14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - In the first place, it must be recorded that the Defence Department had very little information concerning Kingsford Smith’s flight; it was not given the itinerary or the proposed stopping places; and was not advised as to what wireless or other equipment was carried.
It appears that Kingsford Smith left Allahabad, India, about midnight on Thursday, the 7 th November, Melbourne time. Reports accepted by the Indian and Singapore authorities, only after careful inquiry, indicate that he passed over Calcutta, Akyab and Rangoon, the last mentioned at 5 a.m. Friday morning, Melbourne time. This is the last accepted report of his whereabouts, Melrose’s report of having seen him south-east of Rangoon not being in agreement with the other three reports. In any event, Melrose’s report also indicates that he passed Rangoon. It must be accepted, therefore, that the Lady Southern Cross disappeared between Rangoon and Singapore, which, we believe, was the aviator’s next intended stopping place.
Since Sir Charles was reported overdue, extensive searches have beenconducted under the direction of the Air Officer Commanding Singapore, AirCommodore Sydney Smith. We are advised that two flying-boats, four Vildebeestes and one Percival Gull (Melrose) have been employed, and in addition, Imperial Airways and K.L.M. air lines have kept careful search during their routine service flights. Also, the Commonwealth Government made available Qantas Empire Airways D.H.86. The flyingboats have swept the direct route from Singapore to Rangoon, and are conducting a similar sweep on their return journey. The four Vildebeestes have thoroughly searched the numerous islands off the coast of the Malaya Peninsula, and searches have also been conducted along the east coast. The areas covered by the D.H.86 yesterday are not definitely known.
Air-Commodore Sydney Smith reports that upon the completion of the sweeps madeby to-morrow (Thursday) night, all areas will have been covered, except the dense jungle inland, where it would be impossible to locate an aircraft that had made a forced landing. AirCommodore Smith considers that by this time everything possible will have been done, andhe proposes then to abandon the search. By that time the searches will have spread over six days, and will have covered all possible areas with the exception of the jungle inland.
It is understood that Kingsford Smith’s machine wascarrying wireless, which he intended to use in case of emergency only. The fact that no messages were picked up by any wireless station in India and Burma (and presumably in the MalayStates, suggests that any descent on to landmust have been of a nature to disable the crew or seriously damage the wireless set.
We must accept the advice of the Air Officer Commanding, that the areas searched have been adequately covered. It would seem that the only further action possible is to search the jungle in the somewhat forlorn hope of being able to locate the machine if it should have descended into this dense vegetation. The D.H.86, on account of its four engines, is probably the mostsuitable type of aircraft for this duty, and there is, perhaps, justification for authorizing a continuation of its searches over the jungle for a few days longer. A cable will, therefore, be sent to Air-Commodore Smith in the following terms: -
Commonwealth regretfully accepts your advice thatat the close of operations to-morrow all possible areas, other than inland jungle, will have been thoroughly searched by eight aircraft engaged. We think, however, most desirable search should continue over jungle area using D.H.86 which being four-engined could safely he employed this purpose under yourdirection. Commonwealth Government notes with appreciation your action in direct-‘ ing search for Melrose also.
In regard to Mr. James Melrose, who is taking an active part in the search, and who is reported overdue, the following cablegram has been received from AirCommodore Sydney Smith: -
Melrose Gull located on beachBarktako betweenLangsuan and M. Chumporn approximately latitude 10 degrees north,forced land- ing; through engine trouble. Pilot believed uninjured.
A further proposal in regard to this matter has been made by Sun Newspapers. It is to provide the cost of sending Captain Taylor and Mr. Stannage, business partners of Sir Charles, who are desirous of taking part in the search for him. A cablegram is being sent to AirCommodore Sydney Smith informing him of the project, describing the plane, stating that it will arrive on the 18th November, and asking if he considers it could be of use.
It is understood that the plane is being contributed, and that theother costs will amount to £2,000, of which the Commonwealth Government is contributing £1,000, and the Government of New South Wales £500, and, Sir Frederick Stewart is guaranteeing the remaining £500.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether the Government considers that it has contributed to the circumstances which have resulted in Sir Charles Kingsford Smith being lost in view of the statement made by the then Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) that Sir Charles was too old tobe given a position in the Commonwealth Service?
Question not answered.
Sanctions : Italian Reprisals
– I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether any advice has been received from the Italian Government concerning the passage of legislation relating to sanctions, in view of the published statement that it has taken retaliatory action?
– No official protest has been received from Italy. I may saythat Italy has one treaty with Australia, that of 1883, which was entered into by Great Britain and under which all the colonies except South Australia and Victoria assumed contractural obligations which were taken over by the Commonwealth.
– Has the Minister for Commerce received anyofficial confirmation of the press report that the new Canadian Government has reached an agreement for a trade treaty with the Government of the United States of America, under which Canada will give to the United States of America the concession of tariff reductions on a number of items, including dried fruits and wheat, which are at present the subject of preferential treatment to Australia? If so, can these preferences foe accorded by
Canada without cither abrogating the Australian-Canadian trade agreement or being consented to by Australia?
-,We have not yet received any official information oil this matter.
– Is it true, in connexion with the loan about to be raised, that provision has been made for the payment of a percentage to insurance companies in respect of the amounts which they subscribe to the loan? Is this an innovation, and if so, why has it been made? Will the effect be to give to insurance companies investing in the loan a return on their money greater than will bc received by investors other than trading banks and insurance companies?
– Up till now the Commonwealth Bank has confined subunderwriting in respect of loans to the trading banks, but in the case of the present loan it is proposed to extend the basis of subunderwriting by including the major insurance companies. This is the first time in my experience that the insurance companies’ group has been included.
– ‘Why is it being done ?
– To strengthen the underwriting group.
-Will the Treasurer say whether the action of the Commonwealth Bank in enlarging the subunderwriting group is due to a shortage of loan money on the market, or is in pursuance of the policy of spoils to the victor?
– No such inference can bo drawn.
– -Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to the statement by the Premier of Tasmania, to the effect that a few days before the recent meeting of the Loan Council certain large trading banks unloaded £6,000,000 worth of Commonwealth stock on the market? If that is true, does it indicate the intention of those banks to flood the market with Government bonds, and thus force the ‘Commonwealth to offer a higher rate of interest?
– My attention has been drawn to the statement attributed to the Premier of Tasmania. All I can say is that, if correctly reported, he has grossly misrepresented the figure supplied in the course of the Loan Council meeting. There has been no selling of bonds of any great consequence during recent months, and the statement that the trading banks unloaded £6.000,000 on the market in a week is quite untrue. I am entirely at a loss to understand the alleged statement of the Premier of Tasmania, which represents a complete distortion of the facts.
– Is the Minister for Commerce aware that South Africa and Canada have both made trade treaties with France, and is it likely that those treaties will adversely affect the wine industry of this country?
– The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) has had these matters in hand for some time, and he is returning shortly to Australia to report to the Government in regard to them.
– Is the Acting Leader of the Government able to inform me when the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) will arrive in Australia, and whether he will, on his return, place before the Government a full report of the negotiations he has conducted while abroad?
– The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties is at present making his return journey to Australia and is expected to arrive here early next month. I have no doubt that he will make a full report to the Government subsequently.
– -How does the Treasurer reconcile the £2,000,000 excess of receipts over expenditure for the first four months of this financial year with the estimated budget surplus of £17,000 for the whole year? If the figures indicate a material under-estimate on the part of the Treasury, will immediate steps be taken to use the surplus to restore invalid and old-age pensions in full?
– The first four months of the year do not form a proper basis on which to estimate the final results for the whole year.
The following papers were presented -
Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 100.
Science andIndustry Research Act - Ninth Annual Report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, for year 1934-35.
– The evening newspapers of Monday last published a picture of a militia artilleryman dragging into position a field gun with which to usher in the two minutes’ silence in connexion with Armistice Day ceremonies. Does the Minister for Defence approve of the use of defence equipment for this purpose ?
– The Defence Department is in no way responsible for what pictures appear in the newspapers. The suggestion behind the honorable member’s question is in no way in harmony with the general sentiment of Australians in regard to Armistice Day observance.
– It is obvious that I did not make quite clear the question which I have addressed to the Minister for Defence. Having regard to the solemnity attaching to the observance of the two minutes’ silence on Armistice Day in commemoration of the men who fell in the Great “War, I now ask the very simple question if, in his opinion, a field gun is a suitable method of introducing the two minutes’ silence?
– What the honorable member is probably referring to is that agun was used for the purpose of announcing the commencement of the two minutes’ silence. I suggest there is no significance such as the honorable member endeavours to indicate in the use of that method.
– Following on your statement last week, Mr. Speaker, regarding the alleged abuse of the franking privilege enjoyed by members of this Parliament in respect of their correspondence, have you seen a statement published in the last issue of the Sunday Sun to the following effect -
Others did things in a big way and brought a thousand or so circulars issued by the secretary of a politically important trade union.
The obvious inference to be drawn from that statement is that some member of the Labour party was responsible, but neither the House Committee nor you mentioned the name of any honorable member. Are you prepared to make this disclosure in order to clear the members of the Opposition from suspicion?
– I did not see the report, nor have I any knowledge of abuses of the nature referred to in the report.
– In view of the fact that the report which appeared in the SundaySun was a criticism of the proceedings of a committee of this Parliament, and purported to give information to the public as to the business done at a meeting of the committee I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether it is possible for you to compel the person who wrote the report to disclose the source of his information as to those responsible for the alleged wholesale abuse of a parliamentary privilege? If the information cannot be supplied will you take steps to compel the writer of the article to apologize through his newspaper for having misinformed the public in regard to the happenings of a committee of the House?
– I have already informed the honorable member that I have not seen the report. I shall, however, peruse it. If I consider that improper statements have been made regarding the proceedings of a committee of this House, I shall consider what action should be taken. But I think the honorable member for Werriwa will realize that it is not one of my functions to prevent the circulation of incorrect reports.
Mr.CURTIN. - Is it a fact that, at the time of the recent Loan Council meeting in Melbourne, the representative of the Commonwealth Government held consultations with the Premiers of one or two of the States in connexion with matters concerning the Loan Council, and that the Premiers of the other States were either not invited to the conferences or were not present?
– The Premiers of all the States except those of New South Wales and Western Australia were good enough, to call upon me before the meeting of the Loan Council, and I had about half an hour’s conversation with them.
– Can the Treasurer indicate when the bill to amend the Repatriation Act promised by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) will be introduced into the House ?
– I am unable to give the date of the introduction of this bill. However, I believe it is the intention of the Prime Minister to introduce such a bill in the near future.
Caning in Schools.
– Who will conduct the inquiry into charges of cruelty by caning made against a teacher at Telopea Park school, Canberra; when will the inquiry commence; will the proceedings be open to the public; and will the evidence and any report made be covered as to privilege by the Federal Capital Territory Defamation Ordinance of 1928?
– Through the instrumentality of the Education Department of New South Wales a public inquiry will be held on Monday next.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to a statement by Mr. J. H. MacDougall, Newcastle, manager of Rylands Brothers, at a Tariff Board inquiry yesterday, that inportations of wire during the last fourteen months had deprived 200 Australian workmen of full-time employment during that period? Does the Government consider that the Tariff Board’s earlier decisions in regard to this matter were in the best interests of Australia?
– I have read in the press a statement which was portion of evidence tendered at a Tariff Board’s inquiry. That evidence will have to be sifted by the Tariff Board to ascertain its accuracy, and it would be improper to discuss it now as the case is still sub judice. The Tariff Board will submit its report in due course.
– Has the Minister for Defence directed that H.M.A.S. Sydney should be transferred to the British Admiralty? If he has not done so, and that vessel is still under the direction of the Australian Naval Board, why is it in the Mediterranean? Furthermore, if she is not engaged in service there for the Australian Government, when does the Minister expect her to arrive in Australian waters?
– The Prime Minister answered a similar question, so far as I remember, during the later part of last week. If the honorable member desires any further details in regard to the movements of the H.M.A.S. Sydney, in addition to what have already been supplied, I ask him to place his question on the notice-paper.
– In connexion with the news service broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, has any decision beenarrived at as to whether the commission will employ its own journalists or work in conjunction with the associated press?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.This is a matter entirely within the purview of the Broadcasting Commission. I shall bring the honorable . member’s question under the notice of thecommission and obtain the information he requires.
– Is the ballasting of the East- West Railway still being continued, and if so, when is it likely to bo completed, seeing that the railway has been operating for 24 years?
– The line is 1,050 miles long and more than 750 miles have already been ballasted. I shall make inquiries in regard to the remainder.
– In view of the danger of the outbreak of war, will the
Minister bring under the notice of the Government the necessity for preventing stunt aerial flights which so often result in the loss of valuable lives?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of Cabinet.
– I ask the Acting Leader of the Government whether he has read a statement in the press to the effect that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment disapproved of the intention of the Government to appoint a Minister to deal specifically with employment matters? In view of this opinion, does the Government propose to proceed with its intention in this regard?
– I have not seen the statement referred to.
– Will the Acting Leader of the Government inform me whether, in view of the buoyancy of the Commonwealth revenue, the Government intends to make available a substantial sum of money to provide Christmas cheer for pensioners and unemployed persons in the community?
– It is not the custom” to make pronouncements as to policy in reply to questions.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the8th November (vida page 1484).
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vole, £731,500.
.- I wish to reiterate a protest that I have made on a number of occasions in this chamber respecting the arbitrary powers exercised by the Commissioner of Pensions in regard to the making of rules and regulations under the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act. The reply given by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to the last complaint I made on this subject was quite unsatisfactory to me. In my opinion, many of the subjects on which the Commissioner of Pensions issues regulations should be dealt with in a statute of this Parliament. I direct attention, on this occasion, to two regulations in particular. The first is one under which the Commissioner has power to declare any institution in which old, sick, or invalid people are housed to be an asylum. The declaration rests entirely with the Commissioner, who is not hampered in any way whatever by the legislation of this Parliament. Grave disabilities afflict pensioners in any institution immediately it is declared to be an asylum. I have inmind, in particular, the Waterfall Sanatorium, many of the inmates of whichare returned soldiers. I have no desire, at the moment, to make any differentiation between returned soldiers and other pensioners. I simply remind the Government that returned men who suffer from the effects of this regulation, were promised, in most fulsome language, before they went to the war, that their interests would be safeguarded in every respect. These men are in the Waterfall Sanatorium to-day because the Repatriation Department doctors who have examined them declare that their disability is not due to war service. The men ware suffering slightly from the effects of gas when they returned from the war, and the passage of the years has accentuated their disability until to-day many of them are the victims of malignant tuberculosis. Some of the pensioners spend two or three months at a time in institutions and then return to their homes. While they are in the institution, the larger part of their pension is paid to the management of the institution and the pensioners themselves receive only 5s. or 5s. 6d. a week;but, immediately they return to. their homes, they again receive their full pension. Upon such institutions being declared asylums, however, the pensioner inmates have to surrender their pension altogether. When they leave the institution they must make a fresh application for a pension. This means that, in some cases, the same person may haveto apply twice in twelve months for a pension. A degree of delay invariably occurs. Sometimes, in these circumstances, the pensioner loses his pension altogether for a month or six weeks. I consider that it is entirely wrong that such a disability should bc placed upon them.
– Is this true?
– It is true. If the honorable member persists in refusing to admit that what I am saying is correct, I can produce evidence that the Treasurer admits the existence ofthe cause for my complaint.
These men, after making application onleaving the Waterfall Sanatorium, have sometimes to wait for two or three weeks for the pension to be granted. Superimposed on the regulation which classes that institution as an asylum is another regulation under which the Commissioner of Pensions is empowered to determine from what date a pension shall be paid. Invalid and old-age pensions are paid under a Commonwealth statute which makes these definite provisions (1) when persons over a definite age are under certain conditions of penury, they are entitled to the old-age pension, and (2) when persons are suffering from illness which prevents them from earning a living and they are also under certain conditions of penury, they are entitled to the invalid pension. When applicants for pensions have satisfied the Commissioner that they have fulfilled these requirements, the Commissioner should not be entitled to withhold the pension from them for three or four weeks. Previously the pension operated from the date of application. My main complaint at present, however, is against what is happening to inmates of the “Waterfall Sanatorium. Other institutions are similarly affected - the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) could cite examples from his own electorate, and among them is the Old Men’s Home at Liverpool, but the inmates of old men’s homes are not so seriously affected as the inmates of the Waterfall institution because most of them remain in the homes for life. The men at Waterfall are only returned soldiers who are dying from tuberculosis contracted in the service of their country. The Ministers at the table engaged in conversation are not concerned about them; they are concerned only with the young fellows who are healthy and will be used in the next war.
Patients at Waterfall are not placed similarly to the inmates of old men’s homes, because frequently they are tem porarily discharged from treatment at the institution; but under the arbitrary power exercised by the Commissioner, a tuberculosis patient who leaves this institution has to surrender his pension rights and make application again for the pension. The Commissioner then decides on what date the pension shall commence to operate. I know of cases where men have been denied a pension for a month after leaving the Sanatorium.
– Did the men concerned make application for new pensions immediately after their discharge?
– Of course, they applied the moment they left. Although I have made several approaches to the Commissioner of Pensions in regard to this matter, I have been unable to receive satisfaction. The Treasury has saved thousands of pounds as the result ofthe Commissioner robbing the pensioners of the pension for a month. Before anything is done to rectify the many anomalies in the Pensions Act, even to the extent of granting an increase of the rate of pension, the matter I have raised should be rectified. If the Government wants to save money and pile up a surplus by robbing the pensioners to whom I have referred, it should do it under a statute, for then the Minister responsible could be pilloried in this House. The Government, however, by the use of regulations, is at present evading its responsibility. As a matter of fact the whole trend nowadays is to shelve responsibilities. In this instance the Government is able to claim that the matter is in the hands of the commissioner who, I have no doubt, has been told that it is his job to effect savings as best he can. The commissioner himself, however, has nothing to gain or lose by adopting the policy.
– Why should he do it?
Mr.LAZZARINI.- He does do it. If the honorable member paid any attention to the pensioners in his district, he would know that the conditions I have outlined do operate. My sole objective to-day is to enter a strong protest against the continued existence of the two regulations I have named. Many other anomalies in the pensions administrations could be cited, but I desire to focus the attention of the House on those two provisions, which give to the commissioner powers which he should not have. The patients at the Waterfall Sanatorium are allowed by the New South Wales health authorities to leave the institution for two or three months and return to it; but during the period in which they are away from the institution they are penalized by the withdrawal of their pension. They have contracted tuberculosis from- the poison gases which they inhaled while on active service in Europe, and they should not be denied a pension. The Government, therefore, should either amend the act and deprive the commissioner of the power to decide on which date the pension should operate, or direct the commissioner to withdraw his recent decision that the Waterfall Sanatorium and other similar institutions are to be classed as asylums.
