14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) tool: the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Dr.EARLE PAGE (Cowper - Minister for Commerce) [2.31]. - by leave - A note of protest has been received by the Commonwealth Government from the Government of Italy on the procedure adopted by the members of the League of Nations against Italy. A copy of this note has been laid on the table of the Parliamentary Library for theinforma- tion of honorable members.
The Commonwealth Government has received from the Secretary-General of the League of Nations, on behalf of the Co-ordination Committee, texts of four new proposals and a resolution regarding “ Contracts in course of execution “, which have been transmitted to all members of the League.
Proposal IIa. relates to the suspension of clearing or payments agreements with Italy. It also provides for the payment of the purchase price of Italian products already imported, or to be imported, in respect of which payment has not yet been made, to be lodged in a national account, which will be employed for the settlement of claims arising from exports. There is no clearing agreement between Australia and Italy, and consequently no action is necessary in regard to the first part of this proposal. The Commonwealth Government has accepted the latter portion of the proposal, and the amendment to the Sanctions Sill introduced into the Senate on the 13th November, 1935, will enable the Commonwealth Government to give effect, by regulation, to the measure proposed.
ProposalIIIa. is that “ books, newspapers and periodicals, maps and cartographical productions, or printed or engraved music “ should be an exception to Proposal ILL, which prohibits imports fromItaly or Italian colonies. The Commonwealth Government has accepted this exception to Proposal III., and provision will be made in the regulations tinder the act whereby such goods may be imported into Australia.
Proposal IVa. : It will be recalled that Proposal IV. relates to the prohibition of certain exports to Italy such as metallic ores, rubber, and transport animals, coming within the category of war material. The new proposal is that the list shall be extended by the prohibition of -
Petroleum and its derivatives, by-products, and residues.
Pig iron, iron and steel (including alloy steels), cast, forged, rolled, drawn, stamped or pressed.
Coal (including anthracite, and lignite), coke and their agglomerates, as well as fuels derived therefrom.
If the replies received by the Coordination Committee, and the information at its disposal, warrant it, the committee will propose to the governments of the members ofthe League a date for bringing into force the measures contemplated in this proposal. The Commonwealth Government hasaccepted Proposal IVa. in principle, and is notifying the SecretaryGeneral of the League that it is prepared toputthe measures into effect on the declared date.
By ProposalIVb. governments are asked to take measures to verify the destination of exports of prohibited products of Proposal IV., and in cases of abnormal increases of exports, to take steps to prevent products reaching Italy or Italian possessions by indirect routes. The Commonwealth Government has decided that it will take steps to give effect to this proposal, and instructions have been issued by the Trade and Customs Department for the responsible officers of that department to report immediately any abnormal increases which come to notice, so that appropriate action may bo taken. The Secretary-General of the League is being informed to this effect.
In addition to the proposals mentioned, the Committee of Eighteen has adopted a resolution whereby it is proposed that certain contracts of essential importance entered into by governments, governmental institutions, or institutions solely under government administration, on which not less than 20 per cent. of the amount due thereunder has been paid by the 19th October, 1935, may be excepted from Proposal III. - prohibition of imports from Italy. To ascertain the required information for the Co-ordination Committee about all such contracts in Australia, a communication has been addressed to all departments and to State Governments asking for particulars of contracts in course of execution. When received, this information willbe incorporated in a general report to the Coordination Committee.
Mr.CURTIN.-Is the Acting Leader of the Government able to inform me whether the Government has given consideration to the note of protest received from the Government of Italy? If so, has it indicated to the High Commissioner as its representative on the Council of the League of Nations, its view concerning the contention submitted in the note? I desire also to know whether or not it is intended that the H.M.A.S. Sydney isto remain in the Mediterranean?
– The note of protest received from the Italian Government is under the consideration of the Government at the present time.
– In view of the notification appearing in the Commonwealth Gazette revoking the order under which the H.M.S. Sussex, was to be attached to the Australian fleet, 1 should like to know whether the H.M.A.S. Australia will automatically cease to be a unit of the British fleet. If that be. so, can the Min ister for Defence state whether the Australia will return to this country under the control of the Commonwealth Naval Board?
Mr.ARCHDALE PARKHILL. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is in the negative.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Finance - Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for year ended 30th June, 1935, accompanied by the Report of theAuditor-General.
Ordered to be printed.
Judiciary Act - Rule of Court - Dated29th October, 1935.
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether any further information has been received from Singapore concerning the search for Sir Charles Kingsford Smith?
– by teave - I regret that no further information has been received from the East regarding the whereabouts of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Mr. Thos. Pethybridgc. I desire to state that the following message has been forwarded to Air Commodore Sydney Smith, Commanding R.A.F., Singapore: -
Commonwealth Government highly appreciates additional valuable efforts made aircraft under your command in search for Kingsford Smith, and wishes you extend their thanks all personnel concerned. Government desirous however of doing everything humanly possible to discover mining aircraft and wouldlike yourviews in light local knowledge what further steps might be taken prosecute search ill amplification complete and comprehensive air searches already made. In particular with view inducing examination bv ground parties of difficult ureas would you favour offering reward up to say £500 for information relating missing airmen, also would distribution by air and otherwise of pamphlets in appropriate languages giving details this offer hu of value. Any suggestions you can make will be welcomed and sympathetically received. Locally designed twin-engined aircraft piloted bv Captain P. G. Taylor, Second Pilot H. Purvis. Radio Operator J. Stannage propose leaving Sydney to-morrow morning take part in search under your direction. Aircraft fitted same type radio equipment as fady Southern eoss Expects arrive Singapore morning 18th November.
It will bc necessary for the Prime Minister’s Department to seek authority from the British Consul-General, Batavia, for Captain Taylor to fly over the Netherlands East Indies. in the absence of Captain Taylor, the Secretary, Department of Defence, communicated by telephone with Mr. Stannage at Sydney this morning and notified him that tho Wackett Cannet aircraft which he proposed to use is a new machine which had not yet been issued with a certificate of airworthiness, although, theoretically, it had passed all tests and was entitled to a certificate; however, it had done no more than the minimum amount of flying necessary to qualify for such a certificate and there was an element of risk in undertaking such a journey until it had been thoroughly tested under all conditions. He also made it perfectly clear to Mr. Stannage that all information obtained and any messages which they might send must be forwarded to the Government for general distribution.
Mr. Stannage informed me that they had carefully considered the question of undertaking the journey in a newlydesigned machine; that comprehensive tests were being made to-day of the machine, and that they would not start unless they were completely satisfied that the machine was satisfactory in all respects to undertake the task required. He gave me the definite assurance that no exclusive rights would bp given to any newspaper, and that all messages would be transmitted to the Prime Minister’s Department.
It has now been learnt that a provisional certificate of airworthiness will be issued to the machine to-day.
– I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether it is the intention of the Commonwealth Government to be represented at the International Sugar Conference in London, called by die British Government for early next year at the request of the authorities in control of the former Chadbourne plan, to consider a policy to bring the production and demand for sugar into balance? If the Government intends to be represented, has a decision yet been made as to who will represent Australia at the conference?
– The Government is at present considering the representation of Australia at the International Sugar Conference.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House inform me whether any definite progress has been made with the arrangement to send a goodwill mission to -the United States of America? I also ask whether, when the Government is determining the personnel of the mission, it will consider issuing an invitation to a member of the Opposition to accompany any Minister or ministerial supporters who may be included in the mission, so that there may be a measure of continuity in regard to these goodwill missions to overseas countries?
– The Government is considering the proposal to send a goodwill mission to the United States of America, and it will keep in mind the suggestion of the honorable member.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for the Interior to the following letter which I have received fram Leeton : -
Recently the shire council decided to change the names of certain streets such as First, Second, and Third to those bearing names of trees and shrubs to conform with a scheme to have all streets here bearing names of trees, &c.
It now appears that the Electoral Returning Officer lias seized on this opportunity to collect fines from all those residents in the streets, so changed, for not notifying him of a “ change of address “, although many of the,u have been living at the same address for many years.
As the Electoral Act provides that the notification shall be made to the Electoral Officer only when .electors change their “ place of living I ask whether the Minister will take immediate steps to stop the proceedings that I have mentioned? Some of the persons who have been proceeded against have been living in the same place for 30 years.
– I shall look into the rather extraordinary circumstances outlined by the honorable member.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform mo when the recently gazetted broadcasting regulations will be tabled?
– .1 understand that the regulations are at present under discussion by the parties concerned. After those discussions have been concluded, the regulations will be tabled.
Mi-. CLARK. - I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Healthwhether he can give me any information regarding the proposal to establish a clinic for Sister Kenny at the Royal North Shore Hospital? Is the clinic likely to be established at an early date?
– I shall obtain the information the honorable member desires and let him have it.
Allocation of Money - Alleged Statement by Premier of Tasmania.
– I ask the Treasurer whether, in view of the dissatisfaction that lias been expressed at the allocation of loan money made available to some of the States at the recent meetings of the Loan Council, the Government has given consideration to an ‘alteration of the formula by which such allocations are made? If so, will the honorable gentleman inform the House of the Government’s decision? If not, will he bring the matter under the notice of the Government with a view to an alteration of the method of allocation to provide for a more equitable basis of distribution?
– The formula was not discussed at the Loan Council, and I am not aware of any dissatisfaction respecting the manner in which the money made available through the council was allocated.
– In view of the reports which appeared in a section of the press during the recent meetings of the Loan Council in Melbourne to the effect that Tasmania would repudiate certain obligations unless ils claim for a stated amount of money was acceded to, will the Treasurer inform the House of the exact position, so that any misunderstanding might be removed?
– There was no foundation whatever for the reports which appeared in a section of the press during the Loan Council meetings that the Premier of Tasmania had threatened that Tasmania would repudiate certain obligations if its requests were not acceded to. The State Premier made no statement or remark or threat that could be construed in any way as a suggestion of repudiation.
– Is the Attorney-General aware that certain reports, emanating from the Newcastle coal-fields, have appeared in the press to the effect that extensive trouble is likely to occur in the coal-mining industry owing to the intention of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to install a machine in the Lambton B Colliery known as a coal-loader, which, operated by twelve men, will maintain an output of 400 tons a day, equal to the present output of 50 men ? In view of the serious situation that exists on the coal-fields an consequence of this action by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, will the Attorney-General order a compulsory conference under the Industrial Peace Act with the object of bringing about a general reduction of the hours of labour in the coal-mining industry ?
– I am not aware of the press statement to which the honorable member referred but I shall give consideration to his suggestion.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister received any intimation from the commission which lias been set up to inquire into the monetary and hanking systems of Australia as to when it proposes to start its inquiries? Can he also say whether a time limit has been placed on the commission for the presentation of its report?
– Discussions have already taken place between the members of the commission and meetings have been arranged for the taking of evidence early in the New Year. I understand that the public sittings will open at that time. At present the commission is occupied in preliminary negotiations to ensure its smooth working.
– Is the Minister for Commerce able to inform me how many States must pass the necessary legislation to give effect to the Commonwealth’s scheme for a home-consumption price for wheat, if the scheme is to be put into operation this season ? Does he expect that the legislation will be passed by a sufficient number of the States, or is it intended to re-introduce the flour tax for the current season?
– The New South Wales Government has passed through the Legislative Assembly the requisite legislation to give effect to the scheme agreed upon by the Australian Agricultural Council, and I understand that to-day or
To-morrow similar legislation will also bo passed in the Queensland Parliament. I am informed that Victoria will proceed with the legislation in the near future. The position of the other States is unknown to me at the present time.
– Last week while the Attorney-General was absent at the meeting of the Loan Council, I asked a question on notice with reference to the banning of the hook War, What For? Has the Attorney-General yet had time to examine that question and frame a reply?
– I owe the honorable member an apology for not having supplied a reply earlier. It will be available on Tuesday.
– I wish to ask the Attorney-General whether it is correct, as reported, that Mr. Justice Sir George Edward Rich, K.C.M.G., is about to proceed on leave for six months from the High Court Bench. If that is so, can he intimate to the House whether Mr. Justice Rich will resume his position on the High Court Bench at the expiration of that leave, or retire?
– The question of granting some term of leave to Mr. Justice Rich is at present under consideration. So far as I know there is no foundation whatever for the statement that has been made that he wall immediately retire from the Bench at the end of the proposed period of leave.
– I desire to ask the Minister foi1 the Interior whether the Institute of Anatomy at Canberra was closed to public from Saturday until Tuesday on a recent holiday week-end? If so, can he arrange for that building, and other places of interest to tourists, to be open for inspection at week-ends?
– I shall make inquiries and see if any alteration can bo made in the present procedure.
– In view of the assurance given by the Minister for Commerce that the poultry farming industry will be safeguarded as regards the price of bran and pollard under the wheat home-consumption price scheme and in view of the fact that no such safeguard is contained in the Commonwealth legislation designed to place that scheme in effect, will the State legislation provide the safeguard which is sought? If not, in what way are poultry farmers to be safeguarded against price increases under the proposed scheme?
– The Commonwealth wheat legislation deals solely with interstate trade in wheat. The safeguard towhich the honorable member referred must be one for the States. I shall make representations to the States to have what the honorable member seeks incorporated in their wheat legislation.
– As the Assistant Minister (Mr. Hunter) has taken over part of the work of the former Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) is he in a position to make a full statement to the House as towhat has been accomplished regarding the Maternal Welfare Fund, and also as to what is intended to he done in future ?
-The former Minister for Health intended to make a full statement before he resigned from the Ministry. That statement is being prepared and will be made by the Prime Minister, who is the present Minister for Health.
– Is the Acting Leader of the Government aware of the published statement that the Parliamentary UnderSecretary for Employment does not desire the appointment of a Minister to deal with employment? Is it the intention of the Government to proceed in accordance with the pronouncementby the Prime Minister that a Minister for Employment would be appointed?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member refers, but the statement made by the Prime Minister stands.
– Can the Acting Leader of the Government say whether the Under-Secretary for Employment has yet been authorized to reply to questions on the subject of employment?
– The Prime Minister gave a very full answer to a similar questiona few days ago.
-I ask the Minister for Defence if the notice appearing in to-day’s Commonwealth Gazette reserving an area of land in the counties of Harden and Bland for bombing exercises by the Royal Australian Air Force refers to land in the vicinity of the air mail terminal at Cootamundra? If not, can the Minister indicate the location of the land ? If the land is near the air terminal at Cootamundra, can he indicate the reasons for selecting this site?
-I presume the matter to which the honorable member has referred is the Gazette notice which is for the acquisition of additional land for the aerodrome at Cootamundra for the purpose of making it more convenient and suitable.
– In view of the approaching British election and the impending reconstruction of the British Government, can any representations be made by the Commonwealth Government and the governments of other dominions to the Prime Minister of Great Britain urging that the next Secretary of State for the Dominions should be one who is in sympathy with the requirements and desires of the dominions ?
– It would be most improper for this Government to suggest to the Prime Minister of Great Britain who should be the Ministers in his Cabinet, just as it would not be right for the British Prime Minister to say who should be members of the Commonwealth Government.
– When will the report of the Petrol Commission be considered by the House? Has the Cabinet dealt with this costly report, and does it intend to act upon its recommendations?
– The latter portion of the honorable member’s question will be answeredwhen we reach order of the day No. 14 - “ Mineral oilsand petrol and other products of mineral oils - Reports (majority and minority) of the royal commission - Motion for printing paper The exact time for dealing with this order of the day will be determined by the progress made in the consideration of other important matters on the notice-paper.
Debate resumed from the 13th November (vide page 1585), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the bill foe now rend a second time.
.- In submitting this bill, the Government is giving effect to the wishes of the great majority of the meat producers of Australia. It is not suggested that they are unanimous regarding the necessity for the measure, because it is impossible to obtain unanimity among a large number of producers who work under a great diversity of conditions. When a conference was called in Melbourne to discuss the need for such a bill, objections were raised on behalf of South Australia; but since that time the producers in my State have realized that, in order - to ^maintain the overseas markets, it is essential that a. control board be appointed on the lines followed in the hill. Similar boards have been established for the regulation of marketing operations in connexion with other industries, and they have worked successfully for a number of years. In 1923-22, the Government of New Zealand passed an act to establish a board for the control of the meat industry and the fixation of standards, and the results have been beneficial to the people of that dominion, particularly the meat producers. Yet, even to-day, some of the producers in that country are not iti favour of the present form of control.
Honorable members on the Opposition side have stigmatized this measure as an instalment of socialism. My reply to that is that all bills of this ‘ character passed by this Parliament have been introduced and supported by anti-Labour governments, and that New Zealand has never had a Labour government. Therefore, legislation of this description should not he classed as socialistic. One has to reconcile one’s ideas to the circumstances that prevail from time to time. Great Britain, which is regarded as a conservative country, has adopted various measures for the promotion of organized marketing and the assistance of primary industries, and its action is consequent upon policies adopted by governments in Britain and in other countries. It has been said that private enterprise has fallen down on its job, and that socialistic measures of this character are needed to prop up private interests; but private enterprise has no control over the policies of governments, which from time to time introduce legislation that makes it impossible for private enterprise to carry on as formerly. Take the policy of European countries in regard to wheat production. Prance does not purchase Australian wheat, and our own growers have suffered considerably in consequence of its action. The present trend of legislation designed to promote orderly marketing is attributable not to the failure of private enterprise, but to the interference of governments with the normal flow of trade. Re-adjustments are obviously necessary in order to enable private enterprise properly to operated
The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) was jubilant over the introduction of this measure, for he regards it as a definite step towards socialism. He said that miners were obtaining control in the mining industry, and that under this hill action was being taken on similar lines. I point out, however, that the control of the meat industry is not to be placed in the hands of the employees, but is to be left with the producers, who are the employers, as is the case in other industries in which export control is exercised. The Leader of the Opposition laid great emphasis on the matter of export restrictions, and one would imagine from his speech that the sole purpose of thi bill was to set up an authority which would ration exports as between States and individuals. I remind him, however,, that the New Zealand Meat Board had been established before there was any restriction of meat exports from that country to Great Britain. The purposes for which that board was established are set out as follows in the preamble to the act as follows : -
Whereas the economic welfare of New Zealand has lately been adversely affected by reason of a reduction in the net returns receivable by person’s engaged in the business of the production of meat for export, such reduction being due in part to falling prices and in part to the charges payable in respect to freight and other services: And whereas conferences have lately been held of representatives of the Government and of persons whose business is the production of mont for export, and it has been resolved that tlie public economic welfare will be promoted by the establishment of a Board of Control, with power to act as the agent of the producers in respect of the preparation, Storage, and shipment of meat, and in respect tO the disposal of such meat beyond New Zealand :
In Australia the Paterson butter scheme was first established on a voluntary basis in 1923, and later a board was appointed to control the exports of dried fruits. These things were done before there was any suggestion that our exports might be restricted. The boards in each case were set up to regulate and control the export of commodities, and to ensure that the commodities are of a certain standard and quality. Because of the change of policy in Britain, the potential market there for our products and for those of other countries is limited. For over half a century Great Britain had subordinated its primary to its secondary industries, but, because of the rise of economic nationalism in countries which were formerly its customers, Britain has had to review its policy, and has now decided to stimulate its primary industries. The Government of -Australia sent representatives to the Ottawa Conference for the purpose of protecting Australia’s interests on the British market, and, since the signing of the agreement with Great Britain, Australia’s exports to that country have increased by more than 30 per cent.
– Our exports to other countries have declined.
– There are no surplus products in this country at the moment. Whatever may be our fears for the future, up to the present all that we have produced we have been able either to consume or to sell.
Objection was taken by the Leader of the Opposition to the action of Great Britain in entering into trade agreements with other countries after having signed the Ottawa agreement. I remind the honorable member, however, that we arc doing exactly the same thing. It was never intended that the Ottawa agreement should prevent Great Britain from entering into trade agreements with other countries. Great Britain is fully competent, while observing the letter and spirit of the Ottawa agreement, to make further agreements with Argentina and other countries. If there was any infringement by Great Britain of the agreement with Australia, it was in connexion with the comparatively minor matter of the chilled beef quota, and even then the quota was increased immediately representations were made by Australia. Great Britain cannot be accused of having repudiated the agreement because, at the time it was signed, it was still doubtful whether Australia would ever be able to place its chilled beef on the English market in a satisfactory condition. Since then, however, scientific developments have enabled this to be done, and, as a consequence, Great Britain has very generously increased the quota. When the agreement comes up for review at the end of next year, we may rest assured that Great Britain will treat us liberally. To those who maintain that Great Britain has not the right to enter into new trade argeements I point out that, not very long ago and, after it had signed the Ottawa agreement, Australia entered into an agreement with Belgium in which an undertaking was given to receive a certain quantity of Belgian glass. That agreement might have been condemned by Great Britain on the ground that it was detrimental to the British glass industry, but Britain has admitted Australia’s right to make trade agreements with other countries. Surely we should concede a similar right to Great Britain.
