14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Invalidand Old-age Pensions.
Mr. HOLLOWAY presented a petition signed by 1,600 members of the Old-age and Invalid Pensioners’ League of Victoria, praying for the restoration of the amounts deducted from invalid and old-age pensions under the financial emergency legislation.
Petition received and read.
– In view of the interest aroused in New South “Wales in connexion with the jubilee appeal for the establishment of a fund to be devoted to maternal and infant welfare, and the numerous inquiries regarding the allocation of the money, will the Minister for Health state whether any sum has been allocated by the Commonwealth to New South Wales, and what action has been taken by that State in the direction of implementing the proposal for which the fund was raised ?
– This matter was raised last week by the honorable member for Werriwa.
– In a different way.
– I was not. then in a position to furnish the information sought, but I have since obtained some particulars which I shall now give to the House. The Commonwealth grant of £50,000 was allocated among the States as follows : -New South Wales, £14,000 ; Victoria, £10,000; Queensland, £8,000; South Australia £6,000; Western Australia £6,500; Tasmania, £5,500.It will be recalled that this fund was launched for the purpose of establishing a memorial to commemmorate the jubilee of His late Majesty, as was done in the reign of the late Queen Victoria, the object being to grapple with the problem of maternal mortality and infant welfare. Certain recommendations were made by the (Health Council. I am not able to inform honorable members, except in a very general way, of the precise purposes to which the States have applied or propose to apply their quota of the Commonwealth grant, together with the funds subscribed locally by the States and private individuals. Advice has been received from the various States as follows: New South Wales - No action has been taken towards the appointment of a committee or the allocation of the funds. Victoria - A committee has been appointed, but the allocation has not yet been decided. Queensland - No committee will be appointed, but the money available will be funded, to be used in perpetuity for the purpose of a professorship or lectureship in obstetrics. South Australia - A committee was appointed, and the money allocated in accordance with the principles laid down by the Federal Health Council. Western Australia - A committee has been appointed, but no decision has been reached as to the allocation of the available funds. Tasmania - A committee was appointed, and a decision has been reached as to the allocation of the money available, which is in accordance with the principles laid down by the Federal Health Council. I only wish to observe, on my own account, that, in my opinion, ante-natal clinics efficiently equipped and widely distributed over the Commonwealth must he the keystone of any effective scheme for reducing maternal and infant mortality. These antenatal clinics must be open to all preg- nant women, and must, whenever necessary, provide not only medical aid and advice, but also a suitable dietary and accommodation.
Order of the day, general business - Disallowance of statutory rule.- Resumption of debate from the 21st November, 1935(vide page 1873, volume 147), on motion by Mr. Gregory - That Statutory RuleNo. 19 of 1935, amending the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations be disallowed - by leave - discharged.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act- Regulations amended - StatutoryRules 1930, No. 28.
Public Service Act -
Appointments ofP. R. Heydon, T. Matthew, and A. T. Stirling, Department of External Affairs.
Twelfth Report on the Commonwealth Public Service by the Board of Commissioners, dated 11th December, l935.
– Is the Acting Minister for Commerce aware that, at the Graziers Conference held in Sydney yesterday, it was resolved that a move should be made to endeavour to have legislation passed to prevent lot-splitting at wool sales? In view of that definitely expressed opinion, will the honorable member explore the position so as to see what federal action may be taken to prevent this practice?
– My attention has already been directed to the various resolutions passed by, and the discussions thereon, at the Graziers Conference in Sydney. I am in constant touch with the representatives of the organizations concerned, and the Government is giving every consideration to any worth-while resolution.
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether this morning’s press report is correct, to the effect that a civil aviation board of four members is to be set up to take charge of the civil aviation branch of his department? If it is, does he not think that, in the furtherance of civil aviation, the money might be better spent in the direction of increasing the facilities for commercial aviation rather than on the overhead of the department and the production of red tape?
– It is proposed to set up a board in connexion with civil aviation, on lines similar to those of the military board, the naval board, and the air force board, all of which have functioned with very great value to the Commonwealth. I am convinced, and so is everybody to whom I have referred the matter, that the constitution of this board will increase the efficiency of the civil aviation branch in every respect, not only in respect of its administration, but also in respect of the service it can render to the general public. The honorable member is entirely wrong when he suggests that the board will increase expenditure to any extent. It will be constituted of officers, whose salaries in future will be very little higher than those they at present receive. There has never been any red tape in the civil aviation branch since I have been in charge of the department, consequently there can be no increase of it. I assure the honorable member and the House, that the arrangement will be of very great benefit to civil aviation generally, and that there will be comparatively little increase of cost.
– Has the Treasurer read the statement of the Country Party Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, which appears in to-day’s press, commenting upon the failure of the treasury-bill issue, to the effect that that failure supplied further evidence of the need for greater co-operation between the Commonwealth Bank and the Loan Council, and. expressing the hope that in future the Loan Council would be consulted in regard to such bills? If the honorable member has read the statement, has he any comment to make regarding it?
– I regret that I have not yet had an opportunity to read the statement.
– Last year a grant of £5,000 was made for the relief of pearlers in north-western Australia who had suffered from the effects of a cyclone. The Tariff Board was subsequently asked to inquire as to whether a further grant should be made. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the report of the board has yet been received, and if it has, whether a decision has been arrived at with respect to an application by the Government of “Western Australia for a further grant of £10,000 to rehabilitate the pearling industry ?
– This matter concerns partly the Customs Department and partly the Treasury. The Tariff Board inquired into it and presented a report, which has not yet been considered by the Government. A grant of £5,000 was made last year, £2,500 of which went to Western Australia for the relief of those who had suffered from the results of a cyclone. All that T can add is that representations for a further grant have been made to the Government.
– Can the Prime Minister state whether the Labour Government of Western Australia has briefed counsel, or has arranged to support James in his appeal to the Privy Council against the decision of the High Court of Australia, which, if successful, will wreck all the Commonwealth’s marketing schemes and prevent the establishment of the scheme for a home-consumption price for wheat?
– I am unable to reply offhand to the honorable member’s question, but I shall obtain the information for him.
– Will the Acting Minister for Commerce comment upon the wholesale condemnation of the Australian Meat Board that was yesterday uttered by representative graziers in New South Wales gathered in conference in Sydney, the condemnation being based on the alleged inability of the board to provide an adequate measure of control of the industry producers? Has the attention of the Acting Minister been drawn to an allegation made at the same conference to the effect that overseas interests have obtained a stranglehold on the Australian meat export industry? Will the Acting Minister order that an exhaustive inquiry be made into these allegations to determine whether there is any justification for them, and whether there is any indication that the Australian meat export industry is falling into the hands of overseas interests in the same way as the meat export industry in Argentina has done?
– My attention has already been drawn to the proceedings at the Graziers Conference in Sydney, and I am not alarmed by statements made by some individuals attending that conference. I propose to wait until the conference is concluded, and then give my attention to the considered resolutions agreed to there. If any action by the Department of Commerce is then called for. it will be taken.
40-HOUR WORKING WEEK.
– In view of the further conclusive evidence in favour of a shorter working week, which was advanced by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) in his report tabled last week, does the Prime Minister still consider that an inquiry into the matter is necessary, or does he agree that a shorter working week is an economic necessity?
– It is not a matter of the opinion of any individual, because it would be easy to obtain opinions from responsible persons directly contrary to the opinion expressed by the honorable member for Parramatta. The division of opinion is so great, and the need for getting at facts so evident, that the Government has decided to hold an inquiry, and that inquiry will be proceeded with. I hope at an early date to be able to announce to honorable members the personnel of the authority which will conduct the inquiry.
– Will the Treasurer indicate when the handbook explaining the new income taxation measure will be available to honorable members?
– I am glad to be able to inform honorable members that a copy of the handbook will be made available to all honorable members to-day. The handbook is of rather formidable dimensions, and gives in parallel columns the clauses of the new bill, side by side with the relevant sections of the existing act. As the book is costly to produce, it if, probable that only one copy can be made available to each honorable member.
– I understand that at present war service homes, upon which the occupiers are still making repayments, are insured ‘by the department. Will the Minister in charge of War Service Homes consider the proposal to allow those who have completed their payments to the department to continue the insurance arrangement previously in existence?
– As a matter of policy, the War Service Homes Commission conducts a separate insurance branch to provide insurance cover in respect of those homes which are still the subject of time-purchase agreements. Once the homes have been paid off, however, and have become the freehold property of the purchasers, it is considered inadvisable to continue the insurance arrangement.
– Will the Treasurer ask the Commonwealth Statistician, Dr. Wilson, to bring up to date, and make available to honorable members, the very informative statement that he delivered on the subject of London funds when he, as an economist in the Statistician’s branch, addressed, in Melbourne, in February, 1935, a meeting of the Australian’ and New Zealand Association for the advancement of science? Further, when may I expect a reply to my question of last week as to the amount of London funds in existence in 1934-35, and the amount on the latest date for which figures are available?
– In regard to the first part of the honorable member’s question, I shall go into the matter and see if his proposal is practicable. As for the second part, I shall see that the honorable member is supplied with the information as early as possible.
– Will the Acting Minister for Commerce state whether negotiations are still proceeding through the good offices of his department between the United Graziers Association of New South Wales, and the overseas transport association, with regard to wool freights? If so, will he inquire whether the freights charged to private consignors of wool differ materially from those charged to brokers ?
– I have already had several very important conferences with the overseas shipping representatives, the woolbuyers, the woolbrokers, and the growers. I have also conferred with other importers and exporters who are interested in the regularity of the shipping services to Australia. I have had discussions with the Australian representatives of the Australian Overseas Transport Association, and I propose next Saturday to hold a further conference with the overseas shipping interests, when I hope to bring into line the points of view that have been expressed by the various parties concerned. Our object is to obtain a reduction of freights if possible, and to ensure greater regularity in shipments, so as to avoid the waste space on overseas ships caused by exporters being unable, upon occasion, to utilize the space previously ordered.
– Is it a fact that airconditioning plant for railway carriages on the East-West transcontinental railway line was purchased from an overseas firm? Is the Minister for the Interior aware that an Australian company, which has been operating for the last four or five years in Sydney, can supply the same kind of plant at half the cost of the imported material ?
– It is true that airconditioned carriages are being placed on the East-West transcontinental railway line, and that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, when he made arrangements for the work to be done, was unaware that there was a firm in Australia engaged on work of this kind. That fact has since become known, and I have communicated with the commissioner with the result that the Australian firm has been written to and informed that, for any future work which it is proposed to do, offers from it will be invited.
– Seeing that it is now nearly four years since tenders closed for the construction of a new regional broadcasting station at Lawrence, on the Clarence River, can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General state when the station is likely to be opened?
– 1 am merely representing the PostmasterGeneral in this House, and in reply to the honorable member’s question I can only state that it occurs to me that the station is four years nearer to being opened now than it was when tenders were called. 1 shall be very glad to ask the PostmasterGeneral to obtain the information which thu honorable member requires. So far as I can say of my own knowledge, I think the station is nearing completion, and that the honorable member will not have to wait very much longer.
– Will the Prime Minister take advantage of the presence of the Minister for Commerce in Great Britain to make an attempt to ‘co-ordinate the advertising services of the States and the Commonwealth in regard to our primary products in order that a more effective service may be provided ?
– Consideration will be given to the honorable member’s proposal.
– Are the amendments to the Farmers’ DebtRelief Act, which provided for a grant of £12,000,000 to the States, aimed at overcoming difficulties in State legislation which to-day prevent the benefits of the act being availed of? If the proposed amendments are made, will the existing Queensland legislation comply with the requirements of the Commonwealth act, or will the payments still be denied to that State, and if so, for what reason? Were the principles of the Commonwealth legislation agreed to by the States before it was enacted ?
– This matter is on the notice-paper for consideration this afternoon, and I suggest that we leave it until then.
– Is it a fact that, although some of the other dominions have a permanent representative at Geneva, Australia has not? If that is so, and having regard to the importance of the discussions taking place at Geneva at tho present time, will the Minister for External Affairs consider providing for permanent Australian representation ?
– It is, I think, a fact that three dominions have permanent representatives at Geneva. Consideration has been given to the advisableness or otherwise of Australia being similarly represented, but the matter has always, sofar, been decided in the negative. My personal opinion, for what it is worth, is that a permanent representative at Geneva would not constitute the best form of representation for Australia.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation request the State Government of New South Wales to waive the medical test to which returned soldiers called for work through the labour exchanges are now subjected? These men are only casually employed, and after six months’ employment are called upon to pass a medical examination. Because of the fact that very few returned soldiers are able to pass the test, will the Minister make representations to the State Government on the lines I have indicated?
– I have no knowledge of the facts in regard to this matter, but I shall make inquiries and see that the returned soldiers are given fair treatment.
– With reference to the sentence of death recently passed by the Court in the Mandated Territory upon a white man named Ludwig Schmidt, a German, will the Prime Minister advise the House whether the sentence will be carried out or otherwise?
– The honorable member will realize that this is not the place to make a pronouncement on such a matter. When any decision is arrived at by the Government, it will be made known.
– May I suggest that too much time is taken up in answering questions without notice. If honorable members will cast their minds back over the questions asked to-day, they will see that not one of them could not ha.ve been placed on the notice-paper. If that had been done, the answers supplied would have been more accurate and fuller information would have been supplied. I ask honorable members to confine their questions without notice to matters of urgent importance.
– Is the Treasurer in a position, either in his capacity as Treasurer, or as chairman of the Loan Council, to make a statement as to the deliberations of the Commonwealth Bank Board yesterday, particularly in regard to interest rates?
– The Commonwealth Bank Board is still sitting in Melbourne, and I regret that I have no specific information yet to give to honorable members.
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to make a statement in the House that the Government would not look favorably upon an increase of interest rates?
– That is not only a question of policy so far as the Government is concerned to the extent to which the Government touches the question of interest, but also a question which concerns the functions of the Commonwealth Bank Board, and I am not prepared to make any statement in regard to the position at this stage because of the fact that economic circumstances are constantly changing and nothing that the Government can do will abolish those circumstances j they vary from day to day. All circumstances must be taken into consideration in connexion with the interest rate. I can only say that the low rate of interest hitherto prevailing has considerably helped the development of this country in recent years.
– In view of the great confusion which exists in the minds of applicants for service pensions, in regard to the income which they may receive before their applications are rejected, will the Minister for Repatriation make some statement which will clarify the position?
– Although there is a question on the notice-paper to-day to which I have furnished an answer which I think clarifies the position in regard to this matter, it may be that there are some points which are still obscure. I am still looking into the matter, and I hope there will be neither obscurity nor difficulty presented in the way of every returned soldier getting the service pension to which he may be entitled.
– The Prime Minister is reported in the press to have made the following statement recently at Devonport : -
It was equally clear that for our own safety more use must be. made of the vast areas of fertile country and it seemed that migration must be encouraged in a practical manner with as little delay as possible.
Does that statement, in conjunction with two or three statements which have been made by the Premier of New South Wales, indicate that United Australia party governments are contemplating wholesale migration?
– I have made it clear to the House on every occasion that this question is under consideration. Only yesterday I pointed out that investigations were being conducted as to the capacity of Australia to absorb migrants. When the position has been thoroughly examined and a decision has been arrived at, a formal statement will be made to this House.
Operationsof Japanese Sampans
– Will the Minister for Trade andCustoms prepare and deliver in this House a considered ministerial statement regarding the visit of Japanese sampans to the mainland of Australia, our territorial waters, or our Mandated Territory, and allow sufficient time, by moving an appropriate motion, for honorable members of this House to discuss that statement?
– I see no necessity for the preparation of a statement that may be discussed in this House. I can assure the honorable member-
– Does the Minister treat it as of no account?
– The honorable member does not understand what is being done. The Government is taking very definite action to see that the entries upon the Australian coast will not occur again. Already one Federal boat, to be controlled by the Department of the Interior, has been secured to patrol our northern waters. It is true that an inordinate delay occurred in the supply of that boat from Great Britain, but no suitable boat could be built in Australia.
– Surely the Minister does not mean that?
– No vessel of sufficient speed could be built here. Now that one has arrived, it is being looked over by the local shipbuilders who, if they are able to do so, will tender for the supply of further patrol boats to other departments. Action will be taken to see that these incursions made upon the Australian coast will not be repeated.
I have received from the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The passing through the New Guinea Legislative Council of a bill dealing with the control of shipping.”
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The circumstances are that the NorddeutscherLloyd, a German shipping line, has for four years been giving the planters of New Guinea an. unparalleled service under the agency of an Australian firm, Messrs. Colyer, Watson and Company. Two ships, the Frederun and Bremerhaven, have been regularly operating a monthly service carrying mails and passengers to and from Hong Kong. Their practice is to take a customs officer aboard at the main port and then pick up copra and drop stores on any plantation which needs their services, even if only twenty tons of cargo are involved. Their competitors, one of which receives a mail subsidy, will not provide such a service, but compels planters to bring their copra to the main ports. Moreover, the German line, paying Hamburg prices and exporting direct, has brought about a considerable increase of the price of copra. I have been inspired to raise this question because this Parliament has failed to realize that the development of the mandated territory and the Northern Territory depends on the maintenance of a service by tramp steamers that will go almost anywhere. The planting population of the territory, outside that bound to the other shipping companies, is unanimously in favour of the German service being continued. Indeed the Legislative Council of New Guinea itself, in 1934, passed a resolution against interference with the freedom of shipping. Yet this bill is suddenly introduced into the Legislative Council and with the help of one non-official member, an employee of one of the rivals of Nord-deutscher-Lloyd, passed by an official majority. The bill was not included in the list printed on 21st February prior to the opening of this session, but without warning first saw the light on the 25th February, and was passed three days later.
I do not need to stress the subsequent indignation of the planters. Their representative, Mr. Mullaly, the senior nonofficial member of the council, resigned from the council as a protest against the introduction of this bill. I have received from the president of the Returned Soldiers Association at Rabaul, a radiogram, in the following terms: -
Sincerely appreciate yours fifth. Both soldier planters and public incensed substance ordinance and method adopted. Grateful assistance defer Governor-General’s assent. Request you please explain telephone Dyett reference our message this day.
I do not need to stress the grave international aspect of this matter which the Government, if it has one grain of perception, can see for itself. Germany has been impressing on the nations of the world that only by the return of the mandated colonies can it secure raw materials. That claim will soon have to be met and actually resisted. Yet by the clumsiest sort of oppressive “hole and corner “ action, the Legislative Council of New Guinea has definitely helped to strengthen Germany’s claim and given that nation a basis on which to open the colonial question so far as New Guinea is concerned. Apart altogether from the injustice that could be done to the returned soldier planters and others, the position, as I see it, is serious.
I admit that it might be inadvisable in certain circumstances to allow the ships of foreign countries to trade round the islands, but each case should be dealt with on its merits. There may be facts of which the Minister is aware which we do not know, but if there are, they must be based on most delicate international relationships, which makes it doubly important that this matter should not be dealt with by a council composed of provincial paid officials. The more delicate the position, the greater the responsibility which rests on the Government, and on the members of this Parliament. I must admit that at first I had some temerity in raising a. question such as this, but the strength of public opinion among returned soldier planters in New Guinea is so strong, and their difficulties are so great, that I feel the matter must be ventilated. We all know that in a crisis, the men who bought plantations before the depression and who have held on to them with the price of copra at unpayable bedrock would be the first people to give first consideration to the interests of Australia and the Empire.
I am not concerned about the interests of others, whether they be Aus tralians or not; but the “diggers” who have risked their money and their lives - for they do risk their lives in a climate like that of New Guinea - must not be sacrificed for the sake of any private firms or bureaucratic interests. I also point out that our (tropical regions are a very great national asset to us. Few honorable members seem to realize the value of the trade carried on between Australia and these islands. Vessels loaded to the plimsoll trade there regularly. The New Guinea air service was a monopoly until ‘” diggers “ like Parer, Holden, Stevens, and others brought down the freight from ls. 4d. per lb., which represented a profit of 80 per cent., to ls., 6d., 4d., and now 2d. per lb. We should be proud of our air service in the tropics. But the shipping service lags far behind. I am endeavouring to place before the House the broad aspect of the development of our tropical regions. I feel convinced that northern development depends largely on small boats plying between isolated rivers and ports, in contrast to the present system, under which, ships, taking little or no production or delivery risks, call only at central ports. This bill will strike a death-blow to the inauguration of such a service. Pressure was brought to bear upon me -to suppress this motion, but the case put to me was not sufficiently strong to induce me to do so.
– By whom was that pressure brought to bear?
