14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - It is with feelings of deep regret that I refer to the death in Melbourne on the 4th October last of the Honorable Arthur Stanislaus Rodgers, a former member of this House.
Mr. Rodgers was first elected to represent the Division ofWannon at the general elections of 1913, and retained his seat until the general elections of 1922. He was again elected for the same division at the general elections of 1925 and 1928.
The deceased gentleman was a member of the Hughes Ministry from July, 1920, to February,. 1923, first as Honorary Minister and Assistant Minister for Repatriation, and later as Minister’ for Trade and Customs. His conspicuous ability was reflected in the manner in which he discharged his parliamentary and ministerial duties.. His proficiency as a speaker, and his skill in debate, will be recalled by his contemporaries in this chamber, by whom he was held in the highest personal esteem. Special mention might, perhaps, be made of his efforts in the interests of returned soldiers shortly after the termination of the war. In everything thathe did, he proved himself to be a worthy Australian. I invite honorable members to join in an expression of sympathy with his widow and family in their bereavement and move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of the Honorable Arthur Stanislaus Rodgers, a former member of the House of Representatives and Commonwealth Minister of State, places on record its appreciation of his distinguished public service, and tenders to his widow and family its profound sympathy in their bereavement.
– I second the motion, with more than a formal expression of regret. When I first entered this Parliament the gentleman whose passing we mourn to-day was a member of it, and had been for some years previously. Apart from his high regard for the work that devolved upon him as the representative of his constituency he had, I believe, a deep and an abiding love for Australia, and was eager to give to all new members such help as lay within his power. I have no doubt that my experience of the late honorable gentleman in that regard was shared by every new member who came into contact with him. He belonged to what I shall describe as the post-war generation of Australian members of Parliament. Fearless, deeply conscientious, and extremely strong minded, he placed at the service of Australia the very highest attributes that were in him, attributes that were not generally shared by men at large. He was, indeed, a most distinguished Australian. I regret very much what Iregard as his premature passing.
Mr.SCHOLFIELD (Wannon).I desire to add to the expressions of sympathy that have been voiced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin).For some years, the late Mr. Rodgers represented the electorate that I now have the honour to represent. His undoubted ability was recognized by his elevation to ministerial rank. But for the lack of good fortune which led to his defeat whenhe last stood for election, he might have risen to even greater responsibilities in the government of Australia. His name will long be remembered in Wannon, not only because of his political activities, but also because of the energy he displayed in organizing the fund for returned soldiers known as the Rodgers Repatriation Scheme. He was closely associated with the land, and had an extensive knowledge of rural affairs; consequently, most of his activities were directed to the promotion of the interests of primary producers. I very deeply regret bis death at a comparatively early age, and join with other . honorable members in expressing to his widow and family the sympathy of this Parliament.
Question resolved in theaffirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker be requested to transmit to the widow of the deceased the foregoing; resolution, together with a copy of the speeches delivered thereon.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– During recent weeks a number of honorable members of all parties have addressed to me questions bearing upon trade treaty negotiations. I have now to inform the House that provisional trade treaties have been signed between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Governments of Czechoslovakia and Belgium. Both of these treaties will come before Parliament for ratification before being put in operation.
– Will the Minister ad ministering War Service Homes state when I may expect to receive replies to questions in relation to war service homes which I placed on the notice-paper on Tuesday of last week?
M r. THORBY. - On behalf of the Minister administering War Service Homes, I have to inform the honorable member that these questions, which necessitated a good deal of investigation and compilation, have been answered.
Mr.McCALL.- Will the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties state whether he has been approached by the German Consul-General with a proposal, the acceptance of which would resultin the purchase of about 500,000 bales of wool by Germany on the Australian market this year? If such a proposal has been made, has it been rejected? If so, on what grounds?
– I have no knowledge of any such proposal.
Motion (by Mr.Curtin) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave ofabsence for one month be given to the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan ) on the ground of ill health.
– Will the Minister for Health state whether the press report is correct, that X-ray treatment of cancer tends to dissipate the cancer cells to other portions of the body? If so, will this tend tocause sufferers from cancer to refuse to undergo X-ray treatment?
– I feel ill-equipped to answer this question, which arises out of a statement in the press this morning founded upon some remarks made by me to a newspaper representative. It is, I believe, a fact that in certain circumstances, in certain classes of cases, the application of radium and/or X-ray to a deep-seated cancer has the effect of driving some of the cancercells from the locale in which they are situated to other parts of the body. I speak, of course, with all the humility, and with the reservations proper to a layman, and would not have it understood that those conditions may not arise independently of the use of radium and/or X-ray. The point I was trying to make, but which I am afraid I did not make to the journalist concerned, was that if ensol preparation has the same curative effects as the radium and/or X-ray treatment, and is not attended by any of the ill-effect that admittedly may, and sometimes does, attend those methods, its use would be preferable, and would mark a distinct step forward.
Com mon wealth Government’s Proposals.
– by leave - On the 13th March, 1936, in answer to a question by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin),.I indicated that no approach had been made by the Government of the United Kingdom on the subject of the resumption of migration, and gave an undertaking that, in the event of negotiations being entered into with that Government, the governments of the States would be fully consulted before any decision was made. That statement correctly indicated the position at the time, and the promise contained therein has not in any way been invalidated.
On the return from London of the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) during August last, it was ascertained that discussions had taken place with British Ministers concerning the conditions that exist in Australia in relation to migration and land settlement.
During the course of these discussions, my colleagues indicated that, if the governments of the States were agreeable, it might be possible to resume limited migration in respect of the following categories : -
My colleagues made it clear that the resumption of migration on any substantial scale depended on the improvement of Australia’s economic position which, in turn, depended largely on the expansion of markets and the improvement of prices for Australia’s export commodities.
In addition to the Commonwealth Ministers mentioned, the Premiers of New South Wales and Queeusland were also present at the discussions in London.
The subject of migration was informally discussed at a meeting of a subcommittee appointed by the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Adelaide in August last.
Following a decision by the members of the sub-committee that definite proposals should be sent to the various States for consideration, a letter was addressed to the Premiers on the 16th September, 1936, a copy of which has to-day been laid on the table of the Library.
A perusal of this letter to the States will make it quite clear that the Commonwealth Government was not in any way attempting to force migration upon the States. The purport of the letter was to ascertain whether any State considered itself in a position to absorb migrants, and if so whether it wished the Commonwealth Government to assist.
At present assisted migration is restricted to the granting of passages to wives and minor children of migrants who arrived in Australia prior to the 1st January, 1930, to fiancees of migrants settled in Australia, and to children introduced by the Fairbridge Farm School in Western Australia.
The State governments have transmitted from time to time many requests by Australian residents that assistance should be provided to enable relatives in England to join them in this country. Reports received from voluntary organizations in several States indicate that the demand for boys for farm work and girls for household duties exceeds the supply. In the circumstances, the Commonwealth Government deemed it advisable to give the State governments an opportunity to indicate whether the present limited scope of assisted migration was considered irksome.
It will be observed that the action taken by the Commonwealth Government is entirely in accord with the promise I made in the House on the 13th March last. Co-operation by the States is most important, and they are being fully consulted as to their views. Apart from one formal acknowledgment, no reply has been received from the Premiers; and while the matter was under consideration by the States, my Government considered that any disclosure of the contents of the letter of the 16th September might have caused embarrassment to the State governments.
It will be appreciated, moreover, that it is not generally the practice to make public a communication addressed to any party until that party has had an opportunity to consider the matter, and no reason is apparent why such a procedure should have, been departed from in this instance.
The Leader of the Opposition will have observed that this matter has been given publicity in the press over the week-end. No statement has been made by or with the authority of the Commonwealth Government. Any information obtained by the press must have been received from other sources.
- by leaveIt is perfectly true that the Opposition would have had no knowledge of the fact that the Government had sent a communication to the governments of the States but for the intimation that had been published in the press to that effect. It is of no use to blame the Opposition for this disclosure to the newspapers. I remind the right honorable gentleman that, in the discussion which took place on this subject not so long ago in this chamber, reference was made to the fact that very high Dominion Office authorities “were in a position, some months ago in Great Britain, to forecast accurately the lines of approach which the Commonwealth Government was making on the subject. The Opposition is concerned with the nature of the assistance to be given, the .particular categories of migrants it is intended to bring to Australia, and also as to whether persons in similar categories could be found in Australia at present to do such work as would be done by the migrants, if the Government would find it for them.
– Why the Government?
– Because the Government professes that if migrants come to Australia from Great Britain, work will be found for them immediately they arrive. ‘ Therefore, some organized activity must he envisaged by the
Government. It would surely not be so inhumane as to contemplate giving to people in Great Britain any inducement to come to Australia on any other basis, in view of. what has happened in regard to similar migration schemes in the past. I say quite frankly that to bring persons to Australia, even in the manner suggested, without being able to assure them of employment, would not only be distinctly wrong, but would also reflect so substantially and adversely on Australia that we should not be able to live down the stigma. In fact, Ave have not yet been able to live down the blame attaching to us for the blunders of the past. . If it is possible to assure employment to the migrants ‘it is proposed to bring to Australia, the Government should first satisfy itself that there are at present no persons in the Commonwealth willing to take such work providing that it is offered to them under reasonable conditions. The right honorable gentleman referred to hoys for farm work. Various schemes for the employment of boys on farms have been tried; but, with the exception of the Fairbridge school scheme, I doubt -whether any of them has been justified. I make an exception in the case of that school, because I believe that, in every respect, the plan in operation there, by which hoys are brought to Australia and trained in farm work, is well managed.
– The scheme covers both boys and girls.
– I speak more particularly of the boys because I am more acquainted with the work among them. I should be astonished to learn that, at this juncture it is necessary to bring girls to Australia for domestic service, but if it be a fact that girl domestics are brought here the explanation probably is that domestic servants in Australia are unorganized and unprotected in regard to the conditions under which they work. More will be heard on this subject.
– Is the Minister aware that many persons in the Northern coal districts who came to Australia as migrants desire to return to England and have made representations to the Government for free passages to England where they say they can secure employment? As it is freely stated that thousands who are now unemployed in the northern coal fields of Australia would willingly return to England if the Government would pay their fares, does not the Minister think that it would be better to ensure that migrants already in Australia should be provided with employment before a scheme to bring additional people to this country is put into operation ?
– Had the honorable gentleman listened to my statement, he would know that it contained no reference to coal-miners. There is no proposal to bring coal-miners to Australia. I am aware that, from time to time, applications are made by individuals for assisted passages back to England. In some cases, the applicants have not been successful in Australia and in others, as the honorable member has said, they are unemployed. I point out, however, that if the thousands of persons to whom he refers go from the Australian coal-fields back to English coal-fields, they will not improve their position, because there is more unemployment among the coalminers of England than among any other section of the community there.
– Many of them came to Australia as farm labourers.
– Knowing the conditions in England I say unhesitatingly that these people are better off on the Australian coal-fields than they would be if back on the British coal-fields.
– Will the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties say whose turu it is to move in the protracted negotiations between Australia and Japan, and can he hold out a. glimmer of hope that n satisfactory conclusion will be reached at an early date? Will he also say when he intends to take Parliament into his confidence in regard to this matter?
– I have nothing to add to what I have previously said in reply to similar questions.
– Has the Minister seen in last Friday’s Sun headlines to the effect that, as a basis for resuming negotiations, Japan has stipulated the free admission of Japanese migrants? Further, has he seen a statement in yester day’s Argus that the Commonwealth Government has offered to Japan concessions amounting to one hundred million square yards per annum in respect of textiles?
– To the first part of the honorable member’s question the answer is an emphatic “no.” Japan has not made any such condition. As to the second part of his question, I cannot at this juncture disclose the details of the negotiations which have taken place.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to press reports of a meeting of the Council of Churches, Sydney, in which the Government’s policy in regard to the censorship of books is criticized? Before the Public Questions Committee of the Council of Churches deals with a resolution congratulating the Minister on banning certain types of literature, will he make available to its members excerpts from pornographic literature which has been banned, so that they may be able to arrive at a reasonable decision regarding the censorship iu the light of a full knowledge of the facts?
– I shall, gladly make available to the gentlemen mentioned excerpts from the books to which the honorable member has referred if they will come to Canberra to see them. Although there is some difference of opinion as to whether the Counqil of Churches in New South Wales supports the policy pursued by the Government, the Victorian Council of Churches does support it, as does also the Presbyterian Church of Victoria; likewise 27 Methodist circuits in that State.
– I have just received the following telegram: “44 girls and one youth dismissed from Bryant& May’s Factory and I nowask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the Government has taken any action to stop the importation of foreign matches to which I referred last week?
– The honorable member referred previously not to safety matches, but to matches in booklet form. He then promised to supply me with some further information, but, so far, it has not been received. Bryant & May have put off employees on previous occasions, when the reason was not the importation of matches from other countries. The dispensing with the services of a number of employees on this occasion may be due to local competition from other factories.
– Can the Minister for the Interior say - (1) What subsidies have been granted or promised at Tennant Creek, and to what mineowners, syndicates and individuals, in order to assist gold-mining (a) for last year and(b) in respect of the current year? (2) What subsidies have been paid or promised in relation to the Pine Creek Field for last year; (3) What is the total amount of such subsidies?
– I received a letter from, the honorable gentleman this morning asking for this information. I am obtaining it for him.
New Zealand Embargo
– Is the Minister for Defence in a position to make a statement, following his conversation with representatives of the Government of New Zealand, in relation to the embargo against the importation of Australian citrus fruit into that dominion? Further, can he say whether the Government of New Zealand gave the reasons for the continued maintenance of the embargo, and, if so will he say what those reasons are?
– When in New Zealand my time was almost exclusively taken up with discussions relating to the air mail service between that dominion and Australia; but I did have an opportunity to discuss with representatives of the New Zealand Government the difficulty which has arisen in regard to citrus fruits. I was informed that action was taken in order to protect importers and sellers of citrus fruits. The New Zealand Minis ters expressed their sympathy in the matter and their desire to remove this cause of difficulty, which is disturbing the otherwise very harmonious relations between the two governments, and they undertook to explore the matter further and to submit further proposals to their government with a view to solving the difficulty. I propose to report to the Minister for Commerce the details of the conversations which took place, in order to enable him to continue the negotiations.
– With regard to the export of oranges to New Zealand, was any indication given in these conversations that the New Zealand Government entertained any fear concerning the introduction of Mediterranean fruit fly?
– At a conference held yesterday with representatives of organizations interested in the employment of youths, the Minister for Labour in Victoria said that he would recommend to the Victorian Cabinet that a census be taken of unemployed persons between the ages of 18 and 23, and of those in “ dead-end “ occupations within the same range of ages. I ask the Prime Minister if he will investigate the practicability of conducting a similar census on a. Commonwealth basis, so that this Parliament may inform itself of the real extent of this problem ?
– I undertake to go into the matter.
– Has the Prime Minister received a communication from the Premier of South Australia indicating the effect of the present dry spell in that State on primary industries and the State generally and requesting that, for this reason, the Commonwealth grant to South Australia should be increased? If so, has he had time to consider this request ?
– Such a communication has been received and it is under consideration. A statement regarding this matter will be made to the House at an early date.
– In view of a disturbing telegram which I have just received on the matter from Darwin and of my previous recommendations and requests that the city planner of Brisbane be asked to plan Darwin before an ill-advised ordinance, giving authority for the demolition of buildings, is allowed to operate, and in view of the fact that the Minister’s advisers in Darwin are neither architects nor town-planners, I ask the Minister for the Interior if he will telegraph immediately to Darwin to prevent this ordinance being put into operation? I point out also that the town of Suva is now about to be town-planned?
– An architect has been sent to Darwin, and on his return in the course of a week or a fortnight I shall discuss with him the proposal put forward by the honorable member.
– It will be too late then.
– When doe3 the Minister for Defence propose to resume negotiations with the State Government of Victoria for the acquisition of a site at Fishermen’s Bend for purposes of an airport?
– I am looking into the matter now, and as soon as pressure of work arising from my absence allows, I shall fix a date for the resumption of the negotiations.
– Has the Prime Minister received any communication from the Premier of Tasmania outlining certain proposals in respect of forestry policy in that State? If so, has any decision been reached by the Commonwealth Government on this matter?
– It is now under examination by the Government.
– A communication has been received ?
– Yes, but apart from any such communication the Commonwealth Government is examining the matter in relation to certain recommendations made by the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
– As it is highly desirable that the Commonwealth should have a definite migration policy, and also a policy to place our own people in economic occupancy of this country, I again ask the Prime Minister if the Government will set up a national planning authority to act as consultant to it so that a national planning scheme may be evolved in order to prevent the economic chaos which will otherwise arise in Australia?
– The Government shall have to take the responsibility for the evolving of any policy in this matter, and when it has any further statement to make regarding migration, it will be made to this House.
– Has the attention, of the Prime Minister been drawn to a statement by Mr. Stevens, the Premier of New South Wales, regarding his investigations overseas into the extraction of oil from coal in which he says that the process has been developed to a stage where it could be immediately applied to Australia, the only problem remaining in this matter for Australia being the erection of the necessary plant ? If so, how can he reconcile Mr. Stevens’ opinion with the advice already given by the adviser to the Commonwealth Government against such a proposal ? Whom are we to accept as competent to express an opinion on this subject?
– Like the honorable member himself, members of the Government are not experts in this matter, and,, therefore, they rely upon expert advice. At the present time, we are awaiting the final word in regard to these various processes from Sir David Rivett. He is the expert adviser to this Government .and will, I think, be accep ted as such by every honorable member. I have seen the statement attributed to Mr. Stevens, but I have no doubt that Mr. Stevens himself would not claim to be’ as competent an authority in this matter as the expert adviser to the Commonwealth. Government.
– If the Government is so satisfied with the results of the agreement which was entered into some years ago with Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and if it considers that that partnership has been so valuable, will it now decide to form another oil partnership on similar lines?
– The present Commonwealth Government did not bring about the agreement referred to by the honorable member, but from our experience to date we have no reason to be dissatisfied with it. This is not to suggest, however, that wo propose to enter into another similar arrangement in respect of oil.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Sales TaxExemptions Bill 1936.
Wool Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1936.
The following papers were presented : -
Apple and Pear Bounty Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1936, No. 128.
Navigation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 126.
Public Service Act - Appointments - H. C. Hughes, E. C. Jackson’, Department of the Interior.
Sales Tax Assessment Acts (Nos. 1 to 9) - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 132.