The scheme outlined in this bill, Including as it does the establishment of an export control board, will be of value because it is essential that the quality of our exports to Great Britain should be high. The British market demands the best; there is no sale there for inferior commodities. In order to ensure that the standard shall remain high., some form of control other than that at present being exercised is required. The present inspection of meat is for the purpose only of determining whether it is fit for human consumption. No high standard of quality is insisted upon. . We have already had one or two unfortunate examples of the ill effects which follow from exporting inferior commodities. First there was a shipment of eggs, which, for reasons into which I need not now go, did not come up to the necessary standard. Then we had a shipment of oranges which arrived on the British market in an unsound condition. There have been quite a number of explanations offered regarding the cause of the failure of that shipment; but, undoubtedly it had an adverse effect upon the sale of Australian oranges overseas for some time. One of the functions of the meat board is definitely to lay down standards and grades to be observed before exports will be permitted from this country.
– Is that not done now?
– At present the inspection of meat is only to ensure that it is of a standard fit for human consumption; no provision is made for grading, whereas the main thing is to ensure that definite grades are laid down and that all export meat shall conform to the standard of those particular grades. That will be one of the real functions of the board. Another question which must be considered is the regulation of shipments. Apart altogether from the suggestion that restrictions of our total exports are to be imposed, so that the British market can absorb the meat placed upon it at any particular time, it is necessary that our meat should arrive in Great Britain in a continuous stream, or at least in some orderly manner designed to fit in with the product of the home suppliers or foreign countries. At present,we have no means of doing so. Of course, if Great Britain itself imposes restrictions on the imports of meat, it will be necessary for us to restrict our exports in the aggregate to within the limits required. At present, individual meat exporters can ship their product indiscriminately to the British market. This definitely upsets and disorganizes the home market. Thus another important function of the board, and, indeed, one for which it is primarily to be set up, will be to ensure continuity of supplies from Australia. Provision is made in the bill for the board to advertise and promote the sale of our product overseas. Under similar legislation in New Zealand, agencies have been set up in Great Britain which have done a great deal to promote the sale of dominion commodities in that country. Much could be done in this regard by our
Agents-General and our High Commissioner in London. The Agent-General for South Australia in London, Mr. McCann, who has spent a lifetime in the moat trade in Argentina, Australia and Great Britain, has, for quite a long time, been most insistent that, in order to expand the sale of our commodities overseas, we should have some form of advertising and should devise some means of handling to ensure that they are distributed through the proper channels. Mr. McCann has been a most ardent advocate for the introduction of a measure similar to that which is now before the House. I think I can say with truth that the recommendations made from time to time by Mr. McCann to the South Australian Government have convinced a large number of producers in South Australia of the necessity for the introduction of a measure such as this.
– Has he suggested anything with regard to good second-class meat?
– He has suggested that all meat should be graded. Although he has not said that nothing but firstgrade meat is saleable in Great Britain, he has said that the export of first-grade meat would be most profitable. The main point is that, when a buyer in Great Britain buys first-grade meat, he should know thathe is getting the best we have, and that, if he decides to buy secondgrade, he should know that he will get meat of the standard set for that grade. While it has been said by members of the Opposition that this bill provides, not for producer control, but definitely for ministerial control, I submit that, under similar legislation affecting other commodities, marketing schemes are already operated which have achieved very great success. I support the bill, and feel sure that it will bring about a measure of stability which will be definitely advantageous, not only to the producers in Australia, but also to thepeople generally. I have no hesitation in commending the bill to the House.
.- I think it has been already made evident that this bill is to receive the support of all parties in this House. As a matter of fact, it has been drawn in conformity with the policy of all parties represented in this Parliament. I only regret that many of the speeches delivered by honorable members have had very little connexion with the bill itself. 1 compliment the honorable member who has ju3t resumed his seat (Mr. McBride) upon the very valuable contribution which he has made to this debate, and upon the constructive suggestions which he has made. The speeches of some honorable members have been notable for the absence of constructive suggestions. Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) used this measure as a vehicle for a very vicious and unwarranted attack on the British Government. He almost dazed the House with a mass of statistics and figures.
– They were accurate.
– I do not question the correctness of any of the figures quoted by the Leader of the Opposition, but I most emphatically question their relevancy to the measure before the House, and the inferences and deductions which the honorable member drew from them. I do not intend to attempt to traverse the whole of the statistics presented by the Leader of the Opposition; but he compared the relative imports of Argentina and Australia into Groat Britain h.nd also the relative indebtedness of Argentina, both from a government point of view and from the point of view of private enterprise, with Australia’s indebtedness to British bondholders. From those figures he purported to draw the conclusion that the British Government was leaning very unfairly and unjustifiably towards the Government of Argentina, to the detriment of Australia. The balance of the purchases of meat from Australia compared with the purchases from Argentina in 1934, seemed to he the culminating point of his speech, and it was upon those figures particularly that he launched his vicious attack on the British Government. The honorable member pointed out that in 1934 the total imports of foreign meat into Great Britain were valued at £18,412,000, of which imports from Argentina represented a value of £15,168,000, while the total imports from countries of British nationality were valued at only £18.039,000, of which Australia contributed only £6,221,000. The conten tion that I wish to advance is that certain classes of meat which were purchased in very large quantities from Argentina -notably chilled beef - were unproducable and unprocurable in Australia. It is well known that we had not then developed the technique that would permit us to export chilled beef. The only fair measure of comparison as to the degree to which the British consumers favour Argentine as against Australian or British meat, is that which relates to classes of meat which may be bought in both countries. Therefore, we must exclude the consideration of chilled beef. If we do that, and study the figures more fairly, we shall find that in 1934 the tocal British purchases of mutton and lamb - a class of meat that can be purchased with equal facility in the British dominions and in Argentina - were valued at £2,300,000 in the case of Argentina and. £4,169,000 in the case of Australia. The total imports of foreign mutton and lamb were valued at £3,200,000, whereas by the addition of the New Zealand figures- £10,131,000 - to the Australian, the total from those two dominions will be found to be £14,300,000. During that year, therefore, the value of the purchases from Australia and New Zealand was nearly five times as great as the value of the purchases from foreign countries, despite the fact that Argentina is the largest foreign producer of this class of meat, and possesses substantial advantages in regard to cost of production, compared with Australia; its labour is cheaper, it is nearer to the market, it has vast areas that are suitable for the production of lucerne without irrigation, and it has the overwhelming advantage of a currency which has been deliberately depreciated in the interests of the export industries.
– Australian currency is depreciated to the extent of 25 per cent, compared with that of Great Britain.
– I admit that our currency is depreciated; hut that depreciation is not nearly so great as is that of Argentina. Notwithstanding all the natural and artificial advantages enjoyed by the producers of Argentina, British consumers have, partly of their own volition, and partly as the result of pre- ference, deliberately given by the British Government, purchased and consumed practically five tunes as much dominion as foreign mutton and lamb.
There is another point which was notably absent from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition and from all the speeches delivered from the Opposition benches. No reference has been made by those who have spoken from that side of the House to the fact that the British Government has given very great preference to Australian meat producers by having placed upon imports of mutton, lamb, and frozen beef from Argentina the definite restriction of 65 per cent, of the imports in the Ottawa year. A measure of protection has also been given to dominion producers of chilled beef by limiting imports from Argentina to 90 per cent, of the imports during the Ottawa year. That action was taken when Australia was technically unable to produce chilled beef and place it on the British market. In levelling against the British Government the unfair charge of having accorded preferential treatment to the producers of Argentina, the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters deliberately refrained from making any reference to the quotas imposed upon those producers. They, have also notably refrained from mentioning that the British Government has, at all times, provided full entry for all the chilled beef, frozen beef, mutton and lamb that the dominions have been able to produce. What more the British Government could do for us, I am at a loss to understand. While the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) was making his speech, in which he was careful not to mention any facts, he went out of his way to say that I would shortly rise to defend the -producers of Argentina as against the producers of Australia. That was merely an example of the drivel that we usually get from that quarter.
I do not wish to waste any more of the time allotted to rae in an exposure of the unfair and uncalled-for criticism levelled by the Opposition at the British Government. The bill is substantially in conformity with the policy of all parties in this Parliament; therefore one could reasonably have expected the speeches upon it to be confined to constructive criticism, and to an endeavour to advance suggestions for its improvement. This is merely the first step towards long-distance planning for the great Australian meat industry. The necessity for long-distance planning is most urgent, and should be apparent to all who have given consideration to the needs of the industry. We should be able to realize upon the slightest consideration that the British market is not likely to provide for all time a repository for all the beef, mutton and lamb that Australia will probably produce. First preference to Australian industries has been our political policy for years. Surely, therefore, no criticism should be directed at the British Government for having applied a similar policy to its own land industries. During his recent visit to Australia, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald pointed out on several occasions that the land industries of Great Britain provide employment for a greater number of persons than is provided by any other single industry in the United Kingdom. Consequently, from the view-point of employment alone, it is only reasonable to expect the British Government to concern itself with the conservation of the interests of those industries. If Australia develops to the fullest extent its potential resources in the direction of increasing the output of meat products, the stage will eventually be reached when Great Britain will be unable to absorb the whole of that production. It would be well, therefore, to have some authoritative body, such as the board proposed to be set up under thi3 bill, to establish a liaison with a similar authority in Great Britain - the Empire Meat Council - and keep’ the governments of this country, both Federal and State, advised as to the consumptive capacity of the British market, and the needs and preferences of the British consumers; some authority which can take steps to increase consumption, by advertising and by providing the class of meat desired by the British consumers. In a country where millions of pounds have been spent upon irrigation projects, and considerable time and money have been devoted to the improvement of the productive capacity of pastoral lands, it might reasonably be expected that some heed would be taken of the ultimate market for what is produced. Many millions of pounds have been spent in the Murray Valley. I believe that the Commonwealth itself is associated in the expenditure of a sum approaching £20,000,000 for water conservation. I feel sure that within a distance of 100 miles on both sides of the River Murray, we could produce a greater quantity of meat than is being produced in the whole of Australia to-day. But if we are to develop the productive capacity of our land, it is essential that we should establish some authority such as the Meat Export Control Board to see that the producers themselves do not. crash in the long run by reason of unconsidered over-production. I hope that it will be regarded as a function of this board to develop new avenues for the sale of our meat products. We should not be satisfied to confine our activities to the British market, hut should endeavour to encourage the consumption of meat in the East, and also, possibly, in certain continental countries, so that the inevitable increased production of meats of various kinds in Australia may be marketed to advantage. The board should also regard it as an important function to define the various grades of meat. I. can see no reason why meats of various kinds should not he graded so definitely that they may he sold, unsighted, by cable. The grades would have to he so clearly specified, however, that disputes could not subsequently arise as to whether the meat delivered was of the class intended to be purchased. The development of a system of grading meat would also possibly lead to the inauguration of a system of interlotting the produce of small meat producers, such as is to-day done in regard to the clips of small wool producers. It frequently happens tha’: producers who consign their products direct to the British market obtain better results than those who sell locally but only large producers can sell direct in this way. I feel that if straight grades could be declared for moat, sufficient quantities of specific grades would be available to enable the lots of small producers to be sold overseas on some direct system. I hope that the meat board, when it is constituted, will give attention to this important subject.
The board should also be able to reduce costs to the meat exporters by planning well ahead so that chartering and other export charges may be reduced to the lowest possible figure. By creating a liaison between the Commonwealth and British Governments on the one hand, and the Commonwealth and United Kingdom producers on the other hand, it should be possible to avoid serious losses such as. have occurred in the past when various governments have set out to develop certain primary industries without troubling to co-ordinate their activities in any way. We all remember the unfortunate experience of twelve or fifteen years ago, when the governments of three States, realizing that a favorable market existed at the moment for Doradillo grapes, encouraged settlers to plant Dora.dillos extensively. Because the governments acted without consultation or adequate inquiry into the absorptive capacity of the market, the ultimate result was absolute chaos, and financial disaster to many of the people who entered the industry.
This proposal for long-range planning in the meat industry will, I hope, bo followed by similar proposals in regard to other export industries. It is a step in the right direction, and I am glad that honorable members of all parties in the House have intimated that they intend to support the bill. Personally, I give the measure my heartiest approval.
– The specific purpose of the Meat Export Control Bill is to set up a meat export control board similar to that which, has been operating so successfully in New Zealand for the last twelve years. I anticipate that the Australian Meat Export. Control Board will serve our meat producers just as successfully as the New Zealand Export Control Board has served the meat producers of the sister dominion. When the Australian delegation visited England early this year, it was faced with a definite threat from the British Government that heavy restrictions or curtailments would be imposed on imports of meat of various kinds from Australia and the other dominions. The Commonwealth Government had been in close consultation with the British Government, through the Au.s- tralian High Commissioner in London, with the object of securing a reconsideration by the British authorities of their proposed restriction of imports, hut the only concession it had been able to obtain up to the time the delegation left Australia was that the proposed restrictions would not be enforced for some time. The relief so obtained extended only from month to month. One of the. greatest difficulties with which we had to contend was the decision of the British Government to adhere to a provision of the Anglo- Argentine agreement which stated that only experimental shipments of chilled beef should be sent from the various Empire dominions to the United Kingdom. The first success of the delegation after the personal negotiations were entered upon in Great Britain was a decision by the British Government to relax the provision ‘that only experimental shipments of chilled beef should be allowed entry to the British market from the Empire dominions. It was agreed that Australia, in common with other dominions exporting chilled beef, should be allowed free access to the British market, and should be permitted to send to Great Britain as much chilled beef as could be shipped. The arguments placed before the British Government, which brought about this reversal of policy, may be set out in this way: It was pointed out that the British Government had spent large sums of money to encourage scientific investigation into the problem of transporting chilled beef from the far-flung Empire dominions to the United Kingdom, and that the dominions had also contributed substantial sums to assist the investigations. Immediately the scientific research officers discovered a formula which made possible the export of chilled beef from Australia, New Zealand and other distant, dominions, the shipping companies, particularly those of Great Britain, spent millions of pounds in constructing entirely new ships fitted with every modern contrivance to facilitate the handling of chilled beef by the most up-to-date methods. Considerable expenditure was also involved in converting steamers already in the trade to enable them to handle large cargoes of chilled beef. It was argued that as the
British and dominion governments, and also the shipping companies, had cooperated in the development of a marketfor chilled beef from Empire countries, it Was only reasonable that as the investigations had been successful the exporters should be permitted to take full advantage of the new conditions. We were able to persuade the British Government to accept this view of the situation. Our next step was to endeavour to persuade the British Government to discontinue its policy of restriction, irrespective of whether the meat came from Empire dominions or foreign countries. I am happy to say that Ave were successful and the Government adopted a policy of “ regular expansion.” I wish to explain what this means to a country like Australia, which in the last few years has increased its meat exports of every kind to a very large degree. We pointed out to the British authorities that large commitments had been entered into both in this country and in the United Kingdom in the expectation of a greatly developed meat export market. It was also stated that during the last few years the very low prices available for wheat and other agricultural crops had obliged many primary producers to transfer a considerable proportion of their activities from the production of agricultural crops to different branches of the live-stock industry. To-day the live-stock industry is one of the most important in the British Empire. Australia alone has, in the last few years, brought 700,000 acres of land under irrigation, and the Comonwealth Government, acting in conjunction with the various State governments, has spent large sums of money to encourage pasture improvement, closer settlement, and many other activities associated with primary production with the definite object of increasing the output of meat in this country. All these facts were brought under the notice of the British Government with the result that ultimately it agreed to substitute for the policy of import restrictions a policy of regular expansion. Following upon that it was agreed that an Empire Meat Council should be established. The importance of this decision is difficult to state in words. For the first time in the history of the Empire an agreement was reached to set up a council representative of ali parts of the Empire, and of the United Kingdom itself. The delegation assured the producers of the United Kingdom that Australia readily conceded the right of the British producers to the first place on their own market. Following upon that, the imperial authorities acceded to our request that dominion producers should have the second place on the United Kingdom market, and foreign producers the third place. After these fundamental principles had been agreed upon, the vital decision was made to establish an Empire Meat Council. This decision was fraught with tremendous consequences to the Empire, one of which is the introduction of this bill, for it is necessary for Australia to set up a meat export control board similar to that of New Zealand. As soon’ as this bill is passed, and the board is constituted, it will be possible for Australia to nominate a representative on the Empire Meat Council. I believe that this council will be able to do valuable work, not for Australia only but also for the Empire as a whole.
It .has been recognized throughout the negotiations between the overseas delegation and the representatives of the British Government that largo supplies of meat were furnished to the British market from countries outside the Empire, and part of the plan which has been devised to deal with the meat industry is the holding of a periodical international meat conference. It would be futile, of course, for representatives of foreign countries to sit on an Empire Meat Council, for their very presence would mean that it would not “be an Empire Council. But it would be dangerous, if not wrong, for an Empire Meat Council to develop its activities in disregard of the fact that important meat interests not within the Empire also supplied meat to the British market. It was arranged, therefore, that a meat conference, consisting of representatives of the United Kingdom, the meat export countries within the Empire, and the meat export countries not within the Empire, should meet at stated periods.- Thus the dominion representatives will have an opportunity to confer with representatives of the foreign countries. That will be an important factor in the supply of meat to the United Kingdom. The foreign
Mr. Thorby. suppliers will not have a seat on the Empire Council but they will have representation at the conferences as that will be necessary to bring about complete coordination of supplies .to the British market. The ability of the British market to take supplies of meat will be accurately gauged as the result of the close .contact that will exist between the British producers themselves, the Empire countries, and the foreign suppliers. The Australian delegation to Great Britain found that one of the most serious disabilities confronting this country in the export of meat to Britain was the irregularity of supplies. On one occasion a large consignment of chilled beef came on to an overstocked market and, as the market would not he able to take it quickly enough for it to retain its freshness in its chilled condition, the consignment had to he frozen and consequently greatly depreciated in value. We had conferences with the shipping companies, the meat interests and with the British Government. All those conferences indicated that Australia would have to do several things if it were to achieve a reputation as a supplier of chilled beef in Britain. It was indicated to us that we would have to pass such a hill as is now before the House for the creation of an Australian meat council Ito enable Australia to co-operate with all the other meat-producing countries in the British Empire, and that the meat council which it was necessary to set up would need to be given power which would enable it to improve the quality of the meat produced in the Commonwealth. It was also indicated that we would have to introduce some form of regulation of export in cooperation with the other parts of the Empire which send meat to the British market, and we would also have to keep an eye not only on the exports from foreign countries but also on the flush seasons in the United Kingdom itself. We have to remember that in the United Kingdom itself a very large amount of meat is produced, but the hulk of it, whether mutton or beef - I am excluding pork for the moment as it comes to the market more regularly than any other meat - is produced for the market in the summer months. In the winter months practically the whole cif the stock is hand-fed. but in the summer, which is tailed the flush season, the stock is fattened aud brought on to the market. That is a point which the Empire Meat Council will have to keep in mind and Australia will have to regulate its exports not only in accordance with the flush season in Britain itself, but also to avoid the flush seasons of the foreign countries. As far as possible it will have to achieve coordination among the meat-supplying countries, because the British market is the only market of any magnitude available to the British dominions so far as meat is concerned. There are a few other markets, but they are of minor importance.
By the formation of the meat board provided for in this bill, we shall be able to overcome many of the disabilities which confronted the Australian delegation in England. It will be able to effect an improvement in the quality of our ment - that is one of the most pressing needs - and to regulate exports in cooperation with other meat-exporting countries to the greatest extent possible in accordance with the ability of the market of the United Kingdom to absorb supplies. It would be folly for any one dominion, in the development of its meat export trade, to launch out on a campaign of expansion unless there was a market, ready to absorb the increased supplies. It is therefore absolutely essential for Australia to have a policy which will look ahead for not one or two years, but five, ten or fifteen years, because it takes many years for a grazier producing beef to develop his industry satisfactorily and on a sound financial basis. “With mutton and lamb it is much easier to produce or to restrict production as the need may be, but it takes a pastoralist four or five years of planning before he can say that he will put on the market first-quality beef for export. That is a point which the Government had in mind when this bill was drafted.
– What evidence has the Minister of the ability of foreign countries to supply beef to the British market to-day ?
