15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. (G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. BARNARD presented a petition from electors of the Division of Bass praying that the National Health and
Pensions Insurance Act be repealed, or a referendum of the people affected be taken before the act is brought into operation.
Petition received and read.
Mr.ROSEVEAR.- I ask the Treasurer who compiled and issued the pamphlet entitled What National Insurance Means ? I particularly wish to know whether the National Insurance Commission or the Treasurer himself was responsible. What was the cost of the pamphlet and will it be charged against the funds of the National Insurance Commission? Were the contents of the pamphlet submitted to the Treasurer before publication? Is the Treasurer aware that the pamphlet is full of subtle inaccuracies ?
– The National Insurance Commission’ compiled the pamphlet which was submitted to, and approved by me, as Minister concerned, before it was issued. I deny that the pamphlet is full of inaccuracies, subtle or otherwise. It contains a simple and clear statement of facts in respect of the national health and pensions insurance scheme.
– I call the attention of the Treasurer to the following paragraph which appears near the beginning of the pamphlet : -
Of importance to those in the country and remote centres is the fact that National Insurance will provide doctors in many places where thereare no doctors to-day.
I ask the Treasurer to indicate the sections of the act which justifies that assertion? Will the honorable gentleman also explain the attitude of medical practitioners in remote country districts, who have asserted that the national insurance scheme means the death-knell to country medical practice? Is it a fact that no agreement has yet been made with the medical profession in this connexion?
– A document of the nature referred to by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully) cannot be made the subject of debate during question time. It appears to me that the honorable member is inviting debate. The Treasurer may reply to the question, but the pamphlet may not be debated.
– I refer the honorable member to the debate in this chamber on the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill, in the course of which the extension and improvement of medical services in remote country districts was dwelt upon at considerable length by myself and other speakers. 1 am not prepared to enter upon a discussion of this subject on ex parte statements, which comprise the greater part of the honorable gentleman’s question.
– Will the Treasurer inform me when the decision was made that the national health and pensions insurance scheme would in no way affect existing rights under our workers’ compensation legislation?
– Before the bill was presented to Parliament.
Mr.ROSEVEAR.- What is the estimated cost of the printing of the pamphlet entitled What National Insurance Means, and what method has been adopted for its distribution?-
– That is an urgent question.
– Especially when the pamphlet is so misleading.
Mr.ROSEVEAR. - Will the cost of printing the pamphlet be made a charge against the national insurance fund?
Mr.CASEY. - In reply to the first part of the question, I do not know what the cost has been. In reply to the second part of the question, every effort will be made to get copies of the pamphlet into the hands of as many persona concerned with national insurance as possible.
– The pamphlet contains lies.
– Will a person insured under the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act be able to receive both the old-age pension and the pension under the national insurance scheme?
– I do not believe that replies to questions without notice provide a suitable opportunity for giving off-hand decisions on points in connexion with national insurance that may or may not be complicated. I ask the honorable member to place his question on the notice-paper.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has yet made a decision respecting the filling of the vacancy on the Commonwealth Grants Commission? If not, does it intend to do so before Parliament adjourns for the Christmas recess?
– The vacancy will not actually occur until the 3lst December. It will then be filled.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for the Interior to the fact that native policy in the Northern Territory appears to be following two lines of thought. The first favours action along lines suggested by anthropologists, which Dr. Donald Thompson describes as “ preserving native culture “, and the other, the saving of the natives from barbarism along the lines followed by missionary organizations. Has the Minister for the Interior given due consideration to the views of the Bishop of Darwin to the effect that the natives should be saved from their barbarism, which is described as “culture “ by Dr. Donald Thompson?
– The honorable member is too modest when he says there are only two lines of thought on this subject. The Government is giving consideration to every theory, and all proposals advanced on this subject by responsible persons, including Dr. Donald Thomson and the Bishop of Darwin. I have had the privilege to discuss the matter personally with the Bishop of Darwin. I expect that a pronouncement of Government policy in respect of it will be made at an early date.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral yet able to make a statement respecting our request that certain linemen, who were issued with notices of dismissal from his department, may be retained in their employment, and that other linemen may be re-employed before Christmas?
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON.Arrangements have been made by the Treasurer, the Minister for Works, and myself, to retain certain linemen whose positions were in jeopardy, and also to employ certain others.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he could arrange for answers to be furnished to three simple questions which I asked, first without notice more than a week ago, and later upon notice, concerning the abolition of the Civil Aviation Board and the appointment of its members to the new Civil Aviation Department?
– I asked such questions even earlier than did the honorable member.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation was called to Melbourne last night, but I shall make immediate inquiries and, if it is possible, I shall give the honorable member a reply to his questions during the day.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a statement made yesterday by the Chief Secretary of New South Wales to the effect that representations had been received from two different quarters regarding the type of broadcast from B class stations? The Chief Secretary stated that he had asked the Premier of New South Wales to approach the Commonwealth Government on the subject. Has the Prime Minister received any communication in respect to it?
– So far I have not seen any communication on the subject from the Premier of New South Wales.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether, when he is reviewing certain charges levied by his department for services rendered, he will take into consideration the making of a reduction of the charge for an extension of a trunk line telephone call. At present any extension is subject to the same charge as that levied for the first three minutes.
– I shall consider the matter.
Preference to Australian and British Goods
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the necessity to prevent any diminution of employment in Australia, and to maintain trade at the highest possible point with the United Kingdom, he will take a suitable opportunity to urge the Australian public to give first preference to Australian manufactures and second to British merchandise when making its Christmas purchases.
– The attitude of the Government is naturally that first preference shall be given to Australia, with Empire countries and foreign countries following in that order. This policy has been definitely fixed by Parliament, and the tariff schedules that have been introduced from time to time have sought to encourage it. While it is desirable that as much trade as possible shall be done in Australian and Imperial goods, it seems to me that if I were to do as the honorable member has suggested, I should, in effect, be intimating to foreign countries that we did not desire their trade. As a matter of fact we definitely do desire it.
– I lay on the table of the House a copy of the convention between His Majesty the King in respect of the United Kingdom and His Majesty the King of the Hellenes, regarding legal proceedings in civil and commercial matters, which was signed in London on the 27th February, 1936.
His Majesty’s accession to the convention in respect of the Commonwealth, including the territories of Papua and Norfolk Island and the Mandated Territories of New Guinea and Nauru, was notified to the Greek Government on the 14th November, 1938, and will take effect as from the 14th December, 1938.
– Is there any truth in the press statement to the effect that there is to be a ban on the broadcasting of racing information ?
– There is absolutely no truth whatever in those statements.
– Was the aim of the Government last year in increasing the maternity allowance to enlarge and enrich the field for the application of the tax on flour, or the bread tax?
– I ask honorable members if they have any further questions to ask, to place them on the notice-paper.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next, at 10.30 a.m.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
That the message be taken into consideration in committee of the whole House at a later hour this day.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests : -
Flour Tax (Wheat Industry Assistance)
Assessment Bill 1938.
Flour Tax Bill 1938.
Flour Tax (Stocks) Bill 1938.
Flour Tax (Imports and Exports) Bill 1938.
Wheat Tax Bill 1938.
Message reported recommending appropriation for the purposes of the acceptance of an amendment made by the Senate in this bill.
In Committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of the acceptance of a certain amendment made by the Senate in a bill for an act to provide for financial assistance to the States in the provision of assistance to the wheat industry, and for other purposes.
The amendment made by the Senate is to add the following sub-clause to clause 7 : - “ (6.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding sub-section, the Minister may, after advice from the State Minister, approve of the whole or any part of any amount paid to a State under sub-section (2.) of this section being applied in the provision of relief to distressed wheat-growers in that State in accordance with such method of distribution as is decided by the Minister after advice from the State Minister.”.
That alteration has been made for the purpose of dealing with the special case of Queensland, where there are no marginal areas but where bad droughts are occasionally experienced in the wheatgrowing areas. The bill originally provided for assistance in respect of marginal areas which exist only in the other States. This amendment has been made at the request of the Queensland Government, and it is the wish of the Government that it be incorporated in the bill.
. - I rise to oppose the amendment on the ground that it still further widens the scope-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse.)The honorable member may not discuss the amendment at this stage. The amendment will be shortly before the committee.
– If the committee adopts the expedient of voting this appropriation for a specific purpose, by implication it agrees with the purpose for which the appropriation should be made.
– The committee is merely made aware of the amendment at this stage; honorable members will be given an opportunity to exercise their judgment in regard to voting the supply necessary.
– The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) is opposing the expediency of voting this money.
– The honorable member may vote against the motion.
– Can he not speak in regard to it?
– That question may not be considered before the GovernorGeneral’s recommendation.
– The message from the Governor-General authorizes the provision of money for the purpose of financing the effect of the amendment. I take strong exception to the provision of this money and to the source from which we know it is to come. Therefore I object to the message in itself, and I wish to speak against it.
– The GovernorGeneral’s message does not increase the vote.
– As I object to this new application of the vote I object to the introduction or the acceptance of the Governor-General’s message.
– The Chair has ruled that the amendment may not be discussed at this stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Senate’s amendment -
Add the following new sub-clause: - “(6.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding sub-section, the Minister may, after advice from the State Minister, approve of the whole or any part of any amount paid to a State under sub-section (2.) of this section being applied in the provision of relief to distressed wheat-growers in that State in accordance with such method of distribution as is decided by the Minister after advice from the State Minister.”.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
I should like at this stage to amplify the remarks which I made in a general way a few moments ago when explaining the necessity for this appropriation. It will be remembered that in the “Wheat Industry Assistance Bill two methods were provided to deal with the amount set aside for the assistance of distressed farmers. In the first year at the unanimous wish of the States the sum of £500,000 is to be set aside and divided among the States in the proportion of £200.000 to Victoria and £100,000 to each of the States of Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales. That money is partly to be used and is to be supplemented by the State governments; to assist farmers in marginal and distressed areas.
To that £500,000 the other States, notably Queensland, make definite contributions as they have had the good fortune this year to enjoy a good season. Although Queensland is only a relatively small wheat-producing State, the Queensland Government indicated its wish to provide some assistance for Victoria on condition that during the next period there would be established a similar fund from which, if Queensland growers found themselves in difficulty, they could be assisted, and on the further condition that the money should be used to endeavour to bring into being a longrange policy for transferring farmers from marginal areas to areas capable of profitable production. In Queensland practically all wheat-growing is done on first-class land. Drought and adverse climatic conditions are the only factors likely to cause difficulties in that State during the next five years. If this amendment were not inserted in the bill the Queensland farmers would be automatically cut out of any assistance in drought years. When the Premier of Queensland read the bill he indicated his wishes to the Commonwealth Government and the amendment made by the Senate has been the result.
– Could not the position of the Queensland growers be met under the provisions of clause 6, sub-clause 3 ?
– No. The position is dealt with under clause 7, subclause 5. That is the clause which deals with the distribution of the second kind of payments provided for. in paragraphb of clause 6. It was found, however, to be drawn in such a way as to exclude Queensland from participating in the benefits of any distribution of this special allocation.
Mr.Forde. - If the Queensland Government had put up this proposal at the Premiers Conference, the Commonwealth would have agreed to it.
– The Premier of Queensland said that the bill as drawn did not comply with the terms of the agreement reached at the conference, and that, when he discovered what had been done, ho telegraphed to a senator with a view to having the position remedied.
– The Premier of Queensland telephoned to the Prime Minister regarding the matter, and as soon as the position was realized, the Government agreed to accept the amendment.
– I am opposed to the amendment. I have already expressed the opinion that it is monstrous that the consumersof bread should be burdened with a special and excessive tax in order to raise the world parity price of wheat to a level deemed by the Government to be payable. That is bad in itself, but I think it is a still greater iniquity that £500,000 of the money so raised should be distributed among farmers whose crops have absolutely failed, and who have no wheat on which to base a claim. Now, this further extension of the principle makes the position still worse. Bread consumers are to be taxed to compensate farmers for crops that have been destroyed by bushfires, or by rust or smut or rabbits, or by any agency whatsoever. This had nothing to do with the original intention of the bill, which was to provide for a subsidy on wheat produced. If this amendment is agreed to, the Commonwealth Minister may, upon the advice of a State Minister, make a grant to a wheat-grower who is merely in distress, and they can charge it up to the poorer sections of the community, who must pay. I think that the Government has lost its senses over this measure. It is totally lacking in any sort of sympathy with the more humble people. It is blind to social justice of any kind, and to bring this amendment forward now is to rub salt into the wounds already inflicted.