Debate resumed from the 1st October (vide page 776), on motion by Mr. Thorby -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– When I obtained leave to continue my remarks on Friday last, I was about to inform the House that there were two grounds upon which I was prepared to support the Government’s proposals to assist the Australian citrus fruit industry. I am prepared to do so, first of all because of the desirability from a national viewpoint of exploring the possibilities of the valuable British market, and, secondly, because, undoubtedly, the citrus industry suffered a severe blow when, owing to a difference of opinion existing between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New Zealand, a ve’ry valuable trade, which had been developed over a number of years, was sharply and suddenly brought to an end. I was surprised to hear the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) say, when moving the second reading of the bill, that the point at issue between the two governments was still associated with the preservation of plant health - in other words, that the retention of the prohibition was due entirely to the necessity to protect the interests of the growers of certain rural products in either dominion - because one of the results of my visit to New Zealand in 1934 was the convening of a conference in Canberra which was attended by plant pathologists representing the Government of New Zealand, the Commonwealth Government, and certain State governments; and the unanimous find ing of the conference was that it was no longer necessary to retain these prohibitions for the reasons which had previously been used in their justification. Those experts decided that all the protection necessary to prevent the introduction of the Mediterranean fruit fly could be secured to the dominion by proper departmental action, and that all the protection necessary for Australian producers against infection from fire blight from New Zealand fruit or corky scab from New Zealand potatoes could be afforded in the same way. In answer to a question to-day, the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) intimated that in his conversations on this subject with the dominion authorities there was no reference to the necessity to retain these prohibitions for quarantine reasons. I am, therefore, disappointed, and I am sure the citrus fruit-growers of Australia will alsobe disappointed, to find that the tentative agreement which I brought back from New Zealand in 1934 has not been consummated. It is true, of course, that it is not possible for me to disclose the terms of that agreement, other than to say that the potential benefit, to Australia, had that agreement been adopted, would have been approximately five to one in favour of Australia - approximately £250,000 worth of benefit to Australia was terminated - and possibly a maximum benefit of one-fifth of that amount to the people of New Zealand. In the early stages of the discussions, the whole issue had ranged around the protection of the respective interests against the introduction of plant diseases ; but, later, when the Government of New Zealand found how sorely Australia was hit by the application of this prohibition it saw in it an opportunity for bargaining. It then introduced into the discussions the prohibition on New Zealand potatoes entering Australia. That was the issue in the discussions between myself and the New Zealand Ministers in 1934. I am hoping that if that is still the bone of contention between the two governments, the Commonwealth Government will not allow the somewhat selfish attitude of a small section of the Australian potato-growers to stand in the way of the full restoration of business between the two countries.I believe from my experience of the methods adopted, and from the way in which I was received in New Zealand in 1934 that, if Australia is prepared to face this proposal in a fair and reasonable way, there should not be any difficulty in reconciling the differences between the two dominions.
While I support the methods proposed in this bill to afford assistance to the citrus fruit industry in the form of an export bounty, I should like those engaged in the industry to be assisted in securing processing plants in order that they may more effectively and more efficiently sell their product on the British market. During the first year in which we were engaged in developing the export trade with Great Britain we were able to establish an export industry from practically nothing to 179,000 bushels, which went a long way towards compensating for the loss of the New Zealand market. That export, however, has not been maintained, largely because of the disappointing results obtained from some of the shipments, due to inefficient refrigeration and faulty preshipment treatment of the fruit. Experts engaged in the industry are unanimous in claiming that if efficient and suitable processing plants were available in the fruit-growing districts, the difficulties of satisfactorily exporting oranges to Great Britain would be greatly minimized. I trust that the Minister will pay attention to the representations which I know have been made to him in this direction. Whilst I support the Government’s proposals, which will help the potential market in the United Kingdom, 1 trust that the Government will continue its negotiations with the New Zealand authorities with the object of re-opening trade with New Zealand, and that itwill not allow the interests of potatogrowers in Australia, who apparently are concerned because of the possibility of a small moiety of Australia’s requirements of potatoes being imported from NewZealand, to prevent an equitable restoration of the business which has meant so much to the citrus fruit-growers of Australia.
– Although I intend to support the bill before the House, I cannot refrain from some melancholy reflections on the conditions that make this measure necessary; conditions that have been brought about by one of the sorriest examples of sterility in statesmanship Australia has ever experienced, which has done untold damage to Empire interests particularly in the Pacific, and has brought about irreconcilable differences of opinion regarding matters of trade relationship between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Dominion of New Zealand. These two sister dominious, more or less isolated in the Pacific, are separated by a few hundred miles; their existence, and only defence, lie in harmonious trade and friendly relationships with one another; yet a state of affairs exists in which they are refusing to trade with each other. If any major principles were involved one could understand the situation, but none are involved. Various statements have been made to the effect that the real reason for the maintenance of the embargo that New Zealand has placed on Australian citrus fruits is the fear in New Zealand of the infection of orchards by the Mediterranean fruit fly. In an endeavour to allay fears of that nature, agricultural experts of New Zealand and Australia met. There were parasitologists, plant pathologists, and agricultural experts of various kinds, fully equipped with knowledge of the subject, and fully qualified to express an opinion thereon. After long consideration, they reached the conclusion that there was no reason for fearing the introduction of the Mediterranean fruit fly into Now Zealand if, after proper precautious had been taken, importations of Australian citrus fruits were allowed. They further expressed the view that adequate precautions could betaken. A third decision was that there would beno risk of infection of Australian potatoes from the so-called corky scabwhich infects potatoes in some districts of New Zealand if the entry of New Zealand potatoesinto this country was allowed under certificate. They held the opinion that the plant health aspect of this question of trade between the two dominions could be successfully overcome. The carefully considered views expressed by experts representative of both dominions shouldbe a sufficient guide to this House in determining whether this question is one of plant disease or not; and, having regard to these facts, we are driven to conclude that the real point at issue to-day is irreconcilable views on dominion policy.
Mr.Beasley. - Why should we not be told ?
– We are told many different stories. It is difficult,not only for members of Parliament, bat also for the citrus-growers themselves to believe the stories told to them by representatives of the Commonwealth Government. The Government is suspected by the citrus-growers of deceiving them. Ministers are accused of lack of candour. The accusation of a lack of candour is justified, because I have never heard a really candid statement on this matter.
– The honorable member has made a very serious accusation.
– It is for the Government to meet that accusation. I make it, and in it I am supported by an overwhelming majority of the citrusgrowers. Having regard to the opinions expressed by the conference of experts that the plant-disease aspect of the matter could be wholly overlooked, it becomes apparent that the underlying reason for the embargo is two conflicting points of view on other matters of policy. If that be so, and for purposes of this debate wo are obliged to assume that it is so, the citrus-growers of the Commonwealth have been deprived of a market for their goods in New Zealand, not because of any lack of quality in their goods, or because they have failed to take proper measures for the safeguarding of their fruit against fruit fly, or because of something in which they have been at fault, but because of a certain line of policy pursued by the Commonwealth Government which happens to conflict with the policy of the New Zealand Government, over which the citrus-growers have no control. It is not sufficient to say to them, “ The Governmenthas been obliged, in pursuance of its policy and because of its attitude towards New Zealand, to deprive you of your market in New Zealand, but in return we offer you a bounty of 2s. a case on oranges you export to countries other than New Zealand “. In the circumstances, the least the growers might claim is full compensation for the loss of the New Zealand market. The Government has offered them 2s. a case on exports! I have gone very carefully into this matter with growers who take a fair view of it, to ascertain what loss has been caused to the average grower as the result of the New Zealand embargo on Australian citrus fruit. The consensus of opinion among growers is that it costs 2s. 6d. for every case of fruit that is grown. Making an approximate estimate of what the embargo costs the industry, we find that, as the result of its operation, the Australian citrusgrowers are losing about £500,000 a year. The Government, in return, is offering them as compensation about £10,000 a year. I ask honorable members whether that amount can be regarded as fair and reasonable treatment of men who, before they lost the market in New Zealand, had never come to the Commonwealth Government for any assistance whatever. Without aid from the Government, they established their industry and pioneered the market in New Zealand; yet, because of governmental policy, they were deprived overnight of what it had taken them many years to bring about. As the result of the operation of the embargo, growers are losing 2s. 6d. on every case produced, and are receiving, as compensation from this Government, three-fifths of a penny a case.
– They market about 4,000,000 cases of fruit a year.
– Roughly, about 5,000,000 cases. It is not possible to get a strictly accurate estimate, but, for the purpose of this debate, that figure may be accepted as substantially correct. I appeal to the Government to view the matter in this light, and to realize that the measure of distress brought about in the citrus industry is the result of this policy.
In common with the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), and citrus-growers generally, I have been completely puzzled as to the real reasons for the maintenance of the embargo. Notwithstanding the opinion of the agricultural experts, I have heard it freely said that the fear of the Mediterranean fruit fly is still a bar to the lifting of the embargo ; but I cannot accept that, view, one of my reasons being that the embargo is still maintained against citrus fruit from Norfolk Island, the affairs of which, as we all know, are administered by the Commonwealth Government, and the fly has never been- seen there. The Government is taxing too heavily the credulity of honorable members and of the citrus-growers, who have always been good supporters of the Government, in asking them to believe that the main reason for the continued maintenance of this embargo by New Zealand is the existence in Australia of the Mediterranean fruit fly. Growers and members alike are entitled to a more candid statement on this aspect of the case. Nor is it reasonable to expect the Australian citrus-growers to win in Great Britain a trade that will compensate, them for the loss of the New Zealand trade.
– That seems to be impossible.
– First of all, we have to remember that the type of fruit that has been developed for the New Zealand market was never produced with a view to acquiring markets 12,000 or 14,000 miles away. The difficulties and high cost of transport and marketing and overseas competition are almost insuperable and make exploitation of the British market not only highly speculative but also practicably impossible. California, Brazil, South Africa, Palestine and Spain are keenly competing for the British markets. Those countries have studied those markets over a long period of years, and have assiduously cultivated, them to such an extent that to-day they are in an almost impregnable position. A vast amount of research would be necessary in. order to overcome the special difficulties- of Australian growers. I believe that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is undertaking a certain amount of research work in connexion with this matter, and when I was at Cambridge last year, I saw a number of young men carrying, out very useful investigations. One of the first problems that should have been tackled is that of transport, but no serious attempt, has yet been made to establish proper transport technique for citrus fruit. One grower recently told me that on several occasions he had shipped identical, consignments of citrus fruit by different vessels and had obtained widely different results.
– Did the consignments reach the market at different times ?
– There was but a short interval between the times of arrival,, and the results showed that different methods of treatment had been adopted on the two boats. The absence of proper methods of treatment during transport is one of the serious difficulties which the- growers have to. face, and which ave making it almost impossible, for them effectively to compete in the British markets.
When in Egypt last year. I was approached, by men who were anxious to obtain citrus fruit from Australia. Palestine and Egypt had had some differences over trade matters, and Egypt had imposed what amounted virtually to an embargo on fruit from Palestine. That is why,, as the honorable member for West Sydney said on Thursday, the quantity of citrus fruit sent from Palestine to British markets has increased substantially during the last year or two. I have made representations to Australian citrus, bodies with regard to possible trade with Egypt, but the response has not been enthusiastic, and I gather that the opportunities are. not great.
What I particularly desire to stress is that the British market affords inadequate compensation for the loss of the New Zealand market. The 2s. a case on exports, amounting to £10,000, that the Government proposes to offer the growers is poor compensation for a loss annually of £500,000. [ should like the Government to state definitely and unequivocally, whether a settlement of the dispute with New Zealand is prevented because of fear of the introduction of a plant disease, or whether it is due to a clash of trade policy between Australia and New Zealand.
– Has the honorable member any knowledge of the agreement referred to by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) ?
– No, except some scrappy information I gathered by hearsay, and which, consequently, I do not desire to use. Australia maintains an embargo against New Zealand apples and pears, as well as potatoes, and the commodity balance of trade is heavily in favour of the Commonwealth. It, therefore, appears that any agreement that may be reached between the two dominions can only result from a willingness on the part of Australia to purchase larger quantities of commodities from New Zealand. In my opinion that is a sine qua non to any permanent trade agreement between the two dominions. I also believe that one condition on which New Zealand will insist is at least a share of the Australian market for its potatoes.
– Would the honorable member sacrifice the Australian potatogrowers in the interests of the citrusgrowers?
– I quote from the speech of the honorable member for West Sydney, who said, on Thursday last, that having regard to the very great distress that has followed the loss of the New Zealand market by the Australian citrus-growers, everything humanly possible should be done in order to win it back for them. In order to get a proper conception of the real attitude of the Labour party on this question, we want to know what the honorable member meant when he said that everything humanly possible should be done for the citrus-growers. If the members of the Labour party and certain other honorable members of this Parliament can come to agreement as to what ought to be done, I feel that what they believe should be done can be done. I believe it will entail, however, the admission into Australia of a certain quantity of New Zealand potatoes; and, speaking as one who represents more than three times as many potato-growers as citrus-growers, J say thai we should permit the entry into Australia of a certain quantity of New Zealand potatoes. I should like the Labour party to state quite clearly where it stands on that aspect of the matter.
– If we could get the facts, we would be in a position to state exactly where we stand ; hut we cannot get them.
– Such facts as are available to honorable members are self-explanatory, to this extent, that it is apparent greater’ purchases by Australia from New Zealand will have to be made, and I am sure that an inescapable provision of any agreement between the two dominions would be one providing for the admission into Australia of a certain quantity of New Zealand potatoes. To share in the citrus market in New Zealand, worth approximately £500,000 to the citrus-growers of Australia, we should be prepared to admit the entry into Australia of, say, 10,000 tons of New Zealand potatoes annually. I should like a definite statement of opinion from the Labour party on that point. I should also like to know whether the deputation which waited on the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the then Minister for Commerce (Sir Frederick Stewart) in 1934, shortly after the return of the latter from New Zealand, and urged the Commonwealth Government not in any circumstances to allow New Zealand potatoes to enter Australia, voiced what is the opinion of the Labour party to-day. I believe that both the right honorable member for Tarra (Mr. Scullin), then Leader of the Opposition, and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), then Leader of the Australian Labour party of New South Wales, spoke at that deputation.
– I did not speak at that deputation. The point is, however, that it was said at that time that corky scab was the difficulty. Apparently that danger is now past.
– Tha t difficulty has been completely overcome.It rests now with the Labour party to state whether, having regard to the opinions expressed by agricultural experts on this question, they will join with a group of other honorable members on this side of the House in an attempt to bring about an agreement between the two dominions that will operate fairly to the potatogrowers both in New Zealand and Australia, and will accord to the Australian citrus-growers the justice they have been seeking for several years past.
. - I support this bill to provide a. bounty on oranges for export. We must recognize that governments are as much responsible for their actions as are individuals, and in this matter the position, undoubtedly, is partly due to the actions of our government. The whole story of the negotiations between Australia and New Zealand is a story of lost opportunity. There was a time in the history of the negotiations when the Commonwealth Government might havecompromised with the Government of New Zealand by allowing the admission into Australia of a certain quantity of New Zealand potatoes, and opened the New Zealand door to our fruit. At that time differences arose as to the justification for the imposition of quarantine restrictions on New Zealand potatoes, but those differences do not now exist, and it has been proved that the real difficulty confronting the settlement of this matter is not one of quarantine restrictions, but is one of economic objections. The opportunity which we once had was lost, however, and the Go- vernment of New Zealand entered into a trade treaty with the United States of America… That treaty was in terras applying not only to New Zealand, but to other countries as well, which stipulated that if New Zealand allowed imports! from other countries, where Mediterranean fruit fly and other pests were in existence, the fruit of New Zealand would be refused admission to the United States of America. I understand that that trade has been found to be of little value to New Zealand, and we are now hoping that the time has come for the re-opening of negotiations between Australia and New Zealand on their original footing.
Our only desire is to do a fair thing to both citrus and potato-growers, and not set one industry against another. If, by admitting a certain quantity of New Zealand potatoes into Australia, even with a tariff duty, we could bring about the removal of the embargo against the admission into New Zealand of Australian fruit and vegetables, we should be doing the correct thing.
Mr.Lane. - Why is it not done?
– We do not know that the Government of New Zealand would accept these terms.
– It has refused to negotiate on this matter at present.
– That merely proves my statement that at the moment the Government has not the opportunity which was in existence in 1934 for an amicable settlement.
– Surely the Government would not allow itself to be placed in that helpless position.
– Every agreement must have two parties to it, and if one party is adamant in its refusal to negotiate, little can be done to hasten the making of an agreement. Honorable members must, recognize that although the eastern States are having difficulties in connexion with this matter, Australia is still exporting to New Zealand almost the same quantity of citrus fruits as were shipped prior to the imposition of the embargo, but the whole of that export is made from South Australia. That, however, has had its good effect, inasmuch as the growers in the eastern States have had to meet so much less competition in . the Australian markets. Nevertheless, the embargo has robbed the eastern States of their regular market for Valencias, which South Australia cannot, supply, and New South Wales is not allowed to supply. Western Australia and South Australia, because of their geographical position and the shorter transport, could export to Great Britain, but South Australia is not likely to export citrus fruits to Great Britain while it enjoys its profitable trade in the New Zealand market. An injustice has been done to the citrus-growers because of the differences which have arisen between New Zealand and Australia, and the Govern- ment which has been partly to blame is justified .in bringing in this bill to provide a bounty on the export of oranges which will enable the growers to export more fruit overseas and give some relief to the Australian market. I cannot agree with the figures presented by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson). It is ridiculous to suggest that £500,000 is the value of the disadvantage which the citrus industry has suffered, in view of ‘ the fact that the total exports to New Zealand at present are almost as much as they were before the embargo was imposed. The figures quoted by the honorable member are quite misleading, and would give the growers of citrus fruits an unfair impression of the real position. I hope the House will pass this bill, although I think that the bounty of 2s. an export case is relatively small when we consider the high freight rates and charges which have to be paid by the citrus industry.
.- I have been interested to listen to the speeches which have been made from this side of the House, and also that by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). I am in agreement with honorable members generally in their commendation of this hill. The honorable member for West Sydney referred to the fact that it makes no provision for the growers of mandarins, the majority of whom are, I think, included in my electorate. Mandarins do not come within the category of exportable fruit. Unfortunately, there are difficulties associated with their export, such as refrigeration and processing, which are not met with in the export of oranges. However, those mandaringrowers were not forgotten. When they were in sore straits, they were given assistance from the Commonwealth Government, and also from the State Government, on a £1 for £1 basis, the growers of New South Wales alone receiving over £8,000.
I was glad to learn that some measure of unanimity has been achieved among the various sections of fruit-growers regarding the formation of a citrus council, which was a necessary preliminary to the bringing in of this bill. I should like to know from the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) how the difficulty was overcome, because some of the leading growers were, I know, at variance with the Fruitgrowers Association on this subject. What is the constitution of the Citrus Council ?
– The council has not yet been constituted, but it is suggested thai every State should be represented.
– Is it intended that each organization should be represented?
– The arrangement is that there shall be four representatives from New South Wales, and a certain number from the other States, the numbers being in proportion to the production of the various States.
– It is not proposed to recognize any particular organizations ?
– Not as such, but it is hoped that all organizations will secure representation.
– The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) suggested that the growers would receive very little actual benefit as the result of this measure, but I was glad to hear that this opinion was not shared by an ex-Minis tei-, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). Naturally, I should like to have seen the bounty somewhat larger, but, even as it is, it will confer considerable benefits upon the growers. In the Wyong district, one fruit-growing organization, of which Mr. Murray is the manager, has been able to show a small but satisfactory profit on exports. This indicates that, with the bounty paid last year, it was possible, with good management, to export profitably.