– That matter is not the concern of the honorable member. I feel that the Country party, and particularly ex-soldier members, who represent isolated electorates which suffer some of the disabilities of the Northern Territory and New Guinea, will understand what it means to returned soldiers with isolated plantations on the every edge of the Orient - the advance guard, I might say, of our far northern defence - to lose the means of transport which enables them to remain on their properties. I am sure, therefore, from what some of the returned soldier members have said to me, that I shall have their support. I understand that some of them are organizing a deputation to the Minister for Territories (Senator Pearce), but that is a matter for the future. I submit that the matter which I have raised is vital to New Guinea residents, and is of such national importance to Australia generally that the Government should defer putting the ordinance into operation until it has been laid on the table of this House, and we have had an opportunity to move for its disallowance.
– The action taken by the Government has been decided upon after due reflection and proper consideration of all the factors involved. We consider that we have acted in the best interests of Australia and of the territory of New Guinea.
– Has the Government or the Legislative Council of New Guinea taken this step?
– The ordinance is put through as a formal matter first, and the Government has to take the final responsibility for it. No restriction is now placed on ships of any nationality trading in or to the territory. A condition such as this is a rare thing in the world to-day. Practically every country that has even a pretence of a national mercantile marine, confines the trade to its outlying territories to its own ships. In this instance the restriction is limited, although it is by no means a total restriction. Under the new proposal an overseas vessel will be able to call at any proclaimed port. The ports have not been proclaimed, but I take it that most ports of any consequence in tho territory will be proclaimed - probably six or seven of them. When the ordinance becomes law, an overseas vessel will still be able to bring goods and passengers from overseas to any one of these ports, sell its goods there, and collect other goods and passengers ; but it will not be able to do this between ports in the territory. At the present time there is a subsidized Australian service between Australia and the Territory of New Guinea, and the contract runs to the 31st instant. A notice calling for tenders for the extension of the service Tv]11 appear in the Commonwealth Gazette to-morrow. The Government proposes that there shall be a specified inter-island and inter-port service, and tenders for that will be called soon. In the meantime, and before the inter-island and inter-port service becomes fully established, the new ordinance will be in suspense, and the existing arrangements will be allowed to continue. Every effort has been made to ensure that the present service rendered to the planters in New Guinea will be maintained and developed. Honorable members know,. I think, that for the last five years, through fairly intense competition for business, freights and fares in and about, the islands have become consistently lower each year, until they have reached quite a low point to-day. Steps are being taken, as the ordinance shows, tomaintain these low freights and faros in the interests of the settlers. Every effort will be made to maintain the present efficient and cheap service.
– The statement that it is cheap and efficient is seriously questioned.
– I am informed by departmental officials that during the last five years the fares and freights have dropped. The Government will, if necessary, see that, by a. determination of freights and fares a ad through proclamation, the present low level is maintained. If any dispute arises in this matter, provision is contained in the ordinance for its settlement by a committee of reference consisting of a chairman appointed by the Administrator in Rabaul and one representative of each of the shipping company or companies and the planters.
– When will the ordinance be laid on the table of this House?
– I am not aware of the means by which honorable members can become acquainted with the details of the ordinance, but the usual and proper procedure will be followed.
– We are discussing it to-day, but we have not seen it.
– But the honorable member is aware of its contents. Foreign vessels have, of course, been trading inter-port in New Guinea up to the present time, though not to any considerable extent. I inquired as to the approximate annual tonnage carried by overseas vessels, and was informed, on departmental authority, that it is limited to probably about 150 tons per annum.
– If it is not a big matter, why alter the present arrangements ?
– Because, having taken all the circumstances into account, the Government is convinced that its action is in the best interests of Australia and of the territory itself. Nothing in the ordinance would prevent ships of any nation tendering for the inter-island service, but an inter-port service has to be quite distinct from an overseas service, or a service between Australia and New Guinea.
.- This motion invites us to consider the ordinance which is about to be enforced in regard to the shipping facilities proposed for the Territory of New Guinea. I think the House should keep in mind that whoever controls this service becomes capable of dominating the trade and commerce of New Guinea and in a very substantial way exercising enormous authority over the traders and planters and the community generally. Therefore, it is of first importance, that, whatever the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) may have in mind
When he speaks of the best interests of Australia, the House should have a complete assurance that the steps which the Government has taken in the national interest do not impose a special penalty on the community concerned. It is true that the ordinance has not been made available to honorable members, nor have I received a copy from the Government. In the proposal as it comes from the Legislative Council of New Guinea, enormous power is unquestionably to be conferred on the company which will have the right to engage in the trade, as compared with the other companies which will be limited to trading between proclaimed port3. The speech delivered by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) was couched in general terms, which indicated that he did not desire to discuss the subject in great detail. I have the impression that the Treasurer, too, employed general terms, preferring not to enter into a detailed criticism, either in defence pf the ordinance, or in opposition to the remarks of the honorable member for the Northern Territory. I feel that “this House ought to have been assured to-day by absolute evidence in some form that the course now taken is a necessary course, and, furthermore, that the safeguards indicated by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in regard to rates and passenger fares and services are complete and of such nature as will prevent planters, particularly those returned soldiers who have acquired expropriated land, from being exploited by a company which we have, I think, adequate evidence to say has for years systematically and unjustly used its privileges to the detriment of traders on islands other than these, who are served by ships which it controls. The history of this company is such that honorable gentlemen on this side of the House are warranted in entertaining some reservation regarding the fairness with which it uses the privileges which this provision will certainly give to it.
The Treasurer said that it was proposed to call for tenders, notice of which would be given to-morrow, for the extensions of subsidized services. I was astonished to hear him say that these tenders, which have not yet been invited, will close on the 31st March.
– I intimated that the present contract finishes on the 31st March, but there will be no hiatus in the service.
– That is the complaint which I am making. There will be no hiatus, because no other company will have opportunity to tender.
– Six months’ notice should be given of the calling of new tenders.
– What opportunity is there for companies not at present engaged in business to make the requisite preliminary inquiries, work out estimates, submit tenders and be ready to begin operations by the 1st April? I think the Treasurer should explain the situation.
– The position is that the present service ends on the 31st March. It may then be necessary to give an extension for a few months to the company now operating the service. Tenderers will have full opportunity to inform themselves fully in the matter and to make themselves ready to start a service.
– Am I to understand that tenders will not close on the 31st March!
– I believe that that is the position.
– If the present contract expires on the 31st. March, it must be apparent that the effect will be greatly to strengthen the company now engaged in the subsidized service from Australia to New Guinea. Undoubtedly, it will have advantages, because it will engage in inter-coastal trade and trade generally as distinct from a company limited to trade only between proclaimed ports. The economic effect of this could be very serious to the industry affected. This House can justly accept the statement of the Treasurer that what has been done is in the interests of Australia and the Mandated Territory. Nevertheless, we are warranted in saying that it may not have been done with adequate justification, for the fears which the Government entertains may not be real. Furthermore, the action it has taken may not be the most desirable way in which to deal with the matter. Additional safeguards to those specified in the ordinance should certainly be employed before we hand over this trade and commerce to some form of monopoly control.
As it must be obvious to honorable members that the speeches of the honorable member for the Northern Territory and of the Treasurer, who has replied on behalf of the Government were in guarded and general terms, I think that the Government should agree to the appointment of a select committee of this House to investigate the whole position. I am confident that honorable gentlemen who would serveon such a select committee would be able to secure evidence which it is impracticable at present to consider in this chamber. Certainly in the light of the fuller information which those honorablegentlemen would be able to obtain, the House would be more competent to decide on the merits of the issues raised by the honorable member for the Northern Territory.
– As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has said, the subjects mentioned by previous speakers, although of great importance to the Commonwealth and to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, are of such a delicate nature that many aspects of them should not be debated in this House. But there are others that can be touched upon. Reference was made by the Leader of the Opposition to Burns, Philp and Company Limited, the company which for some time has been operating the subsidized mail service from Australia to New Guinea. It has often been stated that this company is operating to the detriment of the territory. As a matter of fact, during two previous administrations in which I held the portfolio of Territories, frequent complaints were lodged that the operations of Burns, Philp and Company Limited were not calculated to serve the best interests of the two countries concerned in the Pacific mail contract. On the last occasion when tenders were about to be called for this service, interested parties asked for sufficient time to enable any shipping company, whether registered in Australia or overseas, to submit tenders, and the Government allowed a period of twelve months, yet Burns, Philp and Company Limited was the only firm to tender for the service. The reason is obvious. As a keen student of territorial and Pacific Islands questions, I am well aware that the Australia to New Guinea mail boat service and other similar services conducted in the Pacific are a losing business. The Government of the United Kingdom itself has to pay £3,000 a year in subsidy for mails carried to the British Solomons. The Fijian Government, the Commissioner for the “Western Pacific and other island administrations have to pay subsidies for mail services. My only complaint in this regard is based on a statement which appeared in this morning’s press by a New Guinea official that the affairs of the Mandated Territory are so flourishing that this year it has had to budget for a surplus of £65,000. In those circumstances, New Guinea, and not Australia., could well afford to pay the mail subsidy for its own service. Why should it not do so? Planters in New Guinea are experiencing difficulties, but I have yet to learn of any visitors to the territory who have any serious condemnation for the vessels that convey them.
– They are a scandal.
– The company which runs these boats would employ palatial liners if it paid them to do so. In 1927, when I was sent by the Commonwealth Government to perform a certain task in New Guinea, Burns, Philp and Company Limited commissioned the Montoro to take me to Papua. It cost that company £400 a day to go to Port Moresby, and that additional cost was not borne by the people of Australia or of the islands. I do not hold one share in, or any brief for, Burns, Philp and Company Limited, but I take my hat off to any firm which has exploited and pioneered-
– Hear, hear ! “ Exploited “ is the right word to use.
– I use the term in its widest and most honorable sense. Burns, Philp and Company Limited is a firm which has recognized the Australian seamen’s rates of pay and the Commonwealth’s navigation law.
M!r. Garden. - -It has to do so.
– It does not have to do so. The Commonwealth Navigation Act does not apply to New Guinea. The Bruce-Page Government, of which I was a member, was the only government to apply it to the Mandated Territory, but after two years it was seen that its provisions could not be operated in New Guinea.
Would honorable members take from any company recognizing Australian wages and conditions, and give to those who pay Chinese and other rates, saying, “ You shall have untrammelled competition with the Australian company “ ? It would be unfair to do so.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) said that the returned soldier planters were unanimous that by renewal of the existing mail contract they would be robbed of something. I deny it. This country, as the result of war, ‘had to get £40,000,000 in reparations from Germany. Portion of that amount was to be obtained from the sale of expropriated properties in New Guinea. At the instigation of honorable members of this Parliament, the then Government agreed that the sales should be made on long terms to returned soldier applicants. These soldiers had to find 5 per cent, of the purchase money in submitting tenders, and 10 per cent, if their tenders were accepted, and they were given 20 year3 in which to pay the balance of interest and principal. Very few of the soldiers could even find the 5 per cent, which was to accompany tenders, and of the companies which conduct businesses in the islands of the Pacific, only two - Burns, Philp and Company Limited and Carpenter and Company - came to their aid. Those companies did what no bank in Australia - not even the Commonwealth Bank - was prepared to do; they financed the returned soldiers and enabled them to take over the plantations.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory affirmed also that the planters in the territory have suffered from the depression. So they have. The price of copra went down from £27 a ton to as low as £3 10s., and I was one who was badly hit. The production of copra cannot be made to pay unless it returns at least. £10 a ton, and at that figure for the production to be on a payable basis plantations have to be under the most efficient management. The Scullin Government instituted a moratorium for New Guinea planters. It said to them that they would not be called upon to pay anything until the 30th June next. Therefore, despite the fact that to-day planters are receiving £13 10s. a ton for copra, they have paid not one penny in settlement of their debts to the Commonwealth. I do not say that they have a right to pay, although the Government is now considering n proposal for a lower rate of interest and for an extended period for the repayments.
– There is to be no penalty interest?
– Not so far as I know. The interest was to be at 5 per cent., but the Scullin Government said that it should be lower.
-The honorable member is now referring to a. matter that is outside the scope of the motion.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory claimed that the returned men in New Guinea had been hit hard. I have just as keen an appreciation of the needs of those pioneers as the honorable gentleman.
I have seen vessels arrive at island ports to work. The Commonwealth laws prevent vessels from overseas from trading between Sydney and Melbourne, or Sydney and Brisbane. No such ship is permitted to sail from Gisborne to Normanton and to sell stores or to pick up a customs officer in Sydney and go around to Darwin or any other spot on the coast. If two gangways are put down on opposite sides of a vessel a customs officer can watch only one of them at a time.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not wish to add much to what the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has said on this subject ; but I think it proper to intimate to the House that the Government cannot accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that a select committee should be appointed to deal with this matter which, after all, is one of policy and so must remain the responsibility of the Government itself. The appointment of a select committee would not achieve any useful purpose.
The Leader of the Opposition asked that adequate time should be afforded other companies to tender for the Pacific Islands mail service in competition with the company which at present holds the contract. I am now able to intimate that it is proposed to ask the present contractors to carry on the contract from the 31st March to the 31st December. Under that arrangement tenders would close on the 31st August, and that would afford ample time for other companies interested to submit a tender. In those circumstances, of course, the new ordinance will not come into operation at once. It was passed with the idea that it would apply to the new contract.
– Why was not action taken nine months ago? Why was there a delay until practically the expiration of the existing contract?
– The policy of the Government in regard to the matter has just been finalized and it is intended that adequate opportunity shall be afforded to all interested parties to tender.
It is proper, of course, that this parliament should be furnished with the fullest information on these subjects from time to time, and I give an assurance that that will be done. The reason why copies of the ordinance have not yet been made available to honorable members, is that supplies have not yet been received from New Guinea. When these arrive the ordinance will be submitted to the Governor-General in Council and, after approval has been given to it, copies will be made available to honorable members.
The Government has given the fullest consideration to every phase of this subject. I believe that what has been done will conserve the best interests of the residents in the mandated territory and also of the nation. I repeat, however, that the Government must accept the full responsibility for what has been done..
.- If one may judge from the tone of the debates on this subject in the Legislative Council of New Guinea there is abundant need for inquiry. The whole subject is screeching out for investigation. Burns, Philp and Company Limited are being subsidized to the extent of £44,000 a year to conduct a shipping service between certain Australian ports and New Guinea. The motion moved by Mr. Mullaly in the Legislative Council of New Guinea was agreed to by 8 votes to 6. The eight persons who voted in favour of it were residents of New Guinea and the six who voted against it were officers of the Commonwealth Government who were acting under instructions. Although the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) sings the praises of Burns, Philp and Company Limited, Mr. Mullaly, speaking in the debate in the Legislative Council of the Territory in regard to the service of the company said -
It is only right, therefore, that we should look to Australia to support any likely action which may help to remedy the appalling state of affairs now existing. I feel sure that we may confidently look for and will receive that support.
As the result of the high freights charged by Burns, Philp and Company Limited, and the conditions applying to trade generally, the Nord-deutscher-Lloyd line, was able to operate a profitable service in New Guinea without subsidy.
– It is wrong to say the Nord-deutscher-Lloyd line is operating without subsidy. It is subsidized by the German Government.
– The Burns, Philp ships are operated by a white officer and native crew, and the Dutch vessel by a white officer and Chinese crew. Although the Chinese crew is paid a much better wage than the native crew the NorddeutscherLloyd has been able to build up a good trade.
Mr. Mullaly also said during the debate in the council -
I think it is only “:’.t,,’.:, 1 to nsk you to reflect on what the position was immediately prior to the introduction of this outside service, and when I say “ outside service “, I mean “ services other than Burns, Philp’s service “, which was the only service we had for many years.
Immediately before the initiation of the service of the Nord-deutscher-Lloyd line, the price of copra in New Guinea had fallen to a very low figure. In the first year of its operations the Nord-deutscher-Lloyd line removed only 500 tons of copra from the territory, but last year it removed 14,000 tons. Burns, Philp and Company Limited acts as agents for the UniLever monopoly which deals with vegetable oils and copra, and it had complete control of this business before the operation of the Nord-deutscher-Lloyd service. It is interesting to note that last year the Uni-Lever monopoly disclosed a profit of £6,500,000. Its disclosed profit for the preceding year was £5,500,000. If the Legislative Council of New Guinea and this Parliament desire to assist the settlers in New Guinea, some consideration should be given to the profitable marketing of their products. The Nord-deutscher-Lloyd vessels will visit various points along the coast of New Guinea and pick up the products of the growers. The goods are lightered out to the vessel, taken on board, and shipped overseas. The Burns, Philp vessels, although receiving a subsidy of nearly £4,000 a trip, will not pick up products in this way. The growers are forced to send their copra to the Burns, Philp wharf, or to some other specified wharf. My information on this subject has been obtained from the debate on it in the Legislative Council of New Guinea. I am not speaking with personal knowledge for I have not had an opportunity to visit the Mandated. Territory. It is interesting to note, however, that the statements made by the nonofficial members of the Legislative Council were not denied by the official members of it Mr Perriman, who voted against Mr. Mullaly’s motion, stated that since the advent of the NorddeutscherLloyd line, which is not subsidized, freight rates had been reduced by from 40 per cent, to 50 per cent. This shows clearly that the settlers were being exploited in a disgraceful way by Burns, Philp and Company Limited. The whole subject should have the fullest investigation. It is extraordinary that the firm of Burns, Philp and Company Limited always seems to know the exact amount of subsidy to request when tendering for this service. At any rate its tender is always a little below that of other tenderers. The honorable member for Parkes has said that any shipping company may submit a tender, but it appears to me that if this subject had not been aired in this Parliament to-day, Burns, Philp and Company Limited would have submitted a tender within the next thirteen days, tenders would have closed, and the company would have again obtained the contract. Apparently nothing had been done by the Government to call for tenders prior to the expiration of the present contract. Had it not been for this debate we may assume that the Burns, Philp shipping service would again have been inflicted, upon the people of New Guinea, although they did not desire a continuance of it under the old conditions. It is the responsibility of this Parliament to provide the people of New Guinea, with adequate shipping and mail services. Apparently it was proposed to assist Burns, Philp and Company Limited to a further extent by granting them an inter-island trade subsidy at least in respect of those vessels which ship a white captain and native crew. If the development of the Mandated Territory is to be encouraged, the people must be given reasonable conditions. They should not be left to the mercy of such monopolies as the Uni-Lever organization - although it is a British enterprise - and Burns, Philp and Company Limited. The people of New Guinea have been asking for an investigation of this subject since’ 1930. They contend that their business is not being properly handled. It would certainly appear that thi3 is so in view of the fact that the company which is handling the vegetable oils and other products from New Guinea has been able to make such large profits. It may be assumed that if the disclosed profit of this organization is so great, its real profit is very much greater. It is all very well for the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to say that it is the responsibility of the Government to deal with this subject. The fact is that it has delegated part of its responsibility to other interests. If I had more time at my disposal I could read some illuminating statements made by Mr. Mallaly and Mr. Grose during the debate that occurred in the local Legislative Council which would show clearly that the time has arrived for the members of this Parliament to take a keener interest in the administration of the territory. If Australia is to retain the mandate it now holds it is under an obligation to increase the population of the territory, but an increase of population is unlikely so long as the people are left to the mercy of exploiters. Burns, Philp and Company Limited take goods to the Mandated Territory and bring back the products of the islanders to Cairns or Sydney, and ship them overseas for sale under conditions which yield the company a very large profit to the detriment of the local people. Why should we continue to allow the islanders to be exploited in this way?
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am not very much concerned about the charge that Burns, Philp and Company Limited is exploiting the island people. It is easy to give a dog such a bad name that it will ultimately become the death of him. My information is that even the competitors of Burns, Philp and Company Limited are prepared to agree that, although the company is a hard trader, it gives a fair deal to those with whom it has transactions. I understand that it was not the wish of Burns, Philp and Company Limited that the ordinance now under consideration should be passed. The company did not desire it.
– It has been asking the Government to do something like this for fifteen years.
– My chief concern in connexion with this matter is the welfare of the planters, about 97 per cent, of whom are returned soldiers settled on expropriated properties. The great majority of these men, I believe, are opposed to any ordinance which will have the effect of restricting shipping to and from the territory. There must be something seriously amiss when returned soldiers prefer to patronize a German shipping line instead of an Australian line. The highest point has been reached in the protest voiced in the Legislative Council of New Guinea against the introduction of this legislation. I have always been suspicious of the council which was appointed to control the affairs of New Guinea, believing that it would not be allowed to function as it should. This legislation strengthens my conviction. In 1934, the council passed a resolution declaring that its face was absolutely set against interference in any form with foreign shipping. Yet it has now agreed to this measure of interference, under protest! I realize the seriousness of that statement, but make it because of the admission of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that these ordinances originated in Canberra.
– I did not mean to imply that. I said that they were first formally passed by the council. I did not, however, attempt to evade the fact that the Commonwealth Government is responsible.