.- This matter has been discussed in principle before. I think it must be acknowledged that the payment of £500,000 a year to compensate farmers for seasonal adversity, or to transfer farmers from uneconomic areas, is not a proper use for money raised by an excise duty on flour. I said as much in my second-reading speech. We are faced with the fact that this Parliament does not possess complete legislative powers to deal with problems associated with the wheat industry. In regard to the course followed by the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) on this occasion, in stead of formulating his own plan and making it a matter of acceptance by the States, the Minister, knowing the odium attaching to the financial features of the scheme, wishes to make the States partners in this method of raising money to assist the growers.
– How could it be done otherwise, in view of the decision of the people at the referendum?
– The Minister could have drawn up this proposal as he thought it should operate, and he could then have put it before the States who would have had no alternative but to accept it.
– They might not have done anything at all.
– Then the Commonwealth could still have paid a bounty upon wheat as in previous years, but the States wanted something more. The home-consumption . price for wheat, which the consumers are asked to pay, is something wholly apart from the rendering of assistance to the farmers because of seasonal adversity and the transference of farmers from uneconomic areas. As a matter of fact, provision against seasonal adversity should, in large part, be regarded as a cost of production covered by insurance.
However, as the bill left this chamber, it provided that for the current year £500,000 should be used, either for transferring farmers from marginal lands, or as compensation for losses suffered through seasonal adversity. In Queensland, there is no problem of marginal lands, and this year there is no seasonal problem, though the consumers in Queensland will contribute towards the relief of farmers suffering from seasonal adversity in Victoria and three other States. It may be that, in three years’ time, the farmers of Queensland will have a seasonal problem of their own, but under this legislation as it stands, unless the amendment be agreed to, they, who will have contributed towards the assistance of farmers in other States, will be. denied the right to receive assistance in their turn if they should need it. I agree that, if we allow any of this money to be used to assist the farmers in any State because of seasonal adversity, then the farmers of Queensland are entitled to their share when occasion arises. It is proposed to provide £100,000 this year for the assistance of distressed farmers in New South “Wales. Queensland will contribute its share of this money, but, unless the amendment be agreed to, New South “Wales will make no contribution towards the relief of distressed farmei’3 in Queensland should such relief become necessary in the future. Therefore, while I disapprove of the principle embodied in this proposal, I think that, in common fairness, Queensland has a right to expect us to accept the amendment of the Senate.
. I was glad to hear the concise expression of opinion by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) regarding the relationship between the various States in this matter, and the duty which one State owes to another. A State which has been a beneficiary in one year should assist another State in a subsequent year if it is in difficulty.
The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) followed up his somewhat splenetic attack of a few days ago on this measure with another this morning on this amendment, and the second attack is, to my mind, equally unreasonable. He apparently takes the view that this amendment, if agreed to, will place an additional impost on the people. He fails to realize that the Parliament has already agreed that a certain home-consumption price shall be payable to the wheat-growers for that part of their wheat which is consumed within Australia. It must be remembered that the money used to assist growers in distressed areas is” to be taken out of the fund created for the purpose of ensuring to the growers a home-consumption price. Therefore, it will actually be provided by the wheatgrowers, who have a crop, for the benefit of those who have no crop, or who are, in distress because of seasonal conditions.
Parliament has already decided - indeed, seven parliaments have decided - how much the wheat-growers are to receive for wheat consumed in Australia, and any payments to impoverished wheat- ? rowers will be taken from that amount, do not think that that is so unreasonable because, in a season when certain areas suffer from drought, those who have crops obtain additional advantage which otherwise they would not obtain. It is only a part of that additional gain which is to go from the more fortunate of the wheat-growers to the less fortunate.
– -Where will they get it from?
– They will get it from the home-consumption price, which seven governments have agreed that they should receive.
– And who will pay that home-consumption price ?
– If the honorable member for Barton persists with his insane interjections, I shall be compelled in. future to write his name with an apostrophe after the “ L “ and a circumflex accent over the “ a “.
– I warn the honorable member for Barton that I will name him if he interjects again during this debate.
.- I have given somewhat reluctant support to this bill through all its stages, because I thought it was a genuine attempt to stabilize an important industry, and that it was an attempt to put the industry on a sounder basis by moving people from uneconomic areas to better ones. I now find myself in complete opposition to the amendment because, if it is carried, it will destroy the second purpose of the measure. Sub-clause 5 of clause 1 of the bill is as follows : -
Any amount paid to a State under subsection (2.) of this section shall be paid upon condition that it is applied towards meeting the cost of transferring wheat-farmers, in accordance with plans approved by the Minister after advice from the State Minister, from lands unsuitable for tlie economic production of wheat, or of arranging for such lands to lie used for other purposes.
That was a definite provision for a sum to be’ set aside annually, from which finance was to be made available, for the transfer of wheat-farmers on marginal lands to other areas. We are asked to add this sub-clause - “ (fi.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding sub-section, the Minister may, after advice from the State Minister, approve of the whole or any part of any amount paid to a State under sub-section (2.) of this section being applied in the provision of relief to distressed wheat-growers in that
State in accordance with such method of distribution as is decided by the Minister after advice from the State Minister.”.
What will be the obvious development if this amendment is carried? We know the political pressure that can be applied on State Ministers by organized bodies such as the wheat-growers have formed. It will be very much easier to hand out year after year money from this fund to farmers on marginal areas by describing them as distressed wheat-growers than it will be to proceed with the transfer of those farmers to other more productive pursuits. Once this proposed new subsection is passed, year in and year out the very people whom we are proposing to transfer to other areas will be the people who will bc the distressed wheatfarmers who will be brought under its provisions. The Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) has justified the acceptance of this amendment by pointing to the special circumstances of Queensland. My opposition would not be so strong if I felt that the operation of the clause were to be restricted to that State, but that would not be constitutionally practicable. Consequently, all State Ministers will be able to take advantage of this proposed new sub-section. I say, without the least doubt or hesitation, that, if this amendment is agreed to, we shall find, instead of a serious attempt being made to transfer wheat-farmers on marginal land to other areas, that they will be given assistance from this fund by reason of the fact that they are in distressed circumstances. For that reason, I oppose the amendment.
.- The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) suggested that this money would be paid year in and year out, but I remind him that in the House we carried an amendment limiting the operation of the whole clause to a maximum period of five years. The principle of including the clause in the bill was objected to by many farmers and the Country party, but when it was a matter of compromise, because of the insistence of the States, it was necessary to concede the point to secure the scheme. This year £500,000 and for four more years an amount up to £500,000 will be allocated for specific purposes. I realize the position of Queensland, and, as the Leader of the Opposi tion (Mr. Curtin) has pointed out, there may be justification for consideration of. its special circumstances. The honorable gentleman said that the position which might arise should be insured against by the farmers’. One may insure against fire and hail, but one cannot insure against drought or red rust. It is possible that from time to time, drought and red rust may wreck and ruin the Queensland crops, as drought his ruined them in other States this year, and they are the two most serious troubles which Queensland farmers contend against. Neither can be controlled or insured against. This amendment will not alter the aggregate amount which will be made available from the fund, but possibly may alter the direction of part of the allocation, and although, as I said, right from the start we disapproved of the principle because the fight was for a home-consumption price, we are satisfied that, after five years the clause automatically disappears, and there will be a home-consumption price on exactly the same basis as a compulsory pool, the butter scheme, or the rice pool. Therefore, I am supporting the amendment.
.- I oppose the amendment, which simply means that, by arrangement between the Commonwealth Minister and a State Minister, funds can be found from this tax to assist any distressed wheat-farmer, no matter what the cause of his distress may be. It emphasizes the inadvisability of collecting the tax in this way. I believe that it should have been collected from general taxation.
– Why was not the honorable gentleman here to vote for an amendment, which had that very objective?
– If the honorable gentleman had intimated what the terms of his amendment would be I should have been here to vote for it, but the honorable gentleman left it too late. The honorable gentleman opposed the whole principle of this tax, but is now ready to vote for this amendment. If he wishes to be consistent, he will vote against the Senate’s amendment. This tax is called by the pleasant-sounding name of excise, whereas it is merely a disguised form of sales tax on the basic food of the people. The basic necessaries of life are exempt from the sales tax, which is only 5 per cent., but here we have an impost of possibly 50 per cent, on bread, the greatest necessary of the poor. I shall not dilate upon that.
– The honorable gentleman will not be allowed to dilate upon it.
– I emphasize that this fund was not intended to be used in the way suggested in the amendment. It wa3 intended to be protective of the wheat industry. I believe in protecting industry, whether primary or secondary. I believe in a home-consumption price for wheat. It is only the method of collecting the money to provide that homeconsumption price to which I object. It is wrong and improper that distressed farmers should have any call upon this fund, which is to be established to give that home-consumption price.
– The amendment widens the application of the bill.
– That is so.
.- When thi3 clause was formerly before the committee, I moved for the deletion of the provision under which moneys are to be made available for the transfer of wheat-farmers from the marginal areas, because I think that it is wrong in principle that such provision should be contained in a measure designed to give wheat-farmers a home-consumption price, and because it defeats the objective of giving monetary assistance to distressed farmers. At present there are no marginal areas in Queensland, but the day will come when there will be, because wheat-growing is expanding in that State. Queensland has land exactly similar to land in the other States which is described as marginal land, and, eventually, wheat will be grown on it. It may not be next year or the year after, but it will eventually come. The transfer of farmers from marginal areas is a definite obligation on. the lands departments of the States.
– Order ! The matter which the honorable gentleman is discussing has already been debated and agreed to. The question is whether Queensland should participate.
– There is no specific mention of Queensland.
– In amplification of what I said, the Minister’s statement pointed out that the amendment had been made by the Senate in order to enable Queensland and other States to benefit.
– It does not say so.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, it is a wrong interpretation of the amendment made by the Senate, to .say that it specifically provides special consideration to Queensland. In the first place, it would be unconstitutional to do so, and, secondly, it is not even proposed. I suggest that you are misdirecting the committee.
– The intention of the amendment is to give special consideration to Queensland, but in order to make it constitutional to do so, it has to be general to the States.
– You did not say that before.
– I am not in any way opposed to a special allocation to Queensland or to any other State. Far from it. This is a Commonwealth Parliament, and
Ave should ensure that, as far as possible, equal justice is meted out to all of the States. I object to the principle of in-, eluding such a provision as this in homeconsumption price legislation. It should never have been in the bill, but since it is, and since it will give universal benefit to those in distress, I cannot see that I can oppose it. It is wrong in principle, however, to include provision, for the transfer of farmers from marginal lands in the bill because it defeats its very object.
– Hear, hear!
.- It is rather late to raise any question of principle against the use of any of this money for the purpose of relieving distress. This committee has already agreed to the bill which includes clause 7 specifically allocating £500,000 for the purpose of relieving distress.
– For one year.
– Yes. Some of the same honorable gentlemen who have supported that allocation are now baulking at a proposal that in the future some part of the £500,000 should be set apart for the relief of the distress. I do not see any good ground for saying that we should not use any of this money for the relief of distress in the future. Every grant that this Parliament has made in past years has been for the purpose of relieving distress. The relief of distress is the only ground on which Parliament has ever been asked to grant money. Either because of drought or because of the condition of the world markets, the farmers are not able to carry on with wheat at its present price, and the object of this bill is to give relief.
– The scheme proposes to take from the already heavily distressed, in order to give to others who are distressed. That is our argument.
– I do not know to whom the honorable gentleman refers when he speaks of the already heavily distressed. He is getting back to the maudlin sentiment expressed by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) with regard to taxing the needy. Whatever principle may be involved in that, it has already been accepted by the House. The Senate’s amendment does not affect it; it does not propose to place any further burden upon consumers.
– It merely alters the allocation of the fund slightly.