– It was apparent to every member of the Australian delegation to Great Britain that Argentina had been getting great consideration on the British market in the past, and largely through the instrumentality of its own organization. We must give Argentina great credit for the manner in which it. has organized its meat export trade. To a great extent it has captured the British meat market, but it has several advantages over Australia. For instance, the average freight on meat from Argentine ports to Great Britain is .619d. per lb., which is a fraction more that one halfpenny, whereas the average freight for Australian meat cargoes is l.lSd. per lb. Thus the Argentine exports have an advantage of about one halfpenny per lb.
– That amounts to an advantage of more than £1 on each bullock.
– As the average weight of a bullock is 650 lb., the advantage to Argentina is considerably more than £1 on each beast. That fact alone is sufficient to give <this competitive country a successful undertaking even when the price in Great Britain might entail a dead loss to Australia. Furthermore, for many years Argentina has been able to send beef to Britain in a chilled condition. Chilled Argentine beef is practically fresh meat on its arrival, whereas until recently the Australian trade wilh Britain consisted only of frozen beef, which is regarded as inferior and has to be sold at a discount compared with fresh or chilled beef.
The arguments raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) justify contradiction. The honorable member suggested that Argentina had been unduly favoured - that it was getting the lion’s share of the British market, and Great Britain was definitely unfair to the dominions. That is entirely wrong. Figures have been quoted which show that Argentina is the largest supplier of meat to the British market. Beef, however, is not the only commodity that Australia sends to Britain. Since 1932, the year which followed the Ottawa Conference, the British Government has imposed very definite reductions on the output of mutton, lamb and beef from Argentina and other foreign countries into the United Kingdom. Importations of mutton and lamb and frozen beef were reduced by 35 ner cent., and the importation of chilled beef was reduced by 10 per cent. That reduction of 10 per cent, of the quantity of chilled beef imported into Great Britain from foreign countries alone represented a reduction of 40,000 tons per annum in the export trade of foreign countries. Despite that, the honorable member claimed that Great Britain had been unfair and unreasonable towards the dominions. In 1933-34 the United Kingdom imported from Argentina goods to the value of £47,040,000 sterling. In the same year Australia sent goods to Britain to the value of £50,060,000 sterling. Practically all the goods were of the same nature, mainly rural primary products, wheat, meat, butter and wool for instance.
– ‘How do the British export figures to Argentina and Australia compare?
– In 1933-34 the United Kingdom supplied £26,250,000 worth of goods, o whereas it took from us £50,060,000 worth. Argentina took from Britain goods to the value of £14,600,000, while Britain took from it goods valued at £47,040,000. The trade balance undoubtedly was in favour of both Argentina and Australia. So far as Australia was concerned the favorable balance amounted to £23,800,000, compared with Argentina’s favorable balance pf £32,300,000. Phenomenal development has occurred in the Australian meat industry in the last few years. Getting right away from the Ottawa year, I shall quote the figures relating to the Australian meat industry in 1927-28. In that year Australia exported to the United Kingdom 627,2S8 quarters of beef. The export figure for 1933-34 had been increased to 998,479 quarters of beef, representing an increase of 59 per cent, in six years. In 1927-2S, Australia exported to Great Britain 1,383,268 carcases of mutton and lamb, and in 1933-34 the number of carcases exported to Britain amounted to 5,28S,745, an increase of 2S1 per cent, in six years. It can be seen, therefore, that the Australian meat trade with Britain has developed tremendously, and in all fairness it must be admitted that Britain has not been unfair to this country.
– Then why did the honorable member squeal before he went away to England; and why does he now adopt his present attitude?
– I have already explained, but I will do so again for the honorable member. The question he has asked emphasizes the necessity for us to consult the British Government. The phenomenal increase in the export of beef, mutton and lamb by this country to Britain caused consternation in Great Britain. It had restricted the supplies of foreign frozen beef, mutton, and lamb by 35 per cent. The British Government pointed out that the dominion suppliers were taking full advantage of the restriction and nullifying its efforts to establish on a sounder footing the home meat trade. It indicated that the Australian suppliers of mutton and lamb had increased by 281 per cent, in six years. It felt that the only remedy lay in a definite restriction of the amount of meat imported. It was paying a subsidy to the home producers of meat, but the rush of dominion and foreign meat on the market was affecting values. Only after keen negotiation was the Australian delegation able to persuade the British Government that restriction of supplies of chilled beef would re-act against the whole Empire, and obtain a change of policy on the part of Britain. It was the Commonwealth Government’s realization of the difficult fight which would face its representatives in regard to meat that although the Australian .delegation was the first to arrive in England for the celebration of the Royal Jubilee, it was careful to present to the British Government a proposal that had the wholehearted support of the representatives of every other dominion.. For weeks we were in close negotiation with the British authorities before the representatives of New Zealand, Canada and South Africa arrived.
– Then Australia will not be able to maintain this phenomenal rate of increase ?
– The contention of the British Government was that our meat trade wa3 expanding at such an alarming rate that we were putting more beef and mutton upon the British market than, could be absorbed, consistent with the preservation of the interests of British producers. The latter felt that the operations of meat importers “were causing the slump in the market, and the tendency was to place restrictions on imports irre- spective of whether they came from British dominions or foreign countries. The combined representations of dominion delegates convinced the British public that it was futile to attempt to strengthen thebonds of Empire if restrictions were to be imposed on imports from the dominions to the United Kingdom. When we directed attention to the tremendous volume of meat imports from foreign as compared with Empire countries, we succeeded in persuading the British Government to deal with Empire producers more generously than it had intended to do, according to decisions reached prior to our arrival in London.
M r. Forde. - When the Opposition puts those facts forward, it is accusedof making a vicious attack on Britain.
– What I have said is that it is unreasonable to suggest that the present British Government is not prepared to deal fairly with the dominions. It can be readily understood why immediate agreement was obtained to a coordinated plan. When the proposal was advanced for the establishment of an Empire Meat Council, we contended that it was essential to have such a body continuously dealing with matters arising in connexion with the trade. We said that, if any restriction of imports was found necessary, it should be placed on imports from foreign countries.
Mr.Martens. - Yet honorable members opposite say that Labour members are anti-British when they make such statements.
– I have never used that term, and I am not concerned at the moment with what other honorable members may have said. This is an important bill providing for a co-ordinated plan designed to bind the whole of the Empire together commercially, so that it may withstand the pressure that periodically comes from foreign countries when they organize to get rid of their surplus products, particularly in British markets. Britain is a most valuable market for not only the dominions, but also foreign countries, andwe shallhave keen competition from foreign meat producers in the future. What we have to establish to-day is a basis for future agreements providing for free entry into the United Kingdom of dominion meat, the expansion of dominion trade being ensured by the restriction of foreign imports.
Mr.Beasley. - Havewe not reached peak figures?
Mr.THORBY. - No; our meat exports are increasing. The Empire Council will endeavour to regulate supplies from the dominions in the markets of the United Kingdom, in accordance with their ability to absorb them: One honorable member suggested that the figures quoted by me a few moments ago applied only toone year. During the last few years since theOttawa Conference, the value of meat exports from Australia to the United Kingdom has been as follows: -
I should like honorable members to boar in mind the fact that during this period the value of these products has beenlower than ever before. During the same years, the exports from Argentina to the United Kingdomwere as follows : -
Itwill be seen that there has been a definite decline in the value of imports to the United Kingdom from Argentina, and a definite increase in the value of imports from Australia.
– But, in 1932, Britain made a threat to Argentina.
Mr.THORBY.- I am prepared to submit the actual figures in any way desired. For the three years mentioned, the total value of the exports from Australia to the United Kingdom was £144,600,000, comparedwith £139,600,000 from Argentina. Whilst therewas a definite increase of Australian exports, those of Argentina showed a decided decline. This year there will be a considerable increase of the value of meat exports from Australia, because,whilstwe are maintaining the volume of our exports, and even increasing it, the prices are substantially better than last year. Provision has been made for a substantially increased output of meat in various forms, whether beef, mutton orpork. Under the bill, representation on the board is to be given to all sections interested inthe export of meat.
Mr.Garden. - Except the workers.
– The workers are not the producers of the meat, they are not thesellers, and they are not even the consumers. They have the Arbitration Court to deal with their affairs, andthey are well paid for the work they do. Those employed in the abattoirs of this countryare remunerated on a much better scab than are those actually engaged in producing the beef and mutton that goes overseas. The producers engaged in this industry are entitled to every possibleassistance from governments throughout the British Empire, to enable them to cope with the foreign competition with which they have had to contend for mamyears. Any honorable member who utters one word against this hill, which is designed to assist Empire producers to get the best possible results from Empire, markets, is, in my opinion, disloyal to his fellow Britishers throughout the Empire.
I desire to make it clear to honorable members that a considerable variation takes place in the average quantity of meat consumed by the various nations of the world. In New Zealand and Australia, the consumption of mutton and lamb is between 63 and 75 lb. a head per annum, whilst in Great Britain it is approximately 33 lb. a head, or less than half the quantity in those dominions mentioned. In other countries the average consumption is: Canada, 6 lb.; Argentina, 13 lb.; the United States of America, 7 lb.; France, 6 lb.; Jugoslavia, 2 lb.; and Germany only1½ lb. To take the two extreme cases, Australia has, in the past, consumed up to 92 lb. of mutton and lamb a head per annum, whilst in Germany the consumption amounts to only1½ lb. a head. In Germany, the people have a definite prejudice against mutton and lamb. It must be seen by honorable members that Australia is dependent on British markets for an outlet for its meat. No country has such great possibilities as has Australia for the production of first class mutton and lamb. New Zealand, which has 27,000,000 sheep, has a much larger output of these products than has Aus tralia with its 114,000,000 sheep. One of the reasons why the Government attaches so much importance to the agreement reached with the British authorities not to restrict Australia’s output in this direction, but to leave room for definite expansion,is that this country must in the near future exceed the quantity of mutton and lamb exported from New Zealand, whose high figures in this regard are due to the fact that it does not carry on wool production to the same extent as does Australia. Most of the flocks there are of British breeds, and the natural increase is much greater. Moreover, the New Zealand flocks consist largely of breeding ewes, while in Australia most of the wool, and certainly the best wool, is produced from wethers. However, economic pressure is compelling a great many Australian stock-owners to follow the example of the New Zealand sheepmen, and go in for a considerable proportion of crossbred ewes for the purpose of rearing fat lambs. The fat lamb industry is one of the most profitable to which we can look for the future, and it is by developing that industry, through an organization such as is contemplated in this bill, that we can enable more people to go on the land, and make a living on it. Dairying and fat lamb raising are the two branches of farming capable of development on a large scale. Every State with the exception of Queensland, is vitally interested in the expansion of the fat lamb trade. Queensland contributes 80 per cent. of the beef exported from Australia, whereas it contributes only 3 per cent. of the mutton and lamb exports. The other 97 per cent. of the 5,288,000 carcasses exported from Australia in 1934 were sent from the southern States. That is why provision has been made in the bill for the appointment of a special sub-committee of the board to deal with the beef industry. Thus, the northern parts of Australia, which are so vitally concerned in beef production,will be represented on the board by a committee that will deal specifically with matters relating to the beef industry. I trust that honorable members will recognize that this is a conscientious effort on the part of the Government to give to the meat industry an organization which will enable it to co-operate with other parts of the Empire, and with Great Britain. in combating the keen competition of foreign meat producers. If honorable members opposite really desire to assist the meat industry to face that competition successfully, it is their duty to support this bill whole-heartedly, so that we may put the scheme into operation as quickly as possible.
.- If the figures quoted by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) mean anything, they can only mean that the meat industry is in such a flourishing condition that this bill is not necessary. The Minister told the House that the meat producers of Australia were facing a definite threat, and we know that, before the recent coalition between the Country party and the United Australia party, the leader of the Country party was loudly demanding the abolition of the restrictions placed by the British Government on the importation of meat from Australia. The Minister has just told us that, because of the development of the Australian meat trade, the British Government found it necessary to restrict imports, as the British producer was suffering from the competition of Australian meat. Almost in the same breath, however, he has stated that there is plenty of room for the expansion of the Australian meat industry, and that we have as yet not nearly reached the peak of production. The honorable gentleman cannot have it both ways ; both statements cannot be true. A little while ago, the threat of restrictions was so great that the Government deemed it necessary to send half the Cabinet to Great Britain to protest against them. Now, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) suggested, the Government seems to have accepted the doctrine of restriction, and the purpose of this bill is, not to stimulate exports, but to restrict them. The wishes of the British Government must be fulfilled, and this Government can either do the job directly itself, or seek to sidestep the responsibility by appointing a board to do the work for it. Then, when there are protests from exporters, and questions are asked in Parliament, Ministers will no doubt express regret at what is taking place, but will point out that the board is responsible, and not the Government.
– The board will have power only to make recommendations to the Minister.
– We know from our experience in connexion with war service homes and pensions, that Ministers are inclined to shelter themselves behind statutory bodies created by Parliament. I am quite convinced that the real purpose of this bill is to set up an authority that will be charged with the restriction of meat exports from this country in accordance with the wishes of the British Government. I do not blame the British Government for seeking to protect its own producers. Mr. Thomas and Mr. Elliott, stated that the first consideration of the British Government was the people of Britain, and I applaud that sentiment. My only complaint is that the first consideration of our own Government is not always the Australian people. If all governments in the Empire were to seek first the good of their own people, they would, between them, achieve what was best in the interests of the whole Empire. I appeal to the ‘Government to do its job honestly by Australia in the first place, and then give what preferences it likes to Great Britain.
The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) said that the Leader of the Opposition had taken up a lot of time in speaking on matters not relevant to the measure, and then he devoted half his own speech to doing the very thing which he accused the Leader of the Opposition of doing. Moreover, if the Leader of the Opposition strayed from the subject, what did the Minister himself do? He roamed all the way from Dan to Bersheeba. The honorable member for Grey ((Mr. McBride) referred to the export of inferior eggs and oranges from Australia. Why is it that we are losing our markets overseas, and why is it necessary to bring in a bill like this, imposing severe penalties on those who export inferior commodities? It is because of the rotten principles of those engaged in private enterprise, who are always willing to sacrifice the reputation of their country for their own profit. It is necessary to fix standards, and to set-up boards with inquisitorial powers, in order to prevent traders from exporting bad or low-grade products. It is a great tribute to private enterprise!
When I hear honorable members talking about the need for exporting only the highest-grade meat, 1 sometimes wonder why we are not able to keep some of our high-grade products for ourselves in Australia.
– The high-grade products are sold here.
– Probably, but three-quarters of the Australian people cannot afford to buy them. The present scheme, like so many before it, is beginning at the wrong end. If Parliament were to take the necessary steps to improve the economic position of the people, there would not he the same need to stimulate exports, because much more of our produce would be consumed in Australia. All the time, however, the idea seems to be to send the best of what we produce abroad, and to let the people of Australia have what is left. We have the spectacle of this National Parliament spending hours and hours in debating a bill designed to set up elaborate machinery for the purpose of ensuring that people overseas get our prime meat; but not one moment’s consideration is given to the needs of the Australian people. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), who has the reputation of representing the conservative influence in this country, made some very illuminating remarks during the course of this debate. He told us how we must check the possibility of a monopoly of exporters getting control of the meat industry. He commended the bill as a means of avoiding the dire results that would follow such a happening. To-day the honorable gentleman adopts Labour’s policy. He admits that private enterprise, unchecked and guided only by the desire for profits, would go to any lengths to achieve its purpose, even to the extent of ruining the industry. In his next incarnation the honorable member would surely be a socialist. 1 have been somewhat surprised at the mental contortions of honorable members opposite in their endeavour to prove that Australia gained advantage from the visit overseas of the costly ministerial delegation. They remind me of the story of the blind-folded man who was groping about in a dark room feeling for a black cat that was non-existent. The gain is non-existent. Australia had no need to seek concessions ; it can stand on its own feet. Yet honorable members have gone to great lengths to demonstrate that this Parliament had to be closed and half the Ministers had to go to London to tell the British Government that, unless the restrictions which were then and are now threatening in regard to our meat were lifted, the Australian meat export industry would be ruined. When they returned we learned of the “ wonderful concessions “ which they had succeeded in getting. The Prime Minister told us that the British Government had “graciously consented to allow the dominions to have that part of the British market which the home market could not supply “. Is there any wonderful concession about that? Is it not Australia’s undoubted right to share in the British home market, provided, of course, it can supply commodities at the right prices? In any case Australia gives Great Britain more valuable preferences than it receives in return. The statement of the Prime Minister is but a paltry excuse for the enormous expense involved in sending the delegation overseas. Before the composite government was formed, when the Minister for Commerce as Leader of the Country party was boring from without to get into the Ministry, the columns of the daily press were full of his veiled threats of what he would compel the British Government to do. But when the composite government was formed Country party members found themselves in an awkward position. There was no longer talk of disloyalty. The Government, however, set about shelving responsibilities which it had not the courage to shoulder, and accordingly it has brought in this bill. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) has told the House of the £20,000,000 spent on works in an effort to increase and enhance the productive potentialities of the fertile Murray River valley. Yet all that the Government can do to cater for increased production is to bring in a bill which amounts to nothing but restriction of production. The Minister for Commerce quoted figures to show that the export trade in meat was more than sound; that it was going up by leaps and bounds.
Mr.Thorby. - Does the honorable member deny that?
– No, but if that is so, and there is no threat of restrictions, surely there is no need for this bill.
Mr.Thorby. - Does the honorable member oppose the bill ?
Mr.LAZZARINI. - I do not oppose the bill. So far as I am concerned, however, I say that, ultimately, it will result in arestriction of exports. There will be more squealing by those engaged in the meat trade, and time will prove who is right and who is wrong. I congratulate the Government and its supporters on their move towards the policy for which Labour has stood ever since it came into existence. I congratulate them on their slow, uncertain and tottering steps towards the socialistic system. This bill definitely implies that glorified private enterprise can carry on no longer, and that, inthe collapsing state of the capitalistic system, the Government is compelled to admit that private enterprise, private control, and individual effort are failing, and that only by collective means, and by a step towards organized collective marketing and social control through social efforts by this Parliament can the entire collapse of capitalism be staved off. Gone for ever is the glorified policy of laissezfaire; gone is the policy proclaimed by a former leader that the government governs best which governs least, and that his administration would do nothing to divert trade from its proper channels. The present Government is still endeavouring to apply that policy, but finds it impossible to do so in face of the crumbling structure of capitalism and the predatory instincts of profit-mongers. Therefore with tottering steps, weak steps, and grudgingly, it finally turns from the capitalistic system of control towards the socialistic system of control. The setting up of this control board is to take control out of the hands of private enterprise and put it under a public or semi-government institution. That, I say, is a definite step towards socialism. In time, Labour will come into power and consummate the job in a proper manner, not in the incom plete way in which it is now proposed to handle it.
– I rise to support the measure. I have no intention of traversing the vague and rambling statements of the honorable member (Mr. Lazzarini) who has just resumed his seat, except to deal with his contention that this is a bill to restrict exports. If the producers of meat for export can see in this measure only what the honorable member sees in it, I suggest that this country would have resounded with their outcries against it. But they foresee from it the same results as have followed the introduction of similar legislation in regard to dairy products, wine, dried fruits and the like, which have been made manifest in greater exports and a bettering of the conditions of the producers, and a general raising of the standard of the product. I say no more than that in regard to the honorable member’s speech. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has some justification for his objection to the degree of control that is to be vested in the Minister. [Quorum formed.’), The bill makes provision for a measure of control that must necessarily be exercised by the Minister. I suggest that that control should be withdrawn as soon as the board becomes operative and establishes standards of development and quality. I do not favour any form of ministerial or governmental control of private enterprise.
I congratulate the Assistant Minister upon the information which he furnished in relation to the efforts of the ministerial delegation to Great Britain, which have resulted in the existing conditions in the meat industry. The figures that he quoted were most illuminating. Honorable members could readily visualize how hard was thetask of that delegation in securing the benefits that have accrued to the industry. The honorable gentleman has pointed out that liaison is necessary between the British Empire Meat Board and Australia in order to ensure continuity of supplies and a certain standard of production and quality, as well as an understanding of the conditions which operate in flush periods in the British market. The honorable gentleman also pointed out that, arising out of the efforts of the delegation, the export of beef from Australia this year, compared with 1932, shows an increase of 75 per cent. I understand that although the total shipments are still not very large, that increase is being maintained. Nothing but good can result from the operations of a board such as is to be established under the bill. Figures may have some value, but practical illustrations mean considerably more. Recently, I was privileged to visit Wyndham, where I saw a shipment of 1,000 tons of chilled beef being placed on board the Tuscan- Star. That single shipment was larger than the total quantity exported in 1933-34. The care exercised by the Commonwealth inspectors reflected credit both upon them and upon the department that they represent. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. McBride) has said that the duties of the inspectors are confined to. the decision as to whether the meat is fit for human consumption. These officers went beyond that; they definitely marked the quality of the beef, and rejected what they considered should not be sent overseas. Unfortunately, the total of the rejections was considerable,; the necessary quality being absent. That state of affairs will be obviated when the board establishes a definite improvement of standards.