The conditions of which I am complaining are new. When I was previously in this House the Waterfall institution was classed as an. ordinary hospital, and I have had these cases brought to my notice only since my return to this Parliament, after the last election. Shortly after receiving the first batch of complaints, I approached the Commissioner of Pensions in the belief that he was acting in error, but he showed me the act and told me that he had the power to do what he was doing, and that he proposed to exercise it. It is wrong to give any public servant power which enables him, on behalf of the Government, to take thousands of pounds out of the pockets of the indigent. The Government indulges in much talk about balancing its budget, getting back to prosperity, and turning the corner. It has no need, in order to do so, to extract a few shillings from the pensioners and then say that the commissioner is responsible under the powers and rights conferred upon him by the act. The provisions in question should be repealed. If they are not repealed, I urge the Government to tell the commissioner that itis not its wish that these institutions should hp termed asylums, thus putting the inmates to financial loss when they leave them.
-I desire to direct the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to the paragraph in his budget speech dealing with local government works, which reads: -
As a result of further investigation into means whereby the Commonwealth can assist inthe problem of relieving unemployment, it has been decided, subject to satisfactory arrangements with the States,to make provision from revenue for an amount of £100,000 in 1035-30, to be used in the form of contributions towards interest and sinking funds or loans for the public works of local authorities.
It is known that many local governing bodies are debarred from proceeding with public utility schemes by reason of the consequent debt service being beyond their rateable capacity.
It is vitally important that these works should be put in hand as quickly as possible. The local governing bodies concerned are anxious to proceed with them, but they have no information in regard to the proposal beyond what appears in the budget speech. They wish to know how the money is to be allocated, and the terms and conditions upon which it is to be made available.
Mr.Casey. - The matter will be the subject of a special appropriation. I shall furnish the honorable member with particulars when I reply to the debate.
.- I direct the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to the case of old-age pensioner prospectors. The average income of a prospector is very small ; he may prospect for years without discovering anything.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order! The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the principles of old-age pensions. The item refers only to the administration.
– This is a matter of administration which could be altered. It is not a question of whether a prospector should receive the old-age pension. In common with other members of the community, he may earn up to 12s. 6d. a week without becoming disentitled to the pension. A prospector may suddenly, after years of searching, make a strike worth £50 or £100. In conformity with the law, he immediately notifies the Pensions Department, and his pension is reviewed, being either reduced or stopped. The point that I make is, that by the time his money is exhausted he is out of pocket compared with the position in which he would have been had he not tried to do something for himself. I suggest that the Treasurer might direct the department to administer the act differently, so as to avoid cases of injustice.
– What does the honorable member suggest should be done?
– A careful actuarial reckoning should be made, and if delay should occur in the restoration of the pension, payment of it should be made from the date of the application, so that the applicant would not receive less than 12s. 6d. a week by way of income, in addition to the pension over the whole period.
– The honorable member suggests that, if a man make a strike worth £100, as he spends that £100, his pension should be correspondingly restored?
– I want the act to be so administered that if the amount spent over the whole period is not in excess of 1 2s. 6d. a week he shall not lose anything.
– The amount of 12s. 6d. a week should be deducted from his spending rate until he has exhausted the £100?
– Or more, if the act permits it. A pensioner is allowed to have £50 in the bank, without losing the pension.
Mention has previously been made of the subject of life assurance. The majority of men insure their lives so that, should they predecease their wives, they will leave a small legacy That is the case with thousands of pensioners. The average premium for life assurance amounting to £200 is probably £5 a year or more when assured at, say, the age of 30, which is equal to about 3s. a week. When the widow receives the £200, the Commonwealth is relieved of the necessity to pay her the full pension, as it is reduced by 5s. 9d. a week on account of her possession of the £200 insurance money. Therefore, the pension that a man receives actually amounts to only 15s. a week.
– The honorable member is discussing the principles of the act, and they are not covered by the item.
– I am simply giving an illustration in support of my conten tion that the administration should bc altered.
– L should like the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to inquire as to whether it is not possible for the different States to supply a percentage of the stores and printing required by federal departments. A tremendous volume of printing is done for the Postal Department and many other departments. Those who are associated with the printing industry in South Australia find that when tenders are called they cannot obtain any of the business. The matter was recently raised at a meeting of the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce.
It was understood that, in consequence of the recommendations of the Taxation Commissioner, there was to be simplification of taxation methods. -I should like to know what has been done in that direction. The form which income taxpayers arc required to fill in should be much more simple than it is. The present form is a nightmare to the average taxpayer.
– It is a Chinese puzzle.
– I agree with the honorable member. It gives every taxpayer a headache. There is no reason why this hardship should be inflicted. There are sufficient brains in the Taxation De- partment to evolve a much more simple form.
.- I desire to raise a matter connected with the administration of the invalid section of the Pensions Department. I refer to applicants for invalid pensions who are suffering from the dread disease tuberculosis. Some months ago I had brought to my notice the case of a young orphaned woman whoso relatives are not in a position to give her any support, her grandfather being an old-age pensioner, and her aunt being on the dole. Her medical adviser told her that she should leave her employment, which she did, and she then entered a sanitorium. She made application for the invalid pension, and the department, after a medical examination, admitted that she was suffering from tuberculosis, but claimed that the disease was not sufficiently advanced for her to be declared permanently and totally incapacitated. A study of the act will show that it contains no reference to total incapacity.
– That is provided for by regulation.
– -I agree with the honorable member. A section of the act provides that regulations may be promulgated from time to time. But the actalso says that the regulations made under it must not be inconsistent with it. A regulation that conflicts with the spirit of the -act should not bc tolerated. Actually when this young woman was sent into a sanatorium, and the Pensions Department refused her a pension on the ground that, though she was suffering from tuberculosis, she was not totally incapacitated, the then Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) was publishing in the press statements warning the public of the dreadful consequences likely to result from associating with people afflicted with tuberculosis. He went so far as to say that he would, if he had the power, prevent . tuberculosis sufferers from marrying, while in the case of those who had married, and who had children, he would take the children away from their parents. The relatives of this young woman, were not in a position to assist her financially. If the department grants her application for a pension, it will involve only the payment of 12s. 6d. a week to the State institution, and 5s. a week to the patient herself for the purchase of clothing and other necessaries. All the patients in sanatoriums of this kind are not confined to their beds, so that it is necessary for them to provide themselves with clothing, and 5s. a week is little enough for clothing and other purposes. This girl is in such a position that she must either stay in the institution, lacking the things she needs, or return to the workshop, where she will be a danger to the health of fellow workers. Thus, while the Commonwealth Health Department is warning the public of the dangers of contact with tuberculosis sufferers, the Pensions Department, by its refusal to grant a pension, is likely to compel this sufferer to associate once more with the public.
I asked the then Minister for Health, in view of his public utterances, to interest himself in the case, and to use his influence to have the girl’s application granted. He wrote to the Treasurer, and the Treasurer wrote to the Pensions Department, with the result that, after the lapse of nearly two months, I received a communication from this department in almost the exact terms of the previous one, namely, that, although the applicant was suffering from tuberculosis, she was not totally and permanently incapacitated. It was further suggested’ that she make representations to some State department for assistance, but it must have been well known to tie Commonwealth Treasurer that there was no State department’ to which such an application could be addressed with any hope of success. The great majority of those who become infected with tuberculosis do not regain their health, and become less and less able as time passes to support themselves. I believe that all such sufferers who are prepared to enter a sanatorium, where they will no longer be a menace to the health of the community, should be granted pensions if they apply for them, and that it should not be necessary to prove that they are totally incapacitated.
Municipalities in which are situated Commonwealth properties receive no rates in respect of them, and I think that the Treasury might well make a grant to compensate the councils for this loss of revenue. In my electorate there are four municipalities which have gone heavily into debt in order to provide money for relief work, and in some of those electorates are extensive Commonwealth properties from which no rates are received. I understand that although the Commonwealth Bank is not obliged to pay rates, it nevertheless makes a grant to the municipalities concerned as an offset to the loss thus entailed.
The Commissioner of Pensions should be allowed greater discretion in respect of claims for the payment of the maternity allowance. In the case of many applicants, it is discovered that the husband has, during the previous twelve months, earned perhaps fi or £2 over and above the permissible income,, and the application is refused. I realize that, no matter where the margin is fixed, there must be some injustice in the border-line cases, but if the Commissioner were given discretionary power, as is done in the case of old-age and invalid pensions, he would be able to consider the financial position of the family, and their probable earnings over the following twelve months, and grant the allowance in deserving cases.
There appears on the Estimates an item for the financing of valuers to purchase motor cars for their own use. For 1934-35, a sum of £800 was voted for this purpose, and £390 was expended. This year the amount has been reduced to £200. As this seems to be an unusual item, I trust that tho Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will be able to enlighten honorable members regarding it.
In view of the large amount provided for medical examinations of pensioners which, this year, is increased by £600 to a total of £7,000, I desire to know whether medical officers are paid by results; that is, by the number of pensioners they write off the .pensions register, or by the number of applicants sent to them for examination. Are examination fees charged by doctors, in respect of cases in which they have made obvious mistakes, deducted from the bill which they render to the department ? We all know that in a large percentage of cases applications rejected by these medical examiners fire ultimately approved by other departmental doctors.
– In connexion with division 22, Income Tax Board of Review, I desire to bring under the notice of the responsible Minister, tho taxation imposed on the income of a married lady who, because of incompatibility of temperament, is separated from her husband. This case was brought before the Income Tax Court of Review; but, because of the present legislation and rulings made under it, her request for consideration was turned down. Possibly, I should not have brought this case before the committee had I not been interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr, Price) in regard to the necessity for a simplification of our taxation machinery. Some time ago, this case was brought before a commission which was appointed to act conjointly with the States in seeking means of simplifying taxation legislation. I now bring it before honorable members that they may gain some knowledge of the complex forms of taxation that are imposed upon an all too unsuspecting public. This lady was in receipt of a certain sum of money from her husband as a separation allowance, together with an allowance for her daughter, a minor! The original income from the husband was assessed for taxation and the separation allowance of the wife was also assessed; thus, the original income of the husband was, in effect, doubly assessed. But, under the then existing legislation, the Court of Review was unable to take this fact into consideration. To give a further illustration of how the complexity of taxation legislation imposes difficulties on the unfortunate taxpayers, this lady had to pay not only federal taxation, but also State unemployment tax in respect of the daughter’s allowance. In other words, the original income of the husband was assessed twice in the federal sphere and three times in the State sphere. Honorable members will, I am sure, agree that the continuance of such a state of affairs is not desirable, and the Government should give greater attention to the simplification of our taxation legislation.
.- Has any appointment yet ‘been made to the position of Commonwealth Commissioner of Pensions? Since the position has become vacant, an officer has been acting in it, but I think it is usual to fill important positions such as that without great delay. If no permanent appointment has yet been made, I suggest for the consideration of the Government, the wisdom of making such an appointment from tho existing staff of the Pensions Department. Generally speaking, we all agree that in the conduct of their duties the officers of that department are not only capable and experienced, but also sympathetic. Therefore the avenues for promotion should not be closed to them by the appointment of an officer occupying a responsible position in another department. In the administration of a department like the Pension? Department, an intimate knowledge of the pensions act and an understanding of the frailties of human nature are very necessary. Although these positions are often filled with a degree of success by senior officers from other departments, sympathetic consideration of individual cases cannot be brought to bear by some officer transferred from another department whose training does not fit him for the .position. In any case, it is unfair to the senior officers of the Pensions Department not to promote them to the highest positions in the department. If I were in order in discussing the operation of the Invalid and Oid-age Pensions Act, I would move an amendment that the rate of pension bo increased from 18s. to 20s. n week. I hope, however, that the Government will take that step.
I support what has been rightly said by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) in regard to the claims made for invalid pensions. I think every honorable member has brought to his notice instances in which people suffering from tuberculosis have made application for invalid pensions only to find their applications refused -because in the opinion of the doctor the applicants were not premanently and totally incapacitated for work. Many of them in order to earn a living are forced to return to their trades. ‘Sometimes they are engaged in the clothing trade or in bread and biscuitmaking establishments. They are therefore a menace to the health oi their fellow workers in industry. At any rate, their association with their fellow men iti such trades must be detrimental to the health of the community generally. On visiting a sanatorium in my electorate not long ago, I was surprised to learn from the matron the likelihood of contracting tuberculosis from people with whom one is closely associated, particularly in a badly ventilated workroom. The honorable member for Dalley has done a great service in bringing under notice the propaganda put forward by the former Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) in regard to the necessity for wiping out this disease and the failure of the Pensions Department to assist in a practical way. In the administration of the Pensions Department greater sympathy should be shown to applicants suffering from tuberculosis. The very fact that a medical man pronounces them sufferers from tuberculosis should be sufficient to guarantee the payment of the invalid pension. There arp the border-line cases such as persons suffering from heart trouble. In many instances, although such persons get the invalid pension, they are desirous of earning small amounts up to 5s. or 10s. a week.
– The honorable member is not in order in pursuing his remarks along those lines.
– As this is not laid down in the act, but rests on the Commissioner of Pensions, I suggest that it is a matter affecting the administration of the Pensions Department. It is unfair thai people suffering from heart disease should be prevented from earning the 12s. 6d. a week allowed to old-age pensioners. A number of border cases are also refused pensions because the applicants cannoprove that they are permanently and totally incapacitated for work, and 1 want the department to he more sympathetic when considering them.
.- As the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has mentioned, pensioners who leave an institution and do not apply for a pension for a fortnight, should have the pension dated back to the time of their leaving the institution, instead of from the date of the application. Many of these pensioners are elderly men - some of them are over 70 years of age - and unless they have a member of Parliament or some other person to advise them, they arc frequently unable to appreciate the necessity for making application promptly. In many cases, pensioners have to wait weeks and months before approval i> given for the payment of the pension. A great deal of hardship is caused to pensioners because of the stand the department takes in these matters. If there is need to place the onus on the pensioner to prove his claim, there is also some reason to ask that the department should be required to deal with cases expeditiously. In my opinion, all the needs of the situation could be met without allowing the Commissioner the wide discretionary power that he now has. Once a pension has been granted, it should, in the absence of extraordinary circumstances, be payable, not the date on which a medical practitioner certifies that the claimant is entitled to a pension, but from the date of the application. Such a provision would place a check upon the administration, and limit the number of caseS of hardship.
I have a case in hand in respect of which I have been endeavouring to get a decision for six months. I am perfectly sure that the claimant is fully entitled to a pension, and I know that the department will reach this conclusion sooner or later. It is unfair that the claimant should have to suffer because the department, makes its decision later and not sooner. T had brought under my notice at home on Saturday the case of a mentally-deficient boy, who has been refused a full pension on the ground that he is not totally and permanently incapacitated; but abundant evidence lias been produced to indicate that the boy could not possibly earn his living.
The medical officers will not, in many instances, take the trouble to examine claimants properly. If a pensioner is unfortunate enough to come before a doctor who is suffering from “ liver “ or from some temporary temperamental upset, he is very likely to be examined in a most perfunctory fashion. Frequently, the doctors do not give pensioners a proper opportunity to explain their troubles, with the result that the claim is rejected. Such cases often come under the notice of members of Parliament, who, after considerable, trouble, obtain a reversal of the previous decision. Why should pensioners, in such cases, be denied the pension for the period from the date of application to the date of approval by a medical officer? If pensioners were business men, accustomed to submitting matters to a judicial body, it might be satisfactory to oblige them to prove their circumstances in every respect; but in many cases the claimants are aged people who are incapable of presenting their cases with justice to themselves.
I hope that tho Treasurer will give careful consideration to the representations that are being made to him this afternoon on this subject.
– I direct the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. ‘Casey) to certain anomalies of our pensions law, and also to certain adminis trative defects. I shall refer first to inmates of benevolent institutions, who are granted pensions after their entry into the institutions. It is most unfair, to my mind, that the Pensions Department should. pay 13s. a week maintenance in respect of pensioner inmates of benevolent institutions who were in receipt of a pension before they entered the institution, and not pay it in respect of inmates who obtain the pension only after they enter the institution. This is an entirely unjustifiable discrimination. I have received a letter on this subject from Miss Ivy Quinton, the secretary of the Maitland Benevolent Committee, and subsequently made representations upon it to the Commissioner of Pensions. The reply the Commissioner sent to me, dated the 26th October, read as follows: -
With reference to your personal representations of the 30th October, forwarding correspondence as per copy attached from Miss I. J. Quinton, secretary, Maitland Benevolent Committee, West Maitland, on the subject of payment for maintenance of pensioner inmates of institutions, I have to advise you that, whether a person was a pensioner or a claimant for pension at the dato of hia admission to the institution, payment is made by the Commonwealth for his maintenance at n rate equal to the difference between the amount of pension paid to him in thu institution and the amount of pension which he would receive if he were not an inmate.
Where, however, a person who is already an inmate of an institution applies for and is granted a pension, no responsibility is accepted by thu Commonwealth in respect of payment for his maintenance in the institution.
I am amazed that such a differentiation should be allowed to continue. There are ways of overcoming the difficulty. The persons concerned could leave the institution temporarily, obtain a pension while away, and then return to the institution. In such a case the department would pay maintenance to the institution unless it was satisfied that the action had not been taken for the specific purpose of enabling it to obtain payment for maintenance. But I cannot understand why there should bo any need to adopt such a procedure.
Many people enter benevolent institutions in entire ignorance of the fact that they are entitled to social benefits. They obtain their information on the subject from fellow inmates. Other individuals who may know that they are entitled to certain benefits may be quite incapable of answering all the questions that appear on the claim form. The department is not consistent in its attitudeto pensioners who are inmates of institutions. A person who is granted a full pension while a patient of a hospital receives only 5s. a week, the remaining 13s. going to the management of the hospital. When this practice in regard to hospitalshasbeen brought under the notice of the department on the occasions when wo have endeavoured to obtain a similar procedure in respect of benevolent institutions,we have been informed that the maintenance payment is made in such cases because the hospital is not the permanent place of abode of the pensioner, whereas a benevolent institution is usually the permanent place of abode. It appears to me, however, that there would be much more justification for making the payment in respect of the pensioners’ permanent place of abode than in respect of his temporary place of residence.
– I remind the honorable member that he is entitled to discuss only the administration of the Pensions Department.
– I submit that that is what I am doing. I am directing attention to an administraitive defect. My request that the procedure in relation to hospitals should also be followed in respect to benevolent institutions is entirely reasonable.
In passing, I express my regret that the Treasurer is not in the chamber while this subject is being discussed, for this is one of the few opportunities that honorable members have to bring such matters prominently under his notice. I admit that an Assistant Minister (Mr. Hunter) is at the table trying to take shorthand notes for the purpose of submitting to the Treasurer the case which I am making. The point is, however, that he may miss quite a lot of what is being said and, therefore, be unable to convey to the Treasurer the real purport of what has been discussed before the committee.
On the6th November, I followed up questions asked by me in the House with two letters to the Treasurer. I have as yet had no reply, either to the questions or to the letters. When the Treasurer is not present in the chamber, how can I now get a reply to matters which I have previously placed before him without the satisfaction of an answer? The same complaints as I unsuccessfully placed before the Treasurer I brought to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), who recommended that I await the return of the Treasurer from the Loan Council. I followed out his recommendation, and to-day I am desirous of submitting them again to the Treasurer - but he is absent! Is there any way in which you, Mr. Chairman, can have him brought into the chamber?
Mr.Hunter. - The Treasurer is only temporarily absent.
