to regulate trade and commerce between the States and with other countries.
There is a fear in the minds of some people that those engaged in the dairying industry will abuse the power that will be given to them under this legislation and will exploit consumers by charging an unreasonable amount for their product; but as, I think, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fair- bairn) rightly said, there is no ground for such fears. The moderation which has been evidenced among those who have controlled the industry in the past when carrying out the Paterson plan, ensures that they will not be so foolish or so selfish as to make an unreasonable charge now. They know perfectly well that if they went to extremes and attempted to fix an unreasonable price, the effect would be to damage the industry and, in the long run, help no one. Further, this Parliament has power to prevent the exploitation’ of the public by ensuring that the protection afforded to an industry by the customs tariff shall be such as will bring, about reasonable competition.
There is no doubt that the dairying industry is in.’ need of help. It is probable that in no other industry do the workers labour so strenuously or over such a long stretch of hours; certainly holidays are practically unknown during the season. They are entitled to a fair price for that portion of the product of their labour as is consumed in Australia. No one will claim it as reasonable that the price fixed for butter in Australia should be at a level that will provide a payable price for the whole of the product of the industry. But it is reasonable that those in the industry should receive for the amount of butter consumed in Australia a price that will enable them to live according to the Australian standard.
I welcome the bill which, I think, is the forerunner of others that will give power to the primary industries to control themselves, and ensure to the workers engaged in them a standard of living comparable with that provided in secondary industries through the medium of the Arbitration Court and Australia’s protectionist policy. I do not think there is much doubt that those engaged in the dairying industry will support these proposals by an overwhelming majority, although I believe that it will not be so popular in some of the States where those engaged in the industry have not met their obligations under the voluntary, plan. At the same time, I think it is only fair to say that a majority would have willingly contributed their quota under the plan had machinery existed to make its application general..
– That plan was confined to factories.
– That is so, but some factories manufacturing on a fairly large scale have declined to contribute .to it. They have been greedy in the- extreme and unfair Ho the industry. I am confident that this legislation, which will compel all to contribute fairly towards the stabilization of the dairying industry, will be generally welcomed.
– I wish,, first, to congratulate the Government on having introduced thisbill. For some time the dairying industry of Australia has endeavoured so to organize itself that all engaged in it would receive a more reasonable price for that portion of their product sold in Australia. For years I have advocated the closest and most efficient organization on. the. part of all engaged in each one of our agricultural industries, because I realize that only by that means will their best interests be served. The hill is largely the outcome of an agitation conducted by the butter producers of Queensland for the organization ‘of the industry on a Commonwealth basis. The Constitution should be amended to enable the producers in any industry to organize without having to go through the complicated procedure of having legislation passed by each of the State Parliaments, and by the Commonwealth Parliament as well. Every one can see how absurd it would be if industrial workers were faced with the same difficulty in effecting organization. If the industrial laws cif one State were not binding on workers who entered that State from over the border, wages and conditions would be depressed by cut-throat competition from “ scabs “ and non-unionists. I shall never be satisfied until the primary producers have the same unfettered right to organize for their own protection as the industrial workers have now. At the present time, producers of all kinds are being affected by outside influences, so that those who actually produce the goods get less for them than they should, and the consumers pay more than they ought. Moreover, because there is no effective organization, the producers of one State engage in cut-throat competition with those in another State, to the detriment of both. Only last week 300 boxes of butter from Victoria were placed on the market in Queensland, although at that time Queensland was exporting its surplus. “We should pursue a policy that will enable the primary producers to secure a fair return for their labour, and the best way of doing this is to develop our own home markets. Secondary industries should be adequately protected by the tariff against unfair overseas competition, so that the workers in those industries may be able to buy our primary products. Every one admits that the population of. Australia is too small. Even if we had 12,000,000 people instead of 6,000,000, we should not be over-populated. We have been told that we should restrict production to avoid the embarrassment of having to find markets for our exportable surplus. A better policy would be to develop our secondary industries and increase our population, so .that we should ourselves be able to absorb the greater part of our primary production.
This bill provides for the control of the local market, but there is no power on earth which could give us control overworld markets. In Victoria, to-day, the price of commercial butter is only 7£d. per lb. In Queensland, where there is “a better system of organization, the price of butter is from lOd. to lid. per lb. In States where the producers are not organized, there is too wide a margin between what the producers receive on the one hand, and what the consumers are charged on the ,other. With effective organization, it should be possible to give the producers an adequate return, without compelling the consumers to pay more than a price that is reasonable, lt should also be possible to dispose of the exportable surplus without allowing it unduly to depress local prices. There are many overseas markets which could be exploited if only the problem were tackled in a proper way. However, before such organization could be brought about, it. would be necessary, as I have said, to amend the Constitution so that, the producers in any industry would have to approach only one Parlia- ment, and have one act passed. The Commonwealth should be given full power to legislate in regard to trade and commerce. If this were done, many of the troubles which have beset our primary producers in recent years would be overcome. When the problem of wheat prices first became acuta, I urged that tho wheat-growers should organize the industry on a Commonwealth-wide basis, but the growers themselves declined. Had they done so, it would not now be necessary to pay them £3,000,000 out of the Treasury or to- impose a tax on flour to assist them.
I congratulate the Deputy Leader of the. Country party (Mr. Paterson) upon his earnest and capable speech, and upon the trouble to which he must have gone to prepare his case. However, I disagree with some of the conclusions at which he arrived. He said that in Victoria the producers obtain only 7-Jd. per lb. on the farm for their butter-fat, which was equal to 3d. a gallon for their milk. The honorable member went on to say that, if the benefit at present derived from the exchange were deducted, the price per lb. for butter-fat would have to be reduced by 2d. Under the Paterson scheme the 7£d. per lb. received for butter-fat would be reduced by lid., or, in all, 3¼d. making the return to the producer of commercial butter 4£d. per lb. According to my figures, 1 gallon of 4 test milk is equal to 1 lb. of 40 test cream, which is the equivalent of i lb. of butter, so that in Victoria 1 gallon of milk returns to -the dairy farmer only 2-Jd. a gallon. In the face of these figures will any section of the people complain at the action of the dairy-farmers in organizing with a view to securing a more equitable return for their labour and a fairer distribution in the interests of Aus. tralia and of themselves? I am confident that no one will deny to dairyfarmers the right to take all. steps necessary to improve their economic position; and certainly no one will challenge the Government for having brought forward legislation which will make that possible. The dairymen are not asking for the dole, nor are t-hey asking the Government to find £3,000,000 for their assistance as is the case with the wheatgrowers. All that they are seeking is the necessary legislation to enable them so to organize their business as to make possible an improvement in their economic status. I am quite sure that 80 per cent, of the dairymen will approve this bill. Efficient control of the local market will unsure to them a reasonable price for their product. The dairying industry is the greatest wealth producer in Australia. It is even more valuable to this country than the wool industry if we take into account the production of milk for home consumption, and for the manuufacture of cheese, condensed milk and butter. No other industry employs so much labour and no other industry has established more individual homes in this country. The continuity of employment which it provides is, perhaps, its most important asset. In the pioneering stages of development it is the first among all the industries to give a return to those engaged in it. I hope that, before long, the Commonwealth Parliament and the Parliaments of the States will, by constitutional amendments approved by a referendum of the people, give to the dairying and other primary industries the right to come to this Parliament and ask for legislation permitting them to organize for their own protection and for the benefit of the people of Australia.
– Nearly all honorable members who have spoken to this bill have given it their benediction. This is the more surprising in view of the fact that, had similar legislation been suggested a few years ago, there would have been an immediate protest that an attempt was being made to socialize the primary industries of Australia. Hitherto, the difficulties of those industries have been a lack of systematic planning. Existing world conditions require the scientific organization of primary, as well as secondary, industries if those engaged in them are to carry on at a profit. The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) has told us that the value of butter exported from Australia last year amounted to £9,000,000. Production figures furnish evidence of remarkable expansion in this industry during the last 45 years. In 1889, our export trade in butter amounted to approximately 650 tons. Last year it was 101,000 tons. This astonish ing development should give producers furiously to think. Obviously if it continues at the rate recorded in recent years, it will be impossible to dispose of the whole of the exportable surplus in overseas markets, because, as the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) has told us, there have been similar developments in European countries, notably in Denmark, where butter production per unit has increased enormously. Import quotas have recently been fixed by France, Belgium, Netherland and Germany, which formerly took a proportion of Australia’s exportable surplus. In view of these facts the future of the export side of the dairying industry would seem to be rather uncertain, if not precarious.
This subject was discussed at the International Monetary and Economic Conference held in London earlier in this year. I take the following brief extract from the record of its proceedings: -
Considering .that, for the above reasons the delegations of several countries deem it necessary for the governments to constitute, without delay, an international dairy council for tlie purpose of reducing competition between the countries exporting butter and other dairy produce, by co-ordinating production and marketing.
It would, therefore, appear that we are taking up this matter at the right time. Organization on the lines indicated in this bill is essential if the dairying industry is to meet the changed world conditions, and ensure to those engaged in it a reasonable return for their labour. Hitherto, unregulated supplies on the London market have re-acted detrimentally to the interests of Australian exporters, the quantities marketed having varied from 131,000 boxes to 4S0,000 boxes in different months of the year. All the evidence goes to show that, if we are to hold the overseas market and command uniformly high prices, there must be effective regulation of the export trade. The organization of Danish butter producers to ensure the continuity of supplies on the London market has contributed enormously to the success of the Danish export trade in butter. This organization has been lacking in Australia to the great detriment of our producers. One danger which I see in the bill, but which apparently the Minister has safeguarded to some extent, is the possible limitation of supplies’ for the home market, leading to the unf air exploitation of consumers in Australia.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7 p.m.
– I have no doubt that the Minister is fully seised of the necessity for preventing the inflation of prices to local consumers due to the restriction of supplies on the home market.
I am definitely in favour of the provision that the continued operation of the act shall be dependent upon at least 60 per cent, of the total number of votes being given in favour of it at polls of producers taken by the several States. I consider that when a government establishes a basis for welding units into a whole, it’ is necessary that those affected should express their willingness in no uncertain voice. It does not necessarily follow that the whole of those engaged in the industry will exercise the franchise. Therefore, if there is a poll of only 75 per cent, of the producers a simple majority would mean only 37 per cent, of the industry, while under the 60 per cent, majority, on the same poll basis, 50 per cent, of the industry would determine its ultimate destiny. I would be in agreement with a single majority if a compulsory poll of the producers were possible; but this, I suppose, is not possible. Therefore, the interests of the industry should be safeguarded by the provision of a wider margin than a simple majority.
I compliment the Government upon having taken this industry in hand at the right time. If the economic conference suggests that it is necessary in the near future for the nations to decide that there shall be no competition in the marketing of dairy products, the industry in Australia must’ be placed on a firm footing so that any quota which may be fixed will not deal it a vital blow.
Under the Paterson stabilization plan, the consumers of butter in Australia have contributed between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000 annually’ to this industry, and the legislation that we are now considering will result in a further impost being placed on the people as a whole. I contend that primary producers must be prepared to concede a certain measure of protec tion to the secondary industries of Australia, the employees in which constitute a large proportion of the home market, because this must re-act upon the consumer by raising costs, thus demanding an increase of the purchasing power of the community, and ultimately necessitating increased tariffs. -
I give- the measure my benediction. Considering the conditions that exist in the world to-day, if is time that this great exporting industry was handled by the exporters themselves, according to a carefullyprepared plan that will benefit, not only the industry itself, but also the community generally.
.- I congratulate the Minister upon the introduction of this measure,, which I shall assist him to pass as speedily as possible. I was astonished to hear the honorable gentleman’s predecessor, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) say last night that this legislation savours of socialism. It does not matter what it savours of, so leng as those who are engaged in the industry are assured a decent return by means of a standard price for the article that they produce. To a certain extent, this action was instigated by the Dairy Board in Queensland, in conjunction with Mr. Plunkett, M.L.A., and Mr. Purcell, who have devoted a good deal of time and attention to the matter. Although action by the Federal Government is belated, it is better late than never. If the Minister continues along the lines of pools and organizations in connexion with primary production, he will go a long way towards giving effect to the platform of the Labour party in relation to organized marketing. During the last couple of years, the plight of the dairy-farmer has been almost as unfortunate as that of the wheal grower. He has chosen organization instead of appealing to the Government for grants or a loan. Had he not been able to induce the Commonwealth Parliament to provide him with this means of regaining’ stability, he would have been obliged to seek financial assistance from the Government, because he could not have affordedto continue to supply his cream to the butter factory at the price which he has been receiving during the last two years. Although the dairyman and his family still have to work strenuously, their labours are not nearly so arduous as they once were, because much. of the drudgery has been eliminated by the use of milking and other machinery.
When legislation” of this nature was first introduced into the Queensland Parliament, many of those who are now in favour of it took the platform against it, and urged that it was communistic and socialistic, because it was designed to enable the producers to control their own industry. As the result of the’ success of the Queensland scheme, the representatives of that State have been a bie to convince the representatives of other States that their producer’s, also, would benefit by similar legislation and organization. I am convinced that at least 90 per cent of the dairy-farmers of Australia realize the necessity for organized marketing, and would vote for it. I am pleased, that the Minister has forecast an amendment that will empower the Commonwealth to take a poll in any State. If the matter were left to the States, the position in some of them might bo similar to that which obtained when an attempt was made to establish a wheat pool. The Darlings »nd other marketing parasites always make every endeavour, by personal canvass and press propaganda, to conserve their own interests at the expense of primary producers and workers, who seek a fair return for their labour. The Queensland Prices Commissioner fixes the price of butter in that State. The producer realizes that a man whose income is only £3 10s. or £3 lis. a week cannot pay 2s. or 2a. 3d. per lb. for butter, and that, if the price were fixed at an uneconomic level, the home market would decline. He knows that the market which, four or five years ago, was provided by the 28 per cent, of the people who to-day are unemployed, will not be regained until purchasing power is restored to that section of the people. The same thing is happening in Great Britain, where additional imports are adding to the difficulties caused by unemployment. All over the world, markets have declined to the extent of the lost purchasing power of the 30 per cent, of the population that is out of work. I do not think that the Prices Commissioner in Queensland has found it necessary to fix a price for butter in that State since the Dairy Board has been established, because it has been maintained at a reasonable level. If a vote i3 taken in Queensland, 95 per cent, of the butter-producers will signify their approval of this scheme. It is suggested that some of the States may not come into it, and that a person who has a couple of cows in his backyard, to whom injustice may be done, should be protected by the enactment of certain restrictions. Why should organized marketing be destroyed for such slight considerations? No persons are better able to sell a commodity than those who are engaged in its, production. The pool system has worked very successfully in Queensland. The decision of the High Court of Australia in the peanut case dealt a blow to the pool legislation in that State, and probably has made necessary Commonwealth action for the marketing of butter. E commend the Minister for having submitted this measure, and I trust that if the scheme is accepted in a majority of the States, it will be possible to require dissenting States to participate in it:
.- This bill is designed to bring about the improved organization of the dairying industry, and I have no doubt that the general principle of the measure is acceptable to the industry in every State, and to the people generally. The experience of the dried fruits industry for the last fifteen years affords an outstanding example of the value of organization to enable an industry to manage its own marketing affairs. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) in his speech last night seemed to be under the impression that I had suggested that those who managed the dried fruits industry in its initial stages had levied an unwarranted toll on the consumers; but I merely said that that industry had been so well organized that it had fixed an Australian price for its products, and I commended it for that action. The price of butter in most capital cities has been fixed by certain individuals for almost the last 40 years. Of course, this matter has been largely in the hands of the cooperative companies for the last few years; but, prior to that, private firms determined, selling prices. One firm marketing “ Leura “ brand of butter formerly fixed the price of the first grade article in Melbourne every week. I am not afraid of the exploitation of the public ‘when an industry is managed by the producers themselves. On one occasion, the selling agents fixed the price of butter at 2s. 6d. per lb., but the workers in Melbourne and elsewhere refused for a time to eat butter. Large quantities remained in the cool stores instead of being distributed by grocers in the usual way, and the dealers soon came to their senses. The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) in reply to an interjection, stated that certain dairy-farmers would not be brought within the scope of this measure. I do not know whether he referred to those who churn butter on their farms. In 1931-32, the quantity of butter manufactured in Australia was 332,000,000 lb., but in that year the butter churned or manufactured oh the farms amounted to 19,000,000 lb. If the State authorities do not take action with regard to this butter some disorganization of the market may result.