Some little time, ago, I criticized the development of certain interests in the Northern Territory. Wishing to bp per.fectly fair, I pay a high tribute to Ve?_teys, who control the Blue Star Line, for their efforts to provide the most uptodate vessels for the shipment of our chilled beef overseas.
The method of producer control foi1 which the bill provides is not peculiar to Australia. So much has been said regarding Argentina that one may be forced ro compare its methods with those followed in Australia. As a business man, I believe in studying the methods of a successful competitor, and in using them if they sUit my purpose. That is legitimate enterprise. I draw attention to the fact that in May, 1932, Argentina set up a national commission to inquire into th? methods adopted in that country in the marketing of beef and the improvement, of standards. The report of that com- mission led to the appointment of a mixed board similar to that here proposed, consisting of State officials and producers. A further result of the report was the introduction of a measure to protect the , live-stock industry. That board had certain definite functions. It investigated such subjects as the better breeding of cattle, the breeding of early maturing cattle, and proper methods of feeding. The board to bc appointed under the bill ought to have the power to conduct investigations along those Hues, and thu.place itself in a position to furnish valuable information to cattle producers. If it establishes standards and endeavours to promote the production of the class of beef demanded by marketing authorities overseas, it will need to conduct certain experiments. Its efforts in this direction should result in a higher percentage of acceptance of beef for export. While ov. this matter, I should like to say that in the future production of beef in Australia - I refer particularly to beef because our wide spaces present a difficult problem - we shall have to follow the example which has been set by Argentina and other South American States. Their system is one mainly of sharefarming, the small man holding the fattening paddocks, while the larger mau produces principally store cattle. The Northern Territory offers a ready field for the production of store cattle for must of the year. Ultimately, when we get down to the fundamentals of development, we shall find that the fattening of store cattle on the good lands will bn an established fact. Better pasture methods, testing, and the like, will play an important part.
Before the bill reaches the committee stage, I should like the Minister to consider the qualification of certain provisions. Clause 16 gives to the board the power to make recommendations to the Minister in relation to the making of regulations for the purpose of regulating the export of meat, meat products, and edible offal from the Commonwealth; to make reports and suggestions to the Minister on such matters as the quality standards and grading of any particular class or kind of meat exported from Australia; to advise the Minister regarding the matters arising in connexion with any export programmes which it may, from time to time, be necessary to observe; to make arrangements, either on its own behalf or in collaboration with any other board or authority, for any experiment, act or thing which, in the opinion of tho board, is likely to lead to the improvement of the quality of, or the prevention of deterioration before or during transport from Australia of, Australian meat. The board should have the power to indulge in propaganda overseas with a view to interesting large capitalists to play a prominent part in the development of big Australian cattle holdings. It should also have the power to engage in publicity work in regard to Australian meat, so that the consumer may have a more accurate knowledge of the matter and a fuller understanding of the value of consuming dominion products. Unless the bill makes this provision, it should be amended in that direction.
– The power to promote sales overseas, which is conferred by paragraph d of clause 16, covers that point.
-I. HARRISON. - Sub-clause 3 of clause 17 reads -
Where the Minister -is satisfied, on report by the board, that any person, to whom a licence under this section has been granted, has contravened or failed to comply with the prescribed conditions and restrictions, the Minister may cancel the licence.
That provision is far too drastic. The particular producer or exporter whose licence is liable to be cancelled should at least have the right of appeal.
– The board merely makes a recommendation to the Minister, who may or may not cancel the licence.
– If the licensee is given the right to appeal bo the Minister, no more may be necessary.
– That is definite.
– I am very glad to have that assurance. I feel that clause 24 is dangerous, because the application of its provisions may have a greater tendency to sovietize the industry than anything which might be introduced by our honorable friends opposite. It reads -
The board may call upon any person to furnish, within such time as is specified by the board, such returns and information in relation to the moat industry or to meat, meat products or edible offal, owned by him or under his control, as are necessary for the purposes of carrying out this act.
If the board is permitted to investigate any particular business associated with the industry, or to call for the production of any of the books of an individual producer, a precedent will be established that will ultimately react upon the industry and the Government, and may also be made applicable to any other industry which honorable members opposite may in the future bring under similar legislation. The Minister should not allow such a provision to remain in the bill, because the tendency will be for a competitor to obtain inside knowledge of the workings of a man in the same line of business, and to use that knowledge to the detriment of his rival.
– This provision is embodied in all similar legislation dealing with export control, because the board must have full knowledge of stocks held and available.
– I know that. I am merely pointing out the danger which exists. I hope that the board will not call for information which may jeopardize the expansion of the business of any man, or is secret and confidential.
– The board could not properly function without those powers.
– Could they not be qualified?
– They are qualified, in that they are to be exercised only for the purposes of this act.
– That will not prevent the board from calling for specific information in regard to the business activities of a particular producer.
– Only with the approval of the board, which will have a very wide representation.
– The danger lies in that wide representation, because the information will immediately become public property.
– No; any information supplied to the board will be confidential. That is the case with every other board.
– As the majority of the members of the board will be producers, I am inclined to the view that though they may act entirely without conscious bias, they may use the information that comes into their possession for their own betterment and in disregard of the circumstances of those engaged in other industries. I fear that a clause drawn in such wide terms as this may re-act to the detriment, not only of the meat industry, ‘but also of the individual producers. Apart from this criticism of the bill, I am in complete accord with it, and congratulate the Government on having introduced it.
– A bill to regulate the export of meat should have been introduced in this Parliament long ago. Australia has set up hoards of various kinds to control the exporting marketing of many of its products, and I have been surprised that those engaged in the meat industry have been so slow to give effect to the wishes of the Queensland Graziers’ Association and follow the example of other primary producers in this regard. It may be said that the Australian delegation which went overseas to negotiate with the British Government on matters associated with our beef industry has really been responsible for the introduction of this measure. The British Government has, in effect, requested that bills similar to this one shall be introduced into the parliaments of every dominion where such measures are not already in operation. Argentina has, for many years, completely controlled its beef export, and a Meat Export Control Board has also been operating in New Zealand successfully for a good many years. It is high time Australia also (amc into line.
The general idea underlying the bill is that an Australian Meat Export Control Board shall be constituted which shall act in co-ordination with an Empire Meat Board representative of the United Kingdom and the various dominions which export meat to the British market, which is also to be set up. Arrangements are also to be made for the holding of an international meat conference periodically.
Although I support the bill as a whole, I do not wish it to he understood that I am favorable to all its details. I do not agree with the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) that the bill provides for the socialization of the meat industry. The very opposite is the case. As the Meat Export Control Board will consist of representatives of the producers and the various abattoirs and meat-exporting works and, apart from one Government representative, all its members will be closely associated with the meat-export trade, it may be said with truth that the bill provides definitely and clearly for producer control, which is a very different thing from socialistic control. Wo have tried ‘State socialism in the meat industry with most unsatisfactory results.
– We have also had Government meat shops.
– That is so and they failed miserably. The board to be set up will consist of eighteen members, the majority of whom will be producers. Provision is also made for an executive of seven members and for a beef committee to be constituted from among the board members to deal specifically with beef. It is also provided that a London representative shall be appointed to advise the board of the position in the United Kingdom from time to time. I consider, however, that clause 17 gave the honorable member for Werriwa a certain amount of justification for alleging that socialistic principles were being adopted, for it gives very, wide power to the Minister in connexion with both the issuing and cancelling of licences. It is here that there is a tinge of socialism. The Minister should not be clothed with such wide power. As the declared object of this bill is to enable the producers to control their own industry, it is wrong to give the Minister importantpowers of veto. The board is to be given the power to determine quotas, in certain circumstances, and that is very necessary. Provision is also made for the board to make a levy of $d. a quarter of beef and Id. a carcass of mutton, lamb, pork, and veal, in order that its operations may be financed.
The Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) said, in the course of his remarks a few moments ago, that Queensland was not. interested in the lamb industry. But that is not so. It is not generally recognized that Queensland controls 20,000,000 sheep. New South Wales has the greatest number of sheep within its borders, the figure being 50,000,000. Victoria has 17,000,000 sheep, so that Queensland, with its 20,000,000, is easily in the second place. We are hoping that the time is not distant when Queensland will take its place as an important factor in the fat lamb export trade. When it comes to beef, the significance of Queensland is, however, beyond all question, for that State controls almost half the cattle in Australia. ‘The operations of the beef committee of the proposed meat export control board will thus be of great concern to Queensland. Speaking by and large, we like to picture Australia as one of the great beef-producing countries of the world, and many people look forward with unjustifiable optimism to the day when Australia will have a big say in the marketing of the world’s beef; but that outlook is entirely unjustified by the facts. We do not usually regard France as a big beef-producing country, yet France has more cattle than Australia. Italy lias more cattle than any one Australian State. It must be apparent, therefore, that anything this Parliament can do, with the support of the State Parliaments, to stimulate our cattle industry, should be done. It appears to me that our most promising avenue of development is in relation to baby beef. There should be room for a substantially increased market for this class of beef from Australia. I hold the view, however, that before we embark upon big developmental projects in connexion with any primary-producing industry, we should satisfy ourselves that an adequate market is available for the particular product we propose to cultivate. I do not cheer those who cry for a million farms for a million farmers, for I know that they have not faced the problem of markets. Perhaps when our globe-trotters return to Australia., they may be able to tell us that they have discovered that expanding markets are available in certain countries for products we are now finding i t difficult to sell, and, if so, they will undoubtedly have rendered a useful service to the country. Unfortunately, the Australian cattle industry has not grown in the same proportion as its sheep industry. Australia is undoubtedly the greatest sheep country of the world, for it contains two or three times more sheep than any other single country. The following table sets out the number of cattle in various countries in the world: -
It will be seen that Australia, with its 12,783,000 head, is only a small factor in the world situation. I have given the statistical information in order that honorable members may realize exactly where we stand in’ relation to other countries. When we limit our consideration to statistics, we find that Italy is a more important beef producer than even Queensland, which we rightly regard as a wonderful cattle country. The number of cattle in the various States and territories of Australia is as follows : -
It will be apparent from what I have said that the meat export control board will have wide scope for its operations, and I hope that it will give some attention to the production of baby beef, for there is undoubtedly a profitable market available for this class of meat.
The troubles of the meat industry to-day did not come upon the work without warning. Britain provides the only market of importance for meatsuppliers, and when it became seriously overstocked the British Government threatened to reduce importations of meat from the dominions hoping in that way to increase the price of home-grown leaf. Chaos reigned, and the outlook for the Empire meat suppliers was black, but negotiations between the dominions and the British Government resulted in an agreement, under which British imports of meat from foreign sources were tobe curtailed. Britain, unfortunately, entered into an agreement with Argentina after it had, at the Ottawa Conference, already made an agreement with the dominions. The curtailment of foreign supplies temporarily abated the pressure of imports on the United Kingdom meat market, but the market for mutton and lamb was flooded again when the dominions increased their exports. The effect was detrimental, not only to Britain, but also to the dominions, as they had to accept glut prices. In six years the Australian supplies of mutton and lamb increased by 281 per cent. Becoming alarmed, the British Government threatened to reduce the dominion quotas to such an extent that it was essentia] that a delegation should leave Australia to endeavour to stay Britain’s hand. The agreement that was reached between, the Australian delegation and the British Government is a credit to the Commonwealth Government. In the next couple of years, at any rate, Australia will gain much, benefit from it. The success of the negotiations means that this financial year all available supplies of mutton and lamb will be marketed, and, in 1935-36, further expansion will occur. It is estimated that next year Australia will supply to Britain 90,000 tons of mutton and lamb, Or 55 per cent, more than in 1931-32, and 50 per cent, more than was shipped in the year of the Ottawa agreement. It was then thought that the highest possible export level had been reached.
A further outcome of the conferences between the Australian delegation and the British Government is the fact that the export of beef from Australia to Britain in 1935 will exceed the supply in .1932 by no less than 75 per cent., and the amount shipped in 1933 by 49 per cent. Any person who says that the delegation was not successful cannot be a producer; if the charge is made at all, it must be due merely to petty party political prejudices. But it is not true. The meat negotiations for 1936 have not yet been completed. Their outcome depends in no small degree on the termination of the Anglo-Argentine agreement in 1936. Prior to 1934 we exported practically no chilled beef. In 1934, however, Australia, after scientific investigation, was able to produce chilled beef, and since then 2,750 tons of the commodity have been exported. The success of the Australian delegation to London is also reflected in the fact that it averted the threat of reduced supplies of chilled beef from this country to Britain. Probably this year 12,000 tons of Australian chilled beef will be placed on the British market.
The delegation was also successful in arranging with the British authorities for the establishment of a system of control of meat exports. The Meat Export Control Board may not, perhaps, be able to do as much for the meat industry in the matter of prices as the Dried Fruits Import Control Board has been able to do for the growers of dried fruits, but its establishment is a step in the right direction. I hope that before long the desire to give the producers control of their industry will be followed by an amendment of section 92 of the Constitution which will give to the producers, as citizens of the Commonwealth, the right to control export arrangements and internal marketing, and. to make such agreements with other countries as are essential to the best interests of the particular industry without having to come to Parliament in search of the necessary authority. If that objective is attained all that the farmers can desire shall be theirs. It is desirable, if it is legally possible, to extend the principle of the meat export control to internal consumption. The Graziers Association of Queensland hopes for a measure which will give the graziers control both internally and externally of their industry.
The honorable member for Werriwa complained that the producers have all the say, and the unions none on the proposed board. The workers have their say in their own unions. No primary producer has the right to sit on a union executive or on a tribunal which determines the wages and conditions of industry. Unions protect the wages and conditions of workers in industry, and the organization which the Government proposes to set up under this bill will protect the returns from primary production. From the view-point of the workers the wages paid for the production of meat for export, whether on the station or at the abattoirs, are already controlled. Call the body, which it is now proposed to establish, a union, an association, or a board - as you like; it means the same thing. It is designed to protect the interests of the producer. It proposes to extend markets and assistance, and to do such things which are the business of the producer. There is no reason why we should not also have adjusted prices for beef products consumed in this country. The workers are quite prepared te give an Australian price for an Australia commodity within Australia while they benefit from Australian wages. I have pleasure in supporting the bill, but I hope that the Government will see its way clear to eliminate the clause which gives the Minister power to veto decisions of the board. The producers should have the full control of the industry without government interference.
.- The bill is one of vital importance to Australia. It makes machinery for the simple working of meat export control. The machinery that we are creating will operate, not only in Australia, but also in Great Britain. Honorable members are faced with the position that whether they agree or disagree with the principle of export control, the . principle has already been established in. other industries. This Parliament has already created the Dairy Products Export Control Board, the Dried Fruits Export Control Board, the Canned Fruits Export Control Board, and the Wine Export Control Board. Australia’s prosperity depends largely on the prices received for goods exported overseas. It is gratifying to note that in 1934 the price of wool rose spectacularly. Valued at about £62,300,000, the sale of the wool clip had an important bearing on the internal position of Australia, and, incidentally, it had an. important bearing on the replenishment of the Commonwealth funds in London.
I desire to pay a tribute to those who represented Australia at the conferences in London which reached agreement concerning the meat trade. The delegation did good work in difficult circumstances.
As a result of the Ottawa agreement, the supplies of meat imported into Great Britain from foreign countries were considerably reduced. Excellent work was accomplished at the conference at Ottawa, and the time was long overdue for the British authorities to give greater encouragement to dominion producers than they had previously received. The people of Britain are large consumers of meat. They have been described as beefeaters, but I am glad to know that they are now acquiring a taste for mutton and lamb, and this tendency is reflected in increased imports of those products from Australia and New Zealand. Provision was made in the Ottawa agreement for a 35 per cent, reduction of supplies of frozen beef, mutton, and lamb from foreign countries, whilst imports of foreign chilled beef were limited to the volume of the imports in 1931-32. These restrictions have enabled the dominions to increase their exports of these commodities to the United Kingdom, and we hope that the trade will continue to show a steady improvement. At the time of the Ottawa Conference the dominions were unable to participate in the chilled beef trade, and were therefore not successful in their pressure for a reduction of supplies from foreign sources. In addition to enjoying improved prices during the last two years, our producers have also gained a larger share of the British import trade. In 1932, Britain imported from Australia 48,000 tons of frozen beef and veal out. of a total importation of 575,000 tons, and in 1934 it took from us 83,000 tons, including 3,000 tons of chilled beef, out of a total of 590,000 tons. Britain obtained from Australia, in 1932, 58,000 tons of mutton and lam-b, out of a total importation of 346,000 tons, and. in 1934, 81,000 tons, out of a total of 324.000 tons.
Control similar to that proposed under the bill has already proved beneficial to the producers of dried fruits, wine t.nd dairy produce. It is gratifying to know that the people of Britain realize the value of its trade with the dominions. Britain should support its dominions, and they, in turn, should trade as much as possible with the Mother Country. Only by this means can the British Empire continue to be the greatest in the world.
The value of the dried fruits imported into Britain -
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member may not quote figures regarding dried fruits in discussing this bill.
– The DriedFruits Export Control Board has done excellent work in advertising the products of the industry. Under theWine Export Act fortified wines containing not less than-
– The honorable member must connect his remarks with thebill.
– I hope that the meat board will carry out useful work, such as the advertising of our meat products in the United Kingdom. I shall now examine some of the difficulties experienced in the exportation of meat to Great Britain. Then I shall deal with the difficulties of meat exporters. The Anglo- Argentine agreement has proved a formidable obstacle to the expansionof the Australian meat industry. It is an arrangement totally inconsistent with the principle of preferential Empire trade which was subscribed to by the United Kingdom at the Ottawa Conference. In 1934, Australia bought from the United Kingdom goods to the value of £26,000,000; but Argentina’s purchases from Britain in thatyear were valued at only £14,000,000.In the same year, Britain imported from Argentina goods to about the same value as that of its imports from Australia, Reference has been made to the amount of British capital invested in Argentina. I find that the total sum is £453,000,000. On this amount only £11,000,000 has been paid in interest, sothaton£218,000,000 no interest has been received. Australia, however, has paid to British investors interest amounting to £21,000,000 on giltedged investments to the amount of £485,000,000.
– How does the honorable member connect his remarks with the question before the Chair?
– I am pointing out that Argentina, which is a serious competitor of Australia in regard to meat, has not met its interest commitments, whereas Australia has honoured its obligations, and that, therefore, Argentina, a foreign country should not enjoy advantages over Australia, which is an important part of the Empire. Australia is paying its interest bill to Great Britain, whereas Argentina is not. Moreover, Great Britain is surely under an obligation to give Australia, as a part of the Empire, as large a share of its markets as it can. Great Britain should adopt a long-sighted policy, and stick to the dominions so long as they stick to the Empire. There is only one way in which Great Britain can maintain its greatness, and that is by co-operating with the other parts of the Empire in trade as well as in defence.
Australia wishes to expand its beef export trade with Great Britain, and demands the right to change over substantially from frozen beef to chilled beef production, as well as to obtain a larger share of the mutton and lamb market. The total meat arrivals in the United Kingdom during 1934 from Australia were -
In December, 1934, Australia was faced with the possibility that the British Government would, by order in council, limit imports of meat from Australia if our Government did not voluntarily accept, for the first quarter of 1935, a quota in respect of various classes of meat. Ten years ago European countries imported approximately 300,000 tons of meat of various kinds. We have been told that, of all European countries. Great Britain uses most meat per head of population. In some European countries very little meat is eaten, and in Germany the annual consumption of mutton and lamb averages only 1½ lb. a head. For the year 1935, Great Britain has agreed to take from Australia 1,687,000 cwt. of meat, including the accepted quotas for the current and fourth quarters. This represents a gain of 86,000 cwt. over the 1934 figures, and includes 246,000 cwt. of chilled beef, as against 55,000 cwt. for last year. In this regard the Australian delegation, which visited Great Britain, certainly achieved something. In regard to mutton and lamb, Australia’s quota for 1935 is 1,850,000 cwt., a gain of 222,000 cwt. over the exports for 1934. For 1936, the British Government has agreedto accept from Australia 1,750,000 cwt., and a further 50,000 cwt. if the market is still in a healthy state. This is approximately 150,000 cwt. more than the estimated arrivals for the current year. It is interesting to note that the quota agreed upon for the next year exceeds by 300,000 cwt. the amount exported to the United Kingdom by Australia in the year in which the Ottawa agreement was signed. In the light of these figures it would appear that Australia has gained some advantage, and this in the face of great odds; for we know that a great deal of British capital is invested in Argentina, and the producers in that country are a great deal nearer to the British market than are those in Australia.