– That is the point which I wish to make. It has been definitely stated by members of the council that even the official representation on it was not aware that this measure was to be introduced until about eight days before its introduction; that it was not really brought forward until the 25th February, and that it was passed about the 28th February.
– The matter had previously been discussed quite fully with the Administrator.
– Will the Treasurer deny that not only the Administrator but also the whole of the administration as well as all of those who have any say whatever in the affairs of the territory, are opposed to this particular form of legislation ?
– I cannot tell the honorable member that.
– Does the honorable member suggest that this legislation was prompted from this end?
– I say definitely that it was. The Treasurer has admitted that it originated in Canberra. Although there must be a reason for its introduction, one seeks in vain for it. The Treasurer has not stated authoritatively why “it was introduced. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), however, has advanced the suggestion that, although there may be good national grounds for it, the fears of the Government may be groundless. I turn to the Sydney Morning Herald of the 4th March last to try to find some reason for its introduction. Under the headings “Shipping”; “New Guinea Bill”; “ Support in Sydney “ ; “ Foreign Competition”, the following appears: -
It was stated that the passing of the measure was the first stage of a general reorganization of the affairs of the territory. The scheme, it is considered, would facilitate the work of the administration and the patrolling of territorial waters.
A German company is already actively operating in the trade, and it was reported that a Japanese company had also decided to operate.
There is one other factor which has not so far been touched upon, and it may be one of the impelling motives behind the introduction of this legislation. Lacking definite information, I am inclined to agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the fears of the Government may be groundless. We know that a German shipping firm is competing with an Australian line in these waters, and that the agents for the German line are receiving the support of the bigger planters. Surely the administration in Canberra ought to have taken into consideration the resolution passed by the council in 1934, before issuing instructions for the passage of certain legislation. It has been stated that Colyer Watson and- Company paid as much as £2 or £3 a ton above the ruling price for copra. I suggest to honorable members that, as the production of copra in New Guinea totals 80,000 tons annually, one cannot wonder at the sale of the largest proportion of it to this firm, which, in an endeavour to place it quickly on the markets of the world, particularly in Germany - the largest purchaser - seized the opportunity presented by the vessels of the Nord-deutscher-Lloyd line calling in at the island on the way from Hong Kong. That has been going on for the last four years, and, as the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) has said, there has been a fair measure of prosperity on the island. Now the Government has come down with a bill which may apply restrictions on this competitive trading, and force the planters of New Guinea back into the position which they occupied prior to its advent. I am not concerned about Colyer Watson and Company or any line of steamers, but I am definitely concerned about the planters, the returned soldiers who have pioneered and developed one of our mandated territories. The Treasurer may be able to enlighten me as to whether,under our mandate, we can justify these restrictions upon foreign shipping.
– I should also like the honorable gentleman to say whether it is possible for the NorddeutscherLloyd line to run an interisland service from plantation to plantation, and mission to mission, linking up with the main ports.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. It. GREEN (Richmond) [4.9].- When the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Slain) mentioned to me the other day that he proposed to move this motion, I asked him whether he had seen a copy of the ordinance and was informed . that he had not. While the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) was speaking I asked him, by way of interjection, whether the ordinance was available to honorable members, and was given the reply that it cannot possibly be made available, because it has not yet been received from New Guinea. I was also told that it first has to come before the Governor-<General in Council, and, if assented to, has to be laid ou the table of the House. I suggested to the honorable member for the Northern Territory that he was acting rather prematurely, seeing that the House would be called upon to discuss a matter of which it had no particular knowledge. I am sure that honorable members gained their first knowledge of it from the reply made by the Treasurer. Last week I obtained from the department information concerning some of the main” provisions of this ordinance. The first objection raised, particularly by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison), was in regard to the Legislative Council of New Guinea. That honorable member said he had objected to it when it was originally appointed. I do not know what his justification was for saying that the whole of the territory is up against this ordinance. From my knowledge of the territory, which is at least equal to that of any other honorable member, I can say that it was whole-heartedly in favour of the establishment of a legislative council. The predominance of nominated members is in accord with the principle, which has the general acceptance of the British Colonial Office, that in every colonial dependency the official members shall always outnumber the elected members, so that on questions of high policy nothing may be done against the wish of the nation of which it is a part. That is a very necessary safeguard. I suggest that the nominated members of this Legislative Council were merely doing their duty when they adopted the suggestion that this ordinance should be passed. The Government has taken full responsibility for that suggestion, and the assurance which it has given is acceptable to me for the time being, and certainly at the present time. There is no doubt whatever that we can apply discrimination under our mandate. In the mandate held by Japan, immediately to the north of ours, no vessels of any description, other than Japanese, are allowed to trade. The terms of the two mandates are identical - ‘both are “ C “ mandates. Therefore, the suggestion that. Australia should not be allowed to discriminate either indicates a lack of understanding of the terms of the mandate, or has some other motive at the nature of which I shall not attempt even to guess. We certainly have the power to safeguard our own interests in that territory. The Government says that it is advisable that we should take certain action, and I accept that assurance unreservedly. Within the last two years I have made several visits to the Mandated Territories and beyond. In the Pacific, events are moving rapidly at the present time, and we have to look to our own interests in this outpost which defends us from those in the north who have made no secret that they are casting longing eyes on Australia. The fact that within the last twelve months the Philippine Islands have been given by the United States a measure of independence does not lessen the need for care on our part, but rather increases it. I was in the Mandated Territory when the Bremerhaven made its first visit. The captain in charge of the ship was a submarine officer during the war, and I found him a very charming gentleman. He was there to exploit the area for whatever cargo was offering. Later, a company was formed in New Zealand but eventually it transferred operations to Australia and to the Mandated Territory. That company, by reason of the business acumen of its directors, and its sound commercial methods, was able to offer to planters in the out-ports of New Guinea better prices for their products than they had been receiving up to then. The Nord-deutscher-Lloyd ships acted merely as freight vessels, the business being done by this company. It should not be forgotten that many of those living at the out-ports had, up to that time, either to take their goods in their own schooners to the ports, where the steamers picked them up, or to use the inter-island vessels of Carpenter or the Burns, Philp Company. The new firm traded from plantation to plantation, delivering goods to the planters, picking up their products, and delivering them to the German ships which carried the copra to Germany. In passing, I point out that vessels other than German are not allowed to take copra into Germany. Those two German ships are employing coloured crews on Asiatic articles, whereas Australian vessels trading in thu same waters are working under the Australian Navigation Act.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Both the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) referred to the foreign ships trading to the Mandated Territory as German ships. I remind honorable members that there are others as well. The honorable member for the Northern Territory referred to a monopoly which was delaying progress in New Guinea. I take it that he was referring to Guinea Airways, and he compared freight rates in 1927 with those ‘of the present time. For those who are not familiar with conditions in New Guinea, I mention that, in 1927, when Guinea Airways was inaugurated, the cost of freight was approximately ls. 9d. a lb. Most honorable members are aware that it would have been impossible to develop the goldfields in New Guinea if it had not been for Guinea Airways.
-The motion before the chair deals with shipping, not with air services.
– But the honorable member for the Northern Territory referred to the air services.
– The honorable member may have made a passing reference to air services, but it is outside the scope of the motion, and, therefore, not in order.
– Then I must bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker.
.- I desire to place before honorable members a resolution carried by the Legislative Council of New Guinea. It is in these terms -
That it is the opinion of this Council that the Commonwealth Government should request the British Government to institute an inquiry into the ramifications of the Uni-Lever combine
And its subsidiary and associated companies with the object of regulating, and, if necessary, curtailing the profits of that company within reasonable limits; that this action should be taken by the Commonwealth Government in view of the undue control exercised by Uni-Lever associated companies over the marketing of the world’s vegetable oil products. . . .
That was carried unanimously, and the following resolution was carried by eight votes to six: -
That it is the opinion of this Council that it is unnecessary and contrary to the interests of the territory that the Commonwealth Government and/or this territory in collaboration or otherwise with any other territory should either directly or indirectly subsidize any shipping service or company operating for the purpose of carrying cargo and/or passengers to and from the territory and Australia or any other country.
It was demonstrated during the debate that the Uni-Lever Company, and Burns, Philp Company Limited were both units in the same combine, yet it is now proposed that the Commonwealth Government should give this combine an absolute monopoly of the copra trade of New Guinea. Ordinances are to be’ framed providing that copra shall be picked up only at certain ports of call, and those are the ports already dominated by the Burns, Philp services. At the other ports at which the Nord-deutscher-Lloyd ships called, there was keen competition for the copra, with the result that tha planters were able to get a better price for their product. In 1934, the Uni-Lever Company made a profit of £6,000,000, and the year before that its profit was £5,500,000. Surely that is direct evidence of exploitation of the planters. Even the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), I venture to say, can hardly defend the giving of a monopoly to a firm guilty of such vicious exploitation. The Government proposes to hand over the planters to the tender mercies of this combine, consisting of the “W. R. Carpenter service, Burns, Philp and Company Limited, and the Uni-Lever Company, which are all interlinked. The planters must send their copra to certain stipulated ports, which will involve double handling and extra expense. The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) said that with, only one customs officer visiting the Nord-deutscher-Lloyd vessels, it was impossible to check their activities because, while the officer was on one side of the vessel, cargo could be handled from the other side. If that is the only objection, why could not two customs officers be employed? I maintain that the Commonwealth Government should do what it can to protect the planters, instead of allowing them to be exploited by combines. Regulations should be framed to ensure that the planters enjoy the benefit of an open market for their product. Ear from that, however, they are to be placed at the mercy of a combine which will receive a subsidy of £3,000 for every trip its vessels make between Australia and New Guinea. The firm of Burns, Philp and Company Limited charges a passenger fare of £14 for one day’s sail. If that is not exploitation, what is? lt costs almost as much* to go from Sydney to New Guinea as it does from Sydney to England. Is that not exploitation? The Treasurer says that freight rates are down; that may be so, but only betweenports in New Guinea, and not between Australia and the Mandated Territory.
– I was referring to interport rates in New Guinea.
– It would be well worth while to inquire into the whole question of the subsidy paid for the mail service operating between Australia and New Guinea when it appears that this Government is backing up a combine which is exploiting the planters of the Mandated Territory to the tune of £05,000,000 per annum. All elected members of the Legislative Council and all residents of New Guinea say that what the Government is attempting to do now will be detrimental to the territory. Only those officials nominated by the Minister in charge of territories are in favour of the present proposal, and they received instructions as to how they should vote. Every resident of the territory has voted and protested against it. Some of my friends opposite are always saying that they do their utmost for the ex-soldiers. But what of the ex-soldiers who have taken plantations in New Guinea! The Leader of the Opposition. (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) have pointed out that there are certain matters which cannot be publicly discussed. Honorable members on this side agree with that; we know that certain matters cannot he discussed in this chamber, and that honorable members are silenced in regard to them. But by being so, we may be placing the planters in a very invidious position. The
Government should at least take the Leader of the Opposition into its confidence in regard to such matters. We have no desire for a full-dress debate upon them, but unless the Government is prepared to take the Opposition into its confidence, it might be necessary to havesuch a debate.
– I was chairman of the royal commission which inquired into the effect of the Navigation Act in the Mandated Territory and the islands generally, and was also a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, which inquired into the mail service subsidies to the islands. Consequently my memory has become a little active in regard to these matters during this debate. Following the presentation of the report of the royal commission, the provisions of the Navigation Act in relation to the Mandated Territory were suspended. It is just as well for a white Australian in a white Australian parliament to recognize that the Mandated Territory is a black island, and that white people who work there cannot be subjected to all the whims to which we in Australia are accustomed. The great question which came before us in the course of the inquiries with which I was associated was that which has been raised here to-day. The monopoly of Burns, Philp and Company Limited, and Carpenters Limited, was objected to, but I take off my hat to Burns, Philp and Company Limited - a firm which, for over half a century, has pioneered the Islands trade. It built up that trade and is more entitled than any other shipping company to that trade in palmier days. All monopolies, however, have a tendency to take more than they are entitled to receive, and a little competition is a good thing. The islanders contended that when tenders were called sufficient time was not given to other people, some of whom might be likely to enter into competition if time were given to them, to enable them to purchase or construct new ships for that purpose. We heard many complaints concerning Burns, Philp and Company Limited, and its takeitorleaveit attitude towards the Islanders. Its taking of the island produce to Sydney for trans-shipment abroad to its natural market did not, it was claimed, give the copra producers of New Guinea the same advantages as were extended to copra producers on islands of other countries. For instance, during our inquiries, we learned that when the United States of America wanted copra, a ship was sent out and the copra was taken direct to America. Similarly, if the product of the Mandated Territories could be taken direct to England, many shillings, if not pounds, would be saved to the islanders in respect of every ton of copra shipped. That is a consideration which this Parliament should take into its reckoning. The producers of the islands want to get their product to the natural market with as little cost as possible.
The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) has touched upon a very important point in connexion with this matter. Like him, I would advocate the withdrawal of the subsidy, and allow the Mandated Territory to exercise much more discretion in connexion with the provision of a suitable shipping service within its own area. That is a suggestion which might well receive the consideration of the Government.
– Could they afford to do that?
– According to the information given to the House to-day, the Mandated Territory has a surplus which none of the States have got. I ask honorable members to visualize New Guinea with its little copra plantations and little ports at which the copra is gathered for transport to Rabaul and finally to Sydney where a large proportion of it is utilized by Lever Brothers. Honorable members representing Sydney electorates would not wish Sydney to be deprived of that trade, but if I were a planter in the islands I should be anxious to save from £1 to £2 a ton on the cost of marketing my product. A little competition in buying as well as in shipping would be an excellent thing for the producers of the Mandated Territory.
– The Government cannot leave this question at the stage it has reached, because of the fact that, irrespective of how impartially we may agree to view the subject, there is a tremendous amount of suspicion as to why Burns, Philp and Company Limited and Carpenters Limited should be given a monopoly over the trading affairs of the Mandated Territory. The public will ask for an explanation as to why tenders had not been called for mail contracts, say, six months before the existing contracts expired. Neither the Minister nor anybody else has given a satisfactory explanation about the routine now being adopted in regard to mail subsidies. The department knows, as was said here to-day, when a contract will expire. The fact that the existing contract would terminate on the 31st March must have been known six or nine months ago. Why were not tenders called then for the mail contract instead of allowing Burns, Philp and Company Limited to continue under the present arrangement until the end of this year? The people will want an answer to that question. Up to date it has not been given by any Minister. Whatever answer is given, however, there can be no denying the fact that considerable laxity has permitted this state of affairs to exist.
Another point is that the ordinance attacked by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) provides that certain ports will be specified and only from those ports will copra be permitted to be shipped to Australia or elsewhere. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) has said, and we have reasons for believing that it is so, that at the specified ports all the accommodation for stacking of copra will probably be in the hands of Burns, Philp and Company, and that those who want to compete in that trade will not be permitted to use the existing facilities. I understand that at present foreign ships will call at New Guinea ports, a Customs officer comes aboard and the copra is brought out from the plantation in lighters and loaded. The cost of transport is thus considerably reduced ; double handling locally is avoided. This is a. very important factor. As the honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Garden) has said, the planters cannot be blamed for endeavouring to make shipping arrangments from which they derive advantage. Why, therefore, should the Government bring down an ordinance, the result of which will be to” double local transport costs? Does it not suggest that the Government has prepared this ordinance especially to impose extra burdens on the growers and to give an added advantage to Burns, Philp and Company Limited?
– It has not been explained.
– I submit, with all respect, that that cannot be- deduced from the terms of this ordinance. There is nothing to stop foreign trade or other inter-island services from being conducted exactly as at present. There is nothing to stop an overseas liner running from its home port to the territory and establishing a feeder service running around the island ports.
– Must that not necessarily increase the costs of handling copra ?
– Not necessarily.
– Surely it must mean extra costs if the copra has to be picked up at one port, taken to another and transhipped. It is logical to assume in such cases, that it would have to be put into store unless the loading can be timed to meet the schedule of the larger vessels. Why should it be necessary to add to the costs which already prevail, a further cost which must result from this doubling process? The views of the planters in regard to this matter are easily understood. The planters are probably experiencing difficulty in making ends meet, apart from suffering disadvantages due to trying climatic conditions. I should like to know whether this ordinance will give ground for complaint at Geneva by countries that may consider that we have exceeded our mandate over New Guinea.
– There is a great difference between the terms of “ B “ class and “ C “ class mandates. Australia has a “C” class mandate with regard to New Guinea, and is acting well within its rights.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) cannot lightly brush aside the discussion that has occurred in the Legislative Council of New Guinea. Surely notice should be taken of the remarks of men on the spot. Mr. Mullaly is reported to have said -
It is only right that we should look to Australia to support any likely action which may help to remedy the appalling state of affairs now existing. I feel sure that we may confidently look for, and will receive, that sup port.
We know that the TJni-Lever combine and its subsidiary companies have made enormous profits. Is there any significance in the fact that Mr. Carpenter was knighted recently? It is surprising how quickly he has risen to a high point in the social scale. Seeing that the planters are so keen about the shipping service, honorable members should be equally anxious to safeguard their interests. Neither Burns, Philp nor Carpenters should be permitted to have the monopoly which they will exercise under this ordinance. The Government cannot afford to have it said throughout the Commonwealth that it is a party to an action which makes this shipping service a complete monopoly, and places the planters entirely in its hands. We know that those conducting the shinning service have financed many of the copra plantations. The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) said, I believe, that they had charged no interestWhy should they, when the financing of plantations was probably the best investment heard of in modern times?
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Question resolved in the negative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of the amendments to be made upon Request by the Senate, in a bill for an act to amend the Primary Producers Relief Act 1935.
Resolution reported ; report - by leave - adopted.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s requests) :
Senate’s request, -
After clause 2, insert the following newclause: - 2a. Section 5 of the principal actis amended by omitting the word “ October “ and inserting in its stead the word “ December “.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
The amendments requested involve no new principle, but merely provide for the substitution of the word “ December “ for the word “ October which means that the date for lodging applications for the fertilizers subsidy under the Financial Relief Act for the year 1936 will be extended from the 31st October to the 31st December. The object of the amendment is to obviate a recurrence of what transpired in 1935, when it was found that a number of farmers were faced with difficulties over the closing date for the lodging of their applications for the subsidy.
.- The Opposition does not intend to delay the passage of this measure. Its policy is to support, wherever practicable and equitable, any proposal that has for its object the granting of assistance to the primary producers. The principal act provided for a subsidy of 15s. a ton on fertilizers used in the production of primary products other than wheat. This assistance dates back to the Financial Relief Act 1932, and for the year ended the 30th November, 1933, the expenditure amounted to £245,000. I find that £71,000 was spent on top-dressing, £60,000 on the cultivation of oats, £55,000 in producing fruit and vegetables
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member will not be in order in continuing on those lines.
– I should like to hear a fuller explanation by the Minister as to the necessity for omitting the word “ October “ and inserting the word “ December “.
– The only effect of the amendment will be to make possible the lodging of applications until the 31st December next, to cover fertilizers that have been actually used prior to the 30th June, 1936.
– What amount has been expended under this measure in the last twelve months? Under previous legislation it was found that substantial sums had not been expended. Clause 2 provides for the amendment of section 3 by omitting the words “ the sum of £275,000”, and substituting the words “ such sums as are necessary “. What amount will be expended under the bill ?
– Approximately £321,000.
– That represents a substantial increase, but, as the money will have to be voted on the Estimates, the expenditure will be subject to parliamentary review.
Motion agreed to.
Requested amendments (consequential) to clause 3 also made.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill, as amended accordingly, returned to the Senate.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of Tevenue be made for the purpose of a bill foran act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the export of apples and pears from the Commonwealth.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Thorby and Mr. Parkhill do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Thorby, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is introduced for the purpose of providing for the distribution of about £80,000 - I understand that the amount is £82,000 - to the apple and pear-growers in respect of their 1935 export season, in the form of a bounty of 4d. a bushel on such fruits exported during the year ended 31st December, 1935.
In 1933, following on urgent representations by apple and pear-growers for assistance to compensate for the losses they had incurred on exports in that year, the Government caused an investigation to be made of the position in Tasmania, with a view to seeking ways and means of rendering assistance to the industry. Various methods of assistance were explored, but most of them were found to be impracticable, and the Government finally made available an amount of £125,000, which was granted to the States for assistance to apple and peargrowers. This amount of £125,000 was apportioned between the States in proportion to their share in the export trade. In 1934, although export prices were much better than in 1933, the industry was still in a difficult position, and an amount of £125,000 was again provided for distribution to apple and peargrowers.