– The States will deal with that matter.
– I hope so. If loopholes of this nature are not closed, an amending bill may -be necessary next year. For the butter season ended June last, which was a record export year, Australia exported 100,000 tons of butter. In 1930-31, 163,000,000 lb. of the 351,000,000 lb. of butter manufactured in this country was exported, and 188,000,000 lb. was consumed in Australia. The fact that 25,000,000 lb. more butter was sold locally than was sent overseas shows that the public generally in Australia contributed liberally in paying the local fixed price. The interests of the people living iu urban areas are closely linked with those of the rural population. The most valuable market which rural workers have is the home market, and this remark applies particularly to the dairying industry. Governments can do much to assist both primary and secondary industries; but unless the producers themselves are prepared to shoulder the re sponsibility which the organization of marketing arrangements involves, no legislation can give them effective assistance. The success of the dairying industry in Denmark furnishes the’ most striking example in the world of the value of organized marketing of primary products, a gospel which has been preached to dairymen in Australia for the last 30 years. I have no wish to be egotistical; but in dealing with the Forrest budget in the Commonwealth Parliament just twenty years ago, I spoke for two hours twenty minutes on one occasion, and for most of that time, I advocated organization of the dairying industry.
Mr. Jell. The honorable member was a paid organizer of the industry.
– Although at one time the dairymen of Victoria regarded my proposals as revolutionary, they now vote for parliamentary representatives who support the principle which I then advocated. I spent seven years in organizing work among dairymen in Victoria, and one of the results was the establishment of a very useful dairying association in that State.
Co-operative societies have been the mainstay of agricultural progress in Denmark since 1864. The total turnover of all societies in 1929 was ?118,068,750, but it fell to ?90,000,000 in 1930, though the actual volume of sales and purchases increased. In 1929, there were 1,383 .dairy societies, with sales of butter alone totalling ?42,187,500, and bacon factories with sales totalling ?25,425,000. In Denmark, of course, the butter producers are close to the great British markets. Denmark stands unequalled by any other country with regard to the extent to which organization has been carried out on the farms, in the factories, and in the export business. Although I am not a country member, I represent a large body of butter consumers, who have stood by the dairyfarmers in recent years, and, without complaint, have paid a fixed Australian price for butter. The great bulk of them are unionists, and they commend the dairymen for having organized their industry. I understand that during the committee stage there will be considerable controversy in respect of some of the provisions of this bill. Last night, I voted with the majority of honorable members to give majority rule to the fruit-growers, and to-night, if the same issue comes to a vote, I shall do exactly as I did last night so as to give the dairymen the control of the marketing of their own products. “We are elected to this chamber by a majority vote and all the great institutions in this country adopt the same principle. Even the directors of the co-operative butter factories are elected by a majority of the shareholders. Why should we not give the dairymen the right to control by a majority their own industry? I hope that when the bill has passed through the committee stage, we shall be able to present to the industry legislation which will operate in its best interests.
– I was pleased to hear the general chorus of approbation of t,his,measure similar to that which we heard last night in respect of another measure. There is little for me to reply to, and for that reason I shall reserve my remarks until the committee stage, when I propose to move amendments which it is considered will make the measure even more acceptable to the dairy-farmers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bil] read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Duration of act).
– I move -
That clause 3 be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: -
Unless, ait a poll of producers held in the proscribed 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 this act, this act shall cease to have effect upon a dato 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.
This amendment follows closely along the lines of another amendment that was moved in connexion with similar legislation last night, but since then the Government’s proposals have been fortified somewhat by a reference to a corresponding provision in similar legislation in Queens land, which State, as honorable members know, is the very home of controlled legislation of the kind with which we are now dealing. The Queensland Primary Producers’ Organization and Marketing Act, after setting out the method by which any industry may be brought under its operation, provides -
If within thirty days after such notice is so published in the Gazette, fifty growers of the commodity (or such other number of growers as may be approved) residing in the district or locality to which the Order in Council is intended to apply, petition the Minister that a poll ‘be taken before such order is made, the Minister shall cause to be taken (either .by officers of the department or by the council or a board or other organization as lie may direct), u vote of the growers of the commodity residing in the district or locality to which the Order in Council is intended to apply on the question on whether such order shall bc made, and if less than three-fifths of the votes polled are in favour of the making of such order, such order shall not tie made.
In other words, unless there is a 60 per cent, affirmative vote, the Order in Council bringing the particular industry under the act will not apply. At one time the necessary affirmative vote in Queensland was 75 per cent. There is also provision in the legislation of New South Wales for the taking of a poll in connexion with the control of industries.
– Has the Queensland act to which the Minister has referred been passed recently ?
– It .is in operation at the present moment.
– Is there a similar provision in the Queensland act which was passed a day or two ago ?
– That act contains no provision for a poll, but certain control legislation of New South Wales contains such a provision. It is true that it provides for a simple majority vote, but it also provides that at least 60 per cent, of those engaged in the industry must exercise their vote. Previously, the affirmative vote that was necessary under the legislation of New South Wales, was 66f per cent. It has been contended that the Government in introducing this proposal for a 60 per cent, affirmative vote of the actual voters, is adopting some new principle, but the State provisions, which
I have quoted, show conclusively that that contention is not correct. This amendment has the endorsement of the accredited representatives of the industry. Those representatives who are present in this chamber have indicated in a document which I hold in my hand, their endorsement not only of this amendment, but also of another amendment which I shall move directly. This legislation, to be effective, should have, not the grudging support of a simple majority, but the enthusiastic support of a worthwhile majority of the producers in the industry.
– I am sorry that the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) has not heeded the action of honorable members generally in agreeing to an amendment moved last night to another bill in favour of a simple majority vote. It is regrettable that he is now seeking to depart from that principle. I shall not be guided by his references to State legislation; all federal legislation of a similar character dealing with, the export control of dairy products, wine, and dried fruits provides for simple majorities. The majority rule applies in the election of not only members in this chamber, ,but also members of the boards controlling the various farm products of Australia. The Minister has given no justification for this amendment, which, if passed, will give to agents and speculators, who, for many years, have been in the forefront of all opposition to the producer control of the farm products of Australia, a further opportunity to disseminate propaganda to the effect that this legislation savours of socialism and would be detrimental to the interests of the primary producers by leading to bungling and consequent losses in the sale of their products. These are the people to whom the Government is now pandering by moving an amendment providing for an affirmative majority vote of 60 per cent. In effect, 41 per cent, of the producers would determine whether this legislation was to become operative. Has some sinister influence been brought to bear on the Government since this measure was first under consideration ? A similar measure, which was introduced last night, provided originally for a simple majority vote, but because of the representations of certain agents the Govern ment proposed to amend the bill to provide for an affirmative vote of 60 per cent. Evidently, the same influence which caused the Government to change its attitude in respect of that bill has caused it to change its attitude in respect of this bill. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) has circulated an amendment providing for a simple majority vote. That amendment will have the wholehearted support of the members of the Labour party. The Minister has referred to a document which, he says, contains an endorsement of the Government’s proposals signed by representatives of the dairying industry who are sitting in the gallery of this chamber to-night; but, while I have the greatest respect for those gentlemen,, let me say that this is a matter of principle to the member of the Opposition. We have always stood for the principle of majority rule; and in that respect, we are supported by 99 per cent, of the producers. I know that the representatives of the industry would, prefer a simple majority and to accept this amendment rather than face the possibility of the bill being dropped altogether ; but no matter what action the Government may take, the members of the Opposition refuse to depart from a principle for which they have always stood. We wholeheartedly believe in this legislation, which seeks to give the producerscontrol of the dairying industry in Australia. Both in State and Federal spheres, the members of the Federal. Labour party have always advocated control of this kind. We hope that thismeasure will lead to greater . stability in the dairying industry and will ensure a more reasonable return to the 120,000’ dairy-farmers in this country. Becausewe stand for the principle of a simple majority, we cannot support the amendment submitted by the Minister, but will support the amendment of the right, honorable member for Cowper.
Question - That the clause be omitted. - resolved in the affirmative.
Question proposed -
That the clause proposed to be inserted beinserted.
.- I do not intend to occupy the time of the committee by arguing this question. I shall content myself “with moving -
That the words “ at least sixty per centum “ in the proposed amendment be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ a majority “.
The Minister has spoken of the precedents established in other parliaments, but all the precedents in this Parliament confirm the action I am taking. When I spoke to the representatives of the dairying industry yesterday, they were very keen indeed upon the recognition of the principle of a simple majority. But I understand that by reason of threats which have been made to them-
– Who made the threats?
– Well, I will say that, under duress, they have changed their opinion.
– Who made the threats?
– It was stated by members of the Government that if there were inserted in the bill provision to give effect to what is undoubtedly the wish of the dairying industry, the measure would not be proceeded with. That is a position that we should not tolerate in this Parliament. It is not in the interests of the dairying industry, which provides a tremendous amount of .work throughout Australia.
.- I intend to support the amendment of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). I am very surprised to find him in such a democratic mood. However, it is said that the older one grows the more one learns. Obviously it is better to change late than not to change at all. I am extremely surprised at the action of the Government, and I cannot understand why it is insisting upon the retention in the bill of a 60 per cent, majority. To talk about refusing to go on with measure if that proposal is not carried is absolute folly.
– That statement was never made.
– I am glad to hear that I am wrong.
– The honorable member is obviously wrong.
– Not so obviously. When the suggestion was made that a simple majority should determine whether the bill should become operative, the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) was emphatic in his statement that he would not go on with the bill. Yet this measure is not in the interests of the middleman, or the wheator. the butter-agent; it is intended to benefit our butter producers. I want to see them get a fair price for their products. I have fought for the trade unionist obtaining a fair reward for his labour, and the dairyman has an equal right to a square deal. I ask the Minister to reconsider his decision, otherwise it is quite possible that a majority of the committee will be against him. I belong to the United Australia party, and in supporting the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Page) on this occasion, I am standing firmly for its principles. A simple majority should have the right to decide how the dairying industry shall be carried on in Australia. It gives me pleasure to vest in those who are engaged in that industry, the control of their own affairs. The proposal of the Government is without precedent. It is calculated to make one feel ashamed. I believe the measure to be a good one, and the Government is to be congratulated on having ‘ introduced it. But a bare majority of the dairy-farmers should have the right to control their own industry.
[7.53. - I rise to give a most emphatic denial to the illconsidered utterances of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page).
– Will the Minister say that it is the intention of the Government, if defeated oh its amendment, to go’ on with the bill ?
– I say, emphatically, that there has been no duress, and that no threats have been held out either to the butter producers of Australia or to their accredited representatives. Since the right honorable member made his observations in the presence of these gentlemen, I have asked them whether there was any truth in his statements, and they have authorized me to say that his statements are quite incorrect. That amounts to a complete denial by them.
– When the Minister sits down, I shall tell him exactly what is the position.
– I am particularly sorry that the right honorable member should give utterance to these statements, because almost every, honorable member is particularly anxious to give the fullest possible assistance to this important industry. I have fought both in season and out of season for the dairying industry, and shall always do so. Yet now the right honorable member accuses” the Go- vernment of having indulged in threats to prevail on the accredited representatives of the dairying industry to sign a particular statement. The accusation is an outrageous one.
– “What is the Government going to do about’ it?
– The Government will give expression to the views of the producers in this matter. They say that they are favorable to the Government amendment in its entirety, because it is based on legislation on which this legislation is based.
– The whole of the legislation of Queensland-
– This is not a Queensland bill ; it is an all- Australian measure.
– But Queensland legislation has given us a lead in this matter.
– The Queensland supplementary bill provides for no quota at all.
– The Queensland legislation originally provided that there must be an affirmative vote of 75 per cent., whereas this bill provides for an affirmative vote of only 60 per cent. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has said that the Labour party’s policy provides for the acceptance -of legislation by a bare majority. But the whole of that party’s legislation in Queensland requires a 60 per cent. vote.
– I have merely stated what the Federal Opposition policy is- a simple majority.
– And I am telling the honorable member what is provided for by the legislation of the State from which he comes. The producers have said that they are perfectly satisfied with the Government amendment. They were asked if it met with the approval of the dairyproducers of Australia, and without reservation they replied “ Yes “. More than one honorable member has predicted that an overwhelming majority of the producers will support the bill, and vote for its acceptance by the industry. I have not the slightest doubt that the majority in its favour will be nearer 90 per cent, than 60 per cent. Rather than provide for -the acceptance of a brand new principle in legislation by a bare majority-
– It is five and a half years old.
– I would remind the honorable member that this legislation has been based on recent decisions by the High Court.
– It is word for word, a copy of the Dried Fruits Act of 1928.
– But it has been tightened to comply with the decisions of the High Court. I ask the committee to agree to the Government amendment. Some of the States are in favour of this principle, but if the bill is to be made operative by the decision of a bare majority, the opposition of other States to it will be strengthened. If w,e can show that a fair majority of dairymen want this bill, it will operate without friction. There has been no delay in bringing . clown this legislation. The three States which have enacted their share of the legislation dealing with this matter have only now taken, that step. I appeal to the committee to accept the amendment of the Minister.