– That is so, and without prejudicing the consumers in any way. The point is that it may be desirable in future to use some of this money for the purpose of relieving an area which has lost crops from storms, fire, or drought, and I see no danger in leaving the provision of such relief to the discretion, first, of the State governments, which must make the necessary application, and, secondly, of the Commonwealth Government, which must give its approval. The approval of two governments will be required before this special relief can be granted. It seems to me that the objections to this amendment- are merely advanced in the way of tactics, and not on the grounds of principle. Queensland has insisted upon this amendment, because it is part of the terms upon which that State agreed to support the proposals embodied in this bill; and if the amendment is not agreed to the Commonwealth will be placed in a difficult position in relation to Queensland. I repeat that opposition to the amendment is a tactical move, really intended to strike at the general principle of the bill, and not at the amendment itself.
.- When this bill was before the House the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) clearly set out the Opposition’s attitude with regard to the means proposed by this measure to raise the necessary money. That honorable gentleman moved an amendment strongly opposing the imposition of what has been justly referred to as a bread tax. The House, however, defeated the amendment and agreed to the principle of the bill.
– The honorable gentleman must not discuss the principles of the bill.
– I am merely laying down the premises, as I must do, in order to set out my attitude towards the amendment. Rightly or wrongly, the House has determined in favour of a certain principle. I say that the principle is wrong, for reasons which I need not repeat. The Premier of Queensland has now pointed out to the Commonwealth Government that as there is no drought in his State this season, Queensland will make no claim upon the amount of £500,000 which is to be set aside this year for the relief of distressed farmers. -Had that £500,000 not been taken out of the total fund, Queensland wheat-growers, like those of other States, would have shared in it on a production basis; but Queensland has agreed to the £500,000 being taken out of the total fund, thus reducing the amount which would be shared by the Queensland wheat-growers. The bill, as it stands, provides that after the first year the £500,000 is to be used for the purpose of transferring wheatfarmers from marginal lauds. As the Premier of Queensland has pointed out, there are no marginal lands in that State, and that it i3 not equitable that that State should be denied the’ right of deriving benefit from the fund should adverse seasonal conditions cause distress among its wheat-farmers in subsequent years. If, out of this “ loot,” as some speakers have called it, a fund is to be created, then distribution from that fund should be equable between the States. This £500,000 should not in future be allocated entirely for the purpose of transferring farmers from marginal lands.
The Queensland Premier is therefore justified in making his request to the Commonwealth Government, and although the Labour party strongly opposes the method of taxation employed in this measure, it strongly urges that provision should be made for a more equable distribution from the fund in the years to come than was provided for in the bill as it left this chamber.
– The amendment does not in any way alter the principles of the bill to which this House has already agreed. One principle established was that £500,000 should be set aside for a special purpose, not, I submit, by means of a bread tax, but by means of an excise tax. “Would that excise tax have been any less had this £500,000 not been set aside ? I submit not. The special purpose is that of establishing a fund out of which wheat-farmers through the State governments may be given relief for adverse seasonal conditions. In giving consideration to the scheme, Queensland decided generously, and with a federal spirit, that conditions in that State were such this season that no claim for a participation in the” distribution of the £500,000 would be made, but the Premier of that State now finds that the bill, as drafted, does not provide that .the fund may ‘be used in future to assist wheatgrowers of Queensland suffering losses owing to adverse seasonal conditions. The wheat areas of Queensland are subject to frequent droughts and, although a record season is being enjoyed this year, nobody knows how long it will be before there will be crop failure, due either to climatic conditions, or to red rust, to which the wheat lands on the Darling Downs are particularly susceptible. It is natural that Queensland should desire protection against future contingencies, but, actually, it is only incidental- that the request for this amendment comes from Queensland. Any other State might find itself in the same position. I sincerely hope that Queensland will not find it necessary to seek relief from the fund, but we cannot lose sight of the possibility of serious loss due to crop failure in the years to come. Equable and just participation in the fund must be provided for should the occasion arise, and that is all this House is asked to consider in this amendment - the provision of a system of internal adjustment in relation to the principle embodied in legislation already passed. I emphasize that the £500,000 which is to be provided for this internal adjustment does not, and will not, affect the excise tax in any way. The excise tax will be exactly the same, whether this amendment is carried or not. The amendment merely provides for an internal adjustment as between the wheat farmers themselves. Any body who is conversant with the sugar industry knows that the production of that commodity is affected, by seasonal conditions. Fluctuations of price occur, and if a particular locality has had a bad time, other localities benefit by way of an increase of price owing to reduced output. It is a case of the fortunate benefiting at the expense of the unfortunate, yet no extra burden is placed upon the consumer of the sugar by reason of one section of sugar producers securing a better price for their cane. That is merely internal adjustment out of a sugar fund, and what is now proposed in regard to wheat is internal adjustment out of the wheat fund made- possible by the imposition of an excise tax. The bill specifies a definite period of five years for its operation. Consequently the internal adjustment will inflict harm on no particular section of the community. I ask the committee in all fairness and justness to accept the amendment.
– The Senate’s request is aimed at providing an alternate way of disposing of the amounts referred to in sub-clause 2 of clause 7. These amounts are to be paid to the States in accordance with a scheme set out, and are to be decided upon by the Commonwealth after consultation with State Ministers. There is no definite obligation to pay any amount to Queensland or to any other State. Payments are to be determined by the Commonwealth after consideration of representations from the States. The scheme provides that after the present year, the amounts paid to the States under this legislation shall be applied by the States in accordance with principles approved by the Commonwealth, for the purpose of withdrawing unprofitable marginal land from wheat production. I suppose what is envisaged by the Commonwealth is the adoption of a scheme, such as that in operation in Victoria, for the purpose of removing people from unprofitable wheatgrowing lands. The Senate has inserted an alternate scheme, and I think it is desirable that there should be an alternate scheme, covering not only Queensland but every other State as well.
– The amendment provides for that.
– That is so. Every State should have an opportunity to induce the Commonwealth to allow it to apply part of this £500,000 to the relief of distressed farmers. I am not enamoured by the proposal that this money should be used exclusively for the purpose of. retiring land from wheat production. Under the legislation provided for this purpose in Victoria, people who have spent all their lives on the land have been paid a sum of money and removed from their farms. I would much sooner see this money applied for the relief of distressed farmers. The Commonwealth should be able to approve of a scheme for applying part of the proceeds of this taxation to the relief of individual distressed wheat-growers. If the Senate’s amendment is agreed to any State will be able to apply to the Commonwealth for money either entirely for retiring land from wheat production, or partly for retiring land and partly for giving relief to wheat-growers, or entirely for giving relief to distressed wheatgrowers. The proposals advanced by any State would have to be approved by the Commonwealth. I do not know why the provision should not be made more flexible. The amendment of the Senate certainly makes the scheme more flexible and elastic, and that, to my mind, is desirable. It is regrettable that it should have been suggested to us that the amendment has application only to Queensland. As a matter of fact it has general application to all the States. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) has made it clear that acceptance of the amendment will not add one penny to the amount of tax that bread consumers will be required to pay. The purpose of this bill is to stabilize the wheat industry, and one part of the scheme in the bill which the House passed, provided for the use of a certain sum of money to enable farmers on marginal land of unsuitable kind to be placed in other avenues of industry. The Senate now proposes that portion of the amount earmarked for that purpose may be used to relieve distressed farmers in other ways. I shall support the amendment.
– I am profoundly disappointed at the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to this amendment. It seems that it has been accepted by him in consequence of certain representations by the Premier of Queensland. The honorable gentleman’s action in this connexion reveals the sharpest inconsistency when considered in relation to his earlier attitude towards the bill. If he persists in his approval of this amendment, he will no longer be able to protest throughout the country against the action of the Government in imposing a bread tax - that i3, if he desires to be consistent. Acceptance of this amendment will unquestionably extend the scope of the liability of the Government, in that it will justify claims for assistance in respect of all kinds of disabilities from which farmers may suffer. The fundamental object of the whole scheme was to provide the farmers with a parity price for that proportion of their wheat crop which is consumed in Australia. Unhappily, another element was introduced when it was decided that £500,000 of the proceeds of the tax should be earmarked for the purpose of assisting farmers on unsuitable marginal lands to be placed in other avenues of industry. That was bacl enough in a scheme like this, but it would be deplorable to declare now that distress arising from any other cause than that associated with the occupation of unsuitable marginal lands shall be included as a reason for granting assistance from this fund. This would open the door to all sorts of claims. The Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page) may say next year “ The amount of £4,000,000 is not sufficient; £6,000,000 must be provided.” We may be told that widespread fires have occurred, or that some other calamity has affected the wheat-growers, and that therefore, additional money must be provided to assist them. Their troubles might even be due to their own negligence.
– The honorable member does not seem to realize that the amount to be made available to relieve necessitous farmers is limited to only £500,000.
– I am not forgetting that point, but the Assistant Minister cannot deny the principle to which I am directing attention. The plain fact is that the reasons for which grants may be made from this fund of “only £500,000” arc being extraordinarily broadened. If the Leader of the Opposition accepts this amendment, I can only say that he is giving very substantial endorsement to the whole policy of the Government, and to the method by which it is raising this money. J. hope that the amendment will be rejected.
– I find myself in a difficulty in making a decision on this matter. It appears to me that the Government is makinga remarkably good showing in an attempt to perform the impossible task of travelling in t wo opposite-directions at the same time. We were told originally that the principal purpose of the Government in earmarking £500,000 fromthe proceeds of the broad tax wasto make possible the removal of farmers from marginal lands to o ther avenues of industry which offered more prospect of profit.
– Hear, hear!
– The ship-building industry is not too profitable.
– Let us take one subject at a time. All I say in reply to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) is that I have not yet asked the Government to provide £14,000,000 to assist the ship-building industry in Australia.I wishto know, in some greater detail, exactly how the relief proposed for distressed farmers is to be granted. We were told, at first, that adverse seasonal conditions and the occupation of unsuitable marginal lands would be the main considerations, but now the whole situation seems to be changing.
– The State governments will decide how the money is to be expended.
– That remark emphasizes the wisdom of asking for further information on the point.
– Order ! I remind the honorable member for West Sydney that he is not entitled to discuss all the matters dealt with in the bill that has now become an act.
– I rise to a point of order. With all respect, I submit that the Wheat Industry Assistance Bill 1938 has not yet become an act. It cannot do so until after it has received the Royal assent, which cannot occur until after this amendment has been disposed of by honorable members. I submit that the honorable member for West Sydney is perfectly entitled to discuss the methods by which relief may be granted to distressed farmers in accordance with the provisions of clause 7 of the bill as amended by the Senate. I suggest, sir. that you cannot rule the honorable member out of order because you suspect him of playing “ Tiggy “.
– The honorable member forWest Sydney was discussing a principle of allocation already determined by honorable members. The bill having passed both Houses of the Parliament has become an act.
– I rise to order. With respect I submit, sir, that the Wheat Industry Assistance Bill 1938 has not become an act in that it has not received the assent of the GovernorGeneral. That being so, honorable members are entitled to discuss the Senate amendment, which relates to “any amount paid to a State”. The concluding words of the amendment refer to “relief to distressed wheat-growers in that State in accordance with such method of distribution as is decided by the Minister afteradvice from the State Minister”. I am sorry to have to admit that the amendment opens up a very wide field for discussion. There is no reason, necessarily, why Queensland should come into it at all, for the amendment does not refer to any one State. It covers all of the States.
– I now admit that the Chair was wrong in referring to the bill as having become an act, inasmuch as, although it has passed both Houses of the Parliament it has not yet received theRoyal assent. The Chair is of the opinion, however, that the discussion of the amendment must be limited to matters affecting the distribution of certain moneys as between certainStates in respect of marginal areas andso on.
Mr.Scullin. - I submit that the honorable member for West Sydney is in order in discussing the methods to be adopted in the distribution of this money which is intended for the relief of distressed wheat-growers.
– I suggest, Mr. Chairman, on the point, raised by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). that the amendment of the Senate deals definitely with the manner in which the amount of £500.000 is to be distributedamong the States. All of the Stares may be involved in this matter; it is definitely not confined to any one State.
– I am concerned about the manner in which the amount at issue is to be distributed, and the circumstances of the farmers which may be taken into consideration in determining the distribution. It is possible that adverse seasonal conditions experienced over a large portion of the Commonwealth may make it impossible for the question of the repatriation of growers from marginal areas to be dealt with. In my opinion we are not getting down to the root cause of the great problem which confronts the wheat industry. This is perhaps a fitting time to consider what is being done in other countries for the assistance of the industry. In yesterday morning’s newspapers, the following appeared : -
The. Premier of Manitoba. Mr. John Bracken, giving evidence before the royal commission, which is inquiring into relation? between the Dominion Government and the Provinces, demandeda national policy regarding whathe described as the increasingly grave world wheat situation.