– His absence is unfair, especially when I have endeavoured previously to have my grievances replied to by letter and by questions.
– Why not have a deputation to the Minister?
– We would not get much from a goat like the honorable member ! The matter which I again desire to bring forward–
– I think, Mr. Chairman, that the honorable member should withdraw that remark.
– If it is offensive to the goat, I will withdraw it.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw, and apologize to the goat.
– The honorable member for Hunter will resume his seat.
– On a point of order, I should like to know why I was asked to resume my seat before my time had expired and when I wanted to complete the point at issue.
– The honorable member must know that he cannot disregard a direction from the Chair. He deliberately did so, and the Chair at this moment will not hear him further.
– On a point of order, I desire to point out that the hearing of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) is not the best. The Chairman speaks in a very low tone, and I am of the opinion that the honorable member for Hunter did not hear the Chairman call him to order. I suggest that on future occasions the Chairman should raise his voice a little.
– No point of order has been raised.
.- In regard to the complaints that have been made concerning the date from which pensions operate, I understand that the Commissioner in each State is restricted by regulations under the Pensions Act. He ca.n go hack for only a certain period in granting pensions. That restriction acts unfairly in many instances, but I do not blame the Pensions Department. I must say that the officers of the department in Queensland do everything in their power towards expediting the granting of applications for pensions. A person who might make application for a pension from Urandang, Camooweal or Bouilia, or any other place,, from where the mail takes a fortnight to reach Brisbane, is certain to be subjected to disadvantages compared with an applicant in the metropolitan area. Before investigations into a claim have been completed, three months or more may elapse. In the meantime, the applicant lives on credit from the storekeeper on the understanding that when he receives his pension, he will be able to settle the debts that he incurs. The Pensions Department will make the pension payment date hack three weeks ov a month from the day on which it has been decided to grant it. But, as I have pointed out,, three months ov more may have elapsed since the dato on which the application was made, and the pensioner is, therefore, a heavy loser. An applicant in the metropolitan area may lodge his application one day and appear before the magistrate on the following day, and a pension is probably granted forthwith.
Another matter which causes a good deal of heart-burning among pensioners is the way in which the pensions system penalizes those who have been thrifty and who have taken out insurance policies of 200 or perhaps £250. The pension is reduced by ls. 6d. a week for a man and his wife. The premium for a £200 or a £250 policy depends on the period in which it has been in force, but a fair average is £14 or £15 a year. In respect of the amount of insurance held, there is a reduction of £1 in £10 in the annual amount of the pension. Furthermore, immediately the insurance becomes payable if it amounts to £200, the insured person becomes ineligible to receive a pension until such time as the amount of the property he holds is reduced to less than £100, or £50 for a man and £50 for his wife. Persons who have been thrifty enough to make some provision which would help to keep them off the pensions register, therefore, are penalized, while those persons who have made no such provision receive the full benefit of the pensions system.
In criticizing the pensions system, however, it would be well for honorable members to realize that it is not in the power of the Deputy Commissioner or the Commissioner to amend the act or the regulations. The weaknesses of the pensions system are not due to the fact that these officers are unsympathetic. The fact is that the act restricts the Pensions Department. If honorable members are anxious that the pensioners should receive their rights and should bo paid the pension immediately they reach the age of 65, they should seek to have the act amended.
– I should like that part of the Pensions Act relating to medical examinations to be amended. During the budget debate I brought before the committee a complaint which I considered was worthy of some investigation or reply. So far, unfortunately, I have not heard that the department or the Treasurer has taken any notice of it. The method adopted by the department, particularly by the medical referee, in examining applicants for the invalid pensions, is far too drastic, and, in my opinion, most unjust. I repeat what 1 have said on previous occasions in this chamber that the Government should institute a different method. Many applications for the invalid pension are rejected on the ground that the medical referee considers that the applicants are not totally and permanently incapacitated for work. Some of those rejected have produced as many as six or seven certificates from outside medical practitioners who have expressed their opinion that the persons examined were entitled to and eligible for the invalid pension. I suggested two or three years ago, in speaking on the pensions question, that it was only reasonable that the Commonwealth Government should adopt the same method as is adopted by the Queensland State Insurance Office in dealing with workers’ compensation. TheState Insurance Office obtains evidence from its own doctors and from outside medical men, but, if there is any disparity, the opinion of a referee doctor is sought, and the case is decided on a majority opinion. In order to give the unfortunate applicants for the invalid pension better consideration, the Commonwealth Government should so amend the Pensions Act as to enable a similar procedure to be followed by the Pensions Department. ‘ If private medical practitioners give applicants for the invalid pension certificates that they are totally and permanently incapacitated, and the government medical referee takes a different view7, a third opinion should be sought, and the majority should prevail.
– A former Treasurer said that where the medical evidence differed the benefit of the doubt would be given to the applicant.
– I should like to know whether that is also the interpretation of the present Treasurer, because I have one particular case which I brought up a few weeks ago and feel that it is worthy of being brought up again. My disappointment at not having received a reply is shared by many hundreds of my constituents. It is a case which shows how harshly and unjustly the existing medical system operates. It is the case of a youth, 21 years of age, who had never done one hour’s work. His unfortunate parents were in very poor circumstances, his father being a relief worker and Ms three sisters being unable to secure employment. His application for an invalid pension waa rejected. Six months later, I repeated the application in his behalf, and it was again rejected in consequence of the -report of the medical referee. I made a further application at the end of another six months. On the third occasion, he was examined on the Thursday. On the Friday morning, he was sent to hospital. On the following Monday morning, I received from the Deputy Commissioner the notification that the applicant had again been examined and it was regretted that the government medical referee had certified that, in his opinion, the youth was not eligible for a pension because he was not permanently and totally incapacitated for work. On the Tuesday morning I received a telephone message from the parents stating that their son had died in hospital on the previous night. I consider that the circumstances justify an inquiry by the Government into the methods adopted by this medical referee. They arc unfair and unjust, and do not give a fair deal to hundreds of persons in my electorate who, ‘because of his reports, are denied an invalid pension, to which they arc entitled. I am personally acquainted with persons who have never done any work and yet are unable to get a pension because the medical referee says that they are not totally and permanently incapacitated for work. I wholeheartedly agree with the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that the administration of this particular provision is not in accord with the intention of the Act. The word “ totally “ or “ wholly “ has been inserted by regulation. That was never intended. A person must be as helpless as a child to secure an invalid pension. I have made this complaint many times previously, yet the practice is still continued. I do not attach any blame to the officers of the department. I have always found every officer, particularly the Deputy Commissioner in Queensland, sympathetic and courteous, and ready and willing to help in every way. I realize that that officer has to administer the act, and that he is unable to do many of the things that he would like to do. I hope that the Government will not allow the destinies of these unfortunate persons to rest in the hands of one individual who, in his examinations, is not as sympathetic as he should be.
I wish to refer again to another matter that I have mentioned previously. It relates to the administration of the act in connexion with married couples who are living apart from one another. Either the husband or the wife must obtain a divorce or a legal separation ‘before he or she can become entitled to the pension.
Quite a number of persons are unable to comply with that requirement, and consequently are denied the pension. A particular case that I have in mind is that of a male applicant who has been living apart from his wife for 25 years. She, having been fortunate enough to obtain a little money, purchased three houses, one of which she occupies, and from the remaining two of which she draws rent, which is sufficient to maintain her. The husband has not been able to do any work for a number of years.
- (Mr. E.F. Harrison).- Order! The honorable member is getting a little wide of the item.
– I am endeavouring to prove that the administration is depriving these particular people of the old-age pension. The department could administer the act more sympathetically without contravening any of ite provisions. It could easily make a regulation to cover these cases. But if that is considered not possible, I hope that the act will be amended. [Quorum formed. ]
.- 1. desire to refer to what I consider a dereliction of duty on the part of the taxation branch of the Treasury Department. It is well known that the making up of a tax return is quite an intricate task for the majority of people. The taxpayer may, in perfect, honesty, make the mistake of omitting to include an item of taxable income. If the mistake is discovered, as it is likely to be in the course of time, he may incur the penalty of a fine of anything up to ?25; and if the evasion has continued over a period of years, he may be threatened with imprisonment. On the other hand, a taxpayer may, through ignorance, return more than is required ; yet, although this must be perfectly obvious to the officers of the department, he is assessed on the full amount. Evidently, the instructions issued to officers are responsible for this practice being followed. It approaches very closely to fraudulent practice. The taxpayer first learns of his mistake when he receives a letter from an ex-officer of the department who has gone into private practice in the belief that he can derive considerable profit from the mistakes of taxpayers, advising him that he has been overpaying for years, and guaranteeing recovery in return for a substantial percentage of the amount remitted. I could name men in Western Australia who have grown wealthy in this way. They left the Taxation Department, and, acting upon knowledge gained while in the employ of the Commonwealth, wrote to taxpayers who had been overpaying the department for years suggesting that they could obtain a refund of tax provided a substantial percentage was paid to them. That kind of thing should not be permitted. It is apparently the set policy of the department to take advantage of the mistakes of taxpayers, and accept overpayments, but to prosecute where the mistake happens to be against the department. This practice has brought into existence a class of men who are using knowledge gained officially to enrich themselves. This could not happen if the department advised taxpayers who forwarded incorrect returns of the mistakes they had made.
.-I desire to bring under the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) the case of a young station hand who was partly crippled as the result of an accident, and who applied for, and was granted, an invalid pension. He was given a home with a family, and in return for his keep, did what light work he could. He was not paid; indeed, had he asked for payment no one would have employed him. In answer to the inquiry of the department, he stated truthfully that he was doing a little work, such a.cutting wood and milking one or twu cows. On the ground that he was not permanently and totally incapacitated, he lost his pension. My experience is that the officers of the Pensions Department are usually sympathetic to genuine applicants, but they are bound by regulations which they must enforce. In this case, the officers, apparently, had no choice but to cancel the pension, although there was no doubt that the man was permanently incapacitated. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) this afternoon mentioned the case of a young woman who was suffering from tuberculosis, and was refused a pension because she was not totally incapacitated. If the facts are. as lie stated, it is an absolute scandal.
I should like to know why the appointment of a Commissioner for Pensions has been held up. In other cases, appointments are made before an Ollie. becomes vacant; but, in regard to the Pensions Department, which is one of the most important in the Service, the Government has not yet chosen any one to fill the first position.
I also protest against the long delays which frequently occur between the application for a pension and the payment of it. When the application is finally approved, the pension is often made payable only from the date of approval, but I maintain that it should be paid from thu date of the application. Very often the applicant secures credit on the strength of his or her expectation of a pension and, when approval is finally given, debts have accrued which must be paid. It is not always the Deputy Commissioner who is to blame for the delay; sometimes the delay takes place in the office of the Clerk of Petty Sessions. It would be more satisfactory if the Pensions Department would work through Commonwealth officers rather than those employed by the State. In even the smallest community there is a post office, and postal officials could quite well carry out work in connexion with pensions. The State official is not particularly concerned with this class of work, because nothing he does in regard to pensions will recommend him to his superiors. It would be different in the case of postal or other Commonwealth officers. [Quorum formed.]
– I also protest against the action of the Pensions Department in declining to make pensions payable from the date of application. Sometimes the Deputy Commissioner makes a pension retrospective for a month or six weeks, but that is not enough ; it should be made payable from the date of application, because inquiries arc sometimes unduly protracted by the department itself. The act provides that the applicant, if he possesses the necessary qualifications, shall receive the pension at the age of 65, and in most cases the applicants are considerably over that age before they apply. Under the provisions of the act pensioners should receive payment from the date of application.
I desire to bring under the notice of the Treasurer the case of a man, 41 years of age, who applied for an invalid pension after having been six years out of work. I obtained for him the necessary certificate to the effect that he was totally and permanently incapacitated, but, because his father, who was 75 years of age, was adjudged to be capable of supporting him, the pension was refused. In assessing the father’s income, the value of his home was put down at 15s. a week, and this brought his total income to more than the stipulated amount. The father was also supporting another son, 30 years of age, who was unemployed. I maintain that it was never the intention of the act that a father 75 years of age should bd responsible for the support of an invalid son, 41 years of age. When the act provided that children were to be responsible for the maintenance of their parents, the provision was made applicable only to those who enjoyed an income of £6 a week or more, but the father in this case does not receive more than the basic wage.
The position in regard to the income which invalids may possess is far from satisfactory. The a»t states that thu invalid may have a separate income of 12s. 6d. a week, and this has been interpreted to mean that he may receive this income from property. If, however, he earns this amount, or, indeed, any amount, it is contended that he cannot be totally incapacitated, and a pension is denied. I know of one woman in Broken Hill whose pension has been cancelled on the ground that a new examination had disclosed that she was no longer totally and permanently incapacitated. Within a week of the receipt of thi* notice, I obtained a certificate from the medical superintendent of the Broken Hill Hospital saying that the woman was not able to work, but I was not able to have her pension restored. The woman had stated in her annual return to the department that she was receiving free board and lodging in return for services. Actually, she was given board and lodging out of charity, being able to do very little in return. The department should administer the provisions in regard to permanent and total incapacity with greater sympathy, because, under the present method, many persons entitled to pensions are denied them.
My attention was recently drawn to the case of a woman whose invalid pension was, reduced because she had obtained a maintenance order against her husband for £1 a> week.. Her husband- had deserted her, and was living in another State. She has been unable to. collect anything under that order., but because: of- its existence the department assessed her annual income as £52, and reduced her pension to. £27 6s. per annum. In view of the fact that she is actually receiving nothing under’ the maintenance- order, she should no.t be debarred’ fr, om receiving the full; rate of pension.. If the department maintains- its. present attitude it should undertake the collection- of the money due under the: maintenance order, and: see that the pensioner is, paid the full pension to which she is entitled.
I have brought under- the notice of the department1 the case of an invalid pensioner whose- pension was stopped because he had accepted the position of caretaker of an outback tank at a weekly salary of 10s. His duties are to collect fees from any person who use the supply at the tank. This job- could be undertaken- by a Blind, man or by any person unable to undertake any other kind of work. When the pensions- law was framed I do not think it was ever intended that it. should operate so harshly as- this. The act provides than an- old-age pensioner may- have an income of 12s. 6d. a week without suffering a reduction of his pension, and I maintain that an invalid pensioner engaged in non-laborious work should be permitted to receive the full pension while earning up to a similar amount.
Another case in which harsh treatmentlias been meted out by the department is that of a man living- at Dubbo who had a sum of money left to him a few years ago. This man is living with his unemployed son and daughter and their families, and has utilized the legacy to assist in the upkeep of their home. As the- result of the father’s’ generosity while the money lasted, the son was not receiving the dole. This man’s application for a pension was refused, and he was- notified that his application would be reviewed in October of this year. I have here a letter dated the 22nd. October advising the applicant that, his claim had been refused again on. the ground that he was in possession of property valued at £400. He has spent his. money and the fact that he once possessed it should not affect his application for a pension. He is so incapacitated that he. has to be conveyed’ in a cart to collect the dole.. The police inspector at Dubbo has asked me to do what I. can. to secure a pension for him, and’ is prepared to recommend that a pension be granted’; but despite this the department has turned him down. Such a case should receive more sympathetic consideration by the department I. know that the deputy, commissioners of pensions arc tied by regulations, but where- there is any doubt as. to- the eligibility- of’ an applicant for a pension the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), should. be prepared’ to, give him the. benefit, of the doubt.
I have called attention to. cases in which applicants have been refused: in:v.alid, pensions: on. the ground that they are1 not: in. a. sufficiently bad; state of health. Five months ago, I brought under notice the case of- a man. suffering from? tuberculosis whose application was turned down; on, the ground that his complaint, was not. in a sufficiently advanced stage to justify a pension being granted. I was- instrumental in securing, a, further certificate, from Ms medical adviser stating, npt- only that the, applicant’s lungs were affected. but that, his spine also w,as’ affected.. But while the department was considering whether, this man was in a sufficiently advanced state of tuberculosi’s, he died from tuberculosis. The Pensions Act should be administered more sympathetically.
.– On a previous occasion, I made reference to misleading statements made by the then Assistant- Treasurer (Mr. Casey). I was obliged by the Chairman to withdraw, but I ‘said-, that I would take tho first opportunity to prove the truth of my assertion. The Assistant Treasurer said that invalid pensioners were entitled to earn, speaking from memory, about 5s., or 6s. a week. About that time I received a communication from the East
Sydney branch of the Invalid and Oldage Pensioners Association which reads as follows: -
It has been stated in the House of Repre sentatives by Mr. Casey that invalid pensioners arc, and have been for some time, allowed to earn 5s. or6s. a week. Would you kindly inform me if that statement is correct un<l if it would bc safe to advise invalid pensioners accordingly ?
That letter was signed by J. McRae, honorary secretary to the association. I submitted it to the Treasurer and received the following reply: -
With reference to the attached copy of correspondence forwarded by you on the subject of earnings of invalid pensioners. I have to inform von that casus have arisen from time to time in which invalid pensioners have received occasional payments of a few shillings per week for small services rendered, notwithstanding that the medical evidence indicated that they were permanently and totally incapacitated for work. In these cases, the payments have not been held to disentitle the persons to pension on the ground that they were not permanently and totally incapacitated.
That letter was signed by R. G. Casey, then Assistant Treasurer. The association was not satisfied with the reply. It considered that the reply was not framed in definite enough terms to allow it to advise its members, and asked me to communicate again with the Treasurer requesting that he he more definite in his reply. I did so, and received the following reply : -
I am unable to add to the advice contained in my letter of the11th December, that cases have arisen from time to time in which invalid pensioners have received additional payments of a few shillings per week for small services rendered, and still have been permitted to draw their pensions.
I may explain, however, that the services rendered in these cases have not been commensurate with the payments made, the hitter having been prompted largely by charitable motives.
That letter was also signed by the then Assistant Treasurer. Early this year I again approached the honorable gentleman in regard to this matter, and received the following reply: -
With regard to your request for a statement as to the amount which an invalid pensioner is permitted to earn without having his pension cancelled, . 1 have to advise that, in order to qualify for an invalid pension, the claimant must be totally “and permanently incapacitated for work. Obviously, if a pensioner is able to work, although he may not bc able to earn sufficient to make him ineligible for a pension if the income provisions of the law are applicable, he is not incapacitated for work. Cases arise, however, when an invalid pensioner receives a nominal amount by way of charity for performing light services, and the pension is not cancelled. It is not possible to state the amount which is allowed to bo received under these conditions. It depends entirely on the nature of the service rendered and the circumstances in which it is paid.
After reading the whole of the replies received to my queries, it is obvious to any reasonable person that it would be very difficult for any pensioners’ organization or any individual pensioner to arrive at any conclusion as to exactly what the position is in regard to permissible earnings. In one reply the Minister says that, under certain conditions, pensioners are entitled to earn small sums, but in a later letter he makes it clear that, if an invalid pensioner is able to earn even 6d. a week, he is not entitled to an invalid pension. This is a matter which should be placed beyond doubt; because many invalid pensioners have beeu foolish enough to believe what the Minister first said in regard to earnings. Many of them sought light employment of such character as could be performed by invalids. I have a vivid recollection of the first time when this matter was raised and of the then Assistant Treasurer saying that an invalid pensioner might receive a few shillings a week for such services as holding a horse for a traveller without suffering a reduction of his pension. Later, the honorable gentleman said that, if it could be shown that a pensioner was rendering some service for which he was paid, the pension could be cancelled. I think, therefore, that I have proved my earlier contention that the Treasurer misled honorable members in regard to this matter.