Bt. EARLE PAGE (Cowper) [8.0].- When the delegates of the butter industry arrived in Canberra yesterday, they asked me to submit certain amendments all of which stand in my name on the business paper. I now challenge the Minister to ask these men whether they prefer a 50 per cent, or a 60 per cent, affirmative vote. , What has happened to change their attitude? Every honorable member knows what has happened.
– The honorable member is changing his ground entirely.
– I am not. I have merely given effect to the expressed wish of the dairymen’s organizations of Australia, and I challenge :the Government to ask those dairymen whether they desire a 50 per cent, or a “60 per cent, majority.
.- So far as I know, there is only one cow that is milked in my constituency, and that is the Government. Consequently, I do not profess to be a dairy expert. I have listened carefully to the debate, and it appears to me that the general opinion is that this bill is in the- best interests of the dairying industry.
Some honorable members appear to make a fetish of the mere principle of majority rule. If a bare majority is to decide an important question, one man may hold the balance of power. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) has assured the committee - and I accept his assurance, otherwise ! should be inclined to vote with those who believe in bare majority rule, in this instance - that this matter had been submitted to representatives of the dairying industry, who have expressed a desire that there should be a 60 per cent, majority.
– No. They said that they wanted the bill passed without the proposed amendment.
– Am I to understand the Minister to say that the accredited representatives of the dairying industry had this matter submitted to them, and expressed the opinion that provision should be mad’e for a 60 per cent, majority?
– I hold in my hand a document on which is printed the Government’s amendment, and on which there is a footnote reading, “ The amendment quoted above meets with our entire approval.”
– That confirms my opinion, and I shall vote for the Government’s amendment.
.- I had not intended to rise, but the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) prefaced his remarks with the general observation that this pool was a good idea, and he said that it might be carried by the majority vote of one man. Under the Government’s proposal, 41 men could prevent 59 men from bringing this good thing into operation. The argument has been strongly in favour of a bare majority determining the issue, and we should place this measure on the same basis as the Dried Fruits Bill. Those honorable members who voted yesterday in favour of majority rule should be con sistent, and should do so again on this occasion.
– I support the amendment that has been moved by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart), and urge the committee to reject the arguments that have been advanced by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). I do so on grounds of general principle. I believe that so far as this legislation is concerned the matter of whether the majority shall be 60-40 or 50-50 is of no practical importance, and that the merits of this proposal .are so widely recognized by dairy-farmers that the majority which will endorse the proposal for a pool will greatly exceed 60 per cent, of the votes recorded My argument is based on the grounds of the general desirability of what is really a constitutional change in an industry being endorsed by an unmistakably favorable opinion before the change can be made. The parliamentary analogy has been drawn by a number of honorable members who support a bare majority, including the right honorable member for Cowper. Within the last few days the right honorable gentleman has been urging, and I think rightly, the utmost limit of the difference in quota which is allowed between country and town electorates, which would have the effect of making 45 votes in the country equivalent to approximately 65 in the town ! Wo referendum for a constitutional change can be submitted to the people unless it is approved by an absolute majority of members in both Houses of Parliament, but it would be an unduly drastic safeguard to insist that no constitutional change should be effected in the control of this industry until it was approved by an absolute majority of producers. That would be more severe than asking for a 60 per centmajority, for any one with experience knows how extremely difficult it is to get even a 50 per cent. vote. I point out that not only in Queensland is provision made for more than ‘a bare majority vote to constitute a pool. I am not acquainted with the details of the personnel of New South Wales Governments, and, therefore, I am not sure whether the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) was a member of the
Government which provided that a majority of more than 50 per cent, should be recorded for the establishment of a pool in a certain industry, a project which was defeated.
I have heard nothing to-night to induce me to change my opinion that I should support the amendment moved by the Minister. There was some talk last night about a last minute conversion on the part of certain members of the Ministry, and doubts were cast regarding the truth of the statement that it was only because of an error in copying from an old bill that the provision for a 60 per cent, poll was not inserted. . I have here a first copy of the dairy produce bill that was circulated last week, and it is obvious that it was copied from an old bill, because in the marginal notes there appear the words “interstate trade in dried fruits “ instead of “ dairy produce.” No doubt, the slips were due to the endofthesession rush.
I hope that the Government will carry this amendment, and that, if it fails to do so, it will provide a safeguard in the bill to ensure that only those who have a specific interest in dairying will be able to vote on these questions. I do not think that those who are casually interested, or whose chief livelihood is dependent upon some other industry, should be able to outvote those who are wholly dairy producers; and I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) point to the need for ensuring that the vote in cases like these should be given by producers who are essentially dairymen. I hope that the same principle will be applied to all legislation , which is introduced for organizing and controlling primary industries. We must face the need of planning, not only in connexion with the dried, fruits and dairying industries, but in regard to all others. I ask the committee to make sure that that planning will be on cooperative, and not on coercive lines. If there is a substantial majority in favour of this form of control, it becomes not coercion, but co-operation, and it is by collaboration only that we shall obtain the benefits of planning without the deadening effects of coercion and that undesirable thing which is described as socialization.
.- The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has declared that it is only by accident that the provision for a 60 per cent, majority did not appear in the bill when printed, . and, therefore, that the decision of the Government to have a 60 per cent, majority was arrived at some time ago. I point out that as far back as the 20th October, 1924, the Commonwealth Parliament passed the Dairy Produce Export Control Act, which contains the following provision : -
Provided that a proclamation under this section shall not issue unless and until, at a poll of producers taken in the prescribed manner, throughout the Commonwealth, a majority of votes have been given in favour of the act being brought into operation.
– The principle is entirely different.
– The principle of a bare majority embodied therein has also been incorporated in the Dried Fruits Export Control Act, which was passed in the same year, iri the Canned Fruits Export Control Act, which was passed a little later, and in the Wine Export Control Act, which was passed in 1929.
The restrictive powers given to the Dairy Produce Export Control Board are as far reaching as those which will be exercised by the authority to be set up under this measure. The one power relates, it is true, to the restriction of exports, while the other relates to the restriction of interstate trade, but that is the only difference. In the case of the Dairy Produce Export ‘ Control Board, there is power to prevent the export of any produce except by licence, and the same power is to be given in the present instance in respect of /interstate trade. The Assistant Minister said that the principle embodied in the Dried Fruits Export Control Act of 1928 was entirely different from that contained in the present measure. I remind him that the principal section of the Dried Fruits Act of 1928, section 5, contains 28 lines and, except that the words “ dried fruits “ appear instead of the words “ dairy produce “ it is identical in every respect even, to the placing of a comma, and the crossing of a “ t,” with the proposed clause we are now considering.
– The Dried Fruits Act was not complementary to legislation passed by the States, whereas this bill is.
– Again the Assistant Minister is in error. The Dried Fruits Act of 1928 was passed to supplement legislation passed by the States of Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria. The present bill is complementary to legislation passed or in process of being passed by only three States. In view of the decision come to on this same question of a simple majority last night, when an amendment was carried against the Government, I am surprised that the Minister did not, in connexion with this bill, bring down an amendment of his own accord to give effect to the expressed will of the House.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Dr. Earle Page’s amendment) stand part of the proposed amendment - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 -
In this act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ dairy produce “ means butter and cheese : “ producer “ means any person who uses or supplies milk fro the manufacture of dairy produce for sale.
– I move -
That after the word “ cheese “ the words “ but does not include processed cheese “ be inserted.
The object of the amendment will be clear to honorable members. Certain brands of processed cheese which are on the market are made from the original cheese manufactured in the cheese factories. This raw material will be purchased from the home consumption quota of the cheese factories. It was never intended that this legislation should act in restraint of interstate trade in the processed article.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the definition of “ producer “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following definitions: - “ ‘ processed cheese ‘ means any cheese manufactured and sold in the Commonwealth which has been subjected to any further prescribed process of manufacture ; “ ‘ producer ‘ means any person who being a producer of milk 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 in 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. “
The object of these two new definitions is, first, to define what is processed cheese; and, secondly, to state who shall be a producer for the purpose of enrolment for the poll that is to be taken. This qualification has been selected because it follows exactly the provision in two of the three State acts of which this legislation is the complement. The corres- ponding definition of “ manufacturer “ in the Victorian act reads -
A person who, in any one year, manufactures more than500 lb. of dairy products for sale.
In the New South Wales legislation a similar definition speaks of a person who manufactures 10 lb. of butter a week. Thus, under the legislation which this measure will strengthen, persons who manufacture 500 lb. of cheese or butter, or who supply to a factory such quantities of milk or cream as are the equivalent of 500 lb. of butter or cheese, will be amenable to its provisions. The Government contends that it is a fundamental principle that those who are to be affected shall have the right to express their opinion through the poll that is to be taken.
Mr.FORDE (Capricornia) [8.36].- In my second-reading speech I objected to the definition of “ producer. “ I then pointed out that, in the aggregate, throughout Australia, a large number of persons who are not bona fide dairyfarmers might be added to the voting strength and seriously affect the vote taken on this question, and I urged that the definition should be tightened up. My object is met by the adoption of the provision of at least two of the three State acts; consequently, I shall support the amendment.
.- I am glad that the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) has seen fit so to amend the definition of “ producer “ as to include in it the producer of milk. I made that suggestion to him because, under the original definition, a large number of persons round the city of Melbourne, and in other provincial centres, who merely buy and sell milk, and do not own a solitary cow, would otherwise have a vote. The definition, as proposed to be amended, will exclude them from the poll. That isa very wise provision.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has expressed the opinion that the definition should stipulate the production of a larger quantity of butter than 500 lb. It appears to me that the vote to be taken may be accurately described as a “ one cow vote “, because one good cow, or two very middling cows, will produce 500 lb. of butter per annum. It may, therefore, be considered that the franchise is onthe lowest possible level. Although I should prefer to have the qualification 1,000 lb., I shall not move in that direction.
.- I presume that the definition of “ producer “ includes those who supply milk to the manufacturers of condensed milk, dried milk, and the like.
– No. “Dairy produce” is confined to butter and cheese.
Question - That the definition of “ producer “ be omitted - resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now is - That the definitions proposed tobe inserted in lieu thereof be inserted.
.- I move -
That after the words “ thirty-three, “ the following words be inserted: - “has had five or more cows in production, for the sale of milk, cheese or butter, at some period during the preceding twelve months, and,”.
As the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) has pointed out, the definition of “ producer “ is futile, because under it any one may call himself a producer who has sold 500 lb. of butter-fat during the year. As I stated earlier, hundreds of persons who ordinarily are not dairy-farmers, but wool-growers and wheat-growers, a year or so ago acquired a few cows with the object of obtaining some income from this industry, which at that time was the only primary industry that was paying. Now that wool prices have improved, and especially as the price of butter-fat has declined, many of those persons will not be engaged in the dairying industry six months hence; yet they may feel inclined to vote against this legislation. I am certain that 90 per cent. of the genuine dairy-farmers whose whole livelihood is bound up in this industry will vote for it. I feel, however, that with a small poll there is the risk of their being outvoted by a limited number of persons who are milking a few cows only as a stop-gap.
.- I agree with the intention of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), but I am afraid that it will not be carried out by the amendment which he has moved. He wishes to allow only the producer with five or more cows in production to have a vote ; but no particular period of ownership is specified. If a man had five or more cows for two or three days he would, under the honorable member’s amendment, become a producer, and be entitled to vote under this legislation. One of the greatest menaces to the proper control of the dairying industry is the man who is producing butter without supervision or government inspection. If the Minister, instead of providing in his amendment for 500 lb. of dairy produce, provided for 1,000 lb., I should be prepared to support him. As a matter of fact, the amendment of the honorable member for Flinders would encourage the very thing which he is trying to prevent.
– The Government is following the State legislation, and its object is to ensure that every one who is affected by that legislation should have a vote.
Mr.R. GREEN.- If that is the intention, I am prepared to support the amendment moved by the Minister.
.- I suggest that the following words be added at the conclusion of the amendment of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), “milk or cream from which there has been manufactured and sold “. Then would follow the words already in the amendment of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart), “at least 500 lb. in weight of dairy produce”. That is certainly a low yield for five cows; but, nevertheless, if my suggestion be adopted, a dairyman must have at least five cows as well as produce 500 lb. of dairy produce before being eligible to vote.
– I cannot accept the suggested amendment, because it would disfranchise many people affected by State legislation.
– I do not think the Minister has. grasped the purport of my suggestion.
– The honorable member wishes to provide for a dual qualification ; but, as the State legislation provides for a single qualification, the federal legislation must make similar provision.
– My suggestion, if adopted, would go 90 per cent., if not more, of the way towards meeting the proposal of the Minister. The object of the honorable member for Flinders - and I am in sympathy with him - is to endeavour to secure that those who vote are people who engage in dairying for a living, and not people who engage in other forms of production, and have one or two cows as a side-line. Of course, under my suggestion, a man with five cows could be regarded as a dairyman; but it would at least preclude from having a vote those people who cannot be seriously regarded as being engaged in the production of butter and cheese. I suggest that, by a combination of the amendments of the Minister and of the honorable member for Flinders, the greatest amount of justice would be secured.
.- The object of the Government’s amendment is to ensure that everybody who is subject to this legislation shall have a right to vote. To-night we have heard the members of the Country party declare for true democracy, and now they want to disfranchise persons who should be entitled to have a vote under this legislation.
– We do not want to do anything of the kind.
– Any alteration of the Government’s amendment would disfranchise certain producers. The object of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), in moving his amendment, is to ensure that those who are not really engaged in the industry shall not have a vote, but we have to pay some regard to the State legislation, upon which this bill is modelled. If the qualification in the Government’s amendment were altered, it might have the effect of depriving those who will be subject to this legislation from voting as to its operation.
.- The suggestion of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) is to add another qualification to the right to vote under this legislation. The qualification in the Government’s amendment is the same as that contained in the State legislation, and the effect of the suggestion of the honorable member for Gippsland would unquestionably be to disfranchise a number of producers who will he brought under the operation of this legislation. That would, be entirely wrong. If the qualification of 500 lb. of dairy produce is not considered to be sufficient, then any amendment of this legislation would have to be included in the State legislation. A production of 500 lb. per annum is certainly small, but small producers as well as large producers have to he catered for under this legislation. The State Parliaments have brought these people under the law, and the legislation of this Parliament must give them an opportunity to vote. I support the amendment of the Government.