He asked how Canada could continue to find market for two-thirds of her wheat in face of steadily shrinking world markets. If Canada had known of this situation . 30 years ago he said, she would not have developed had her present wheat acreage. If the present situation was not remedied 250,000 farmers might cease to grow wheat and seek the dole. if the world would not take the wheat being grown, he added. Canada should seek a planned arrangement with Australia, the Argentine, and the United States of America for limited production.
That statement, which comes at a very appropriate time, causes me to think very seriously over this question of marginal areas and the difficulties of the wheat production generally. Iam stressing this point not because I wish to indulge in any form of propaganda - I beg of honorable members to think otherwise - but because I believe that we should do everything possible to get down to the root causes that have brought, about such an unsatisfactory state of affairs in the wheat industry. Unfortunately, in this country we have distress in more than one section of the community. As a matter of fact, very few of our people at the moment are not suffering distress in some way or another, though its degree varies according to the circumstances. Any interference with the price of staple products is capable of intensifying distress more perhaps than anything else, and, therefore, it seems that by this proposal we are merely to ask the people already suffering from distress to help others whose position in some instances is no better than theirs. Nobody denies that there is grave distress among the wheat-growers, but there are other sections of the community suffering equally as much. I should like a candid statement from the Government as to what is the difference between distress caused by seasonal conditions and distress caused by attempting to produce wheat in marginal areas. It seems to me that of the two the question of marginal areas is of major importance. I say that for this reason : We may patch up the situation this year, but with the trend of world events, with all the changes that are, taking place in the internal . economy of various countries through their increasing desire to become self-sufficient, the time must eventually arrive when the position of the wheat-growers will become considerably worse than it is to-day. Therefore, our whole efforts should be directed towards transferring farmers from marginal areas to others more suitable for. the production of wheat. I am informed by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) that an endeavour is being made in Queensland to extend its wheatgrowing areas. If that be so, it certainly gives rise to the fear that in the future the difficulties of the wheat Industry may become even greater than they are to-day. What does the Government propose to do in regard to this matter % Every year since I have been a member of this Parliament the plight of the wheat-growers has been made the subject of long discussions. I realize that the growers have a just claim on the sympathy of this Parliament; I know that bad conditions prevail in the industry; but I am not at all satisfied that the proposal now before us is areal attempt to solve the problem. It seems to be merely a temporary expedient. Therefore, I should like to have from the Govermnent some statement of what is in its mind regarding the difference between the problem presented by distress occasioned by seasonal conditions and the problem of production in marginal areas.
– I have tried hard to keep out of the ring in regard to wheat. I rise to oppose this amendment as I think any one who claims to have even a superficial knowledge of planned reconstruction must oppose it, although I do not oppose assistance to farmers. Now isthe time when this Parliament should be “ put on the spot “ in regard to the settlement of uneconomic lands. It should tell the States quite definitely that it is their responsibility to look after those who are engaged in the production of wheat in marginal areas. The point is that the States feel that they have a perfect right to approach the Commonwealth Government for money to assist necessitous farmers operating on uneconomic lands, even though they were placed on those lands by the States, because the Commonwealth has stolen from the States a large field of taxation, much larger than was ever contemplated by the framers of the Constitution. As the result of this invasion of the taxing field, the States have no option but to approach theCommonwealth for relief. This is a matter, however, that cannot be divorced from politics. The Commonwealth Government may now spend its money under the ruling of the majority, yet it may not supervise the processes by which wheat-growers will be removed from uneconomic areas. Why should the central government be expected to hand money over to the States without having a very definite say as to how that money should be expended and an assurance given that more suitable areas will be developed? This question should be settled now once and for all. That becomes all the more necessary because we have large areas of land suitable for the cultivation of a diversification of crops, not a great deal of which is being fully developed. It has been stated recently in a report presented to the Meat Board by Mr. Coleman that onefifth of the lamb-producing land in Australia is situated in Western Australia, most of it being as yet undeveloped. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield) made the ridiculous statement yesterday, and was supported by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), that where wheat is grown sheep cannot be raised.
– I did not say that.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I take exception to the inaccuracy of the statement attributed to me.
– If the honorable member wishes to make a personal explanation he may do so. I remind him, however, that he will have an opportunity to reply when the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) concludes his speech.
– I hope that the honorable member for Wannon will be able to explain that statement. It is imperative that wheat-farmers engaged in marginal areas should be repatriated to areas nearer to the coast in the safe rainfall belt. I am amazed that the Commonwealth has been so unmindful of its duty as not to insist that the States should tackle this problem in a proper way. I can only assume that the reason it has neglected to do so is because it continues to filch from the States money which rightfully belongs to them. This matter should no longer be dealt with on the chopping-block of politics. I wish to buttress my arguments by citing what has been done in the United States of America. Everybody remembers the afternoon of the 6th January, 1936, when theConstitution of the United
States of America was blown to fragments just as was section 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution only recently. This would never have happened had a national planning authority been set up to advise the Governments of the United States of America and Australia on the formulation of a scheme of planned national economy. The following article dealing with an analogous question appeared in the News Letter of the American Society of Planning Officials, published in January, 1936: -
In trying tofit the pieces together again into some method of grappling with the farm problem, Congress is suffering from a superfluity of proposals, coming from all sides.
That was after the Supreme Court of the United States of America had issued its famous decree -
All this is serving to recall to some legislative minds that the “National Planning Board “ idea may not bo so bad after all. At least it would provide one central agency where Congress could go for a well-rounded programme; or rather for advice on methods of achieving a well-rounded programme.
The failure of this Government to plan on sound principles is a reflection on the capacity of governments to be positive, and as I have said on other occasions, the people can “ smell possum “. The article continues -
Mean while, land planning rather than direct production control seems to be the way out. Opinion both in Congress and in departmental circles is shifting to this method. Crops would be controlled just the same but under a different label, land that it was decided necessary to take out of production would be leased by the Government. The leasing would be for forestation or for the prevention of soil erosion, or what have you. Payment would be made direct from the Treasury. Most of the processing taxes would be continued, but would be provided for by separate legislation so that judicial minds could not say that the taxes were linked to the payment plan. It is expected that State and local planning boards would be called upon for extensive cooperation if this method is adopted.
Is it not time that we, as a. Commonwealth Parliament, set our minds to that work, and engaged in land planning so that no one will be farming uneconomic lands except at his own risk? We should repossess such lands under the leasehold system, and allow them to go back to pasture, or be used to combat erosion. The honorable members for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) andFawkner (Mr. Holt) made the best speeches I have heard on this subject, and it is certainly time that we got down to the job, and evolved a really national plan for dealing with it.
– This debate is really a great hullabaloo about very little. I do not think that honorable members who are making such loud protests about the problem of marginal lands are so much concerned with the fate of the farmers occupying such land aswith the economic problem that will be created by this legislation. It is significant that most of the protests have come from those honorable members who have already indicated that they are opposed to the whole scheme for the relief of the wheatgrowers.
If honorable members will look at the amendment they will realize that it contains nothing which might be construed as selling the pass, so far as the farmers on marginal lands are concerned. They will see that there is ample protection for the rights of the Commonwealth Parliament. Unless the Commonwealth Minister in charge of this measure falls down on his job, unless he enters into a conspiracy with certain States to defeat the intention of the Commonwealth Government, there is no danger whatever that this amount of £500,000 will be wholly devoted to the relief of distress.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) demanded, in a very forthright fashion, to know what was in the Government’s mind regarding the distribution of this money as between farmers suffering from adverse seasonal conditions, and those on marginal lands. It must be obvious what is in the Government’s mind. It desires, through the medium of this legislation, which we hope will be of a permanent character, to enable the States to deal with the problem of removing wheat-farmers from uneconomic areas, where they are working under conditions which make it impossible for them to earn a living.
– That part of the proposal is limited to a. period of five years.
– A lot of water can flow under the bridge in five years. I direct the attention of honorable members to the safeguards provided in the amendment. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) said that honorable members of this Parliament should bring the Government up with a round turn, and put, a stop to what he seems to regard as a swindle. I point out to him that the amendment is in these terms - “ (6.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding sub-section, the Minister may, after advice from the State Minister, approve of the whole or any part of any amount paid to a State under sub-section (2.) of this section being applied in the provision of relief to distressed wheat-growers in that State in accordance with such method of distribution as is decided by the Minister after advice from the State Minister.”.
That makes it quite clear that the Commonwealth Minister will, at all times, retain control of the situation. Unless he agrees that the proposition submitted by a State is satisfactory, the State is not likely to get away with it. I presume that, whileI remain in the position of Assistant Min ister for Commerce, I shall have something to do with the various proposals put forward by the States. I should regard it as my duty toscrutinize very closely any proposal put up by a State government for the relief of distressed farmers. If I were not satisfied, I should refer the matter to the Minister for Commerce, who would probably refer it to Cabinet. Therefore, there does not seem to be the slightest danger that the fears expressed by honorable members in this debate will be realized.
The honorable member for West: Sydney wanted to know how we were going to separate the marginal farmers from the distressed wheat-growers. I cannot answer that, and I do not suppose that there is anybody here who can. It is essentially a matter for the States. This Parliament has no power to formulate a scheme for removing farmers on marginal wheat land any more than it has a right to determine which distressed farmers shall receive help from the State government. All we can do is to make our views known to the States, and to ask them to translate those views into action.
As it is the will of this Parliament that the problem of marginal wheatfarmer? should be dealt with, it should be taken as a direction from this Parlia ment, irrespective of the amendment, that the administration of the act shall be directed towards impressing on the States the importance of dealing with the problem.I do not say that it will be easy. The problem does not exist in all the States. It does not exist to any degree in Western Australia, and not at all in Queensland at the present time. In New South Wales it exists only in the chronic drought areas.I do not know to what degree it is present in Victoria, but I do not think it is regarded there as serious.
– What about the Mallee?
– In normal times, the Mallee is one of the best wheatgrowing areas in Victoria. It is only at the present time, when Victoria is suffering one of the worst droughts in its history, thatthe problem has come to the fore. Had it not been for the attitude of the Victorian representatives at the recent Premiers Conference, I doubt whether this matter would have come before Parliament at all. It was mainly at the instance of the Victorian representatives that the other States agreed to a modification of the home-consumption price plan in order to permit the payment of the £500,000 to distressed farmers. Now we find that Queensland has, logically enough, raised the point that it has no problem of marginal lands, and this year, at any rate, it is not concerned with distressed farmers. It is only fair, therefore, that it should have the right to divert some of the money to the relief of distressed farmers, if the need should arise in the future. Queensland will provide about £500.000 a year for the fund, and this year it will get. practically nothing back. I cannot see why honorable members should wish to wreck the bill because the Government wants to meet the wishes of Queensland in this respect.
I do not think that it is our duty to show the States how to deal with the problem of marginal areas. No plan has yet been evolved for completely solving this problem, or, if there has. I have not heard of it. Certainly, none was produced at the recent conference of wheat-growers. I believe, however, that if we provide the machinery, and a certain amount of finance, the States will, of their own volition, formulate a plan. to deal with the problem where it exists. Those States which are not troubled with that problem, but in which there is distress because of drought, or some serious catastrophe such as bush fires or Hoods, will have an opportunity, under this proposal, to obtain some relief. I direct the attention of honorable members to this aspect. We know what happens when there are disastrous floods and bush fires and hundreds of people are rendered homeless. There is immediately a nation-wide cry for the governments of Australia to come to tho rescue. There are no finicky arguments to whether we should or should not succour the victims. On the contrary, the demand is loud that we should. No honorable member would ever say that wheat-farmers, who are driven to extremity by drought or any other cause, should not get the assistance which is provided for in this legislation. 1 strongly urge honorable gentlemen not to raise a position which really does not exist under this amendment, but to agree to the amendment, trusting to the safeguard that the Commonwealth Parliament will always be master of the situation.