For the financi al year 1935-36 an amount of £100,000 was provided in the Estimates for assistance to growers of apples and pears, and the Government has given considerable thought to the best method of distributing this money amongst the growers. The Department of Commerce has been at some pains to ascertain the financial results of the 1935 export season, and has ascertained that in that year the net realizations f.o.b. Australia were very much better than any prices obtained since 1929, indicating that there has been a definite improvement in prices received for apples and pears throughout Australia this year compared with the average for the last four or five years. In Tasmania the average f.o.b. price for all overseas shipments of apples from Tasmania was 6s. 5d. a bushel, compared with 1s.8d. a bushel in 1933 and 3s. a bushel in 1934. Tasmania is responsible for more than 50 per cent, of the Australian export of apples. All other States report much better prices in 1935 than in previous years.
Having regard to the improved returns obtained for the 1935 exports, it was thought that some means of assistance could be devised which would be of more lasting benefit to the industry than the payment of a bounty on each export case. At the same time it was realized that many growers were still suffering financial strain as the result of the poor prices obtained in recent years. The Government decided, therefore, that portion of the amount provided for assistance for this year should be distributed to growers by way of an export bounty, and that portion of it should he used for investigation and research into problems affecting the industry and for the introduction of improved orchard practices in co-operation with the State departments of agriculture.
There are undoubtedly directions in which the Commonwealth and the States can combine for the permanent good of the industry. Such directions include encouragement of central packing sheds, improvement of wrapping and packing methods, advanced cultural methods, and improvement of the construction of the case, including standardization of the size of the case. In addition, scientific research into transport and marketing problems is essential if a permanent improvement is to be effected in the marketing of our fruit overseas.
Exports of apples and pears during the years 1933, 1934 and 1935 have been as follows: -
The bulk of the export is to the United Kingdom.
The distribution of the £80,000 to be appropriated under this bill will be at the rate of 4d. a bushel case on the exports of apples and pears during 1935. The grant in 1933 was equivalent to approximately 6d. a case and in 1934 to approximately 7d. a case.
The balance of £20,000 provided on the Estimates will be used through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in co-operation with the State departments of agriculture for further investigation and research in relation to problems affecting the packing, transport and marketing of apples and pears, and for investigation and improvement of orchard practices in the various States.
In this connexion I should like to explain the tremendous amount of valuable work that can be carried out. Whilst in England I had an opportunity to see the government research station at East Marlingford. The research activities of that station have made it possible, provided the correct stock is used, to adapt to the growing of apples any class of soil in Great Britain, and for growers to produce much heavier crops of improved varieties. Many difficulties which confronted the apple-grower in that country have been overcome. I am hopeful that the expenditure of the money provided foi under this bill will enable us to overcome many of the problems which confront the industry in Australia and ultimately to give to the growers very much greater benefits in pounds, shillings and pence than if we should give them another penny a, bushel on their products.
– Is not the problem of the growers one of markets rather than that to which the Acting Minister has referred? If production be increased and markets not provided, the position of the growers will be even more acute than at present.
– It is a question not of increasing quantity but of improving quality.
– And types.
– I appreciate the point raised by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), but it is one that is embodied in the term “ quality “.
In making extensive inquiries whilst in England, I visted Covent Garden. The scientific officers who are carrying out cold storage research work at Cambridge pointed out that the question was not so much one of the elimination of undesirable types from the market, as one of getting the fruit on to the London market in first-class condition. In Australia it is a many-sided problem. Not only has a high quality article to be produced, picked and packed, but also to overcome the difficulties associated with the long period of cold storage, the fruit has to be transported under ideal conditions. The Australian growers have to compete with such southern hemisphere countries as the South American States and South Africa, which are putting first-class apples on the London market during our apple season. In addition there is the problem of avoiding a clash with the
English apple season itself. We have to guide our growers in the despatch of their crops so that we shall not put apples in cold store, as has been done in the past, and land them in London in the early part of the English apple season, thereby causing considerable resentment which reacts against Australian apple sales for the balance of the season. To that end the co-operation of the shipping companies “will have to be obtained. All of these points are matters for careful consideration by expert authorities who are to be found in the agricultural departments in the States, in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, in commercial offices associated with cooperative organizations and shipping organizations, and in the cold stores, and by the authorities in Britain. With that object the Government has allocated for scientific research the amount in excess of the amount that will be required to pay the bounty of 4d. a case. It will be spent mostly in Australia on the advice of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research working in co-operation with the State departments of agriculture. A few hundreds, or even a thousand, pounds may be spent in London, our principal market.
– Will the Minister tell me how the British market regarded our products and whether he found any prejudice against them?
– I made three or four interesting discoveries during my investigation of the fruit position in the United Kingdom. The two principal selling centres are Covent Garden and Spitalfields. Practically all the fruit goes through the hands of about fifteen fruit merchants, whose very large organization controls the sales, not only all over the United Kingdom, but also throughout Europe, including France, Germany, and the whole of Scandinavia. I found that the London market was the principal redistributing centre. Australian fruit consigned to centres other than London suffered severe disabilities owing to lack of organization and irregularity of supplies. Spasmodic shipments did not receive the same treatment or the same careful handling as fruit which passed through the regular London channel?. Our fruit-growers therefore, should think carefully before sending fruit overseas through, other than the recognized channels.
– “Would it operate against the effective marketing of our fruit if it did not go through the ordinary channels?
– Candidly, that is my conviction. I saw that happen in many instances. We should be powerless to counteract anything of that kind. We cannot force people to buy our products - we can only attract them to do so. If the commercial interests of the United Kingdom feel that our method of trading is undermining their business they will practically boycott our consignments. Serious disabilities occur in connexion with the sale of our fruit to Germany, for the fruit that goes to Germany passes through France, and the various exchanges and business practices of France involve so much expense that there is actually very little if any return left for the growers. I saw copies of invoices which fruit merchants -were kind enough to show me. They also gave me permission to make extracts from their books. I brought back to Australia a number of actual statements of returns which show that the re-export of Australian apples to Germany through France was unprofitable. One important market that Australia could exploit, however, is that of Scandinavia. It is very difficult to get direct shipments to those countries, and our most suitable method of approach would be by reshipment through British channels.
– Did the Minister form the opinion that the officers in the offices of our various Agent3-General were doing all they could in this connexion?
– Yes ; the officers have done a considerable amount of valuable work. The publicity department at Australia House has also rendered fine service. I took the opportunity to investigate the work that was being done. I had the opportunity, at one centre, of addressing 3,500 people in the largest picture theatre in. the United Kingdom on our Australian export business. Of course, I dealt with many products other than apples and pears. The AgentsGeneral of the various States undoubtedly co-operate with the officers of Australia House to secure the best possible publicity for Australian products in London. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) actually opened the apple season while he was in London.
In view of the provision that the money to be voted in this bill will be distributed as a bounty, the State governments will not need to pass complementary legislation. I discussed this aspect of the subject with a representative of the Tasmanian Government, and also with other representative persons, including members of the apple and pear board in Hobart, when I was there recently, and explained the intention of the Government very fully. No protest whatever was offered against this procedure. In fact, the officers concerned were quite satisfied with it, and strongly supported the proposal that the money should be paid as an export bounty so as to obviate the necessity for the passing of measures to enable the State authorities to distribute the money to growers. I ask honorable members to give the bill a speedy passage.
– I am disappointed with the provisions of this bill. It was understood that the Government intended to provide £125,000 this year for the assistance of the apple and pear-growers. It was pointed out by a big deputation which waited upon the Government towards the end of last year that there was need for similar assistance this year to that which had been forthcoming in the last two years. In 1933, the amount of £125,000 provided for bounty worked out, in respect of Tasmania, at 6d. a case, and a similar amount a case was provided in 1934. We understood that we should get the same amount for 1935, but only £100,000 has been provided, and of this amount, it appears, only £80,000 is to be actually paid to the growers. It is highly desirable, I submit, that the remaining £20,000 of the proposed vote should also be distributed direct to growers. I can see no reason why apple and peargrowers who have experienced adverse seasonal conditions this year and whose crop has been a failure, should not receive assistance similar to that being provided for wheat-growers who have been handicapped by adverse seasonal conditions.
We all know very well that floods, hailstorms, heavy frosts and pests of one kind and another, including blackspot and thrips, over which growers have no control, have adversely affected the apple crop, not only of Tasmania, but also of Victoria. In these circumstances, I submit that the amount proposed to be allocated for scientific and industrial research and for marketing investigations should be devoted to the direct relief of growers. I invite attention to the following report, which appeared in the press on the 23rd January of this year: -
£100,000 Made Available.
The Federal Cabinethas decided to make available £100,000 for the assistance of apple and pear growers. The money will be allocated as follows: - £10,000 for the conversion of orchards growing unsaleable varieties of fruit to saleable varieties; £10,000 for research and investigation of apple and pear problems, to be used either directly through the State Departments of Agriculture or in conjunction with work being done by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research; £80,000 to be distributed among the States in proportion to their respective shares in the apple and pear exports during 1934-35 for payment to growers.
– The Government of Tasmania is already doingeverything possible in these various directions to promote the interests of the fruit-growing industry. A representative of the fruitgrowers left for England only last Saturday to spend the whole season in the United Kingdom. It is anticipated that be will be absent about six months. An officer from the office of the AgentGeneral for Tasmania in London was brought out to Tasmania some months ago to familiarize himself with the conditions of the fruit-growing industry of Tasmania, and he also has now returned to England. I cannot understand why the Commonwealth Government should now spend, more money to send another man to England to deal with the same subject, particularly as the Minister has said that he does not desire to encourage overlapping.
– It is not proposed to send another man to England.
– Then how is it proposed to spend the £20,000 that will not be made available to the growers?
The following interesting report appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 13th March in connexion with the allocation of the Commonwealth grant for the assistance of the apple and pear industry : -
Recommendations to the Federal Ministry regarding the allocation of £20,000 for the assistance of the apple and pear industry were approved when the conference of officials of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and of State Departments of Agriculture was continued in Melbourne to-day. It was decided to recommend that £8,500 of the grant be made available to the Departments of Agriculture to enable the work of their apple and pear experts to be intensified. It was suggested that the dissemination of existing information should be increased, and more demonstrations given in orcharding districts.
The balance of the £20,000, it was recommended, should be made available to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Departments of Agriculture to enable research work regarding the production and marketing of apples and pears to be undertaken. This work, it was suggested, should include an investigation of fruit diseases, insect pests, and storage disorders. A report embodying the recommendations willbe submitted to the Federal Ministry.
I suggest to the Government that all these subjects have already been investigated, and are, in fact, at present the subject of inquiry.
– I understand the honorable member to be arguing that an additional £20,000 should be made available for the purposes outlined in the bill before the House, so he is in order.
– I am simply discussing a subject that the Minister himself brought under notice. I contend that the £20,000 proposed to be devoted to research work could be more effectively used for the relief of fruit-growers, who have suffered from adverse seasonal conditions. Scientific work in connexion with the prickly pear, bunchy top in bananas, and the eradication of the buffalo-fly is being conducted under conditions which do not rob those engaged in the industries concerned of money which would otherwise be made available for their direct assistance.
– In many cases the funds for such work have been contributed by the industry itself. Stock-growers, woolgrowers, wheat-growers, all have made contributions.
– In 1933 the £125,000 was granted, not as a bounty, but as an offset against excessive freights. This is the only industry which has had to pay exchange on freights. When the Scullin Government was in power an agreement was signed with the Conference’ line3, giving them the monopoly of all refrigerated space and of parcel cargoes. They then agreed to transport Australian fruit to England for 3s. Gd. a bushel. They afterwards wanted a higher figure and, being unable to charge it without breaking the agreement, asked for the payment of exchange at the rate of 25 per cent. A pistol was held at the heads of the growers, who eventually were forced to compromise at the rate of 18 per cent., which was equivalent to 7d. on every case of fruit. Thus, in reality, the freight was 4s. 1 1/2d. a bushel, which is the highest paid on any commodity shipped overseas and represents one-half of the value of the product. While in England I mentioned this to British Ministers, and was informed by the Minister for Shipping that the Conference had no right to the extra 7 1/2d. I have also mentioned it to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and believe that he also agrees with me that the ship-owners have no right, to it. The obligation rests on this Government to see that the growers receive justice in this direction, because these ship-owners obtain from the growers between £70,000 and £80,000 a year more than they are entitled to receive. The burden on the growers is so heavy that while it continues they must continue seeking assistance from the Commonwealth.
The Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) has referred to the prospects with respect to the fruit industry during the time he was in England. I was there at about the same time. I have been fruit-growing for the last 30 years, and have a fair knowledge of the industry. I left Australia with the impression that orcharding was overdone. I had been led to believe that the industry was likely to go out of existence because there had been three or four disastrous years. The Acting Minister for Commerce has stated that the average price received last year was 6s. 5d. a bushel f.o.b. lt was not nearly that amount. Many growers with whom I am acquainted sold their crop at less than 4s. a bushel f.o.b. That is why they are now seeking Commonwealth assistance. While investigating the industry overseas, I visited different orchards, and as a result of my observations I am prepared to say that we have nothing to fear from the competition we have to meet either from Great Britain itself or from the continent. Too much risk is attached to the conduct of the industry in Great Britain. Some of the largest orchardists in the Kent district and in other parts told me that they are lucky if they get a crop once in every six years. Last year the apple crop throughout England was practically a failure. Although the British fruit is of fair quality, it is not equal to ours. I also found that for quality our fruit has a very good name among buyers in England. I agree with the Minister that we have been somewhat negligent in the general get-up and marketing of our product. Those who have been dealing in fruit for many years, however, have told me that within the last few years, but particularly last year, considerable improvement has been noticed, and that they prefer our fruit to that grown in other countries because of its .superior flavour. It has been said in this House and elsewhere that reliance can be placed on everything that is put into cases in the United States of America, that all the American fruit is evenly graded and that no bad specimens are exported. That is not so. Whereas all Australian apples are evenly graded, the Americans do not grade all their fruit. The bulk of their barrel apples vary in size from 2 inches upwards ; one barrel may contain apples of 2, inches, 2 inches, 2^ inches, and 2f inches. They export specked fruit, hue I do not advocate this. As the journey from Australia is longer than that from America, it is necessary for us to send only tlie best. I am not in agreement with the suggestion of the Minister that the whole of our fruit shipments should be centralized in London. There are good handling facilities in the different ports. At Southampton the facilities for handling cargo, especially fruit, are the best that I have seen at any port.
– I agree with that; I was there.
– Southampton has asked for an allocation of about 20,000 bushels a fortnight, and I think that, when dealing with the shipping companies, arrangements should be made to have the requirements of Southampton met. Glasgow is another port which can take large quantities. We have been shipping to that port for a. number of years, with a good deal of success. A few years ago, when the depression was so acute, the Glasgow market declined; but the conditions have altered a great deal within the last two years, and the number of unemployed is considerably less than it was. There were at the time of my visit practically no unemployed in the shipbuilding centres. The Belfast, market is supplied from either Liverpool or Glasgow. The absence of unemployment in the shipbuilding industry makes a material difference.
The assistance -which the Commonwealth is giving to this industry is appreciated by the growers, hut the amount should not have been reduced below £125,000. The bounty of 4d. a case does not greatly compensate those growers who shipped fruit la3t year and are far behind in their accounts. I do not know why the reduction was made. The Government could make amends if the balance of the money were made available for the re-working of orchards and the relief of orchardists whoso crops have been a failure. It would be of great assistance to them. Growers cannot guard against hail storms and the ravages of pests, which may destroy a whole crop in one night. Nearly every year a certain number of growers suffer loss. I understand that money is made available to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for the pur pose of combating pests. Every State has its experts who investigate such matters. No matter what hard and fast rules are promulgated in regard to the spraying of orchards, the work has to be done when the climatic conditions are favorable. The fruit-grower is having a very hard time in his struggle against different pests and fungus diseases. The Government should allow scientific men to visit the different fruit-growing districts, and should not devote to some other purpose money that was intended to be used in the payment of a bounty. I trust that the additional amount will be made available.
– I have followed with a certain degree of interest during the last three or four years the progress of the bounties given by the Commonwealth Government to the apple industry, and have a knowledge of the history of the struggle which took place between the Australian Overseas Transport Association and the fruitgrowers. 1 firmly believe that, had there been any organization worthy of the name among the exporters of various primary products from this country, we could have avoided the trouble that we had with the ^Australian Overseas Transport Association. It was because of the ability of that association to drive a wedge between the different sections of primary producers in this country that the apple growers, among others, were mulct in the extra 7 1/2d. a case. The Commonwealth Government met that situation on one occasion by allowing to the overseas companies, comprising the Conference line, a reduction of income tax amounting to £125.000, and subsequently by allotting sums to the apple and pear industry, lt is all very well to criticize the Conference lines at the present, moment. Before we decide to change the existing practice we must be quite certain that we have other means which will enable us to send our products overseas.
This year, some of the actions of the Commonwealth Government, taken on the advice of the representatives of the industry itself, are showing results. I refer especially to the limitation of the number of varieties which may be exported. That provision imposed some hardship on certain growers, it is true, but it was necessary to take action to meet a situation in which over 100 Varieties of apples alone were being exported from Victoria. The result was that buyers were seldom able to obtain sufficient quantities of any wanted variety of apple to meet the demand. They became dissatisfied, and looked elsewhere for their supplies. From the “United States only twelve varieties of apples are exported. They are packed attractively, and, as my information goes, are well graded, with the result that they are able to usurp a certain amount of trade that we should have. Last year, in addition to restricing the number of varieties which might be exported, a system was introduced, as the result of a conference held overseas among representatives of Empire applegrowers, to rationalize marketing where that was needed. An arrangement - a gentleman’s agreement, if that expression is preferred - has been reached between certain of the dominions providing that we shall not put our fruit on the English market at a time when the English growers can supply all that is needed. It was found that, as the result of this arrangement, we enjoyed a clearer run for our fruit overseas.
The process of “ working-over “ trees must be continued if we are to improve the industry. I hope that some of the £20,000, which is to be handed over to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, will be devoted to conducting scientific investigation designed to help the industry to discover wanted varieties of fruit, and to find the cheapest and most expeditious means of achieving the desired results. I am satisfied that the 48 varieties at present being exported from Victoria are not all needed. The apple exporting industry will not be placed upon a proper basis until that number is reduced by at least half.
We still have to compete with other apple-growing countries on the English market, and we must pay more attention to quality. A great deal has already been done by means of colour grading to make our fruit more attractive, but we must go further, and look to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, working in conjunction with the State departments of agriculture, to improve the standard. I understand that some of the £20,000 will be devoted to conducting a still more intense investigation into the codlin moth pest. No grower will say that we have yet got that pest under control. There is also room for further investigation into the control of black spot, and we have not yet had a satisfactory series of manurial tests. It has been said that only during a period of six weeks in the year are superphosphates of the slightest value to the tree, and that their application during the other 46 weeks is practically a complete waste. There are other orchard practices that need investigation and refinement. The crudity of some of the processes at present employed is not to the credit of the growers. Therefore, the Commonwealth Government is wise to allocate this sum of £20,000 to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but it should be stipulated that investigations shall proceed in a greater number of areas throughout Australia than is the case at present. Peculiar conditions prevail in almost every apple-growing area, and a small research station in each district to investigate local conditions, would render much needed help to the growers. I know that what I have said in regard to the allocation of thi* money is not popular with some of the growers; others, however, are interested in research work, and in the improvement of their product. The Victorian Fruit Marketing Association, and the Victorian Cool Storage Association have both intimated that, in their opinion, the whole sum of £100,000 provided in the Estimates should be made available to the growers by way of a bonus. As on previous occasions, I put that forward as their view, but I am convinced that, in the long run, proper scientific research work will return far more than £20,000 to the growers.
I should like to see a considerable sum set aside for an investigation into packing methods, particularly with a view to discovering a more suitable packing case. I am sure that the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost), who went to some pains to investigate the apple industry in Great Britain, discovered that a great many cases were broken during the journey from Australia, resulting, not only in damage to the fruit, hut also in the bad display of such fruit as was not damaged. That must result in a considerable loss to the industry each year. Mr. Gr. W. Brown, who went to Great Britain recently, and to whom the industry owes a great deal for his arrangement of a time-table for the marketing of Empire fruit, has brought this matter of the breaking of cases prominently before interested people overseas in the hope that a substitute can be found for the present packing case. I trust that the investigation into cold storage methods will include also an investigation into the best kind of container to use for packing. Generally speaking, the Commonwealth Government is to be commended upon allocating this money for conducting investigations into various aspects of the industry, and if its action does not please all the growers, it certainly pleases a great number of them, and I am convinced that the result of research work will, in the long run, please all of them.