.- I am prepared to accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) which would make my amendment read - “ Producer “ means any person who, during the year ending the 31st December, 1933, who has had five or more cows in production for the sale of milk, cheese, or butter for some period during the preceding twelve months and has manufactured and sold at least 500 lb. in weight of dairy produce, or has supplied to a manufacturer of dairy produce, sufficient milk or cream, or both, to produce at least 500 lb. in weight of dairy produce.
I ask leave to amend my amendment accordingly. [Leave granted.] The object of my amendment is not by any means to exclude the small producer; it is rather the reverse. Without it, a quite substantial wool-grower would have the right to vote on this matter merely because he has three or four cows on his holding. He would have as. much voting power as a small dairy farmer with fifteen or twenty cows, on which he is wholly dependent for his living. I am moving this amendment, in the interests of the small producers in the industry.
.- I shall support the amendment submitted by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart). This afternoon, I voted against the Government because I did not think it was democratic enough. But to-night it aims to make the State and Federal law in relation to dairy products as uniform as possible, and to provide a minimum starting point which will not be too high, so that no producer of butter and cheese will be excluded from voting upon the question of whether .the bill shall continue in operation. The suggestion which has been made in opposition to this proposal is that it will include persons who are conducting dairying Operations as a side line. I am satisfied, however, that many who are thus engaged, will exercise a vote. Of my own personal knowledge, many dairyfarmers are on dozens of directorates associated with box-making and other industries. Yet it is not suggested that they should be deprived of a vote on this legislation. The proposal of the Minister is a democratic one. We must fix a minimum starting point somewhere. The proposition is a sound one which may be accepted without fear that the small men connected with the industry will exercise a vote which they ought not to exercise.
.- The clause raises two principles in regard to the control of industry which, in this case, are in conflict. There is the principle that every producer in the dairying industry should have some say as to whether the conditions governing that industry shall be radically altered. That is the position in regard to this particular proposal, because it is intended to use the bill very largely to place mixed farming butter, and farm butter, under an obligation to bear their share of the cost of providing an export market. Up to date the producers of this butter have gained a higher price for it at the expense of the dairymen whose principal livelihood depends on the production of dairy products. In spite of what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has said, I submit that these men should have a vote but not a vote equal to that of the established dairyman. Recently a poll was taken in England upon just such an alteration as is proposed here, and in that case the vote was based upon the ownership of .cows. The owner of one, two, or three cows, could exercise one, two or three votes, while the owner of twenty or more cows, could exercise twenty or more votes. I do not 1 suggest that this principle would be acceptable here. But we must draw the line somewhere as equitably as we can to ensure that, whilst those people who have enjoyed a privilege at the expense of the genuine dairymen will not be unreasonably ruled out, they will not be able to exercise an unduly large voice in determining the control of the industry. In the legislation of some States, specific provision is made to exempt producers who sell not more than 500 lb. of dairy produce annually from compliance with the export quotas which will be adopted. That is the line upon which the Government is basing its franchise. In such matters Ministers are not always consistent. In the dried tree fruit legislation that we passed last evening, although no exemption was provided, no fruitgrower was so small that he would not have to comply with that legislation. It contained a provision that only producers of 10 cwt. or more of dried fruits annually would be entitled to vote. That is a wise provision. The man who possesses a few fruit trees, which are obviously insufficient to provide his main income is obviously not as’ vitally interested in changes in that industry as is the man whose entire livelihood depends upon it. I shall support the amendments submitted by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson).
.- I intend to support the amendment of the honorable member for Flinders. (Mr. Fairbairn). The question involved is that of determining the minimum qualification of those who shall be entitled to vote. To my mind, the franchise should be limited to those who are dependent upon the industry. Unless this principle is recognized we shall find in future legislation that persons who grow perhaps 20 or 30 acres of wheat, with the idea of cutting it for hay for their dairy cows, will exercise a vote in a ballot of wheat-growers, whilst the farmer who runs 100 head of sheep as scavengers of his fallow will have a voice in determining the destiny of the wool industry. That is not a sound principle to adopt. We must have a reasonable limitation, and I do not think that the ownership of five cows combined with the quantity limitation is an unreasonable one to impose.
– I oppose the amendment. Whatever limitation is imposed should, I submit, be entirely based on production. The produce of the owner of five cows may reach only the mimimum of 500 lb., yet he will be eligible to vote, whereas the owner of two cows whose yield is of a similar annual quantity, will be denied a vote. The man with the two cows which produce 500 lb. of butter per annum is a far greater asset to the dairy industry and to the community than the man owning five cows which yield only a similar amount. The man with the two cows therefore should be entitled to vote.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Further amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 (Interstate trade in dairy produce).
.- If I can get certain assurances from the Minister, I shall not move the amendment standing in my name. I desire to know whether the authority established under this bill will be able to determine an Australian quota for each State? It is quite obvious that if every State board decides upon a different quota, chaos and confusion must result. If the Minister can give me an assurance that the point I have raised is covered by the bill, there will be no need for me to submitmy amendment.
– Under the bill it will be competent for the Minister for Commerce to declare an export quota for the whole Commonwealth.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave- read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Stewart) - by leave - agreed to.
Thathe have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the appointment of trade commissioners for the Commonwealth and for other purposes.
Bill brought up by Mr. Stewart, and read a first time.
Bill brought up by Mr. Latham, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 1st December (vide page 5369), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– As this measure and the Flour Tax Assessment Bill appear to be closely related it will probably meet the convenience of honorable members if, during the discussion of this bill, they are permitted to make reasonable reference to the other measure.
.- This is a bill to grant relief to wheat-growers, and as you, sir, have ruled that it has some connexion with another measure, I shall be in order in making some reference to the Flour Tax Assessment Bill. However, these two matters are not associated in my mind as being cognate subjects. The party which I lead stands for the granting of relief to wheatgrowers, but not for the imposition of a flour tax. This bill and the taxing measure relating thereto provide a striking justification of the amendment which I moved recently for the reconstruction of the budget. That amendment included, among other things, provision for the relief of wheat-growers, to be financed from surplus revenue. While the budget omitted any reference to financial relief for wheat-growers during their worst year, it contained generous remissions of taxation to wealthy individuals and financial institutions, and it is now proposed to grant relief to wheat-growers by special taxation. All of this displays a great lack of foresight on the part of the Government. An absence of sound finance was also particularly in evidence when the budget was framed, because, although it has not yet been finalized in this Parliament, the Estimates not having yet been passed by another place, hot on top of the budget comes a reconstruction by the Government. Had honorable members been well advised they would have agreed to the amendment which I moved to reconstruct the budget as soon as it was tabled. Now it is to be done, but not in the terms that I can support.
That wheat-growers require relief was manifest months before the budget was framed. Yet the Government ignored the fact, and, Micawber like, waited for something to turn up, a method which is not successful in the administration of the affairs of a nation. Now. in the last hours of the session and in the midst of the wheat harvest the Government is rushing through an ill-considered measure.
– Ill-considered ?
– Yes, despite the lengthy period that the Assistant Minister and his colleagues may have writhed in the agonies of its production. The honorable gentleman would be much better employed endeavouring to answer the case that I shall put up than sitting on the front bench with a sneer on his face. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) explained the Government’s inaction in failing to provide earlier assistance to wheat-growers, one of the reasons advanced being that the Government anticipated that there would be a rise in the price of wheat due to the international wheat agreement recently arrived at in London. Members of the Government were about the only persons in the House who entertained such a hope. The result of the international agreement isnot cheering, for while the price of wheat in September was 3s. 5d. a bushel, to-day it is 2s. 7d. a bushel. Another such “successful agreement” and the wheat-growers will be undone.
Having delayed this measure so long, rendering it impossible to organize the industry for this harvest, Parliament is faced with the duty of doing its best in the circumstances. But that does not relieve Parliament or the Government of the responsibility of outlining and preparing a sound permanent policy for the wheat industry. It is essential to stabilize this great industry which, in the cultivation of the soil, the manufacture of .machinery and the .transport of material or commodities to and from the farms provides employment for hundreds of thousands of persons.
This is a temporary measure that must now be adopted because the Government has neglected to face facts which should have been faced months ago. Why this hesitation? Why has the Government failed to deal in a permanent way with the industry? In my opinion it is because of the influence of merchants and food speculators with whom are interlocked financial groups, banking institutions and mortgage companies, which wield too much political and financial power in Australia. The farmers are in their grip and, instead of relieving them, the Government has left them there. The consumers have also been exploited by the same influences.
I regard this matter from two aspects; first, the necessity to adopt a temporary measure as an expedient, and secondly, the more important aspect of providing a permanent policy to stabilize the wheat industry. While we, on this side, agree to a temporary measure, we urge that permanent plans should immediately be laid down so that when the next harvest comes round the Government will not have the excuse that it has no time to inaugurate a satisfactory plan. The haphazard method of making temporary plans from year to year should be discontinued and wheat-growers should not have to depend for their existence upon the vagaries of the Government. Plans should be laid down immediately to enable the industry to carry on on sound lines. I think that that can be done. I do not say that we can restore the industry immediately to the prosperous position it. occupied when world prices were high, but it can be stabilized so far as is possible, and one of the most important factors in the stabilization of the wheat industry is organization for the marketing of its products. To-day, all over the world, people have to face economic planning. If there is one thing which requires planning in Australia it is the marketing of those primary products upon whose success the country depends so much. This organized marketing should be carried out through the medium of Commonwealth and State legislation. Already we have passed two measures on these lines. Why the great stable industry of wheat should . not be controlled and organized on an even better and more perfect basis I am at a loss to understand. In other words, I advocate the establishment of a pool on the same lines as those introduced into this Parliament by a Labour government in 1930. Under such a scheme the home consumption price of wheat could be fixed to give a reasonable return to growers, and the price of flour could be stabilized. Producers and consumers would then be protected from the fluctuations of the overseas market, and from the manipulations of profiteers. At present there is no such protection. With the existing price of wheat further assistance is necessary to make up the loss sustained by those who export wheat. That cannot be done by the fixation of the home consumption price, which should be a fair one covering the cost of production plus a reasonable profit. It should not be expected to carry the loss on exports, which should be borne either by the industry or, in exceptional cases like this, shared by the whole community. So I distinguish between . the two propositions. The loss sustained through export should be provided for under a permanent scheme providing for an advance being made to the pool from the Commonwealth Bank and guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government, to be liquidated from revenue over a period of years until such time as the overseas prices enable the pool to shoulder the responsibility for the remainder of the indebtedness. During the post-war period the world price for wheat was very high; in fact, it was exorbitant. The growers did not get the full benefit of the high price, but they did share to a large extent in the general prosperity, even though that prosperity was artificial. High prices resulted in a boom which was reflected in high land values. The price of land soared to the skies, and, to-day, the interest burden on that high-priced land is bearing with crushing force upon the producers who bought at peak prices. It is an immutable law that, whenever there is a boom, it is followed by a decline. Booms precede depressions, and, certainly accentuate them, if, indeed, they are not the cause of them. The unfortunate position of the growers to-day, particularly those who bought their land at boom prices, excites our sympathy. Though they did not share in the prosperity prevailing at the time they bought, they are now suffering all the misery of the depression. Many of them are in a worse position than men working on the basic wage. Indeed, they are fellow workers, self employed it is true, but none the less workers. It is our duty now to retrieve the mistakes of the past, and to prevent their repetition. I would have no enthusiasm for any proposal for the temporary relief of the wheat-growers, if I did not think that it was possible to provide a permanent solution of their problems. However, I believe that it is possible to do so; that plans can and must be laid down to prevent the periodical recurrence of booms and depressions within Australia.
Various proposals for providing immediate relief have been put forward, and will be discussed in detail when specific legislation dealing with them is introduced. At this stage, however, I may ask what justification is there for a flour tax when the Government has just remitted millions- of pounds of taxation to wealthy people in this country ?How can the Government justify the raising of revenue by a tax on bread to give relief to the wheat-growers, when it has only this year remitted taxes to wealthy landowners and those receiving large incomes ? I am not prepared to support that kind of class legislation, which involves the lifting of burdens from the shoulders of those most able to bear them, and the placing of them on the shoulders of the poorest sections of the community. It is well known that bread forms a bigger proportion of the diet of the poorest classes than of the more wealthy sections, because, for the most part, bread is all the poorer classes can afford.
– Would not the fixing of a home-consumption price for wheat and flour also have the effect of raising the price of bread?
– The Prime Minister made use of that very argument. He said that the fixing of a home-consump tion price would raise the price of bread in exactly the same way as would a tax on flour. That statement I definitely dispute. If the home-consumption price were fixed under a proper scheme of organized marketing, which would include the formation of a wheat pool, there need be no increase of the price of bread. The pool would control the price of wheat, and, through that, the price of flour which, in turn, would govern the price of bread. If this control were rigidly maintained, the increased price of wheat and flour necessary to give the growers an adequate return need not be sufficient to justify any increase in the price of bread. That that is not a mere generalization I can prove by quoting figures. It is proposed to impose a sales tax of £4 5s. a ton on flour, which will increase the price of a 2-lb. loaf of bread by1d. It is calculated that a tax of £5 10s. a ton on flour would represent an increase of1d. on the 2-lb. loaf. A tax of £4 5s. a ton thus represents a fraction over¾d. on a 2-lb. loaf, but bakers do not deal in fractions, so it is obvious that1d. will be added by them to the price of the loaf. Therefore, there will be a rake-off by some one, either the millers, or the bakers, or both, of £500,000 extra profit. Any one can work that out for himself; it is merely a matter of arithmetic. There is no provisionin this legislation to prevent this from happening. It has been said that there is provision to ensure that only the tax shall be passed on, but it is merely provided that the exact amount of the tax shall be shown in the invoice. There is no provision for controlling the price of flour, and the millers, if they choose, can raise the price to more than the amount of the tax and the bakers likewise can raise the price of bread by more than is justified by the increased price of flour. If there were a properly organized system of marketing, wheat would be supplied to the millers only upon recognized conditions, and the situation would be controlled by Commonwealth and State legislation. There would be no need to shelter behind the Constitution on the plea that there is no power to enact price-fixing legislation. There would be power to control the supply of wheat, and that would give power to control the price of flour and bread. If we, as a Parliament, take it upon ourselves to interfere with the return received by the primary producers - and that is what we are doing in this bill - we have a perfect right to take measures to ensure that there shall be no profiteering at the expense of the consumers. If there were effective control over the disposal of wheat, we could control the operations of the millers’ combine in Australia, which is a powerful influence in the land. “We could ensure that the price of flour would bear some just relation to the price of wheat, which is not always the case at the present time. A study of prices over a number of years shows a marked disparity between the relative prices of wheat and bread. That is a matter which should be investigated and regulated. When that is done we shall have gone some distance in the direction of preventing profiteering, of which there is evidence at the present time.