There must be an absolute assurance that this bounty shall be paid to the exporters - that i3, the growers. I recognize that this is a point for consideration during the committee stages of the bill, but we should recognize the principle that it is the growers who are entitled to this money, and who must receive it. This matter is, to some extent, sub jud-i.ee at the moment, because a dispute in regard to the payment of certain bounty money is being arbitrated upon, but that is no reason why the. bounty should not be paid to the growers, in respect of such shipments, as are not concerned in the arbitration proceedings. I do not agree that the whole matter should be held up, as has been suggested by the Minister for Agriculture lor New South Wales, until the settlement of the dispute now under consideration. Dealing with this matter, the secretary of the Fruitgrowers Council of New South Wales writes as follows: -
Mr. Thorby mentioned in the concluding paragraph of his letter that an investigation by an officer of the New South Wales Department of Agriculture into this matter was already in progress, and expressed the belief that this would assist his officers in arriving at a decision. My committee desire me to point out to you that this investigation had to deal only with the appointment of an officer as arbitrator in the dispute, or argument, between the Niagara Park Growers Limited and the Producers Distributors Society Limited, and a settlement of this matter one way or the other can have no bearing on the issue of the Od. per case bounty to growers. Growers here who shipped fruit through the Niagara Park Growers Limited did so on a guaranteed advance, without recourse, consequently any dispute between this company and any other party is a matter for those concerned, and not of the growers, who, after delivery of their fruit, were not consulted in any way. Furthermore, the total fruit handled by the Producers Distributors Society Limited from Niagara Park Growers Limited on which the bounty has been withheld amounts to 11,000 cases at the most, or approximately 20 per cent, of the total shipments upon which the (id. bounty is outstanding to growers. You will readily follow that this investigation, therefore, will not be of any assistance from the growers’ point of view, concerning, as it does, only a domestic matter between those companies, and also represents but a fraction of the total money outstanding.
I suggest that this Parliament is vitally concerned in the matter, and I go so far as to say that we would not be justified in passing this measure unless we took all necessary steps to .ensure that the bounty actually reaches “the growers.
The dispute regarding the payment of the bounty money is further touched upon in an article published on the 29 th of September in a newspaper which circulates in the Gosford district, from which the following is an extract : - .
The arbitration proceedings between a shipper and a packing house do not justify non-payment of the federal bounty; they do not touch the refusal still outstanding in the case of a shipper and Gosford Packing House; they leave entirely out of count the refusal of Macdermott and Sheedy to pay the bounty or to arbitrate. There is no reason why the federal inquiry could not have begun at once, irrespective of the arbitration proceedings.
– That is Mr. Brown’s comment ?
– Yes; he is the chairman of that district council. I propose to hand these papers to the Assistant Minister, trusting he will give further consideration to this matter, which vitally concerns a large number of growers.
The comments of the honorable member for Macquarie about the citrus fruits versus the potato position are substantially correct; but they do not apply only to the Labour party; they apply also to other political parties. I frankly reminded my constituents of a debate which took place upon this subject in this House, and I informed them that, if it came to a “ showdown “ in Parliament they would know where they stood in the matter. I now hope that some progress has been made from that position. I think that at one stage the Mediterranean fruit fly did enter into the question. I do not know to what extent it does to-day. Judging by a reply given this afternoon by the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), it does not; but, in connexion with the agreement mentioned by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), it was laid down that the only citrus fruit New Zealand would accept from Australia was from South Australia, where it was understood the presence of the fly had not been noted. Furthermore, South Australian shippers were compelled to state that their fruit was free from disease when it entered New Zealand ports. The fruit fly, therefore, does come into the picture.
Whilst I agree with the honorable member for Riverina that the New Zealand market has not been entirely lost to Australia because of the quantity shipped from South Australia, the point which is of vital concern to my constituents is that New South Wales is not sharing in that market. For purposes of comparison, I point out that, in the peak year of export, Australia shipped 174,000 cases to New Zealand, and enjoyed the whole of that market, while at the present time
South. Australia is able to send only 14=5,000 cases.
I have faith in the representations that the Assistant Minister for Commerce is making to the Government of New Zealand; but I want them to “ bear more fruit.” I had the honour to introduce a deputation to the honorable gentleman, in which the interests of the mandarin-growers, as well of the citrus-growers, were discussed, and I am confident that he was sincere in his reply. But the goods so far have not been delivered. I trust that the Government will renew negotiations with the Government of New Zealand when the opportunity offers, and, from the remarks of the Minister for Defence, it appears to me that the time is approaching when New South “Wales will again obtain a share of the market it previously lost. I agree with the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that, like the poultry-farmers, the growers of citrus fruits are small people, and have a hard struggle for existence. I am gratified that the honorable member for Macquarie referred to the processing experiments which are being carried on in Sydney, and which have created considerable interest. I understand that the Assistant Minister for Commerce has made inquiries into the methods which are being adopted. In this connexion, I hope that he will inform the House as to the part which has been played by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in this matter. I believe that this institution has already had some success in its experiments in connexion with the shipping of oranges. On the next occasion that a bill to authorize the payment of a bounty to citrus fruit-growers is introduced, I trust that the bounty will be on a higher scale, and I hope that New South Wales, as well as South Australia, will enjoy the New Zealand market, which is so close to Australia, and which means a great deal more to our citrus-growers than does the market of the United Kingdom.
– I have listened with great, interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner), because I am aware that he takes a great interest in the citrus fruit industry, and that his electorate is a big producer of citrus fruits in New South Wales. In the constituency of Wide Bay, probably more citrus fruits are grown than in any other part of Queensland, and I have much pleasure in supporting this bill, which has the approval of the orangegrowers of Australia, and which has been the cause of considerable gratification to them. The payment of a bounty of 2s. a case represents a substantial contribution towards the solution of their present difficulties, and, if any further assistance can be given to them at a later stage, 1 have no doubt that it will be warmly welcomed. I do not believe that the citrus industry is now suffering a very great loss owing to the New Zealand embargo, because the substantial exports of the fruit from South Australia to New Zealand, the big market which has been opened in Great Britain, and the local market, are factors which must not be overlooked. I contend that the cause of the trouble at the present time is the great increase of production in Australia, which has been due chiefly to the policy of the governments of the various States in placing returned soldiers on irrigated and other lands to grow oranges without the exercise of any control whatever in regard to the quantity to be produced, or any thought as to the possibility of finding a market’ for an increased production. As a matter of fact, New South Wales itself has suffered as the result of the planting of citrus orchards in irrigation areas, because their competition has practically closed, down the growing of oranges in older-settled districts, or rendered it so disadvantageous, that the growers in those parts are now in a very bad way. For that reason, I do not believe that the New Zealand position is responsible for the .present plight of citrus-growers, and the sooner that this section of primary producers enters into an orderly scheme of marketing, which should be controlled by themselves, as is proposed to-day, and which could be well enlarged upon, the sooner will their difficulties be solved. In this connexion there has been considerable slackness for many years, which has been due in no small degree to the refusal of New South Wales to adopt a scheme which provided for a small levy of Id. a case to provide- a sufficient fund to enable a controlling organization to operate satisfactorily. The citrus-growers cannot expect the Commonwealth, and State governments to come to their assistance all the time, and to negotiate them out of their depressed plight, unless they themselves combine to help themselves.
Much has been said in regard to the New Zealand embargo. From the interest which I have taken in the situation from month to month, I am perfectly well aware that the Commonwealth Government is not to blame for the existing circumstances. In the past it could not accept the condition which was desired by the Government of New Zealand to permit of the importation of diseased potatoes into Australia, and, irrespective of what advantage might accrue to any section of the community, I am sure that honorable members, would resist any action leading to the introduction of diseased potatoes into Australia which would harass the growers of this country. But the present position of the citrus industry is isolated from the potato embargo.
– Is there no potato disease in Australia?
– That point has been argued, and the difficulty is as to whether or not the disease is in Australia.
– We knowthat the potato disease is not on the mainland,, but that was not the original reason why the Government of New Zealand imposed the embargo against the importation of Australian citrus fruits. At one time that dominion entered into an’ agreement with the United States of America, under which it was permitted to export fruits to that country ;’ but New Zealand had to guarantee that the fruit was not grown in a country which was infested with Mediterranean fruit fly, or which permitted the entry of fruit from another country in which the fly was prevalent. If, therefore, New Zealand had traded with Australia, it would not have been able to fulfil those conditions in the agreement with the United States of America. I understand that that condition has since been waived in the United States of America, and that it does not now operate against the export of New Zealand fruit to that country, so it should not to be an obstacle to an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the dominion government. For some time endeavours have been made to arrange a conference between the New Zealand Minister for Agriculture and the Commonwealth Government and I believe that the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) who has just returned from the dominion, is endeavouring to forward the negotiations. I hope that success will crown his efforts and that the New Zealand market will again be open for all Australian citrus fruit. I realize, of course, that agreement is not possible unless both parties to the negotiations are reasonable. We have had ample evidence of this truth in the dispute with Japan concerning the trade position between the two countries, particularly as it affects the wool industry of this country.
The bill will be of great assistance to our citrus-growers. Some honorable members have hinted that apple-growers should receive a bounty of. 2s. instead of 4id. a case provided for in another measure. It must bc remembered, however, that the larger- bounty would mean an expenditure of about £100,000, whereas the bounty for orange-growers will involve an expenditure of only £10,000, and these growers have a definite claim for assistance because of the economic condition of their industry due to restrictions imposed by New Zealand. The payment of the bounty will, I feel sure, be of substantial benefit to Australian orangegrowers and it should enable them to open up other markets because the bounty is not restricted to oranges exported to Britain; it is payable on exports to other countries excepting New Zealand. Some honorable members have suggested that orange-growers may not benefit from the bounty. That fear is groundless. Clause 6 provides that the bounty shall be payable to the exporter, who is required to pay “ to the grower of the oranges the amount of the bounty received by him in respect of the oranges “ unless he proves to the satisfaction of the Minister that he paid to the grower or his agent “ an amount equivalent to the amount of bounty payable in respect of the export of the oranges.” Clause 9 authorizes the Minister or any authorized person to call upon any person to furnish information in the event of any doubt as to the payment of the bounty to the grower.
I repeat that much of the trouble, in New South Wales at all events, is due to the encouragement by the New South Wales Government of citrus-growing in the irrigated areas where, in recent years, there has been a great increase of production. The oranges grown by returned soldier settlers on the irrigated areas are now better than those produced elsewhere in New South Wales, and as production is in excess of the capacity of the Australian market, this factor, perhaps more than the slight contraction of the New Zealand market, is the cause of the trouble which the Commonwealth Government is now trying to remove.
.- The debate has revealed some astonishing facts. For the first time in the history of this Parliament, we have had the spectacle of a member representing a section of primary industry inviting the co-operation of Labour in order that justice may be done to the growers of oranges.
– That would mean the defeat of the Government I suppose.
– It would, almost mean the defeat of the Ministry. Honorable members on this side will be interested to hear what the champion of home markets - the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) - has to say on the points that have been raised in this debate, which seems to have developed into a contest to prove which of the primary industries should receive the greatest measure of consideration from the Government. We have been told that the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) had declared that just before he resigned from the Ministry, he was engaged in negotiations for an agreement with New Zealand.
– He said that an agreement had been drafted.
– I agree with the honorable member; but as the honorable member for Parramatta said, the Ministry was reconstructed, and he went out of office. Since then members representing the potato-growers have been exerting pressure on the Government. New Zealand potatoes, if allowed to be imported into Australia, would be marketed when, nor mally, prices are high because of the shortage in this country.Soit would seem that consumers who, for the most part are city dwellers, are penalized owing to this trade difficulty with New Zealand. Lately there has been much activity behind the scenes; it is about time that those who are interested in these negotiations came out into the open. When I was in Norfolk Island recently, I heard many bitter complaints about the trade dispute between the Commonwealth and New Zealand. Because of the deadlock in negotiations, Norfolk Island producers are unable to sell their products in either Australia or New Zealand. We should know definitely why all the efforts that have been made to reach agreement between the two Governmentshave failed. I would not object to a bounty of £10,000 being paid to citrus-growers if they were in difficulties; my complaint is that the bounty would not be necessary if the ordinary interchange of commerce between the Commonwealth and the dominion of New Zealand were not interfered with. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) has told us that because of the imposition ofan embargo on the export of oranges from New South Wales, South Australia had built up a large export trade to New Zealand. It seemed to me that his statement was lacking in an essential fact. The embargo, I believe, was imposed in 1932. If in the last four years the demand has been met by another country, the honorable member is adopting the usual procedure of supporting a primary industry at the expense of one in whichhe is possibly not very greatly interested. Honorable members from South Australia will doubtless join forces with honorable members from Victoria in an endeavour to prevent the making of an agreement between New Zealand and Australia. Potatoes realize a high price on the mainland.
Mr.Mahoney. - How much a ton?
– For nearly the whole of my lifetime I lived in a potato-growing district 34 miles outside of Sydney. The honorable member knows that the Tasmanian product is marketed during the period of high prices, and that the New Zealand product would be imported when prices were good. Unquestionably, New
Zealand potatoes have been excluded from Australia with a view to maintaining a high level of prices for the benefit of certain States in which potatoes are grown, and, by way of reprisal, New Zealand will not allow our citrus fruits to be imported. I hope that it will not be necessary for the Labour party to define its attitude in the determination of whether our citrus-growers shall be given their rights. I call to mind the circumstances in which a coterie of honorable members obtained concessions on behalf of industries that they supported, until they secured representation in the Ministry, when they were able to continue their efforts behind closed doors. If that is democratic government, God help this country ! The Government ought to call a party meeting immediately, and have this matter settled. Ithas an explanation to make, not only to the citrus-growers, but also to the consumers of potatoes in Australia. The charge must be answered, that the specific purpose is to exclude New Zealand potatoes from the Australian market while high prices are ruling. I listened carefully to the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), as well as to the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner), who almost acclaimed the statements of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson). The Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) was asked this afternoon whether the board ‘ which he had promised had been constituted to control the citrus industry. In this morning’s press we were informed that the Minister for Commerce(Dr. Earle Page) had offered to pay £200 towards the interest on a £10,000 loan to the dairymen. Dairying is an industry which for years has had control of its own prices. If a citrus board were appointed and given authority to fix prices, there would be no guarantee that it.s control would be different from that of boards, which have controlled the dairying industry. Although that industry has been empowered to regulate prices, it is to-da.v asking for a loan of £10,000. The House should seriously consider whether the appointment of boards and the payment of subsidies under existing conditions should not be examined by a parliamentary com mittee, with a view to determining whether public money should be devoted to the subsidizing of industries that should be able to support themselves. I have complained repeatedly of the danger to the consumer which arises out of the appointment of boards for the fixation of the prices of different commodities. I sincerely hope that the Government will give the assurance that the interests of the citrus-growers are not to be sacrificed for the benefit of the potatogrowers.
.- In view of the bounties that have been paid to different industries, the proposal to pay a bounty of 2s.a case on citrus fruits exported from Australia is a reasonable one. I hope that the matter will not so resolve itself that the Australian potato-grower will be sacrificed for the sake of the potatogrowers in New Zealand. The cost of growing oranges is no greater than the cost of growing apples.
– The honorable member is wrong. The cost of irrigation is £3 15s.
– Irrigation has to to be resorted to in certain cases in the growing of apples. The costs are similar. Oranges realize on the local market as much as 3d.., 4d. and 5d. apiece. I stand for the protection of Australian industry, and shall not vote to sacrifice the local potato-grower by the removal of the embargo on potatoes from New Zealand. I am prepared to go to the country on that issue, although potatoes are not grown in my electorate. I claim that they are an essential foodstuff, and on the average, year in and year out, do not realize high prices. Potatoes of a high standard are sent regularly throughout the year from Tasmania to the Sydney market, and the public are not exploited in regard to price. I recognize that certain honorable members opposite are somewhat disappointed at having failed to secure a position in the Ministry. “With them, that seems to be the principal bono of contention. I do not mind their having a shot at some of the leading lights in the Ministry, but I wish them definitely to understand that I stand solidly for the protection of the Australian potato industry.
– Does the honorable member stand for the embargo imposed by Victoria on the importation of potatoes from Tasmania?
– I do not. That is at variance with the constitutional provision in relation to freedom of trade. If Tasmania were to adopt a similar attitude, it would boycott Victorian goods. It does not do so, because Tasmanians are big Australians. I want trade between Tasmania and the mainland to be absolutely free. The potato-grower should not be sacrificed in the interests of the citrus-grower, who has not given the public a fair deal in regard to price. The bounty of 2s. a case is a decent one, and I commend the Government for its munificence. The apple-grower asked for a bounty of ls. a case, and was given only 4½d. a case. He has to be content with the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table. I support the bill, because [ think that this bounty is essential and will go a long way towards enabling the citrus-growers to compete on the markets of the world. The interests of the fishing industry in Tasmania were sacrificed by the exemption of imported fish from primage and sales tax, for the benefit of the population of Sydney. What more do they want? We should pay no heed to the representations of a disgruntled individual who, because he failed to gain a place in the Ministry, attacks a Minister, but has not the courage to name him. I know who the attack was upon, and I say to the honorable member for Macquarie-
– Order !
– The members of the Labour party-
– Order ! Order!
– The honorable member for Macquarie - -
– If the honorable member persists in defying the Chair-
– The honorable member for Macquarie -
– The honorable member for Denison will resume his seat.
, - I have listened with interest this afternoon to the speeches in support of the proposed orange bounty made by honorable members who represent constituencies in which citrus fruits are grown. As one who has travelled extensively in the Commonwealth and visited many citrus-growing districts I feel obliged to say that our citrus industry has been well assisted. In the years when the industry enjoyed an expanding market a great deal was done by various governments to settle returned soldiers on the land and encourage them to grow citrus fruits. This was particularly true during the demobilization period after the Great War. Because of this the citrusgrowing industry was responsible for a considerable extension of closer settlement. Since those years production methods have improved and the acreage under citrus groves has been extended, with the result that the quantity of citrus fruits grown in Australia is now considerably in excess of the requirements of the local market. It is worth reminding honorable gentlemen, also, that citrus fruits have been marketed in Australia in the last few years, and even during the depression years, at prices which were reasonably good when compared with those obtainable for,, say, apples. The citrus-growers did not have to face conditions similar to those which confronted the wheat-growers of Australia. However, I am prepared to support this bounty, which, it is estimated, will involve the Government in an expenditure of £10,000.
I regret that a red herring has been drawn across the track possibly because some honorable gentlemen wished to distract attention from the largesse being provided for the orange- growers. I refer, of course, to the attack made on the potato industry of Australia. According to the statement of the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), the potato industry has not been discussed in the course of negotiations with the Government of New Zealand for the lifting of the embargo on the importation of Australian citrus fruits into the sister dominion. I was under the impression at one stage of the negotiations that the nota to industry was an important factor in the situation, but I am informed , that this is incorrect. The potato industry ‘ of Australia is not iu competition with the citrus industry of this country, and it is quite wrong for the representatives of the citrus-growers to attribute to the potato industry any of the difficulties that have been encountered in the negotiations with the Government of New Zealand. Wo should not sacrifice one industry in order to benefit another; any proposal of that nature I .shall resist. The Australian potato-growers are able to supply the people of this country with potatoes which, as we all know, are a staple food. The potato industry of Australia has been maintained without bounties of any kind. It should not bc unjustly treated now in order that what some people may regard as a quid pro quo may be offered to the Government of New Zealand if it agrees to lift the embargo on the importation of Australian citrus fruits. Australian people arc not likely to buy high priced New Zealand potatoes even if they aTe admitted to this country, for they will use some other article of food instead of potatoes during the period that local supplies may not be available at normal prices. In the course of their tirade against the Australian potato industry this afternoon the representatives of certain citrus-growing districts have referred to the effect of diseases on various products, but it must be borne in mind that the citrus-growers have suffered from the ravages of the imported Mediterranean fruit fly. Australian citrus fruit is not allowed to enter certain countries in consequence of its infection by this pest, yet we. are being asked to agree to the importation into Australia of quantities of New Zealand potatoes which, as everybody knows, are infested with corky scab. I do not wish to cause .any further discord, but I feel obliged to remind honorable gentlemen that even Tasmanian potatoes are not allowed entry into Victoria because of the fear of the introduction of disease into that State.