.-I am disappointed at the manner in which this money is to be allocated. It was provided in the Estimates that £100,000 had been made available for the assistance of the apple and pear industry. Even that is not enough, especially when we remember that in the previous year the amount allocated was £125,000. Now we learn that not even the whole of the £100,000 is to go to the growers, but that £20,000 is to be allocated to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for investigation purposes. In my opinion, the money should be devoted to the purpose for which it was originally appropriated. The Apple and Pear Board of Hobart has written to me protesting against the present proposal. This money should be used as a set-off against high shipping freights on exported apples. The shipping companies do not want a cut out of the money, and are quite content that it should be devoted to reducing the freight payable by exporters. I protest against the numerous delays which have taken place in making this money - available to growers. The sum of £100,000 on the Estimates was passed in November last, but all kinds of obstacles have been raised since then to prevent the scheme being put into effect. I support the contention of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) that instead of providing £20,000 for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for research work into the apple and pear industry that sum should be made available for the relief of growers who have suffered very severely from adverse seasonal conditions to compensate them for their losses, particularly those who, because they have no export crop to ship overseas, will not participate in any way in the bounty provided for in this bill. Apparently, however, nothing is to be done for those unfortunate people. More money should be made available to the growers of apples and pears, whether their crop is marketed in Australia or overseas. The time has come when the Commonwealth Government must take action to protect the apple and pear-growers against the very high freight rates charged by overseas shipping companies who demand as much as 4s. Id, to transport a case of apples to England. Some consideration should also be given to the excessively high freight rates charged in respect of interstate consignments. If the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research conducted an investigation in that direction the growers would derive greater benefit than under the present proposal to send one or two experts to advise the apple-growers of something that they themselves have known for twenty years. According to the experts of the council, the breakdown in the Australian apple trade with England has ‘been caused through wet seasons. This year, we had a dry season, and the correctness of that contention may be tested. It has been said that the apple and pear-growers ought to be very thankful for the amount provided, but I remind honorable members that they will lose £45,000 that should be allocated to them in compensation for the high freight rates charged. The Apple and Pear Board has instructed me to pro~ test against the interference with the grant of £100,000 that should go to the exporting growers of those products.
– Does the honorable member take instructions from that board?
– I take them from any one if they are correct; even if they came from the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) himself and were correct I should act on them. Why should the bounty be cut down to 4d. a case when it should be possible to give the growers 5d. a case to compensate them for the high freight rates? I have no desire to delay the passage of this bill, and should like to see it passed as soon as possible in order that immediate relief may be given. A letter which I have received from the Apple and Pear Board, and which I understand was sent to all honorable members and senators, reads as follows: -
At a recent meeting of this board the question of allocating out of the federal grant of £100,000 the sum of £20,000 for other purposes was discussed … It is, I feel sure, quite unnecesary for me to labour the matter at any length, but I am desired to remind you that the grant is generally recognized to be a set off against the excessive oversea freight, and therefore, to divert a portion for other purposes is entirely wrong. The consensus of opinion in this and other States of the Common weal th is in accord with this vie.v. The board adopted the following resolution: - . . That in tho opinion of this board it is wrong to allocate a portion of thefederal grant to other than fruitgrowers.
I am desired to respectfully convey to you the foregoing resolution in tho hope that you will use your best endeavours to urge Unit the full amount of the grant be allocated to the fruit-growers concerned and that the amount proposed, viz., £20,000, should not be diverted for other than that purpose.
I appeal to the Minister, even at this late hour, to provide the full amount of £.100,000 for the relief of the growers, and to grant them a bounty of at least 5d. a case. Even that sum will not compensate the apple and pear-growers who have experienced a very bad time for their losses. As the honorable member for Franklin has said, in certain districts they have been absolutely ruined by unfavorable seasonal conditions over which they have had no control. The amount of £20,000 would be better placed in the hands of those people whose crops have failed than in the hands of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for research purposes.
– I should like to know if the apple and peargrowers asked for a portion of this grant to be set aside for research purposes?
– It is obvious that those interested in the industry feel that they are capable of doing that part of the work themselves, and that relief in freight rates is a more important matter to them to-day.
– When I submitted the proposal to the Apple and Pear Board in December, the board agreed with it.
– At any rate, we have now learned from all the apple-growing States that this allocation of £20,000 for other purposes is not agreeable to them. I have received the following telegram from the Western Australian Fruitgrowers Association : - : Victorian Marketing Association written Lyons re federal grant apple-growers. Sight letter and support when discussed. We vigorously protest against proposed transfer of grant for other purposes than freight reduction; inform other State members.
It would assist the industry much more if the amount of £20,000 were devoted to a reduction of freight. I submit to the Minister the proposal that comes from an association in my own State, and apparently from the growers of the other States, and ask that it be given serious consideration.
.- I support the bill, with some reservations. I am glad to see that, even at this late stage, assistance is being provided for the apple and pear growers. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) made certain remarks in connexion with this bill which are not supported by the growers of Tasmania at any rate. Unlike my colleague the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost), I cannot claim to have an intimate knowledge of the industry from the practical side - the growing side - but I have some knowledge of it through personal contact with the growers of apples and pears in my own electorate. I feel satisfied that much of what the honorable member for Bendigo say3 is not supported by the Tasmanian growers.
Reference has been made to the type of case that ought to be used, and the relative merit of the Canadian case and Dump case has been canvassed. I understand that the Canadian case is favoured because it holds 4 lb. more than the Dump case. Many growers in Tasmania, and those who are incidentally connected with the industry, share my view that the cases used for the packing of fruit should be made of local timber, and be sufficiently attractive to appeal to the buyer on the other side of the world. There is no complaint about our cases at present except that they are too heavy. If trimmed and made attractive they would fulfil requirements as satisfactorily as other cases The question of damaged or broken cases does not arise.
The honorable member for Bendigo has suggested that apples from other countries are better graded than Australian apples. I understand from those particularly interested in the industry who have had opportunity to investigate this matter overseas that such is not the case. For instance, apples are consigned to the British market from the United States of America in barrels, and vary in size from 2J to 3 inches. It cannot be said, therefore, that the American grading is superior to ours.
Forty odd varieties of Australian apples are placed on the British market. No inquiry by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is needed in regard to the varieties that should be shipped. The Tasmanian Government is convinced that it is necessary to have an officer overseas to watch the arrival and marketing of the fruit. The Tasmanian growers, in conjunction with the Government, have arranged for an expert with a knowledge of the selling side of industry to discharge that function. Thus the industry itself is doing much to improve the export market, and there is no need for the council to undertake this research work on its behalf. The industry is an important one to Tasmania, ranking second or third among the exporting industries. This year, I understand, approximately 3,000,000 cases of apples will be shipped overseas. Any consideration of this matter must embrace, not only the export of apples, but also the incidental employment which the industry provides in the manufacture of cases and the packing of the fruit.
Sitting suspended from 6.7.5 to 8 p.m.
– In the ninth annual report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for the year ended the 30th June, 1935, several pages are devoted to the subject of the investigation of plant diseases. This body is to be commended for its excellent work. Referring to its fruit investigations in Tasmania, the report states: -
The programme for 1934-35 was a continuation and extension of that of 1933-34. The main development was in gas storage work, and the initiation of respiration tests. The past three seasons have provided valuable climatic contrasts in the experimental area.
The investigations included the identification of disorders, and related to tree pit, internal cork, water core, storage pit, Jonathan spot, low temperature breakdown, pit breakdown, water core breakdown, brown heart, alcoholic poison, and various other diseases. The department is doing valuable work in localizing and minimizing the effect of diseases that have caused trouble in the apple and pear industry in recent years, but I am totally opposed to £20,000 being deducted from the £100,000 allocated for the payment of the so-called bounty. This word, as has been pointed out, is a misnomer. If the bushelage payment to the growers is to be reduced to enable scientific investigations to be continued we cannot be too vehement in our protests against the proposal. The organization of the fruit-growers in Tasmania has clearly indicated that it would strongly resent such action. I can imagine the opposition that would come from supporters of the Government if action along those lines were proposed for a reduction of the wheat bounty. No such deduction has been suggested with respect to the assistance granted to any other industry. The growers of apples and pears have suffered considerably of recent years. Unlike many other primary producers, they have to keep their orchards in order, prune their trees, and cultivate their land every year, whether they receive a profitable return for their fruit or sustain a loss. The Government should be consistent in its attitude in dealing with all industries. Why has differentiation been shown in the treatment given to fruit-growers ? I was under the impression that the amount voted on the Estimates last year for the Prime Minister’s Department completely covered the requirements of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. However, I appreciate the fact that the growers are to receive 4d. a case for the fruit which they export, and for that reason I shall support the bill.
– The speech submitted by the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) augurs well for the future of industries such as the apple and the pear industry. It will be generally agreed, I think, that his recent trip overseas will be well justified by the benefits that will be received by primary producers. So far as this measure goes, it will have my hearty support, hut I should be glad if its scope were widened. Apples are grown in a portion of my electorate, and the orchardists have suffered much loss in the last few years because of damage due to hail and other causes. In another measure which was recently before us, cognizance was taken of the needs of primary producers who are in necessitous circumstances, and we might well say that fruitgrowers whose gardens have been ruined by hailstorms fall within this category. I know at least half a dozen growers who have had to abandon their orchards.
On visiting Covent Garden recently, I found that excellent Australian fruit is marketed there, but it is often very poorly packed, and makes a poor display compared with the attractive appearance of fruit from other countries. The superior packing of the latter fruit, even when it is inferior in quality to that shipped from Australia, often ensures for it a higher price. In many shops throughout London I have seen apples, pears and other fruit from foreign countries displayed on the shelves in their original packages; but owing to the shabbiness of Australian cases, our fruit is often placed under the counters. This serious defect should be remedied. In California one can purchase boxes of sweets which are made to imitate fruit cases in which fruit is sent abroad, and the package itself is suitable for a child’s toy or an ornament. Near the Strand I noticed a window display arranged by the Agent-General for New South Wales (Mr. Heath). I passed the window on several occasions during the Jubilee celebrations, but it was impossible to get near it because of the crowd that was attracted to it; All that I could see was that it contained apples. I congratulated Mr. Heath upon making a display which was capable of holding up the London traffic, but he pointed out that the crowd had been drawn to the window because of the attractive background for the fruit displayed and not because of the quality of the apples themselves. He told me that his request to his Government for a good consignment for the purposes of this display he intended to make during the jubilee celebrations had been met by the forwarding of inferior fruit to which he directed my attention from the back of the window.
The British market is a good one, and in this country we produce good fruit. If the quality of our shipments were maintained at a high standard we would not be called upon to pay this bounty. To this end a reduction of the number of varieties of apples, I believe, is essential. Many of the varieties that we send abroad do not carry well, and their appearance on the British market has an effect detrimental to the sale of our better class of fruit.
– In Britain nearly 300 varieties of apples are grown, compared with our 40 varieties.
– It is just as easy for apple-growers to grow good quality fruit as it is for them to produce inferior varieties, but much of the fruit we send abroad is unfavorable as regards quality and size. If the fruit-growers, through their organizations, could get together, the Australian apple industry could consistently produce fruit of a size and quality meeting the requirements of the British market.
Another matter requiring prompt attention is the packing of the fruit. Packing has an important effect not only on sales, but also on the quality of apples when they reach their destination. It would often tax the powers of the consignee to recognize his fruit on its arrival at Covent Garden as being the same fruit that left these shores in excellent condition. The quality of packing varies according to districts. Last year fruit from the Batlow district was sold at prices three times higher than was received by growers of similar fruit in other parts of the world, and this was due not only to the high standard of the product, but also to the care taken in packing.
Serious attention also must be given to tie question of advertising our products on the British market. New Zealand employs advertising to a far greater extent that we do. On one occasion, during our journey through England, a member of the party which I accompanied saw a shop which advertised that it had Australian apples for sale. The gentleman, when he entered the shop to buy some, noticed that they were taken from a box branded “ N.Z.” “ I asked for Australian apples, but you are giving me New Zealand “, he said, and received the answer, “ Oh, that is the same place “. “ Oh, no, it isn’t “, he said, but was surprised with the following naive reply : “ You will allow me, I have been in trade for twenty years. Australian and New Zealand apples are the same “. That is not an isolated case, but if we can advertise our fruit, we can sell it.
– “Who is to blame for this lack of advertising?
– I do not know, but I do want to absolve from blame one or two persons who are associated with it. I do not know a better man in London for advertising purposes than one gentleman whom I have in mind ; but he cannot handle it all. London, moreover, is only a small section of England. Away from London, Australia is practically unknown. A hig market for our products exists in England, and we could sell tons and tons more apples if we could pack them well and land them in as good a condition as the fruit from other countries.
I congratulate the Minister on the steps he has taken and hope that, as the result of his visit to Great Britain, Australian produce will be so extensively and well advertised that he who runs may read.
.- I cordially support the proposals contained in this bill, but regret that the Government has deprived the growers of the amount of the grant which has been allocated for further . scientific research. The whole amount of £100,000 might well have been paid to the industry. If it were desired that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should do further research work, a further allocation of money could be made. We should be prepared to recognize our obligations to those engaged in the production of apples and pears.
I join with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) in saying that the question of advertising in the United Kingdom of Australian products leaves much to be desired. We are at a distinct disadvantage by reason of the number of agencies which seek to speak on behalf of Australia, but have no system of co-ordination of effort. Au effective voice speaking for the whole of the Commonwealth in the British market is needed. I candidly admit that the advertising of primary produce by New Zealand is immeasurably superior to the presentation of Australia’s claims. To-day, unfortunately, it is left to the six States. Instead of speaking as one unit, this nation speaks with six diverse tongues. This afternoon I attempted to secure from the Prime Minister some appreciation for the suggestion that the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), who is on his way to London, might well devote some of his time to co-ordinating Australia’s advertising services on the other side of the world, but I did not receive a very promising reply from the right honorable member. However, I do not despair of impressing on the Government the need for the earliest possible action to remedy the disabilities which I have mentioned.
– The Prime Minister was supposed to do that job when he was abroad.
– We have heard nothing about it. From personal observation, it is nothing more than an absolute waste of money to continue our advertising services in their present form. When advertising has been placed on a satisfactory basis, this country should take steps to provide agencies in Great Britain through which a constant supply of Australian produce might flow to the British public. Under existing conditions, when an Australian product has made a favorable impression on the British consumer, he meets very often with the utmost difficulty in obtaining further supplies. Here, too, New Zealand provides a model on which we might well work. That country has opened up agencies in the great provincial cities of Great Britain through which the business people of those cities are kept supplied with its products for sale to the British public.
I should like to pay to the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost), my colleague from this side of the House ou the recent Empire Parliamentary Association Mission to London, a tribute for the splendid way in which he set out to advance the claims of Australian fruitgrowers in Great Britain. No other member devoted more time or attention to the people engaged in the iudustry than he did. I speak with personal knowledge on this subject; and the devotion he showed to the cause of the fruitgrowers and his effiorts to enhance their position on the London market, I trust, will ultimately result in securing for them a full reward for their labours.
– - 1 support the bill aud consider that the Government has acted wisely in allocating the money. Last year, and in the previous year, it was left to the discretion of the States to determine how the grants were to be used, and, in my opinion, greater wisdom should then have been shown in making the distributions. I said yesterday that one grower in South Australia who received approximately one-twentieth of the whole of the State’s portion of one grant, paid £10,000 in cash for an orchard for his son. I do not think any man in receipt, of such a huge income should ever come to the Commonwealth Government for assistance.
Most honorable members will agree that the exporters of apples and pears could help themselves to a greater extent. Possibly it has already been brought to the notice of honorable members who went overseas last year, that the first shipment of Australian apples is always n fortnight too early. The fruit arrives in London in an immature state, and consequently has an adverse effect on the trade for the rest of the season. Thi? country sends too many varieties of apples overseas, and many of the varieties are not suited for export. The growers would be wise to export only the best and the latest kind of fruit grown. Another detrimental factor in our export trade of apples and pears is the fact that much of the fruit is sold on consignment.
The grower has severed his connexion with it once it is shipped. Often growers are eager to get their fruit past the inspector, not thinking about the seasons ahead. The sales of the better quality fruit suffer accordingly. It would be a wise move for the Government to approach the ship-owners in an effort to secure a reduction of freight rates, which at present are excessive. Too much trouble cannot be taken to make packing of fruit attractive. Such efforts will be rewarded by better sales abroad. I have had considerable experience in the manufacture of packing cases - I am not speaking now on my own behalf, I am out of the business - and I know that very often hardwood cases warp very badly, and the fruit suffers. What I have said applies to Tasmania.
– It does not apply if the hardwood is seasoned.
– Hardwood cases do not look well and are not so attractive as softwood planed cases. We must make our packages attractive. This particular complaint may be remedied to a large extent by the orchardists themselves. I felt called upon to make these remarks because I feel that we ought to do the very best we can to market our products effectively.
.- I do not wish to delay the passage of thi3 bill, with which I am in entire accord, except, as the representative of one of the big apple and pear-growing districts of Victoria, to offer a strong protest against the whitling down of the grant of £100,000, which was intended to assist the exporters of apples and pears to meet high freight charges. I am in complete accord with the opinion expressed by the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) as to the need for research. I think it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of research along certain lines in order that our export industries may be conducted in the best possible way. We should give the most careful attention to the production of the kind of goods our customers require. The research should not be so much into methods of increasing production as into the production of goods of the quality and kind needed on markets which we supply.
I feel often that those who return from abroad are unduly critical of the methods adopted to advertise our products on the overseas markets. I do not wish to join issue with them to any great degree, for it would be dangerous to minimize the necessity to advertise our products; and on the last two occasions on which I have been abroad, I have come r,o the conclusion that those in charge of the advertising of Australian products use the money that is made available to them to very good advantage and do a good job; but more important at present than advertising is the production of the goods required by the market we seek to supply. When we are producing goods of that description we would then be justified in increasing the money that is available to boost our product. Until wc are producing goods of the class required, the wisdom of spending larger sums of money in advertising our products is questionable.
I offer strong opposition to the action of the Government in diverting £20,000 of the money provided in this bill for use in certain directions without consulting those engaged in the industry who are expert in the marketing of apples and pears. I have no doubt that the money to be made available to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will be used to good advantage, but it is a grave mistake to allocate any of this money for the re-working of unsuitable trees. The fruit-growers organizations have been aware for some time that it is necessary to re-work trees bearing fruit which is not suitable for export. Trees producing an unattractive type of fruit should be re-worked, but the money necessary for that operation should not be provided in this way. Most of the efficient and long-sighted fruit-growers have already re-worked their unprofitable trees. To provide money for this purpose in the way now proposed is, in my opinion, tantamount to putting a premium upon inefficiency and short-sightedness. The fruit-growers’ organizations strongly advocate the re-working of unsuitable trees, but objection is offered to the method which the Government is taking to encourage that operation. The Government would do well when it is taking action of the kind now under consideration, to place more reliance on the advice of those associated with the organizations within the industry than on that of members of such a body as the Agricultural Council. That Council is, after all, composed largely of departmental officials. I do- not wish to minimize the value of the services of these officials, but I think it is both unwise and dangerous for the Government to ignore expert authorities in the industry itself. The Government is at fault in that connexion in regard to the apple and pear industries as it has been in regard to certain other industries.
I must, however, congratulate the Government upon having eliminated from this bill that very undesirable “ necessitous growers “ clause which was incorporated in previous measures of this description, for it amounted to a premium on inefficiency and prevented many thrifty and hard-working producers from receiving assistance to which they were definitely entitled.
I am in entire accord with the general provisions of the measure, but I emphasize that it is desirable when future proposals of this kind are under consideration for the Government to seek advice from, and call into consultation those actually engaged in the industry concerned.
.- This year’s budget made provision for an amount of £100,000 to be set aside for the assistance of the apple and pear industry and the purpose of this bill is to give effect to that decision. The measure provides for a bounty of 4d. a case to be paid on all apples and pears exported. A sum of £20,000 has been set aside out of the £100,000 to be used in the manner considered to be best fitted to improve the conditions of the industry. The exact procedure to be followed iti the expenditure of this amount will be determined by the Minister for Commerce in consultation with officers of his department and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It is unnecessary for me to devote any time to a consideration >>i the principles underlying this hill, for they have already been before the House on previous occasions and have been approved. Pot the two seasons preceding the present apple and pear season an amount of £125,000 lias been provided te assist the apple and pear growers. This year the amount has been reduced to £100,000. Although some criticism can be offered to the measure on this account it may, in fairness, be pointed out that the circumstances of the apple and pear growers are definitely better than they were two years ago. I was pleased to note when I was abroad last year that Australian apples and pears were selling reasonably well. That applies to both Great Britain and the Continent where Australian apples and pears enjoy a very good name. Indeed, 1 was surprised to learn that Australia was better known in certain parts on the Continent by its apples than by any other product. I agree with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) and other honorable gentlemen, that there is need for improvement ia the packing, advertising, and display of our products overseas. We should do our utmost also to improve our grades of apples. At the same time I must confess that I found the marketing position of Australian apples and pears in a better state than, say, Australian meat or butter. The Apple and Pear Council of Australia may be congratulated on this account. It is considered in Great Britain that the limitation of varieties of apples and pears has been a real benefit to the industry, and that the Apple and Pear Council showed wisdom and initiative in taking steps to limit varieties as it has done. I heard numerous complaints, however, about the use of two sizes of cases by Australian growers, and I strongly advocate the adoption of a standard case for the export of apples. The cases in use are known as the Canadian rase and the “ dump “ case. The Canadian case holds approximately 4 lb. more than the “ dump “ case. My colleagues and I formed the opinion while abroad that Australia would do well to adopt the Canadian case as the standard and to use only it for export purposes.