If wo would expand our market in Great Britain it is necessary for us to embark upon a vigorous policy of trade publicity. Since 1932, the Commonwealth Government has contributed £15,000 a year for publicity purposes in Great Britain, and this year the budget provides an additional £10,000 for this purpose, making £25,000 for 1935-36. In addition the industries concerned contribute over £40,000 annually. When I was in London the Empire Marketing Board was in existence, and was doing a tremendous amount of useful work. That board has now been abolished, and it is therefore more important than ever that steps should be taken to advertise our products in Great Britain. Australia must now assume full responsibility for its own trade publicity. The States, through their Agents-Generalin London, also provide funds with which valuable propaganda is carried on. It is of vital importance to Great Britain and the dominions, including Australia, that a comprehensive Empire marketing and trading scheme should be evolved. If Groat Britain is to maintain its prestige it must help to develop the dominions. I should like to see the growth of a real Empire spirit., which would manifest itself in the fostering of greater interEmpire trade. This appears to me to be a way out of many of our difficulties. In the main, this bill has my support, but when it is in the committee stage, I shall have one or two suggestions to make for its improvement. [Quorum formed.]
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Definitions).
Mr.BEASLEY (West Sydney) [6.13]. - In this clause “ meat advisory committee” is defined as a body established in a State by arrangement between the Minister and the government of the State, and “ meat exporters association “ is defined as any association established in a State which, in the opinion of the Minister, is an association representative of meat-exporting companies operating in that State. It seems to me that the Commonwealth Minister is being invested withtoo much power in regard to the constitution of these various bodies, and the principle here embodied has always been opposed by the Labour party. When Labour organizations have been asked by the Government to appoint representatives, we have always maintained that they should be able to exercise an unfettered choice, and we would extend the same right to the meat producers. I should like to hear something more from the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) in regard to this matter.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has asked why reference has been made in the definition of “meat exporters association “ to “ the Minister.” The definition reads as follows: - “Meat exporters association “ means any association established in a State which, in the opinion of the Minister, is an association representative ofmeat-exporting companies operating in that State.
I take it that the honorable member takes exception to the words “which, in the opinion of the Minister “. At present there is no other authority to determine whether a particular association is representative of meat-exporting companies operating in a particular State, and until the board is established the determination of the bona fides of such an association must be left to the Minister. If the board were already established such a matter could be referred to it. In the definition of “ the SouthernRiverina MeatAdvisory Committee,” referenceis again made to the Minister. A representative of the Southern Riverina district is included on the board as the result of a resolution of the Agricultural Council, which deemed, it advisable to include a representative of such a large pastoral area within New South Wales, which does the bulk of its trading with Victoria. It is left to the discretion of the Minister to decide what bodies or organizations in a particular State shall elect representatives for nomination as a member of the board. The Minister is the only person who can satisfy himself as to the bona fides of any organization desiring to nominate a person for selection as a member of a board vested with such wide powers over the meat industry of Australia. There is no justification for the suggestion that the Minister should not have this power. He is personally responsible and readily accessible to all members of this House. That would not be so if the power were vested in some other person. I resent the suggestion that certain Ministers have been guilty of sheltering behind boards or commissions.
– If the definition of “ meat exporters association “ is allowed to remain as it stands, injustice may be done to individual exporters, who may desire to export from within a State. The language of the definition could be improved by deleting the words “ exporting companies”, and inserting in their stead the words “ meat exporters “. Individuals in a State. may desire to export, but under the definition clause, a”s it stands, they cannot be represented on the board. There are a great many individuals engaged in the export of meat, and they should not be debarred from representation.
.- I understood from what the Minister has just said that the actions of the board provided for under this bill will be subject to ministerial veto or otherwise. What is the responsibility which the honorable gentleman has said is shouldered by the Minister?
– In reply to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland), the definition clause has been designed to give the Minister the greatest latitude in conferring with associations established in any State which, in his opinion, are representative of meat-exporting companies operating in that State. That power is given to the Minister so that he may be able to confer with the meat-exporting associations in connexion with the nomination of a candidate to sit on the meat board.
In reply to the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), the committee is not now dealing with the powers of the Minister after the board has been constituted. This is merely an attempt to define what a meat exporters association is, so that the Minister can confer with a body of that description, particularly in connexion with the question of selecting a nominee to sit on the board. Tha purpose is to prevent a bogus body setting itself up and claiming to represent thi meat-exporting companies of Australia. Responsibility is thrown upon the shoulders of the Minister to satisfy himself that an association classified as a meat exporters association shall be representative of the meat-exporting companies operating in that particular State.
– Will the Assistant Minister tell the committee where the definition of “Minister” is to be found? What Minister is referred to?
– The Minister for Commerce. The matter raised by the honorable member is covered by other legislation.
.- There is no misunderstanding as to the right of the Minister to determine which meatexporting associations are representative of the meat-exporting interests. Exception is taken by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) only to the definition of “ meat exporters association.” He contends that the inclusion of the words “ meat exporting companies “ precludes representation of individuals engaged in the export of meat. If the suggestion of the honorable member for Wimmera were accepted, that the definition be “ exporters of meat,” both com- .panies and individuals would he covered.
.- The point made by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) is a good one. The definition “meat exporting companies “ applies only to meat exporting firms who exploit the producers. I am not satisfied with the definition of the “ Meat Advisory Committee”. Too much discretion is left to the Minister and the State governments in the appointment of the bodies to represent the producers in each State. It may be that small producers will have no representation on the board. The federal minister and the government of the State may not recognize any particular body in existence. There is a marked difference between the wording of the two definitions, one of which refers to the meat exporting companies which we look upon as really the meat exploiting companies.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5. (1.) For the purposes of this act, there shall be an Australian Heat Board. (2.) The board shall consist of - (5.) The member appointed to represent the stock producers of the Northern Territory shallbe aperson nominated by the Northern Territory Lessees Association and approved by the Minister. (15.) Members of the board, other than the Government representative, may be removed from office by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the board.
Mr.CURTIN (Fremantle) [8.12].- I move -
That at the end of sub-clause (2.) the following paragraph be inserted: -
two members to represent employees.
This clause provides for the composition of the board, and the very wide powers which the minister has just said the board will exercise makes it of some importance that the composition of the board shall be entirely representative of all interests associated with the meat industry. It provides for the representation of a great group of employing interests associated with the export of meat - stock producers in the various States with the exception of New South Wales, one representative of the stock producers of the Northern Territory, one representative of the stock producers of Southern Riverina, &c. It is too late to argue that only employers have the interest and welfare of the industry at heart. It is difficult to ascertain just how many employees are connected with this indus try, hut the fact remains that there are two organizations registered under the Commonwealth Arbitration Act which deal with employment in the industry effected by this bill. The Australian Workers Union has a membership of 80,000, and there are 40,880 meat employees who are members of the Meat Employees Union, 5,331 of whom are employed in abattoirs, 4,270 in meat freezing and processing, most of it connected with the export of meat, and 27,000 in the butchering trade. The Commonwealth Statistician estimates the number of persons engaged in pastoral pursuits generally to be83,000, not all of whom would be engaged in the cattle industry. It must be apparent that the employees, however numerous they may be, are equally as essential to this industry as the employers.
Mr.Nairn. - How are they affected?
– If this board makes a mistake and, as a result of the mistake, prejudices the economic welfare of the industry; it will collapse and not only will the employers lose their profits but the employees will also lose their employment. It must be obvious that the employees in an industry have as vital an interest as have the employers in the welfare of that industry. The contention that the employer is the sole person to have responsibility for the marketing problem of the industry is negatived by the bill. The employers in the meat export industry cannot, as private individuals, be trusted by thisGovernment effectively and properly to carry on the meat export trade;, consequently, that trade has to be organized. This antiLabour Government proposes to set up a board to accomplish that degree of stability which the employers as individuals are incapable of accomplishing. Therefore, it is grotesque for the proponents of this measure to set up a statutory body to control the export of meat, giving to it wide powers which are not merely administrative, but in many respects also legislative, and to say that the whole of the employees in the industry shall be debarred from offering counsel to the employers and shall not share with them to some degree responsibility for the proper discharge of the functions which this Parliament proposes that the board shall fulfil. That argument strikes me as being entirely at variance with the collectivist principles which are inherent in the bill itself. I assert that unless the clause is amended the hoard will consist solely of the representatives of employers, although diversity of interests among the employers will have separate representation. The bill recognizes that the interests of the employers are not identical. It therefore proposes to give separate representation to employers in different groups, in order that each group may have its distinctive interests reflected in the deliberations of the board. Yet, it is assumed that the employees have no interest whatsoever. That argument belongs to the dark ages. It carries us back to the time when it was assumed that the employee had no right to say how and by what means the industry in which he obtained his living should be administered. I say that on the welfare of the employees in the industries of the world, not upon the employers, is now dependent the stability of those industries. If the employers fail, this Parliament is called upon to come to their rescue : to give them bonuses because prices are not sufficiently adequate, to give them high protection because they cannot withstand competition from some other country, to relieve them of taxation, as was done in connexion with the land tax, and to establish advertising agencies so that they may the more effectively dispose of their wares in other markets. I do not object to all that. We on this side support the bill. We merely want to make the board more representative of the national interests involved in the welfare of the meat export industry. .Honorable members opposite want to perpetuate the principle of the sectional control of the industry. They say to this Parliament, which is representative of all the people, that it ought to establish a statutory authority to administer this industry, but that no representation whatever should be given to the employees.
– The employees are represented in the Arbitration Court.
– That argument appears to me to be not relevant to the issue. If it should have any application, to the extent that.it is relevant, it com pletely defeats the purpose of the honorable member who has interjected. If the employees are not to be represented on this board simply because they are represented in the Arbitration Court, then the employers, being also represented in the Arbitration Court, ought not to be represented on this board. If the employees are not to be represented, the right thing would be for the bill to contemplate the appointment of a board directly as the result of the nomination of the Minister, without consulting any representative interests associated with the industry. I could understand this board being established in the same way as, for example, the Australian Broadcasting Commission is established, neither employers nor employees being invited to submit nominations, or as the Commonwealth Bank Board or the Tariff Board is established, no particular section as such being recognized as having a distinctive economic interest in its operations. But this bill does not contemplate anything of the kind. On the contrary, it definitely provides for consultation on the part of the Minister with certain interests associated with the export of meat; yet I am told that the employees, who number thousands, and whose employment and wages are affected by the prosperity or otherwise of this industry, are to have no representation. That contention leads me to the belief that the interests behind the Government, who all through the years have fought against the right of the workers to be represented in the places of authority in this community, who yielded up adult suffrage only when they had to do so -
– What has adult suffrage to do with meat ?
– If an employer who invests a couple of hundred thousand pounds, or even £1,000, in an industry, is to have his interests represented on this board, then representation should be given to a man who invests his life, and the welfare, happiness and security of his wife and children, undergoes an apprenticeship covering a period of seven or eight years, becomes qualified, and after years of service cannot look to an easy transition to some other kind of employment. If he cannot 1)0 said to be an investor in the meat export industry, neither can a shareholder in a company be regarded as having any human interest in the industry. 1 look at the matter nationally. I state the point that this Parliament is representative of all interests in the community ; that the employees as well as the employers are represented in it; that the object of this bill, likewise the justification for it, is to delegate to this board responsible functions in the national interest. National interest demands the restriction and regulation of exports of meat; hence the bill, the board, and the powers which the board is to have vested in it. I am simply arguing that if the producers in the southern Riverina, the Northern Territory, and the States of New South Wales and Queensland should be given special representation, then, surely thousands of workmen who are associated with the industry ought also to be given representation. I say that the advice which they would give would be as competent and useful as the advice of some employer who cannot look at national questions, except from the view-point of his own personal best interests. It ha3 yet to be discovered that the representation of the workers on public instrumentalities throughout Australia has not been of signal service to the people as a whole. I move the amendment, because it represents on the part of the Opposition at least, the statement of the principle that when Parliament sets up statutory boards to discharge national economic functions or national social functions, then incontestably the employees associated with such activities have as much right to a reasonably proportionate representation as has any other section of the community.
– I would point out in the first place that the bill provides for the establishment of an export control board to deal specifically with the marketing of approximately 21 per cent, of Australia’s total production of meat, on behalf of those who produce it, and sell it overseas. It will not have to deal with the conditions under which the employees in the industry shall be employed, the wages they shall receive, or anything else by which they are affected. It will co-operate with similar boards in New Zealand, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Its purpose is to organize Empire meat marketing, and not to represent the employees or deal with any phase of their conditions. I emphasize the point that this Parliament has already approved of similar legislation dealing with the dairying industry and the dried fruits industry. It was never suggested that the employees should have representation on the boards that were constituted to deal specifically with the marketing of produce under that legislation. Those who are vitally concerned in the production and sale of those products are the people who should have direct representation. I am not opposed to the employees in any industry having full representation on any board that deals with their conditions of employment, or with other matters that directly concern them. I say, definitely, however, that the Government is opposed to giving representation to employees on a board that has the sale of somebody else’s goods. Not on any consideration, therefore, can it accept the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin).
.- I regard as appalling the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). Are not the interests of the employees preserved and promoted by the mere establishment of this board? Is not the Government, in establishing the board, giving effect to the principle of producer control ? If the Government had not been prepared to do that, and had left the meat industry in the chaotic condition that existed, would not the employees have suffered grave harm? It is ridiculous for an honorable member first to give his blessing to the bill, which every one knows must be of great assistance to an industry that has been struggling for its existence, and is now in a fair way to regain prosperity, and then to ask that the employees shall have representation on the board that is to be set up under it. I oppose the amendment.
.- I am glad that the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) has declined to accept the amendment, although I have not had any very strong feeling on the subject myself. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) submitted his proposal with the heat and vigour that might have been expected from him had a similar proposal been rejected in negotiations that had occurred outside of this House; but the fact is that the representation agreed to at the meeting of the Agricultural Council has been provided for in the bill. Although three Labour Governments were represented at the meeting of the council which formulated the proposals for this board, not one person present, so far as I can recollect, asked that the workers should be represented. It is unreasonable that the Opposition should expect tha Government to accept a suggestion of this kind at the very last moment. Personally, I think there is a lot to be said for including a representative of the employees on statutory boards set up to improve the general conditions of an industry, but this board will deal with onlyone section of the meat industry. In these circumstances, the people who, besides depending upon the industry for their occupation, have also to invest their capital in it, are entitled to the dominant representation of the board, for they will sutler principally if the marketing arrangements are not satisfactory. I must admit that I am attracted by the idea that the employees who handle the produce of a particular industry, and who, to some extent, have a common ii.terest in it with the producers themselves, should be recognized when boards with comprehensive power over de industry arc being constituted. In the past, there has been too much division between employers and employees, and we must overcome this division of outlook before we can expect harmony in an industry: but in view of the fact that neither th, representatives of the Labour governments nor any other representatives of the Agricultural Council considered that there was any reason to appoint representatives of the workers on this board I think that the Government is justified in resisting the amendment. As the representation provided for in the’ hill is exactly that which was desired by the Agricultural Council, I am forced to the conclusion that the Leader of the Opposi- tion has moved the amendment mainly for propaganda purposes, and to embarrass the Government in its attempt to coordinate marketing arrangements in connexion with our meat industry.
.- At every conference of farmers that has been held for years past, it has been agreed *ba’t while producer control was desirable it was also a good thing to have representatives of the workers on the boards set up to deal with the affairs of our primary industries.
– That is not correct.
– It is correct. The conference of farmers held in September, 3926, and also that held in May, 3921, which were the two largest and most representative conferences of farmers ever held in Australia, agreed to the principle of producer control with representation of the workers on the board. Apparently the Government is of thu opinion that the employees who do all the heavy work should not be considered. Capital apparently is to have all the consideration, and labour is to be brushed aside as of no account. In such circumstances, it is not surprising that the workers should at times rebel and take strong action to enforce their will in regard to an industry. It will not conduce to harmony for the Government t.« say to the workers, as it is now doing, “You are of no consequence whatever, and are not worthy of consideration “ Who knows more about the internal conditions of the meat industry than the men employed in our various meat works’: Even the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins), who talks glibly about hia knowledge of the meat industry, docs not know as much about the internal conditions of the industry as the workers, though he goes around the country fooling the farmers and selling their cattle.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) must withdraw that reflection upon the honorable member for Hume.
– The honorable member for Hume has not intimated that he regarded any remark made as offensive.
– I am not aware that I made any offensive remark.
– The honorable member must be well aware that his statement that the honorable member for
Hume “goes around the country rooking the farmers “ is offensive.
– I did not use such language, and I cannot withdraw something which I did not. say.
– The remark was definitely offensive, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I definitely object to the statement, and ask that it be withdrawn, and that the honorable member for Cook apologize for having made it.
– I withdraw the remark that I actually made, that the honorable member for Hume goes around the country “ fooling “ the farmers ; but I must say that I have been mistaken in the honorable member for I have always understood that, though he was a representative of the Country party, he had some interest in the workers. Apparently lie is more concerned about cattle than about the people working in the industry.
– That remark is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The statement of the honorable member for Cook was notunparliamentary.
– As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has stated, the Labour party is not opposed to producercontrol, but it believes that the workers should be represented on control boards. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) remarked a few minutes ago that the Meat Export Control Board was purely a marketing body, but he made it clear in the lucid speech that he delivered during the second reading debate on the bill that the board would have very wide powers. It might, for instance, restrict the marketing ‘ of meat, and that, in turn, might have the effect of forcing workers out of employment. That surely is a serious consideration. Although the board will have direct control of only 25 per cent, of the meat produced in this country - that is, the export quota - it will have a considerable measure of control over the remaining 75 per cent., which is dealt with on the home market, for one of its objects is to stabilize the industry. This surely implies a consideration of both the home and export markets. Apparently, tha members of the Country party have not read the bill carefully. If it were not for the
Labour party there would be no criticism whatever of the Government’s proposals; but we are not robots, we are here in the interests of the people. We are not machines to vote as we are directed.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to tiri clause.
– I urge the Government, in the interests of harmony, to grant representation to the Australian Workers Union, which represents the pastoral workers, and to the Meat Industry Employees Union, which represents those engaged in the preparation of various classes of meat for both the home and export markets. It is not too much to ask that the workers concerned in the meat industry should be represented on the proposed board.
The representative in London will provide means for an interlocking of the Australian board with the boards of the other dominions. I hope that the Minister will reconsider his attitude, and accept the amendment.
.- I support the Government in resisting the amendment. I recognize that the employees in the meat industry have a very strong interest in its success; they have a direct interest which should be encouraged; but we do not hear of the employees’ unions demanding representation on the directorates of companies, although they may be equally concerned in the success of those companies. The duties of the Meat Export Control Board will be the control of exports and marketing. In this the employees have no direct concern. Their interests are safeguarded by awards of the Arbitration Court.
I believe in encouraging co-operation between both sides of industry and, if that were the real motive of the amendment I should support it. What it aims at, however, is interference by trade unionism in the management of industries. If the amendment were carried, it would be a vital step towards job control, which should be persistently resisted. Australia has experienced job control on previous occasions with dire results. Outstanding examples are the coal-mining’ and shipping industries which have suffered greatly from the interference of trade unions in their management. However much -we might desire co-operation, the management of industry must be left to the managerial staff, whether it be a board of directors or an export control board. It would be disastrous to permit interference with the management by trade unions.
– The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) is the most extraordinary proposal yet placed before this committee. The statements which he made in support of the amendment contradict the principles of Labour. The honorable member claimed that any instrumentality governing the operations of industry should be representative of all sections of the industry, but we have never heard him advocate that employers should he represented on the employees’ unions. He claimed also that the meat workers should be represented on the meat board, because if the industry failed, the workers would be affected. His argument, surely, would be just as applicable to the deliberations of trade unions, but I can readily imagine the outcry that would be raised if it were suggested that employers should have the right to interfere in those organizations. The only concern of the workers in the meat industry is what wages and conditions they are to receive.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– The workers are not concerned with the control of meat export. I remind the Opposition that, although the interests of the workers in the meat industry are safeguarded by awards of the court, by the time this board will begin to function in regard to any meat which has to be exported, the unfortunate producer has not been paid for any of the work he has done, or recompensed for the wages he has paid out.
– There are no awards operating.