I desire now to refer to pensions paid to persons forced to enter public hospitals or institutions for treatment. The practice is to cancel the pension for 2S days and then to continue it at the rate of 5s. a week. Many pensioners to-day are contributors to hospital funds and benefit societies. When they are compelled to enter a public hospital for treatment, their hospital expenses are met from these funds, and these pensioners rightly believe that in such circumstances their pension should remain intact. In some cases, the hospital fund or benefit society pays the hospital up to £2 2s. a week for the maintenance of the pensioner. I took up this matter with the department, but found that it was not prepared to give consideration to cases where the pensioner happened to be a contributor to ahospital fund or benefit society. I thereupon communicated with the Treasurer, who advised me as follows : -
With reference to your recent remarks in the House of Representatives on the subjectof invalid and old-age pensions, I have to inform you that the provision regarding the suspension of the pension on a pensioner’s admission to hospital and the payment of not more than four weeks’ pension on discharge was designed to enable pensioners leaving a hospital to purchase extra comforts necessary during the period of convalescence. Whilst he is in hospital, the pensioner is wholly maintained, and, in these circumstances it is thought that a hospital pension of 5s. per week is sufficient. If his maintenance is being contributed to by a friendly society or State hospital fund, the logical step to take would be to decrease the ex-gratia payment made by the Commonwealth to the institution. As the contributions by these societies are, with few exceptions, only small, it is not proposed to take action in the direction indicated.
The Treasurer missed the point that I was making. The case I brought under notice was that of an invalid pensioner contributing to a hospital fund who had to enter hospital. If he had had only himself to care for, there might have been some force in the Treasurer’s arguments ; but, unfortunately, the man had a wife and young children dependent upon him, and the few extra shillings that would have come into the home, had the full pension been continued, would have been of very great assistance, for the pensioner was at that time subject to an eviction order for the non-payment of rent. Seeing that the hospital was being paid from another source for the maintenance of the man, and that the Government would have suffered no financial loss by continuing the pension at the full amount, I consider that no reduction should have been made. It is reasonable to ask that, inall such cases, the Pensions Department should continue the pension at the normal rate.
The method of assessing income to determine eligibility for pension also requires reconsideration. A lady in East Sydney applied for an invalid pension, which was granted at the maximum rate. Her husband subsequently obtained relief work for two weeks in five. Although undertakings have been given in this Parliament on several occasions that wages received for relief work or intermittent work in lieu of sustenance or food relief would not be taken into account in determining eligibility for a pension, the Pensions Department immediately took into account the amount that the lady’s husband was receiving for his two weeks’ work in five, with the result that her pension was reduced. I brought this case under the notice of the Treasurer and subsequently received from him the following reply : -
The definition of income in section 4(1) of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act provides that income shall not include sustenance or food relief or wages received for emergency work or intermittent relief work in Lieu of sustenance or food relief except in cases where the pension is excluded from the income of the person for the purpose of determining the eligibility of the person to receive the benefits referred to.
Pensioner’s husband is employed by the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board on relief work at Maroubra. Advice received from the Department of Labour and Industry of Now South Wales indicates that wages which the husband receives on this work do not constitute wages for emergency or intermittent relief work in lieu of sustenance or food relief within the meaning of the act and there is no option, therefore, but to take such wages into account in determining the amount of pension payable. Mrs.is in receipt of the highest amount of pension payable, having regard to her husband’s income and it is regretted, therefore, that it is not possible to approve of an increase.
To my mind it is entirely unfair, particularly in view of the assurances that have been given, that wages received for such work as that provided by the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board at Maroubra should be taken into account in assessing eligibility for pension. I ask the Treasurer, in his reply, to indicate once again exactly how the Government regards work of this description and how any differentiation can be drawn between the various classes of relief work.
Another cause for complaint is that war pensions are taken into account in assessing income for pension purposes. Formerly, such income was not taken into account. In these days, it appears that every possible penny is brought under notice. The inclusion of war pensions as income for the purpose >of determining the income of applicants for pensions has imposed. .great hardship on many people. I consider .that each case of this kind should be dealt with on its merits. .1 have in mind the circumstances of a lady whose young ‘daughter could not go out ito seek employment because her full .time was occupied .ici looking after . her bedridden mother. The .mother was .in such a .condition that the .services >of a .nurse had f requently to be obtained and ‘.considerable expense had to be incurred in providing medical attention. She was in receipt of a war pension .and also obtained an invalid pension, but her financial position w.as nevertheless much worse than that of many people who had only one pension. After a .good deal of correspondence and negotiation, the lady’s war pension was increased by 3s. a week; but this advantage was immediately negatived because the Pensions Department, acting under the regulation which sets out that £78 a year was adequate for the maintenance of -one person, reduced her invalid pensi on by a similar amount. Even if £78 were sufficient to maintain persons in ordinary circumstances, which .1 do not concede, it is quite insufficient for people in serious ill health. This lady, for .example, became heavily indebted in various directions.
The present attitude of .the department to husbands and wives who live apart from each other is also quite unfair to many ‘people. It has been decided by the Commissioner that unless a husband and wife are living apart under the terms of an (actual legal .separation, the income of both must be taken into account for ‘the purpose of .assessing the pension of each. A case was brought under my notice of la ‘husband and wife who, by mutual agreement, had ‘‘been -separated from leach other since 1905. The wife lives in New South Wales and the husband in Western Australia. For some years the -husband contributed infrequently to the wife’s maintenance, the average amount, it w.as agreed, being not more more than 7s. 6d. a week. Although that husband and wife had been separated for ‘30 years, the department declined to consider them -separated on the ground that the husband had, at odd times, contributed to his wife’s maintenance. It intimated ‘that the couple could not be considered separated unless legal proceedings were taken and a separation order was obtained through the -court. That is an ‘entirely unreasonable attitude. The regulations should be amended to provide that if husband and wife have been living , al) art for, say, ‘three years or more, they should be regarded, for pension purposes, as separated. If a regulation of this -description were ‘made, such persons would be treated much more fairly than :at present.
Grave complaints have been made to me on many .occasions about .the method .adopted for .the medical .examination of claimants for pensions, and ?my investigations into a number of these complaints have .shown that they are amply justified. I understand that the practice of the department is to pay medical practitioners so much for each examination made. Many doctors with large private practices, being anxious to devote as much of their time as possible to patients who pay more for t’heir attention than is received for the examination of claimants for pensions, give very scant attention to the unfortunate invalid .people who come before them for .examination ‘for pension purposes. One medical .practitioner, whose name I shall mention, has proved himself, in my opinion, .to be absolutely unfitted to do work of this ‘kind. .’In .support of my statement I shall also mention the name of an applicant for a pension who appeared before him.
Mr. .P. Moyson, .of 21 Wilson Street, East Sydney, made an application for an invalid pension and was instructed to submit himself “for examination to Dr. Ludowici. The name of this practitioner has been mentioned previously in debates in this .chamber, .and complaints have been made about the unsatisfactory manner in which he ‘has .treated many pension .claimants who have appeared before him. The doctor examined Mr. Moyson, diagnosed his complaint a3 neuritis, and reported that he was not entitled to an invalid pension. Shortly after the examination Mr. Moyson became dangerously ill and went to the Sydney Hospital for examination. He was placed ‘under X-ray at the hospital and it ‘was discovered that he was suffering not .from neuritis, but from a growth on onelung. His condition was declared to be extremely : dangerous. Heentered hospital forattention and subsequently amarvellous surgical operationwas performed on him. The following paragraph from the report of this operation, which appeared in the press, will, undoubtedly, interest honorable members: -
Thepiercing of a man’s chest with a thoracoscope - a small electric torch - the lighted end of which, in the chest, enables the lungsto be examined - was a preliminary feature of a remarkable operation recently performed in Sydney Hospital.
The patient has recovered and it is expected that he will be able to leave the institution soon.
He was taken ill at his home a fewweeks ago. At the hospital, an X-ray examination showed thathe had a large tumor on the upper lobe of the right lung.
Even when Mr. Moyson was examined by Dr. Ludowici, he had all the symptomsof a man suffering from tumor ; but theywere entirely unobserved by that gentleman, which, in itself, shows how casual the examinationwas. Finally Mr. Moysonwas granted an invalid pension at the full rate. He remained in hospital for a long period and was discharged only last week. Four days later, however, he hadto return to hospital for treatment.
It is interesting to notice that in this case the departmentfollowed its ordinary practice,for it granted the pension from the date of the favorable medical examination, as is usually done, and not, as I believe should have been done, from , an earlier date on which I broughtthe caseunder notice, following upon Dr.Ludowici’scursory examination. I have been furnished with ; a sworn declaration by Mrs. Moyson in which she complained about the manner in which her husband was treated by Dr. Ludowici. The whole procedure in connexion with the medical examination of claimants for pensions should be reviewed. Claimants should be allowed to choose the medical practitioner whom they desire to examine them. The practice of paying doctors according to the number of examinations they make is not satisfactory. A doctor probably gets a reputation in the department for the number of rejections that he makes, and departmental officers, acting under the Government’s instructions,would have atendency to send (claimants to sucha doctor, with the object ofavoidingincreasesof pensions expenditure. It would : be far more satisfactory to allow claimants to choose theirown medical practitioner. If the (department feels that it could not accept the certificate of a particular doctor outside the government service, it ‘should havea panel of government doctors, from which the claimant could select one to examine him. This system would give much more satisfactory results thanthe present objectionableprocedure. It would be unfair to give the largest number of examinations to the doctors who gain a reputation for rejecting claims. A doctor who examinedclaimants fairly would soonbuild upa reputation. Iurge the Governmentto take every care to see thatdeserving claimants for invalid pensions shall not be denied a pension simply on account of a hurried and unsympathetic examination. I ask the Treasurer to make a recommendation to the Government that it should give consideration to the proposal that a panel of doctors should be established to carry outthe examination work, and that applicants for the invalid pension should have the right to nominate the doctors whom they desire to make the examinations. I also ask that some inquiries be made concerning the case of Mr. P.Moyson, of 21 WilsonStreet, East Sydney, and that consideration be given to paying a pension to him from the day on which he made application for it. I think that I have established that Dr. Ludowici wasnot entitled to turn this applicant down without having first conductedamedical examination.
.- The officers who administer theVictoriansection of the Pensions Department arenot only highly efficient, but also very considerate, and I believe that the best interests , of the department would be served if it were treated asa closed department, and promotions to higher positions were made from within it.Thereare however, some matters which the department apparently considers to be settled practices, and in some cases applicants for pensions are not, in my opinion, receiving the benefits of the repeals which, this Parliament has made in the pensions law. This year the Commonwealth Parliament repealed the provision by which the act disqualified an applicant who at any time within five years before his application had given away property. It appears to me that the department is evading this repeal by insisting that, property so given shall be treated as still being the property of the applicant. The department, in effect, administers the law as if the repeal had never been made. In Victoria, and, I think, in the other States, if a person gives to his children or to any other person property it is irrevocable. The department, however, takes the attitude that the property given away by a pensioner is to be regarded as his property in deciding the pension to which the applicant is entitled. It is thus depriving pensioners of a benefit granted them by the Commonwealth Parliament in an amendment of the pensions act.
I have submitted to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) the case of a man who was refused a pension on the ground that he was deemed to have half of the accumulated property of his wife. That accumulated property is treated as including some property which she had given away some years ago. The wife cannot recover that property. “While the provision I have mentioned was contained in the act a gift of property within five years before the application was a bar to an application. But though that sub-section of the act does not operate now, the department, in assessing the rate of pension, still regards property thus given away as the property of the applicant.
Another section of the act which Parliament has repealed imposed on relatives of applicants the burden of keeping them, of or contributing towards their maintenance, yet the department still takes the view that applicants for pensions, particularly applicants for the invalid pension, if they are living with their family, are not entitled to a pension because the relatives should maintain them. That is neither a reasonable nor a benevolent view for the department to take. Naturally, an invalid is maintained by some one, but if an invalid pensioner believes that he is placing too groat a burden upon those who are main- taining him, and applies for an invalid pension, the department should not take into consideration the fact that relatives have been supporting him. The harsh interpretation placed on the act is illustrated by the case of a girl, who left her home because her father remarried., and she did not wish to remain in the house under the new conditions. She applied for an invalid pension. At first the department took the view that the father should maintain her, but subsequently it abandoned that attitude. In effect, it said that, as the applicant would not live with her family, and as her father could not. be compelled to maintain her. it would grant her a pension. I think the same principle should apply even if the applicant is living with parents.
The case of separated couples has already been raised in the committee. The law gives the Commissioner of Pensions power to dispense with the principle that separation by the court’s decree or by agreement shall be insisted upon when either of the couples has made application for a pension. The Government should see that the department is much more liberal than at present in interpreting the act in that respect.
The Pensions Act provides that an applicant for the invalid pension must be permanently incapacitated, and then provides as to pensioners generally that the amount of money which a pensioner can receive annually from the pension and from other sources shall not exceed £78. Obviously, the act originally contemplated an invalid pensioner being allowed to earn a certain amount of money. That, intention has been defeated by a regulation which says that an. applicant for the invalid pension must be not only permanently disabled, hut also totally disabled. That provision is held by the department to mean that applicants for the pension must, be incapable of performing any work. I know of boys who have been limbless for many years, and who, because on odd occasions they have sold newspapers, have been refused the pension, it being contended that they are still capable of selling newspapers. There is also the case of a woman who, on occasions, is prone to take epileptic fits. Nobody can anticipate when these fits are likely to take place. Nevertheless, because she is not permanently and totally incapacitated, she is refused the invalid pension. The only place where she might be expected to do any work at all is in her own home, but her family does not need her services in that capacity. No one will give her employment because, when she has a seizure, she is not only incapable of working, but also upsets those people who arc in her presence. The fact that this woman is refused an invalid pension amply shows that the Pensions Act is not administered benevolently. The department should reconsider its attitude. The act should be interpreted in a benevolent manner, in furtherance of its benevolent purpose.
The matter raised by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) seems to me to be one of income, and not of property.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 31st October (vide page 1201), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The settlement and occupation of Australia depend on the profitable use of its resources. Those resources are of many kinds, and are located in various parts of the Commonwealth. There is one portion of this continent which has been slow in its development and has not been marked by any very rapid increase of population. It so happens that that is the portion which is most vulnerable to those who, in the congested countries of the world, would be disposed to consider that it afforded them reasonable opportunities for the settlement of their people. We live in a world in which population is not equally distributed and in which the pressure on population is not uniform. There are many countries which find their resources unequal to the growing needs of their rapidly increasing popula tion, measured relatively with the increase of world population. Thus there are parts of this Commonwealth for which it is important that Australia should have concern. I have in mind the northern portion of the great State of Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and a considerable portion of Queensland. I think it will be acknowledged that those who know most about those particular areas will concede that, having regard to their present position, it is only by the orderly progress of the cattle industry that we can make the best use of the resources which they possess. It is extraordinary that, despite the low prices obtained for meat and the depressed condition of the market generally, the number of cattle should have increased in the last three years, in Western Australia by one-eighth, in Queensland by approximately one-fifth, and in the Northern Territory by about one-seventh. In 1930 there were 11,750,000 cattle in Australia, and in 1933 the number was 13,500,000. Thus the increase of the herds has taken place at a period when the demand for meat has been less than normal. As a nation we have been obliged to proceed with the development of this industry because in those parts of Australia where it exists there is no possibility of transferring effectively from it to any other industry. Thus the cattle areas of Australia have to be served by this Parliament if we are to justify in any way our occupation of them.
This bill, which the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) introduced just on a fortnight ago, is one which provides power so complete that private enterprise is practically stifled and competition among individuals absolutely banished so far as meat for export is concerned. The provision that no meat may be exported except under licence is an acknowledgment of the principle of the restriction of export, and because of that restriction regulation has become necessary in order to permit of the restricted market being shared by those who are engaged in the meat industry.
I may here say that the bill comes rather strangely from a government which professes that there has been too much interference with business by governments, and that the right course for nations to pursue is to permit the unfettered exercise of individual initiative and enterprise so faT as that is possible.. Nevertheless a government, which professedly stands for private enterprise’, has been forced by the necessities oftheworld position to make this compromise between a general scheme of orderly marketing and the provisions which it now applies to meat and which have also characterized its actions in regard to certain other products.
Licences to export may or may not be granted by the Minister. He may absolutely refuse to any exporter of meat, permission to export. The powers of the board in this connexion are recommendatory, in that it may suggest, to the Minister the terms and conditions under which licences to export may be granted. The significance of such drastic steps as are thus indicated is. much more than merely political. We have here an instance of the unquestioned fact that governments, whose political principles are absolutely the. reverse of the State regulations of industry, are being: compelled more and more to practice the. very policy which they profess to denounce. Thus the regulation; of. the meat industry in Australia has. been accepted by this Government because of its. recognition of inexorablefacts. It takes cognizance of things which it. hates, and attempts to shape its policy of non-initerference with industry by and large, with measures which, in their precise incidence, definitely cut right across the principles of individual, liberty and freedom of trade which, I venture to affirm with great respect, are basically held by the majority of honorable gentlemen who support the Government.
The problem in relation to meat is not new to Australia ; it figured conspicuously in the Ottawa: agreement. According to that agreement, the policy of the British Government in relation to meat production is. first, to secure the development of home production; and secondly, to give to the dominions an expanding share of imports into the United Kingdom. I think that that puts the matter fairly and! moderately.. There is no equivocation in this statement; a definite agreement exists; and,. readin conjunction with the opening remarks of Mr. Baldwin at the Ottawa Conference, it can only be interpreted to mean that at Ottawa Great Britain placed the development of its own. production first, and thereafter Australia was promised an expanding share of the imports into the British markets. Australia has no complaint to make concerning Great Britain’s aim to protect its own producers and preserve its market for them. What I. think we have a right to complain of is, that our trade: should be restricted while foreign countries supply large quantities of meat to Great Britain. During the last elections the Government put forward a definite policy against restrictions. After the elections, Ministers continued to maintain a policy of no restrictions. The Minister in charge of negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett), in his speech on the United Kingdom and Australia Trade Agreement Bill, said -
After 1933, no restrictions on dominion exports are contemplated. The agreement itself makes no reference to restrictions apart from tho year1933.
In, December, 1934, the present Minister for Commerce issued a warning to Great Britain. The right honorable gentleman them stated that “ unless Australia can sellher produce freely in Britain she will not be able to meet her. debt commitments.” I think it is true that throughout the discussions on overseas trade the party of which the right honorable gentleman is the leader has protested against restrictions.. Yet this bill”’ definitely affects the competency of an individual meat producer in Australia to market meat outside the Commonwealth! The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in. a statement issued at the beginning of November,1934, denied that the Government had assented to. the principle’ of restrictions. He then said -
Both before and during the election campaign’ I clearly declared’ my government’s opposition to any proposal which implied restrictions.