The honorable member for Denison interjecting,
– I shall not call the honorable member for Denison to order again. I warn him that he must not continue to interject.
– Victoria has always been free from potato diseases, and we should not sanction any agreement with another State or dominion which might have the effect of introducing such diseases into it. To do so might have the unfortunate result of throwing out of use for twenty years or more many acres of valuable land,, and of throwing out of employment many people who are to-day valuable citizens. I do not desire to do anything against the interests of the citrus-growers of this country, for I know that, through their lack of planning and their failure to establish proper organizations in the industry, they have not been able to operate as effectively as the people engaged in some other industries.
– I do not think that that is a fair remark.
– I am prepared to do all I can to support this industry, and so will vote for the bill.
.- On a previous occasion, when a bill of this nature was before the House, I expressed a fear that the bounty payments might not reach the growers. That view was roundly condemned by the Minister in charge of the measure, but experience has shown that the fear was well founded, for a good deal of the money provided under the measure then being discussed went to the shippers and exporters, and not to the growers. I express a similar fear in regard to this bill. This subject was referred to earlier in the debate, and I have since seen a newspaper report to the effect that the growers of New South Wales also feel that, as the bounty has not reached them in the past, it may not do so in the future. The Minister of Agriculture in New South Wales, who, apparently, is in the position to decide to whom the bounty shall be actually paid, has stated that he does not consider that he is warranted in withholding from the shippers certain bounty payments. The amendment which the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) has circulated, does not, in my opinion, meet the situation. The bounty should be paid directly to the growers, and should not go through agents in any way. We know very well how in the past, in this industry, as well as in others, bounty payments to agents have failed to reach the growers. The agents have skimmed the milk, kept the cream, and given the skimmed milk to the growers. That has been the experience of producers in all our primary industries. I therefore request that a provision be inserted in this bill to make it mandatory for the bounty to be paid direct to the growers. Once bounty payments get into the hands of agents, it is almost impossible to get them to disgorge.
The Government could most effectively assist the citrus industry of Australia by establishing industrial conditions which would enable our people to purchase larger quantities of locally-grown citrus fruits. That policy would make less necessary the provision of bounties. In the congested areas of our big cities, where mothers are trying to rear young children, the family income is so low that it is almost impossible for parents to buy citrus fruits, although orange juice is a necessary element in the diet of babies.
– Even sufficient milk cannot be bought in some instances.
– What about a few potatoes?
– I do not know whether the family of the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) was reared on potatoes. Orange juice is necessary to a baby at a time when potatoes would be fatal to it.
– I am well aware of that.
– Then the honorable member should not have made such a stupid interjection. It is regrettable that the Government does not take more effective action to allow trade to flow through its normal channels. It has departed a long way from the bold declaration of one member of the Cabinet, that nothing would be done to divert trade from its normal channels. Private enterprise has completely failed to meet the needs of our fruit-growing and other primary industries; but the Government seems set upon bolstering up the present inefficient system.
– What about the tariff? Many inefficient secondary industries are supported by it.
– Thatis another subject. I ask the Government to take effective steps to rehabilitate the home market for citrus fruits, so that bounties will not be so necessary. Suspicion has been aroused that the valuable New Zealand market has been lost to the citrusgrowers of Australia for reasons which could be overcome. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison), and also the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) have had a great deal to say about the Mediterranean fruit fly. As a matter of fact, that pest does not affect our oranges, except, perhaps, a few very late Valencias. I have caught thousands of fruit flies by traps and otherwise, and I know that the Mediterranean fruit fly does not make its appearance in New South Wales until December or January.
– That is quite incorrect.
-It is not incorrect. If the honorable gentleman will examine the publications of the Department of Agriculture of New South Wales, he will see that the regulations make no reference to the necessity for citrus-growers spraying their trees to cope with Mediterranean fruit fly. All that is required of them is that they destroy any fruit found to be affected by it. The growers are not required to set traps or to spray for this pest. The regulations also prescribe that no oranges, except late Valencia3, may remain on the trees after the 30th September. That provision has nothing whatever to do with the Mediterranean fruit fly; it is due entirely to the scientific fact that oranges which remain on the trees after the end of September become unfit for human consumption. The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) told us to-day that in his conversations with the New Zealand authorities the fruit fly was not mentioned. Even in the more tropical parts of Australia where citrus fruit is grown, the fruit fly is not seen before the end of September.
– The honorable member will not be in order in continuing along those lines.
– I have referred to this subject because the Minister said that the embargo was imposed by New Zealand because of the prevalence in Australia of the Mediterranean fruit fly.
That is not so. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) said that he had arranged with the Government of New Zealand a trade treaty favorable to Australia.
– I brought back proposals for an agreement.
– So far neither this House nor the fruit-growers of this country have heard anything of those proposals. Parliament should know the reasons why they were held up.
– Order ! Those proposals are not now before the House.
– There is too much secrecy in these matters - a secrecy that is not compatible with responsible government. It savours of Nazi or Fascist mie. While not opposing the measure, I protest strongly against the absence of a guarantee that the bounty will be paid directly to the fruit-growers. There is the gravest possibility that the growers of the oranges will not receive the bounty at all, but that the money will be retained by the agents. The Government has failed in its duty to the growers of citrus fruits in that it has closed a market which previously existed in New Zealand. No one knows why. I repeat that the Minister is misleading the House when he suggests that New Zealand imposed an embargo on Australian citrus fruit because of the Mediterranean fruit fly.
.- I rise to support the bill because I know that there is a large surplus of citrus fruit which cannot be consumed in Australia.
– The workers could consume it if they could buy it.
– Following the war, large numbers of returned soldiers were placed on citrus orchards, at great expense to the country, and now that their holdings are in full production, markets cannot be found for their produce. In consequence of the position which has arisen, I favour a bounty on oranges which are exported, although I am not usually a believer in bounties. Reference has been made to the New Zealand embargo on the importation of citrus fruit from Australia. A good deal of that trouble is the outcome of the greed of certain Australian producers. Some years ago when there was a discussion in this Parliament regarding the removal of the Australian embargo on potatoes from New Zealand, representatives of the growers of potatoes, chiefly from Victoria and Tasmania, flocked to Canberra to point out the danger of introducing a disease detrimental to the potato-growing industry of this country. As a result of their representations, the embargo was continued. Not many weeks later, the growers of citrus fruits complained that they had lost the New Zealand market for their produce. At that time, New Zealand was prepared to agree to a fairly substantial duty on potatoes entering Australia, and to enforce a rigid inspection of all potatoes before shipment, and was willing that any potatoes which on arrival in Australia were found to be diseased, should be destroyed. With all those precautionary measures in operation, I fail to see how any disease could have been brought into Australia with potatoes from New Zealand. In the circumstances, we cannot blame New Zealand for the action it took. Growers of citrus fruits in South Australia are fortunate in that they have in New Zealand a market for some of their produce. Had it not been for the trouble in regard to potatoes, I am confident that citrus fruits from the other States also would be accepted by the New Zealand authorities. About ‘two years ago, representatives of New Zealand visited Canberra with the object of overcoming the difficulties which had arisen, but the negotiations were suspended pending discussion with the United States’ of America regarding the admission of New Zealand apples into that country. Australia asked for trouble,, and got what it asked for. The people of this country must realize that if they wish to sell to other countries, they in turn must buy from those countries. There is little danger of potatoes from New Zealand underselling the Australian product, for I do not think that imported potatoes could be sold in Australia for less than £8 or £9 a ton. Had Australia agreed to admit potatoes from the sister dominion, the market would not have been greatly affected, and all the trouble which has arisen might have been avoided. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) has told us that he brought back from New Zealand certain proposals. I ask the Minister to lay the papers on the table of the House. If it is at all possible to enter into a working arrangement with the New Zealand authorities, action to that end should be taken immediately. The bill is necessary in the interests of the growers of citrus fruit, and I, therefore, support it. I also urge the Government to take steps to clear up the matters that are in dispute with New Zealand.
.- There is only one aspect of this hill to which I desire to direct the attention of the Minister at this stage. In my judgment, clause 6, as well as the proposed amendment of it, which the Minister has circulated, fails to meet the purpose of the measure, which is the payment of a bounty of 2s. a case to the grower of oranges which are exported. The bounty is not intended for any other person. The clause, as drawn, is obviously not satisfactory to the Minister, because he has circulated a proposed amendment which, doubtless, he believes will ensure that the grower will receive the money. The proposed amendment provides that -
Where the grower of the oranges exports the oranges through an agent, the bounty may be paid to the agent, who shall be liable to account therefor ito the grower.
There is no need for the words “to account”, and I suggest that they be omitted. The agent should be liable to the grower for the bounty on the oranges that he exports on behalf of the grower. In respect of the home-consumption price for wheat, a great deal of documentation was necessary in order to ensure that the grower of the wheat would receive the bounty. In regard to oranges, I do not think that there is any necessity for such elaborate provisions, because, before any exporter of oranges is allowed to ship the fruit, he should certify to the Department of Commerce that he proposes to export so many cases of oranges, purchased by him from certain growers, whose names and the quantity acquired from each are to be specified. When he has furnished that certificate the department could allow him to export and itself forward direct to the growers specified on the list, the bounty payable to them. In that way the agent would not be the instrument for payment; the department itself would pay the money direct to the growers. I see no earthly reason why it should be necessary, under any conditions, for the bounty to be paid through an agent. I know that agents buy oranges and ship them, but it is not intended that this bounty should be an aid to agents. There may be instances in which agents profess that their payments to growers include the bounty payable for oranges exported, but that is too hazardous a guarantee for this Parliament to accept.
– Some of the oranges to which this bounty will apply have already been exported.
– In such circumstances the exporter should furnish a list of the growers concerned, and the Government could pay the money direct to them just as certainly as the agent would be capable of paying it. I see no- reason why an agent should say, because he has exported 2,000 cases of oranges, that the Government should pay the bounty of 2s. a case to- him and trust him to pass it on to the growers.
– Since the announcement was made that the bounty will be paid, buyers of oranges have undoubtedly been including the amount of the bounty in their purchase price.
– Such an explanation merely amounts to an excuse to justify the payment of the bounty through agents.
– What . would be the position of an agent who bought 4,000 cases of which he exported 500?
– In that case, I contend, he should be obliged to determine the ownership of the oranges exported. I point out that he is now obliged to do this in order to comply with the bill as it is now drawn or the amendment forecast by the Assistant Minister. He could just as easily notify the department of his obligations and thus enable the department to pay the bounty direct to the growers.
I rose to take part in this secondreading debate only to direct attention to this aspect of the bounty, because it is the only point with which the Opposition is deeply concerned. We are ready to vote for the bill in principle, and to expedite its passage, but we are not yet satisfied that the
Assistant Minister has made it perfectly clear that the growers for whom the bounty is intended will not be defrauded. We desire to make the bill watertight in this direction, and we ask the Assistant Minister to carefully consider this point.
– I do not object to the principle of this bill, because we have got quite used to paying out bounties to any export industry which gets into trouble owing to the inadequacy of its home market. It seems to me, however, that of all the bounties now paid to primary producers, this bounty should he the most unnecessary, because if there is any industry which should have .a permanent and expanding market in Australia, and should not be dependent on a very meagre export trade, it is the citrus industry. Honorable members generally will recognize that there is something fundamentally wrong with an industry which in the fina, analysis must always rely on a home market which is not dependable because, as we all know, it is -in the hands of middlemen, who are amongst the greatest profiteers in Australia. There is clear evidence that the people of Australia cannot secure cheap citrus fruit, and, in this respect, residents of the capital cities and thickly populated centres are just as badly off as are those in the country districts. One cannot get cheap citrus fruit even in districts where it is grown. In a time of sca i city, oranges which are grown in enormous quantities close to Sydney are retailed at 2s. a dozen at railway station fruit stalls, which are the cheapest retail depots, and when a glut is prevalent the cheapest mandarins and oranges worthy of the name COSt from ls. to ls. 6d. a dozen. Consequently the people of Australia are not consuming nearly so much citrus fruit as they otherwise, would ; to-day it is a luxury and the producers are absolutely powerless to overcome this fundamental disability. I do not know whether this Parliament can do anything to rectify this position, but State Parliaments seem quite powerless to do so. They are just standing impotently by, leaving this industry in the hands of agents and distributors who appear to be raking off all the profits.
The producers of citrus fruit are intensely dissatisfied with not only their’ export market, but also the Australian market, and they will tell any inquirer that they produce cart-loads of fruit for which they receive practically nothing. Erstwhile citrus-growers in the electorate of New England have told me that they went out of the industry because, except on very rare occasions, there was not very much in it for them. I have known of growers who have actually invited people from the cities to come and take away their fruit, in order to save them the cost of destroying it. The export possibilities of this industry are very limited, indeed. I am not objecting to the payment of this bounty; it will help the industry to a certain degree; but I do not think it will solve any of its marketing problems. If there is any considerable export market at all, it is New Zealand, but that market is closed to us because of the obstinacy of the New Zealand Government.
– The New Zealand market is only partly closed to our citrus trade. Thousands of cases are being exported from South Australia to the dominion.
– I know that a small quantity of oranges from South Australia is being admitted into New Zealand, where, according to newspaper reports, the fruit is bringing a high price. Evidently New Zealanders are prepared to pay a good price to get this fruit. The point I am stressing, however, is that there should be no real difficulty in composing our difference in this matter, if we could only talk frankly to the New Zealand Government. I do not think that we have yet done nearly enough ; if we put it to the New Zealand Government that we are prepared to give a quid pro quo in other directions, we would receive more sympathetic treatment. It appears that New Zealand is shutting out our citrus fruits simply because we prohibit the importation of New Zealand potatoes. New Zealand wants our citrus fruits, but we do not. want its potatoes. That is the whole story. The reason we do not want New Zealand potatoes is very logical and sound - we grow move potatoes in Australia than we can consume. It is utterly irrational to continue this argument indefinitely. Representations are made to all honorable members concerning this matter. In the electorate of New England are situated the majority of the potato-growers in New South Wales, and they are always asking me to see that the embargo against New Zealand potatoes is not lifted. They say, of course, that they do not want potato diseases, such as corky scab, introduced into Australia. Let us talk frankly in this matter - we do not want New Zealand potatoes whether they be free from disease or not, because we produce locally more than we can consume. In the electorate of Now England thousands of tons are produced for which there is no market.
– What is done with them?
– They are destroyed. They cannot he sold mainly because Tasmanian potatoes cramp the market. If the potato-growers of Australia knew to-morrow that New Zealand potatoes were free of disease, this agitation would not stop. Those growers whom I represent want me to oppose the lifting of the embargo ‘ against New Zealand potatoes, and as a loyal representative of those growers I intend to carry out their request. I do not hesitate to say so, and I believe that representatives of potato-growers in other electorates are in a similar position, lt. is useless to argue interminably about this matter, all the while leading citrusgrowers to believe that we shall eventually weaken in our stand., and thus encouraging them to continue their agitation to have the embargo on New Zealand potatoes lifted. That, is our cold, selfish attitude; but it is very logical. Why should we allow importations of New Zealand potatoes or butter when we produce more of these commodities than we can consume? New Zealand wants our citrus fruit because it cannot produce such fruit; but we would be very foolish to allow any of our markets to be flooded with products of which we grow more than a sufficiency for our own needs. It would be just as sensible to allow some country to flood Australia with wheat or wool, for instance. I fail to see why the potato industry should be placed on a different footing from wheat or wool in this respect. .We produce a glut of potatoes, and we produce more butter than we can consume; therefore, we do not want importations of butter or potatoes.
– Australia could consume more potatoes if they were made available.
– That is due largely to the fact that the citrus fruit growers and the potato-growers are in the hands of soulless profiteers in the capital cities. We do not want New Zealand potatoes but the New Zealand people do want our oranges. One year when it was said that the potatoes grown in the New England district had disease large quantities wore allowed to rot on the farms. The economic aspects of the citrus industry and the potato-growing industry have not yet been properly considered by the Commonwealth Government, and it is time that the controversy which has existed for so long between these conflicting interests terminated. Neither side will give way, and it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to convince the New Zealand Government that it would be to the interest of our kinsmen in the sister dominion to import a substantial quantity of Australian citrus fruits. It should be practicable for Australia to import larger quantities of New Zealand products such as fish and possibly timber. At present there appears to be very little in common between the two dominions, and New Zealand news is seldom published in Australian newspapers. Our commercial relations with that dominion have not been developed as they should be; we should be on more friendly terms with each other. Some years ago Australia exported to New Zealand over £800,000 worth of boots annually and also a certain quantity of tobacco; but the trade in these two commodities is now almost negligible. There arc many avenues of trade that could be explored by the Commonwealth Government in conjunction with the State Governments in order to establish more favorable trade relations between the two countries. It is quite hopeless to endeavour to persuade the Australian potato-growers to support the removal of the embargo on New Zealand potatoes. As a representative of a constituency in which large quantities of potatoes are grown, I would be recreant to my trust if I supported the lifting of the embargo, and I do not think there is the slightest possibility of a majority of the members of this House agreeing to such a proposal. We should impress upon the Government the dissatisfaction which exists in the citrus fruit and potatogrowing districts concerning the way in which trade between the two countries has been handled. I am not blaming any particular Minister because I realize that there are great difficulties in the way; but the whole problem has been dealt with in a half-hearted way by the New Zealand Government, and various Commonwealth Governments. We should see if some more efficient and satisfactory arrangement cannot be made.
– In what way?
– I cannot say at the moment, but it should be easy to remove some of the difficulties.
– It is easy to say that something- more efficient should be done.
– The Minister should convene a meeting of representatives of potato-growers, citrus fruit growers and honorable members interested, in an endeavour to see if some of the difficulties cannot be removed. The citrus fruit-growers are asked to put their case to the Government, and later the potato-growers are asked to put theirs. The representatives of both sections should he brought together amd an endeavour made to remove the obstacles which are preventing trade from developing in the way it should.
– The first essential to a successful conference would be fairness and not cold selfishness.
– I admit that. I realize that the vital interests of the citrus industry are being sacrificed because of the vital interests of the potato industry.
– Does the honorable member suggest that members of Parliament should be members of such a committee ?
– Yes, if necessary. Every time I visit my electorate deputations urge me to impress upon the Government the necessity for retaining the embargo. I can only inform them that nothing has been done to remove the protection they now enjoy, and I doubt whether the embargo will ever be lifted. When the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) visits his electorate the citrus growers tell him that it is time the embargo on imported potatoes was lifted. I ask the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) to bring the proposal to appoint a committee before the Government, because I am sure that the potato-growers would do their best to find a way out of the impasse. As a representative of the potato-growers, I would do my best to reach finality over a subject which has almost become a major political issue.
I have no objection to the bill because I realize that the Government is doing what it can to assist the citrus industry which has suffered severely owing to the loss of a valuable market. Although I believe that the potato-growing industry is more important to Australia than the citrus fruit industry, 1 do not suggest that we should expect the orange-growers to carry on without some assistance. I am prepared to do all I can to bring the trouble to an end if the Government will provide the opportunity.