I have here some figures which illustrate the disparity which exists. In Melbourne, in the year 1924-25, wheat was fetching 6s. 5d. a bushel, whereas, in 1929-30, the price was 4s. 4d. a bushel ; but the average price of bread during both periods was the same. That proves the need for investigation and regulation. In Adelaide, the price of wheat to-day is 2s. 7d.
– It is less than that now.
– It may be½d. a bushel loss, but I am quoting figures which were supplied to me no later than yesterday by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart). The price of flour in Adelaide is £7 10s. a ton, and the price of a 2-lb. loaf is 4d. In Hobart, wheat is fetching 2s. l1d. a bushel, flour is£8 10s. a ton, and the average price of a 2-lb. loaf is 3.95d. Thus, although flour is £1 a ton dearer in Hobart than in Adelaide, the price of bread is slightly lower. Surely that is a state of affairs which calls for investigation and control ! Here is another comparison between prices in Sydney and Wellington, New Zealand: In Sydney, the price of wheat is 2s. 9½d. abushel, the price of flour £9 a ton, and the price of a 2-lb. loaf 5.06d. In Wellington, the wheat is from 3s. 9d. to 4s.1d. a bushel, flour is £13 15s. 3d. a ton, and the average price of bread is 5d. per 2-lb. loaf, though in some stores it is sold for 4½d. Thus bread in Wellington is a fraction cheaper than in Sydney, though flour is £4 15s. a ton dearer.
I propose now to quote some official figures regarding prices in South Australia, so that we may compare the position that obtained when there was a compulsory wheat pool with the position that obtains to-day, when there is no pool. These figures substantiate my statement that, with proper organization, it would be possible to ensure to the growers a higher home-consumption price without any increase of the price of bread. During the years 1916, 1917, and 1918, there was a compulsory wheat pool, and the price of wheat in Adelaide was fixed over the whole period at 4s. 9d. a bushel. During the same period, the price of bread was 4d. per 2-lb. loaf. In 1933, wheat is from 2s. 5½d. to 2s. 7d. a bushel in Adelaide, but the price of bread is still 4d. a loaf.
– Bread would be just as dear if the millers got the wheat for nothing.
– If we had an effective system of control, we could see that the farmers obtained justice without its costing the consumers anything more for theirbread. I have had worked out for me some figures relating to the cost of milling. From 48 bushels of wheat the miller obtains 2,000 lb. of flour, 432 lb. of bran, and 432 lb. of pollard. During the years 1916, 1917 and 1918, when the wheat pool was in operation, the price of wheat was 4s. 9d. a bushel, which represented £11 8s. for 48 bushels. In 1916 the average return to the millers for flour, bran and pollard from 48 bushels was £12 16s. 7d. In 1917, the return was £12 15s. 5d., and in 1918 it was £12 15s. 3d. Thus the return to the miller for gristing 48 bushels of wheat in those years was respectively £1 8s. 7d., £1 7s. 5d. and £1 5s. 3d. This year, with the cost of 48 bushels of wheat £5 18s., the miller obtains £9 14s. 3d. for the flour, bran and pollard that he sells, and his return is £3 16s. 3d., three times as much as in 1918.
– He is sponging on the impoverished wheat industry.
– Absolutely. The wages in 1916, 1917, and 1918 were approximately the same as they are this year.
– There cannot be any competition.
– There is a millers’ combine, which can be dealt with only if it is controlled. The baker who dares to sell bread below the price fixed by the bakers’combine, is not supplied with flour. The millers’ combine which refused to supply flour to the baker who sold bread at a reasonable price would be refused wheat by a properly constituted and regulated pool. It is time that we gripped this subject with both hands, and ceased tinkering with it. The average nominal wage was £30s. 8d. in 1916, £3 4s. 2d. in 1917, and £3 6s. 5d. in 1918. This year it is £3 3s. 4d.
– What was the world price of wheat then ?
– I have not the figure; but it was very much higher than the price paid in Australia.
– It was very much higher than it is to-day.
– That has nothing to do with this question. The miller paid 4s. 9d. a bushel for wheat in those days, and the price of bread was 4d. per 2-lb. loaf. The price of bread to-day is 4d. per 2 lb. loaf; therefore, the homeconsumption price of wheat should be as high as it was in those years. That is my reply to those gentlemen who say that the fixing of a home-consumption price of wheat would raise the price of bread. It would, if the matter were not controlled. A home-consumption price can be fixed only under a pool, because the prices of other commoditiesarising therefrom would also be controlled.
– What about bad debts?
– There were bad debts in those years. As a matter of fact, because of the greater risk, there is a larger volume of cash business in the sale of bread to-day than there was in 1916, 1917 and 1918.
– Are the millers the only manufacturers who exploit the public?
– I always find an apologist for the millers’ combine when I refer to them in this House.
I wish to give another illustration. In 1920, a pool year, the price of wheat in Australia was 7s. 8d. a bushel. The cost of 48 bushels was therefore £18 8s. The miller received for his. flour, bran and pollard £20 10s. 10d., and the return to him was £2 2s.10d. The average nominal wage at that time was £4 9s.10d. a week. This year, with wages at £3 3s. 4d. a week, and the price of wheat at approximately from 2s. 5d. to 2s. 7d. a bushel, the return to the miller is £3 16s. 3d.
Let us consider another angle of this question. In 1916,. 1917 and 1918, the price of flour was £10 15s. a ton, and that of bread, 4d. per 2 lb. loaf. This year, in Melbourne and Adelaide, the price of flour is £7 10s. a ton, and of bread 4d. per 2-lb. loaf. Although flour is £3 5s. a ton cheaper than it was in 1918, the price of bread is exactly the same. In those years, there was a pool, with regulation and control of prices. That system must be again instituted.
The figures that I have given prove more eloquently than any language that one could utter that if control were exercised the price of wheat could rise without increasing the price of flour or bread. The Prime Minister’s speech contained the assumption that the whole of the relief given to farmers in abnormal years would be provided under a schemethat fixed the home-consumption price. I remember his saying that, in order to guarantee to the farmer 3s. a bushel, the home-consumption price would have to be fixed so high that the price of bread would be raised infinitely higher than would.be the case under the flour tax. That contention was based upon the assumption that a home-consumption price would be fixed, first, without control; and, secondly, at such a figure as would provide to the grower 3s. a bushel for the whole of his wheat, whether consumed locally or exported. That is not suggested. My colleagues and I do not believe that the home consumer should carry a loss incurred on wheat sold overseas; but we do contend that he should be prepared to pay for the wheat consumed in Australia a price that will give a fair return to the grower. I am satisfied that not a working man in this country would object to paying a reasonable price for his bread,if he knew that the growers would thereby be given a reasonable return. What the working man strongly objects to is the deriving of the greatest measure of profit by manipulators and profiteers.
– What price does the right honorable gentleman suggest should be paid?
– I believe that the home<-consumption price could be fixed at 4s. a bushel without raising the price of bread a fraction of a penny. Proof of that is furnished by the fact that when the price of wheat was 4s. 9d. a bushel, the price of bread was the same as it is to-day and wages were no higher. The assumption of the Prime Minister and others, that a guaranteed price must be paid for by an increased price of bread, I absolutely contest. That, of course, would raise the price of bread to an abnormal degree; and it has never been proposed. The assistance given to wheat- growers on account of losses on wheat exported should not be a specific charge on the consumer of bread.
– I agree with that.
– It is, however, reasonable that, in the case of wheat sold for local consumption, there should be a guaranteed price which would give a just return to the working farmer. That principle, in my opinion, is as sound and just as the principle that other workers in Australia should be paid a basic wage. For over 70 years the price of wheat in Australia has averaged 4s. 8d. a bushel. Even at present prices, making allowance for the coat of transport, landing charges and exchange, the cost of landing wheat in Australia from overseas would be approximately 4s. a bushel. It is not, therefore, unreasonable to ask that, for home consumption, the growers of wheat should receive at least what it would cost to land wheat in Australia duty free. The protection given to some other industries in Australia is very much greater; consequently, I must support increased protection in this case; and it could be done without raising the price of bread by a fraction of a penny if the miller’s combine, and rapacious bakers, were controlled. It is natural that the farmer should ask why he should sell his wheat at an absolute loss on the Australian market. All industries should be protected on the Australian market. I am confident that those who work in factories subscribe to that principle. Had the amendment to the budget which I moved a few weeks ago been adopted, a full restoration would have been made of the reductions of wages and social- services, and there would still be a surplus of approximately £2,000,000 for the relief of the wheat-growers, for which the amendment provided. That could have been supplemented by a bank advance, spread over a number of years, and there would have been no need for the imposition of a sales tax on flour or an increase of the price, of bread. In my opinion, the Government should at once set about the establishment of a pool and the adoption of a well-organized marketing plan. As an emergency measure, this relief could be financed by a short-dated’ loan, liquidated by the re-imposition of taxation on large incomes and wealthy land-owners.
I give that outline of a plan to the Government. The party that I lead will support this bill. We shall not support the Flour Tax Assessment Bill, but will oppose it with all the vigour that we possess. It is an unjust proposition, following hot upon the heels of the remission of taxation, to . the amount of millions of pounds, to the wealthy interests of. Australia.
– It was rather difficult to follow the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) although he was, as on all occasions, logical and interesting. He is always logical, but on this occasion he has hardly been convincing. We are now confronting a situation, unhappily,, only too familiar. The primary industries of this country are being carried on in circumstances in which all talk of stabilization by methods within the scope of the right honorable member’s policy is out of the question. The Leader of the Opposition has condemned the proposals of the Government because they are belated, and do not follow along lines suggested by his advice given- at the time when the budget was before the House. He contends that had the Govern-, ment not persisted with the remissions of taxation to which it had been pledged and retained the revenue thus returned to the pockets of the people from whom it had previously been taken, it would be in a position to assist the wheat-growers this season without any difficulty. That is quite true, but the Government can hardly be censured for giving effect to the policy upon which it was returned, and to which the members of the Country party subscribed. Whether that policy is good or bad this party is, at any rate, pledged to it, so the right honorable member’s argument loses its point. He objects to the proposal of the Government on the ground that it is ill-considered, and is not a permanent remedy. I do not know what is the right honorable member’s idea of a permanent remedy, but I remind him that the greatest statesmen of the world have for years been groping without success for a permanent remedy, and it can hardly be said that their methods have lacked variety. President Roosevelt has adopted what may be termed heroic methods, but, so far, they have not achieved the success hoped for. The price of wheat at Chicago has been raised from about 40 cents to 72 or 75 cents, and expressed in terms of a depreciated dollar. I waited with some degree of confidence to hear the right honorable member say something about our monetary system, and its effect upon the prices of commodities generally, but I waited in vain. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of radical remedies, but there was nothing radical or novel about those he suggested. His policy for the permanent settlement of the wheat industry is a pool. He took us back to the days of the war-time pool, about which I know at least as much as any one else. In those days the right honorable member was not one of the eulogists of pools, nor, indeed, were many others, but the pooling system which in those days had few friends now has many. Of these conversions one could say, as the right honorable membersays of the proposals of the Government, they are very belated.
– I have always supported pools.
– I know that, but the right honorable gentleman’s support was at times a little embarrassing. On principle he supported the pools, but in practice his criticism at times was rather ‘ trying. All my political life I have been a believer in pools, and any one will acquit me of the charge of being a recent convert to the pooling system. I was responsible for the compulsory wheat pool, but chastened by adversity and the criticism of my friends in different parts of the chamber, I abandoned the compulsory pool in deference to their expressed, opinions which were accompanied by such gestures of disapproval as were unmistakeable. The right honorable gentleman has furnished us with figures comparing the position of the wheat industry under the pooling system with its condition today, but no analogy can be drawn. The conditions previously were, it is true, abnormal, but they were abnormal in an entirely different way. They were not subnormal but literally supernormal. The difficulty at that time was to transport our wheat to overseas markets. There was no lack of markets, but there was lack of freight. Freights were excessive, but there was no difficulty in selling wheat at reasonable prices. The world’s parity of wheat then was above the local price, with the exception of two or three years, when the internal price was adjusted to world’s parity. During the “operation of the compulsory pool, wheat prices were comparatively high; to-day they are abnormally low. The difference between the position of the industry in the pooling years and to-day is fundamental. The right honorable gentleman said that the Government was wrong to remit taxation ‘to the rich with a view to compelling the poor to pay more for their bread, and then he proceeded iri the greater portion of his address to point out that this extortion in the shape of an increased price of bread was unwarranted. He contended that the millers, the bakers, and others, are getting more for flour and bread than they are entitled to, if we take the price of wheat as a basis. He said that remedies were to be found, but when we put aside the glowing generalities in which the right honorable member excels, and come to these remedies, he refers us to( plans which are to bring about the permanent adjustment of the most baffling problems confronting the world. He does not appear to realize that we are dealing, not merely with the world depression as it relates to commodities in general, but with a state of things in which the producer of wheat is at a special disadvantage in exchanging his commodity for other commodities. For example, in 1920, the index number for wheat stood at 237, and for all commodities other than wheat at 22S, while to-day the figure for wheat is 92, and for general commodities 147. In 1920 world parity paid the grower handsomely for his wheat-, to-day world parity does not cover the cost of production. That is the fundamental difference. The remedy of the right honorable member is this: He proposes an internal price of 4s. a bushel. [ express no opinion as to whether that would cover the cost of production, which must differ in various localities, and is governed by many conditions. But, supposing for the sake of argument, that the price of 4s. a ‘bushel will cover the cost of production - under the right honorable member’s plan it is to be paid on wheat sold for local consumption alone - spread over the whole crop, that would only return to the farmer from 2s. 6d. to 2s. 8d. a bushel, which would not cover the cost of production. It is, therefore, .idle to say that a guarantee of 4s. a bushel for the local market would satisfy the farmer. No industry can continue when the price of its product is less than the cost of production. This Government, this Parliament, and this people, are now asked to direct their attention to this world-wide problem as it affects Australia. Some countries have adopted methods which the right honorable gentleman would have us follow. The Prime Minister has informed us that the price of wheat in Germany,’ expressed in Australian currency, is 14s. 6d. a bushel. He did not inform us of the price of bread in that country, but we can imagine that the millers and bakers of Germany are not enjoying the same freedom in fixing prices as -are enjoyed by the millers and bakers of Australia. However, the price of wheat in Germany to-day is nearly seven times the price of wheat in Australia, where the local price at railway sidings is 2s. 3d. a bushel. For the German farmer, who can sell all he grows in his local market 14s. 6d. a bushel, but for the Australian farmer, who sells most of hia crop overseas 4s. a bushel: that is the right honorable gentleman’s plan. The right honorable gentleman talks about a permanent settlement of this problem, but in what way could that be brought about? He spoke of the regulation of wheat, flour, and bread prices under a pool. The right honorable member misunderstands the position, because prices of bread are not regulated by the pools. Prices were regulated during the war years under the War Precautions Act, when the Commonwealth acted in co-operation with the various States which had established price-fixing boards for the fixation of the prices of flour and bread. The Necessary Commodities Commission in New South Wales fixed the price of practically every commodity. But it was not the wheat pool that regulated prices. Those days of which the right honorable gentleman spoke are gone, and in any case it is of no use to talk about what happened during the abnormal war years when prices were super-normal. We are now dealing with a catastrophic fall of prices when price levels are sub-normal, and we have to apply remedies appropriate to these unprecedented conditions. The plans of the right honorable member upon examination will be found to be evanescent instead of permanent. Under his regime his plans never came to anything. We were told again and again that the farmer was to be saved) but the farmer never was saved. What we want to do now is to help the farmer.