This bill contemplates nothingbut restrictions. In fact; it makes it unlawful for a meat producer in Australia to attemptto marketmeat outside the Commonwealth except under licence; : and the licence will not begranted to himexcept on such terms and conditions as the Minister approvesafter having received the recommendation of the board which it is proposed to establish. The Prime Minister, after having made the statement that I have quoted, went ‘to England. He remained there formonths,and returnedto Australia with someconcessions, butwith no guarantee or intimation as to Great Britain’s willingness to agree to any long-range policy granting to Australia an expanding shareof the British market. It appears as though a great deal of the time of the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General, and the High Commissioner, wasdevoted tothe negotiations inregard to meat and other matters. I would say that after theratification of theOttawaagreement, Great Britain commenced to make agreements with foreign countries, among which was Argentina. Iask the House to consider how far those agreements subsequently made by Great Britain with other countries, including Argentina, rendered it almost impossible to consummate the spirit of the Ottawa agreement, and led to increasing marketing difficulties in Great Britain beingexperienced by dominion exporters, which were not con- templated when that agreement was entered into. Strongcondemnation of the British Government’s black pacts with Denmark, Argentina, and other countries, was expressed by the Research Committee of the Empire Economic Union, in its survey of Britain’s trade policy. The reportof that committee emphasized that these pactsnotonly hampered agriculture in Great Britain, but also endangered empire relationships. Further, thereport declared that these agreements should not be renewed on their expiration. “In the past,” said the committee, “ the pursuit of foreign trade has almost beenam obsession, and some people have regarded it as having a peculiar merit of its own. “We must realize that there is no merit in obtaining from a foreigner something which can be obtained from a Briton at home or overseas.” My extract from the report ofthe committee hasbeen taken from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 24th
March last. The agreement between Argentina and Great Britain provides for a 10 per cent, reduction of the quotas of chilled beef, and in respect of more than 10 per cent, for a corresponding reduction to be imposed by Great Britain on meat from other countries besides Argentina. The agreement also stipulates thatno levies are to be imposed during thecurrency ofit. There is no doubtthat financial interestsare responsible for the action of the British Government in regard to meat. In this connexion I cite the comment of the Premier of South Australia upon his return to Australia from Great Britain. Expressing his views as to what the position amounted to, that gentleman said he thought that Australia should get a larger share of Great Britain’s markets, andadded that Argentina carried too much political influence in Britain, through the investors in that country. In this regard I would say that the investments of British interests in Argentina are very considerable’; they have been estimated at between £450,000,000 and £500,000,000. One can, therefore, quite appreciate the desire of the investors to protect their investments. May I point out that, even if it be true that British investments in Argentina aggregate between £450,000,000 and £500,000,000, Britain has invested £560,000,000 in Australian government securities. Thus, on balance, British investments in Australia are larger than Britain’s investments in the Argentine, viewed purely from the financial aspect. The distinction, however, is that British investors in Argentina cannot look to the taxable capacity of the country as a backing for their investments. They must look for a return on their money to the profits of the trading companies of Argentina. Thus, ifthe companies do not showlarge profits, the investors cannot receive large returns on their capital. Therefore, Britain has an interest in making investments in Argentina profitable, while it is completely indifferent to the fate of British companies operating in Australia, because the bulk of British capital is invested, not in private ventures,but in government securities. For that reason, the nature of the investment has an important influence in determining British policy in regard to the meat industry of Argentina and Australia.
– Some British capital has been invested in loans to the Argentine Government.
– The honorable member should know that there are three outstanding things as between Australia, Argentina, and Great Britain. One is that Australia is Britain’s third, and sometimes fourth, best customer in the world. The secondis that Australia has never defaulted on its interest payments; while the third is that Australia has granted preference on the Australian market to manufacturers in the United Kingdom for the last 25 years. Certain distinctions exist. One is that Argentina has never given preference to Great Britain; another is that it has defaulted in its interest payments to British investors; and another is that British investments are predominantly in capitalistic enterprises unbacked by the Argentine Government. The fact that large sums of British capital have been invested in Australian securities has proved one of the most important facts in determining what shall be the internal policy of Australia, becausewe have set ourselves to make such sacrifices as may be required from time to time in order that we may not default on our overseas commitments. Thus in order to avoid doing what Argentina has done, this Parliament has squeezed to penury large sections of the people of Australia. It has imposed sacrifices upon them in order that we might not default overseas as Argentina has done. In spite of this distinction between the conduct of the two countries, we have the remarkable spectacle that the Ottawa agreement - which never really did justice to the Australian meat industry - has been rendered almost sterile by subsequent agreements entered into by Great Britain. Argentina has defaulted in its interest payments on over £200,000,000 of debt.
The Minister for Commerce, in his second-reading speech, stated with much satisfaction that satisfactory arrangements had been made regarding meat exports for the years 1935 and 1936. The Minister knows, as the British Ministers knew when the negotiations were taking place, that, owing to drought, even if we had free entry into the British market, our exports must necessarily be limited. The Minister also referred to percentage increases of our exports of meat, but he made no comparison between Britain’s imports from Australia and those from Argentina. To speak of a 75 per cent. increase of our exports of beef over 1932 is absurd, when we realize that, for the year 1934-35, our exports of beef were 79,000 tons, as compared with exports from Argentina of 373,000 tons. The general trade position is summarized in the following table: -
Thus, during three years, Argentina purchased goods from Great Britain valued at approximately £39,000,000, as against £67,000,000 worth purchased by Australia. I remind honorable members that this occurred during a period when our normal imports wore greatly restricted, both by our reduced purchasing power, and by action deliberately taken to enable us to meet our overseas commitments. A similar situation exists to-day, and it is becoming increasingly urgent that similar action will have to be taken.During the period I have been reviewing, Argentina exported to the United Kingdom goods valued at £139,600,000, as against Australia’s exports valued at £144,000,000. Our exports to Great Britain were slightly greater in value than those of Argentina,but we bought enormously more from the United Kingdom than did Argentina. If we go back further, we find that British trade returns show that, for the thirteen years from 1921 to 1933, on the basis of retained imports only, the balance of trade between Great Britain and Australia favoured Britain by £46,000,000, whereas for the same period the trade balance between Argentina and Great Britain favoured Argentina by £500,000,000. These figures were published in the Brisbane Courier Mail of the 4th September of this year.
In a letter to the London press, Sir John McLaren, Official Secretary at Australia House, quoted another set of arresting figures regarding trade between the United Kingdom and Argentina, and the United Kingdom and Australia. He showed that during a period of fourteen years Australia bought from Britain goods valued at £667,000,000, whilst Argentina bought goods from Great Britain valued at £351,SOO,000. During the same period the United Kingdom imported from Argentina goods valued at £930,200,000, and imported from Australia goods valued at £635,350,000. Thus, the trade balance for that period was against Australia to the extent of £31,700,000, and in favour of the Argentine to the extent of £578,400,000. These figures have been taken from an article appearing in the Melbourne Age of the 21st July of thi3 year. Taking still another period of ten years from 1922 to 1932, we find that Australia’s exports to Great Britain amounted to £472,000,000, whilst its imports from that country were valued at £537,000,000. Thus while Australia has provided a market for Great Britain of far greater value than that which GreatBritain has provided for Australia, Great Britain has continued to purchase from Argentina goods valued at greatly more than those it has sold to thatcountry. This shows clearly that Great Britain has treated Argentina, economically, much more favorably than it has treated Australia. The figures I have quoted show a balance in favour of Great Britain, of £65,000,000 in the trade between that country and Australia, whereas, for the same period, Great Britain bought from Argentina goods worth £434.000,000 more than it sold to it.
I have quoted figures covering various periods because I recognize that the position might not be accurately reflected in figures relating to the period of the depression, or to any other selected period. It is evident that Australia has been a far better customer to Great Britain that Argentina has been, yet Britain continues to purchase from three to five times as much from Argentina as it sells to that country; and still the argument is put forward by Britain that its trade with Argentina is so valuable that it must be protected. Is not Australia’s trade of more value to Great Britain than that of Argentina? For all practical purposes, Argentina has been granted dominion status. There is no doubt that this is a violation of both the spirit and the letter of the Ottawa agreement.
A perusal of the figures regarding the imports of meat into Great Britain clearly shows the scope for increased dominion trade without in any way interfering with the home industry. The following table sets forth the position for 1934:-
Therefore, I think we can say that Australia relies on Great Britain for its export meat trade ; and any action, taken bythe British Government to reduce or limit our exportable meat production must retard further development of our cattle country, which in our present knowledge of its potentialities can be used for no other purpose. There are still large areas in Australia suitable for settlement, and it is impossible to visualize the extent of our expansion by way of production and increased population if markets are available.
This goes to the very root of one of the great problems confronting Australia. We cannot arrest the momentum which has been commenced in respect of the settlement of areas remote from our big cities. I stand definitely for a protectionist policy for Australia, in order that our secondary industries may be developed, and say that the great cities, the seats of.manufacture, ought to be supportedby this Parliament. But equally there goes with that an obligation on the part of the people who derive their livelihood in the cities to see that their fellow Australians engaged in populating and developing the great portions of our continent remote from the centres of population should also be assisted in the enterprises in winch they are engaged, enterprises which go to make Australia a reasonably balanced community. What is the future of our meat trade if our export trade is to be curtailed’ by Great Britain ? At’ Ottawa, the British Government, in order to gain further concessions from Australia, definitely agreed to give it an expanding share of the meat market. That could’ only be done- at the expense of foreign trade. The British delegates must have realized that this must involve the curtailment of foreign imports. The. Minister for Commerce, in December of last year, pointed out that “Australia’s future depends, on the progressive development of her. resources, and without a. policy of expansion it will be impossible to restore prosperity, solve unemployment,, and meet our obligations.” Australia must have some guarantee of an expanding; market with Great. Britain for its primary production. In an article appearing in the London Telegraph of the 30th of November, 1933, our High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce, reminded’ Britain not, to forget the trade and development of the British Empire.. The article stated -
In current British policy, Mr. Bruce criticises, two courses of. action; one is too narrow and the other too wide and both are dangerous. The narrow error is the attempt to. foster “ uneconomic “ British agriculture by suppression of trade, from the dominions; and the. wide error is to envisage an impossible objective “ of world” trade, to the exclusion or detriment of livelier trade within the Empire.
The Right. Honorable . L.. S. Amery,. speaking on. the advantages of Empire trade, is reported in the Journals of the Parliaments ofthe Empire in. July of this year, to have said -
No amount of purchases from the Argentine would support a large population of British workers; either on the land or in factories. Everypurchase from a dominion opened up possibilities for migration, and it was only in proportion, as they developed outlets for dominion production; that the could hope to find outlets for British people in the dominions.
It has been rumoured in the press that negotiations have been, or are about to be, inaugurated with a view to sending: more people out to Australia. It is significant that, during the last two or three weeks, those newspapers which have a keen and almost prescient anticipatory power in respect of. the policy of this Government, are suggesting that migration is. due to he resumed, and I understand that the British Government is most anxious for Australia to take some of the surplus population of Great Britain in order to relieve that country of the burden of unemployment, although it is not so keen on taking the goods which its own people in Australia produce. In this connexion, the remarks of the Attorney-General in his address “ Australia’s Place in the Empire “ are rather interesting. Referring to migration and production, the honorable gentleman said -
If the dominions are to receive immigrants, they must be in a position to receive them. They must be encouraged to develop their resources in order that they may receive them, and it is in that sense that Great Britain’s attitude towards Australia is directly associated with Australia’s attitude towards the problem of receiving immigrants from Great Britain. It is not amatter of saying “We won’t play in your backyard unless you can play in ours.” In a way it is a sheer matter of capacity, of our capacity to receive this stream, which we know is the condition of our future life and our future growth. We ought to be in a position not merely to stand still but to develop our resources and to grow, and wo have reached a position to-day when one of the conditions of our growth depends upon what Great Britain is going to do about it.
In an article on. the British Empire, written, by Sir John M.Higgins, K.C.M.G., with a foreword by the Right Honorable Lord Inverforth, P.C., attention is drawn to the necessity of increasing dominion trade. Sir John Higgins makes the following comment -
As foodstuffs are of primary importance, and an ample, regular, and continuous supply is paramount, the first duty of the Government is to create the means and facilities for the people to obtain them, first by local production, and secondly by making good any deficit from British Empire resources.
I say that there is room in Australia for more people; I do not believe that Australia can be effectively held by its present population; but, at the same time, I do not believe that mass migration or even assisted migration can be successful. I do not believe that there can be any effective addition to the population of Australia unless industries can be found in which these persons can be employed usefully. The mere transfer of a man. from the unemployed register in Great Britain to the unemployed register in. Australia is good for neither the man, nor Britain, nor Australia. Because of the willingness of Australia to Buy extensively from Great Britain, obviously Great Britain must realize the obligation it is under to purchase extensively from Australia. I say at this point that, after 25 years, of substantial preferences which this Parliament has given in the Australian market to British manufacturers, the time has arrived when there should be continued negotiations in respect of the marketing of meat and other primary products in the United Kingdom, and when this Parliament should send a definite intimation to Great Britain that Australia can no longer extend preferences to Britain unless those preferences are definitely reciprocated by preferences being given by Great Britain on the exportable products which Australians must sell if they are to meet their obligations to Great Britain. There is a belief that: we can develop markets on the continent of Europe. But in respect of every one of those countries, with the exception of Switzerland, Australia has already a favorable balance of trade. The Minister directing negotiation for Trade Treaties has pointed out that in all countries he visited, with the exception of Switzerland, he was met with a demand to know what goods Australia intended taking fromthem if they were to take more from us. The extraordinary situation exists that, while we continue to give preferences to. Great Britain, that country continues to extend greater consideration to the meat producers of Argentina than to those of Australia. This bill is not the outcome of the success of the Australian delegation overseas in securing better markets for the Australian meat industry in the United Kingdom; rather is it an acknowledgment of the small degree of success which attended the negotiations. The very regulations which are implicit in this bill owe their existence to the definite restrictions of exports which the bill contemplates, and which the machinery provides is to be set up to control. If there is not to be restriction of export, this bill is unnecessary. It merely sets up a meddlesome bureaucracy. If restriction is necessary, organized control over exports is inevitable. This situation arises solely because the delegation overseas met with nothing like the success that its press representatives have claimed for it. I shall defer my consideration of certain of the clauses of the bill to the committee stage. I merely point out that if a trade union sought to regulate labour by the exercise of the tremendous power that this bill gives to the board, there would be so frantic an outcry from the ranks of conservatism in Australia, that one doubts if its echoes would ever die away. This bill definitely cuts the Gordian knot which bound the old Conservative party to the doctrine of no interference with trade. It buries the past with its policy of laissez-faire. No longer can honorable members opposite stand up and defend non-interference with private enterprise; no longer can they say that orderly marketing is something that should not be contemplated; and no longer can they deny that time has made necessary the adoption of the principles of collective action and association, and an increase of State interference with the trade and commerce of the nation. We shall not oppose this bill because, unlike honorable members opposite, we know that some form of regulation is necessary. Private interprise can no longer be left to go its own way without interference. The time has come when it must be subordinated to the major interests of the nation. This bill - although I have no doubt that its sponsors will deny it - is undoubtedly an acknowledgment that we now live in an entirely changed world. We shall not dispute the principles that underly the bill, but we shall seek to make some of its clauses more representative than they are. I should have been lacking in my duty to my party had I failed to indicate the reasons why this bill is necessary, and also its implications in respect of the orientation of the political parties of this Parliament.
.- We have just listened to an eloquent oration of mean deductions based on picked facts not false in themselves, but, in their total, amounting to half truths. The
Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) devoted the greater part of his speech to an attack on Great Britain for its treatment of the Australian meat industry. The honorable member introduced an imposing array of statistics intended to show that the Commonwealth of Australia is a more valuable customer and a more valuable field for investment than Argentina, I will add, though, the honorable member, having in mind, no doubt, his attitude in regard to sanctions, did not say this : Australia is also a more valuable supporter and ally of Great Britain in these difficult days than Argentina or any other foreign country which has been sending meat to Great Britain. I feel sure that every honorable member will agree with these views, which were, I remind the House, the views put forward by every member of the Australian delegation to London in the course of its negotiations with the British Government. After the Leader of the Opposition had set out his array of figures, lie declared, in effect, that Great Britain had given Argentina a preference over Australia, and that if this were not so the introduction of this bill to give the meat industry of Australia power to arrange its affairs to meet altered marketing conditions would not have been necessary. That despicably mean imputation is not in accordance with the facts. Great Britain has, in effect, given the meat producers of its dominions very substantial preferences. Exports of mutton and lamb have not been curtailed from any dominion. The utmost concession that we have been asked to make is that there might he some postponement of exports so as to co-ordinate the arrivals from the different sources of supply in such a way as not to disorganize or disturb unnecessarily the markets of England. Up to the present we have not been asked to submit to any reduction of exports. ‘ We have been asked merely to submit to what may be called planned expansion. Argentina, on the other hand, has had definitely to curtail its exports by 35 per cent. If the Leader of the Opposition doe3 not call this an enormous preference to the dominions at the’ expense of Argentina, I do not know what he would call a preference. No preference that we give in respect of British manufactured goods equals the preference that we are now receiving in respect of mutton and lamb. While exports from Argentina are being curtailed, provision is being made for an expansion of exports from the British dominions. This bill has been really introduced in order that the producers and those most intimately connected with the meat industry shall be enabled to decide among themselves how the industry shall be co-ordinated.
In his remarks regarding beef, the Leader of the Opposition said that although Australia and the other British dominions had been guaranteed, under the terms of the Ottawa agreement, an expanding share of the British market, subsequent agreements between Great Britain and other foreign countries had rendered those provisions of the Ottawa agreement sterile. The actual facts are thatsince the ratification of the Ottawa agreement a further curtailment has been imposed on exports of beef from Argentina under the Anglo- Argentine agreement. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition most definitely, however, when he says that the Anglo-Argentine agreement, which guaranteed the admission of certain quotas of chilledbeef from Argentina into Great Britain provided also that only limited shipments of chilled beef, on an experimental basis, should be permitted from Australia. That provisionwas a breach of the provision of the Ottawa agreement, which accorded the British dominions an expanding share of the British market. It was one of the important points which the Prime Minister and the other members of the delegation took up with the representatives of the British Government in London. I am glad to say that they were able to obtain from the British Government an acknowledgment that Australia was entitled to more ‘ than experimental shipments of chilled beef to the British market. Following upon this,the Australian quota of chilled beef was increased to such an extent that this year we are entitled to send more chilled beef to Great Britain than we shall have available. Our shortage of supplies can be put down partially to the drought conditions which have existed in Queensland. Nevertheless, the fact remains that provision has been made for a substantial increase of shipments of chilled beef from Australia. This advantage was obtained definitely as the result of the representations made by the Australian delegation in London, and so the real situation differs considerably from the view of it presented by the Leader of the Opposition.