.- For the last two or three years I have been urging the necessity for opening up markets for our fruit and vegetables in India, where, I have been informed on reliable authority, there is a good opportunity for trade. Although there is a shipping service from Sydney and Fremantle to Singapore, trade in the East in certain commodities is largely in the hands of Californian and Japanese exporters. One has only to study trade statistics to find how our trade with New Zealand has declined. Prior to the war, New Zealand was purchasing £5,000,000 worth of our goods annually, and we were taking only £2,500,000 worth of the produce of that dominion; but as is usual, we have conducted trade wars with New Zealand and other countries to such an extent that we have made them our enemies. Figures show that, owing to tariff imposts, our trade with other countries has been, interfered with seriously, and if the present policy be continued, further restrictions will be imposed, necessitating the introduction of measures such as this in an endeavour to assist producers to find additional markets. I trust that the Minister will see if it is not possible to build up a trade with India, which would be of great advantage to the Commonwealth.
– in reply - Several honorable members have raised points of considerable interest, particularly in connexion with the payment of the bounty direct to the growers. I assure honorable members on both sides of the chamber that no one is more anxious or determined than I am to do everything possible to ensure that the growers of oranges exported receive the bounty. The Government has carefully investigated the circumstances of the export trade, and has framed the hill and the amendment I have circulated to ensure that, so far as is legally possible, the bounty shall be paid to the growers of oranges exported. In some instances, however, the bounty will be payable in respect of oranges exported some months ago. In others the oranges were sold outright to agents or exporters, and the grower has no further interest in them. Some oranges were sold through exporters as agents, who furnished the net return to the growers. In other cases agents have made to the orangegrowers cash advances representing as much as the oranges were worth and in particular instances actually more than the fruit returned to the agent. In framing the bill and the amendments, the Government has had to be very careful to protect all such interests. It would be easy to exclude growers from receiving the bounty if we threw upon them the responsibility of producing the necessary proof of identification of specific consignments exported, from Australia either through an agent as an agent or through an agent as a buyer. The Government has also to be careful that it does not cut off a source of finance that is at present available to many growers by providing that the bounty cannot be used as a setoff against cash advances made to the grower; in many instances such advances represent prepayment of the bounty. Honorable members will realize that there are certain difficulties which it is impossible to provide for by hard and fast laws. Citrus fruits are not the only products in dispute between the Commonwealth and New Zealand. The dominion embargo applies to many other varieties of fruit which are of vital importance to Australia. For instance, om- cherry-growers are concerned about the embargo against the importation of their fruit into New Zealand. The growers of passion fruit, pineapples and bananas are similarly concerned. In addition, several varieties of vegetables, which also come under the ban, used to find a profitable market in New Zealand.
– Tons of water-melons used to be exported from Australia to New1 Zealand.
– Yes. All persons interested in the production of different fruits and vegetables are concerned in the negotiations for the lifting or the partial lifting of the embargo.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) urged the Government to consider the Indian market as an outlet for Australian citrus fruits. To that veryend the Government has deliberately framed this bill to provide that bounty shall be payable in respect of oranges exported to any market other than New Zealand. In the past, the bounty was payable only on oranges shipped to the United Kingdom, and excluded from the scope of this assistance such places as Singapore, Ceylon, . Malay, and the Pacific Islands. This bill is an indication that the Government is encouraging the growers to take advantage of other markets. As a matter of fact, a limited market for Australian oranges exists in Malta, and other Mediterranean ports, despite their proximity to countries where enormous quantities of oranges are produced. Australian oranges reach those markets in the off seasons of the adjacent producing countries, and limited quantities are sold at satisfactory prices.
In reply to the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), who stated that only a limited quantity of oranges is going to New Zealand, I point ou.t that 144,500 cases had been provided for up to October of this year. Practically all will come from South Australia, but, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Riverina (Mt. Nock), the export of these oranges relieves the Australian market generally.
The Commonwealth Government has been charged with not having done everything in its power to re-open the market in New Zealand. The fact is that the Government has done its utmost to persuade the New Zealand Government to lift the embargo, either wholly, partially, or for specific periods, as I explained in my second-reading speech. If we could obtain the approval of New Zealand for the export to the dominion of only a limited quantity of oranges in the flush season, the condition of the growers in Australia would be improved and the fruit would have a ready sale in the dominion. We have obtained the co-operation of the agricultural departments of the States in facilitating the necessary inspection of citrus fruit in order to safeguard New Zealand against the risk of any form of disease.
– I think that the impression referred to by the Minister is current because we have not. been fully informed as to the state of the negotiations and because the basis of argument has been continually shifted.
– I cannot admit that. I have on several occasions, by answers to questions, ministerial statements, newspaper paragraphs, and speeches, explained exactly what the Government has done from time to time to persuade the New Zealand Government to re-open negotiations in order to enable us to’ send to the dominion the fruit and vegetables which are at present banned. What has New Zealand done? In the first place it flatly refused to re-open negotiations until it had completed the negotiations which were in progress with the United Kingdom.
– With the United States of America?
– No. The negotiations between the United States of America and New Zealand referred to by the honorable gentleman applied to the supply of New Zealand apples to the United States of America. At that time the Government of New Zealand pointed out that the United State? of America laid it down that if the dominion admitted fruit from Australia, and New South Wales in particular, the United States of America would refuse to allow the entry of New Zealand apples. The
New Zealand Ministers explained to us in Canberra that that was one of the difficulties; if New Zealand lifted the embargo it would lose the apple trade with the United States of. America. However, in the following year that trade with the United States of America practically petered out because it was found to be unprofitable. That argument is no longer raised by the New Zealand Government.
– Has the Minister in his efforts to re-open negotiations with New Zealand imposed any conditions or restrictions ?
– No ; the offer I have made personally to New Zealand has been to re-open negotiations with no restrictions or reservations. The reply we received from New Zealand was that it was not prepared to re-open negotiations. That was the answer given to the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) when he was in the dominion recently. The Government there is quite friendly but it is determined to continue the embargo for the time being.
– Will the Minister ask the New Zealand Government to re-open discussions at the stage which had been reached iu Wellington in 1934?
– The Minister for Defence was in New Zealand last week and invited the New Zealand Government to resume the discussions. I have the whole of the papers referred to by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). The basis for settlement submitted then was rejected when the New Zealand ministers were in Canberra.
– It was rejected before then from the Australian end.
– When the Ministers of both dominions were in conference the negotiations were not successful because the conditions offered by the Commonwealtb were unacceptable.
– The proposal submitted was different from that put up by Sir Frederick Stewart.
– To convince the Dominion Government that the Commonwealth Government was prepared to meet it in every possible way, the Commonwealth lifted the embargo against the importation of New Zealand apples from districts which could be guaranteed to be free from fire blightand other diseases; indeed, small consignments of dominion apples have already come into Australia. That was a gesture of good faith, and of the readiness of the Commonwealth to re-open trade between Australia and New Zealand. The orangegrowers are not the only producers who have been hard hit by the attitude of New Zealand. I venture to say that the growers of mandarins in New South Wales have been hit harder than the orange-growers. The mandarin-growers lost the only market outside of the metropolitan areas that they had when New Zealand imposed this embargo. Mandarins cannot be exported overseas or even to the United Kingdom, whereas oranges can be exported.Even oranges, however, are more difficult to export under cold storage conditions than are apples and other fruits; it is impossible to export mandarins under cold storage. That is the difficulty to which the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) referred, when he mentioned chat scientific men in Australia and overseas arc trying to overcome the difficulties of green mould, blue mould, and other forms of decay which affect oranges when placed in cold storage. I hope that the House will agree to the second reading.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
Clauses 1 to5 agreed to,
Clause 6 - (2.) The exporter of the oranges shall pay to the grower of the oranges the amount of the bounty received by him in respect of the oranges, unless he proves to the satisfaction ofthe Minister that he purchased or otherwise acquired the oranges from the grower or his agent and paid to the grower or his agent, in addition to the amount, if any, paid in respect of the purchase or acquisition, an amount equivalent to the amount of bounty payable in respect of the export of the oranges.
– I move -
That all the words after “and” sub-clause 2 be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words - “that the payment, if any, made to the grower or his agent for the oranges included an amount which represents the bounty paid in respect of the oranges “.
The object of the amendment is to allay the fears expressed by certain honorable members during the second-reading debate that the bounty might not be paid in every case to the growers of oranges. I am anxious, and I am sure the Government is equally anxious, to see that the bounty is paid to the growers, but difficulty is experienced in framing legislation to cover every case that may come before the department. I urge honorable members not to attempt to make the terms of the bill too rigid. Some of the growers export the whole of their crop, whilst others deliver their fruit to agents, part of it being exported and the remainder regraded and sold locally. Other growers, again, sell portion of their crop outright for local consumption, and a portion of it is included in various consignments for export.
– Do the words, “ bounty paid in respect of the oranges “, apply to bounty that may be recoverable in the future?
– In framingthe amendment, an attempt has been made to make more clear the intention of the clause.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Thorby) proposed -
That, at the end of the clause, the following sub-clause be added: - (3.) Where the grower of the oranges exports the oranges through an agent, the bounty may be paid to the agent, who shall be liable to account therefor to the grower “.
– I move -
That the amendment be amended by omitting the words : ‘ to account “.
The Opposition, as well as the Minister, is anxious to see that the bounty is paid only to the growers, but it was shown during the second-reading debate that the bounty of 6d. a case offered in 1934 did not reach a number of the growers in the Gosford district. Whether certain orchardists have contracted debts need not be inquired into by this committee. A government department should not be used for the collection of private debts. I understand that the object of the bounty is to keep orange-growers on their blocks, and enable them to prepare for another season.
– I accept the amendment.
Amendment to the amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses7 to 11 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 23rd September (vide page 434), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for the payment of a special grant to the State of South Australia in the terms of the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. As the commission’s recommendations also cover the claims by the States of Western Australia and Tasmania, and as two other bills deal with the grants to be paid to those States, you have ruled, Mr. Speaker, that it is permissible to refer to the report of the commission as a whole, and, on this bill, to discuss the general claims of the three States, and the amounts of the special grants proposed in the three bills. I dealt with this matter a year ago at considerable length, and I do not desire to repeat any part of the argument I then advanced. I now draw attention to that portion of the platform of the Australian Labour party which relates to the claims of certain States to special Commonwealth assistance because of disabilities which Commonwealth policy imposes upon them. The Labour platform includes a provision in the following general terms : -
In lieu of annual special Commonwealth gi ants to States, the financial relations between the States and the Commonwealh shall be reformed, taking into account the differing economic conditions of the several States, with particular reference to the incidentally unequal effects of Commonwealth legislation and finance, and providing for reviews every five years of the scale of such payments.
That declaration of policy clearly indicates that the Opposition is alive to the differing effects which federal policy has on such a large territory as Australia, having regard to the fact that that territory consists of a number of separate economic units, and that a policy which, by and large, may be advantageous to the Commonwealth as a whole may bear with exceeding severity on a particular section. There ought to be associated with Commonwealth legislation generally a compensating principle that those whose interests are prejudiced by the larger interests of the community as a whole, should not have to bear the whole and unequal burden. It is further stipulated in the Labour platform that there shall be other equitable arrangements as compensation to the States for the serious disabilities inevitably created by the unequal incidence of the Australian tariff and embargo in regard to the distribution of costs and benefits. That is to say, there are two aspects of the impact of Federal policy on the States which the Labour platform contemplates. One is the general effect of the legislative policy of this Parliament and its varying incidence on a community that has varying standards and administrative costs, and inequalities of wealth and population. The second is that for the first time in Commonwealth political history, there has been included in a federal platform, recognition of the fact that the tariff gives advantages to certain sections of the community as against others, and that in certain States the sections which benefit represent a larger proportion of the community than in other States, whilst in some States those who suffer the greater weight of the disadvantage of the tariff in general constitute the more numerous section of the community.
– The platform does not say how it is to he done.
– The platform was evolved for the guidance of honorable members sitting on this side of the House, and will be reflected in the policy of the Commonwealth when this party again occupies the treasury bench. It is very definitely an addition to the notable contributions which the Labour movement has made to statesmanship in Australia, and is yet another instalment of the very valuable service rendered by that party to the Commonwealth.
This bill proposes that the grant to South Australia this year shall be reduced by £175,000 below that of last year, that the grant to Western Australia shall be reduced by £300,000, and, that the grant to Tasmania shall be increased by £150,000; on balance, the total obligation of the Commonwealth this year will be reduced from £2,750,000 to £2,430,000. There have been changes in the personnel of the Commonwealth Grants Commission recently, but the reports before Parliament have been compiled by three gentlemen who have displayed remarkable industry and research and are unquestionably possessed of great knowledge. I submit with all respect, however, that they have not displayed judgment in keeping with their scholarship and industry. Furthermore, they have not rendered any very notable contribution towards a solution of the problems of the States with disabilities and their claims upon the Commonwealth. “As a matter of fact before the commission was established the Commonwealth Treasury had recognized that certain States required special assistance and it is extraordinary that the Treasury, after judging the claims submitted by the claimant States, reached approximately the same conclusions as the Commonwealth Grants Commission itself had reached after a collossal amount of labour. In 1932-33 the Treasury agreed that South Australia should be granted £1,000,000, and in 1933-34 without any expert guidance it increased the grant to £1,150,000. The Treasury was quite cognizant of the fact that the claims of the States had not been adequately met by this Parliament. The grant for South Australia, which before 1932-33 had been less than £1,000,000, was raised by the Scullin Government to that figure because it felt that the circumstances of that State warranted much more substantial aid than had been previously given. In the next financial year the first Lyons Government agreed that the grant should be further increased. The grant for Western Australia in 1932-33 was £500,000. In the following year, without guidance from any commission, the Treasury increased it to £600,000. In 1932-33 the grant, to Tasmania was £330,000 and in the following year that was increased by the Treasury to £380,000. Thus the upward momentum in giving grants to the claimant States had been recognized as desirable by the Government itself, without any very elaborate inquiries, but merely through using the political wisdom which governments possess, drawing on the advice of the Treasury officers, and weighing fairly and reasonably the merits of the ease as presented by the States. The Commonwealth Grants Commission was appointed in 1933 and as honorable members who- were here at that time will recall, the Prime Minister in introducing the measure for the consideration of Parliament said that one of the great services which the commission would render to Parliament would be the determination of some principle in connexion with the assessment of these grants, thus giving to them some stability so that the State Governments instead of having to come year after year as mendicants to submit claims based upon their immediate needs would be assured of annual amounts upon which they could rely for at least a reasonable period. The commission, however, has failed to arrive at any principle, and so far from giving stability to the amounts which the State Treasurers might expect to receive under section 96 of the Constitution, it has left them after three years of monumental labour as much in a state of uncertainty to-day as they were before, it was appointed. As a matter of fact, in 1934-35, after having presented a most voluminous report to the Government, the commission recommended that the grant for South Australia should be increased to £1,400,000, and that for Western Australia to an amount which the
Treasury had fixed previously, -whilst the grant, for Tasmania -was increased by a miserable £20,000. Thus, viewing the first year’s work of the commission by and large, it can bo said that however erudite may have been the arguments advanced in justification of the grants recommended, the advice tendered by the commission contributed nothing which enabled the Treasury to understand the situation any better than it did before the commission was appointed. In 1935-36 increased grants were made of £100,000 to South Australia, £200,000 to “Western Australia, .and £50,000 to Tasmania. Thus, the upward trend which had been established by the Treasury for two years before the commission was constituted, was maintained by the commission in the first two years of its operation. For this year it is proposed that the grants to South Australia and Western Australia shall be reduced and that the grant to Tasmania shall he increased. The proposed grants per capita to each of the three claimant States for this year .are as follows : -
I direct the attention of honorable members to the extraordinary anomaly, not between the proposed grants for Tasmania and Western Australia, but between those proposed for Western Australia and South Australia. By and large, South Australia and Western Australia are almost analogous States; they are primary producing in character; each State has a relatively large area to administer. South Australia has the advantages of having a much larger population and an admittedly greater accumulation of wealth, earned as the result of long years of profitable settlement in the agricultural areas, the enormous economic advantage which accrued to the city of Adelaide for many years from the operation of the Broken Hill mines, and the large investment and accumulation of capital in profitable enterprises in the eastern States. Yet the Commonwealth Grants Commission, having regard to all the factors, has recommended for South Australia a grant equalling £1 3s. Id. per capita more than that proposed for West- ern Australia. I submit that that very contrast alone vitiates the general arguments of the commission. I make no case against South Australia. The Treasurer of that State was good enough to say on one occasion when I was presenting the Western Australian case to the commission that I had not at any time attempted to set one State against another or sought to enable my own State to score at the expense of other claimant States. It seems to me extraordinary that this differential treatment should have been recommended by men who have a knowledge of the two States, of their economic structure and their general character; each of them is subject to approximately the same seasonal vicissitudes, their populations are spread over vast areas notwithstanding that approximately one-half is concentrated in the capital cities; their education, hospital services, railways, water supply, and the like cost about the same amount;’ and their administrative charges are almost equal. There is certainly a trifling difference between net losses on the public debts in the two States. As a matter of fact the net loss in South Australia in 1934-35 was £4 13s. Sd. a head of population as against £4 Ils. 7d. in Western Australia. Yet the losses in Western Australia in respect of its public debt are held against that State in a detailed examination by the commission, whereas it would appear that little or no cognizance is taken of the losses incurred in South Australia. I contend that the losses on the public debt constitute a major charge against the tax revenues of both States. It appears to be extraordinary that the commission recommended for South Australia a much higher per capita grant than for Western Australia. I want it to be understood that I am making out a case against the recommendations of the commission rather than against the proposed grant to South Australia. The per capita revenue from taxation in South Australia, according to the latest available returns, is £5 lis. lid., whilst in Western Australia it is £5 9s. lid. Therefore, obviously .the tax revenues and the revenue losses on the public debt in both States approximate per capita; yet the commission makes this extraordinary differentiation in the amounts which it recommends.
– No doubt it took into consideration the gold-mining industry in “Western Australia.
– The proceeds of that industry would figure in the taxable capacity of Western Australia, and in its production indices. In order to make a just comparison, it is necessary to take into consideration the total industrial effort in each State, regardless of the forms of production which contribute to it. .Et really makes no difference to the result whether a man works in a gold mine or a wheat field. Notwithstanding the minuteness of the commission’s calculations in its first report, its recommendations approximated to the grants which had been made by the Commonwealth Government without any such elaborate inquiry. The second report marked no change in practice. Indeed the commission adhered to the tentative principles stated in its first report, and the third report with only a slight modification is like, in this respect, its two predecessors. Chapter eight of the latest report describes the method by which the commission arrived at the amount it recommended in each case. First of all it had to correct the budgets of five States, by a series of adjustments which it deemed necessary to make allowance for special circumstances. It first tried to correct six budgets, but finally decided to leave that of the largest State out of the calculation altogether. I know that the Treasurer will take refuge behind the commission’s explanation that New South Wales had the largest deficit, and that if its budget were included in the average, the position of the claimant States would bc shown to be more favorable in comparison with that of the non-claimant States, and the amount of the grants would have benn correspondingly reduced.
– Their position would be worse.
– The Treasurer must know that the commission professes to make all allowance in its consideration of each budget for those factors not capable of comparison. He must also know that much of the difficulty in New. South Wales in regard to the deficit is a heritage from events of three or four years ago, and that if a. true comparison were made between like factors, it would be just as easy to include New South Wales as to exclude it.
– It was to the advantage of the small States to exclude it.
– I am not so sure. I believe that, when we take into consideration the scale of social services in New South Wales, and the fact that child endowment is no longer paid out of a special tax, we should reach a fairer result if we were to take into consideration all the relevant factors in all the States. I do not believe that the fairest result is obtained by making a comparison with a State like Victoria, where taxation is Tow, because that State, rather disgracefully, in my judgment, relies too much on its hospital Saturdays, and on private benevolence generally .for the upkeep of its hospitals, and the provision of its social services. In the other States, these services are paid for out of taxation which explains why the per capita taxation is lower in Victoria than in the other States.