Mr. ROSEVEAR (Dalley) [12.31J.- During this discussion there has been a considerable amount of humbug- and evasion of the real issue before the committee. That Queensland will benefit from the amendment has. been emphasized in order, I suppose, to enlist the unanimous support of honorable gentlemen from Queeusland. I can discover nothing in. the bill or in the Senate’s amendment that has any direct reference to Queensland, except that Queensland, and for that mutter, Tasmania, are for one year excluded from the benefits conferred by this section of the bill. There is nothing otherwise which makes the position of Queensland any different from that of any other State. The real purpose of this amendment is to allo’w’ the States, not exclusively Queensland, to do just what they like with this money. When this bill went to the Senate, sub-clause 5 of clause 7 rea d -
Any amount paid to a State under subsection 2 of ill ia portion shall be paid upon condition that it h. applied towards meeting the cost of transferring wheat-farmers, in accordance with plana approved by the Minister after advice 110111 the State Minister, from lauds unsuitable for the economic production of wheat, or of arranging for such lands to Iki used for other purposes.
The Governments, both Commonwealth and State, were pinned down to the disbursement of money for one specific purpose - the transference of wheat-fanners from lands unsuitable for the economic production of wheat, or of arrangement for such lands to be used for other purposer. The Government is seeking to evade that obligation. The Minister says that there is some safeguard. I do not know of any, because this amendment postulates a position in which the Commonwealth Minister will act on the advice of the State Minister.
– He may act.
– May act! There is not going to be any fight. The real thing is that there is an attempt on the part of the Government, and possibly of the State governments, to evade the obligation to transfer fanners from marginal areas. Almost every year we have been told the same old story about the distressed wheat-farmers. More than £20,000,000. has been expended to alleviate their distress. On every occasion on which money has been appropriated for their assistance, we have been told by the Government, “ It is only a temporary measure; we are going to evolve a long-range policy “.
That long-range policy has not yet materialized and the problem of the distressed wheat-farmers still exists. The Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry was costly to the Australian public, but not much notice has been taken of its findings. It laid stress on three important aspects : The debt structure on the wheat industry; marginal and uneconomic farming, and seasonal difficulties of the wheat-growers. I thought when the Government decided to go to the length of putting a levy on the people’s bread that at least it would be able to a degree to justify it by providing a permanent solution of some of the problems that beset the industry. When I saw clause 6 I felt that at last it had0 decided to deal with the question of marginal and uneconomic wheat-farming. Now I find that, although at the beginning of the week it purposes to do something of a permanent character by devoting £500,000 a year for the abandonment of marginal wheat-growing areas, it has now departed from that intention.
– We can still do that.
– The Government would be getting somewhere if it did. It would be relieved of the need to provide relief for the uneconomic farmer if it enabled the industry to be rid of him. Money expended in that direction would do permanent good, but, if this amendment be incorporated in the bill, I can forsee the Government allowing this money to be dissipated in a direction other than that originally intended, the marginal farmer being allowed to remain on his land year after year, and being assisted year after year to stay on his farm. I’ am opposed, therefore, to the amendment.
– It was moved by the Labour party in the Senate.
– I am not concerned about that. Party loyalty often forces us to do things which we otherwise would not do, but I tell the Assistant Minister that I shall vote against this amendment, just as I voted against the bread tax originally. The intention of sub-clause 5 of clause 7 was the transfer of wheat-farmers from marginal lands. It has been pointed out in support of the amendment that Queensland has no marginal lands and that, unless the amendment be made, it will not derive any benefit from the allocation of £500,000 a year. If Queensland has no marginal areas it is not entitled to participate.
– It may soon have marginal lands.
– That is so. If it does, there is nothing in the bill to prevent it from participating in the scheme. While Queensland has no marginal land, it should not participate.
– I consider that the amendment is a hastily conceived attempt to correct what is undoubtedly an anomaly in the bill. Although in the first place I was opposed to the allocation of £500,000, the committee has agreed to it, and having allocated it, we should see that it is expended in the best way to aid the industry. As the honorable member for Dalley (Mr.
Rosevear, pointed out, the amendment is a departure from the intention of honorable members that the money should be directed toward the solution of one of the most pressing problems of the wheat industry, namely, marginal wheatgrowers. The amendment would allow this £500,000 to be expended, not on the removal of farmers from marginal areas, but on the provision of relief for those farmers who might also be engaged in uneconomic wheat-growing. A special fund is to be provided for five years. As the bill stands, the fund will be used in the first year for the relief of distress, and in the four subsequent years for the removal of farmers from marginal areas. It is well known that the purpose of this amendment is to correct an anomaly in respect of Queensland, which has no marginal land on which wheat is grown. The amendment was devised to make available to that State something in return for what it has done this year for the other States, notably Victoria. The Victorian wheat industry is in a bad way, and Queensland has generously forgone its share of this year’s allocation. I can see the anomalous position in which Queensland is placed, and I want to do something to help it. I want also to do something for those States which have marginal areas. I find myself therefore in a dilemma. Paramount in my mind, however, is the need to remove farmers from the marginal lands, and, if this amendment is gone on with, I shall have to vote against it.
– Transfer of farmers from marginal areas is a matter for the States.
– Yes, but it was the intention of the committee that some of this money should be devoted to assistance to the States for that purpose. I urge that the Minister for Commerce have the committee report progress so that this difficulty can be surmounted.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– I am not competent to draft a new amendment which would satisfy both of my wishes. The legal advisers of the Government could draft the necessary amendment.
– I suggest that the Minister should withdraw this amendment in favour of one more acceptable to the committee. I realize the importance of inserting a provision in the legislation to safeguard those States which have relinquished their claim to a certain amount of assistance this year, in favour of other States, more especially Victoria. That is the dilemma in which I now find myself. I do not wish to see the principle of this measure altered. It was passed in its original form by this chamber and now it has been returned from the Senate with a request that a certain provision be made. I feel very keenly about that provision which it is proposed should be inserted. I sincerely desire that distribution among all States should be equable. I appreciate the generous action of one State in particular, namely, Queensland, which has allowed money it could normally claim this year to go to other States, particularly Victoria, which have been suffering adverse seasonal conditions. Therefore, I do not wish to see Queensland or, indeed, any other State, prevented from participating in future benefits which may be derived from the allocation of this £500,000, but I urge that the principle of removing people from unprofitable marginal lands should not be departed from. It is said that the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce has the right to veto any suggestion made by a State Minister, but I ask how many Commonwealth Ministers would stand up to the States and argue as to what should be done in those States? That has not been done in the past and will not be done in the future. I suggest that the Minister should investigate the possibility of adopting the Senate’s amendment in another form.
Mr. JOLLY (Lilley) [2.171.- It is a matter for very great regret that this factor was not considered when the bill was being discussed by this chamber originally. Naturally, as a representative of Queensland I am sympathetic with the proposal contained, in this amendment and I think my sympathy is shared by almost every other member - but I agree that the acceptance of the amendment in its present form would endanger to a certain degree the principle laid down in clause 7 of the bill. I propose that the amendment should be redrafted so that a limitation of the amount to be used for the purpose of granting relief to distressed wheat-farmers in any one year may be fixed. If, for instance, it were stipulated that not more than £100,000 could be paid out of this fund in any one year foi- the relief of distress caused by adverse seasonal conditions, that would ensure that £400,000 would be left to carry out the principle set out in the bill. I should be glad to know if the Minister would accept an amendment of that kind. Some such provision would meet the wishes of the Queensland growers, who, as’ every fair-minded person will agree, are entitled to some consideration. Queensland, as has been pointed out, has practically no marginal wheat lands.
.- I should like to make my position quite clear and I shall attempt to do so very briefly. This £500,000 is actually being subscribed by the wheat-growers themselves by forgoing portion of the homeconsumption price which is proposed to be established by this bill. The intention of the bill is that this money should be allocated for the purpose of finding new occupations or new holdings for wheat-growers on unprofitable marginal areas. The effect of the amendment is that the money may be wholly or partly set aside for the purpose of relieving distress due to adverse seasonal conditions. I am in agreement with that proposal to a certain degree because I realize that in legitimate wheat-growing areas, acute distress may be caused by drought or other seasonal causes. For instance, there has been a severe drought in a legitimate wheat-growing area of Victoria during the last two years. In on© year the crop was very small and this year in some cases there will be no crop at all. Similar conditions may apply in legitimate wheatgrowing areas of New South Wales and other States, and the idea of assisting farmers during such periods of adversity is a good one.
– Does the honorable member believe that assistance should be given to farmers suffering as the result of floods?
– I -think that relief should be given in cases of flood, drought, pests, and fire in certain circumstances. Another point is ‘that closer settlement - I do not refer merely to closer settlement under Government assistance - is taking place in legitimate wheat areas. The early years of a new settler’s life are always the most difficult. Such settlers should be assisted, and this amendment leaves it open for assistance to be paid to any farmer in a legitimate area during periods of difficulty. As the amendment stands, however, I am afraid that there will be great difficulty in administration which is an all important matter. The point mentioned by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) is most important - there is a grave possibility that in the majority of cases the assisted person may be the one who is occupying marginal lands and tho one, therefore, whom it is desired should be removed from bis holding and placed in some other vocation or avenue of primary production. If that is the case, then the whole underlying principle of this allocation would be lost. I point out that the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce may not always be some one who is au fait with country conditions and may not therefore be in a position to determine for himself what areas are really marginal areas. Again, owing to the importance of other duties the Minister foi- “Commerce may not be in a position to give to that allocation of this money thi: attention which is distinctly necessary, or pressure may he exerted by the States for the allocation of a greater proportion of the money for relief than for marginal area treatment. I nui afraid that a good deal of the money paid for relief of distress in Victoria this year will go to farmers in these marginal areas. ‘f is quite possible that the same thing may occur in other years from the money provided under this legislation. Farmers in the northern Mallee may receive assistance whereas actually they should Iks removed from their holdings and given employment in some other vocation or provided with holdings in more suitable areas. I propose to vote against the amendment, but I suggest thai the compromise put forward bv the honorable member for
Lilley (Mr. Jolly) is a sound one which I hope will be accepted by the Minister. In my opinion, the amount to be paid to farmers in respect of relief should be limited to 20 per cent, of the total allocation. I mention that figure specifically. It would mean the payment of £100,000 for relief of distress and £400,000 for the removal of farmers from marginal areas. We should then be secure in the knowledge that the degree to which the administration of this legislation could go wrong would be small. We should also be assured that relief could be given to a limited degree, at any rate, to those legitimate wheat areas . in which distress exists. At the same time money could be provided for States which have nor, the marginal area problem. The compromise suggested is a fair one and if it is .accepted I think it will meet the wishes of the majority of those who are opposed to the present amendment. If a compromise is notaccepted, I shall oppose the amendment because I believe that the best way to help the wheat industry in all parts of the world is to retire marginal lands from production. Australia should do whatever it can to assist in this direction.
.- There has been considerable confusion in connexion with this small proposal which has been placed before us by the- Senate. The original legislation provided for a fund of £500,000 which was to ‘be made available during the next five years for the purpose of assisting in flip, removal of distressed farmers from unprofitable marginal are..s, and placing them on holdings in better country or utilizing their original holdings for some other purpose. The legislation represents a sound endeavour to relieve Parliament and the country generally of the necessity for voting huge sums of money year after yeal” for the relief of wheat producers who arc trying to eke out an existence on land which is not entirely suitable for production. That was the. bill as it passed through this chamber in its original form. Now the Senate requests that, there be included a proposal designed to meet the peculiar circumstances of a State which has no marginal areas but has many wheatgrowers who. owing to -.id verse seasonal conditions which mav 0:Cllr in the future. may bc in need of help. Fears have been expressed in this committee with regard to the Senate’s amendment, but I contend that they are unfounded, in my opinion the suggestion put forward by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) is a reasonable one, and meets the views of those who fear that in future this fund may be utilized for the provision of relief to distressed fanners, in .my of whom are on marginal areas, rather than for the purpose of permanently solving the problem by removing the farmers from those marginal areas. The compromise suggested by the honorable member for Lilley would overcome the impasse which seems to have been created. In order to facilitate tho passage of the bill I urge the Government to accept the amendment.
Mr. JENNINGS (Watson) 1 2.3:1].-! thought we had reached finality with this measure, and I am surprised that the Government is recommending acceptance of tlie Senate’s amendment. Parliament has been generous in endeavouring to solve the problem of the wheat industry, because it wants to deal in an equitable way with this national industry. If this amendment is carried, the amount can bc allocated to any purpose at, all. Tt would lie open to any State to allocate money from this amount to any kind of distress. There, are other funds for that purpose, and this was not the intention of the bill. The last thing we want, to do is to keep wheat-farmers on uneconomic land, or aimlessly assisting farmers who may be unsui ted for wheat-farming at all. I consider that the, committee should adhere In its original decision.