Criticism has been levelled at this bill chiefly on two grounds. It has been directed to the fact that the Minister in charge of the measure (Mr. Thorby) has not seen fit to take the advice of the Apple and Pear Council on certain matters and that he did not fully ascertain the opinions of those engaged in the industry before the bill was drafted. That is only half correct, and in this regard I believe that the Minister is open to some criticism. It is a fact, however, that in Tasmania he discussed the matter with the Apple and Pear Board, many of the members of which, I understand, are part and parcel of the Apple and Pear Council of Australia. He was also in touch with the Director of Agriculture in Tasmania. In New South Wales, he consulted the members of the Apple and Pear Board, the Minister for Agriculture, and the Director of Horticulture. There were also consultations with the Co-operative Packers of Tasmania and New South Wales. In Victoria more advice should have been sought from those engaged in the industry. However, opinions were obtained from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Commerce. Therefore, while the Minister should have come more closely into contact with different associations, especially the Apple and Pear Council, it is not quite correct to say that he failed to take into account the opinions of those who are connected with theindustry.
I come now to the second point upon which criticism has been offered - that under the bill the sum of £20,000 is to be allotted for assistance in such manner as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Minister think fit. That sum will probably be used mainly for purposes of scientific research.
– What particular research does the honorable member consider would make the industry moreprofitable?
– Good results would accrue from research into diseases such as black spot and codlin moth, the suitability of certain soils for particular varieties of trees, and matters arising out of transport of our fruit overseas. Some associations in my electorate have protested to me against this allotment for research.
– They are sensible people.
– I do not hold that view. I have already written to one association stating that I cannot see why it should oppose this measure. As honorable members know, I am a primary producer. I think that I know the primary producer as well as any other member of this House. In some respects he is at times a little short-sighted, particularly in the direction of scientific research and the advertisement of his product. Some years ago it was suggested that the wool-growers should contribute a certain amount towards the cost of research into wool products and the advertisement of their product, because at the time wool was being definitely challenged by substitutes in other countries. Many of the wool-growers refused to contribute one penny, contending that the money would be wasted. The primary producer is sometimes apt to think of the pennies and forget the pounds. When people have been hard up against it by reason of low prices and the loss of export, there is a tendency to take the gain that comes immediately, rather than the possibly greater gain that might come in the future. To-day the Australian wool producer recognizes the value of research and advertising. I submit that what is happening in his case may well happen in connexion with the apple and pear-growing industry, which has need of guidance to put it on the right course. There is a scientific research station at East Marling, in Great Britain, which is all the time investigating means by which the apple industry in that country may be improved. I have no hesitation in saying that the results achieved by it are worth far more than £100,000 a year. There is also in Great Britain a scientific research station which conducts investigations in regard to butter. Yet in Australia, where the dairying industry is of paramount importance, hardly a’ penny has been expended upon research, along similar lines, into problems connected with the production of butter. This is a short-sighted policy which must be altered before many years have elapsed. Although the State departments may be conducting investigations along certain lines into the diseases and other disabilities of this industry, there is still need for more intensive research by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the agricultural departments of the States. Let mc give an example of what has happened in connexion with the stock industry. I speak as a primary producer who has a real knowledge’ of his subject. Some years ago there was an outbreak among sheep of a disease called black disease, and in lambs a disease known as pulpy kidney, which robbed Australia of hundreds of thousands of pounds annually. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research found remedies for those diseases. I have used them, and have proved them absolutely satisfactory in every respect. That is one real benefit which scientific research has conferred upon the primary producers. Who will say that benefits equally as great may not yet be enjoyed by the apple and pear industry? I view this expenditure in the light, not of a loss to the growers of £20,000 in one year, but of something that may have a lasting benefit to the apple and pear industry over a number of years. Consequently, I do not think that the Government is acting unwisely in the allotment of that amount to research. I believe that the research work undertaken by the Acting Minister for Commerce while abroad has had some influence in the framing of this measure. The reduction of freights is still a matter for negotiation. The Government has not placed it on one side and overlooked it. Serious discussions are still being carried on with the shipping companies, and we can only hope that good will eventuate from them. I commend the Government for the assistance it is giving to this industry, and support the bill.
.- Although the export market is most valuable, and one that we wish to expand, I suggest that there is another phase that might be investigated. I should, like to be assured that the home market is being fully exploited. It is frequently argued, whether rightly or wrongly, that the best of our apples are shipped overseas. While it is desirable that our exports should be of the highest quality, it is equally desirable that the home market should be properly protected. While in Tasmania recently, I and other visitors attempted to purchase some of the applies for which that State is famous, and were surprised to find that the quality offered for sale in Hobart was very inferior. Visitors came away with the impression that better apples were grown in some of the suburbs of Sydney. I recognize, of course, that Tasmania can grow the best applies in the world. There is a demand for them on the mainland, particularly those of best quality. There may be an answer to this - possibly freight and other costs create difficulties - but in the interests of the growers, I suggest that every effort should be made to develop fully the potentialities of the home market.
.- Although I do not desire to offer any opposition to the bill, there is one phase which I should like to stress, as I did on the Orange Bounty Bill ; that is, that the Government should see that the fruitgrowers a,re released from the exploitation of the controllers of cold storage. If that were done, the industry might become much more profitable than it is. Practically the whole of the cold storage is controlled by outside interests. If the Government has to pay bounties from time to time, in order that the fruit-grower may carry on, some instrumentality should have its efforts directed towards a solution of the cold storage problem. Fresh fruits, such as apples and oranges, must be sold within a very short time after picking. If that fruit which the grower cannot dispose of is not put into cold storage it becomes useless within a few months. I am familiar with the apple districts of New South Wales. Although the orchards are not as good as Tasmanian orchards, and they do not produce as much fruit, the growers in New South Wales constitute an important section of the suppliers to the Australian market. I found that when they were forced to place their fruit in cold storage they received as little as a fraction of a farthing each for their apples. However, if they wanted to buy back the same apples out of season they would have to pay anything from 3d. to 4d. each for them. This disparity of prices is due mainly to the present system of control of cold storage available to the grower, under which buyers obtain these apples from the orchardist sometimes at less than the cost of production. If my suggestion were carried out by the Government this position would be rectified. In Canberra and elsewhere the purchaser of apples or pears over the counter finds that the fruit which has been kept in cold storage, when cut open, is of an unnatural brownish colour. If the people of Australia had sufficient purchasing power to buy all of the fruit which they are capable of consuming the position of the orchardist would be more sound. Instead of trying to reconstruct the industry from the top downwards the Government should tackle the problem with an appreciation of the national importance of the industry, and, first, ensure that there is sufficient purchasing power among the people to give the growers a profitable home-consumption price for their products. Here is scope for government activity. Co-operative effort could be encouraged, or the Government might even take control of the distribution of the fruit, or the grower could be enabled to obtain cold storage space at a nominal rental sufficient to cover interest and sinking fund charges on the cost of providing such space. Thus he would be enabled to handle his own fruit all the year round and the profits which he would obtain from a homeconsumption price would place the industry on a better basis, thus obviating the necessity for grants of this nature. Under present conditions, however, the payment of a bounty is necessary, and I support it. I would like to see the Government make available to the industry an amount equal to the bounty provided last year. I have no objection to extending research regarding the pests which afflict the industry. All who are familiar with the ravages of the codling moth realize the great boon that would be conferred upon the industry by the eradication of this and other pests. At present the fruit market as well as the control of coldstorage space is gripped by monopoly, and so injuriously does it operate that after their fruit is sold in Sydney growers are often in debt to the middleman. Further thousands of tons of fruit are dumped and destroyed, although thousands of people are fruit hungry. Such a state of affairs should not be tolerated. It is not in the interests of the nation that the Government should pay bounties for the export of prime quality fruit, and that the local consumer should be able to get only the inferior grades. I mention these facts, not in opposition to the payment of bounties to primary producers, but solely with the object of persuading the Government to reconstruct these industries from their foundations upwards. It is futileto place a new roof on a building that rests on a rotten foundation. It is time the Government seriously attended to the rehabilitation of these industries instead of being content to give them assistance of a nature which only places them in the position of mendicants, and forces them continually to look for assistance from the national exchequer. The growers themselves should be given control of their industries. If this Parliament supported such a policy, it would not constantly be voting grants to the producers, as it is doing at the present time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate with a message intimating that it had agreed to the bill as amended by the House of Representatives at the request of the Senate.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue bo made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the export of prunes from the Commonwealth.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Thorby and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Thorby, and read a first time.
. - I move -
That the bill be now rend a second time.
This bill provides a bounty to the prunegrowers of Australia on prunes exported last year to a total of 12,000 tons. The amount of the bounty will represent 3/4d. per lb. on the prunes exported, or the equivalent of dried prunes if such prunes were processed, as in syrups. Recently representations were made to the Government by the growers throughout Australia, emphasizing the serious losses that they had suffered through the export of 12,000 tons of prunes in the year 1935, when export prices fell seriously, and the returns to growers decreased to such an extent that they found themselves in financial difficulties. Increased plantings of prunes since the war have resulted in a tremendous expansion of production, with the result that to-day practically 50 per cent, of the crop has to be exported. Markets have been developed in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada, and under normal conditions, with the aid of legislation by the Commonwealth and State. Governments, a. reasonable average return on exports and local sales is obtained. Conditions over the last eighteen months, however, have been most difficult. Prices f.o.b. of prunes exported from California to the United Kingdom fell from 53/8 cents per lb. in January, 1934, to 41/8 cents per lb. in January, 1935, and to 21/8 cents per lb. in January, 1936, As Californian prunes practically dominate the market in the United Kingdom, this serious fall of prices has caused a corresponding reduction of the returns to Australian producers. In view of all the circumstances the Government has decided to render some assistance to the industry to enable it to meet the immediate losses. The bill now submitted gives effect to the Government’s decision in this direction.
In view of the fact that prunes are subject to the provisions of the Dried Fruits Act 1928-1935, and to the interstate trade regulations made under that act, it is necessary to make provision for payment of the bounty to growers who export under what is known as the proxy arrangement. It is proposed that a grower shall be deemed, for the purpose of payment of bounty, to have exported such quantity of prunes as the respective State Dried Fruits Boards determine. This can be readily obtained from the records of the boards. “Where the grower sells his prunes outright to a packer, the quantity deemed to be exported will be determined in the prescribed manner by the Department of Commerce.
The Government does not desire to encourage this industry to seek a continuation of bounties on export. Realizing the difficult position which obtains at present, the Government has indicated that provision will be made at a later date for a further bounty of 1/2d. per lb. on exports during the year 1936, but that no further bounties will be paid on this commodity. In this connexion the Government is taking steps to improve the efficiency of the industry, which at present is not of a very high standard. Due regard has not been paid by the industry to the market requirements overseas, and a large quantity of small-sized prunes has been exported, although the major demand is for prunes of larger size. This high proportion of small fruit is in itself a very unsatisfactory feature of the export industry.
The Government has promised the growers a reduced bounty on the next year’s crop, but that is not provided for in the bill. It is expected that this bounty will absorb £4,200. The growers have been definitely informed that they are not to expect any further bounty from the Commonwealth. “We realize that there are many directions in which improvements will be brought about in the prune industry. It is with that object in view that we have already referred this matter to the agricultural departments in every State where prunes are grown, so that they may co-operate with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in a general survey of the industry. Cultural methods, picking and drying of fruit, elimination of unsuitable areas, and the stimulation of local consumption, will all be investigated. The results of this investigation will then be brought before the next meeting of the Council of Agriculture, with a view particularly to devising means to eliminate the export of small prunes. It is also desired that the prune-growers shall cooperate fully with the Dried Fruits Board, which now has control of the industry. The export bounty will be paid to the fruit-growers. In most cases dried prunes are exported, though a small quantity is exported after having been processed in one form or another. However, the bill provides, that so long as the prunes are exported, they will be subject to the bounty of f d. per lb.
.- As prune-growing is a promising young primary industry which is deserving of assistance, the Opposition will support this bill. The industry does not so far provide a great deal of employment, only about 500 persons being directly engaged in it, but there are possibilities of further developing the export trade. Perhaps, as the result, of propaganda, it may be possible to increase the local consumption of prunes. The present annual production in Australia is 2,400 tons, onehalf of which is produced in New South Wales. In 1934, the growers received approximately £30 a ton, but in 1935, the Californian exporters, having lost the German market, dumped their crop on to the English market. That resulted in a substantial reduction of prices for Australia’s export surplus of 1,200 tons. In 1935, the price at the orchard for Australian prunes picked and dried for export was £14 a ton, as against £24 a ton or more in the previous year. The grower* did not increase the price within Australia, so that the average price which they received for their total crop was reduced to an unpayable level, and it waa necessary to approach the .Government foi assistance. The packers are doing their best to improve the appearance of the product exported, and that should assist its sale overseas. In 1933, Great Britain imported 373,000 cwt. of prunes, including 40,000 cwt. from South Africa, and 15,000 cwt. from other British countries, mostly from Australia, so that a total of 317,000 cwt. was imported from foreign countries. In 1934-35, the total imports from British countries amounted to 67,000 cwt., while the imports from foreign countries amounted to 397,000 cwt. In the following year, total imports amounted to 407,000 cwt., of which British countries produced 38,000 cwt. It is evident, therefore, that there is room for a considerable margin of preference for Australian prunes on the British market, and I should like to hear from the Minister what is being done in that regard. At the present time, Australian prune-producers enjoy a preference on the British market of 10s. 6d. per cwt., the price for prunes being approximately 35s. per cwt. I trust that the Government will take steps to secure a greater share of the British market, which at present is being almost wholly supplied by foreign producers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Consequent on the loss of the New Zealand market at the end of 1932, the Commonwealth Government decided to assist financially the export of oranges in the 1933 season with the object of encouraging shipments to other overseas markets. This assistance took the form of a guarantee of out-of-pocket expenses up to a maximum of 13s. a case on all oranges shipped to countries other than New Zealand during the 1933 season. The export in that year was 97,000 cases, and the cost to the Government in respect of the guarantee was only £3,829. This form of assistance was continued in 1934, with the result that there was a tremendous expansion of exports in that year. Nearly 217,000 cases were exported under the guarantee, but, unfortunately, a large quantity of the fruit arrived in poor condition, and the prices realized were low and generally unsatisfactory. It appeared that the Government would be called upon to pay out considerable sums in satisfaction of the guarantee. Certain exporters, however, took out a comprehensive insurance policy on the fruit exported during 1934, the premium charged being 5d. a case, in addition to the ordinary marine risk. Where this was done the Government increased the guarantee to 13s. 5d. a case.
Any moneys paid to exporters under these insurance policies were regarded as part of, the proceeds of the fruit, and were, therefore, taken into account by the Commonwealth in calculating the amount to be paid under the guarantee. The saving to the Government as the result of the taking out of these policies cannot be definitely determined, but it is certain that a considerable expenditure was avoided. The amount provided on the Estimates for payment in the year 1934 was £20,000; the sum actually paid amounted to just under £10,000. Despite the saving both to the Government and to the industry in respect of the 1934 exports, the net results for that season were still very unsatisfactory. As I have stated recently the prices received for a large proportion of the exports were very low and many growers suffered severe losses in respect of those exports. Strong representations have been made to the Government for further assistance in order to alleviate some of the financial stress suffered as the result of the poor prices received. Having in mind the saving which was effected by the Government and the desirability of rendering some further assistance to exporters for the year in question, it is now proposed to pay a bounty of 6d. a case on all oranges exported in the year 1934 to destinations other than New Zealand. The exports of oranges in that year amounted to 216,482 cases, not including exports to New Zealand, and a bounty of 6d. a case on this quantity would, therefore, amount to approximately £5,500.
Parliament has already provided sufficient funds to meet this commitment, as the export bounty of 2s. a case for the 1935 season will, it is estimated, absorb only £8,000 of the amount of £20,000 provided for this purpose. Bearing in mind the disastrous results in 1934, growers have been chary of shipping their oranges to the United Kingdom in 1935, with the result that in that year the exports to that country fell to 80,000 cases as compared with 177,000 cases in the previous year. The assistance proposed to he rendered, small though it is, will be of considerable benefit to exporters having in mind the losses they suffered in the year in question. I appeal to honorable members to realize that the growers suffered very serious losses, particularly during the 1934 export season when they sent away a tremendous quantity of fruit, some of which arrived in bad condition. As they had paid an all risks insurance amounting to 5d. a case, the Government increased the guarantee by that amount and, as a further measure of relief, is now prepared to recommend that an extra bounty of 6d. a case should be paid to the growers for’ the export season.
.- The Opposition is glad to support this measure because it renders assistance to an industry of great importance to this country. For the year 1933 the Government guaranteed the growers out of pocket expenses on oranges exported up to a maximum of 13.s. a case, and renewed the guarantee in the following year. The Orange Bounty Bill 1935 provided for a bounty of “2s. a case instead of a guaranteed price of 13s. a case. Do I understand from the Minister that this hill provides for an additional payment of 6d. a case.
– Making 2s. 6d. in all?
– No, it will bring the total guarantee up to 13s. lid. a case.
– This is an industry which depends to a very large extent upon local consumption, and it is well for the producers engaged in it, when they want to whittle away the protectionist policy which means so much in the development of a home market and the provision of employment for a large population to consume their product, to remember that, in 1933-34, though the output of the citrus industry was 4,522,000 bushels, exports amounted only to 320,000 bushels. In other words 4,200,000 bushels had to be sold on the Australian market. Not only is the local market the best for this industry, but taking primary industries generally we also find that 79 per cent, of our dairy pro ducts, 44 per cent, of our pastoral products, and 65 per cent, of our agricultural products are consumed on the local market. The citrus industry made rapid progress because of the hundreds of thousands of pounds spent during the post-war years in settling returned soldiers on the land growing citrus fruits. “We find evidence of the substantial growth of this industry after the war in the figures relating to the acreage planted to citrus fruits, la 1913-14 the area under cultivation for citrus fruits was 24,800 acres, whereas in 1933-34, due to the settlement of returned soldiers on small holdings growing citrus fruits, the figure had grown to 46,340 acres. One of the biggest set-backs which the industry experienced was brought about as a result of the decision of the Government of New Zealand in December, 1932, to impose an embargo against the importation of all fresh fruits and vegetables from Australia. The embargo was relaxed to some extent in 1933, however, when the Dominion Government agreed to admit imports of citrus fruits from South Australia, an action which resulted iu relieving to some extent the glut on the Australian market. I ask the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) to give some indication of the prospect of the lifting of the Dominion embargo against the importation of Australian citrus fruits as the result of recent negotiations. For some time we have not had a statement on this matter, and honorable members would be glad to be enlightened as to the present position. The imports into Great Britain of citrus fruits from the United States of America for tho three years 1933 to 1935 were as follows : -
The imports into Great Britain from all countries during 1935 amounted to 10,302,000 cwt. valued at £8,196,000, and the total imports from foreign countries amounted to 5,865,000 cwt. valued at £4,745,000, while the imports from Australia amounted to 268,000 cwt., valued at £83,000; the Australian trade with Great Britain is therefore approxi- mately 2J per cent, in quantity, and 1 per cent, in value. I should like to know what the Department of Commerce is doing in the direction of assisting the Australian citrus-growers in their attempt to cater for a bigger proportion of the British market. To show clearly how export prices in this industry have fallen, in 1927-28 Australia exported 30,000 centals, valued at £43,000 or nearly £1 10s. a cental, and, in 1934-35, 24,000 centals valued at £209,000 or nearly 17s. a cental. If Australia secured 5 per cent, of the British import trade it would mean approximately £400,000 annually to the Australian citrus industry. The importance to Australia of this industry can well be visualized by the Government and active steps should be taken to assist it to develop its export trade. Another matter which should be seriously considered by the industry is the necessity for organization. Organized control of production and marketing by many primary industries in Queensland and other States, notably the dairy products and dried fruits industries, has been a great success. I understand that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has conducted certain investigations into the citrus industry, and I should like to know whether those investigations are still being pursued.