There is, however, another and more important factor to be considered. The two great cities of Australia, Melbourne and Sydney, draw an immense income from places remote even from their own States. Western Australia, contributes very largely to the industrial activity of Victoria. Wages are paid in Victoria out of the purchases effected by miners in Kalgoorlie, and workmen on the stations in the Murchison district. During the last five years, Western Australia imported from the other States goods to the value of £44,400,000, but exported to the other States during the same period goods to the value of only £5,840,000. That is to say, Western Australia imported from other States goods worth nearly nine times as much as the goods it exported to them. During the last sixteen years, Western Australia imported £12S,000,000 worth of goods from other States, but sold to those States only £21,000,000 worth of goods. If the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) were able to find for the manufacturers of the eastern States a customer that would buy from them £45,000,000 worth of goods in five years, and would require them to buy in return less than £6,000,000 worth, they would be loud in his praise for having found so valuable and profitable an outlet for their goods, and they would be prepared to spend their money freely to safeguard and extend thai market. In the present instance, however, instead of the eastern States adopting that attitude, we get these extraordinary recommendations from the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which has an uncanny capacity for getting hold of statistics, and then failing to apply them properly. For instance, in Appendix No. 1 (Z>) it
Supplies figures showing the manner in which Commonwealth consolidated stock securities have been taken up in the various States. Annual interest payments from these securities in Australia amount to £19,160,000, as the commission discovered upon application to the Commonwealth Bank authorities. Of this amount, £8,000,000 was paid in New South Wales, and £6,390,000 in Victoria, or nearly £14,500,000 out of a total of £19,160,000. Queensland collects £1,660,000, South Australia nearly £2,000,000, and Western Australia approximately £500,000, while the amount paid in Tasmania is £620,0001 Thus, the “ bewildered and stricken State of Tasmania” receives a larger share of the annual interest payments in connexion with Commonwealth securities than does the whole State of Western Australia.
– That shows that the people of Tasmania made larger investments.
– This is what it shows: settlement really began in Western Australia with the dawn of federation, immediately after the gold discoveries, and very few rich men went to Western Australia. For the most part, the new settlers were miners from Ballarat and. Bendigo, and “ bushwhackers “ from all over the world. Western Australia has had to develop its industries as a debtor community. Capital had to be secured either from London or from the eastern States, and the mines were developed with external capital. The farms were developed with loans obtained either from the banks -or from the Government. The greater part of the production of Western Australia, during the last twenty years, has had to satisfy an immense interest obligation, because those who were operating the capital were not its owners. The accusation is frequently made that Western Australia has been a heavy borrower. That is true, but it had to borrow in order to carry on its remarkable activities. It had to borrow iu order to construct the goldfields water scheme, one of the most wonderful engineering enterprises in this country. Even with all its borrowing, the per capita loss on the public debt has been only £4 lis. 7d., as compared with a loss of £4 13s. 8d. in South Australia; yet Western Australia has been penalized in the recommendations of the Grants Commission because of its alleged lack of prudence in regard to its loan policy. I have tried to do justice to the commission, but I am at a loss to see how itcan justify its recommendations, even on its ow21 premises. It has taken the budget position as a starting point, and allowance is made for special factors in respect of the year under statistical review; the circumstances of nearly two years ago are the basis taken for this year’s necessities. I tried to persuade the commission that it was a fundamental mistake to allow this lag of two years. I said that, even in the absence of accurate data, it should work on approximate figures in arriving at a rough estimate of the States’ requirements over a period of at least three years, instead of making an annual revision, as hitherto. This would allow a greater period of time to be taken into consideration, and it would be possible to make more just allowance for fluctuating factors, and seasonal vicissitudes.
I question whether the commission is justified in framing its recommendations simply on the classified needs of the States, as ascertained by a. detailed analysis of their budgets. There were, I submit, three considerations on which the commission could have postulated its whole investigation : It could have sought, first, to ascertain what is the nature and extent of the responsibility of the Federal Government for the direct and indirect consequences of what can be described as federal economic policy. Then it could have attempted to ascertain what would be required to establish budgetary equilibrium on the part of the claimant
States with the non-claimant States, with such adjustment between those two sets of States as would be necessary, having regard to the general relationship of the Commonwealth to the States in financial matters. Thirdly, it could have had regard for what transfers of financial resources were to be effected, through the Commonwealth, in order not only to establish the national minimum standard, but also to ensure that the States would not be precluded from the realization of the maximum standard of economic welfare that they deemed to be possible. These three principles could have been merged to evolve a general formula. As the Treasurer knows, the commission discarded the first principle intoto, and refused to give any consideration to the responsibility of the Federal Government for the direct and indirect consequences of federal policy.
– The commission has given its reasons.
– Yes.; but it is part of the history of this federation that disabilities were recognized by the founders of the Commonwealth as a claim for special assistance; that is the reason why section96 was inserted in the Constitution. Indeed, for the first five years of federation it was laid down that Western Australia should be allowed to impose customs duties on goods coming from theeastern States. Furthermore, when, in1910, the system of paying 25s. per capitato the States was substituted for the distribution among the States of three-quarters of the collections from customs duties, the principle was laid down that Western Australia should receive, in addition to the per capita payment, a special annual grant which would diminishat the rate of £10,000 a year. When this special payment ended, in 1924, it was recoguzed by the Commonwealth Governmentof the day, and also insisted upon by the State government, that Western Australia’s disabilities were increasing rather than decreasing, and the Government therefore appointed a special commission, which consisted of a former Treasurer of the Commonwealth, a former Comptroller of Customs, and a representative South Australian citizen, to inquire into the claim of that State. These three gentlemen furnished a majority and minority report to this Parliament. The Government accepted the minority report, which recommended the grantof a smaller sum of money than had been recommended in the majority report. It is incontestible that this Parliament, when it established the Commonwealth Grants Commission, must have had in mind more the disabilities of the States than their needs. The justification for that statement is that only in its latest report does the commission state that it has at last secured from the Commonwealth Treasury any acceptance of that principle. For two years officials of the Treasury, in submissions which they have made before the commission, have stated that the basis upon which the grants had been made to the States was that of disabilities of the States.
– We still say so.
– I am astonished that a responsible government should, at the behest of an external commission, abandon its own policy, and also the general principle which has guided the Federal Parliament in this matter for 33 years. I personally would refuse to do it, and I am quite positive that there is no justification for what the commission has recommended. I warn the Treasurer that the postulates which are contained in the recommendations of the commission expose him or his successors to claims for special grants, large in dimensions, from States other thanthe three claimant States at the present time.
– Some of the other States also have claims.
– That may be true. I shall also concede that, in the narrow limits within which the commission’s recommendations have been made - disregarding as impracticable of measurement the monetary effect of the impact of federal policy, and examining only the budgets of the various States - it would appear that New South Wales should receive the largest grant this year and South Australia the lowest.
– New South Wales finds most of the money.
– I assure the Minister for Defence that he makes a sad mistake when he thinks that the whole of the wealth of this community is produced in the environs of his very favoured capital.
– At any rate, two-thirds of that wealth is produced there.
– No. The honorable gentleman apparently is under the delusion that an office with a stenographer, through which a large number of cheques flow in and out, is the seat of wealth. It is not; it is only the place where the wealth of the community is registered and allocated. The farms, the mines, the workshops, the places at the end of a thousand miles of railway and the outports of this community, are where the wealth is produced. They make possible that very splendid city of which the honorable gentleman is so proud, and I have nothing to say against it.
I shall now show what was done in assessing the Western Australian claim for special grant this year. The claim which Western Australia submitted was one which the Commission might reasonably have examined. Western Australia submitted its claim in clear fashion. It was based upon three premises. The first was, the losses suffered by the State owing to the various changes made in the methods of adjusting the financial relations of the Commonwealth, and the States. The only witness that one need call in proof of the general merit of that contention is the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth (Mr. Menzies) ; and one need only cite the speech he delivered at the Premiers Conference about three years ago, to demonstrate the changes which have taken place in the method of Weighing up the responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the States respectively, and how those relationships have changed from time to time. I venture to say that these changes have been to the advantage of the two States with the largest populations, and to the disadvantage of the States which have not achieved the same growth. The second ground for Western. Australia’s claim is the unequal incidence of the tariff; and third, tile impact of Federal policy generally on State policy and finance. Then there are disabilities of the State arising from the development, control and main*tenance of a large territory with a relatively small population and limited resources; isolation from the large centres of population of Australia; special dependence on primary industries; and the inability of the State to develop adequately its secondary industries owing to interstate free trade. The Treasurer will acknowledge that to that submission the Grants Commission has made no rejoinder whatever, It is true that, having reached a figure too low this year for what it considered that Western Australia should receive by way of grant, the commission as an afterthought decided to add something on account of drought losses by the State. For this purpose it granted an infinitesimal amount in order to increase the total of the grant to £500,000. This is the sort of mathematical labour which the commission had to embark upon in order to arrive at the figure of £500,000 as a disabilities grant to Western Australia this year. On the basis of the normal standard, which is the standard arrived at after the examination of all State budgets with the exception of New South Wales, the deficit from Western Australia was calculated to be £161,000. The year on which the grant is based is !1 934-35 when the actual deficit recorded by Western Australia was £167,000. To this sum was added the Commonwealth grant of £600,000, a special Commonwealth grant of £133,000, and a small special adjustment of £5,000 relative to group settlement interest, making a total of £738,000. The adjusted deficit was thus £905,000. Having made these additions the commission then proceeded to go to the other end of the scale. From this total of £905,000 it subtracted the standard deficit of £16.1,000, leaving a difference of £744,000 which was the unadjusted grant for this year. An allowance of £20,000 for economy in administration made the total £764,000. From that amount by way of penalties there was deducted £1S8,000 for extravagance in social services, and £120,000 follow taxation, leaving £456,000. Having thus in the first place raised the grant to £905,000 the commission, as honorable members will see, proceeded to reduce it by cuts for extravagance on account of social services and for what is said to be the inadequacy of local taxation. Those subtractions left a sum of £450,000, which was a horrifying figure, when compared with the amount paid during the previous year. The commission thereupon went back upon one of its fundamental principles, and added a special allowance of £44,000 for the effect of drought on thefinances of the State, thus making the final grant, £500,000. The Treasurer will know that the sum of £44,000 must have been a wild and woolly guess because at that period the commission had no knowledge of what would be the effects of the drought.
– There was a drought last year.
– I agree that there was a partial drought, but last year’s budgetary figures are not reviewed.
– That special allowance was thrown in at the last moment for good measure.IfI were a representative of Western Australia, I should not look the gift “ in the mouth “.
– I am not; but it has the appearance of being an afterthought on the part of the commission, because it had reduced the grant to Western Australia to a figure lower than that which it had reckoned the State should receive. Having in the first place arrived at a figure and made several additions to it the commission found that in its opinion the amount became excessive. It therefore, began to reduce the figure, but found that it was still too high and therefore took off something else. This latter subtraction reduced the grant by too much, so the commission proceeded to make an addition in order to increase it to a higher figure. It has all the appearance of being a calculation endless in detail, marvellous in perspicacity, in order to arrive finally at the figure which it had originally conceived shouldbe paid to Western Australia. I regret that this was my final conclusion in regard to this year’s report of the commission in respect of Western Australia’s claim for a disabilities grant. I frankly acknowledge that it is doubtful whether any royal commission appointed by the Commonwealth Government, except perhaps, the one on taxation - I offer no opinion on the one dealing with banking because I have not seen the results of its work - has made such detailed research as is revealed in the commission’s almost monumental reports. I make no com plaint at all about its industry, and I cast no reflection whatever upon its knowledge and the remarkable learning which appears to guide its members in their excursions through “the Hampstead Maze “ of figures which have surrounded them. But I do reflect upon their judgment. The reduction of Western Australia’s grant this year from £800,000 to £500,000 is a grevious failure of Australian statesmanship. It is a mistake from the commission’s own premises and cannot be justified in view of the facts that the taxation per capita and the social services cost approximately the same in South Australia and Western Australia. I know that the Treasurer will produce figures in connexion with taxable capacity in order to prove that Western Australia is undertaxed and that South Australia is severely taxed. But the inability of the commission to allocate to the States the collections at the Federal Income Tax Central Office, and the fact that there is no criterion at all available which would enable a reasonable examination to be made of the taxable capacity of the lower incomes throughout Australia, detract from the value of those figures. Federal income tax returns have been cited by the commission. The Treasurer knows, of course, that payment of Commonwealth income tax commences when the taxpayer has an income of £250 a year, and that if he has a wife and two children the exemption limit is £350. The honorable gentleman knows further that 65 per cent. of the tax from personal exertion last year was paid by those whose incomes exceed £5,000 per annum, and the inability to allocate the vast amount of the higher ranges of tax has led the commission to a grave error, because if it has overstated the taxable capacity of Western Australia then it has, by the same error, underrated the severity of taxation. One of the reasons why the State taxable capacity in South Australia is low is that Commonwealth bonds cannot be taxed by State governments.
I express my regret that the tradition which has marked this Parliament of recognizing disabilities arising from federal policy as grounds for special grants to the States has not received consideration in the latest report of the commission. The founders of the Commonwealth were wiser than the commission itself. They realized that there would be inevitable disabilities in the federal system under which the government of the people is divided between two authorities, one exercising certain functions over the whole domain, and the other residual powers. Some of the States are complaining that they have to bear an undue proportion of the burdens due to national policy, under which States which were well established at the inauguration of the federal system were enabled to make more rapid progress than others.
It is for these reasons that I regret what I believe to be a very serious mistake in statesmanship on the part of two members of the commission, at least, whose influence in its deliberations and its findings were considerable; but I cannot exonerate the Government for having, in its latest submission, abandoned the arguments which, on two occasions, it advanced to the commission. There has been a change in the personnel. Who knows that the commission may not undergo further changes, and that, as the individuals who compose it hold different views, it may alter its findings? We have seen the High Court of Australia reverse its interpretation of the legislative powers of the Commonwealth. We have also seen the Commonwealth Grants Commission reverse the traditional policy of this Parliament. It may happen that the Government, by the changes which it has made, will be called upon in the next report to draw bills founded upon recommendations based on States disabilities. Then the Treasurer will be in the position which I think he ought to occupy to-day. I understand that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) intends to move an amendment to the bill relating to Western Australia, and I desire to inform the honorable gentleman that I shall vote for it.
.- Recently, when I asked a question of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) relating to the grant proposed for Western Australia this year, I received what I regarded as an unsatisfactory answer, and I thereupon gave notice that when the bill deal ing with the grant for Western Australia was under consideration, I would move an amendment in the following terms: -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted from the motion “ That the bill be now read a second, time with a view to the insertion of the following . words in place thereof: - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide that financial consideration shall bc given for disabilities arising from Commonwealth policy and legislative enactments “.
I intend the amendment to be regarded as a challenge to the Government’s policy and the attitude of the Treasurer (MrCasey) on this issue. There has been a complete repudiation of all the promises that were made by the Government, and an abandonment of the principle enunciated when the bill to appoint the commission was under consideration in 1933. On that occasion the Prime Minister made it abundantly clear that the needs of the States would not be the sole consideration; that provision would be made to meet the disabilities which certain of the States were suffering as the result of Commonwealth legislation and enactments. The right honorable gentleman stated definitely that the Government desired that a comprehensive investigation should be made by an impartial body which did not owe allegiance to either the Commonwealth or the States. I interjected during his speech -
It will be comprehensive in one sense only, that is. as to the amount of money that shall be paid and not as to the disabilities of the State.
The Prime Minister then said -
The honorable member may rest assured that any State which makes- an application for a grant will also submit the grounds of its’ application so that the whole subject will be inquired into by the commission. If a State feels that as a result of, say, the operation of the tariff, it is suffering disadvantage, therewill be nothing to prevent vb from not only putting that to the commission as a reason why it should be assisted, but also assessing the value of that disadvantage. If that is done, the commission must, of necessity, inquire into and report upon the amount that ought to be contributed by the Commonwealth to compensate for the disadvantage.
– The commission has done all that.
– The report presented by the commission - that needs and not disabilities must be considered - shows that the principle enunciated by the Prime Minister in 1933 has been com- pletely abandoned. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), who followed in the debate on the Commonwealth Grants Commission Bill, supported my view, saying -
The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has correctly outlined the provisions of this legislation for the setting up of a commission to inquire into the disabilities suffered by various States under federation, and to assess the amount, if ‘any, that should be paid to those States, by way of compensation.
The honorable member for Darling Downs ‘(Sir Littleton Groom) said -
The first duty of the commission will be to determine its line of approach .to the problems presented, the best method for examining the difficulties peculiar to each State, and generally to determine the disabilities, if any, of the various States due to the operation of the tariff, the Navigation Act, arbitration laws, and so on.
The honorable member for ‘Gippsland, now the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) said -
One of the first tilings that occurred to mo when I read the bill, was that it proposes to enable monetary compensation to be paid on account of disabilities, rather than to set up a body with the object of recommending how the disabilities themselves may bo removed.
When the bill was before the Senate, the Leader of the Government there made this statement -
They (the States) will have the opportunity to place -before the commission the case in relation to their disabilities.
Honorable members will probably recall that the measure was dealt with on a late day in the session, and I gave notice of an amendment; but as the bill was brought on again for the .committee stage some days later at about two o’clock in the morning, and in the meantime I had retired, there was no opportunity for me to submit the amendment, the purpose of which was to make it clear that State disabilities must be considered. I am sure that had that amendment been submitted, it would have been accepted, because it was in keeping with the recognized principle of compensating States for disabilities suffered under the federation. Every member of the federal conventions, realized that Western Australia would suffer definite financial disabilities by joining the federation as one of the original States. The belief was general then that if Western Australia could remain outside the federation for 20 or 30 years it would have an opportunity to become more firmly established and perhaps would not then suffer so severely from Commonwealth policy. I have no desire at all to harass the Government. My sole purpose is to secure the endorsement of a principle that is vital to those States which suiter from federal policy. I. object to what appears to me to be an abandonment of the principle upon which the Commonwealth Grants Commission was appointed. Its latest report states, on page 1-3 -
While the Commonwealth Treasury raised some objections ‘to the system of basing ‘State grants on budgetary results’-
If it is the opinion of the Treasurer, ‘that the Commonwealth should make grants according to -the needs -of ‘States, well and good. On -the other hand, there must be some compensation for fosses sustained as the result of federal policy. If the Government intends to depart entire’ly from this principle, ‘as the Treasurer has done in this bill, I .am very much disappointed - and expressed some regret that the basis adopted by the commission for assessing grants differed so materially from the principle accepted by Commonwealth Governments for many years, i.e., compensation for disabilities due to federation and federal policy, it has now expressed a willingness to assist the commission to apply the principles and methods set out in its second report. . .
It is not now proposed by the Commonwealth Treasury, however, to continue to stress the principle of payment on the ground ot disabilities, seeing that that basis has apparently been abandoned by the commission.
– Bc fair. Read the preceding three lines.
– I have no desire to be unfair. I did not read those lines in the report because I did not think they were of sufficient importance. However, this is what the commission says -
The attitude of the Commonwealth Treasury is indicated in the following extract from the evidence tendered to the commission by .the Treasury in Canberra recently -
It is not now proposed by the Commonwealth Treasury, however, to continue to stress the principle of payment on the ground of disabilities, seeing that that basis has apparently been abandoned by the -commission.