.- While I regret that the Senate made the amendment which we are now considering. J am prepared, as the representative of a very large body of wheat-growers, to agree to it. Queensland has, in my opinion, been marvellously generous in its attitude towards the principal wheatgrowing States. It. should be borne in mind that the prime, purpose of this legislation is the stabilization of tho wheat industry. A secondary purpose is the removal of farmers from marginal and uneconomic are.1.’. Queensland is scarcely likely to bc intimately concerned with this problem, and for that reason its generous gesture in respect of States in which the matter is serious, is to be commended, *i was very surprised to hear the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) accuse the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) of inconsistency in connexion with this amendment. It is mie that when the bill was before this chamber earlier this week the Leader of the Opposition opposed certain of its provisions, as did the honorable mom her for Henty and the honorable member for Balaclava; but I cannot see that this justifies the accusation that, because that honorable gentleman is now willing to accept this amendment, he is inconsistent,.. Surely there cannot be more inconsistent, honorable members of the committee than the honorable member for Henty and the honorable member for Balaclava, though, perhaps, their attitude is due not so much to inconsistency as to resentment at their treatment by the Cabinet. When they talk about inconsistency in this connexion they should think of the previous enactments of the excise tax on flour to which they were parties, and of the sugar agreement, in respect of which they certainly have been inconsistent. T have every confidence that the representatives of the Government who may be called upon to consider matters that may arise if this amendment is accepted will bear in mind the general purpose of the legislation, and will act accordingly. Although T would prefer to see the bill passed in its original form I am prepared to vote for the amendment.
– Some honorable members seem to overlook the fact that three hurdles will have to be jumped before any of this money may he distributed. The amount, to be provided is £500.000. First, the Minister for Commerce will have to he satisfied that any proposal for the distribution of any part of this sum is in accordance with the general principles of the legislation. Secondly, the amount which each State receives must be determined by the Minister for Commerce in consultation with the State Ministers, who .will, in fact, determine whether a State shall receive any of the money at all. Thirdly, any money allotted to a State must be distributed in accordance with the plan agreed upon between Commonwealth and State Ministers. The Minister for Commerce must be satisfied under all three headings. An amount not exceeding £500,000 is to be distributed in accordance with the general plan each year for the next four years after the first year, in such a way as will help farmers on marginal land for all time. Queensland will receive nothing out of this scheme, as the bill now stands, and I must admit that the representatives of that State have been extraordinarily helpful in regard to the whole matter. The geographical position of Queensland is such as has enabled it to maintain a home-consumption price of its own for wheat for a number of years. Realizing the value of this principle, it has intimated that it is prepared to do everything possible to help the other States” to fix a home-consumption price. ‘ The value of the principle of a homeconsumption price has also been demonstrated in Queensland in respect of both butter and sugar. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) who, I take it, would support the Senate’s amendment as it stands, has suggested an addition to it which may meet the views of certain honorable members who genuinely support the main principles of the bill, but feel that they cannot accept this amendment. He has suggested that an amount not exceeding £100,000 of the £500,000 at issue may be allocated each year for drought relief. Personally, I am prepared to agree to an amendment, if the amendment made by the Senate is defeated, which would allow one-third of the total amount, which would be about £166,000, to be used for this purpose. This would meet the needs of, say, two States which might experience a drought in the same season. I agree with honorable members who contend that a. limit should be placed upon the proportion of the £500,000 which may be used for purposes other than dealing with farmers on marginal areas, as that was in the minds of ‘the State governments when they agreed to the original clause ; and if it needs to be stated, the suggestion of the honorable member for Lilley offers a reasonable compromise along these lines.
.- The Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Pago) has just given us a demonstration of flexibility of mind which I can only regard as indicative of utter recklessness in dealing with this subject. We were informed that the original proposals of this bill were in strict accordance with an agreement made by Commonwealth and State Ministers. The Labour party favoured certain clauses of the bill but resisted the provision that the money required for the fixing of a homeconsumption price for wheat should be raised by a flour tax. Wo did not contest the principle that the wheat-farmers were entitled to a reasonable price for their wheat, and we accepted the figure that was suggested. We said, however, that the debt structure of the farming community, and also the problems associated with uneconomic areas and seasonal adversity, should be detached from the proposal to fix a homeconsumption price for wheat. The bill originally provided that for the next four years after the first year an amount of £500,000 should be withdrawn from the proceeds of the flour tax and used to transfer certain farmers from uneconomic areas. It seems to me. as I said in the course of the general debate on the measure, that the decisions of the final conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers to bring in seasonal adversity were the result of afterthoughts. Apparently, the amendment which was inserted in the bill last night in the Senate, with the co-operation of the Government, was also an afterthought. Consequently a duty rests upon this committee to do its utmost to ensure that the amount of £500,000 to be withdrawn from the proceeds of the tax shall be justly used as between the several States. If the amendment of the Senate is accepted the settlement of the problem will rest with the Commonwealth and State Ministers who administer the scheme during the next four years. Personally I shall be staggered if this legislation is not amended before the expiry of the four-year period. I sincerely hope that it will be amended. The Senate proposal means that this year some States will contribute more to one State in respect of seasonal relief than they will themselves receive, and one State will make a contribution to this object knowing full well that it is never likely to receive anything itself in respect of the transference of farmers from uneconomic areas, and probably very little in respect of seasonal adversity. I think that in the earlier discussion this morning we said it would be unfair if, in two years’ time, a State which now has no seasonal adversities should experience seasonal adversity and be unable to get relief out of the £500,000, which is the limit set out in the bill at present, even though it had contributed to an allocation which provided £200,000 for one State and £100,000 for each of three other States. I feel that, having regard to the inevitable seasonal character of this industry, if the provision is applicable this year, it should be repeated for each of the five years contemplated by the bill in regard to this £500,000. I am convinced that in each of the wheat-growing States that have not suffered seasonal adversity this year, there will be areas which will suffer adversity in each of the next four years. I know Western Australia fairly well - I do not think anybody can speak of Australia in terms of complete confidence - and so large is the area -cultivated for wheat in that State that it is almost inevitable that some patches of it will experience seasonal adversity each year. The same, I think, is true in respect of South Australia and some danger spots in Victoria, particularly in the Mallee and portions of the Western Riverina, which cannot be described as uneconomic areas, but which, because of periodical unreliability of rainfall in the growing period, having regard to the wide stretch of land cultivated for wheat, are certain to experience seasons of adversity.
– The honorable member advocates a perpetual handout in each State?
– The reference to a perpetual handout seems to he a jibe to cover up the failure to display a rational and fair contemplation of the needs of the industry. The whole thing could be described as the honorable member describes it, but I refuse to do so. I think that seasonal adversity is an inherent probability for the wheat industry in Australia.
– Where wheat is grown droughts are experienced.
– That is so, and not. always in the same area. If droughts occurred always in the same area, it would come within the category of an uneconomic area. I do not like the use of this £500,000 for either seasonal adversity or treatment of uneconomic areas, but the Howe has accepted the principle. As I have said, it is far fairer to leave the allocation of the whole of the £500,000 to agreement between the State and Federal Ministers, having regard to the circumstances of the year, as is contemplated in the Senate’s amendment, than to restrict, their discussion to onethird of that limit. I feel that, even during the next five years at any rate, the restriction to one-third would leave a sum inadequate to deal with seasonal adversity, and would mean that we were doing a stupid thing. We would be using the money to deal with uneconomic areas which can never be properly dealt with, while we should de at the same time jeopardizing the capacity of the good farmer to continue the farming of good areas.
– Is not drought relief a State problem?
– Yes, and so. also’ is removal from uneconomic areas.
– That is a national problem.
– The honorable member now asks me to go back to my original objection to the whole provision of this £500,000. I hope I am not so narrow-minded as to fight vainly for things which have already been determined. The House has agreed that £500,000 shall be used this year for seasonal adversity and in the four following years for the treatment of farmers on uneconomical areas. The Senate, however, has said that that decision may be unfair, in that a State with no seasonal adversity this year may experience seasonal adversity two years from now, and that having contributed to the alleviation of seasonal adversity in another State this year, it should not be debarred from receiving assistance if it so happens that it suffers seasonal adversity two years from now. I agree with the Senate.
– Why limit the time to five years ?
– Because I believe that five years is long enough for any legislation to remain on the statute-book. This is by no means the last bill which will come before this chamber to deal with the wheat industry.
I object to the Minister for Commerce changing his mind so frequently in connexion with this matter. Earlier to-day he indicated that he had accepted the amendment made by the Senate last night. He regarded it, as a fair one and he justified it in this chamber only two or three hours ago. Now, however because there is a certain amount of disputation from his own side of the chamber, as well as from this side, he is not concerned about the merits of the amendment; all he wants is to get it through. I am equally anxious to get it through and I shall vote for its acceptance; but I shall vote against the proposed addition.
SirEarle Page. - I am trying to get something fair for Queensland.
– And I want something fair for the other States. This year it is proposed to provide £200,000 for Victoria and only £100,000 for New South Wales. Next year, New South Wales may have a much wider area of seasonal adversity and Victoria may experience no seasonal adversity at all.
– The other States are satisfied with the treatment of Victoria which has so many farmers affected by seasonal adversity. Queensland, this year, fortunately has enjoyed a good season.
Mr.CURTIN.- That may be so, but I am not satisfied. I believe that when the August conference dispersed there was no intention to use the money from excise for seasonal adversity. It was because of the recognition of the widespread character of the adverse season that the Premiers realized the problem was more than a problem of price, and they were concerned about the problem of the farmer who had no wheat at all. It was obvious that something would have to be done to enable some farmers to cultivate next year’s crop. If that discovery was made this year betweenAugust, and November, is it not conceivable that a similar discovery may be made next year, or the year after that. I put it to the farmers’ representatives in this committee that the treatment of the uneconomic areas is a treatment of a problem which began years ago and will continue for some years in Australia, whereas seasonal adversity, particularly when it overtakes good farmers farming good land, is a problem which has no relation toprice. There is a certain unfairness in giving a farmer who is fortunate enough to have a crop a bounty and not to make provision for the farmer cultivating good land who has no crop. I believe that the best way to deal with this problem is in accordance with the provision made by the Senate, which leaves the matter to be determined as between the State Ministers and the Commonwealth Minister administering this legislation. For that reason, I shall vote for the Senate’s amendment and against any proposal to alter it.
– The suggested addition to the Senate’s amendment is nothing buta matter of expediency.I submit that it has been introduced because the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) realizes that he cannot get reasonable support from his party for the Senate’s amendment. Formy part,I cannot see how this chamber can refuse to accept the Senate’s amendment, which has been found necessary as the result of the generosity of the Queensland Government on behalf of the Queensland people. The effect of the compromise suggested by the honorable member for Lilley would be to preclude Queensland, which has not marginal difficulties such as arc experienced in the other States, from its just share in the distribution of the maximum amount of £500.000. When this matter was considered by thegovernments concerned at a recent conference, the Queensland Government recognized that, on account of the comparable favorable conditions Queensland growers are enjoying at present, they wore not entitled to full consideration in the distribution of the special £500,000 fund when the growers in other States were suffering as the result of drought conditions.But that position will not always be accepted by Queensland. As a matter of fact, during the last, three or four years, there has been a continuous drought in the wheatgrowing areas of Queensland and, although the present season has been a good one, those bad conditions will return. Consequently some provision should be made for the participation by Queensland in a fund which is being specifically established to alleviate distress caused by adverse seasonal conditions.
The proposition of the Senate leave.-, the matter open for consideration on « proper and equitable basis as between the governments concerned, having regard to the conditions that exist at the time consideration has to be given to them. What, more reasonable attitude could bc adopted than to leave the matter to be considered by the Ministers of the State governments, and by the Commonwealth Minister? I emphasize the fact that £500,000 is the maximum amount, and the provision is to be for only five years. The degree to which that fund will be drawn upon will depend uupon the conditions prevailing at the time. Too much consideration has been given by opponents of the amendment to the problem of marginal lands. That, is a problem which. I admit, must be faced, lint why should Queensland have to contribute towards the cost, of solving that problem when it has no marginal lands itself? Queensland has its own problems, such as drought, pests, &c.