I support this bill. I suppose no honorable member of the House has been more reluctant than I have been to con- sent to the imposition of shackles on private industry; but I freely acknowledge, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, that we are living to-day in a different world, particularly in connexion with international trading. A substantial amount of planning and coordination is, therefore, necessary to enable us to get the best results from the markets open to us. The time has come when the meat exporting nations of the world, in particular, plan ahead. I welcome this bill, because it places the planning in the hands of the industry itself. The majority of the members of the meat board which is to be set up will be direct representatives ofthe meat producers. The board will include a representative of the pig producers, a representative of producers in the Northern Territory, a representative of Southern Riverina, and a representative of the producers from each State of the Commonwealth. Nine representatives out of the seventeen will be appointed by the producers. The remaining members of the board will represent the publicly-owned meat-exporting utilities of the various States, the private meat exporters, and the Government.
– The honorable member ought now to support a compulsory wheat pool.
– A compulsory wheat pool would go far beyond the degree of regulation that is necessary or desirable in the wheat industry. I am willing to support regulation in order to secure to the wheat-growers of Australia a home-consumption price for their wheat in accordance with Australian standards.
In order that we may obtain the treat- ment that we have the right to expect in the British market, it appears to me to be desirable to set up a board, such as is provided for in the bill. As I have no reason to think that we shall not receive from GreatBritain the treatment that we have the right to expect, I anticipatethat the work of the board will be principally in regardtoplanning andexpansion, rather than in regard to the allocation of restrictions.It is possible that our meat industry may expand more rapidlythan weexpect, and that difficulty may, therefore, be experienced in finding a market for all our meat in Great Britain. In such circumstances, the board might have the duty to allocate supplies. I am delightedtoknow that probably for the first time in our history representatives from the Northern Territory and the meat works of the Western Australian Government at Wyndham will lie appointed to a board of this description, and I hope that the interests which they represent will receive handsomo treatment. Iagree with everything that the Leader of the Opposition has said with regard to thestrategic importance of the beef industry in establishing and safeguarding our right to maintain a White Australia from one end ofthe continent to the other.
As the majority of the members of the meat board will represent theproducers, itwillbeina better position than a board of ‘any other description to deal with our export meat trade. It will be in a favorable position to establish intimate ‘relations with producers’ organizations in England. Early this year Imetmany influential representatives, ofthe farmers’ union of England, and ‘also many individual farmers, and they ail expressed a Strong desire to improve the relations between the producers’ organizations of Australia and those of England, and to make as close contactas possible. Aspirit ofmarkedf riendlinesswasexhibited and Iwas assured that such friendliness would beshown so long as the producers of England werenot exposed to the danger of haphazard flooding ofthe British market “through the uncoordinated action of producers ‘in Australia. The New Zealand Meat Board, through itsrepresentatives in London, has been able toestablishmuch closer relations with the Britishfarmers than the Australian meat producers have been able to establish hitherto by their individualistic approach. I look forward to the time when, through its Londonrepresentative, the board will greatly strengthen a sentiment in EnglandtowardsAustraliawhich willgive this country, not anexpanding share but a greatly expanding share in that unique market formeat exporters which Great Britainpresents.
In addition tothat mainpurpose of the board it willbe able to do a number ofotheruseful things. The Leader of theOpposition said that,unless the board was set up to allocate restrictionof exports, it would merelybea meddlesome bureaucracy. That, again, is amost unreal imputation. A board of the sort contemplated in the bill, when it is necessary for it to undertake coordination of shipments, willautomaticallyhave the powers that are necessary to carry-out negotiations for reduction of freight rates. Itwill be able tonegotiatewith the shipping companies for freight reductions, because itwill be ina position to assure those interests that will accept reductions of rates that they will undoubtedly get the cargoes. The Leader ofthe Opposition has spoken as though theestablishmentof the proposed board willbean innovation. He appears to forgetthe Dried FruitsExport Control Board, the Dairy Produce Export Control Board and the Wine Export Control Board, all of which have powers very nearly identical with the powers which it is proposedto repose in the suggestedMeat Export Control Board, and all of which have been able to negotiatefreightconcessions that have been ofdefiniteadvantage to the producers in these days of low prices. Every fraction ofapenny in freight charges isofgreat importance when prices areat alow level.
Another work which (theboard will be able to Carry out is the proper arrangement of standardsand trademarks and the proper maintenance ofstandards. The producers’ representative in London will be in aposition to inquire into all the facts concerning any shipment which may notarrive in Londonin thecondition which was expectedby the Commonwealth inspectors when they inspected itprior toexport. Theboard will bein possession ofsubstantialfundsandwill thus be able todoagreatdeal to advertise Australian meat in the British market. In support of that argument I wish only to point out the prejudice which exists againstmerinolamb. It is : not a popular shape.; it is too like a greyhound to look at when it has been slaughtered-and the meat is notof an attractive colourbut it has amost superior texture and flavour. “With judicious advertising it is possible that a special demand may be createdfor merino lambmuch in the same way as a special demand has been created in Trance for mutton which comes from salt pastures on the seaboard. For all those reasons, as well as for the main reason, I welcome and support the bill. There are one ortwo matterswhich I wish ‘to point out in committee, but I wholeheartedly support the main principles of the bill, because its purpose is to place the meat industry in the . hands ofthe industry itself and notinthe hands of the Government. The industry willbe responsible for co-ordinating, regulating and maintaining standards, and it will be able to establishthe best relations in the overseas markets.
.- The remarks made by the honorable member forWakefield (Mr. Hawker) astound me. For a while they led meto the suspicion that my hearing must havebecome affected. The honorable member supported the policy which the Government has espoused and which, in principle, is what the Labour partyhas beenadvocating for years. In the past, whenever the Labour party advocated the control of private enterprise the cry was raised by the interests represented by the presentGovernment that there must be no interference with private “industry. Formerly individualism ‘has been protected by the nationalist parties. But what a change of front this has been? What a change of policy is provided for in the bill before the House? Whenever Labour has advocated collectivism it has been denounced by those parties to which it is opposed. Now, however, when the Government brings in a billwhichmeans that the meat industry will be placed under rigid control, those persons who have been most bitter in their denunciation of Labour when it has advocated similar steps, perhaps in other directions rush forward crying “ what a wonderful policy. We congratulate the Government for having introduced it”. That enthusiasmI repeat isastounding, inface of former denunciations of Labour’s advocacyof like action. On reflection, however, this enthusiasm isnotso difficult to understand. “The bill ; provides means whereby certain interests will derive benefit.
The honorablemember for Wakefield look the Leaderof the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to taskfor having used certain figures. The honorable member is one of the least qualified to do that. I advise “honorable members to recall the speech which he delivered on the Ottawa agreement. Inmost enthusiastically optimistic terms,he forecast that the Commonwealth would reap untold benefits.He was a veritableMicawber waitingfor something to turn up. It has not turned up, and is not likely to. The honorable member is adopting the same Micawber-like attitude to-night. Again he looks ahead. With him it is always what is going to happen “ in the sweet by and by”. However, he has for a while been brought to earth ; he has convincingly shown that he believes in control of industry; he is happy because the farmers are going to control the meat industry. Therefore he can have no objection to railway men controlling the railways, miners controlling the mines, and -seamen controlling the shipping. What isgood for one is good for another. -If a Labour -government had done what this Government proposes to do in regard to the meat industry, what an outcry there would have been; but all is well, because the present Government has taken the first step.
The honorable member for Wakefield referred to the reduction of 35 per cent, inthe quantity of Argentina’s exportsto Great Britain. The Leader of the Opposition gave the correct figures. “He showed thathe knows well that the advantage is on theside of Argentina.Supporters ofthe Government on a famous occasion declaredthat Great Britain would not deal withany country which repudiated it obligations. That cry was raised because the Governmentof New South Wales at the time declared thatbefore paying interest overseas it intended to feed the unemployed of the State. The supporters of the present Commonwealth Government would have nothing to do with that sentiment. To-night, however, one supposed supporter of country interests has repudiated the farmers by standing up and supporting Argentina, which defaulted in its interest payments to Great Britain. The Country party representatives in this House seem to have more interest in that country than they have in Australia. From the stand taken by the honorable member for Wakefield, one can only gather that the Country party members are prepared to bend their knees and apologize to the British Government because that Government has seen fit to give to this country half a loaf and to the Argentine a loaf and a half. It satisfies them. When we find members of the Country party in this House supporting Argentina, no wonder the British Government does not give heed to the case put forward on behalf of this country by the representatives of the party now in power in the Commonwealth ! How those honorable members can claim that they represent the country interests is beyond my comprehension.
The honorable member for Wakefield has questioned the figures given by the Leader of the Opposition. The Opposition party will see that the speech delivered by the honorable member for Fremantle is circulated throughout the country districts. It was the finest statement ever made in this House regarding the meat industry. In causing its circulation in country districts, we shall also see that the farmers are “acquainted with the details of the speech delivered by the honorable member for Wakefield, saying, “Here is a farmer’s statement made by a farmer on behalf of the farmers apologizing for the little share Australia, in comparison with Argentina, has received from Great Britain. On the other hand, this is what the Labour movement stands for. Wc are fighting for the farmers, and, in doing so, we are fighting for ourselves”. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen), like the honorable member for Wakefield, will also support Argentina. He will say that the picture painted by the Leader of the Opposition was extravagant in its portrayal of the facts about the Anglo-Aus- tralian meat trade. “ We are getting all we want “ he will say. The farmers’ representatives should be exposed. I shall not use the language used by the honorable member for Wakefield. I simply say that the men who are supposed- to be representing the country interests in this House are humbugging the farmers.
– They are the greatest pests the farmers have!
– It might not be too great an exaggeration to say that one of the burdens that the farmers are carrying is their representatives in the Commonwealth Parliament, who are fattening themselves at the expense of the primary industries. When called upon to justify their membership of this Parliament, they say, “ We tried to do our best. We sent a delegation to London and, as it were, wont down on our bellies imploring the British Government to give us a little bit”. Instead of adopting the weak attitude which nullified its efforts in London to obtain some substantial preference to the Australian meat industry, the Australian delegation should have said to the British Government, “ We want this and we are going to have it. If you do, not give it to us we shall wipe out the tariff concessions that we are at present giving to you “.
– What is it that the honorable member claims we did not get?
– I should like the Assistant Minister to regain the spirit with which he fought on behalf of the farmers when he was a member of the State Parliament of New South Wales. I fail to understand the cause of his change of attitude. The Assistant Minister went -abroad loud in his denunciation of trade agreements, but his attitude on his return was decidedly “ pussy “.
– I should still like to know what the honorable member is asking for that the delegation did not get.
– I agree with the bill in principle. It is a principle which the Labour party has always advocated, and I am pleased that the Government has been converted.
– The principles contained in this measure were introduced twelve years ago in legislation governing the dairying industry.
– The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), who was responsible for the introduction of the butter scheme, was in harmony with the principles of the Labour party. He threatened rebellion if the government of the day did not support him in the establishment of control of dairying. A complaint which I have against the bill now before the House is the fact that the section of the industry that does all the work, but does not get the profits, is not mentioned. The Premier of New South Wales the other day amended the bill introduced into the State Parliament dealing with the wheat pool in order to enable the appointment of a consumers’ representative on the board.
– Only after a lot of pressure had been applied.
– Nevertheless, he agreed to the proposal.
– There are to be four representatives of the meat industry on this board.
– They are not taken from the ranks of the workers. The worker has to do all the hard work. The industry could not bo carried on without him. Yet he is given no voice. I hope that the Ministerwill agree to the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union and the Australian Workers Union being represented on the board. I am pleased with the bill. It embodies the right principle, and will meet with no opposition from the party of which I am a member.
.- I had not proposed to discuss this measure, because I warmly support it; but the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in his opening and concluding remarks, and the honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Garden), appeared to suggest that it signifies a remarkablechange from the traditional policy of the United Australia party. It is to that particular criticism that I wish to direct my remarks because, if left unanswered, it. may convoy a totally wrong impression as to what has been the traditional policy of this party during the last 30 or 40 years.
I agree with the principle that underlies the bill. To suggest that the party of whichI am a member has advocated a policy of “ rugged individualism “ is to emulate Rip Van Winkle. That policy is about as up to date as is the policy of the Labour party in regard to socialism, and is as rigorously adhered to by this party as is that policy by honorable members opposite. When the Leader of the Opposition refers to bureaucracies as “ meddlesome,” and at the same time advocates State ownership and control of the means of production, distribution and exchange, thus making one giant bureaucracy of the State, he is more inconsistent than he can justly accuse this party of being. In the legislation which has emanated from it during the last 30 years, it has adopted a realistic policy, not the idealistic but non-realistic policy of the Labour party.
It has been suggested that this particular bill involves the creation of a meddlesome bureaucracy. The traditional policy of this party has been to recognize that some forms of industry are best controlled, and even owned, by the State. Examples of that are the railways, water supply, postand telegraphs, and other social monopolies of a similar nature, which in Australia have always been owned and controlled by the State. There are other industries in which the principle of State control has been recognized,but ownership has been divorced from control. It is the principle of control divorced from ownership which is embodied in this bill. That is totally different from the principle advocated by the Labour party in its socialistic programme, namely, State ownership and control of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Just as we have had other examples of government ownership divorced from control, such as the Commonwealth Bank, so we have also had fields of endeavour in which the Government has recognized that the interests of the community can best be served by leaving open the widest field for private enterprise and individualism. Therefore, in adopting the principle of marketing control, which has been supported by all primary industries that have had it applied to them, the behaviour of the Government is in no way inconsistent, but, on the contrary, is in harmony with the policy it has always applied, of examining legislation, not from the view-point of whether it involves interference with private enterprise, and either supporting or- rejecting it according to whether it is socialistic or antisocialistic, but in the light of whether it will or will not benefit the community’ as a whole. This bill, which provides for the control of the meat industry, is supported by that industry, as all other marketing control schemes have been supported by the industries affected. It provides a further illustration of the traditional policy of the party comprising the Government, under which ail measures are examined from- the- view-point of their beneficial effect upon the community as- a whole. Therefore, any criticism based merely upon considerations- of whether the measure is socialistic or involves- interference with private enterprise- must, I suggest, fall to the- ground’.
– The opposition that has been launched against this measure has mainly hinged upon- the fact that Great Britain has felt disposed to give to Argentina greater consideration in. regard to imports of meat than it has seen fit to give to one of its dominions. The figures that have-been quoted establish that beyond any shadow of doubt. The most remarkable feature has reference to British investments in Argentina compared with Australia. There is. also the further consideration that Argentina, has failed to meet its interest payments on an amount of not less than socialistic To the casual observer, that is a. remarkable situation which can hardly be envisaged.. But it is established as a fact, and cannot be controverted. It appears clear to me that sentiment played no part in the negotiations.. Whatever arguments may be advanced about the ties that bind together the different parts of the British Empire, and about kinship,, fall to the ground when circumstances arise in which finance is the main consideration. Upon hrs- return to Australia, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) attended a ‘banquet i,n Sydney. I quote the following report of a portion- of his address on that occasion : -
The- Argentine meat agreement was described to-day .by the Prime Minister at a welcome home luncheon, at the Hotel Australia, as “ an arrangement totally inconsistent with the principles subscribed to by the British Government at Ottawa.”
I gather from that statement that, when the British Government engaged in dis1cussions and made- decisions- with the various dominions’, it had already entered into an- agreement with Argentina that was quite- contrary to those decisions. The- Minister for’ Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), speaking at Newcastle on- the 20th July last, said -
Great Britain had made- a prior arrangement for supplies of meat from the Argentine, without taking into consideration the points of view of Australia, which was now compelled to accept a short-term arrangement.
I contend that this aspect of the matter cannot be brushed, aside by the Australian people-. If Australia is to be called upon to maintain certain payments, about which many complaints have been made during the last four or five years, it is reasonable to expect that some reciprocal treatment will be extended to- us by Great Britain. Apparently,, however, that is not forthcoming. It appears to me that the country which is prepared to put. up the stiffest resistance and use the strongest measures to enforce- its own conditions, obtains the- best results,, while, the country which is- prepared to go cap in hand and beg for concessions receives- only the crumbs that- fall from the table.
I wish to. refer briefly, to that portion of the speech of the. Minister for Commerce which deals with the setting up- of a- board in connexion: with this, industry. This Government and the Government with which the Minister for- Commerce was previously associated will, long be remembered for their boards, commissions and committees of inquiry. In 1928 and 1929’, much of the criticism that was levelled’ against the Government, of which the right honorable gentleman was- a member, was based on that practice and, I believe,, largely assisted to bring -about- its- downfall. The number of board’s appointed by the present Government may figure largely in the campaigns that are to be waged in the future. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker)- expressed pleasure at the establishment of this particular board, on the ground that it would be entirely free, in the main essentials, to conduct its operations. Evidently the honorable member did not follow closely or understand clearly the speech delivered by the Minister. As a matter of fact, the board will not be entirely free, in the main essentials, to conduct its operations. The provision upon which the whole success of the bill depends is contained in clause 17, which states that no meat shall be exported from Australia except ‘under licence. The licence will be issued by the. Minister, or a prescribed person acting in his behalf ; but the board will’ have power to recommend to the Minister the terms and conditions upon which licences toexport meat should be granted. Although the board may be in a position to make inquiries as to the conditions under which licences should be issued, the real power will rest entirely with the Minister. Therefore, the board will not be placed in the position claimed by the honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr. Hawker)., who said, that, in the main, it would control the industry.
– It will be in a similar position to that of the control boards appointed in connexion with the dried fruits and dairying industries.
– We have always maintained that the. Parliament should be the final authority in these; matters, and I entirely approve of the: Minister having the right to refuse to grant a licence, or to disapprove of any conditions recommended by the board.. The honorable member for Wakefield, who has often expressed resentment at any governmental action savouring of interference with private enterprise, found some crumbs of comfort, because he thought that, under this measure, there will be very slight surrender of principles which he holds dear. I am pleased to know, however, that in the practical application of this bill,ofthis Minister will have power to override the decisions of the board.
The Minister said that the control by the board will not extend beyond the powers necessary to regulate shipments within the limits of any export programme which may be fixed from time to time, whilst the control of other products goes beyond this point, and includes power not only to regulate shipments, but also to determine through whom the products are to be sold. It is pointed out: that, in. the case of dried fruits, canned fruitsand wine, there is power to require that those products shall not: be sold overseas for less than the authorized price. On that point we have no definite information, and I think that the matter might be elaborated. It seems that the board will have no voice in regard to the export price; and will have to take the best figure that can be obtained. In regard to. dried fruits, however, the position is different, and there is room for doubt whether the Government considers that satisfactory, results will follow from this measure. It appears that the operations off the board will be restricted to some extent by those of other authorities overseas. The Minister remarked that the. main objective of the Australian board would be so to arrange clearances that market conditions overseas would be taken full advantage of, consistent with the need for ensuring that the full season’s output was disposed of. He added that producers would not be compelled to export any part of their output. If producers are left free to do as they like it is difficult to see how the expected regulation can be secured. Certain pro- ducers in Australia may be able to dispose of their meat locally; and it may suit them to do that rather than export it. It is natural for producers to secure tire highest possible price whether they sell their meat in Australia or overseas. No provision is made in the bill for producers to accept an average of the home market and’ export prices. If certain producer’s are not to be forced to export, naturally those who exercise the greatest influence, and can sell through the local establishments which they control, will havean advantage over the small growers who will have to depend on the export trade and take whatever price is offering. Itseemsthatthe weakest will have to go to the wall. The Ministerstated that the producers themselves will decide whether they will sell in Australia or on overseas markets, and that if they elect to sell in Australia they will not be subject to control by the board in any way. Whilst complaints have been made that some of the statements, made by speakers on the Opposition side contain only half truths, it seems to me that that criticism may well be levelled against the speech of the Minister, who gave little detailed information regarding the operations of the board. As the Government at least proposes to meddle with the industry, all possible information should be made available to the interested parties.