.- I desire to make a few observations in regard to the disabilities from which the citrus-growers have suffered. Had not trouble developed between New Zealand and Australia over the interchange of primary products we would not have found it necessary to be continually asking Parliament to provide assistance to support this industry. This bill provides for further assistance of 6d. a case on all oranges exported during 1934 to” countries other than New Zealand. Last year a bounty of 2s. a bushel case was provided in respect of oranges exported overseas. In 1933 and again in 1934 legislation was passed providing for a guaranteed price of 13s. a case on all citrus fruits exported to the British market, in addition to which in 1934 only 5d. a case, paid by the growers for all-risks insurance on their consign^ ments, was reimbursed to them by the
Government. At that time £20,000 was provided on the Estimates for the purpose of meeting the guarantee of 13s. 5d. a case. Owing to amounts collected In respect of insurance, actually, only £10,000 was expended. Out of the remaining £10,000 it is proposed to provide this bounty of 6d. a case in respect of exports made in 1934. In view of the serious disorganization and loss of markets that have overtaken the growers because of circumstances beyond their control, I support this measure.
To a small extent, a market for their product is now being developed in Great Britain. In 1933, they exported 97,000 cases, and in 1934 the quantity was increased to 217,000 cases. An entirely new market is thus being opened up, and the action of the growers has been forced upon them because of the loss in 1932 of the market in New Zealand through the embargo placed upon the export to that dominion of fresh fruit and vegetables. New Zealand imposed this embargo, no doubt, by way of retaliation because of the Commonwealth’s embargo against the inportation of potatoes from New Zealand. The embargo on citrus fruits was relaxed to some extent in 1933 and 1934 to permit of the importation from South Australia of a certain quantity of oranges, but steps should be taken immediately to secure its permanent removal. Prior to its imposition, our trade with the dominion in fresh fruit and vegetables, alone, was worth in the vicinity of £250,000. To-day, New Zealand is importing oranges from Japan at 30s. a case, and from California at 37s. 6d. a case, whereas from Australia they could be sold profitably at 15s.
– Australia, too, imports oranges from California.
– Only out of season. But that is no reason why we should lose a valuable market close to our shores. The Government should at once resume negotiations with the Dominion authorities with a view to the removal of the embargo. Scientists from Australia and New Zealand have, in conference, investigated the subject of disease in Dominion potatoes, and have clearly indicated that there i3 no justification for the present trade restrictions. Australia can more than supply its home market with oranges, and an expanding overseas market is essential for the success of the growers. The keenest competition has to he met in the markets of the United Kingdom. In Great Britain, 20,000,000 eases of citrus fruits are consumed annually, but it is difficult to compete with other countries which have been long established on this market. It is unfortunate that our growers have to bear the expense of marketing their fruit on the other side of the world when they might enjoy a profitable market in New Zealand. Under schedule “ B “ of the Ottawa agreement, Australian oranges receive a preference in Great Britain of 3s. 6d. per cwt. from the 1st April to the 30th November in each year. This preference, with the addition of the bounty to be paid, should help the industry ultimately to establish itself in the British market. With the removal of the restriction imposed by New Zealand on the marketing of our citrus fruits there, and with the new market in Great Britain the industry should enter a new era of prosperity. T hope that a member of the Government will promptly be despatched to the Dominion for the purpose of securing the removal of the embargo.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure is introduced for the purpose of making quite clear the position of members of Parliament, either Commonwealth or State, who are also members of the Australian Meat Board. Some doubt has been expressed as to whether they are eligible to receive fees from the board which is established under an act of the Commonwealth. In order to place the matter beyond doubt, the Government desires that the act should be amended in order to provide that members of Parliament who are members of the board shall receive only such expenses as they actually incur by reason of their attendance at meetings of the board, or whilst engaged, whether in Australia or overseas, on such business of the board as the board determines. No fees will be paid to members of Parliament. Members of the board who are not members of Parliament shall be entitled to receive such fees and expenses as are prescribed. The other sections in the bill are mainly machinery clauses in order to clarify certain points which have arisen in the interpretation of the original measure.
The first amendment relates to section 7 of the principal act, which provides for appointment of deputies for members who are either ill or otherwise unable to attend meetings of the board. It is desired that a similar provision in regard to the appointment of deputies should be included in respect of any members of the board who may be members of any committee of the board. Where a member of the board is also a member of a committee, this amendment will enable the deputy of any such member to act for him on such committee also. As regards the executive committee itself, it is desired that the committee should be elected annually when the chairman of the board is elected. The original act provides that the chairman shall be elected in the month of July of each year, and a similar provision is being included in section 11 of the principal act to provide for the election of the executive committee in the month of J uly in each year.
From time to time it is necessary for the executive to co-opt members of the board to assist the executive committee in an advisory capacity on any matters in respect of which such members may have special knowledge. The act, as it originally stood, did not definitely confer such power on the executive, and section 11 of the principal act is being amended to enable this to be done, and also to enable such members who may be co-opted to receive such fees and expenses as may be payable to them in their capacity as a member of a committee of the board. In connexion with the appointment of officers of the Board, the situation may arise in which an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service may be appointed as an officer of the board stationed in London. Provision has been made to protect the existing and accruing rights of any officer of the Public Service who may be appointed as secretary of the board, and it is thought desirable that similar protection should be afforded to any officer of the Public Service who may be appointed to tho staff of the board in London.
Clause 6 relates to section 17 of the act, which deals with the powers of the board with regard to the control of the export of meat. This section provides that the export of meat is to be subject to such conditions and restrictions “ as are prescribed.” It is proposed to substitute the words “ in accordance with “ for the words “ subject to “, in order to remove any doubt as to the meaning of the section. It will be observed that all of these amendments are of a noncontentious nature. Several of them are more or less of a machinery nature, and are necessary merely to clarify the powers of the board in regard to certain matters. I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of the House.
.- The Opposition will offer no serious opposition to the measure, as it is in conformity with the policy of the Labour party. It deals with the regulation and control of the export trade in meat. It is gratifying to find that, from time to time, under pressure., portions of the Labour party’s policy are adopted even by conservative parties, and that proposals which a few years ago were strongly condemned by members who sit behind the Government are now regarded as being in the best interests of important industries such as the meat industry. We are assured that the only important amendment contained in the bill relates to the payment of fees and expenses to members of Parliament who are also members of the Meat Board. The Minister said that some doubt had arisen as to the eligibility of members of Parliament to receive fees as members of this board, and that, to place the matter beyond doubt, it was necessary to amend the act. I understand that the bill affects a certain honorable member of this House who, on another occasion, strongly opposed any restoration of the amounts by which the allowance of mem bers and the salaries of public servants had been reduced under the financial emergency legislation. Probably he will be willing to do the work required of a member of the Meat Board without any fee or reward.
– The bill provides that no fees shall be paid.
– It enables an honorable member to receive out-of-pocket expenses without jeopardizing his position under the Constitution as a member of this House. We are not opposed to the principle, because it is one that might be used on another occasion by another government; but we should like to know at whose instigation the amendments proposed in this bill, which provide for payments to be made to deputy members and give the executive committee of the board power to co-opt the services of members of the board, were inserted in this bill. Apart from a general statement, the Acting Minister has given no justification for these amendments. Under the provisions of section 5 of the Meat Export Control Act (No. 52) of 1935, the Australian Meat Board is composed of eighteen members. The executive committee is made up of six members and a chairman, but this bill contains provision for the executive to add to its numbers, and it is conceivable that every remaining member of the Australian Meat Board might be co-opted. If so, all will he entitled to such fees and expenses as are prescribed. Is there to be no limit to expenditure on fees? Will the Minister have the Tight to scrutinize the accounts of this board, and what authority will his department have to ask questions on the matter? Clause 4, which provides for amendments to section 13 of the principal act, reads -
Members of the board and of any committee of the board, and the deputies of any such members while acting as such, shall be entitled to receive fees and expenses as provided in this section in respect of attendance at meetings or whilst engaged (whether in Australia or overseas) on such business of the board as the board determines.
If a member or his deputy is also a member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth or of any State, he shall not be entitled to receive any fees hut shall bc entitled to be reimbursed such expenses as he actually incurs by reason of such attendance or whilst engaged on such business.
If a member or his deputy is not a member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth or of any State, lie shall be entitled to receive such fees and expenses as are prescribed.
Can the Acting Minister give honorable members any idea as to what fees and expenses have been prescribed by the Australian Meat Board., and whether there will be any limit on the expenditure that will be incurred by it, and by the executive committee and its co-opted members?
.- The Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby), in introducing this bill, said that it was just a matter of making clear the position of members of Parliament who might be members of the Meat Board, and also that it was merely for the purpose of clarifying some of the difficulties involved in the machinery sections of the principal act. This bill, like quite a number of others introduced recently, is a product of the rush methods adopted at the end of last session by the Government in forcing bills through this House without proper consideration. It is interesting, and it should be placed on record, that when the Meat Export Control Bill was before honorable members, while the machinery clauses were being discussed on the 14th November last, full consideration was prevented by the guillotine being applied on no less than four occasions. It went to another place, and was returned before it was discovered that, while this House had laid it down that particular individuals holding particular positions in the various States should have positions on the board, and further while we had made provision for dismissals from the board, we had made no provision for the replacement of those dismissed. Within three months of the passage of that legislation, and practically before it has been placed in operation, we are confronted with another of these numerous amendments which, when we receive them, we are told do not materially interfere with the structure of the original act, as they contain merely machinery clauses or clauses which are necessary to clear up something rushed through. Section 5 of the act, which sets up the aboard, makes it clear that the intention of the legislation was to cover every part of the Commonwealth, and every interest, concerned in the export of meat. The Government, in its wisdom, decided that a board of eighteen members would be unwieldy and that an executive of seven would be a better working proposition. Provision for its establishment accordingly was inserted in the legislation. So concerned was the Government with the necessity that the executive committee should represent every section of the industry, that although it empowered the board to elect it, it made it compulsory that all sections should be represented on it. We gave the board the franchise to elect its own executive, but at the same time said that the representation on that executive must be spread over the whole field.
I propose to show that these amendments, far from being not of a farreaching character, are of such character that the whole of the intentions of the act can be upset. Clause 9 of the bill proposes that the executive may co-opt the services of any member of the board. I put it to the House that when the original number of the executive was nominated by the Government in the original act there must have been some valid reason for stipulating seven as the number of members. Now the Government makes the suggestion that it should be enabled to co-opt assistance. If the Government in the first place thought that seven was a sufficient number, why this departure from the principle laid down and safeguarded by the instruction that representation on the board must be of thu whole of the industry? The changed circumstances proposed in this bill make it difficult to know how far the co-opting process will go. It is evident from an examination of the bill that co-opted members will draw the same fees and expenses as members of the executive. The natural human desire of those members of the board will be to get more fees than they are entitled to under the original act. A member of the board, who is also a member of the executive commitee, will receive fees for attendance at meetings of both bodies. It may be argued that those co-opted persons will not have a vote, but the principle generally observed in creating executives is that the number of members should be small, for the reason that the fewer members the more workable is the organization. Many counsellors do not lead to better work, and although, co-opted members of the executive committee of the Meat Board will not have a vote, it is also true that there is nothing in this bill to prevent the permanent co-opting of the services of every member. Multiplicity of counsel will lead to confusion.
– But they will not receive double fees.
– It is all right to say that, but the bill says they will receive fees, and on the moment I am not referring to members of Parliament.
– They cannot receive two fees at the same time.
– The relevant clause reads -
The executive committee may co-opt any member of the board to attend such meetings of the executive committee as the committee determines.
Any member who is co-opted in pursuance of tho last preceding sub-section shall act in an advisory capacity only, but shall be entitled to receive such fees and expenses as arc payable under this act to a member of the committee.
It is clear that any member of the board whose services are co-opted shall receive such fees for attendance as are provided for elected members of the executive. It is of no use for the Minister to try to tell the House that co-opted members will not receive fees for their services. The proposed new sub-section 13 of the principal act provides for the payment of fees and expenses to members of the executive, and the amended clause in this bill provides that any member co-opted shall receive the same fees and expenses as are provided under that section.
– The honorable member is confusing two different matters now.
– That is not so.
Clause 13 reads -
Members of the board and of any committee of the board, and the deputies of any such members while acting as such, shall be entitled to receive fees and expenses as provided in this section in respect of attendance at meetings or whilst engaged (whether in Australia or overseas) on such business of the board u* the board determines.
If a member or his deputy is also a member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth or of any State, he shall not be entitled to receive any fees hut shall be entitled to be reimbursed such expenses as he actually incurs by reason of such attendance or whilst engaged on such business
If a member or his deputy is not a member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth or of any State, he shall be entitled to receive such fees and expenses as are prescribed.
– That is correct.
– Correct ! Nothing could be more clear. Members of the board and members of the executive committee receive such fees and expenses as are prescribed, and this bill provides that co-opted members will receive the same fees as members of the executive committee. Therefore, if the executive committee meets one day and the board the next day the co-opted members will receive fees for both meetings. It would be interesting to hear the Minister’s reply to the question asked by the deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) as to who wants this particular amendment made. I can foresee a state of affairs in which the anticipated expenses of running the Meat Board could be swelled to an enormous sum. Under this bill the Government gives the committee power to co-opt assistants, but does not limit the number of board members that can be so co-opted, and there is nothing to prevent members of the executive from electing the whole of the board as permanently co-opted members of the executive committee. In that case the members so co-opted, although they would have no vote, would certainly draw fees. There is nothing to prevent the board from dipping into its funds for the benefit of its members. Everything is being left open for that sort of thing to occur. It would be interesting to ascertain the probable ultimate cost of a provision of this description, and to hear some statement of the possible benefits that would accrue from its operation.
The bill makes provision for the payment of fees and expenses to all members of the board and the executive not only in Australia but also in London if they have to go there on business connected with the industry. In view of the record of this Government during the last four years, when £45,000 has been spent on ministerial visits overseas, it is not surprising that the idea should arise that possibly members of the parties which the Government represents may follow its example through the medium of this meat board.
– Who would be likely to go?
– The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Fisken) might go. I do not wish to discuss this subject in a personally vindictive spirit, but probably for the first time in the history of the last two Parliaments an attempt is being made within three months of the passing of a certain measure to introduce an amendment to make special provision to enable a member of this House to take his place on a board and collect expenses in connexion therewith. It is significant that although it was known when the original measure was passed that a board would be set up in Australia and an office established in London, it was not thought necessary to make provision for travelling expenses for board members who might be called upon to do work for the board overseas. I visualize the possibility of this board of eighteen members, working on various committees without legislative restriction, taking advantage of their free access to the funds of the organization to facilitate the collecting of expenses by one or more of their number who might be sent to England. The Government itself has dipped heavily into the public purse to provide funds for members of the Ministry to travel overseas, and that policy might be adopted by the members of this board or its executive. The original measure made no provision for such expenses to be collected. This is a distinct departure from the first proposal submitted to us. I should like to know what induced the Government to introduce this particular amendment. Parliament is entitled to this information. I also wish to know why this particular provision is to be made retrospective to the 2nd March.
We have been told on many occasions that this Government will not tolerate political or even partial political control of instrumentalities of this kind. AntiLabour governments in both the Commonwealth and State parliaments have disposed of many State enterprises because they declared that they were opposed to any kind of political control of industry. In this measure, however, a provision is being inserted to open the way for political control. The Govern ment should explain its volte face. The members of the Country party stand behind the Government in this matter and they, together with the members of the United Australia party, have urged time and again that boards of this character should be composed entirely of men engaged in the industry concerned, and should not be subject in any way to political influence. It was laid down in the principal act that the T£eat Export Control Board should be representative of every branch of the industry and also of all the States of the Commonwealth. It has also been laid down that the executive shall be constituted in a certain way. Why then has there been such a glaring departure from these vital provisions of the measure? If the amendments now proposed are agreed to, it will be possible for every member of the board and of the executive to be a member of the Parliament.
– They would all have to be elected by the producers.
– The provision for the payment of expenses of board members overseas also requires explanation. I urge the Government to state clearly who inspired these amendments. Did the proposal come from the board itself or from any of the various meat exporting organizations, or is the Government seeking to pay a compliment to one or more of its own supporters? The provision that will make possible the payment of double^ fees and expenses is particularly objectionable.
.- As one who is temporarily closely associated with the activities of the Meat Export Control Board, I wish to offer some explanation of the reasons for the introduction of these amendments. Clause 2 of the bill provides for an amendment of section 7 of the principal act to allow deputy members to take their place on the executive of the board. This amendment has been suggested to the Government by the board. I may say, in passing, that the board has found that the principal act is not as workable as it might be. Mr. Merritt, of the Sydney Meat Industry Commission, was elected to the executive of the board, but he has gone to England to make certain investigations in connexion with his own branch of the industry, and it was thought desirable that his deputy in his own work should be appointed his deputy on the board and also on the executive. There was, however, no power in the act to allow a deputy to he appointed on the executive. Hence this proposed amendment.
Clause 3 seeks to amend section 11 of the principal act in relation to the election of the executive. The principal act provides that the chairman shall be elected annually in July. The first meeting of the board was held in January of this year, and the executive committee was appointed at that time. It was felt that it would be desirable for the executive to be elected when the chairman was elected. That is the reason for the second amendment. If it is agreed to, the members of the executive already elected will hold office only until July, when a new executive will be elected at the time of tha next election of chairman.
– We offer no objection to either of those amendments.
– Apparently the provision of the bill which seeks to give power to co-opt additional members of the executive is contentious. It was laid down in the principal act that in so far as it was possible all the interests on the board should also be represented on the executive committee. I feel that I am giving away no secret when I say that certain interests on the board are somewhat antagonistic. Representatives of the mutton industry, for instance, may feel that their interests diverge sometimes from those of representatives of the beef industry. There may also be a certain amount of antagonism between producers and exporters, although this has not, so far, shown itself to exist. In all the circumstances honorable members will readily realize that it was difficult to elect a satisfactory executive.
– Is it likely that differences of opinion will occur between the representatives of one State and those of another, say, between those of Victoria, which is a mutton exporting State, and those of Queensland, which is a beef exporting State ?
– No evidence of that has been shown up-to-date. Considerable difficulty was, however, encountered in securing a proper balance of representation on the executive. The beef, and mutton interests and also those of the producers and exporters had to be considered. A compromise was eventually reached by the appointment of two representatives of the mutton interests, including the chairman, two representatives of the beef interests, two representatives of the exporters, and one representative of publicly-owned utilities. But the representative of the pig-producers felt rightly that that section of the industry should be represented on the executive, and it appeared to be quite impossible to achieve that end unless an amendment of the act were made. It is for this reason that the proposal has been put forward that the executive shall be empowered to co-opt other members of the board in order to obtain their advice. It is practically certain that the board will require the representative of the pig-producers to be present on almost all occasions when it meets. I wish to be quite candid on the matter.
– Could not the executive obtain his advice in some other way?
– It would be extremely difficult to do so, and the board feels that this is the best way to deal with the problem. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has asked whether the advice of the representative of the pig industry could not be obtained without co-opting him. I presume he means that his advice could be obtained by letter. It would not he fair, however, to expect him to come from Brisbane to an executive meeting in Melbourne at his own expense.
– Would it be necessary to bring him from Brisbane? Is there no one in Melbourne whose advice could be obtained?
– On some occasions, the executive will meet in Brisbane, and on other occasions in Sydney; but whenever it met in any city other than Brisbane, it would be necessary to bring the representative of the pig producers to that meeting, and if this amendment were not made, he would have to pay his own expenses. I assure the House that, the co-option of any other member of the board would be most unusual.
– No one outside the board could be co-opted.
– No. It is not necessary, nor would it ‘he proper, for me to say anything in regard to the amendment contained in clause 4.
.- I wish to make one or two comments with respect to what I regard as the establishment of the principle of having these different boards placed directly under political control. I find that, in addition to the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Fisken) who, I understand, is the chairman of this board, there are on it Sir Frederick Tout and Mr. Playfair, who are members of the Parliament of New South Wales. A perusal of the debate which took place when this legislation was recently before the House, will disclose the fact that many honorable members argued that the industry must be controlled by the producers and not by men who have interests elsewhere. It may be true that differing interests are represented on the hoard and on the executive; hut even so, that applies to the employers alone, because the workers have no representation upon either the board or the executive. When the principal act was being considered, members of the Labour party were anxious to secure some form of representation for the workers in the industry. It appears to me that the Government has no particular objection to political control when it is able to place its own representatives upon these boards. It objects to political control only when members of the Labour party have the opportunity to occupy positions on boards that are set up from time to time.