– Federal awards for station hands and meat workers operate throughout Australia. The honorable member’s interjection indicates that he is not conversant with the pastoral industry. It is hoped that, by the better management of the meat industry and tire profitable export of the surplus production, the producers will receive the remuneration to which they are entitled. . No one puts more toil into the meat industry than they do. Whereas the employees have assured wages and conditions, the employers are forced to struggle against inadequate returns. Accordingly, I shall certainly oppose the extraordinary amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition.
The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) claimed that the workers were recognized in the control by boards of other rural industries in Australis. The employees are not directly represented on any board controlling a rural industry in this country. The Leader of the Opposition declared that this bill set up sectional control. I concede that that is its aim, as sectional control of industry is what is desired. What the Opposition wants to establish is workers’ control, or socialism in industry. It contends that the whole of industry should be in the hands of the workers, and, by attempting to have this bill amended, it hopes to drive the thin end of the wedge into the industrial system of the Commonwealth. It would not be satisfied with two-thirds control; it wants complete control. The attitude of the Labour movement is that there is no place in the sun for employers or producers.
In interjections to-day, members of the Labour party complained that the bill is a socialistic measure, but their real complaint is that it is not sufficiently socialistic. To the detriment of the unfortunate primary producer, the Opposition would place the control of the meat industry in the hands of the workers. The purpose of this bill is to give to the primary producer control of what he produces. The workers can help him in the production.
A remarkable claim made by the Leader of the Opposition was that, because the interests to be represented on the proposed board were a conglomeration of various sections, the bill showed that the employers and exporters in the meat industry were not trusted. The same argument applies to the Trades and Labour Council on which the various workers’ organizations are represented. A logical extension of his argument would be a claim that no particular group in the Labour movement can be trusted, and that it is necessary, therefore, to establish a trades and labour council which represents a diversity of interests in the Labour movement. The bill is broad enough to admit all sections of the meat-producing interests to membership of the control board. A majority right to control their own industry is given to the primaryproducing backwoodsmen, who have carved out a home in the bush.
Despite the extravagant claims by the honorable member for Cook, no State government has included in legislation somewhat similar to that now before the committee such a principle as is proposed in the amendment.
– <The Stevens Government in New South Wales did so on Tuesday night.
– The inclusion of a consumers’ representative on the Wheat Board in New South Wales has no relation to the suggested inclusion of a representative of the unions on the proposed Meat Export Control Board. *
– The honorable member for Cook dennes workers as consumers. The aim of the Opposition is the representation, not of the consumers, but of the workers as such, and, if carried into effect, it would mean socialistic control of the meat industry instead of producer control.
.- Mr. Chairman-
– I rise to a point of order. I draw your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the fact that you have called two honorable members who support the Government without having called one member of the Opposition.
– Order !
– Let me finish.
– Order ! The honorable member for Hunter will take his seat.
– Do not bawl.
– I name the honorable member for Hunter for his disregard of, and insolence to, the Chair.
– I feci sure that you have misunderstood the intention of the honorable member.
– There have been too many speakers on the Government side.
– The honorable member, j think, will apologize.
– The rule is that in allotting the call, the Chair shall not recognize parties, but shall be guided by the fact that an honorable member sits to the right or the left, and the records show that that practice has been strictly observed. I take this opportunity to intimate that it is not my intention in the future to extend to honorable members such great forbearance as has been shown in the past, particularly to one section of the Opposition. It is necessary that the Chair should take action to maintain the dignity of this Parliament. ;Mr. Forde. - Will you give the honorable member an opportunity to withdraw?
– If I have been offensive to the Chair, I withdraw and apologize. I did not intend my remark to be offensive. I merely wished to draw attention to the fact-
– Order! I named an honorable member from this chair last week. He offered a humble apology, and its acceptance was recommended by the Chair; but that honorable member immediately proceeded to impede the progress of business after his apology had been accepted. While I am chairman of this committee I do not wish it to be understood that an honorable member can irritate the Chair, and bring indignity on the committee, and then escape by an apology. I have given ample warning. I desire that every honorable member should receive a fair hearing, and that the dignity of thi* chamber should be maintained.
– As the honorable member for Hunter has withdrawn and apologized, I request that, if possible, no action be taken against him.
– Am I to understand that you do not wish me to move for the suspension of the honorable member ?
– The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane).
– I oppose the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. This is a bill for the control, not of the meat industry, but of the sale of its commodity. I am surprised at the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) declaring that the Arbitration Court is not the tribunal to which the employees in this industry should look for the protection of their rights.
– The honorable member i3 not discussing the clause.
– I know of no city business firm which is engaged as a selling agency, and whose employees even ask for representation on the board of management. There is not an employees’ representative even on the board of control of the Labor Daily. It is idle for the Leader of the Opposition, and the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) to boast that the principle underlying this bill is in accordance with the socialistic principles of the Labour movement.
– I have already asked the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause.
– The board provided for in this bill will not deal with the affairs of a co-operative movement. I have represented the workers for a longer period than have many honorable members opposite, and if the employees in the meat industry had a vestige of a claim to representation on the board 1 would be the first to support it. Control by employees was exercised at the Darwin meat works, and it resulted in the closing of that establishment. The bill makes an honest attempt to put the meat industry on its feet; but the Federal Labour party is dominated by the party with which the honorable member for Cook is associated, and which believes in communistic control.
– The honorable member must connect his remarks with the clause.
– Evidently the Leader of the Opposition is afraid that he may lose caste with the Labour movement if he does not persist in his amendment; but I claim that Labour extremists are trying to destroy the meat industry, and to create chaos. The only time when the extremists can gather the workers into their fold is when they are under-fed.
– I warn the honorable member that he is not observing the ruling of the Chair.
– They desire to seize an excuse for calling the workers out into open revolution. The honorable member for Cook, who recently visited Russia, knows how the masses are controlled in that country, and the Federal Labour party has fallen an easy victim to th<; tyranny of the revolutionaries.
– The honorable member is not confining his remarks to the bill.
– I have been associated with co-operative movements in which I had the right, as a shareholder, to a voice in the control of the organizations; but members of the Australian “Workers Union have not invested money in this meat industry. Honorable members opposite have made an unfair attempt to introduce a system of job control. The regulation of meat exports should be in the hand3 of the producers themselves. I have always been opposed to the subsidizing of industry, and have favoured control of marketing, &c, by the producers themselves. It has been claimed by honorable members opposite that the workers in the meat industry are not covered by an award, but they- must be aware “that the powerful Australian Workers Union protects the interests of these workers as well as of others. The workers have no capital invested in the meat industry, and. therefore have no right to representation on the board. Their interests are adequately protected by the Arbitration Court. If, for the sake of -argument, an arbitration award provided that one-third of their earnings should be invested in the companies which employed them, they would have a right to representation, but under present conditions they have no such right. Business men are experienced in the buying and selling of products, and to them should he entrusted the marketing arrangements for the industry.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– This clause is probably the most important in the bill. It has become clear that one of the most important points evolving from the discussion between British and Australian representatives in Great Britain was that a control board such as that contemplated in this bill should be set up. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has moved an amendment to the effect that representatives of the workers engaged in the meat industry should have a seat on the board. In opposition to this proposal it has been argued that the workers have no interest in the industry other than to draw their wages; but surely that view, if once very widely held, has been effectively disproved during the last five years. It has been amply demonstrated that when industry is not prosperous or when it is languishing the wages of the workers and the number employed suffer as a result. The thousands of men engaged in the meat industry, whether in the abattoirs or in the great pastoral areas, are just as much interested in its success as are the members of the Meat Exporters Association, or the cooperative association, or any other section, to which this bill proposes to give representation on the board. The worker knows very well that the stability of the industry to which he has given all he possesses is of vital concern to him. The prosperity of the country is not dependent upon capital only. There may be an abundance of capital, but without labour it will remain unproductive. The interest of labour in the success of industry is at least as great as that of the other component factors. It has been admitted that the meat industry in this country is in a chaotic condition, and that some system of effective control must be devised. Because of the foreign competition which our meat encounters in Great Britain, the industry must be carefully nursed and skilfully regulated. It has been suggested that the interests of the workers are adequately protected by the Arbitration Court, but I remind honorable members that, during the last few years, the court, when fixing wages, has consistently taken into consideration the ability of the industry to pay. On that basis the rate of wages has been fixed, so that for the amount the worker receives he depends upon the well-being and prosperity of the industry in which he is engaged. The better the industry is conducted, and the higher the price obtained for its products,- the more wages go to the workers. Whether we agree with this method of fixing wages is another matter, but, for the time being, that is the practice.
The Labour party puts this amendment forward in all sincerity. It has been suggested that this is an attempt at job control, but I remind the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) who made the suggestion, that there are other and better ways of achieving job control if the workers so desired. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) argued that the producers alone should control the industry, and he challenged the right of any other section to claim representation. This bill, however, provides for. the representation of many other sections besides the producers. For instance, the Meat Exporters Association is to be represented, a body which takes no active part in the production of meat, and accepts none of the risks of bad seasons, &c. Those who belong to this association are not by any stretch of the imagination producers. In fact it is often said- that this class battens on every industry. There will also be on the board representatives of the co-operative societies, and of the Commonwealth Government, so that the producers will be effectively out-voted by other interests. It would, perhaps, be well for .the producers if there was a representative of the workers on the board, because they would then have the support of one section at least which would be. equally interested in the preservation of the industry which provides a livelihood for the worker and his family and which would be entirely clear of the interests that other bodies hav’ to serve. We have approached this question in the most serious manner possible. Because this matter was not brought forward by the Agricultural Council surely should not deprive this Parliament of its rights. The policy of referring the major problems confronting this country to super bodies, such as agricultural councils, loan councils, Premiers conferences, and the like, is merely reducing the parliamentary institution to a nonentity. We are so constantly brought face to face with decisions arrived at by these super bodies which, we are called upon to accept without alteration, that sometimes I feel it is useless to attempt to contribute anything towards the legislation brought down in this chamber. It does not trouble me what governments are represented on the Agricultural Council; they may view the question of representation on this board from an entirely different angle to ours. “We believe that the employees in this industry have a claim for consideration. The Minister has no right to reject the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition in such an arbitrary way and suggest .that it is not backed by sincerity. The amendment is in line with the changing conditions referred to by the honorable member for “Wakefield, and is in accordance with .the belief that the success of the industry is dependent upon the success of all the individuals engaged in it. The sooner that is realized, the better it will be for the country at large.
– I am unable to understand why so much heat has been engendered in the debate on an industry, the reorganization of which will -be of benefit, not only to the primary producers, but also to the workers employed in it. Had the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) not ‘become so heated in moving the amendment, I feel that the Minister (Mr. Thorby) would have exercised more reasonableness in regard to it. This is practically a new industry, which, in its initial stages, must be nursed. I deplore the fact that among the speakers on this side, only the honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr Hawker) has demonstrated a spirit of equity in regard to this matter. In the Northern Territory, to-day, we are trying to emulate the example set by the owners of the Mount Isa mine in Queensland, in which £4,000,000 has been invested, of having representatives of the workers present at conferences regarding the safe working of a mine. At these conferences, which are held every fortnight or three weeks, the workers’ representative is now welcomed, despite the fact that he was at first strongly opposed because of his knowledge of the conditions of the work. “Whenever a new shaft is sunk or a drive is put through, he is called upon to accompany the mine manager down the mine and the benefit of his advice is now eagerly sought. “We should look forward to the time when producers will see that the appointment of a representative of the employees to advise the
Meat Board will be beneficial in the interests of the preservation of the industry. I look forward to the time when there will be conferences at each large abattoirs in order to preserve that spirit of equity that should prevail between employers and employees throughout Australia in the great industry on which our future prosperity so much depends.
– I agree with the honorable member for Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) that too much heat has been engendered in this discussion. I support the proposal made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) because I believe it is a fitting thing to do, and is long overdue, in view of the admission by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), whom I regard as a man of great knowledge on matters of this nature, that we are living in a new world. I remember during the last ten years sitting at round table conferences with many members of this chamber endeavouring to bring both sides of industry together. The representatives of the pastoral industry, more than any other industry in this country, urged that on boards such as this, controlling or managing or endeavouring to make more economically sound the industries of this country, both sections of the community should be represented, admitting quite frankly that the best could not be derived from the industry without the co-operation of the employees. I remember the leader of the Pastoral Association at a lengthy conference which sat in the Melbourne Town Hall endeavouring to evolve a plan whereby employers and employees could work together in a more democratic control of industry, regretting that so much time and money were lost and so much material was destroyed as the result of industrial disputes, and agreeing that the time had arrived when the employees in industry should be made to feel that they too had some share in its management. We should continue to experiment along those lines. Therefore, I am surprised to meet such a great deal of opposition to the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition by honorable members opposite. I thought that we had reached n stage to-day -when the old crusty conservatism had been largely left behind by many honorable members. But we have not found one single helping voice from the opposite side agreeing with the principle that employees should be given some share in the running of this industry. Honorable members of this chamber, as representatives of certain industries, have wholeheartedly agreed that a clause designed along the lines of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition should be embodied in all bills providing for control boards in respect of industries in this country. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has 6aid that such an effort had never been suggested in connexion with shipping. That is not so. I remember leading a deputation which waited on the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, urging him to place a direct representative of the ships’ crews on the Commonwealth Shipping Board. A search of the files in the Prime Minister’s Department will prove the accuracy of that statement. Mr. Bruce admitted that the principle of such a request was right. In support of our claim we produced a long list showing that on all kinds of similar boards in Canada, the United States of America, and other parts of the world, representatives of the employees were included. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) was present at that deputation. He will remember Mr. Bruce saying that, though he agreed with the principle, he would not agree to its being applied to the Commonwealth Shipping Board. In answer to an interjection wld ch I made, he said that he did not want the Shipping Board to live, because he believed that the shipping companies could manage the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers better than the Government could. That was five or six years before the vessels of the line were sold.
– Given away.
– Yes. The employees in the meat industry, in order that they may evince a greater interest in its welfare, should be given some voice on the board of management. I disagree with tho contention that this is purely a marketing bill, which will not affect other fundamental principles in the meat industry. The board to be created, I admit, will not directly fix wages and working conditions, but if it is to help to stabilize the meat industry, it will have to do a lot more than is set out in the bill. It would be impossible at this stage to set out all the activities that such a board might have to engage in, and it will most likely be found necessary to amend the bill from time to time as its functions are enlarged. The board can, without reference to Parliament, add to its operations. If it is to be successful in its efforts to place the industry on an economic basis, it must determine the quantity of cattle to be slaughtered, the quantity to be sent to the market, and how many should be held back, and itwill have to be largely guided by the advice it receives from its representatives abroad. It will have to regulate prices and determine how many units shall be slaughtered at certain periods of the year. It will have to control the shipping of carcasses. All these things are of great concern to the employees. All these things must run smoothly if the industry is to be successful, and this cannot be done without the wholehearted co-operation of the employees. The men associated with the employees’ organizations must do thenbest to help develop, and not sabotage the industry as has been alleged by employers. How can they be expected to do that unless they have some voice in its management ? That aspect of the matter ought to be taken into consideration. It is perfectly true, as the honorable member for Wakefield -(Mi1. Hawker) has said, that this is rather sudden. A thing always appeal-? to be sudden when a government first attempts it. Had the honorable member for Wakefield been questioned, I believe that he would have qualified his statement and said that for some considerable time we have been living in a new world. The stage has long been passed when amendments of ‘this nature should be embodied in our legislation. I should say that ten years ago no government would have dared to do what this Government has done, nor would the people have been in the frame of mind to agree to its doing it, but since then a sum of £20,000,000 has been paid out to primary industries. I urge honorable members opposite to pause before they oppose everything that is proposed by honorable members on this side. They should ask themselves now many times in the past the Opposition has voted against the granting of assistance to the primary industries? During the last ten years, millions of pounds have been disbursed among those industries alone by way of subsidies and bounties. Where has that money been obtained? It is said that the workers, who comprise 70 per cent, or 80 per cent, of the population, have no capital invested in the pastoral industry. Have they, or have they not? I assume that they have, and I am prepared to debate the matter on any platform before an unbiased audience with any honorable member opposite who makes a contrary assertion. I am certain that his contention could not be sustained. Speaking generally, those who are engaged in the primary industries are working on credits and overdrafts. Who really provide the credits and overdrafts, and the funds from which subsidies and bounties are paid, but the banking institutions and insurance companies? In the savings banks of Australia there are from 31S,000 to 320,000 working-class depositors, whose deposits average from £1S to £19 a head. That money is re-invested in the primary industries. Therefore, indirectly, if not directly, the workers are associated with those industries. This lop-sided .attitude suggesting that the workers should have no concern in the management of these industries is a wrong one to adopt, regarding the matter from the view-point of the employers themselves. I ask honorable members who are associated with th«’. pastoral industry: Is it not important that no hitch should occur when cattle have to he slaughtered for export, ami time is the essence of the contract? Is it not essential that the drovers should bring the cattle in at the right moment when shipments are due to be made? Is it not a fact that several thousand drovers have to buy their own horses and dogs, feed themselves, and travel miles from their home towns? Are not many of those drovers small pastoralists? Have not the majority of the pastoralists - not those who have been left their estates by their ancestors, but those who have worked their way up - begun as drovers?
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– If no other honorable member wishes to intervene, I shall take my second period now. On dozens of occasions I have met in conference Mr. Angliss, Mr. Ben Chaffey, and others, and have helped to solve troubles that have interrupted the supply of meat for home consumption and export, and the shipment of coverings for frozen lambs, at critical periods when delay would have cost the pastoralists thousands of pounds. Having control over the employees, the Disputes Committee of the Melbourne Trades and Labour Council was able to straighten out the difficulty. If the drovers and the meat workers at the abattoirs were represented on this board their representative could be supplied with valuable information that would help him to influence the nien on the job, and thus save thousands of pounds at busy periods. I warn honorable members opposite that the absence of industrial trouble in Australia during the five years of the depression is no guarantee that that state of affairs will bo maintained when we are again on the up-grade. Disputes are bound to occur, and they will be justified. The workers will not continue to be satisfied to go on working as cattle for their food and shelter. But disputes can be prevented, and the industries can be conducted smoothly, by having representatives of the employees on these .boards. The pastoralists do not. understand the psychology of their employees as it is understood by their representatives. Action along these line, would be a good investment. The employees that we have in mind are the drovers and meat workers. From those thousands of men could be chosen an intelligent, efficient representative possessing initiative and a.n understanding of the industry. He would be as helpful as any other person nominated. I make this request for further consideration by honorable members opposite, not. because I am pledged to any principle of this character, but because my twenty years’ experience as a member of an industrial disputes organization, which has handled all the biggest disputes in this: country, teaches me that the interests of those who are engaged in the primary industries would ‘be best served by the acceptance of the amendment.
Bill returned from -the Senate with amendments.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 4 -
A person, firm or company shall not, directly or indirectly, except under licence (the proof whereof shall lie upon him or it) -
Senate’s amendment -
After the word “ not “ insert the words during the continuance of this act”.
– I move -
That the amendment he agreed to.
The amendments made by the Senate in this bill number two. The first amendment has been made in clause 4. Honorable members will recall that that clause deals with financial sanctions. It provides that a person, firm or company shall not, directly or indirectly, except under licence, lend or pay money in certain circumstances. The prohibitions contained in the clause are financial prohibitions which may broadly ‘be described as prohibitions against making payments and establishing credits in favour of persons resident in Italy. Some doubt having arisen in certain minds as to whether the effect would be to extinguish the liability for payment, or merely to suspend it in cases where there was a payment pursuant to the liability, it has been thought desirable to make it cleaT that the object of the legislation is not to eliminate the payment altogether but to prevent its being made during the currency of the legislation. In order to achieve that object, with which I am sure honorable members of all parties will agree, it is proposed by another place to insert after the words “ shall not “ in the first line of the clause, the words “ during the continuance of this act “, so that the prohibition provided for by the clause will be against the doing of certain things within that period. As honorable members will recall, the operation of the act may continue during the state of war between Italy and Abyssinia, or may be terminated by prior proclamation under the provisions of clause 10. Whether it runs the full time, or is previously determined by proclamation, the prohibitions will operate during its continuance. Because that fact is being made clear, it seems desirable that some provision should be made for the custody of moneys due to persons in Italy, but which cannot by virtue of this bill, be paid to them. During the Great War a similar situation was met by the establishment of a clearing office, and information received recently states that the Government of the United Kingdom is setting up such an office in London. It is somewhat difficult, at this stage, to say in exactly what form the clearing office should be established. In general form, clause 11 is a regulation-making clause which, by the Senate’s second amendment, will include specific powers to establish a clearing office, provide for the relevant banking account in relation to it, and provide also for the avoidance of contracts made for the assignment of debts due by persons in Australia or its territories to person/t in Italy. It is desired .to take power te prevent the evasion of the sanctions provisions by the process of assigning a debt to the national of a neutral country.