It is said that the Government’s proposal is a temporary expedient, and so iffis. Some people believe that it is possible that wheat prices will rise, but I do not believe that they will until the conditions that now depress them are removed. Among those conditions three stand out prominently. The first is that the exporting countries are producing more than ever; the second is that the markets of European countries which previously bought our wheat are now closed; and the third is that there is the huge surplus in the United States of America over and above the normal carry-over. This surplus has both a material and psychological effect in depressing wheat prices, and until it is removed* wheat prices cannot materially rise. THe wheat industry and the Parliament of this country must recognize that fact.
I should have been glad had the right honorable gentleman told us what he proposed to do for the stabilization of this industry. He spoke about stabilization, and, in the next breath, about the boom and fall in prices. There cannot be a boom and fall in prices when stabilization covers the whole field of the industry. They are full of menace to Australia. Every day we are subsidizing in some form or other the various primary and other industries of this country. Every one of these industries is in difficulties, some are in far worse difficulties than others. But we have to look behind this wheat question to see the picture in proper perspective. Wheatgrowing does not pay in this country, and the bill is an expedient to help the wheatfarmer over this particularly bad time. For the future we must devise plans. We shall, of course, have the inestimable advantage of the advice of the right honorable member in dealing with a situation which is without precedent, and one which has baffled the best statesmanship of the whole world. Let me point out what the present depression in our primary industries means to Australia. We are a handful of people in a wide land. We have either to populate this country or to abandon our intentions to exclude the world from it. I am speaking quite plainly. World opinion will become too strong for us if we stand out as a stagnant population. For years our numbers were increasing as rapidly as those of any other country in the world. Now, they are practically stationary and cannot progress unless men can be settled upon the land. But how can they be settled on the land under present conditions? Every additional wheat-grower further depresses the price of ‘ wheat. Every additional milk producer further depresses the price of dairy products. And this applies generally to all industries except, perhaps, wool. Thus we have reached the calamitous point when every additional unit of labour in this country makes that which is bad, still worse. The position is fast becoming untenable, and at all costs we must find means to rectify it. For the time being, we have to adopt a temporary remedy. What is suggested by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) ? What would happen if a wheat pool were established ? The honorable member labored somewhat to prove that under a pool the price of bread would not be increased. He said that 4s. a bushel was a fair price for wheat, and, by a singular coincidence, this price would help the farmer without increasing the cost of bread. It was a happy thought on his part. But the price he suggested would leave the farmer not with 4s., but with, much less - with about 2s. 6d. or 2s. 9d. To the extent that the return to the farmer was increased the price of bread would rise. Under the pool, wheat prices could only be raised by taking from the whole community what was given to the farmer. In what other way could the farmer get more for his wheat? The right honorable member spoke about “helping” the farmer as though the necessary millions could be distilled by some subtle alchemy out of the ambient air. But it cannot. It must come from the pockets of the people. If the farmer is now getting less for his wheat than _ the cost of production, and We give him something, whether it be out of loan or Consolidated Revenue, or the pool, or the flour tax, it must come from the pockets of the people.
The right honorable member spoke airily about short-dated loans. . This has been the shibboleth of the borrower from time immemorial. But, whether short-dated or long-dated, loans are irresistibly attractive; where is the man who will turn his back on a loan? But loans have to .be repaid. This one was was to be repaid out of revenue. And where was the revenue to come from ? From the community, of course, from the idle rich, the fat pig whose withers were already greased. The taxation of these people has been remitted, and now the bowels of the poor are to be wrung by this tax on flour. I leave all that, however, because the right honorable member did not put forward one argument against the policy of the Government as a temporary expedient. Ministers have never claimed this form of relief to the wheat-growers as a final settlement of the. problem. Over and over again, the Prime
Minister has pointed out that it will terminate in a few months, and that it is merely an expedient which is intended to tide the wheat-growers over a bad time. Then, in a few months, when we have grown wiser by experience, and are again called upon to consider this question, we shall be able to attack it with the advantages. of that experience.
It has pained me very much to differ from the right honorable member, and so I rejoice that I find myself in complete accord with him on one most important aspect of the Government’s proposals. With all that he has said about the price of bread I entirely agree. So does every other honorable member on this side of the House. We shall be told ad nauseum that” we do wrong to impose a tax on flour, which is a plain straightforward declaration of policy. I know all that can be said in favour of the establishment of a pool. But, until this Parliament is clothed with adequate powers to deal with trade, com,merce and industry, and, in ‘ particular, to regulate prices, it must hesitate before accepting the responsibility of fixing a price for wheat unless it can ensure to the community a fair and reasonable price for bread. Under the proposals of the Government, there is to be a sales tax of £4 5s. a ton upon flour. I am very sorry that the tax is to be imposed, but I am bound to say that the Government did right in resorting to this plain, straightforward method, instead of attempting to evade its responsibilities by borrowing the money. Everybody now knows exactly where he stands. Because I believe that light has been thrown upon the price of bread in relation to the price of wheat, and because I believe that this bill will enable further light to be shed upon many dark places, I think we shall have occasion to rejoice that we took the bull by the horns, and threw the responsibility on those who convert wheat into bread.
I should now like to supplement the remarks of the right honorable member by a few facts which I have laboriously collected. They have reference to New South Wales in particular. The citizens of that State, of which I am one, have long suffered under many disadvantages. Bread is dearer in our State than in any other. There is a flour tax of £1 10s. a ton, but, making due allowance for this, the price of bread is excessive. To-day, in New South Wales the bread which the State makes available to those who are in receipt of food relief, is sold for 4s. 3d. a dozen, or roughly, 4jd. per 2-lb. loaf. But it is being sold to shops in the metropolitan area at from 33. 6d. to 3s. 9d. a dozen, that is to say, from 3-Jd. to 3#d. per 2-lb. loaf. I commend this fact to the notice of the New South Wales authorities, because the amount that is annually expended on dole bread is very considerable, and the sum paid in excess of what need be paid, aggregates approximately £40,000 annually. I would further point out that, in New South’ Wales, when flour was £11 per ton, bakers were supplying shops in the metropolitan area with bread at 2s. 6d. a dozen, whilst wages were at least 16s. a week higher than they are to-day. In other words, when the wages of bakers were 16s. a week higher than they are now, and .flour was £2 a ton more than it is to-day, bread was being sold to shops in the metropolitan area at 2s. 6d. a dozen. To-day it is being retailed at 4-)d. and 5d. a loaf, and is being delivered on credit at 5^-d. a loaf. Before the fall in wages, and when the price of flour was £10 10s. a ton, the New South Wales Government had contracts for the supply of bread to many public institutions at 2s.- 9d. and 3s. a dozen. I join, therefore, with the right honorable gentleman in his criticism of the mechanism by which wheat finds its way into bread, and to the consumer. I trust that /the effect of these disclosures in this House and elsewhere, will be so to arouse public indignation in New South Wales as to compel such an inquiry into the matter as will at least result in the price of bread in that State being brought to a fair and reasonable rate.
I shall not deal with this subject at any greater length. It is sufficient that the bill before us is a temporary expedient. Like everything else, it is open to criticism. It will have the effect of raising the price of bread, and any proposal - pool or otherwise - that can be devised, and which will have the effect of assisting the wheat-grower, will increase the price of bread by exactly the same amount.
That is the point to seize hold of and never let go. It is perfectly easy to evade that point and to speak of an advance by the Commonwealth. Bank, as was done by the Leader of the Opposition. What for? There is no doubt that with an infinite number of advances from the Commonwealth Bank we could pay for everything.
– Such advances cost the’ country £1,000 a day.
– The advance to which the right honorable gentleman referred was of a particular character; emphasis was laid on the advance, but the responsibility about revenue was muted., As a practical proposition, there is no way by which the Government can give £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 to wheatfarmers except by taking it out of the pockets of the people.
– What about those who received remissions of taxation? They are better able to bear the burden than the’ workers.
– I know all about that. I said it myself in bygone days. When it comes to the pinch, the delicate question arises “ Out of whose pockets is it to come?” It is held by this party that, by a remission of taxation, money made available to the entrepreneur will result in the employment of more persons. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Both methods have been tried in Australia. The reckless indifference to financial obligations manifested by a certain gentleman whose name I need not mention had a most disastrous effect on the country. Unemployment figures went up; industry was paralysed. It is perfectly obvious at the present time that there are distinct signs of a revival of industry. More building is going on, and unemployment figures are going down. These facts speak for themselves trumpet-tongued.
This party believes in paying its way. It believes that by a remission of taxation employment will be found for the people. . So that, with all deference to the- Leader of the Opposition, who says that there should not have been any remission of taxation, I venture the suggestion that the results have justified the Government’s policy. The only practical alternative is the creation of a pool, and the reason why a pool does not commend itself to me at this stage is that this Parliament is not clothed with sufficient power to make a compulsory pool effective. I do not deny for a moment that, with the close co-operation of the States, a pool could be satisfactorily established, but honorable members in the corner group have made it almost impossible to obtain a majority vote from the farmers. Definitely the wheat-farmer wants help. Rather than argue in which way help should be given, in the name of God let us help him.
.- Twenty years ago in a little country church I was impressed by a phrase which the preacher used in his closing prayer. He said “Lord help us to do what’s right, and chance the ducks “. I am inclined to offer that prayer for the Ministry tb-night. Two months ago when the budget was made public, Government stocks rose high throughout Australia. Since then they have weakened steadily because of the vacillating policy of the Government, and its indecision concerning the various primary industries. We know that this has been a busy session and that it was impossible for the Government to forecast what would be the future price of wheat. But I do think that there was an opportunity for courage, for decision ; an opportunity for the Government to come right into the open and say that it had made up its mind that the wheat industry needed and merited assistance, and that it would provide a reasonable amount to assist the industry. Instead, its action warrants me in reminding it of the old proverb, “If you give a pan of milk, don’t skim it “. The wheat-f farmers have experienced so much anxiety as to whether anything would be done that now that the Government has come forward with its proposal - and I do not say that it is a miserly one, for £3,000,000 is a fair amount to provide for the assistance of a single industry - there is nothing like the spontaneous enthusiasm which would have been forthcoming had the Government made up its mind and announced its intentions a month ago. Most honorable members know that this amount is slightly below what the Country party regarded as necessary to carry on the industry. But the worst point about the whole affair is the Government’s determination to introduce what it attempted to introduce last year, a policy of discrimination with regard to the distribution of this money, by the insertion of clauses 6 and 7.
I do not believe that there is a single section of the community which will not admit the national importance of the wheat industry. All must agree that it is a great employer of labour, and that for three years it has been feeding the people at a cost that has been a burden to itself. Obviously that has not been fair. It will also be admitted that those in the wheat industry cannot pass on the burdens which are imposed on them by taxation, and by. the policy of protection and arbitration. Forty years ago, I made my first speculation. It was with 8 bags of wheat, when wheat (was/ ls. 9d. a bushel, and I can tell honorable members that there was no general rush on the part of the wheat-farmers of that day to the Government with requests for assistance in the form of a bounty or subsidy. At that time there were practically no social services, taxation was very much lower, the system of arbitration had scarcely begun, and tariffs were not affecting farmers costs; machinery, and, indeed, all the farmers’ needs cost less, and provided they stuck to their jobs and worked hard, farmers were able to pull through. The position is very different to-day. “We are burdened with arbitration, taxation, and tariff, and those extra burdens on industry make it almost impossible for growers to carry on at the prices now obtainable on the world’s market.
Those in the wheat’ industry should not be regarded as mendicants, and this assistance should not be regarded as a dole. It should be recognized that the maintenance of this national industry is imperative ; that all that is asked for is that’ there should be some restoration of the balance between it and other industries; and that something should be contributed by the people to compensate the industry for the burdens placed on it by the political policy of the last 30 years, to enable the growers to continue to pro duce for export the wheat which is necessary to maintain Australia’s credit overseas.
I believe that the Government recognized those facts two years ago. It was clear then that the position demanded one of two things, the provision of machinery to give farmers power to control that portion of their product used for home consumption in order to enable them to secure a reasonable price, or the provision of a subsidy to assist them to carry on. The farmers themselves would have preferred the former method of ensuring a fair price for their product. Such an action would have had no political repercussion as the Government fears will result from the imposition of a sales tax. However, the Government failed to take this action, and for nearly two years it could not make up its mind about its marketing policy. At last it has come to a decision but too late for the wheatgrowers this year. Hence it has been necessary to provide a subsidy as an expedient. In making, arrangements for a subsidy it was necessary to determine four things - a reasonable amount of assistance to be given to the industry; a reasonable amount to expect the consumers of bread to pay; the best method of collecting that amount; and the best method of distributing it?
With the knowledge that the prospective crop value would be £7,500,000 less than last year, and knowing that Australian consumers were getting their wheat cheaper than in any other country in the world, also with the knowledge of what has been done in South Africa, New Zealand, England, United States of America, and on the Continent, the Government had many precedents and policies upon which to base its decision. I recognize that it was not possible to put Australia on the same basis as a country which does not export, and I have never suggested that it is the responsibility of a government to make any industry pay; but I do say that when protection is provided for the worker and for secondary industries, if the Government fails to provide machinery by which primary industries can protect themselves it is under an obligation to take action such as that now contemplated. During the last six weeks, at a time of crisis in its existence, the wheat industry has been tossed backwards and forwards on the chopping block of political expediency. While the Government argued about giving those in the industry £1,500,000 less than was provided in 1931, when the crop was worth £8,000,000 more than that which is at present being stripped, arguing whether those who for three years have obtained their wheat for less than cost should not now pay a fair thing, or whether the smoker should contribute, the farmers were in a state of unhealthy anxiety.