Another point with which I desire to deal specifically relates to the practice of many members of Parliament of helping themselves to very liberal expenses while acting upon these particular boards. Although members of parliament are not to be permitted to take the fee of four guineas a day, if this amendment is carried they will be able to draw two guineas a day as expenses while acting as members of the board or of the executive. I am of the opinion that the Minister was not quite honest with honorable members when he said a few moments ago that only such expenses as are incurred will be paid.
– That is the position.
– I ask the Minister whether members of Parliament will be placed on the same footing as any other member of the community in like circumstances - whether they will be obliged to present vouchers setting out details of their expenses.
– I am not aware of the actual procedure, but only out-of-pocket expenses will be paid.
– I understand that. But it is remarkable what some members can make of out-of-pocket expenses. Many members may consider that the cost of refreshments while travelling can be put down to out-of-pocket expenses. I do not think it is fair to charge to an industry or to the community, certain expenses that may be charged by some members. I want to know just what is meant by out-of-pocket expenses. By means of his pass, a member of Parliament is able to travel on the railways without incurring any cost for transport, his only expenses being his living costs. I want politician representatives to be placed on the same footing, as the unemployed worker in the city who, according to honorable members opposite, should be able to exist on 5s. 6d. a week. If members of this anti-Labour Government believe that that is sufficient to maintain a man for ohe week, they would be acting logically if they accepted only that amount as their living expenses. Even then they would be a great deal better off than is the unemployed worker, because they have their parliamentary allowances in addition to whatever they may receive from outside investments. It is not right that this Parliament should amend legislation for the specific purpose of providing means whereby members may further enrich themselves. Periodical statements setting out these expenses would make very interesting reading. It is said that any member of Parliament who has a seat on this board has been elected to represent certain interests. I point out, however, that as he is himself financially interested in the industry, he also represents his own interests and will probably derive more benefit than is derived by those whom he represents. Instead of asking to be recouped for whatever time he may lose, he should be charged a fee for the privilege of having a seat on the board and thus being able to do that which may enrich him privately. I am not prepared to accept this provision, which places a member of Parliament in a different category from that of other members of the community. If the Government were prepared to fix the expenses according to the scale adopted by anti-Labour governments for the relief of unfortunate workmen who are unemployed, probably there would not be a great deal of objection to the proposal. But the Minister either is not able, or is not prepared, to tell us exactly what is meant by out-of-pocket expenses. These expenses are generally fixed in the region of two guineas a day. Members of boards who receive expenses have a habit of working on seven days a week. Even when they travel on Sunday they claim fees and expenses. In such cases the expenses would total fourteen guineas a week. No matter what may be the standard of living of members of the board, that is out of all proportion to what should be claimed from the Government. I remember the admission of the honorable member who is particularly concerned in this matter, that had he been aware of what was transpiring when the restoration of a portion of the cut in parliamentary allowances was proposed, he would have protested against it. It must not be forgotten that parliamentary allowances go towards meeting many abnormal charges, such as those which honorable members have to incur in this Federal Capital city, where they are exploited because hotel accommodation is in the bands of a monopoly. Many members of the Labour party particularly have no other interests from which they may draw dividends, and have to depend solely upon their parliamentary allowance. The honorable member to whom I have referred said that we were not justified in restoring a portion of what had been taken from us. I remember a cartoon that was published in the Sydney Sun, just after this House had decided to make a partial restoration of the parliamentary allowance.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell),Order ! The honorable member is not discussing the bill.
– Although this particular honorable member is not actually named in the bill, it is public property that he is the person referred to. I refer to the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Fisken), who is the chairman of this board. I protest against the Government allowing an honorable member who says that he believes he is we-11 paid for the work that he is doing, to supplement his parliamentary allowance by what may be described as a back-door method.
– .Order ! I remind the honorable member that the bill merely make3 certain provision in regard to the expenses of members of the board. The matter is not a personal one, and a personal atack upon an honorable member because of what the bill provides is quite out of order.
– I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that my remarks are not directed personally against the honorable member for Ballarat. I would object to any member of Parliament, while representing his own interests, collecting what I believe is out of all proportion to the expenses incurred.
– The honorable member is quite wrong in that respect, and he is unfair, also. The gentleman in question will receive no prescribed allowance, other than out-of-pocket expenses.
– Which will amount to two guineas a day.
– No, it is not two guineas a day.
– The Minister could satisfy a great deal of criticism if he would explain what he means by outofpocket expenses. I have heard that if members of Parliament, are permitted to fix their own out-of-pocket expenses, they are sometimes able to stretch them very considerably.
– The honorable member must be judging every one by himself.
– Perhaps I am judging them by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson), who has just returned from a trip abroad at the public expense.
-The honorable member is out of order. He must deal with the bill, and not refer to the activities of honorable members that are in no way connected with the question before the Chair.
– I maintain that honorable members should be given some information regarding measures for which they are asked to vote. The Minister should indicate what may be involved in the payment of out-of-pocket expenses. An unemployed man in New South Wales in considered by anti-Labour governments to be sufficiently provided for when he receives 5s. 6d. a week and they would at least be consistent if the expenses paid to members of Parliament for the services contemplated in this bill were framed upon similar standards. Why should members of Parliament be placed in a specially favoured position? I protest against this proposal to amend the act, to permit members of Parliament not only to sit on these boards, but also to recoup themselves for out-of-pocket expenses. The Local Government Act in New South Wales provides that members of local bodies shall receive no remuneration for their services, nor are they permitted to hold positions of profit under the Crown. For instance, a railway worker or a tramway worker may not sit on a local body, because it is deemed that he is holding a position of profit under the Crown. Members of Parliament, however, are specially exempt by legislation from this provision. Because this is a proposal specially designed for the benefit of one of the Government’s own supporters, the Labour party is not justified in supporting it.
.- I have been a representative on the Graziers Federal Council, which has discussed this matter on several occasions. I know that some years ago, when the subject was first considered, many producers were opposed to the idea of a meat board. However, largely as the result of altered circumstances connected with the export trade, the producers have now become reconciled to some form of control. Honorable members are aware that the Government of the United Kingdom has imposed certain restrictions on the importation of meat, and in order that the Australian quota may be fairly allocated as between producers and States, some form of control is necessary, The present Meat Board is composed of meat producers and the representatives of other interests associated with the meat industry, and is well fitted to serve the interests of the industry, and to protect it from political control. Several members of the board are also members of Parliament, but they have not been elected to the board by the Government. Much has been said regarding one honorable member of this House who happens to be chairman of the Meat Board. He was elected to the board by the meat producers of Victoria, and the Government approved of his election. Mr. Playfair, whose name has also ‘been mentioned, is a representative of the exporters of New South Wales. Sir Frederick Tout, who is also a large producer in NewSouth Wales, is the one member of the board who has been appointed by the Government. He is a past president of the Graziers Association of New South Wales.
A good deal has been said on the subject of the expenses of members of the board. The money with which those expenses are defrayed is not provided out of Commonwealth revenue, but is drawn from funds contributed to the organization by the producers, who have submitted to a levy on their product. Therefore, so long as the producers are prepared to contribute this money, the board is entitled to use it for the payment of the expenses of whatever person it desires to consult. It is not the concern of the Government or of members of Parliament.
Mention has also been made of the power given under this bill to CO-OP members of the board in the service of the executive. It was suggested that if the executive were sitting in Melbourne, for instance, it could discuss matters of interest with the Melbourne representatives, without taking the steps provided for in the bill. I point out, however, that the members of the hoard whom it is proposed to co-opt are the nominated and elected representatives of various branches of the industry. One member of the hoard who has been named as likely to be co-opted is Mr. Watson, who is the elected representative of the pig industry. He, I suggest, is the proper person to be consulted when matters associated with the pig industry are under consideration. The meat producers, who are the men most concerned with the bill, are entirely in accord with the proposed amendment, and Parliament should respect their wishes.
.- There seems to he some misunderstanding in regard to this measure. Had the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Fisken’ been a Government nominee, there might he some grounds for the objections which have been raised, but he was elected to the board by the producers, and the members of the board, in turn, appointed him chairman. As chairman he is entitled to the same allowance as are other members. I believe that if members of Parliament are appointed by outside interests and are doing their job they are entitled to proper payment for their services.
There is a feeling among the cattleproducers that they have not been given adequate representation on the board. No less than 84 per cent, of the meat exported from Australia, is produced in Queensland. According to a report in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, objections have been taken by the Graziers Association in that State to the constitution of the board. The report is as follows: -
The Graziers Conference trenchantly criticized the constitution of the Australian Meat Board as being contrary to the express wish of the graziers of New South Wales. No provisions, it was claimed, had been made for the effective safeguarding of producers interests, and New South Wales producers were said to be practically voiceless on the board.
There is a board of eighteen members, largely elected by the producers, and this board appoints a chairman and an executive. As I have said, the chairman of the board is entitled to such remuneration as is just, whether he be a member of Parliament. Other members of the executive will receive £2 2s. a day, plus £2 2s. travelling expenses, so it is reasonable to assume that the chairman will get to a little more. As the producers will be called upon to pay a levy for the special purpose of sending their representatives to meetings of the board, the money will not come out of the pockets of the taxpayers. If, in their wisdom, the cattle-growers in the Kennedy division appointed me as their representative on the board, and if I were expected to travel from Cairns to attend meetings in Canberra, I should he worried as to what I should use for money, unless provision had been made for the payment of my travelling expenses. As the honorable member for Ballarat was opposed to the restoration of the salaries of members of this Parliament, I assume that he will not draw any fees as chairman of the Meat Board; but that, of course, is his business. The point I make is that, as the industry will have to pay a levy for the re-imbursement of its representatives on the board, it can pay the chairman what it likes.
– The money will come out of the consumers’ pockets.
– I do not admit that. I have seen cattle raised in my electorate sold on the station at £2 10s a head and six months later fetching £10 5s. a head in the metropolitan abattoirs. Someone between the producer and the consumer gets the difference, and the purpose of this legislation is to organize the industry in the interests of producers, consumers and exporters. The Labour party has no objection to the control of the industry by those engaged in it. I therefore, hope, that the bill will have a speedy passage.
.- It has been suggested by honorable members on my right that the consumers -will have to pay the expenses incurred by the board. That is not a fact. The function of the board will be to organize the grading, and, if necessary, the allocating of the export trade in meat. The costs will not be met by the Australian consumer, but by a levy on the industry. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has also mi~ represented the position, not I believe, willingly, but because he does not understand it. He has suggested that there will be a duplication of fees and expenses because of the provision for meetings of the executive committee. That provision was inserted to prevent unnecessary expenditure which would be incurred if the full export control board of eighteen members had to meet to deal with phases of the industry which could be handled quite efficiently by a smaller body. If, for example, questions arise relating to the pig industry, the member representing that industry will be co-opted to advise the executive committee.
– The honorable member for Ballarat has admitted that the representative of the pig industry will be almost a permanent member of the executive.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. If the executive committee meet9 to deal with matters affecting the mutton or beef sections of the industry, it is quite unlikely that a representative of the pig industry will be co-opted. Indeed, the act provides that the committee shall determine which meetings the co-opted member shall attend. It has also been suggested that it would be the regular policy of some members of the board to incur heavy expenditure, and thus unfairly increase the board’s expenses. I do not share the suspicions of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) with regard to members of the board, nor do I think producers generally will have any misgivings on that score. I have been connected with a great many organizations of producers that have sent delegates to attend meetings in different parts of Australia, and invariably the expenses incurred, apart from railway fares, have approximated from 10s. to 13s. a day. In many cases representatives have been engaged for two or three days at interstate conferences, and their total out-of-pocket expenses have amounted to about £1 ls. I am sure that the producers are prepared to trust their representatives on that board to do the fair thine.
– in reply - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has asked what fees will be prescribed for members of the board, who may be co-opted to attend meetings of the executive committee. This matter will be dealt with in regulations. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) suggested that certain members of the board would he able to collect double fees. That is not so. Members of the board attending board meetings will be entitled to the prescribed fee. If, on the day following a board meeting, a member is co-opted to advise the executive committee, he will be paid his fee for that sitting.
– There is nothing in the bill to prevent the executive committee from co-opting all the members of the board.
– Then the meeting of the executive committee would automatically become a meeting of the board. It is necessary to have in the bill this provision relating to the executive committee,, in order to avoid meetings’ of the full board to discuss specific matters which may be handled more effectively by a smaller body.
I regret that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) should have directed such an unfair attack on the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Fisken), who has been elected as the producers’ representative on -the board, and has been appointed chairman. Instead of attacking him, we should be thankful that a member of this House enjoys the confidence of the producers of this important industry. As chairman of the board, a considerable amount of responsibility will rest on that honorable member’s shoulders, and he will be required to do a great deal of travelling in the interests of the meat producers of Australia. But the bill does not, as the honorable member for East Sydney asserts, make provision for any member of the board who is a member of any parliament to collect several guineas a clay travelling expenses. Sub-clause 2 of clause 4 provides -
If a member or his deputy is also a member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth or of any State, he shall not be entitled to receive any fees, hut shall bo entitled to be reimbursed any expenses which he actually incurs by reason of such attendance or whilst engaged on such business.
This really means that a member will be entitled to be reimbursed out-of-pocket expenses actually incurred, such as hotel charges, car hire to and from hotels and meeting places, and I am sure no reasonable honorable member will object to expenditure of that nature. Instead of offering criticism, we should heartily support the honorable member for Ballarat, who is prepared to give his services in an honorary capacity to promote the interests of this important industry, which, by exporting very valuable assets, creates substantial credits overseas for the benefit of the people of Australia. I regret that any honorable member should abuse the privileges of this House by so attacking the chairman of the Meat Export Control Board.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Apple and Pear Bounty Bill 1936.
Orange Bounty Bill 1936.
Prune Bounty Bill 1936.
NEW AND OPPOSED BUSINESS AFTER 11 p.m.
– I ask honorable members to agree to the suspension, for the remainder of this sitting, of Standing Order No. 70 (11 o’clock rule) to enable Order of the Day No. 3 - Farmers’ Debt Adjustment Bill - to be proceeded with. The reason for my request is that the Victorian Government is pressing for a payment of over £30,000, which it could receive to-morrow if this bill were passed.
.- The Opposition feels that as the Government has disposed of five bills to-day, and there has been no organized interruption or stonewalling, it is only fair that the House should now adjourn. Honorable members were constantly in attendance in the House until 2 o’clock this morning, and during the debates to-day there have been more speakers from the Government side than from the Opposition. While the Opposition can see the viewpoint of the Minister, it must also consider its rights. If honorable members are to apply themselves intelligently to their task, they should not be expected to continue to sit until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning to meet the wishes of whatever Minister may be in charge of the House. I strongly object to this practice of having protracted sittings for short periods, with lengthy recesses, and would much prefer an earlier assembling of Parliament in order that the business of the nation might be adequately dealt with.
– I ask for leave to move -
That Standing Order No. 70 (11 o’clock rule) be suspended for the remainder of this sitting.
Leave not granted.
House adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
In connexion with the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1935 -
How many applications for service pensions werereceived during January and February, and how many of these were granted?
How many soldiers suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis have applied for (a) pension, and (5) treatment in repatriation institutions ?
How many applications have been received for reinstatement of commuted pensions?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the value and the country of origin of the goods covered by Tariff Item 291, Timber, viz.: - Veneers, imported into Australia for the years 1928-29, 1932-33, 1933-34, and 1934-35?
– The following statement sets out the information required by the honorable member: -
s asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the value and the country of origin of the goods covered by Tariff Item 241 (c), viz.: - Sanitary and lavatory articles of earthenware, including glazed or enamelled fireclay manufactures, imported into Australia for the years 1928-29, 1932-33, 1933-34, and 1934-35?
– The following statement sets out the information required by the honorable member as to the importation into Australia of the undermentioned goods : -
e asked the Acting Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Will he ascertain from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research what success has attended the investigation into methods for the preservation of orange juice, and the adoption of a method as a commercial proposition ?
– The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has not carried out any experimental work in connexion with the preservation of orange juice, but it has made an exhaustive review of all literature available regarding experiments carried out in other countries, the results of which were published in the council’s Quarterly J ournal. volume 9, No. 1 of February, 1936, copy of which, will be made available to the honorable member. Consideration will also be given by the council to the question of what further work can be undertaken in this connexion when the reorganization of its food preservation section, which is now taking place, has been completed.
Patrol of Northern Waters.
s asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Brief Description. - The motor launch 45 feet long with three 100 h.p. petrol engines. The boat was built by the British Power Boat Company, Southhampton, England. It will be equipped with wireless whilst at Cockatoo Dockyard undergoing final trials before proceeding to Darwin. The hull is sheathed in Tungan metal as a protection essential for vessels operating in tropical waters. Cost approximately £6,000 boat and spares f.o.b. London.
Dimensions. - Length. 45 feet. Beam, 9 ft. 6 in. Draft, 2 ft. 41/2 in. Tankage, 900 gallons: range and speed approximately 1,000 miles at cruising speed of 19 miles an hour, with full tankage. Approximately 430 miles at full speed and 26 miles an hour, but with reduced tankage of 400 gallons.
Crew. - Four (master, engineer, wireless telegraphist, and deckhand).
Memorial to the Late King George V.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he, in the event of the Commonwealth Government deciding to donate funds for the erection of State memorials to the late King George V., consider the wisdom of suggesting to the Victorian Government the building of a new dock for the port of Melbourne, to be known us the “King George Doek,” and while honouring the memory of our late King give to the City of Melbourne a much-needed facility!
– As the Commonwealth Government has decided to erect a memorial in Canberra to His late Majesty King George V., it is most improbable that any donations will be made by it towards the cost of erection of State memorials. In any event, the form a State memorial would take would be largely a matter for the determination of the State authorities concerned.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to to honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. ‘(a) Sick pay received from friendly societies has always been exempted from income under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. (6) During the period16th March, 1933, to the 27th October, 1933, miners’ phthisis allowances were exempted from income for the purpose of determining whether a pensioner should be qualified to receive a pension in excess of 15s. a week. This provision was not required after the 27th October, 1933 - the date from which the reductions in pensions effected by the Financial Emergency Act 1932 were restored.
y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether there is an officer in Tasmania to supervise the carrying out of the regulations controlling aeroplanes; if not, will he appoint such an officer for the purpose, particularly in regard to air pageants and “ stunting” carried out by Dominion wealth Air Forces, 60 that the public will be adequately protected against carelessness on the part of aviators?
– There is an officer of the Civil Aviation Branch stationed at the Launceston aerodrome, and this officer, as representative of the Civil Aviation Branch, exercises general supervision of civil flying in Tasmania. This officer normally attends air pageants at which civil aircraft are engaged,, and of which the Controller of Civil Aviation has received notice, to ensure that the regulations and any departmental instructions in regard to the proper conduct of the pageant are complied with. Insofar as Air Force displays are concerned, it is the general responsibility of the officerincharge of the detachment, and in particular of the pilots concerned, to see that the Air Force regulations and instructions of the Air Board are carried out.
en asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
i asked the Acting Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
i asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When docs the Government propose to give effect to its pledge regarding housing and slum clearance, a reminder of which was given in the recent report by the honorable mem’ber for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) ?
– The Government undertook, in 1934,- to co-operate with State governments in the general task of the relief of unemployment. Since then the Commonwealth has co-operated with the States to the fullest extent possible in the matter of unemployment relief, and has made available from revenue and loan funds approximately £2,000,000, in addition to further grants totalling £2,500,000 largely to assist the general financial position of State governments. With the exception of amounts specifically appropriated for mining and forestry, the application of these sums was left to the State governments. Any extensive scheme of housing and slum clearance would involve the raising of large sums of loan moneys. If the Commonwealth embarked upon a loan raising programme for the purpose of assisting the State governments in this direction, it would only result in the amount of loan moneys now available for ordinary State government loan programmes being reduced accordingly.
d asked the Acting Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : - 1 and 2. Bounties are payable in accordance with the provisions contained in specific acts. Accordingly, members of Parliament who are primary producers have the same privileges of receiving bounty as other primary producers in the community. It would be invidious to publish the names of particular individuals or classes of individuals who have received bounty.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When sneaking at a luncheon at the National Club, Sydney, on the 5th instant, did he say that he, like many people, and like the bank board itself, had been worried about the trend of Australia’s trade balance, which, after all, was the matter which gave rise to the action of the Commonwealth Bank?
– The statement attributed to the Prime Minister is substantially correct. The Government, with the Commonwealth Bank Board, would be gladto see London funds built up to a higher level in order to meet any eventualities that the future may hold. The Government’s attitude in this matter was amp explained in the course of the recent censure debate.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– . Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
Purchase of Aeroplanes.
e asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries will be made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 March 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19360318_reps_14_149/>.