Mr. CURTIN (Fremantle) [10.3J.- It is, I think, agreed that, if sanctions are to be imposed by Australia against Italy, they should operate only during the continuance of the act. There should not be a permanent impounding of moneys due by persons in Australia to persons in Italy. On their face, the amendments made by the Senate probably improve the very small measure of equity contained in the bill, but we on this side propose to vote against both amendments because we are opposed to the principle of the measure, and do not intend to assist the Government either to -pass or to improve it.
– Even if the amendments make it less objectionable?
– Yes. I frankly confess that the amendment now before the committee makes the bill less objectionable to those who will suffer by this legislation; but it is still obnoxious. The clause, even as amended, constitutes the crux of the act a’s it will be when passed by this Parliament. We do not propose to hold the measure up at this stage.
We simply say that we are against the bill, and, despite improvements that may be made to it, the measure is, in our opinion, a wrong exercise of authority by this Parliament.
Motion - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 11 -
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this act, prescribing all matters which are required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to bo prescribed, for carrying out or giving effect to this act, and in particular for prescribing penalties not exceeding a fine of One hundred pounds or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months for any offence a gainst the regulations.
Senate’s amendment. - After “for” (second occurring) insert “ -
providing for the establishment of a clearing office for the receipt, custody and payment, in such manner as is specified in the regulations, of moneys due by persons in Australia or its Territories to persons in Italy, in such cases or classes of cases as are so specified;
requiring, in such cases or classes of cases as arc specified in the regulations, persons in Australia or its Territories owing moneys to persons in Italy to pay those moneys to the Account of a clearing office established in accordance with this act;
providing for the prohibition or avoidance of contracts for the assignment of debts duo by persons in Australia or its Territories, to persons in Italy; and
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) put -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) put -
That the report be adopted.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Beta.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee (‘Consideration resumed from page 1663) :
.- I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to provide that two representatives of the Australian Meat Board shall be representatives of the employees. Perhaps Borne honorable members are unaware of the fact that many of the employees engaged in the meat industry perform important duties in connexion with the raising of stock, and that many of them have a more intimate knowledge of stock breeding than have the stock owners. As the representatives of other sections of the industry are to have an opportunity to acquire additional knowledge on the export of meat, the arranging of quotas, and the fixing of prices, the workers’ representatives should be provided with similar facilities. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has said that the workers are not represented on any other board. [Quorum . formed.] They are represented on many industrial boards, including a board appointed under the Industrial Peace Act, passed by this Parliament.
-Can the honorable member cite one board dealing with the marketing of primary products on which the employees are represented?
– I am not conversant with the position in Queensland, but I should imagine that in a State which ‘has been governed by Labour governments for practically fifteen years there are many boards on which the employees are represented. The Government of New South Wales appointed a board in connexion with the production of mineral oil on which the workers are represented. On the board appointed under the Cooperation, CommunitySettlement, and Credit Act, in which the honorable member for Wide Bay is interested, the consumers are represented. The honorable member stated that when the workers are paid the wages prescribed by industrial awards their contract with their employers has been terminated and they have no further interest in the export of meat.
– I claimed that the employees have no direct interest in the export of meat.
– The honorable member claims that the employees’ interests cease when they receive their wages. The workers are just as concerned with the welfare of the industry which employs them as are the employers who exploit them. In New South Wales rural awards have been abolished.
Mr.Thorby. - Not in the pastoral industry.
– When the Assistant Minister was in Opposition he advocated a policy for the solution of the unemployment problem under which the farmers would have been allowed to use men for the improvement of their properties on the payment of bare sustenance.
– That is absolutely untrue. It was never suggested by me, or by any one else. [Quorum formed.] .
– The honorable gentleman admitted at the time that a difficulty was the observance of awards and compensation.
– Why not be fair, and admit that it was suggested by me that the Government should shoulder that burden and not leave it to the individuals?
– The honorable gentleable gentleman wanted to destroy industrial conditions. Another member of his party claimed to-night that the interests of the workers in the meat industry ceased when they received their pay. If the Country party had its way, the workers in rural industries would receive no more each week than their bare keep. The stand taken by the Commonwealth Government against giving the workers representation on the board which is to be established is opposed to the decision of the New South Wales Government to allow the consumers representation on the board which is to control the wheat pool in that State. The amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) gives the Government no cause for fear. Its supporters, however, seem to have been bitten by the socialistic bug, and to be afraid that the workers’ representative might glean some information which they consider would not be fit and proper for him to obtain. It cannot be denied that the present system of production under private ownership is not in the best interests of the community.
– -The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In supporting the amendment I desire to correct the. impression of government supporters, particularly the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), that the wages of the workers in the pastoral industry are protected by industrial awards. Except in Queensland, very few of the persons engaged on cattle stations are covered by awards under the federal law. Every individual employer has to be cited before the court before he is subjected to the award. It is very difficult to carry out that obligation, especially where cattle stations are concerned. To show how well the employers in pastoral industries are protected, it is necessary only to cite the . case of the recently deposed non-Labour Queensland Government which excluded the pastoral industry and cattle stations from an industrial award, offering the excuse that this step was necessary because of the unfortunate condition of the industry. The Commonwealth Government’s attitude to-day is that, because the workers have no money invested in the meat industry, they are not entitled to representation on this board. The Government has claimed credit for initiating several reforms in this country which it rigorously opposed when they were originally proposed by the Labour party. On that account, I offer no excuses for endeavouring to have the bill amended in order to give the workers some say. I desire to point out to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) that if the workers were given a greater share in the control of industry, many of the difficulties which confront it to-day would disappear. It was said that a great undertaking in the Northern Territory was driven out of the country, and plant was thrown on to the scrap-heap, because of the attitude taken by the workers. [Quorum formed.] The owners of these works were mainly responsible for the trouble to which I have referred, and like most employers, they were not prepared to discuss the matter with the workers. If it were not for the Arbitration Court, many workers in industry to-day would not be receiving anything like the pay they are now getting, and employers, generally, would refuse to negotiate with them concerning conditions of employment. I recall that a few years ago one of the sugar companies in Queensland refused to have anything to do with negotiations with its employees concerning their conditions of employment. It made what it called an agreement to cover this matter, but this was merely a schedule of regulations which the employers alone laid down and the workers had to take it or leave it. As in all industries these employees have a very definite interest in the welfare of the meat industry, and in many instances they might be able to give valuable advice to the people who have their capital invested in it. It has been suggested that the workers need only worry about their wages, hut I claim that while wages are all important to them they are very much concerned about the conditions governing their employment. Having made up its mind to appoint a board to control the exports of meat, this Government should have no objection to the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that the employees should be represented on that board. Many proposals of this nature which are in operation to-day were regarded as stupid when they werefirst advocated. We should realize that conditions in industry have changed considerably in recent years. Supporters of this Government have repeatedly stated that if the workers were prepared to cooperate with employers, it would be better for industry generally. It is pleasing to notice that some employers recognize that . employees have a vital interest in industry, and that if industry is to succeed they should be consulted to a greater degree. Such an outlook, I submit, is progressive. Honorable members who suggest that conditions in the meat industry, as a whole, are fixed by awards of the Arbitration Court, and that therefore the workers in it are fully protected and need have no further say in the industry, are not aware of the actual position. Not 10 per cent. of the employees engaged on cattle stations outside Queensland are governed by awards of the Arbitration Court.
Motion (by Mr.ArchdaleParkhill) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. collins.)
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Curtin’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman -Mr. Collins.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That at the end of sub-clause (2) the following paragraph be inserted: - “ (i) One member to represent The Co-operative Consumers’ Organization “.
This is an important organization which has representation on various export boards. Its influence extends throughout Australia, and it is particularly strong in New South Wales. It also acts as agent for the British Co-operative Wholesale Society. Honorable members are conversant with the ramifications of the society in Great Britain, which has appointed a kindred organization in New South Wales as its agent for export purposes.
– What organization represents it in New South Wales?
– New South Wales Cooperative Wholesalers Society. As provision hasbeen made in the bill for organizations which are not interested in the exports trade,’ the amendment should be acceptable to the Government. The organization referred to in the amendment exports large quantities of dairy produce and other primary products, including probably beef, mutton, &c. It is a body which has been formed in order to give service , to the community; any profits made are returned to the shareholders by way of rebate. All honorable members are aware of the valuable service rendered to the community by co-operative societies whose main principle is service and notprofit. There are many such societies in Australia. There is one at Balmain, another at Lithgow, two or three in the South Coast district and a number of others in my electorate. I hope that the committee will accept the amendment.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment. Provision is already made in paragraphf for one member to represent co-operative organizations which export mutton and lamb. As the bill is not concerned with the export of butter, I ask the honorable member not to press his amendment.
.- The co-operative organization mentioned by the Minister-
– I did not mention any co-operative organization.
– The co-operative organizations covered by the bill do not include that to which the amendment refers. The bill makes provision for the inclusion of companies which are not truly co-operative but are really joint stock companies. A co-operative society is one whose object is to serve the people, and not to make out of them as much profit as possible. A truly co-operative company acts in the interests of the people as a whole, and any person may become a member of such an association without contributing any share capital to it. The Co-operative Consumers Organization is not covered by the bill.
Motion (by Mr. Lane) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman -Mr. Collins.)
Majority . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the paragraph proposed to be inserted (Mr. James’s amendment) be so inserted - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Collins.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Sub-clause 10 of clause 5 states that the members appointed to represent publiclyowned abattoirs and freezing works which deal with meat for export shall include the general manager of the Government Produce Department in South Australia. Some time ago, the general manager of this department was concerned with the management of a freezing works in which stock slaughtered for export was treated, but, owing to a re-arrangement of the work, the Government Produce Department has now been separated from the abattoirs in Adelaide and from the freezing works at Port Adelaide. It cannot be claimed that the manager of the Government Produce Department, which deals chiefly with dairy produce, fruit, &c, is a representative of the publiclyowned abattoirs and freezing works treating stock for export. I have had the assurance of the chairman of the South Australian Metropolitan and Export Abattoirs Board that the members of that board have no objection to the manager of the Government Produce Department being appointed as the nominee of the publicly-owned institutions, but they point out that he cannot be considered to speak in any measure for the abattoirs and export freezing works. These interests desire to make it quite clear that he cannot be taken to commit them or necessarily to voice their views. 1 do not think there is any doubt that, of the individuals available at present, the gentleman who for the time being holds the office of general manager of the Government Produce Department would be the most generally acceptable representative for South Australia on the export control board. But that might not always be the case. The time maycome when the general manager of that department, which from now on will deal substantially with dairy produce and fruit, will not be the person best qualified to act for the publicly-owned abattoirs and export freezing works. I therefore suggest to the Minister that the wording of sub-clause 10 should be altered either by inserting after “ shall be “ the words “ in the first instance “, or by inserting after “ general manager, Government Produce Department, State of South Australia,” the words “or, after the first instance, a member nominated by the South Australian Metropolitan and Export Abattoirs Board “. I ask the Minister to consider the insertion of one of these alternatives in the bill, so that the export interests of South Australia will not be committed indefinitely to the appointment of a gentleman who might be entirely concerned with dairy produce and fruit export, and has little experience or direct connexion with the export of meat products.
– Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Ward) put -
That the honorable member be not further heard.
The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Collins.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. THORBY (Calare - Assistant Minister for Commerce [11.28]. - I have no objection to the amendment outlined by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker). The gentleman referred to, by reason of his position, is Mr. Pope, who, I understand, is quite acceptable to the interests concerned. I appreciate that his successor as manager of the Government Produce Department might not be so suitable a representative on the meat export control board. I move -
That after the word “ Territory “, second occurring, sub-clause (5.). the word “Pastoral “, be inserted.
There is nothing of importance associated with this amendment, which is introduced only to correct a clerical error made in the drafting of the bill.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That after sub-clause (5.) the following new sub-clause be inserted: - “ (5a.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, one member shall be appointed to represent the stock producers of Northern and Central Queensland.”
In another portion of this bill, provision is made for the appointment of a representative of the southern Riverina district. Why the Riverina has been singled out for special representation has not been explained. In the north and central western parts of Queensland, there are over 21,000,000 sheep - I do not think that there are that number of sheep in the Riverina - and the Gulf country carries approximately 4,000,000 cattle. Pastoral lessees of the Northern Territory also have special representation on the board. I contend that these areas of Queensland are just as much entitled to have representation on the board as the pastoral lessees of southern Riverina or the Northern Territory. Perhaps the reason for the inclusion of a representative from the Riverina is because of the efforts of the Cromwell of the Riverina, who controls the Country party which in turn controls the Government.
– Produce your Cromwell !
– We have not yet been fortunate enough in Queensland to produce a Cromwell, but we have been able to produce cattle and sheep which perhaps are of more value to the nation. The acceptance of my amendment would give representation to a large section of the industry vitally interested in its welfare. Queensland produces 84 per cent. of the meat exported from this country, ofwhich about 80 per cent. is produced in the northern portion of that State.
– Is the honorable member speaking of the production of beef only or of meat generally ?
– I am speaking of the production of beef, mutton and pork. I have no desire to deprive the Riverina of representation on the board, but merely urge the claims of the meat producing areas of the northern portion of the State which I represent to similar representation. Provision is made in the bill that the four members representing publicly owned abattoirs and freezing works shall be the Metropolitan Meat Industry Commissioner in New South Wales, the chairman of the Queensland Meat Industry Board, the general manager of the Government Produce Department of South Australia, and the general manager of the Western Australian Government Meat Works at Wyndham, all of whom have had long experience in the meat’ industry. That is the representation of interests which are concerned with the processing of the meat, and not directly the representation of the producer.
– There is to be a representative of the Queensland producers on the board.
– By whom willhe be appointed ?
– By the stock producers of the State.
– It is more than likely that the man chosen will be the secretary of the Graziers Association. I have no objection to offer to his appointment; I think that he should be a member of the board ; but what I really want is direct representation of the man who is producing the cattle. The southern portion of the State, because of the closer settlements, will dominate the position, while those who are on the poorer country in the north will have no representation. Although cattle are realizing £12 and £14 a head, the price which these men receive from the store buyers is only £2 10s. or £3 a head. If they are given representation on this board they will be in a position to improve their conditions.
– Do they not sell store cattle because they cannot fatten them ?
– No. Because of the long distances travelled, the cattle are stores when they reach the market, and the producers are then at the mercy of the buyers at the sale yards, because of the absence of fattening areas. If these men were represented on the board they could press for the establishment of fattening areas in the northern and southern portions of the State If these were provided the offer of £2 10s. or £3 a head could be refused, and the cattle could be fattened up for the following year.
– Where does the bill give the board authority to do that?
– The bill confers certain powers on the board. This measure is not regarded as the last word on the subject. It is hoped that the meat industry will become as highly organized as the sugar industry now is, and as we trust the wheat industry also will become. My amendment is not unreasonable, and should be acceped.
– There is a special reason for the Riverina being given representation.
– I am advancing a special reason for the gulf country being given representation. The pastoral lessees of the Northern Territory are not more entitled to it. I am sure that that statement will be endorsed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), whose vote, if he had one, would undoubtedly be given for the amendment. [Quorum formed.]
.- The amendment of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) is most reasonable, particularly in view of the special consideration that is given to the Riverina. The States of New South Wales and Queensland have the same representation at present, except that the producers in the Riverina have an additional representative. Queensland’s shave of the Australian production of cattle is a very big one - over 80 per cent. The bulk of the production is in central and north Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia. A representative with a thorough knowledge of the problems of pests and transport confronting the industry in the tropics, and the difficulties likely to be encountered in organizing it and raising it to the highest pitch of perfection, would be invaluable in the counsels of the board. The objective of the Government would be obtained by acceptance of the amendment. I have no objection to special representation being given to the Riverina. Probably that is a wise provision. The claim for special representation of northern and central Queensland is equally strong. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will accept the amendment.
Mr.FORDE (Capricornia) [11.52].- The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has rendered a distinct service to the meat producers of Australia, by submitting his amendment for special representation on the board of the producers in northern and central Queensland. I am glad to know that the amendment is not being dealt with on party lines, and that some Government supporters have expressed approval of it. We on this side do not object to special representation being given to the Northern Territory. Although beef exports from that portion of the Commonwealth are infinitesimal compared with exports from the great beef-producing State of Queensland, producers in the Northern Territory have to travel their stock great distances over the Barkly Tablelands to meat works in North Queensland, or to Wyndham, in Western Australia, and their special problems require special consideration. Northern and central Queensland carry the great bulk of the cattle produced in the northern State, and 80 per cent. of the beef exports from Australia come from Queensland cattle districts. The claim for special representation on the board should receive sympathetic consideration, because the transport problem is a veryacute one for both sheep and cattle producers in the areas mentioned by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). By comparison, the difficulties in the Riverina area are trifling, producers there being situated close to railway facilities. There are 21,000,000 sheep in Queensland, the great majority of which are to be found in the grazing areas of the central and northern districts. A royal commission inquired into the conditions of the beef industry a few years ago and reported that, unless definite action were taken to encourage beef production, there would be a shortage, and possibly it would be difficult to supply the requirements of the Australian market within the next ten years. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that action should be taken without delay to encourage those who are willing to go out into the back-blocks in northern, central and’ western Queensland, as well as the remote areas in other States, and suffer all the privations associated with pioneering production. The electoral division of Capricornia is one of the greatest cattleproducing’ areas in Australia, and representations have been made to me and also to the honorable member for Kennedy to support the request for special representation on the board of the cattle-growers in thp central and northern Queensland areas. It is im portant that something practical should be done by the Commonwealth and State governments to make beef production a favorable proposition. Our cattlemen have to accept the world’s parity for the whole of their output. Although 80 per cent. of the cattle killed in Australia are required for home consumption, the producers do not get a home-consumption price, as is the case in a number of other rural industries. I am confident that it would be possible to select from the cattleproducers of northern and central Queensland a thoroughly good practical representative, whose wealth of experience would be a source of great strength to the board in the discharge of its responsible duties. We, as a party, realize that this measure is a step in the right direction, and we urge the Government not to hamstring the board’ by restricting the representation on it. The cattle-producers of northern and central Queensland should be given an opportunity to express their views concerning the conduct of the industry. I support the amendment, and I hope the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) will accept it. It is gratifying to honorable members on this side to know that on other occasions he has evinced’ sympathy with proposals which have been put forward by the Opposition. I, therefore, trust that he will consult with his ministerial colleagues and secure their approval for the acceptance of the amendment, because it will do a great service to a very deserving section of producers, who are carrying on under great difficulties.
– I am pleased to know that, in furtherance of the Government’s policy to assist the meat- export trade, a State Advisory Committee has been appointed in Queensland, consisting of five representatives of stock producers and graziers’’ associations, and five meat exporters nominated by the Meat Exporters Association of Queensland. This committee, I understand, is representative of the industry in all parts of the State. Recently I received a copy of a letter dated the 11th November, 1935, addressed to the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) from the chairman of the Queensland State Advisory Committee (Mr. Norman Bourke), in which he comments upon the provisions contained in this bill. [Quorum formed.] No suggestion is made in Mr. Bourke’s letter that a special representative of northern Queensland should be appointed to the board. I have no doubt that if provision could be made for such an appointment to be made the producers in northern Queensland would be pleased. Mr. Bourke did suggest certain other amendments to the bill. It has been suggested that because southern Riverina will be specially represented, northern Queensland should also be represented, but I understand that southern Riverina is to be given representation because it is practically the only part of Australia where the fat lamb industry is carried on to a considerable extent.
Friday, 15 November
– As the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) and other honorable gentlemen from Queensland have presented such a strongcase in support of the amendment, the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) should at least have indicated the attitude of the Government in respect to it. The honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) has practically suggested that because one man, the chairman of the newly appointed State Advisory Committee, has not asked for representation for northern Queensland it should not be granted; but that is not a conclusive reason. The honorable member for Kennedy submitted figures in the course of the second-reading debate which indicated clearly that northern Queensland is an important cattleraising district. [Quorum formed.] It seems reasonable that this important and extensive area should be granted representation on this board, which is expected to do a great deal to advance the cattle industry of Australia generally. One of the functions of the board, so we are told, will be to advise the Minister as to ways and means of improving the circumstances of the cattle industry. This adds weight to the contention that a representative of northern Queensland should be appointed to it. As the Assistant Minister has not seen fit to reply to the arguments advanced in support of the amendment, we are justified in asking that the Government should accept it.
Motion (by Mr. McCall) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (Chairman-Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolvedin the negative.