I am glad to note from the Prime Minister’s speech that part of this money is to be raised by a sales tax on flour. I contend that all of it could well be raised in that fashion; that the method would be fair ; and that the burden on the community would be light. The price of bread would be raised by only one penny a loaf, and, when it is considered that the bread consumed by the average family is less than eight loaves a week, it will be appreciated how small the burden would be. Further, the basic wage-earner would have had to wait only a few weeks before the next set of index figures came out, and his wage would be readjusted. I agree with what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said with regard to the price of bread and flour. There is a combination operating in at least one State, and it influences prices to the detriment of the consumers of bread, but I fear that the position can only be met by cooperative action between State and Commonwealth governments.
For my part I think that all the money required to assist the wheat-farmers should have been raised by a sales tax on flour.. It would not be unjust nor would the burden be excessive. The Government’s policy in this regard reminds me of what took place at a conference of wheat-growers in Canberra in 1931. The Minister of Agriculture in Victoria said that he would be prepared to support any proposal which would provide for the giving of reasonable assistance to the growers. When he was asked to support a sales tax on flour, which would not increase the price of bread by more than1d. a loaf, his pathetic reply was that his offer of support applied only to proposals which were “ politically practicable. “ There is far too much political significance attached to this trifling tax on bread, which is imposed for the purpose of giving relief to an industry which has provided so much wealth and so much employment in Australia . I am disappointed that the Government has baulked half-way. Assistance to the extent of £3,500,000 would have been little enough; but, having regard to the financial difficulties of the Government, I am prepared to support the bill, which makes provision for £3,000,000. I take strong exception, however, to the proposed method of distribution. Last year, the money was allocated to the various States, which distributed it to the farmers, and that system worked satisfactorily. It was simple in operation, and, except for a few trifling anomalies, to which reference was made by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart), no exception couldbe taken to it.
– One man received £4,000.
– The Minister did not tell us how many share-farmers were interested in the distribution of that amount, nor what was the loss on the production on the areas concerned. In many instances where the land-holder collected a fairly large sum, it had to be distributed among several share-farmers. The figures quoted by the Minister are exceptional and do not fully explain the position.
– Theshare-farmers received separate amounts in the case to which I referred.
-The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has admitted that the industry has been carrying on at a loss, and that it is impossible to produce for sale at world parity without loss. Why, then, should the Government discriminate in the distribution of the money? There is no discrimination in the payment of bounties to any other industry. There is no discrimination in the granting of tariff protection, nor in the fixing of arbitration awards. Therefore, there is no justification for discrimination in regard to wheat-farmers. Why should the wheat industry be the Cinderella among all the others, especially in view of the burdens which it carries ?
– Fancy excluding from the benefits of the scheme a man who is making money out of the industry !
– Are not many of the protected manufacturers making money out of their industries’? Yet bounties are distributed without discrimination, and the benefits of tariff protection are extended to all alike. In the gold-mining industry, for instance, the benefits of the gold bounty were not confined to the poor prospectors Who were winning a few ounces of gold a year, but were enjoyed equally by the big mining companies, which were making profits of thousands of pounds a year. No one inquired whether the capital of the companies was great or small, whether they were efficient or inefficient, or whether they were producing at a profit or loss. All were treated in the same way. Similarly, between 1926 and 1931, nearly £500,000 was paid to the iron and steel industry by way of bounty, though everybody knows “that the company concerned has millions of pounds of reserved profits. The bounty of £4 10s. a ton on galvanized iron was also distributed without discrimination, as was the bounty on wine. Bounties totalling £757,000 have been paid in respect of cotton and cotton yarn, and that money has been distributed without discrimination to the rich and the poor, the energetic and the lazy, the efficient and the inefficient. At a Tariff Board inquiry, one. of the first questions asked of applicants for increased protection is the amount of capital invested in their business, the rate of depreciation of plant, and the provision which has to be made for replacements, &c. The board then recommends a rate of duty which is generally accepted by the Government. The benefit of that protection, however, is conferred equally upon all those engaged in the industry, whether their capital be great or small or whether the shareholders be rich or poor. The £20 shares of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are worth £54 ; over £4,000,000 has been placed in the reserve account, and the dividend has been 12-J- per cent. The Fairy Mead Company has reserves of £237,236, or nearly 100 per cent, of its capital, while its dividend was 8 per cent. The reserves of Millaquin
Company Limited are £268,000, and it declared a dividend of 7 per cent. All the sugar manufacturers benefit equally under the sugar embargo, and the agreement regarding the price of sugar, no matter what their profits may be. Only in regard to the wheat industry has the Government practised discrimination, and I say that it is a prostitution of the federal spirit. The Constitution provides that bounties shall be paid either on production or on export, but, in this case, the Government is passing on the money to the States under conditions which abuse the principle of equal treatment.
– What does the honorable member propose ?
– I propose that the money should be handed over to the States for distribution as was done last year,- when there was no discrimination except that slightly less per acre was paid in respect of large areas. The big rubber companies have made big profits, and placed sums totalling nearly £1,000,000 to reserves, yet. they enjoy tariff protection varying from 25 per cent, to 43$ per cent. Neither has there been any discrimination in respect to the condensed milk industry or the machinery industry, though] when probate was granted recently in the estate of one machinery manufacturer, it was disclosed that he had an estate of £2,000,000. In regard to arbitration, the same general policy is followed. Whatever rates of wages or hours are fixed,, they apply alike to the energetic man, and the lazy man, to the thrifty and the shiftless. The same rate of wages ha3 to be paid by all employers in industry, whether it is run efficiently or inefficiently, and whether conducted at a profit or at a loss.
The wheat industry merits assistance, both because it produces a big proportion of our national wealth, and because it provides a great deal of employment. There are more employees in the rural industries than in . all the factories in Australia, and nearly half of them, namely, 201,724, are employed in cultural agriculture. More than half of these are directly employed in the production of wheat, and indirectly very many thousands are employed. The wheat industry also provides employment for those who manufacture fertilizers, and for others engaged in carting, and in handling the wheat from the railway sidings to the seaboard. Others, again, are engaged in the construction and maintenance of silos, and in the manufacture of machinery and goods used by those on the farms. Wheat-farmers, on an average, employ much more labour than do those in the pastoral industry, yet there is a danger that, if the Government pursues its present policy, many men now growing wheat will be forced to go out of cultivation and run sheep on their land. Men with pastoral properties of 10,000 acres may employ only two persons, whereas the wheat-farmer, on a third of this area, will employ ten or more men. Only last week, in the streets of Parkes, a man told me that he had given his share-farmer notice to look for fallow land elsewhere, because it did not pay him to produce wheat at 2s. a bushel. The discrimination policy of the Government will accentuate the danger. With wool prices improving, there is no inducement for men to continue providing employment in the production of wheat which must be sold at a loss.
Everything we export contributes to the wealth of the nation, even though its production represents a loss to the individual producer. From 1920 to 1931, wheat represented never less than half of the wealth produced from our rural industries, and sometimes it represented as much as two-thirds. Our exports for the year 1930-31 were valued at £102,000,000, of which wheat represented £18,000,000. In 1931-32, the figures were £105,000,000 and £23,000,000 respectively, while in 1932-33, they were £118,000,000 and £32,000,000 respectively. During three years no less than £63,000,000 worth of wheat was exported to pay for our imports, and to meet our national commitments overseas, and most of that wheat was produced at a loss. The industry provided employment for many thousands of men, and thus relieved the Government of the necessity for supporting them. Therefore, the, wheat industry is entitled to reasonable consideration when it falls upon hard times, particularly as its present position has been largely brought about by the policy pursued by governments over the last two decades.
It is obviously unfair that the farmer’s right to assistance should be determined by whether or not he earned a taxable income last year. The Government itself admits the fallacy of that method of reckoning because, for income tax purposes, it averages incomes over a period of five years. Honorable members know that the return from agricultural pursuits fluctuates from year to year. Sometimes there is a profit, sometimes there is a loss, and sometimes a man’s accounts may just balance. Last year New South Wales produced 77,000,000 bushels of wheat for which the average price was 4d. a bushel more than the price to-day. Therefore, it is not fair that a man’s income for this record year should be taken as the basis for inclusion in, or exclusion from, the distribution. We should not forget that the cost of production, though it has been reduced, is still high. Import duties have come down a little, but not much, and railway freights are as high now as when wheat was selling at 7s. 6d. a bushel. Australia needs exports, and the maintenance of industries that will provide employment, so that its economic difficulties may not be increased. 1 object to the Government placing the wheat industry on the level of the receiver of a dole, instead of recognizing it as a national asset and paying it a bounty.
The second proposal is that if, without regard to the interest value of his capital, a farmer has a taxable income in one year, and can show that he is not likely to have one this year,” he can make application for assistance and furnish proof that he is entitled to it. That is ridiculous. How) can a man forecast in December or January his income for the ensuing six months? He may have 200 or 300 tons of hay or oats in reserve for his stock or for sale ; by the end of June he may have sold it and received payment for it, or a dry spell may have compelled him to feed it all to his stock,” with the result that his financial position may be worse by £500. I again urge reversion to the policy adopted last year, which seemed to give general satisfaction. That there is no real necessity for the
Government to impose this condition - wealthy farmers are too few to be worried about - is proved by figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician, which show that out of a total taxable income of £123,000,000 last year, the amount credited to wheat-growers, pastoralists, dairymen, fruit-producers, and the mining industry, amounted in the aggregate to only £5,000,000. The proposed scheme may involve some imaginary political advantage, but it has aroused such general dissatisfaction that it ought to be discarded. I have received many telegrams and letters from different quarters, expressing disapproval of it. I admit that, no matter what policy was adopted, there would be anomalies. I contend, however, that the Government » should adopt that in which the anomalies would be fewest. They will be greater under the present proposal than under any other which could be brought forward. During the week-end, I interviewed in the country an accountant who prepares income tax returns for quite a number of farmers. He told me that the number with taxable.incomes is not large, and said that some persons whom one would expect to have a taxable income, will escape payment of tax this year and, consequently, participate in the proposed bounty. For example, one man for whom he made out a return had 6,300 bags of wheat. His capital amounts to at least £15,000. His other income from wool and stock amounts to £500, his total income being £2,800. A few years ago he had some bad debts, and he has written them off and debited them - as he was legally entitled to - against this year’s income. He has also paid off arrears of interest. He is not taxable, and can collect the subsidy. His two share farmers, who produced the 6,300 bags of wheat, have no bad debts that they can set off against their income. They have had to make their hire purchase payments out of the proceeds of their crop. Neither these payments, nor the arrears to storekeepers that they have paid are allowed as deductions. They have not yet paid for their plant. Yet they will be excluded from participation in the bounty, while the wealthy farmer will bo entitled to assistance.
– Will either, of those share-farmers receive £250 this year?
– They may, but they are only now stripping their crops, and their returns have not yet been made.
– Then that is rather a feeble sob story.
– I have given the facts of the case. Let me give another illustration. Two young share-farmers, of the one age, on equal areas, produced almost the same quantity of wheat last year. One of them bought a very slightly improved property. He has paid some wages for work on improvements, and laid out a little on the property. This expenditure has reduced his income below the taxable amount. The other young man is entitled to as much consideration, but having spent his money on plant, and having a taxable income, he will not be able to share in the bounty. There is no justification for such discrimination. Of two farmers, each with 400 acres, one may have an income £5 less, and the other an income of £5 more, than the statutory exemption. One can obtain £90 in bounty, and the other nothing. No allowance is to be made for interest on capital. There will be scores of anomalies which cannot be prevented, if the proposal of the Government is adopted. It will be possible for incomes to be so regulated by the payment of arrears of interest and the like, that the limit will not be exceeded; but the man who pays his storekeeper, and the machinery suppliers, so that he may obtain stores and parts for his machines for the current year, may be above the limit and consequently disentitled to assistance. I appeal to the Government to do the reasonable thing, by treating the farmers as ‘ a national asset, not as recipients of a dole. It is impossible to estimate next year’s income. The nature of the season cannot be predicted, and no one can tell what will be the result of his transactions in stock. If the Government’s policy is put into operation, the result will be one big muddle.
Summing up, I suggest that this industry, in view of its importance as an employer of labour and an exporter of goods which bring wealth into Australia, and because it has had placed on it by the political policy of the country burdens that it could not pass on, is entitled to much more reasonable consideration than is proposed. I shall vote for the second reading of the bill, but hope that there will be an opportunity in committee to amend or remove the discriminatory clauses.
.- The questions are, whether wheatgrowers need assistance this year; and, if so, to what extent, how the funds should be raised, and on what basis the distribution should be made. It is admitted by all parties in this House -that some assistance is necessary; but some honorable members who have not yet spoken, have privately expressed the view that by the end of this season the wheat-growers will have been assisted to an amount of over £8,000,000 during the last three years, and that that is more than any other industry has obtained. Such a statement of the case is not accurate. Spread over three years, it may seem a lot; but assistance given to the smaller sugar industry during the same period considerably exceeds that amount. What some ‘honorable members are unable to realize is that,’ compared with the extent of the industry, it does not represent a great deal. This is one example of how difficult it is for honorable members, from the isolation of this city, or in travelling between Sydney or Melbourne and Canberra, to realize upon what depends the prosperity of the Commonwealth and its capital cities. There has been so much guff about the return of prosperity, that honorable members find it difficult to believe that some industries are worse off this year than they were -last year. The wheat- industry is certainly in that category. Last year, particularly in New South Wales, the excellence of the crop to some extent counterbalanced the extremely low price. According to figures quoted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), the Australian crop last year totalled 212,000,000 bushels. This year, it will be at least 50,000,000 bushels lighter. On an average the value of last year’s crop to the growers was 2s. 4d. a bushel. Therefore, the decline of 50,000,000 bushels represents the reduction of the income of the farmers by approximately £5,800,000. The average price to-day is at least 4d. a bushel below that of last year. On the 142,000,000 bushels that it is assumed will be marketed, the total reduction compared with last year will be approximately £2,200,000, making a total shrinkage of about £8,000,000 in the income of Aus- tralian farmers.
– That is, if the present price obtains.