For my part, I do not. believe that this arrangement for the relief of necessitous farmers should have been associated with the. stabilization scheme at all. It should have been separate and distinct, but the governments concerned have agreed to include it. The State governments should have accepted responsibility for the relief of distress, but circumstance;! over which they have, no control have made that impossible, and they havethrown the responsibility on to the growers themselves. This amount of £.r>00.00f) is provided by the wheatgrowers out of their own fund, and there will be no increase of tlie tax in order to obtain it.
Mr. ROSEVEAR. (Dalley) [3.4’.- One must admire the enthusiasm and energy with which the honorable member for
Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) has worked the parish pump. He treats thin matter merely from the point of view of how it will affect his own State, but surely it is one of national concern. He started off by saying that the total proceeds of the tax should be devoted to providing a home-consumption price, bur bc admitted that the Government was determined that, part of it should be devoted towards the rehabilitation of farmers on uneconomic areas. Now he goes further than even the Government was at first prepared to go, and proposes that part of the money should actually be devoted, to the relief of fanners suffering because of seasonal adversity, and he takes up” this attitude because, otherwise, his State would not share in the distribution, having no uneconomic areas at. present.
– lt will have them.
– Probably. This problem of marginal lands is one to which the expensive Royal Commission on the Wheat IIndustry drew particular attention. It pointed out that a. great number of fanners were occupying unsuitable land, so that it, was impossible for them to produce wheat at a payable price. In this bill it is proposed to set aside £500,000 each year for five years to’ deal with the problem, irrespective of where it occurs. It may not occur in Queensland, but it certainly exists in almost every other State. Within the next five years, £2,000.000 was to have been devoted to the removal of fanners from the marginal areas. If we accept the Senate’s amendment, the effect will be that part of this amount of £500.000, which is to be set aside each: year, will be devoted, not to solving the problem of uneconomic areas, but to assisting, in Hie relief of distressed wheat-growers at the request, of needy State Premiers or Treasurers. The request may be made, not. necessarily because the State concerned has no uneconomic areas, as is at present, the case in Queeusland, but because the Treasurer wants the money to deal with some other problem arising out of the industry. Drought has 1 H’/’ mentioned, but that is something from which any State might suffer at any r ‘177 C. The honorable member for Darling Downs even mentions the ravage’s of pests as a reason why the fund should bc raided. If we allow needy Treasurers to nibble at the fund in the way suggested, it will be dissipated in directions never intended, and the amount available for the permanent solution of the problem of uneconomic lands will be correspondingly reduced. At the end of five years, the problem will be still almost as far from solution as ever. Like the poor, it will always be with us, because mcn will still be trying to grow wheat on marginal lands when they should bo eliminated from the industry altogether.
The method by which this money is to be raised has been severely criticized, but, once it is raised, let us at least see that it is expended in a way that will make a permanent contribution to the solution of the problems associated with the wheat industry. Even if it were found that all the uneconomic areas were in one State, I still say that all the money available should be devoted to the solution of the problem in that State. This is a national matter, and I cannot understand members of this national Parliament arguing that, just because their State does not happen to be affected, it should make no contribution towards the solution of the problem in other States. I intend to vote against the amendment because it would, if agreed to, defeat one of the main purposes of the bill. The only difference between the Senate’s amendment and the latest suggestion by the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) is that in the Senate’s amendment no limit is placed on the amount of money which may be devoted to the relief of distress,, while if the latest suggestion of the Minister were adopted the amount wo.uld .be limited to £166,000. I hope that the committee will accept neither the amendment made by the Senate nor the suggested modification of it, and that it will insist that the whole of the amount of £500,000 will be expended each year on providing a permanent solution of the problem of marginal lands.
.- The committee must decide whether all the money available is to be devoted towards finding a permanent solution of the problem of marginal lands, or whether some of it is to be devoted towards furnishing temporary relief. If it decides upon the former alternative, an amount of £2,000,000 will he expended during the next four years on the rehabilitation of farmers at present occupying marginal areas, and in this way something will be accomplished that will give permanent relief, not only to the States in which the marginal areas are situated, but also to the other States. The marginal areas, though unsuitable for wheat-growing in general, do in fact, because of their extent, produce a considerable quantity of wheat. If those areas were allowed to go out of production the growers in the other and better areas would benefit. What the committee has to decide is whether it will give permanent relief to the wheat industry or temporary relief to meet seasonal distress. In parts of Queensland and northern New South Wales there are areas under wheat cultivation which have such ‘abnormal seasonal changes that sometimes they could be described as marginal areas, whereas in other times, such as this season, they produce prolific crops. Even those areas from which we should like to evacuate the farmers have occasional good seasons.
.- It is an error to suppose that the wheat problem is going to be settled once and for all by expending £500,000 a year to remove farmers from doubtful areas. Somewhere or other in Australia, there is a drought or some other disability every year. If the Darling Downs should ever experience a drought application would be made for relief and, if this bill was so drafted as to preclude that relief from being granted from the revenue which is to be derived from this tax, there would have to be a further call on public funds. Those who consider that the wheat industry has enough or too much now should welcome any plan which would avoid that happening. That disposes of the arguments against the Senate’s amendment. The Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) has suggested that one-third of the £500,000 could be devoted to alleviation of distress and two-thirds to the evacuation of doubtful areas. There may be some years in which the seasonal conditions will keep so good that there will be no distress of the kind contemplated in the Senate’s amendment, whereas the disstress may be so widespread in another year that the amount of £166,000 would not be sufficient to cope with it. I, therefore, advocate that the Senate’s amendment be accepted. This committee should be prepared to trust the State Minister acting in conjunction with the Commonwealth Minister.
Question put -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The committee divided. (Chairman - MR. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Archie Cameron) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
For many years the Repatriation Commission has been authorized to hold and administer on behalf of the member in such manner as it thinksfit, the war pensions payable to those unfortunate exsoldiers afflicted with lunacy, and who are unmarried. This duty was entrusted to the Repatriation Commission by an addendum of 1922 to the fourth schedule of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
The commission retains all such moneys in special trust accounts for each individual pensioner, and invests the moneys in approved securities and credits the accounts with the income and proceeds of such investments.
The moneys to the credit of the accounts have been expended in various ways -
When the addendum in question was introduced, it was also thought that it would empower the Repatriation Commission to administer moneys remaining to the credit of such trust accounts after the decease of the pensioner, but some doubt has arisen as to whether or not such addendum, in fact, achieved that objective, and doubt also arises as to whether the making of allowances to parents or other relatives is in fact an administration on behalf of the member, in accordance with the terms of that addendum.
The purpose of the present bill is to clear up those anomalies and define the position clearly, whilst opportunity is also being taken to extend similar powers to the commission in respect of those married men similarly afflicted, whose wives’ pensions have been cancelled under the provisions of section 37 of the act. There are, fortunately, very few of such latter cases, but it is confidently felt that in such cases the obligation rests on the Government to protect the rights of children and other deserving relatives.
Some of these unfortunate pensioners have now accumulated substantial credits in their respective trust accounts, and the Government feels that the law relating to estates should not be permitted to operate in favour of some one more closely related who is of substantial means, but who, by reason of distance of residence or complete indifference, has never interested himself in the pensioner’s welfare during his lifetime, to the disadvantage of a deserving and perhaps indigent relative, who has for many years taken an active interest in the welfare of the pensioner.
If the law as at present enacted - and of this, as I have said, there is some doubt - prevents the commission from continuing an allowance to an indigent deserving relative after the death of the pensioner, the Government feels that the position should be clarified. Shortly put, the bill gives to the Repatriation Commission power to retain, expend and invest the pensions payable to all such unmarried pensioners, and to such married pensioners, in those cases in which the pension payable to the wife has been cancelled under section 37 of the act. It gives to the commission power to expend such moneys towards providing clothing and comforts for the pensioner, towards the payment of allowances to any member of the pensioner’s family in necessitous circumstances, and towards the cost of maintenance of the member whilst an inmate of an institution.
This is in accordance with the present practice, and it will be seen that the amount to be applied to cost of maintenance cannot exceed one-half of the total pension. Perhaps I should refer very shortly to this aspect. All that the bill proposes in this respect is the making of a hook entry, which will have no effect on the war pension vote, but will relieve temporarily the vote of maintenance of d e pa r tmen tal i nst i tu ti ons .
Upon the recovery of the pensioner, the commission will be required to render to him an account and to refund to him all moneys retained by it, less the amount expended on comforts or other benefits for the pensioner or by way of allowances to his parents or other relatives. Such refund will include the amount applied to cost of maintenance. Similarly, on the death of the pensioner, the whole amount retained including the amount applied to the cost of his maintenance but less advances of the kind previously referred to, may be made available either by continuing allowances already in payment to deserving relatives, by the making of further allowances, or by such other manner of distribution as the commission decides.
The bill is an endeavour to provide for the relatives of these unfortunate men in a manner consistent with that which the pensioner himself might reasonably be expected to make were he competent to do so.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Black- burn) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Perkins) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Perkins) read a first time. “
Debate resumed from the 1st December (vide page 2564), on motion by Mr. Perkins -
That the billbe now read a second time.
.- I have much pleasure in supporting the bill, which I regard as one of the most important measures that have been introduced this session. The manufacture of newsprint, which this measure is designed to assist, is one of great possibilities. During the Great War, supplies of newsprinting paper in Australia were limited, and newspaperowners were forced to reduce the size of their publications. If another war had occurred recently, a similar position would have arisen. In 1928. a company was formedto investigate the possibility of manufacturing newsprint from Australian hardwoods. Experiments, though encouraging, were not completely successful for a number of years. A paperproducing plant which was exhibited at the Wembley Empire Exhibition, was taken to Tasmania and .sot. up in tho Huon Valley. .Experts were brought to Tasmania, and considerable experimenting in the manufacture of paper from local hardwoods was carried out. Until that time, experts throughout the world had held that good newsprint could not be made from hardwoods. The company which conducted its experiments in the Huon Valley has proved otherwise. It has demonstrated that paper superior to that made from softwoods can be manufactured from Australian hardwoods. All difficulties with regard to such matters as texture and colouring having been overcome, the company sought sufficient capital to commence operations on a commercial scale. About that time, unfortunately, Australia was entering the depression years, and the necessary finance was not available. Some years later the company which is now peeking a bounty, forwarded more than 2,000 tons of hardwood logs to Canada where experiments in the manufacture of newsprint were conducted. The wood was found to bc quite suitable, and the company approached the State Government with a view to securing a large area nf forest land. This company has never before, asked for assistance from any government. It ha.s been conducting all its experiments at its own expense. The situation is ideal, there being ample supplies of timber and water power available. As the natural timber is cut out, the re-growth will be sufficient, to meet the requirements of the industry, ?o that Australia will he independent of outside suppliers of newsprint. The company is asking that, bounty he-paid during the first few years of its operations in order that it may establish production on a stable basis, and in order that, its existence, may not be endangered by powerful overseas companies which could flood the Australian market, and so make local manufacture unprofitable. The -ite which the company has. secured in the Derwent Valley on tho Derwent. River i< one of the best natural industrial sites in Australia. The hardwood forests are within 40 miles, and the State railways will derive considerable benefit from the establishment of the, industry by way of freights. Electricity will be. supplied at cheap rates by the State Government.
When the. first unit is installed, the company expects to produce. 27,000 tons of paper yearly, rising to .100,000 tons a year, when more units have been installed. The amount which will be expended on the establishment of this industry will bc between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000, most of which will be expended on machinery and labour.
In other parts of the world it is practically impossible at the present time to make firm contracts for the supply of newsprint, or any paper over an extended period. Last year the cost of applewrapping paper - an item of some importance to apple-growers in Tasmania - was increased by more than TOO per cent… the reason given being a world scarcity of paper. It was intimated that there would probably be a further increase later. I” understand that the situation is a little bit easier this year, hut there is no guarantee that, the price for this class of paper as well as others will not be increased considerably in the future. The same position exists with regard to newsprint.