– I take the opportunity to say that the committee should be informed at greater length concerning the effect of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), which I intend to support. I compliment the Government upon the fact that at last it proposes to appoint a representative of the Northern Territory on the proposed board. The Northern Territory really consists of three large regional areas, and a good deal depends upon the portion of the territory from which the gentleman who represents the Northern Territory on the board is appointed as to the views which will be expressed. Those in the central area do most oftheir business in Adelaide, but the stations around Victoria River Downs and Wave Hill regard Wyndham as their business centre. An area abutting on the Gulf country, known as the
Barkly Tablelands, from the view-point of cattle production, is of the greatest importance. As there are three separate regional areas I feel that the representative of the Northern Territory appointed to the board will not be in close contact with all the cattle producers of Northern Australia. A representative from the Barkly Tablelands would be able to speak authoritatively on the Gulf areas adjoining in Queensland; but, if one is selected from some other area, the Gulf country will have very little representation. This large area of cattle country in the vicinity of the Leichhardt River should have representation on the board, as most of the stations there carry herds of from 60,000 to 80,000 head of cattle. The station managers in the Cloncurry district and on the Leichhardt River are therefore fully conversant with details associated with meat producing on a large scale, which cannot be comprehended by the smaller holder of southern areas. I appreciate the remarks of the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) in regard to Mr. Bourke, the president of the United Graziers Association, who, I know, would prove a worthy representative of Queensland, but he visits the Gulf country only occasionally. His manager, Mr. George Schiltz, however, hails from a great line of Gulf cattlemen. “ Lorraine “ Station, adjoining, is under the control of Mr. Burnett, a wonderful cattleman. I know several other outstanding station managers who would be worthy representatives of the industry, and highly capable of advising the board on any subject which may come before it in regard to the production of cattle in the remote areas. The mutual interchange of ideas would be of value to both sections of this board. I fear that too little attention is being paid to the cattlemen who take the risk of production in the remote areas. The main problem of the cattleproducers in that part of the Commonwealth is that they are working under uneconomic conditions. From 300,000 to 400,000 cattle cross the border’ into Queensland every year, and at times they are held up indefinitely in consequence of droughts. A large proportion of the cattle marketed in Sydney and Mel-
Mr. Blain. bourne comes from that country, concerning which the Australian people know little.
I ask the honorable member not to discuss particular areas in detail.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but there are men in the Gulf country whose services would be invaluable to the board, and the board could be of value to them.
I believe that if the board had the services of a cattleman representing the Gulf country which includes districts along the Leichhardt River to Cloncurry and into the Northern Territory it would be informed of the conditions of the little known districts in the far north in relation to the drafting of the herds down to the Mumimbidgee districts and other fattening areas for topping off before marketing.
.Queensland already has three representatives on the board. One directly represents the State; it has a second representative because it is one of the four States with abattoirs for the export trade, and it has a third representative because it produces more than 1,500 tons of meat per annum. The balance of representation decided upon by the Meat Conference should not be upset.
– I cannot accept the amendment. The position is that stock owners already have one representative in Queensland, and the meat exporters another. The chairman of the Meat Industry Board, who also represents Queensland, is a capable officer, and he is conversant with the needs of the meat industry. The needs of the northern sections of Australia will also be served by the member of the board who will represent the “Wyndham district and by the representative of the Northern Territory. A special sub-committee is also to he created to look after the beef section of the board’s activities. The representatives of all States and meatinterests in conference agreed to the basis of representation set out in the bill. Other States besides Queensland could make out a case for increased representation. South Australia, which is not so strongly represented as Queensland, could advance a strong argument that it should have additional representation. It has been asked why the Riverina is given specific representation. The area to be served by the representative concerned is not merely the Riverina, but also the whole of the Murray Valley on the New South Wales side, where the producers use the Victorian railway system to get stock to the market. Furthermore, that district is engaged in the production of fat lambs to a greater extent than any other part of the Commonwealth. The Meat Conference held at Canberra about a month ago agreed that it was desirable to give specific representation to the Riverina. I ask honorable members to accept the explanation and not to press the amendment. I would point out to the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), who moved the amendment, that the Minister for Agriculture in Queensland (Mr. Bulcock) accepted the basis of representation set out in this bill when he attended the conference.
Question - that the amendment (Mr. Riordan’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That at the end of sub-clause (10) the following proviso be inserted: - “ Provided that any vacancy in the office of member of the board which at the commencement of this act is filled by the member holding the position of the general manager, Government Produce Department, State of South Australia, shall be filled by theappointment by the Governor-General of such person as is nominated by the Metropolitan and Export Abattoirs Board, Statu of South Australia.”
I have already explained my reasons for proposing this amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
– I ask the Minister to explain the meaning of sub-clause 15, which reads -
Members of the board, other than the Government Representative, may be removed from office by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Board.
The experience of the workers and consumers of this country has been that following the establishment, of boards of this nature the tendency has been for prices to rise. Although the Government has denied representation on this board to these sections of the community, it may happen that a man may become a member of the board who would be fair enough to safeguard their interests. Should this happen it will be in the power of the other members of the board to have him dismissed without the Government of the day having any say in respect of the appointment of his successor. . I oppose the establishment by this Government of boards to control industries, because such bodies usually are influenced by the employing interests. In most cases, big producers, as they are called, and not little men, are appointed to these boards and they are prone to utilize such opportunities to corner foodstuffs and to manipulate the market, with the result that prices rise and the public are victimized. For these reasons, it would be dangerous to allow a majority of the members of the board to determine whether any member of the board should remain on it. I repeat that there may be in Australia one or two who may be a little more fair-minded than the other members of the exploiting class who might be appointed to this board, and as they would be inclined to act more fairly towards the interests of the consumers and the workers in the industry, they would most likely be victimized by other members of the board, who could recommend their dismissal.
Mr.Thorby. - A similar provision is inserted in every measure of this nature.
– I move-
That sub-clause (15) be omitted.
Question - put. The committee divided. (Chairman-Mr.Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the clause as amended be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman-Mr.Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Chairman of the board).
– I believe that from the inception of the negotiations for the establishment of the board it has been understood that a stock producer would be the chairman. I think that the original intention was that a provision to that effect should be included in the measure. Will the Minister consider the insertion of such a provision, either in this chamber or in the other branch of the legislature? It has been suggested that the stock producers will have a majority of the representation, but itseems to me that there will be nine representatives of stock pro- ducers and an equal number of other representatives.
– The producers will have nine representatives on the board, and it should be remembered that the representatives of publicly-owned abattoirs and freezing works have practically the same interests as those of the producers. The Government consider? that it is advisable to leave the board as free as possible to elect as chairman the most suitable person available.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 - (1.) There shall be an Executive Committee of the Board. . . (3.) The Executive Committee shall have such powers and functions of the board as the board thinks fit, but the board may at any time exercise any of its powers and functions notwithstanding the appointment of the committee.
– This clause contemplates the appointment of an executive committee consisting of the chairman and six other members of the board. The number on this committee will be not one-half of that on the board. We have been informed that half of the members on the board will represent the producers, but we have no assurance that half of the members of the executive committee will also represent the producers. No doubt, in practice, it will be found that the function of the bo’ard will mainly be to appoint the executive committee, and that the wide and comprehensive powers conferred upon the board will be exercised by the committee.
– It can exercise only the powers delegated to it by the board.
– Precisely. Although the board may not pass on to the committee all the powers which it possesses, no doubt, on the ground of convenience and cost, it will delegate to it more of its powers than is contemplated by the Parliament. In fact, there is nothing in the bill to prevent the board of eighteen from passing on to the executive committee of seven the whole of its functions. It may easily happen that the committee will not be proportionally so representative of the industry as is the board itself. I see danger in this clause. I realize that the board would have to meet frequently to deal with routine matters if there were no executive; but there should be. some limitation of the functions which the board may delegate to the executive. Unless there is a specific limitation of those functions, the probability is that the authority given to the board by this legislation will in practice be exercised by the executive. The representative nature of the board has been emphasized; but I warn honorable members that in practice the authority over marketing would be exercised, not by the producers, but by the executive committee. I agree that the board is entirely representative except, as I said earlier, in regard to the employees in the industry, and can safely be entrusted with the responsibilities reposed in it; but I submit that we ought to protect the industry against a hoard which may he only too willing to allow its functions to be exercised by an executive. The words “as far as. possible “ in sub-clause 2 are not sufficiently definite. The sub-clause should read: “ . . . the board shall provide for the representation …” I also suggest that for the words “ as the board thinks fit “, sub-clause 3, the words “ as the board may recommend for the approval of the Minister “ should be substituted.
– I shall accept an amendment along those lines.
– I now move-
That the words “thinks fit” sub-clause (3) be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ recommends subject to the approval of the Minister.”
I agree with the provision for the board to resume at any time the exercise of functions which it has delegated to the committee.
– I hope that the Minister will not accept the amendment. Whenever it is necessary for statutory powers to be vested in a body for the control of an industry, it is desirable that those powers should be exercised by the representatives of the industry themselves. The Minister should not be made responsible for determining the extent to which a board drawn, from places far apart should be empowered to delegate its powers to those of its members who are able to attend meetings.
– On behalf of the Government, I accept the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). I see- no danger whatever in it. It merely means that the board may recommend to the Minister the duties which shall be delegated to the executive committee. There may be some ground for the fears of the Leader of the Opposition, but I do not think that a representative and responsible board would be likely to transfer any of its powers to an executive committee, unless it was thoroughly satisfied that the committee would exercise them with care and discretion.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Fees and expenses).
.As this clause does not fix the fees, I should like to know whether the Minister can give the committee any idea of the amounts which will be paid to the chairman and the members of the board.
– The industry will pay the fees.
– The fees will be prescribed by regulation.
– Will the salaries be prescribed by regulation?
– Yes, and Parliament may disallow them.
– I take it that the board will recommend the payment of certain fees, and that its recommendation will be given effect by the Minister by regulation.
– The Minister will issue a regulation prescribing the fees decided upon.
– And Parliament will have an opportunity to disallow the regulation?
– Will the Minister state whether these fees are to be paid out of revenue?
– No; they will be paid by the industry itself.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 14 and 15 agreed to.
The board shall have power -
to advise the Minister regarding matters arising in connexion with any export programmes which it may, from time to time, be necessary to observe;
– I move -
That after the word “ advise “, paragraph c, the words “ or to make recommendations’ to”, be inserted.
The clause will then read -
The board shall have power -
to advise or to make recommendations to the Minister regarding matters arising in connexion with any export programmes which it may, from time to time, be necessary U> observe ;
The principal object of this bill is to create an Australian Meat Board with a certain constitution and powers so as to ensure that the producers are to have control of their industry. The effect of this amendment will be to strengthen control by the board, that is, the producers. It means that it. will be the board which will accept the responsibility of making recommendations to the Minister, and that is as it should be. As the. honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) said, the board, and not the Minister, should do the job. As the clause stands, the board is merely empowered to advise the Minister in regard to meat export programmes. That does not go far enough, and that is why I move this amendment. The board has power to make recommendations under paragraph a, and the same power should be given in paragraph c. I hope the Minister will accept the amendment.
– I am prepared to accept the amendment.
– The board is to be given power to regulate the quality of meat submitted for export, but I should like to know what is being done to ensure that .al] the first grade meat is not sent overseas, so that the Australian consumers will have to take the diseased and inferior leavings as has happened in the case of other foodstuffs. If the board is unable to find a market overseas for all the meat offering, will it have power to limit production, and is there any likelihood that, if the producers continue to make a loss, they will demand and receive a bounty from the Government? If there is, the workers will certainly be affected. The Labour party favours producer-control of industry, but it believes that the workers and consumers, whose interests are affected, should be represented on the controlling authority. Boards of the kind proposed by the Government are of no benefit to the small producers, the workers, or the consumers in Australia. Invariably, after the inauguration of a marketing scheme of this kind, the home price has been increased, so that the consumers, including the workers, have been victimized. Under this scheme, the best meat will be exported, and there will be a shortage of prime meat for the local market. I doubt whether the scheme will confer the benefit which the Minister claims for it. It will provide an opportunity for a handful of interested individuals to control the industry in their own behalf, and not for the good of the community. This small group will be able to corner supplies, and regulate the quantity put on the local market, as well as the quantity exported. I hope that the Minister will give an assurance that the board will not have unlimited power to restrict production and to control supplies for the local market.
– It should be clear to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that the board will have no authority to control the quality of meat supplied to the home market. It will have control only of such meat as is submitted to it. for export by the growers. The board has no authority to order that meat shall be exported, but is concerned merely with meat supplied by producers for export. In my opinion, clause 16 is the most vital in the bill. It contains the objectionable provision implied throughout the whole measure, that authority is vested in the Minister, not in the board. In important matters the board may make recommendations to the Minister, who may veto its administrative actions. This is a departure from the essential principle of producer control. The board should not be subject to political control in any form, and this provision will not be welcomed by those persons engaged in the meat industry. The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Corangamite will improve the bill considerably, since it provides that the board may not only advise, but may also make recommendations to the Minister - a concession which the Minister is prepared to accept. At the same time, the Minister has not relinquished his right to veto any decisions reached by the board, which should be permitted to manage its own business.
Sitting suspended from 1.18 to 1.45 a.m. [Quorum formed.]
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 17 to 19 agreed to.
Clause 20 verbally amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 21 (Application of moneys paid into fund).
.Can the Minister give any indication as to what the approximate revenue of the board will be and what amount it is estimated will be expended in the payment of travelling allowances of officers of the board and in fees or other remuneration to members of the board or of the London representative? The board may not receive sufficient income to meet this expenditure and it may be necessary for this Parliament to vote sums of money for that purpose.
– The estimated revenue of the board will be in the vicinity of £25,000 per annum. It will be raised by a levy imposed on all meat handled by the board. The items on which that money will be expended are set out in the clause.
– Has any approximation been made of what amounts will be necessary to cover the expenditure under the various headings set out in this clause?
– The usual railway fares, travelling allowances and fees payable to members of similar boards already in existence will be a guide to the Minister in determining what shall be paid to the members of this board and its officers. Whatever fees are prescribed will be laid on the table of the House.
– What is the estimated cost of the London representation?
– I am unable to give that information as it is possible that the London representative may be in London only for a part of the time.
– The £25,000 mentioned by the Minister seems a large amount to provide.
– It will not all be absorbed in travelling expenses. Provision is made for payment from the fund of any costs or expenses incurred in connexion with experiments in the handling of meat conducted in the interests of the export industry.
– What is to be the amount of the levy?
– The exact rate of the levy has not yet been worked out, but as I have said it is expected to yield about £25,000. The levy will be fixed by an export charges bill which will be introduced later.
– An amendment has been circulated in the name of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Fisken) to insert in this clause the following paragraph : - “ (co) in reimbursement of any Meat Advisory Committee, to an amount not exceeding One hundred pounds in any financial year, for expenditure in respect of secretarial services and expenses connected with those services ; “.
Meat advisory committees are referred to in clause 4 of the bill and the members of the board appointed to represent the stock producers in each State are to be appointed by a majority of stock producers on the Meat Advisory Committee in that State. But there is no fund in existence from which the members of these committees may be reimbursed for the services which they will be called upon to render, and it is considered that the money to be raised under the proposed Meat Export Charges Act might well he applied to that purpose. I ask the Minister if he will agree to such an amendment?
– I have given very careful consideration to the amendment circulated by the honorable member, and regret that I cannot see my way clear to accept it. For various reasons it would establish a dangerous precedent. In the first place, these com mittees are State organizations. Their only association with the Australian Meat Board is in the nomination of the producers’ representatives. Under the bill, power is being taken to collect certain levies, but there is no power to allocate the money back to a State authority. In all probability that would involve the imposition of many restrictions and conditions as to the constitution of the board, the manner in which the money could be expended, the returns to be furnished to the federal authorities, and so on. I fear that, instead of having a benefit conferred upon them, the State advisory committees would not welcome such restrictions and conditions. I ask the honorable member not to press the amendment.
– In tho purposes for which the board may incur expenditure, I cannot find any specific provision in relation to publicity.
– Paragraph d of clause 16 provides that the board may make arrangements to promote the sale overseas of meat, meat- products or edible offal.
– On the assurance of the Minister that that is intended to cover expenditure on publicity, where the board deems such a course advisable, I express myself as satisfied.
– The amount which it is proposed to collect from the industry in each year - £25,000 - is very substantial. I ask myself if that is not admittedly excessive in view of the provision in paragraph d of clause 21, which provides that the moneys paid into the fund may be used for investment in any securities. I see no justification for the collection by the board of an amount in excess of its administrative requirements. If there is a reason, it has not been stated. It appears to me to be altogether wrong that, an industry which finds difficulty in marketing its product because of low prices and restrictions in the world’s markets should pay more than is actually necessary in any current year for the administration of the board. I should like to know why this levy is to be so large as apparently to leave with the board a sum that is not needed for its immediate use, and may be invested.
– There is no suggestion that the board will have a large surplus for investment in securities. Provision is made for the investment of a small amount of any surplus that may be available during a year. Interest will accrue upon it, which will be devoted to the requirements of the board when it is needed. In the event of the board having more than is actually required in any one year, the reduction of the levy imposed upon the industry in the subsequent year would be justified. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) will appreciate the impossibility of fixing a levy that will provide just the amount required in anv given year. The board in its wisdom may desire to build up a small fund for research work over a period of years. To do that, it may be deemed advisable to invest a portion of the funds at its disposal. I give the assurance that the Minister in charge will not allow the board to impose a heavy levy and accumulate unnecessary reserves.
– What the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) has said is all right so far as it goes. I hope that the safeguard he has mentioned will be observed, and that, if the board has a small amount to invest, the Minister will sec that it is invested in securities which are readily realizable.
– It is provided in the bill that they can only be securities guaranteed by the Commonwealth or a S tate.
– If the board accumulates funds, and there is immediate need to call upon them, it should be able to realize upon its securities promptly without loss.
– I hope that the committee is not to take it that, if the expenses of advertising or of experiment for purposes of research were notas great as anticipated, the board would be precluded from accumulating a research fund such as has been secured by tho New Zealand board. As the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) is doubtless aware, the New Zealand board has accumulated a reserve fund of approximately £100,000, and has thus been in a position to obtain fromthe cold storage proprietary interests in London, which levy very high charges for space in their cool stores, more reasonable rates than apply to the produce of other countries.
’. - In my reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) I pointed out that the Minister would not be a party to any arrangement whereby the board would make a greater levy than was necessary for the purposes of administration. I added that any surplus which might be accumulated over a period of years would be utilized for research and experimental purposes in the interests of the industry. The point raised by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) will be considered.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 22 to 28 agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 1 1.30 a.m. this day.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire again to bring under the notice of the Minister in charge of War Service Homes (Mr. Thorby) the position of Mr. G. H. Grundy, an occupant of a war service home at 64 Gallipoli-street, Lidcombe, New South Wales, who, some time ago, was threatened with eviction. On the 30th October, the Assistant Minister addressed the following communication to me : -
I have to acknowledge your personal representations on behalf ofMr.G. H. Grundy, of 64 Gallipoli-street. Lidcombe, New South Wales, regarding his transactions with the War Service Homes Commission. I am having immediate inquiries made into this matter and you will be further advised at an early date.
I understand that Mr. Grundy was to be evicted in the early part of November and
I shall be glad if the Minister will inform me if such action has been taken. I have sent a copy of the above letter to Mr. Grundy. I trust that the Minister will without further delay let me know definitely what has been done.
– The case referred to by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) has been dealt with. Immediately after the honorable member directed my attention to the matter I called for a report which is now in my office. A letter which now awaits my signature has been drafted and will be sent to the honorable member without delay.
– Has Mr. Grundy been evicted ?
– I am not in a position to say.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 2.11 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
en asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Mr.Archdale Parkhill. - The answers to the honorablemember’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Details relating to volunteersfor enrolment in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve are not available in Navy Office, Melbourne,
Federal Capital Territoryadvisory council.
Mr.Beasley asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Willhe consider amending the Defamation Ordinance of 1928 to cover proceedings at the Federal Capital Territory Advisory Council?
Mr.Paterson. - The matter will be discussed with the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies).
Mr.Curtin asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Has he directed that H.M.A.S. Sydney be transferred to service as a unit in the Royal Navy?
If not, and H.M.A.S. Sydney is under the control of the Navy Department of the Commonwealth, why is the Sydney detained in the Mediterranean ?
Whenis it expected that H.M.A.S. Sydney will arrive in Australian waters?
Mr.ArchdaleParkhill. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions areas follows: -
In accordance with custom, H.M.A.S. Sydney being outside the limits of the Australian station, was attached to the Royal Navy from the date of commissioning.
See answer to 1.
No date can be fixed at present.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 November 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19351114_reps_14_148/>.