In order to finance the operations of the board, a levy is to be imposed on meat exporters, and we are told that £25,000 will probably be raised in this way. It is said that this amount is more than will be required to meet the ordinary expenses of the board, and in order to show that the money is to be raised for a commendable purpose, we are told that the overseas trade will be improved by means of increased advertising of Australian meat in the overseas markets. There is already in London a large organization which should be quite capable of handling work of this description. Trade Commissioners and Agents-General arc maintained by the various State governments, and the Commonwealth Government .has its High Commissioner. I have always understood that the duty of these officials is to encourage the sale of Australian products in Britain. Apparently the Government considers that this work has not been carried out properly in the past. If “ the present officials are not satisfactorily discharging the duties for which they were appointed, it is time the people were informed of the fact. If the biggest growers are unable to dispose of the larger portion of - their meat on the Australian market, the smaller men will have to export their produce, and will be called upon to provide the funds, to be raised by means of the levy. I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for ‘Cook (Mr. Garden) that all interests connected with the industry, including the employees, should have a voice in the distribution of the products. The claims of the employees to representation have been recognized in the appointment of other boards, and we hope that the honorable member’s suggestion will meet with the approval of the Minister.
– I support the -bill with certain reservations. It has been sprung upon ns suddenly, but we should have had a full opportunity to prepare ourselves for its discussion.
– It has been on the notice-paper for over a week.
– We have been discussing the Estimates and due notice might have been given of the Government’s intention to continue the discussion of this bill now. I have been preparing a speech on the Sugar Agreement Bill, and in dealing with the present measure I shall have to rely on hurriedly-made notes. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) went out of their way to condemn the Government for interfering with private enterprise, as they termed it, but it seems to me that there is some confusion of ideas in regard to this matter. Surely the private producer personifies private enterprise if any one does, and the purpose of this bill is to ensure that primary producers, or at any rate the meat producing section of them, shall obtain a fair return for their labour. In this respect the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) is doing the right thing in trying to ensure that the private producer shall control his own product. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition when he says that something should be done to develop our cattle areas, and I would include, not only the rich tablelands of western Queensland and the Northern Territory, but also the cattle-raising country in the distant Kimberleys. It should be the design of the Government to make the meat-raising industry in these outer areas a paying proposition. The economic occupancy of Northern Australia is the immediate job ahead of this Parliament. In order to understand this matter it is necessary to trace the ramifications of the industry from the markets at Smithfield right back to the great cattle areas of the interior where the stock is raised. I commend the Prime Minister, and the members of his delegation, for their endeavours overseas in behalf of the meat industry, but I look forward to the time when these contacts will be renewed, not by further visits of Australians to the United Kingdom, but by visits of Englishmen interested in the trade to this country. I should like to see, within the next three years, British representatives of the industry in Australia studying the conditions under which the meat is produced, and getting into actual touch with the producers here.
It seems to me that there is something wrong with the distribution of our meat in Australia and overseas. The Department of Commerce should create an organization in Great Britain under tho control of a thoroughly qualified man receiving a salary of not less than £2,000 a year, and not a £500-a-year man. This association should direct the distribution and sale of our meat in the same way that the distribution of our butter is controlled now. We know that, on the British market, we have to compete with Argentine meat, but we are not taking full advantage even of the Australian market. A system should be introduced under which meat killed in the abattoirs here would be graded on the hooks into three sections, and the buyers would have to pay a minimum price for it according to the grade. It would not then be possible for the buyers in collaboration to depress prices against the producers from distant areas such as Central Australia and the far north.
We should also give greater consideration to the quality of our meat. We have been told by our representatives overseas that no more than 6 per cent, of our meat is equal to chilled Argentine meat. I doubt whether that is so, but, for the time being, we must accept the statement, and turn our attention to finding a market for our second grade meat. Small canning works at the mouths of northern rivers would go a long way towards solving this problem, and the profits from these operations would enable growers to produce the best meat. When prices go down, enthusiasm goes out. We should, chill it as a temporary measure, and mark it as second grade, for which I am convinced there would be a ready market overseas. I have been in London, and in the Tilbury Docks neighbourhood have seen children begging for scraps of meat. I know that there is a demand, not only for our second-class chilled meat, but also for the first-class frozen meat. There should also be a market for meat of this kind in Europe and the East. The trouble is that much of the meat exported from this country is tied up to individual buyers, as is the case with that sent from Wyndham. At the present time, if meat is not qualified for the first grade, there seems to be no market for it at all. Small individual buyers are now endeavouring to purchase this desirable and wholesome product, but are being prevented from doing so because supplies are all tied tip. I have seen beautifully marbled meat, only slightly bruised, or perhaps with just the selvidge gone, sold for boiling down. It should be possible to provide for the distribution of this meat without injury to our reputation. If this can be done, it will be an added inducement to produce first-class meat, which at present is raised only in favoured spots such as the Murrumbidgee River flats where there are clover pastures.
This bill does not do all it might do for the meat industry, and merely provides machinery for the distribution of quotas. I hope that the Minister has something more up his sleeve, something which will be implemented by regulation. I do not think it is fair that the sum of £25,000 mentioned by the Minister should be raised by a levy on tops only. This merely penalizes the good producer who has improved his pastures sufficiently to produce the best meat suitable for overseas tastes. The levy should be collected on all meat killed for consumption, and the fund so raised should be used, among other things, to instruct the producers, particularly in the outback, how to improve the quality of their product. The growers do not want doles, but they are eager for knowledge. I suggest that the levy should be ls. a head on. big cattle, 3d. a head on calves, and Id. a head on pigs and sheep. On the basis of last year’s killings, this should produce a fund of between £45,000 and £50,000 which the Commonwealth Government could supplement by a grant of a further £50,000. Probably the levy could be reduced after the first two or three years, as the number of stock killed increased. Part of the fund could then be used for advertising overseas, importing bulls, and organizing all abattoirs so that on matters relating to first-class meat Australia speaks with one voice. It is not of much use to advertise now, because we are assured that we cannot produce enough first-class meat to satisfy the present demand, or, indeed, to fill the holds of the ships carrying chilled meat. It is impossible to deceive the overseas ‘buyer on these matters, and it is arrant foolishness ifwe try to deceive ourselves. At the moment I am concerned with turning into profit Australia’s nondescript cattle, and those just under chiller standard. This fund could be utilized to educate people to produce only the best, and in descendingorder as the years go by the fund could be considerably reduced. Itis highly necessary that these people should know exactly what a chiller is. A director of production and rural education is urgentlyrequired, and could be providedfor from this fund. The proposed ‘system is much preferable to the present method of making available isolated grants. Meat farming, as carried out in Argentina - thesystem of passing cattle onfrom the inlandbreeder to the fattener onthe coast-should be the ideal to be aimedat.
In conclusion, Idesire to refer to the criticism levelled against the Minister for Commerce by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley).The honorablemember went outof hiswayto criticize all that the Minister for Commerce “has done in his sincere endeavours to put Australianpri mary production on its feet. I shall be very pleased if, as theresult of my efforts - and I have not a vote to enforce my wishes - anything can be done to bring about the economic productionof meat in the Northern Territory and North Australia, the rehabilitation of the mining industry by industrialization, and the profitable production of Australian sugar in the tropicsby white Australians.If these three objects can be achieved this Parliament will have done something ofwhich it may wellbe proud. I desirenow to quote fromThe Next FiveYears: An Essay in Political Agreement, the forewordof whichis jointly signed by such eminent men and leaders of English thought as Professor Ernest Barker, ViscountCecil of Chelwood,Lord Elton, Sir Oliver Lodge, ProfessorGilbert Murray, Lord Rutherford, and dozens of others. While we in Australia pride ourselves onbeing ahead of the world generally, in initial thought we aremilesbehind. The quotation is asfollows : -
It is evidentthatthepresent economic system is in many respects very unsatisfactory. The communityhas not yet discovered methods by whichproduction can be allowed to expand to fullcapacity, and by which theresources of the nation can bo fully employedto enrich man’slifeand endow his leisure.
The motive of profit-making has already,to a greater extent thaniscommonly realized, ceased to be themain spring of economicactivity in this country; and we think it safe to assume that this tendency will continue in the future, and that the principle of developing the resources available to the community under public ownership or controlfor the use of the wholecommunitywill be further extended ‘in theyearsimmediately ahead.
Apart from the question ofmotive, we believe that the State will findit increasingly necessary to intervene in order to set the direction of theeconomic activityof the comimunity. In many spheresthe free movement ofprices still performs its function of directing the available resources of the community into the uses where their employment will be most economic. But in other spheres, the pricesystem is failing to bring equilibrium out of chaos. Inthese circumstances, the old self-regulating mechanism of a competitive economy, guidedby the prospect of profits, is not by itself an adequate regulator of the whole economic system. We cannot in future be content to rely for such direction entirely upon the unco-ordinated decisions of individuals or groups who cannot, in thenature of things,see the nation’sproblemsas a whole. The nation will rightly require of its government not a merely passive policyof succouring the victims of a defective economy, but a positive, energetic leadership in constructing a new organization for collective planning and direction of its economic life.
We need more economic planning and a moreskilful and scientific treatment than any for which the existingadministrative system is as yetequipped. This bill is striving towards that end, and if I could register avote I should give it my entire support.
Mr.NOCK (Riverina) . [10.5]. - I (support the bill. Some statementsmade during the courseof this debate have been rather inconsistent. The Leader , of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) said that this bill merely : set , up a meddlesome bureaucracy. Later, we heard it:said that it did not go far enough.
Mr.Garden. - Hedid not say that.
– Those were his very words. Then the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) said that, like Micawber, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) was always waiting for something to turn up, as a- result of the- Ottawa agreement. I remind, the honorable member that, as. a result of the 35 per cent., restriction placed upon Argentina- meat by the Ottawa agreement, fat lambs,, which were previously worth 7s. and 8s. are to-day worth 17s. and 18s. each. The. Ottawa agreement has thus resulted in a rise of over 100 per cent, in the prices of fat lambs.
It seems to me that the honorable member, for. West- Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is rather under a misunderstanding as’ to- the. objects of this bil!. This is an. export control bill, and not a marketing; bill.. A couple of years ago it was necessary to limit for a period Australian exports of fat lambs. At that time no body was in existence to make representations to the Government in regard to this matter, and it was left to the exporters themselves to do so; but they were continually at. loggerheads as to which exporters- should have the major power to export and which should keep, his lambs back. A conference- of representatives of producers from all over Australia,, pre, sided over by the then Minister for Commerce (Sir Frederick Stewart) was held in Melbourne,, and resolutions were carried asking, the. Government to set up an export control. board, so that producers themselves might have, some say with regard, to restrictions, that might become necessary in the future, and so that there would be uniform standards, with regard to meat exports from Australia. At that time Lamb from New Zealand brought top prices in the London market, and lamb from Victoria brought a higher price than lamb, from- any other State, even though many were of equal quality to the. best Victorian. The reason for this was a prejudice against lamb- from any State in which there was a majority of merino sheep which sold at a lower price on the London- market. Yet if lamb from the western New South “Wales was sold and shipped from Victoria, it brought top prices in London. That was a disadvantage to. the producers themselves, and it was recognized that uniform standards should obtain with regard to Australian exports of meat, so that overseas buyers could buy Australian lamb- by cable, knowing exactly what they would receive, whether the lambs came from Victoria,. New South Wales,. Queensland, or Western Australia. This will be made possible by this bill, the two. major- clauses of which provide for the regulation of the export, of meat and the fixation of quality,, standard,, and grade.
One of the difficulties associated with the- export of Australian meat in the past lias been- the absence of continuity of supply. In the past large exports of fat lambs have taken place from Australia in October, November, and. December, New Zealand supplying the British market during, other months, of the yea-r. To> hold our customers’- it is essential that there should be a continuity of supply, and to achieve that end it is necessary to set up a board as proposed by this bill. A glutted market is always a menace, yet it is not possible for the farmers to keep the lambs, on their farms, because the grass will not keep green, and on dry grass the lamb loses bloom and value.. The only way to overcome this is1 to slaughter the lambs when prime and place them in Australian freezers, shipping them overseas as required to meet the needs- of our customers. With the exporters, in- control, as- they were a few years ago;, and with the risk of. big American meat controllers setting up a monopoly and combine in the Australian market, the danger to the Australian producer is obvious.. This bill will remove the risk. In. that respect alone, it will be of great advantage.
– That may depend a good deal on the personnel of the board.
– Yes; but the producers are to have- a majority of the representation on the board, and those controlling the biggest abattoirs in Australia can render valuable advice. The honorable member for1 West Sydney (Mr. Beasley)- has referred to the risk of smaller producers being compelled to export. With the bill as drafted there will be-no complaint with regard to that. There is no intention to interfere with- the ordinary marketing channel’s; there will- be no transfer of the equity in the product; there is no power to take over or to control frozen stock. It is merely a matter of regulating the export by licence, no matter who owns the stock. Most of the stock will go through the auction markets at Flemington, Newmarket, and Enoggera.
As I have said, this is not a marketing bill. Although we had from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) half an hour’s discourse on the trade relations existing between Great Britain0 Australia, and Argentina, and the relative exports of the various countries, there is nothing in the bill concerning Argentina or quantities to be exported. It is simply a matter of regulating exports to the best advantage, and the fixing of grades, so that standards shall be stabilized and maintained. If New South Wales produces 10 per cent, only of first-grade Australian lambs, let them be sold at the top price for that grade; if Victoria produces 65 per cent, of first-grade lamb, let it be sold at the top price. But do not let all lambs from New South Wales be sold as second grade, merely because of prejudice. In Great Britain there is a growing demand for merino lamb. “Every lamb that brings 16s. or 20s. into Australia is an asset to this country, but it should be sold in its own class and there should be no misunderstanding. The very fact that the producers themselves are fully represented on the board will ensure to exporters, whether large or small, proprietory, co-operative or individual, a fair deal. In South Australia exporters frequently export their lambs direct through the government freezing works.
– What will happen if a producer sells his fat lambs now and export is not made for three or four months?
– It will make no difference. Such a producer will be able to obtain an advance. At present, fat lamb raisers can export direct or sell in the local market to exports buyers. The position will not be altered if this bill is passed. I can see no reason why the South Australian system should not bo adopted in other States. Practically all the big abattoirs are controlled as government instrumentalities or are under a measure of direct government super- vision, and finance could easily be provided for individual producers. Returns have shown clearly that producers who sell at the abattoirs obtain results which are quite as satisfactory as those obtained by direct exporters. I am afraid certain honorable gentlemen opposite have con fused the idea of a marketing bill with that of this export control bill. I am satisfied that this measure provides for practically all that the producers themselves desire and I hope it will be carried.
.- This bill should do much to develop and expand the live-stock industry of Australia. In recent years this industry has passed through very difficult times owing to the low prices offering for stock. The difficulties have been accentuated by reason of the severe droughts experienced in North Queensland for several years, and the subsequent years in which only a low rainfall was recorded. The live-stock industry has undoubtedly been a great aid to closer settlement in Australia. In Queensland, in particular, the cattle industry has been a big factor in the development of extensive areas adjacent to country towns. As the towns have developed, sheep have taken the place of cattle, and the cattle have occupied country farther back. We still have largeareas of land in Australia eminently suitable for cattle-raising; but owing to low prices, lack of suitable organization, and drought conditions the cattle industry has languished. I look forward now to an expansion of the industry, and feel that the application of the principles underlying this measure cannot be other than beneficial to it. The basic objectives of this bill are the orderly marketing of our products and the opening up of new markets. The meat board which to be set up should be able to do a great deal to increase the sale of Australian meat in Great Britain, and also to improve local marketing conditions. Our beef, mutton, lamb, pork and veal should all be marketed in a more efficient manner through the operations of such a board.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Curtin) had a good deal to say about the preference that had been granted by Great Britain to Argentina in regard to chilled beef, but in view of the concessions obtained for Australia by our overseas delegation there is very little need for us to spend further time in discussing the Anglo-Argentine agreement. Without doubt, the Australian meat industry benefited considerably through the provisions of the Ottawa agreement, and the concessions which the Prime Minister and his colleagues have recently obtained for our products should lead to substantial improvement of our live-stock industries. lt has been argued by some honorable members opposite that the Government has adopted a new political principle in this bill, but even a casual examination of the facts will show that the underlying principles of this measure were adopted by the Nationalist party twelve or fourteen years ago when the Dairy Export Control Bill was introduced. Statistics could be produced to show that as the result of the operation of the Dairy Export Control Board more than £1,000,000 has been saved to the primary producers in insurance, freight, and cold storage charges, and over £100,000 has been expended by the board in advertising Australian dairy produce in the United Kingdom. The Dairy Export Control Board has operated to the distinct benefit of the dairying industry. The Dried Fruits Export Control Board has also been of great value to those engaged in our dried fruits industry. The advantages of the orderly marketing of our primary products overseas have been demonstrated beyond question through the operations of these two boards. It has been said that if the proposed meat export control board is sot up the meat industry of Australia will be subjected to political control, but that is not so. The meat board, like the Dairy Export Control Board and the Dried Fruits Export Control Board, will consist principally of direct representatives of the producers. This bill provides, in fact, not for political control, but for producer control. An . examination of the provisions of the measure will show clearly that it is intended to enable the meat-export trade to control its own export business.
I support the bill because I firmly believe that an improvement is both possible and desirable in many directions in our meat export industry. A beard possessed of the statutory powers proposed in this bill should be able to do a great deal to improve the live-stock industry of Australia. Having regard to the very successful negotiations recently conducted in the United Kingdom by the Prime Minister and his colleagues, it is of prime importance to the producers of both Aus tralia and Great Britain that our beef, mutton, lamb, pork, and veal should be marketed in the most orderly manner possible. The case presented to the British Government by our overseas delegation, and the assurances obtained by it, have been entirely satisfactory to the meat industry. It must be clear to all of us that if the technique of large-scale organization is to be introduced to the meat export industry a start must be made, in the first instance, at some point between the producer and the consumer, and that the machinery necessary for the purpose must be all-embracing. Care must be taken to order our procedure so that we shall not smash the market in Great Britain for the British producers, or smash the export trade of Australia for our own producers. Only when all the threads of the industry are gathered into one hand, so to speak, can control be exercised and efficiency and economy be directed, back, on the one hand, to ‘ production, and forward, on the other hand, to distribution. The organization now proposed provides for the representation of the producers, the co-operative organizations, the publiclyowned abattoirs and freezing works which deal in meat for export, the exporters, and the Commonwealth Government. It appears to embrace, therefore, all the interests engaged in the production and preparation of meat for export. As it can be assumed that the individual members of the board will be men of the highest qualifications in their different spheres of activity, the board should be an influence for good within the industry itself and should also provide a valuable advisory organization for the Government in respect of all matters relating to the meat export trade. Undoubtedly, that trade has now reached dimensions which justify the organization which apparently both the Government and the industry desire to see established. It is estimated that the supplies of meat from Australia to Great Britain this year will be as follows: -
This quantity will exceed the total for the Ottawa year .by almost 41,000 tons, or about 30 per cent.