– It will not have to obtain very long, because the bulk of the wheat is marketed during the early part of the season, particularly in bad times when farmers find it difficult to raiS3 cash. One of the values of government assistance in the form of a cash distribution is that it enables many farmers to provide for the necessities of their families, and to some extent hold out for better prices later in the season. I do not recommend such action as a general practice; but when the price is so extremely low as it is to-day, the risk of holding is much less than it would be normally. Of course, there is some contrast to that deficiency of £8,000,000. The majority of the wheat farms carry a certain number of sheep. I estimate roughly that the aggregate income of the wheat farmers of Australia, by reason of returns from land and wool, is augmented this year by something like £2,000,000. The average farmer has not an area which would enable him to carry many sheep; but, even so, it is fairly safe to assume that by this means the aggregate returns will be improved this year by the amount which I have stated; There will also be a small improvement due to lower costs. Most of the States have made some reduction of rail freights, and, in addition, the cost of a few’ of the articles that the farmer has to buy is a little lower to-day than it was last year. Taking into account all those things, this year the farmers would, on the whole, be from £5,500,000 to £6,000,000 worse off than they were last year, and to meet that crisis in the industry, the Government is increasing the rate of assistance from £2,000,000 to £3,000,000. That seems to be a lot of money, and it should seem so to those who are responsible to the taxpayers for public expenditure; but I submit that £3,000,000 is not adequate relief in comparison with the assistance given by way of tariffs and bounties to other industries year in and year out.
Mr.White. - Those industries have been before the Tariff Board, and this industry has not.
– It was quite open to the Government to submit the question of assisting the wheat-growers to the Tariff Board. I understand that there is some intention on the part of the Government to hold an inquiry into the wheat industry generally. Such an inquiry could do nothing but benefit the industry, and I am sure that the wheatgrowers would welcome it. There are many misconceptions about the position of the wheat industry. Some people believe that many growers are making good profits even at present prices. Another belief about which there is a good deal of unsound generalization is that many farmers are still struggling on inferior land from which it would be a kindness to remove them. There is undoubtedly a certain amount of wheat-growing country which would be better used for grazing purposes. The AuditorGeneral of South Australia, in his report, has quoted figures of the accounts of individual farmers in support of his contention thatin view of the load of accumulated debt in the industry, it would be absurd for the State Government to put more money into farms which cannot pay interest, and which are now hopelessly over-capitalized. In some instances, the Auditor-General has advocated the abandonment of certain wheat-growing lands, but, generally, he recommends that no further assistance be given to the farmers until debts are removed, either through the insolvency court or through some scheme of adjustment or arrangement such as will be made possible when the amending bankruptcy legislation become law, thus enabling the struggling farmers to carry on during the period of crisis until prices rise and enable them once again to become an asset to the community. Several members, by interjection, have shown that they hold the view that £3,000,000 is an excessive amount to give to one industry. That clearly indicates that they do not realize the difference which has arisen between the relative positions of the big stable primary industries which are the basis of other industries, and those other industries which are still charging high prices for the commodities they produce. The Government proposes to raise this money apparently by a flour tax, by special taxation, and by the re-imposition of some of the taxation that was recently removed. The proposal for a flour tax has met with strong criticism from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). He produced figures to show that the prices of flour and bread are much higher than they were when the price of bread was double what it is to-day. He suggested rightly that there is a lot of slack somewhere in the way of waste, inefficiency or excess profit which apparently could be squeezed out, and to achieve this object he suggested the establishment of a compulsory pool. That applies to most secondary industries. I have grave doubt, however, if a pool, as suggested by the right honorable member, would succeed in correcting these factors. This difficulty of obtaining an adjustment of prices of finished goods is the principal reason why, although it was possible years ago to grow wheat profitably at a price of 2s. a bushel, it is quite impossible to do so to-day. In prosperous times the expenses of many industries increased. For instance, there were probably too many bakers’ carts for the number of people to be served, and there were too many men employed in the bread-making industry. That industry, being a sheltered industry, has not been forced to reconstruct its organization in the way that the primary exporting industries have.
– There may be too many wheat-farmers.
– That is an interesting interjection, because it is quite probable that there are too many wheatfarmers, and that closer settlement has gone too far. Farms of from 300 to 500 acres, which were large enough to support a family when the price of. wheat was from 5s. to 6s. a bushel or more, are a hopeless proposition now that the price of wheat is not. much more than 2s. a bushel. I have never before heard the members of the Opposition Labour party contend that the small farmer should be removedfrom his holding so as to aggregate holdings for mixed farming purposes.
I have been advocating for years the prevention of subdivision into excessively small areas, because it makes only for weaklings in the industry. I suggest that the wheat-growers should be given an opportunity to control the local sales of wheat in the same way as we have given the dairymen the power to control their own industry. This can be done without a compulsory pool. What I object to in the compulsory pool is the temptation offered for the exercise of control over exports in an attempt to increase world’s prices. That policy was adopted by the United States of America and Canada, and led to the piling up of huge surpluses which brought about ruin to the wheat-growers, not only of *the north of America, but also of the Other great wheat-exporting countries.
– That policy has never been followed in any part of Australia.
– It has not been attempted in Australia, but many people in this country have urged that Australia should join with other wheat-producing countries to exercise some control over the world’s wheat market. Another objection to a compulsory pool is that under it the Australian wheat-growers would lose what to them is a valuable privilege, namely, that of submitting their wheat for sale in other quarters if the price offering is not the best that they can squeeze out of the market. Farmers benefit from this competition of shippers, who offer the best prices in order to obtain the benefit from an increase of their turnover. The supervision of a stable price in Australia could be maintained by the provision of machinery similar to that now available to those engaged in the dried fruit and butter industries. I believe that, apart from objectionable inquisitorial powers which the Leader of the Opposition wants to be exercised against waste or excess .profits in milling or baking, a stable price for wheat in Australia would tend to make flour cheaper. Fluctuation in the value of stocks is one of the- risks which every business man has to take. The maintenance of a stable home price for wheat would remove that risk, as far as millers and bakers are concerned, and I am confident that it would gradually reduce the cost of milling and also the cost of marketing flour. The baker would also benefit from the stable price for flour, for, although it is true,” as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said this afternoon, that an exceptionally large number of people pay cash for bread, I understand that the bad debts incurred by millers reach considerable dimensions. Any system which reduces trading risks must tend to lower prices. The request for assistance to the amount of £3,500,000 was not based on what wheat-farmers wanted or needed, or what they thought they could squeeze out of the Government. It was based upon what was considered to be a fair amount to add to the home price for wheat. When that amount was decided upon, it represented the difference between the then world price for wheat and the suggested Australian price of 4s. 6d. a bushel. The fall that has occurred in the world price since then means that the difference between parity and the Australian price is greater, consequently, the need of the wheat-farmers is greater. The millers, bakers and the public generally are reaping the benefit from the fall of wheat prices, and therefore are in a better position to make up the difference between world parity and the suggested Australian price. It is not fair to compare an Australian price of 4s. 6d. a bushel with the internal price for wheat in countries where it is not economically produced, or where it is grown- for social reasons, such as the maintenance of people on the land, or because an adequate supply of wheat is required for purposes of defence. In the United Kingdom, the price per cwt. is equivalent to 5s. 7/d a bushel sterling, which represents 7s. a bushel in Australian currency. In New Zealand, the home price is about 4s. a bushel, and in European countries it is about 10s. a bushel. Therefore, 4s. 6d. a bushel is a fair estimate of what Australian consumers should be prepared to pay.
– Have we any evidence as to production costs in Australia ?
– Production costs vary according to districts, the productivity or otherwise of the land of individual farms and what is regarded as a fair allowance to be made for interest on capital invested in land and improvements. When the Tariff Board is holding inquiries to determine the measure of protection to be given to individual industries, it pays regard to the wages paid, and thereby makes allowance for rent by the people employed in the industry as well as for the interest charge upon capital invested. On a farm producing the Australian average of 12£ bushels an acre, the cost of production would not be very much below 4s. 6d. a bushel, if allowance is made for interest and depreciation and the Australian standard of living for the farmer. Some growers, by sweating themselves and their families down to the coolie standard, could produce wheat for less than 4s. 6d. a bushel, but comparatively few could do that and meet their commitments.
– Would the honorable member regard 4s. 6d. a bushel as representing the cost of efficient production?
– On an average farm with a yield of 12£ bushels to an acre, if full allowance were made for bringing the land into production, improving and stocking it, the cost would not be much short of that amount. There are comparatively few. farmers who could not carry on operations and maintain Australian standards at less than from 3s. 6d. to 4s. a bushel. But that is an aca;demic point which I should be glad to see some commission elucidate. Further, 1 agree that the payment of 4s. 6d. a bushel should be limited to wheat for home consumption. If farmers insist upon growing wheat for the overseas market, it is not the function of the Government to bring the price of that wheat to the level of the price of the locallyconsumed wheat. Again it is not to the advantage of the Australian public that the purchasing power of the farmer should be completely destroyed. Neither high prices, nor low prices all round, interfere with the normal barter of goods of one type for goods of another. What is so devastating to our trade is that the prices of our primary products are out of all relation to the prices of finished commodities, whether they be bread, boots, or anything else. The bakers of bread and the makers of boots and steel, would be benefited if something were done to stabilize the prices of our primary products, the slump in which is due, not to local, but to world causes.
Another point on which I desire to touch relates to’ the method of distribution. I agree that. the country will get the best value in this ‘emergency if the financial assistance proposed is distributed as it was last year, approximately upon an acreage basis. This is true because under that system the men who have suffered through bad luck - possibly as the result of an accident or of the particular month in which they seeded .their wheat - will get an even share of the assistance distributed. Nevertheless, that method is not a sound one to employ year after year. To-day, there are a small number of farmers engaged in growing wheat upon land which is not good enough or which should be used for other purposes. These. wheatfarmers should be weeded out. As has been truly remarked, the industry will not’ be sound until1 all the men come off the really bad land, and the bad farmers off all the land. But this applies only to a very small minority. The distribution of the assistance proposed by the , Government on an acreage basis would give these men the same proportion of relief as the efficient farmer upon land that should be kept in cultivation. Indeed, if it were known that the distribution of financial assistance next year would be upon a similar basis, it would pay the farmers on poor windswept land to seed a large portion of it, because they might thereby reap a very handsome profit whether the crops were good or not.
My next point relates to the discrimination against the small minority who have other reserves or who were lucky enough last year to have earned taxable incomes. There is very little economic difference between a bounty helping to start a new industry, and assisting to keep an old industry going. There are many farmers on land on which it is undesirable to retain them, and in. respect of whom the proposed relief will be increased by the elimination of benefits for the inefficient. To that extent the Government’s preference is in the nature of a “ dole for duds.” There is, of course, another side to this question. namely, that if the people who do not need this money do not get it, there will be a bit more for those who do need it. Again, the discrimination against the efficient will mean .a lot of additional work and delay. The returns supplied by the wheat-growers will need to be closely examined. But in any case there will be a whole series of anomalies and injustices. Wheat-growers embrace all sorts of people. There is the man who just pays a taxable income, and the man who does not.
– Does not that always happen ?
– Not necessarily. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) gave us an insight into the question of why this penalty is placed on efficiency. When the Minister for Commerce was interjecting about one individual who had drawn a considerable bounty, I heard the honorable member ask how much was received by members of Parliament.
The clause to which my remarks apply has been inserted in the bill almost for party purposes. It has been inserted to ensure that the supporters of some honorable members who have been very critical of the Government, will derive no benefit from this assistance to wheatgrowers. This measure makes poor and uneconomic provision for the wheatgrowers.
– The honorable member does not believe that.
– I do not believe that the Minister in charge of the bill or the Prime Minister would consciously do that; but I do believe that some members have a sub-conscious anti-Country party complex. I realize that the Government has made an effort to meet the situation. It has increased the amount to be made available from £2,000,000 to £3,000,000, and that action should be appreciated, although some of us may not consider it to be adequate, or to afford the equivalent of a fair home price.
I shall vote for the second reading of the bill, and I shall also support any amendments which seek to make a more proper amount available to the wheat-farmers. The sales tax on flour is a necessary expedient. Reference has been made to the Government’s intention to legislate for the appointment of a board to make possible the provision of a home price next year, or to achieve that object by some other means. I welcome that possibility, and look forward to the time When the Prime Minister will be able to make an official pronouncement on that matter ; ‘but I hope that it will be possible to do that without completely upsetting the overseas trade, and depriving the farmers of alternative opportunities for marketing their wheat abroad. As we emerge from the depression I hope that the consumers will be required to pay very little more for their bread than they are charged to-day. I support the proposal to distribute the bounty through the agency of the States rather than on a bushel basis. Regarding the other matter of discrimination that I have discussed, I do not propose to suggest amendments; but I shall await with interest any proposal that the Government or any section in the House may submit.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beasley) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration- of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Stewart) agreed to -
That it ia expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the acquisition of wheat by the Commonwealth and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Stewart and Mr. Archdale Parkhill do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Stewart, and read a first time.
House adjourned at 11.52 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the fact that with the present low price of flour it costs up to £40 per ton to deliver at the stations in the Northern Territory, will he, when drafting the flour tax bill, insert a clause exempting the Northern Territory from the operation of the act, or, as an alternative, will he make provision for a rebate equivalent to the tax, on all flour entering and consumed in the Northern Territory?
– The bill is now before Parliament and the Government’s proposals will be submitted in the normal manner.
d asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– This is a matter which comes under the control of the Minister for Trade and Customs, who advises that-
k asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice. -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– I have asked the Honorable the Speaker to summon a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee for the purpose of dealing with the subject referred to in the question, but owing to the pressure of parliamentary business it does not appear probable that it will be possible to deal with the matter before the Christmas recess.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
How many Australian farmers paid income tax for the financial year ended 30th June, 1933?
– The information desired is not yet available. It is compiled for the annual report of the commissioner and that for the financial year 1932-33 will be included in the next annual report published next year. The latest figures cover the year 1931-32, the number of farmers who paid income tax during the financial year ended 30th June, 1932, being 16,702.
Interest on Loans.
s. - On the 1st December, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
The Commonwealth is not penalized by the altered rate of exchange between London and New York due to the fall in the value of the dollar in terms of sterling. On the contrary the exchange charge is less. While the total cost of remittances from Australia to New -York was at one time over £170 per cent, it was.’On last advices, about £118 per cent. The position changes from day to day.
Oil From Shale.
s. - The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) asked mc a question in the Boose, without notice on 1st December, as to whether representatives of Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, who will shortly arrive in Australia, will investigate the practicability of establishing a hydrogenation plant at Newnes for the .treatment of shale. I am now in a position, to inform the honorable member that two technical experts attached to the staff of Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, Dr. H. W. Strong unci Mr. H. Somerset, will arrive in Australia during this month. It is understood that both these officers were associated in connexion with the work of the preparation of estimates, &c, for tho hydrogenation plant which is now being erected by Imperial Chemical Industries Limited at “Billingham-on-Tees, England. Both officers are Australians. Imperial Chemical Industries Limited has offered to make the services of these technical experts available for consultation in connexion with the production of oil from shale and oil from coal. The Minister in control of development, Senator McLachlan, will meet them soon after their arrival and will arrange for them to be placed in contact with the Newnes Investigation Committee.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 December 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19331205_reps_13_143/>.