Do we propose to allow these three gentlemen to dictate to this Parliament in regard to the basis which should be adopted? Should the promises and fledges made by the Government be ignored merely because they say that the Commission can arrive at no method for the assessment of disabilities, and believe that it is wiser simply to inquire into the budgetary position of the States and make their recommendation according to the needs of those States? Every honorable member believed that disabilities were to be considered. There seems to have been a total abandonment of that principle. I have asked several Ministers to promise an amendment of the act to make it clear that disabilities must be considered, but so far without any definite result. Honorable members are aware of the feeling which exists in “Western Australia because of the difficulties with which that State has had to contend in its development. That feeling will be accentuated when it is learned that whatever efforts may be put forward, allowance is not to be made for the effect of Commonwealth policy in the direction of the development of industries in the eastern States to the detriment of those which are fardistant from the centre of government.
– Would Western Australia have been entitled to a larger grant if the other principle had been applied ?
– I do not know whether it would or would not.
– Of course it would.
– A lot would depend upon the manner in which the case was presented. I have no desire to reflect upon my friend the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). Honorable members must not overlook the fact that the Labour party is in favour of a high tariff. I contend that the effects of the tariff were not stated as strongly as they might have been, and that the influence exerted by the Navigation Act, which results in a considerable loss to Western Australia, was not even mentioned.
– The honorable gentleman knows that I submitted the case approved by the Government of Western Australia.
– I beg the honorable gentleman’s pardon for not having made that clear. I should be very sorry indeed to reflect in the slightest degree upon him. I merely wished to stress the point that mention was not made of the losses sustained under the Navigation Act or the increased costs due to primage, and that losses due to the tariff were under estimated. At page 72 of the budget-papers will be found a table which sets out the financial assistance given to the States. It shows that in 1934-35 South Australia received from the Commonwealth a total of £3,939,994, and Western Australia a total of £2,S47,914. In the following year South Australia received a total of £3,575,751, and Western Australia a total of £2,S7l,602. It is estimated that this year South Australia will receive a total of £3,247,306, a reduction of £328,445, and Western Australia, a total of £2,169,842, a reduction of £701,760. This follows one of the worst seasons ever experienced in Western Australia.
– Of the reduction, £400,000 is accountable to the fact that there is no wheat grant this year.
– That applies equally to South Australia and the other States. I have read in the commission’s report many statements in regard to State extravagance. I admit that there has been a good deal of extravagance. The Leader of the Opposition has praised the commission for the exhaustive nature of its report. It has failed to draw attention to acts of extravagance by the Commonwealth and the other States; fo/r instance, no mention was made of the Federal policy in 1927 when a sum of £20,000,000 was voted for road construction and a further £20,000,000 for ‘ housing. From 1923 until the beginning of the depression in 1929 the atmosphere throughout Australia was one of riotousness; and when governments are extravagant the people also are extravagant. I do not now hold the high regard which I formerly held of opinions expressed by members of the commission. In paragraph 73 of its report the commission says -
Moreover, the hurden of the tariff has lessened. It will he remembered that, in the effort to balance exports and imports, the tariff was raised to a very high level in 1930, but it has since been reduced to below the level of 1928.
That statement indicates total ignorance of the effects of the tariff and of the reduction of duties, and has no basis in fact. If honorable members will turn to page 270 of the Commonwealth Y earBook they will find that the average duty on dutiable goods is no less than 63 per cent., which is reduced to approximately 60 pec cent, when a deduction is made on account of primage paid on free goods. The average duty on dutiable goods in the year mentioned by the commission was nearly double what it was in 1928 and costs have increased accordingly.
A lengthy reference is made in the report to the effects of exports. In Western Australia the efforts to revive the gold-mining industry have proved most successful, and the effect has been to attract a large amount of capital to that State, with the result that there lias been a good deal of new development and trade has been particularly lively. But mining, a.0 is well known, is an evanescent industry, which must decline with the extraction of the gold-bearing ore. 1 speak more particularly of agriculture, because it is upon agriculture more than upon any other industry that we must ultimately depend. The commission has furnished some very interesting particulars in appendix “No. 19, at pages 206 and 207 of its report. It there shows the value of the production of unsheltered industries in the different States. In the year 1932-33 the average for Australia was 34.88 per cent, or £16 16s. 7d. a head, while in Western Australia it was 59.88 per cent., or £36 ls. Id. a head. In 1 933-34 the aver.-ige for Australia was 37.98 per cent., or £20 5s. Id. a head, compared with 60.34 per cent., or £40 2s. 2d. a head in the case of Western Australia, the reason, for the wide disparity being that that State depends almost wholly upon its export trade. It must be remembered that the development of agriculture in Western Australia began years after the eastern States had been developed. A. serious attempt to develop agriculture was made only after gold had been discovered. I suppose that the cost of labour and materials is at least 200 per cent, greater to-day than it was 40 or 50 years ago. A detailed statement of costs shows that in the development of a 1,000 acre farm, that which cost £2,600 in 1913 cost £4,400 in 1931. These additional costs are a standing charge against the land itself. The policy of the Government is undoubtedly to promote industries in the eastern States. That was shown clearly by the tariff action the Government took just prior to the conclusion of the last period of this session. But such a policy can be of no benefit to States like Western Australia which are in the developmental stage. To say that in future the needs and not the disabilities of these States are to be considered, with the object of enabling them to maintain something like a balanced budget, is mo9t unjust. The inequity of the position as between the States was clearly shown two years ago when an amount of £101,000 which the Government, of South Australia used from State funds to assist the wheatfarmers of that State was taken into consideration in assessing the amount of grant to be voted to it, whereas the action of the Government of Western Australia in declining to make a grant for a similar purpose from State funds, in order that it might maintain a balanced budget, was disregarded. It seems that if Western Australia had granted £200,000 for drought relief, and by doing so had created a deficit of that amount, the con> mission would have recommended an increase of the grant by that amount. I -have no desire to say a word against South Australia. I realize that grave difficulties are being faced in that State, but I do not think that any one who seriously regards the position can do other than agree that the disabilities of Western Australia, are greater than those of South Australia. I do not say that Western Australia should be provided with as large a grant as South Australia under existing conditions, but it is contemptible for the Government to declare that the disabilities which the various States suffer under federation will not be considered in the futureWestern Australia has nobly accepted the responsibilities attached to its associationwith the Commonwealth. For instance, during the period of the war it made greater sacrifices than any other State, and a larger percentage of its men volunteered for service at the front. But practically no Commonwealth money waa spent in Western Australia during that period1, although amounts aggregating millions of pounds were spent in the eastern States. Seeing that it is obvious that the establishment of big industrial concerns in the eastern States can be of no benefit to Western Australia, that State is entitled to more consideration than it is getting. Hitherto Western Australia has suffered all the disadvantages of federation, whilst- enjoying none of its benefits. The Leader of the Opposition has fully demonstrated the enormous value of the Western Australian trade to the eastern- States, a trade it is forced to’ carry on owing to high and restrictive tariffs. I urge the Treasurer to give effect to the assurance that was- given- honorable members in 1933 when the Commonwealth Grants Commission Bill was before the House, to- the effect that the disabilities of the States would be fully considered. I was unable on that occasion, because of the unseemly hour at which the- committee stage was passed, to obtain the inclusion, in the bill of certain words that I wished to- have inserted in- it, and I accepted an assurance that was given on behalf of the Government that the end which I desired to> serve would be borne in mind. So- far the Government ha3 been guilty of a distinct breach of faith in that connexion, . and I ask that the whole matter be reconsidered.
– I have carefuly read the latest report of the. Commonwealth Grants Commission, and have formed the opinion that the members of the. commission have endeavoured conscientiously to discharge the heavy task placed upon them. On the whole, the recommendations of the commission are just. I remind honorable members that section 96 of the Constitution provides that -
Parliament may grant financial assistance to. any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.
According to The Annotated Constitution of’ the Australian Commonwealth, by Quick and Garran-, the financial assistance contemplated in that provision was intended to be as “medicine, not the daily food”. It was never meant that that provision should be used as the justification for the payment of permanent grants, for it was left to the Commonwealth Parliament to determine, from time to time, the terms and conditions under which grants should be made. I refer honorable’ members to paragraph 407 of Quick and Garran’s book at page 871, which reads; -
Even without the express mention of terms and conditions, the Parliament, as the party in whose discretion it is to either grant or refuse assistance, would have been able to make its own terms. But though apparently, superfluous, the words, are not really so. They help to place beyond doubt the intention of the section, and to make it clear that the discretion of the Parliament is absolute, and that no duty is imposed upon- it of giving assistance without demur and without inquiry,, whenever assistance may be asked..’ The section is not intended to diminish’ the- responsibility of State Treasurers, or to introduce a regular- system of grants-in-aid. Its object is. to strengthen the financial position of the Commonwealth in view of possible contingencies, by affording an escape from any excessive rigidity of the financial clauses, lt is for use a* a safety valve, not. as- an open vent; and it does not contemplate financial difficulties any more than a safety valve contemplates explosions.
In the light of those comments, it. is interesting to observe the extent of the burden of these grants which has fallen upon the Commonwealth, and how regularly increasing payments have- been1 made to certain States.
I wish to preface my remarks on thi3 aspect of the subject by a. declaration that I am entirely in sympathy with the States concerned. Keeping that observation in mind, I direct attention to- the grant-in-aid made to Western Australia in 1910-11, the amount being £250,000. Grants continued annually thereafter. In 193-5-36, Western Australia’s, grant totalled ‘£800,000. The grant to Tasmania in 1912-13 was £95,000, and in 1936-37 it is proposed to pay to Tasmania £600,000. South Australia received a grant in 1929-30, the amount being £360,000. In 1935-36, the grant was £1,500,000, and this year it is- proposed to make a grant of £1,330.000. These amounts relate only to special grantsinaid. The statement made by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in his budget speechindicates, however, that for 1936-37 an amount of £8,991,000 will be provided for the States for interest and sinking fund payments under the financial agreement, £3,000,000 will be provided under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, £2,430,000 will he provided by special’ grants to three States, and £401,000’ will be set aside for grants to the States in forestry, mining and works undertakings. To put it in other words, the taxpayers of the Commonwealth are being called upon this year to provide £14,822,000 to assist the State governments. Of this amount £2^430,000 is for financial assistance to the three States.
It is proper that in this Parliament we should consider this subject from the point of view of the Commonwealth Government, and it must be borne’ in mind that, while, on the one hand the Commonwealth Government is being constantly pressed to grant additional remissions of taxation^ on the other hand, it is being asked continually for increased grants to State- governments. The other day the Treasurer of Queensland suggested, for example,, that the Financial Agreement should be revised to increase the amount payable to the States. Unless care is taken it will become impossible for further remissions of Commonwealth taxation to be granted. We are living under a federal system. Before- federation, the colonies grew up independently of one another. They were not units scientifically designed for a federation. But when federation was agreed to, the colonies became subject to a general constitution. This Parliament is therefore charged with the responsibility to- protect the welfare of each State. It cannot allow any one State to get info difficulties from which it cannot be extricated’. This responsibility must be faced. It would be deplorable if any one State became practically insolvent.
– That is the view that was taken in regard to New South Wales some years ago.
– That is so, and we must approach this subject, having that consideration in our minds, and also remembering, as was said by the learned writers of the volume from which I have already cited a passage, that grants under section 96 of the Constitu tion were intended to be regarded as “ medicine, not the daily food
Suggestions have been made from time to time that the- Constitution should be altered to provide for a different basis of distribution of Commonwealth revenue, but the Commonwealth Grants Commission finds that “ the difficulties of the claimants do not arise from any defect in the Constitution or the financial system as it operates at present.” The Commission has concluded, as- I think every person with a federal outlook would have to conclude, that there can be no diminution of Commonwealth powers of taxation. Australia is- a nation,, and as such must curvy its international responsibilities. Therefore,, this Parliament, cannot be so fettered or impeded as to vitiate its power to meet any national emergency that may arise. It would be a sorry state of affairs if in such circumstances the Commonwealth Parliament had to go cap in hand to the parliaments of the six States for authority to deal with a national emergency. It was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to-night that according to certain proposals of the Labour party definite provision should be implemented regarding the allocation of moneys raised by the Commonwealth, but I would strongly resist the placing of any such specific proposals in the Constitution. The Constitution should deal with the power to deal with a subject,, and the Legislature should exercise’ the power by acts of Parliament in any way it deems just. Any distribution of Commonwealth moneys must be by the authority of the Parliament. It is the responsibility of Parliament to consider such subjects, and the Parliament should face up to its responsibility in this respect.
Provision has been made for distribution of an amount of federal revenue among the States under the Financial Agreement.
– Yes, it was very prettily fixed up some years ago.
– We must, therefore, on this occasion, consider the making of financial grantsinaid to the States, under the provisions of section 9G of the Constitution. Many inquiries have been made into this subject by royal commissions and committees of one kind or another. Sir Nicholas Lockyer inquired into the subject with regard to Tasmania some time ago, and various other properly constituted, authorities have also considered it, but it would appeal1 that all of them have found it impossible to lay down any permanent principles. It was hoped when the Commonwealth Grants Commission was appointed that it might be able to devise some methods to make grants-in-aid ro necessitous States on a more or less defined basis, but that commission has also, apparently, decided that it is impossible to fix a formula which could be given general application. We are, therefore, thrown back to the consideration of other methods to deal with the problem. In paragraph 164 the commission reported -
In our second report, wc developed tlie tentative principles of the first, and concluded that thu relative financial position nf the States, when analysed with sufficient care and understanding, was the only basis on which special grants should >e made. Further consideration “and another year’s experience have lod ns to the following conclusion: -
Special giants are justified when a. State through financial stress from any cause in unable efficiently to discharge its functions as a member of the federation and should he determined by thu amount of help found necessary ‘to make it possible for that State by reasonable effort to function at a standard not appreciably below that of other States.
That sets out the principle by which the commission has been guided. In my opinion it is a sound principle. Those three States are part of the Australian Commonwealth. In order that they may function, a reasonable standard should be set, and it is the. duty of the rest of the Commonwealth to assist them to maintain that standard, as far as practicable, in comparison with tho other States. To that end such tilings as social services and the burden of taxation should be taken into account. After a great deal of research, careful examination, and minute investigation of the balance-sheets and budgets of the States, the commission arrived at certain conclusions. The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Swan have complained that the commission failed to take disabilities -into account. Tho honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) spoke at length regarding the disabilities of federal policy. South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania claim compensation or, at least, assistance, because of federal policy, on three grounds, namely, the effect of the federal tariff, the Navigation Act and federal arbitration laws. No other item of federal policy affects the situation.
Dealing with the tariff, the commission points out the difficulty of estimating its disadvantageous effect. In order to get a basis for consideration, it asked the States to submit their views. Having received their replies the commission accepted them. Obviously, the States claiming assistance would not underestimate the disadvantageous effect of the tariff on them. The commission dealt with this subject in paragraph 146 -
We are taking these tariff costs tentatively us measuring substantially the net adverse effects of Commonwealth policy so far as the States themselves are able to estimate them. Against them must bo set the benefits from “ the allocation of Commonwealth revenue and expenditure, omitting special grants. (See para. 5:?.)
It will be seen that the “benefits of allocation “ practically cancel the “ adverse effects of Commonwealth policy “.
– The comparison is not quite so easy as the commission’s report, would make it appear.
– I do not know what other things ought to be considered. The commission has analyzed the position carefully.
– I shall be satisfied if the honorable member will accept as readily Professor Giblin’s latest comment on Government policy.
– The commission accepted the statement of the Government of Western Australia regarding the effect of the tariff on that State. It then assessed the benefits arising from the allocation of Commonwealth revenue and expenditure, and found that they practically compensated the State for the ill effects of that policy. So far as tariff policy is concerned the main grievance of the three States is answered, and so we must look elsewhere to fin<? ground to support the contention that they have been unfairly treated. When the States entered the federation the economic conditions which would follow were anticipated.
– It was expected, that after the interstate barriers were thrown aside industries would develop in the places most suitable for their establishment, by reason of the existence of raw materials, power, supply of labour, and other factors. With the removal of those interstate barriers, Queensland lost some secondary industries which were established chiefly in Sydney and Melbourne. Tasmania and South Australia gained certain industries. Those effects of federation were anticipated; but it was never expected that changed economic conditions would result in permanent grants of financial assistance to the States affected. If, however, as the result of these things, a State is found t« be suffering from exceptionally adverse conditions, say, for instance, that a large percentage of its population goes to another State, the commission agrees that it would be right to grant it financial assistance for the loss sustained. But the States cannot expect to be compensated for a’ll the losses they have sustained in respect of their investments of loan moneys on public works. They cannot expect other States to levy taxes in order to compensate them for such losses. Nevertheless, if a State is in. danger of becoming insolvent, the Commonwealth must stand by it and prevent such a state of affairs from occurring. Appendix No. 4 to the commission’s report shows the losses accruing in respect of each State. In respect of South Aus tralia, the position is set out in the following statement on page 177 : -
It must bo remembered that Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales have also had losses. The commission, on page 177, gives the losses for all States-
Consideration of these losses raises an important question. At a time when large sums of money are being raised for unemployment relief, it is necessary to emphasize the need for ensuring that the money shall be devoted, as far as practicable, to purposes which will either render more efficient essential services or produce revenue.
– That cannot always be guaranteed.
– No ; but I emphasize the need for care. Works such as the irrigation schemes of New South Wales and some of the sewerage works in the States are reproductive. If expenditure from loans is increased year after year without any revenue being obtained from the objects of expenditure no income is produced to pay interest or to redeem the debt. I have in my mind the burden on the States and the assistance which should be given to them. The idea of the commission is that the States which are carrying heavy burdens should be able to carry on in accordance with a certain standard, and that to that end the more favoured States should be prepared to help other States not so well situated. I support that principle. The commission has done its work effectively and well; it has not overlooked the effect of the Navigation Act or of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In this connexion, I point out that some of the States in Australia have given conditions in industry in excess of Federal Arbitration Court awards. That is definitely the position in Queensland, and it may-not be different in some of the other States. The commission finds that on the whole
State tribunals have not attempted to put their wage rates substantially below the federal rates, so that the policy of the Commonwealth in regard to arbitration does not count for much in considering their claims. I have sympathy with the claim of Western Australia for consideration because of the burden that State is carrying in developing the north-western portion of the continent. According to official reports the northwestern part of Western Australia is a valuable part of the Commonwealth, but in its present unoccupied condition, it looks more like a menace than a benefit. The commission made a special suggestion for consideration by the advisers of the Commonwealth that a grant of assistance be made in connexion with the North-West.
– The Commonwealth Government has done such wonderful work in the Northern Territory; it has blundered everywhere !
– Has Western Australia done any better in developing the North- West? It is fair to suggest that the Commonwealth should assist the State in developing that area.
– What about assisting Tasmania ?