It can readily be .understood, however, that a continuation of this rate of progress, or anything approaching it, must hinge upon ever-improving facilities for the ‘better and more regular distribution of Australian meat products in the markets of the United Kingdom, and, in addition, upon the development of new markets. The United Kingdom obtains its meat from many countries within and without the Empire. It is interesting to note the source of these supplies. The following figures give the totals for the calendar year, 1934:-‘
In the main, the sources :of foreign supplies have, in the past, been Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.
Seeing that mutton, lamb, .and pork are imported into England from all countries in a frozen condition, the advantage lies with Empire .countries, which furnish about 75 per .cent, of the total imports, the Australian figure being a’bout 22 per cent, of the total.
Until recently, however, the geographical position of ‘South American countries gave them advantages over the more distant dominions with respect to beef. Foreign countries, for the year 1934, furnished about 74 per -cent, of Britain’s beef and -veal imports, and Australia about 14 per cent, of them. The total imports into the United Kingdom for 1934 amounted to 973,870 tons, of which foreign countries furnished 55 per cent, and Australia 17 per cent. These are very striking figures and if, as it is reported, the British Government will, upon re-election, take steps to develop a more intensive inter-Imperial trade, there is assuredly an opportunity for it to promote a greater development of the meat-export trade of the British dominions and, in particular, of Australia.
There is ‘no doubt in my mind that lamb and pork exports -could be increased, and there are undoubted possibilities of an increased beef export trade. Beef production :f or export, which chiefly concerns Queensland, the -Northern Territory, and the north-west of Western Australia, has teen an unprofitable undertaking .for many years, but the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has recently discovered a means to .guide the industry out :of its difficulties. To-day >the industry is finding itself capable of exporting drilled beef .and this mew trade gives promise, for the first ‘time for -many years, of -am extensive ‘development of the Australian cattle country, provided, first, that a satisfactory agreement is reached with the British Government, and secondly, that some special assistance is given to the industry to lay the foundations of better herds and improved pastures, in order that the lag in these respects due to -adverse circumstances in days gone by may be overtaken.
In a public statement made recently by a leading authority in the Queensland meat export industry it was pointed out that ‘with the improved chilling equipment now ‘being installed in the Queensland meat works, -and the efficient vessels now being ‘provided for the transport of chilled ‘beef, the -time was approaching when, if cattle were supplied to Queensland meat works’ of similar quality ‘to those supplied to the works of Argentina, beef would be landed in England, from Queensland, ‘equal in condition to that from Argentina.
This, in my opinion, is a development worthy of support and I trust that the proposed board and the Government will give every possible consideration and assistance to the needs of the beef -cattle industry.
It may he said fairly, that the enlistment of the -aid of science in industry has been successful in promoting a new and better prospect for the Australian cattle industry, and I would recommend strongly that every possibility of increasing the .-supply of improved cattle .should be -examined .closely by the
Commonwealth. Government. If necessary, it should render some constructive aid for a prompt movement towards the betterment -of herds and pastures.
I am glad to see that it is intended the board shall appoint a London representative, ‘which I firmly believe is very essential.
The .New Zealand Meat Producers Board was established in 1922, and through its London office, I .understand, it has .continued without interruption an active policy of keeping New Zealand meat prominently before the consumer and meat trade in Great Britain. In .many other directions, the .board claims to have rendered service to and secured substantial economies for the benefit of New Zealand producers. I trust, in due course, that, in conjunction with efficient London representation, the Australian board will establish a similar record.
I strongly support the establishment of an .Australian Meat Export Control Board and I sincerely believe that the results of its efforts will be gratifying, not only to those whom it is intended to benefit specifically, but also to the country generally. I am confident that the board will have a good record - I trust as good a record as the Dairy Export Control Board has had in its efforts on behalf of the dairy industry. I feel certain that the measure now before the House when placed in effect will do much to develop the Australian livestock industry and place it on a more satisfactory basis than it occupies- at present.
.- 1 .am pleased to witness the conversion of members of the Government to the policy of pools and to the policy of giving to those engaged in industry the control of their industry. It is only fifteen years since the Queensland Government, when it introduced the maize pool and the butter pool, was criticized from one end of the Commonwealth to the other, allegedly for following a Russian example. Since then, the Commonwealth Parliament has followed Queensland’s lead, and the dairying industry is now controlled on a ‘Commonwealthwide basis on the lines first applied in Queensland. I am also pleased to see that the Commonwealth has put into operation a policy advocated by Labour.
I welcome this bill .because of ‘the benefit it will confer upon the pastoral industry, especially the >beef side of the industry. ,Since 1919, the industry has not received a payable return. There has been a consequent tendency to a decline of the quality of herds. An -export control board will certainly -give ‘ the industry some form of control, but, unfortunately, it will last only until November, 1936, when the Anglo-Argentine meat agreement expires. Until then, Australia will not ‘be able to enter into any long term agreement with Great Britain.
Reviewing the British agreement with Australia, New Zealand and Argentina, the “White Paper on meat restrictions and regulation of Australian exports of meat to the United Kingdom market issued by the British Government, stated -
That no import duty could be imposed on meat from any part of the British Commonwealth -with which agreements were made ‘at Ottawa before August, 193.7,, without their consent. Similarly in the Argentina Agreement, no import duty on meat from that country could be imposed before November, 193G, without the consent of -the government of that .country.
The Commonwealth is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations and, until recently, was Britain’s second best customer. Since the Ottawa agreement was framed, I think New Zealand has taken the second place in the list of Britain’s customers. The White Paper continues -
After .Ottawa, the United Kingdom entered into negotiations with Argentina, a country which is not only at present by far the largest source of her chilled beeT supplies, but in Which she has immense capital investments, and with which she .carries on .a -very valuable trade.
In view o’f the statement in the Whit, Paper that Argentina provides a valuable market for -Great Britain, it is fitting that I should place ‘before the House the following statistics of British overseas trade for 1933. In that year the United Kingdom purchased from Australia products valued at £48;600,000 or 7.19 per cent, of its total purchases ; from Argentina, £41,700,000, or 6.17 per cent. ; from Denmark, £35,400,000, or 5.24 per cent. The statistics of -the United Kingdom’s export trade show that it sold to Australia manufactured goods to the value of £21,300,000, compared with £13,100,000 worth sold to the Argentine, and £11,S00,000 sold to Denmark. The percentages were : Australia, 5.80, Argen-una. 3.56; and Denmark, 3.21. The excess of purchases over sales ‘by Britain to each of the three countries cited amounted to: Australia, £27,300,000; Argentina, £28,600,000 ; Denmark £23,600,000.
After Ottawa Great Britain went behind the backs of the Australian representatives and entered into an agreement with Argentina. At that time the Commonwealth was only in the initial stages of putting chilled beef on the London market. The Commonwealth was certainly given a preference in regard to frozen beef, which cannot compete with chilled beef; but for Australia fully to develop its beef trade, it should also have been given some consideration in regard to chilled beef. Since Ottawa the Australian chilled beef industry has developed greatly, but that development would have been greater if we had known where we stood in regard to the British market. We had only a short-term agreement liable to expire at the end of 1936 because of a change of policy on the part of Great Britain. The position is, therefore, not too favorable to Australia and Australian beef producers are not encouraged to expand their operations or improve the quality of their herds. As a matter of fact, for many years past cattle-breeders have been what they term “ in-breeding “ their herds, and if we are able to improve the quality of our beef we shall need to go further than establish a meat export control board. What the meat-grower needs is financial support over a long term, say, the next five years, which would permit him so to improve his cattle as to enable him to compete with his Argentine rival. A grant of £1,500,000 would enable the breeders to produce better quality beef It is worth while giving that assistance if by so doing this country will be better able to seek the British meat market.
In the Northern Territory it is possible to travel for mile after mile without seeing a fence. A person can enter the Territory, travel across the Barkly Tablelands to the Gulf of Carpentaria, and then to the Leichhardt River in the northern portion of Queensland and not see a fence once in 100 miles. In such circumstances, high quality beef cannot be bred. In Argentina out of every ten acres one acre is under cultivation and cattle are fattened on pastures a yean- before sale. Australia depends upon nature to provide pasture grasses, with the result that, instead of being able to maintain steady supplies of chilled beef to the British market, the marketing period is limited to the first seven months of each year when, following the monsoonal or wet season, natural grasses abound in the northern beef-raising districts. With the advent of dry conditions, fattening grasses are not available and the beef growers are not able to market their cattle. Accordingly, if Australia is to be in a position to guarantee the United Kingdom market continuity of supplies of chilled beef, fattening paddocks must .be provided near the abattoirs so that the cattle may be fattened in the months from August to January, when dry conditions preclude the possibility of adequate fattening of the herds in the north. Before slaughtering for chilling, cattle must be fattened for at least four or five months. Cattle must, therefore be brought in from the Northern. Territory and the Gulf country ‘a considerable time ‘before they are fit to ‘be slaughtered for the market. At present breeders in the gulf country are offered only £2 or £2 10s. a head for cattle while the market price is £10 or £12 a head in the southern markets. Gulf country cattle cannot be brought to the southern markets because tie stock routes are closed foa” a considerable part of the year because there is no permanent water on the stock routes. Sometimes the dealers who are prepared or able to bring cattle to the market, offer the breeders £4 10s. and then sell for £10 to £12 a head. The man who produces the beef has to accept prices which are far below the cost of production, while the people in the south pay high prices for their meat supply. It can be seen, therefore, that before the meat industry can be placed in a rehabilitated position, something more must be done for it than the mere establishment of a meat export control board. In North and Central Queensland and in the southern district of Queensland, assistance must be given to aid in tho improvement of herds, the cultivation and planting of grasses, and the irrigation of areas for fattening. All of this will have to be done if Australia is to compete on level terms with Argentina. The Government can give valuable help to keep the chilled meat trade going. Oil account of the low prices that prevailed in the cattle industry for a lengthy period, it will be necessary to provide, not only fattening areas, but also fresh blood stock. Our herds must be improved if we are to hold the chilled beef trade in Great Britain. My electorate, which embraces an area of over 200,000 square miles, carries over 4,000,000 cattle. The figures for the different pastoral districts that are contained in it are as follows: -
Queensland is responsible for SO per cent, of the Australian production of beef, while 80 per cent, of the population is in the southern States. The Governments arc aware that, with the exception of about two or three months of the year, stock routes are closed because of lack of water; yet they have not contributed one penny towards the provision of a water supply. Over 30 years ago, when I brought cattle from the gulf country, a water bag had to be carried on the horse’s neck, and pack- horses accompanied the party packed with water for the use of the men on the road. The position is no different to-day. Yet the Government Bays that it cannot find work for the unemployed ! “Why not give employment by providing permanent water supplies on stock routes? The industry could be developed by keeping the stock routes open when there is grass but not water. If cattle are travelled for a couple of days without water, they quickly lose their condition. The export of meat from Australia has increased remarkably during the last three years. In 1932-33 the exports of pork from the different States to the United Kingdom were as follows: -
The exports to other countries totalled 453,1S7 lb. In 1933-34 the exports to the United Kingdom were as follows : -
The exports to other countries totalled 390,907. In 1934-35 Australia exported to the United Kingdom a total of 15,155,459 lb., practically double the exports in 1933-34. The quantity exported to other countries totalled 480,313 lb. The exports of frozen and chilled beef to the United Kingdom in 1932-33 were as follows: -
The exports to other countries totalled 30,598,900 lb. The total exports to the United Kingdom in 1933-34 were 150,874,500, and in 1934-35 they were 193,614,400 lb. The total exports of mutton and lamb were 161,379,600 lb. to the United Kingdom and 5,417,000 lb to other countries in 1932-33; 170,903,300 to the United Kingdom, and 3,624,200 to other countries in 1933-34; and 192,450,400 to the United Kingdom, and 3,750,500 to other countries iri 1934-35. The total exports of boneless veal to the United Kingdom were 622,3S8 lb. in 1932-33, 1,934,858 lb. in 1933-34, and 4,690,524 lb. in 1934-35. Only experimental shipments of chilled beef were made in 1932-33, the total exports to the United Kingdom in that year being ‘ 1,485 quarters from New South Wales, and 210 quarters from Queensland. In 1933-34
New South- Wales exported 4,355 quarters, Victoria 197 quarters; Queens? land 4,324 quarters, and Western Australia 2,414 quarters, a total, of 11,190 quarters. In 1934-35. the exports to the United Kingdom totalled 139,907 quarters, an increase of 138,21-2 quarters compared with 1932-33. During the war Queensland supplied meat to Great Britain at. 4&d. per lb. At that time the cattle-grower received for his- stock- £12: or £14 a: ‘head in Queensland, and higher prices in other States. Great Britain should not forget that when it was in trouble Australia supplied it with meat at a reasonable price, while Argentina- exploited a more profitable market. I make the following quotation from Empire Stocktaking published in 1930 : -
During the Great War the Commonwealth made special efforts to help cater for Britain’s home needs and- for the immense requirements of tho fighting- forces. Proprietors of meat works increased, their plant,, and cold, storage accommodation in. their endeavours to cope with an urgent demand’; but much of this abnormal capital out-lay in war-time has since proved anything but a profitable investment. Despite the increased slaughtering, and. output which then resulted from it, shipping space at that, timet was most difficult’ to secure, and it was inevitable that much of the frozen beef was. held> for relatively long periods in cold storage before shipment. But it was- the still more lengthy storage - no. doubt necessary - in England, which led to the most unfortunate results. The. post-war disposals for civilian purchase of this “ Australian frozen beef “ did not create a very favorable impression with customers. The product, had suffered from the long storage and’- excessive- handling! It rarely occurred to, the retailer - even” if lie knew the circumstances; - to explain them to the buyer,, who was often dissatisfied with, his purchase, and the reputation of’ Australian beef- suffered most’ unjustly on this account.
I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.
– In 1918; a large quantity of Australian meat was held iri cold storage overseas; and’ because of its bad reputation, we gradually lost the British market. If that” market is to be recovered the board will have to bc careful that only meat- of the best quality is exported. A continuity of supplies is essential if the industry is to he established on a firm basis. On referring to clause 5; which deal’s with the composi tion of the board, I notice that practically every section of the community is to be represented on it, and: it would be only fair to grant; representation- to. the employees engaged” in the industry, the success of which depends to a large extent on the drovers- and” stockmen and the meat processors.
In some portions of the Commonwealth the pastoral areas are not suitable for closer settlement, and. must always be used for the raising of stock. Those who talk about the prospects of closer settlement in the Gulf country and. on the Barkly Tablelands, which are practically a waterless, belt, should put their ideas to a practical, test before recommending, the cutting, up of that country. The Barkly Tablelands will produce good, cattle, and may carry sheep, but sheep will not breed there, and they certainly will not do so in the- Gulf country. Sheep can be fattened at. Camooweal,, but will, not increase there: If we are to stock u.p the pastoral, areas, and recapture’ the British market, the. board will’ have, a full-time job for the. next few years. It should give consideration- to the further development of the- industry. The- honorable, member for the. Northern, Territory (Mr. Blain) must admit that, a considerable portion, of the Northern Territory is suitable for no other purpose than cattleraising. At Charters Towers, cattleraising; has been attempted, and along the Burdekin River there is prospect of fattening areas ‘being .established for cattle.- from tobe Gulf country. Irrigation should be encouraged along that river, and- the; settlers should be, encouraged, to improve their holdings.
When the chilled meat industry -was- established, the shipping companies carried the first consignment at the same rate as charged for frozen- meat; but when it was found out that the shipments were successful, and meant an increase of £3 a head to the growers, the- companies extorted’ another 30s. in freight.
– The honorable member is not observing my ruling that he should confine his remarks- to- the subjectmatter of the bill.
– Shipping freights will be one of the most important aspects of the meat industry with which the board will have to deal. A difference of a halfpenny a lb. in freight would mean from 20s. to 27s. in the price of a bullock of average size, and that would mean all the difference between the success or failure of the industry.
I congratulate the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) upon the fact that the board will be wholly representative of Australian interests. If we placed control in the hands of overseas interests we might easily lose our market to Argentina. A good deal waa said concerning restrictions when the High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce, visited Australia. I should like to know whether there is likely to be any restriction of exports when the present short-term agreement expires. The cattle-raising industry cannot be expanded at a moment’s notice, and unless producers are given some idea of what conditions are likely to apply at the expiration of the present short-term agreement with Great Britain, little development will take place. A big delegation of Ministers, including the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), and the Minister assisting the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) visited Great Britain this year, and discussed the meat industry with British representatives. It is time that the producers were given some indication of what the permanent policy of the Government will be. The proposed levy on meat for the purpose of establishing a fund, coming on top of a two years’ drought, during which Australia was unable to supply its full quota to the overseas market, takes the form of another tax on an already overtaxed industry.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. MCBRIDE’ adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.17 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated) : -
s asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has any progress report on the search for oil been made by the Anglo-Iran oil experts; if so, will he make it available to the House?
– No report has yet been received. Such reports would be made in the first place to Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, as the oil geologist is operating in Australia under the aegis of that company.
en asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the Australian consumption per lb. of tobacco (plug, cigarette, and all other kinds) a head of population for the last period available?
– During the year ended the 30th June, 1935, the per capita consumption was -
The various kinds of tobacco, i.e., plug, cigarette, &c., are not recorded separately, being given under the general heading of “ manufactured tobacco.”
en asked the Minister for the Interior upon notice -
What is the approximate aboriginal and half-caste population of each State and of the whole of the Commonwealth?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the allocation as between States of the Commonwealth of the moneys dis tributed by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee during the twelve months ended the . 31st August, 1935?
– The funds of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee are not allocated to the various States as such. They are distributed in the form of sugar rebates and other payments to manufacturers in respect of the production and export of manufactured fruit products. The following amounts were paid by the committee during the year ended the 31st August, 1935, to manufacturers of fruit products in the various States : -
The extent of the payments indicates the relative size of the fruit processing industry in the different States.
s asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– On the 8th November I informed the honorable member that I would obtain information to enable me to reply to this question. I am now in a position to state -
Wireless Broadcasting : Grafton Regional Station.
l. - On the 8th November, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. It. Green) made certain inquiries with regard to the new regional broadcasting station which is being erected in the vicinity of Grafton. I have since been informed by the PostmasterGeneral that the work at the station in question is .proceeding satisfactorily, but no announcement concerning the opening date can be made at present.
Shooting op Aboriginal : Commission of Inquiry.
– On the 7th November, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked for certain information with regard to the cost of the board of inquiry which recently investigated allegations of ill treatment of aboriginals in Central Australia. I am now in a position to furnish the following particulars : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 November 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19351113_reps_14_148/>.