– The Grants Commission points out that grants cannot be assessed upon the absence of resources in a State. Having analysed the positions of the three .States very carefully, it indicates that Tasmania is composed of a relatively very small area, consisting of a good deal of mountainous country with few of the large fertile tracts compared with other States. ‘In 1920, when Sir Nicholas Lockyer was asked to make an investigation with a view to seeing whether the Commonwealth could assist in any policy to develop Tasmania, he recommended that forestry should be encouraged as one of the best means of developing that State. The commission has come to a similar conclusion. Sir Nicholas Lockyer’s recommendation in this respect was influenced by the advice of Mr. Lane-Poole. It suggests that the Commonwealth should continue its policy along these lines because in its opinion Tasmania’s forests promise to be one of its most valuable assets. There is much to be said in favour of the Commonwealth
Government .applying such, a policy. Assistance which will put a State on the most productive basis possible and enable its industries to give increased employment, is the be3t assistance which the Commonwealth Government can give to any State.
I feel justified in making these remarks in order to show that the charges made by some honorable members against the Grants Commission are not justified ; that the commission has not overlooked certain things as has been claimed; and that, on the whole, it has given the claimant States a fair deal. It is practically impossible for honorable members as individuals to make as thorough an analysis of the positions of the claimant States as has been done by the commission, but its investigation is certainly a most valuable guide to honorable members in considering these matters. The provisions of the bills now under consideration, as based on the recommendations of the commission, may not represent complete justice to these three States, but it represents the best course the Commonwealth can follow to enable these States to function as an integral part of the Commonwealth, in order to make Australia a real commonwealth, happy, contented, and prosperous.
.- My principal purpose in speaking to the matter of State grants is to protest against the basis upon which the Commonwealth Grants Commission has assessed the grants for thi3 year to the claimant States. It is a manifestly wrong basis. When federation was brought about, it was for.seen that certain States would suffer certain disabilities by reason of the fact that they would form part of the federation, and certain conditions were embodied in the covenant to cover such disabilities for a definite period. The assistance then provided has long since ceased, but the disabilities have continued and have increased. Yet the members of the commission have overlooked this. I am not prepared to accept their opinion. One of them is a gentleman from Victoria, who, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) pointed out, may be highly learned, and another is a professor of economics, who has expressed varying opinions at various times. I do not know whether the Commonwealth Government is satisfied with his opinions in this instance. If so, he has a mighty different opinion about the Commonwealth Government in other directions. It would not “ go nap “ on his opinions on some matters, and I certainly do not “ go nap “ on his opinions in assessing the disabilities of Western Australia. But he does not assess the disabilities. Instead of doing so the commission suggests as a basis for these grants a system of sustenance, which the dignity of Western Australia would prevent it accepting with any degree of satisfaction.
Setting out the principles upon which it has assessed the grants to the claimant States, the commission says on page 75 of its report -
We have now given our opinion on the main grounds of claim advanced by the States except that of financial needs. In our first report this was eventually adopted as the basis of our recommendations. Special grants were recommended in accordance with the financial position of a claimant -State relative to the other States. They were determined (subject to minor final adjustments) by the amount of help found necessary to make it possible for the State, by a reasonable effort, to function at a standard not appreciably below that of the other .States. This wa.s the operative principle, hut it was adopted tentatively, and with some reluctance, for immediate .practical purposes. The general discussion on the principles of grants was not summed up into final conclusions, but left with loose and somewhat contradictory ends. This was due partly to a pressure of time, but more to a desire to leave the whole question open.
The commission, in its report, further states -
Special grants are justified when a State through financial stress from any cause is unable efficiently to discharge its functions as a member of the federation, and should be determined by the amount of help found necessary to make it possible for that State by reasonable effort to function at a standard not appreciably below that of other States. ‘
Every individual likes to feel that he is getting some reward for his labours. The commission has disregarded the value of Western Australia as a unit of federation. To. my mind, the issue is: What does Western Australia contribute to the Commonwealth, and what does the Commonwealth contribute to Western Australia; what disability does the Commonwealth law inflict upon Western Australia that would directly and indirectly retard its progress? When the Bruce-Page Government was in office, five economists offered. their services to the Commonwealth Government to inquire into the effect of the federal fiscal policy upon Australia’s exporting industries. At that time, as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has said, customs duties were only about one-half of what’ they are to-day, but they assessed the handicap on the exporting industries at 9 per cent. During the regime of the Scullin Government, the handicap in that respect increased to 14 per cent, or 15 per cent. The production for export in Western Australia is £37 per capita, showing that that State is a greater primary producing State, per capita, than any other State of the Commonwealth, more particularly as the average production for the whole Commonwealth is only £15 per capita. The disabilities of a State chiefly producing for export under present conditions are much more severe than those of other States. Moreover, the indirect disabilities severely handicap the development of a State such as Western Australia; but direct and indirect, disabilities have been ignored by the Grants Commission. The Utopian ideal of one community, mentioned by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), would be possible under a system of unification, with which I do not agree, but the Commonwealth is divided into .States which, under the Constitution, have rights including the obligation to maintain certain State services. It is practically impossible for the less populous States to carry on under the unnecessarily heavy burdens they are shouldering unless they receive a fair deal from the Commonwealth. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) rightly pointed out, Western Australia has a huge adverse trade balance with the Eastern States. The business which the Western Australian people are compelled to do with Eastern States is so extensive that the people in those States pay less in taxes than is paid by the people of Western Australia, which is grossly unfair. If the Western Australian people, who are compelled to buy their goods in one of the highest markets in the world were free to purchase in the open market, a saving of from £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 a year could be effected.
– That argument could also be applied to the primary producers in, say, New South Wales and Queensland.
– I admit that to a certain extent. We are often told that the home market is the best market, but a home market is available to the Western Australian producers only to a very limited degree. Under a policy of compulsion, the people of Western Australia purchased in one year £10,600,000 worth of goods from the Eastern States, while the people in the Eastern States purchased only £1,200,000 worth from Western Australia. Those figures indicate the burden which the Western Australian people have to carry without any recompense whatever.
– How is it that the commission missed all these points?
– The Treasurer should not place too much value upon the capacity of the members of -the commission. The Western Australian Labour Government, which supports a high protective policy, and also believes that the Navigation Act is in the interests of the Australian people is largely to blame because it did not place many important factors before the commission. It certainly did not direct the commission’s attention to the disabilities which the Western Australian people suffer through the Navigation Act. The honorable member for Darling Downs, who spoke of the Australian people as members of one community, should remember that Perth is actually further away from the seat of government than is New Zealand. In fact the recent visit of the Minister for Defence to New Zealand occupied less time than would have been taken in visiting Western Australia. It may interest honorable members to know that it costs more to ship goods from Port Adelaide to Fremantle than it does to ship similar goods from New York or London to Fremantle. The freight on timber shipped from Hobart to Port Adelaide is double that charged on a similar consignment from Vancouver to Port Adelaide. The people of Western Australia recognizing that a change was necessary, voted on the secession of Western Australia from the Commonwealth.
– Did the honorable member support secession?
– I did. Before this vote was being taken the Prime Minister and other Ministers and members of Parliament rushed to Western Australia and made numerous promises which have not been honoured. The Government and the people of Western Australia feel that if the Commonwealth Parliament wishes thom to be loyal to the federation they will have to be treated more sympathetically than they have been in the past. At the inception of federation Victoria had 23 representatives in this chamber, fifteen representing country constituencies and eight representing metropolitan areas, but, mainly owing to the development; of the sugar industry, tho representation of Queensland, and also of New South Wale3 has increased, and that of Victoria has been reduced to twenty. Honorable members know that the commission appointed last year to redistribute the electoral divisions in Victoria recommended that there should be eleven seats for Melbourne and suburbs, and nine for the whole of the rest of the State. I admit the truth of the interjection of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) that primary producers in all the States arc affected by federal policy, but they are not affected to the same extent in the eastern States as they are in the distant parts of the Commonwealth such as Western. Australia. The primary producers in Victoria do reap great advantage from the market of Melbourne, under the protective policy of the Commonwealth, but Western Australia suffers an annual loss of nearly £r,00.000 as the result of the protection which is given to the sugar industry alone. No honorable member renders a disservice to the Commonwealth, and still less to Western Australia, when he regards the Commonwealth tariff policy as a. disability affecting Western Australia. Unquestionably, the tariff’ and the navigation laws are in themselves grave disabilities, and in their train they bring to Western Australia additional indirect and consequential disadvantages which prevent the State from malting speedier progress in the interests of the Commonwealth and the British Empire. The Commonwealth’s policy, for instance, makes settlement on the land unprofitable and unsuccessful. As a matter of fact, the failures of Western Australian land settlement are mentioned in the report of the Grants Commission as bad management on the part of Western Australia, whereas those failures have been due largely to Commonwealth policy. I say unhesitatingly that, if Western Australia were free to import its requirements from, those who buy its exports, it would be able, by leaps and bounds, to progress, and our country at the same time would be kept white, if this country is to sell to nations it must do so by process of buying and selling. In addition to the disadvantage of the Navigation Act and the direct monetary disadvantage of the tariff, which has been calculated by Australian economists, there is also the disadvantage of the closing of markets among Western Australia’s best customers. In order to protect the industries of the eastern States we have a high tariff. Consequently, countries which were formerly our customers now refuse our goods. We in Western Australia are the biggest par capita exporters of the Commonwealth, and thereby contribute relatively more to the financial credit and well-being of this country. Yet Melbourne has- ten votes in this House, whereas Western Australia has only five.
– But Western Australia has as many votes in the Senate as has New South Wales.
– Thank you for the information, but I did not need it. When one considers that Melbourne and suburbs produce not more than ls. per capita for export, whilst Western Australia produces £37 fiar capita for export, the inequality of the distribution of voting power in this chamber is self-evident. I want to have reasons to be a loyal federalist, but it is impossible to have them when I consider that the State I represent is pulling such a load, and is treated in the pernickety manner provided for in this bill. As a matter of fact, I regard this grant as a palliative. Instead of perpetuating the’ grants system, the Commonwealth Government should get to the root cause of Western Australia’s troubles and remove them; then the State will develop.
Disabilities do exist and, unless; they are. removed,, the existing discontent will increase and honorable members will find that they will have not only myself to deal with in this House. I advise them to be a little more civil. Fair mindedness is said to- be an inherent Australian characteristic, but it would not appear to be so from the attitude of certain honorable members who are freely interjecting. If they play cricket and adopt into their lives all of its attributes,, they will realize that Western Australia and two other States are suffering, disabilities under the Commonwealth laws. Those- States are withering in their ability to continue,, and if they go under the Commonwealth must eventually suffer. They are becoming more and more subject to the more powerful eastern States and are being brought to their knees as mendicants to seek their just rights.. Under any system of calculation it oan be shown that the residents of Western Australia have worth as citizens and have a job to develop their State as part of the Empire. Yet all that the Grants Commission suggests is that they ought to be given sustenance. What basis is it that keeps a State, which produces £37 a head of goods foa: export in the position of being placed on the dole, whilst a citizen of a city that produces merely ls. a head for export should be appointed chairman of directors to distribute that dole? Yet such is the- position to-day. Honorable members representing Western Australian constituencies are here as the State’s representatives, but what power have they 1 I have the right, thank God, to tell the House exactly the position as I have seen it for the last 30 years. The people of Western Australia know it even if honorable members from the more favoured eastern States do not. I ask the House not to regard the commission’s report with any degree of seriousness, but itself to be strong enough to recognize Western Australia as an important unit in Federation. Western Australia renders a great service to the Commonwealth, but in rendering that ser- vice it suffers grave disabilities which hinder its progress and also its ability to render greater service. What does the House intend to do about that? That is the position, and it is for that reason that I. readily support the amendment that will be moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory).
Debate (on motion by Mr. Nairn) adjourned.
Order of the Day Discharged.
Motion (by Sir Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That, the order of the day, “ Resignation of Minister for Health and Repatriation (the Eight Honorable W. M. Hughes) - Correspondence - Resumption of debate from ‘the 6th November, 1935 (vide page- 1308, vol. 147), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the paper be printed “’, bc read and discharged.
.- 1 think that this House, ought to be given an opportunity to debate this matter. Either the Minister (Mr. Hughes) was forced out of the Cabinet, or he resigned because his position became untenable, at the time of one of the most important of the crises that have faced the present Government. At least some- explanation ought to be given as to why the. Minister was forced out of the Cabinet.
Motion agreed to.
Old-age Pensioners and Food RELIEF
Motion (by Sir Archdale. Parkhill) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I bring under the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) a matter that has been ventilated previously. I refer to the method adopted by the New South Wales branch of the Pensions Department in respect of old-age pensioners who have unfortunately fallen foul of the law. I direct attention to a ca3e which I recently handled’ with the department in New South Wales. An old-age pensioner was prosecuted because he had unwittingly committed an offence against the food regulations in that State. Although I have on numerous occasions dealt with matters concerning food relief supplied by the New South Wales Government, it is most difficult to follow the regulations under which that distribution is made. In the particular instance of which I am speaking, the pensioner’s, wife was seriously ill, and a daughter lived with her parents temporarily in order to do the housework when not engaged in her usual avocation. ‘ During that period the daughter, who had an income by reason of bor regular employment, invalidated the parent’ claim for food relief. The father was unaware of this fact, because neither he nor his wife received any financial benefit from the work done by the daughter. It was merely a technical breach of the food relief regulations, which few people, even members of Parliament, understand. The offence was committed last year, and when the case was heard before *ike coUrt the magistrate thought so little of the matter that he merely ordered the value of the food supplied to bo repaid in instalments, the amount involved being about £10. The authorities who gave evidence in the case admitted that the breach was merely a technical (me. The Pensions Department then intervened and stopped the old-age pension which the father had been receiving. It withheld his pension for a month, b«t, following representations by me, the payment was resumed. The Deputy Commissioner was good enough to inform me that the ease had been reconsidered, hut that, as tho pensioner had fallen foul of the law, he must expect- a penalty of some kind, and only a fortnight’s pension would be restored to him. I point out that the police authorities did not press for a penalty, but merely asked that the. value of the food be refunded. What right had the Pensions Department to penalize the pensioner for this merely technical breach of State regulations? I urge the Treasurer to take this and m-any similar cases into con- *sideration. Owing to the numerous alterations of the food regulations which are made from time to time, and which even members of Parliament cannot fully follow, how can an old-age pensioner be expected to appreciate their significance? It seems to me that the department has( acted harshly, and has gone beyond its rights in seeking to inflict a further penalty for an offence which was not against the law of the Commonwealth. Cases come before the police courts daily in which men are prosecuted for being intoxicated, but, if they are not old offenders, they are merely ordered to be detained until the rising of the court, or are fined a few shillings. When an offence is committed by an old-age pensioner, however, he is disqualified from receiving the pension for periods up to six months.
– Surely not.
– Yes. A case caine under my notice on one occasion in which one of the oldest residents in a country town had been, entertained too generously bv his friends at Christmas time, with the result that he became intoxicated and was arrested. The magis”trate who’ heard the case merely recorded a conviction, and dismissed the man; but the Pensions Department got on his trail, and I had to obtain references as to his character from practically every business man in the town before1 the department would consent to lift the disqualification. For a similar offence a police court imposes a fine of 5s.,, or detention until the rising of the- court, yet. an old-age pensioner is disqualified from receiving his pens-ion for six months.
– Not for the first, offence.
– Yes, for any offence.
– It may amount to a fine of £35.
– I have had cases under my notice in which the department has been informed by anonymous letters from neighbours and others concerning an unfortunate pensioner who has been summoned for drunkenness or some similar offence. The department inflicts a fine at the discretion o£ the Deputy Commissioner ; in many cases that penalty means the loss of the pension for six months. As the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) pointed out, the Commonwealth, through the Deputy Commissioner of .Pensions, may by disqualifying a pensioner for six months, inflict upon him what actually amounts to a fine of £35, whereas for the same offence the State authorities, who have control over these matters, merely impose a fine of 5s. or detention until the rising of the court. 1 ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to impose some restrictions on the Deputy
Commissioners in this regard, and if he considers that some penalty should he imposed upon pensioners who unfortunately commit b reaches of the law, he should provide that no action should be taken without his consent or the consent of the Commissioner of Pensions in Canberra. Unless that he done, it will be found that different penalties will be imposed by the Deputy Commissioners in the various States for offences of the same character. As the Pensions Department has very generously refunded to the unfortunate man whom I have mentioned one fortnight’s pension, which had been withheld from him, and in view of the fact that in this case an offence was committed in ignorance, that no attempt, was made to defraud the Commonwealth, and that the offence was recognized both by the police and the magistrate as merely a technical breach of the law, I ask the Treasurer to authorize the payment of the whole of the money thathas been withheld. I submit that it is not right for a deputy commissioner of pensions to set himself up as judge and jury in a case such as this. What has happened to this man may quite conceivably happen to others. It. is time that the practice was stopped.
– This is the first time I have heard of the case mentioned by the honorable member. If he will he good enough to give me further particulars in order that I may identify it, I shall make inquiries. As to the general remarks of the honorable member with regard to charges of drunkenness, I may mention that I investigated the matter about twelve months ago, and have since had no complaints. I shall call for a report from the Commissioner on the administration of the act in this regard, and shall give the matter further consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.43.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Dr.Earle Page. - The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
e asked the Minister in charge of War Service Homes, upon notice -
In view of the report that 2,700 war service homes are occupied by tenants, will he give preference to soldiers receiving pensions, and arrange that rentals shall bo regulated by the income of these soldiers, and not by the recommendations of private real estate agents’!
– The War Service Homes Commission lets vacant homes on weekly tenancies at fair market rental values, pending disposal of such homes in accordance with the act. Preference is given to prospective tenants who are returned soldiers, but if no such persons are immediately available tenancies are entered into with other suitable persons who are able to meet the required rental. It is not possible to fix rentals at amounts commensurate with incomes of prospective tenants, as the honorable member suggests.
On the 1st October, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now able to supply the honorable member with the following figures, which show the position us at the 31st August, 1936 : -
Mr.Gander asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister in charge of Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
– On the 25th September, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) askedthe following question, without notice: -
Is the Minister for Commerce aware that the Government of New Zealand proposes to introduce a national insurance scheme early next year? Does he know whether the proposed scheme is based on the present British system ?
In reply to the honorablemember, I am now in a position to say that the only information available to the Government regarding the New Zealand Government’s proposals is that contained in the following extract from the budget statement submitted in the New Zealand Parliament by the Minister of Finance on the 4th August, 1936 : -
The Government has already taken the initial steps for the organization of a complete health insurance, invalidity, and old-age superannuation scheme. The objective is to provide superannuation by right during sickness or old-age, without a means test.
The preliminary organization has been established under which negotiations will be inaugurated with all bodies associated with the care of the aged and the sick.
The organization of the friendly societies, and national provident fund, the Public Service superannuation schemes, the pensions system, the Government life insurance office, and the Health Department, will all bc used to determine the most efficient financial and service procedure necessary to provide for accident, invalidity, sickness, and old-age. In the intervening period, whilst the constructive work is proceeding, steps arc being taken ‘to introduce pensions for invalids and to raise the general standard of all pensioners.
From this statement it would appear that the scheme has not been formulated as yet, and it is therefore not possible to say whether the proposed scheme is based on the present British system. volunteer Naval Ratings.
– On the 30th September, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) asked the following question, without notice: -
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether he will ask that honorable gentleman to consider making available at the Naval’ Recruiting Depot, Rushcutters Bay, one of the destroyers now lying idle and out of commission there, for the purpose of giving technical training to volunteer naval ratings?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that some years ago destroyers were attached to naval reserve depots in the several States, but the policy was abandoned chiefly on the score of economy. It is not intended to reintroduce the system. The naval reserve depot is” well equipped to give technical training to the naval reserves, and, in addition, training is given in H.M.A. ships.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 October 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19361007_reps_14_151/>.