This new industry is being started because those who are sponsoring it. believe, that in a few years it will be practically impossible to obtain from overseas adequate supplies at reasonable prices to meet the requirements of Australia. We import about 150,000 tons of newsprint yearly. As the company will produce only 27,000 tons per annum for the first year or two. there will be an opportunity for other companies to enter the field of production and cater for Australia’s requirements. I understand that a Victorian company has made, or is making, preliminary arrangements to this end. There is plenty of scope for two companies to operate. I am glad to say that at Burnie a company recently began to manufacture paper of finer quality. Al “ one time, it, was said that our hardwoods were useless for the manufacture of the finer classes of paper, but the experiments at Kermandie, supervised by Mr. Avery, have entirely disproved that contention. As a matter of fact, it has been shown that because of the fibres of our hardwoods, it is possible to make stronger and better paper from them than from softwoods. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) said last night that it was not yet certain that the newsprint manufacturing industry would be successfully established, but 1 have been informed that it is now beyond the experimental stage. 1 am sure the honorable member hopes that it will be successful.
This industry will be of great benefit to Tasmania. The new company expects at the commencement of its operations to use electricity equivalent to 12,000 horsepower per annum. When the works are in full production, the volume of current consumed will be the equivalent? of 45,000 horse-power per annum. It is anticipated that between 10,000,000 and 12,000,000 gallons of water a day will be required. The company intends employing 260 men in the factory and in the bush at the commencement of its operations. This is irrespective of roadmakers, bush track-cutters, and men engaged in other work of a more or less temporary character. A good deal of employment will also be given to men engaged in the building industry. The forest which will be drawn upon is from 30 to 40 miles from the factory site. It is provided, in the agreement, that the company will maintain the forests in good order. The timber will be cut out in 40 years, but by that time the first replantings will again be available for cutting and so there will be a perpetual use of country which, under other circumstances, might become useless. It is well-known that when saw-mills are put into a forest, only about 45 per cent, of the timber cut is put on to the market. The remaining 55 per cent, is wasted. All timber of marketable quality cut by this company will be sold as timber. Only what would otherwise be rubbish will be pulped. Seeing that in the past many forest areas in Tasmania and elsewhere have been utterly destroyed or mutilated beyond redemption, it will be a great thing for this company to operate along the lines I have suggested. The activities of the company will be well controlled in accordance with the Forestry Act of Tasmania. The denuding of our forest areas, which has occurred in the past, will not be permitted in connexion with this industry.
Australia has hitherto relied to a very large degree on supplies of both timber and paper from overseas. Last year, the supply of timber was sometimes greater than the demand. This was due to the war in the East and the consequent diverting of timber boats to Australia. I have no doubt that after the war is ended, the price of timber in Australia will rise, and we shall once again experience the shortages that have been known from time to time in the past.
Every country of the. world is to-day drawing too heavily on its forests. While I was abroad, I visited many forest areas. I was informed that the forests of Russia were inexhaustible, but I ascertained that the Government of that country had to withdraw many workers from forest areas because of the fear of depleting supplies. So even the forests of Russia are not inexhaustible. The forest lands of America are also being denuded. In the areas that have been replanted, pests have been experienced which have rendered useless a good deal of the timber that has been grown. There is every reason, therefore, why we should do our utmost to conserve our all-too-limited supplies of timber.
The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has, on frequent occasions, directed attention in this House to the serious effects of soil erosion. If Ave can conserve our- forests and replant areas as the timber is taken from them, we shall counteract, to some degree at least, the occurrence of soil erosion. We ought to do our best to keep some forest areas in reserve. Fifty years ago in Tasmania there were very few saw-mills. Most of the timber was won by pit-saw methods, which had the effect of mutilating many thousands of acres of otherwise good forest country. The company that has been formed to establish the newsprint industry will avoid errors of that description.
I commend the bill to the House, and trust that it will be accorded unanimous support. It is pleasing to me thai the Government has seen fit to introduce this measure. The policy that is being adopted will undoubtedly be beneficial, not only to Australia, but also to Great Britain. When the industry is well established, we shall not need to rely so much upon British ships as formerly to bring newsprint to this country, for, in a degree at any rate, we shall become self-supporting. I am sure honorable members will desire to contribute to this desirable end.
– I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this bill, which is calculated to assist in the establishment of a new industry in Australia, and to encourage the expansion of certain enterprises already operating here. Any measure which has the result of rendering Australia more self-contained, and therefore less dependent on overseas countries* is worthy of support. The. report of the Tariff Board on this industry deserves the careful consideration of every honorable member. In it will be found substantial reasons for supporting this bill. I am glad that the industry is to be established in Tasmania, which has great natural resources for the purpose. In particular, it has an abundance of hydroelectric power and large supplies of suitable raw material.
I wish to refer to one or two safeguards that may be necessary in the interests of those who will be associated with this industry. The Tariff Board has made some remarks on certain aspects of this subject on which I shall, touch. It should bc borne in mind that we shall probably never be able to provide more than about half of our total requirements of newsprint, and so will always have to draw upon outside sources of supply. The Tariff Board in framing its schedule based the landed price on charges of cost, insurance, freight, exchange, and primage, but omitted wharfage, harbour dues, stacking charges and cartage. The omission of these costs makes a very important difference. Had they been included there would be less objection to the scheme, but if they are to be ignored the figure of £15 should be reduced to £14 at least. On page 12 of the Tariff Board’s report reference is made to the refusal of the opponents to the manufacturing project to enter into a. newsprint buying pool with the promoters of the Tasmanian scheme. There were several reasons for this refusal. First, it was known that the newsprint buying pool was organized primarily to assist tho Tasmanian scheme, the original idea being to levy a charge of 10s. a ton on all paper obtained in this way, thu amount so levied to go in aid of the Tasmanian scheme. This would have imposed a great tax on the independent newspapers, particularly the country newspapers of Queensland. Secondly, its opponents declined to enter into the scheme because they would have lost all control over the selection of the paper and over export arrangements. There ar>’ numerous matters in connexion with export control that are vitally important to the users of newsprinting paper, such as surface finish, packing, diameter of reels, &c. It was, therefore, felt that the newsprint buying pool would place fur too much power in the hands of the big newspaper group in Australia. Thirdly, the contract referred to would strengthen the hands of the paper cartel and make it impossible for newsprinting paper to be obtained in Australia on an annual basis at current market price. That thi* is a very bad state of affairs can scarcely be denied. It indicates the strong bid made by the promoters of the Tasmanian scheme for the control of this important raw material of the newspaper industry. I am reliably informed that the landed cost of newsprint paper in 1939 will undoubtedly be higher than it is to-day, simply because of the existence of this gigantic contract with the Canadian paper cartel. Paper costs in Australia will be increased. Australia is now a closed market for paper. To-day newspaper proprietors cannot make contracts for a single year ahead; they must either contract for a period of seven years or pay through the nose. Nowhere else in the world do such stranglehold buying conditions obtain. This bad state of affairs is due entirely to the remarkable contract made between the Australian group and the Canadian combine. Unfortunately the British mills have adopted the same bad practice. The Tariff Board in its report referred to the general tariff rate on newsprinting paper from countries other than Great Britain and Canada, and recommended that the duty be reduced from £4 to £2 a ton. I submit that the interests of the independent newspapers and the struggling country newspapers not in this scheme should be safeguarded by this Government. I particularly request the Minister for Trade andCustoms (Mr. Perkins) to see that nothing is done by virtue of this bounty that will be detrimental either directly or indirectly to the interests of the independent newspapers of Australia. I emphasize the necessity for safeguarding these independent interests because of the fact that, when t he industry is established in Tasmania it is estimated that it will never be able to supply more than 50 per cent, of the requirements of the Australian market. At page 16 of its report the Tariff Board stated -
The boardhas already explained in its report of the 25th March, 1937, that this margin is subject to negotiation between the Australian Government and the Governments of the United Kingdom and Canada. The board still holds the view that this preferential margin is much wider than is justified, and is liable to be abused. It may prove that a reduction of this preferential margin would force a reduction in the landed cost of Empire paper and thus necessitate greater assistance by means of a bounty. However, it would be better that this shouldbe so than that the calculation should be based upon a high prior made possibly under cover of an excessive preferential margin of duty. The board reafirms its view that the preferential margin of duty shouldbe limited to £2” per ton.
The present rate of duty is £4 a ton. The definite recommendation of the Tariff Board should be given effect to by this Government in the interests of users of paper who are desirous of buying outside the Australian combine. Anybody who has regard for the internal or domestic arrangements of Australia must use every possible effort to discourage and quash the operations of trusts, cartels and combines. We want to be as free from their disastrous influence as long as we possibly can, and, we should give every encouragement to the independent users of paper to combat the detrimental effect of price fixation by combines or cartels, by enabling them to purchase their requirements in the best possible market. There is no secret about the fact that the powerful Canadian cartel fixed the price of newsprinting and other paper after the war. and also that there exists in Australia to-day a huge combine which has a monopoly of the importation into Australia of newsprint . from theCanadian combine. The injustice that is being done as the result of these conditions is appalling. The present, high rate of duty invites inflation of prices. So inflated is the Canadian price at present that it is actually possible to land Scandinavian newsprint in Australia duty paid, at about the same price as is charged for Canadian newsprint. Yet in spite of this, the Government thinks that the duty should not be reduced. Let us take a comparison of charges. Through the Australian purchasing pool under a fixed contract for seven years, and with little or no protection in respect, of quality or service, the price without wood ends is £12 19s. 6d a ton ; on the basis of a seven years’ contract with one Canadian mill the price without wood ends is £13 4s. 6d. a ton, and with a contract limited to one year without wood ends, £19 14s. 6d. a ton; the c.i.f. price of Canadian and British newsprint paper for 1938 supplied under contracts made early in 1937, including cost of wood ends, is £10 10s. a ton ; whereas a firm quotation for Scandinavian newsprint, with wood ends, for 1939 delivery is £10 a ton c.i.f.
I wish this industry every success. I am pleased to see that this measure will afford an opportunity for the establishment of another Australian industry. Any such development is desirable because it helps’ to make us independent of importations from other countries and enables usto provide employment under Australian conditions and to maintain desirable Australian standards. I again ask the Minister to see that essential safeguards are extended to those independent newspapers which arc not directly interested in the cartels. The first thing to do in an endeavour to achieve that object is to adopt the emphatic recommendation of the Tariff Board by reducing the duty on foreign paper from £4 to £2 a ton.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Barnard) adjourned.
Domestic Assistance- AG r i cu lturalLabour - Canberra : Housing: Cleri- cal. Employment - Parliament House: Temporary Employees.
Motion (by Mr. Perkins) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I rarely speak on the motion for the adjournment of the House, but on this occasion I direct the attention of the Government to a matter of considerable importance. To-day 1 received a letter from a constituent, in which he states -
I am writing in the hope that you may be able to do something to relieve the evergrowing shortages of domestic help and agricultural labour,especially in connexion with dairying. It is now practically impossible to get people to undertake dairyingand many are being forced out of it. Somerset recently interviewed six boys who were looking for a job, and not one would take on milking, with every convenience, good wages and quarters. It is not now a question of wages or conditions, but simply that the Australian will not take on this work. Somerset, who handles about 100 cows, will probably have to go out of it.
-Could he not use milking machines?
– Two years ago 1 was milking almost 100 cows with machines, but 1 experienced the same difficulty as this dairyman, although my employees bad food similar to my own, and lived and slept under my own roof. My correspondent goes on to say -
The same thing applies to other forms of farm work, and especially to domestic labour, even where the conditions are ideal. I believe that they are paying35s. a week in Perth now for girls that arc not worth 15s. In town this isan inconvenience, but in the country a real disaster, since you cannot go out for a meal, and have fewer conveniences and cannot get any one in to do scrubbing and washing. When we are without a maid it costs 15s. a. week to send washing down toBunbury for three people. If this state of affairs is allowed to continue it will seriously afreet the productive capacity of the Commonwealth. The immediate result is that all the young people are going offthe land. In this district the average age of the farmers is nearly 50 and there are practically no young ones coming on. At the moment, it would be possible to get an unlimited number of refugees who would do farm and domestic work. They would not be displacing any labour but would increase employment for everybody by enabling properties to be worked and developed properly. If Australians have decided that they will only take the white collar jobs, wo must get others who will do the work. There can be no doubt that the best form of defence is increased population. I do not think that there is much risk of the development of minorities. We have thousands of Italians in this part of the State. All seem to hate Mussolini and you will notfind a single child that can speak Italian. In one school here where there are only two children who are not
Dagoes, there was not one who could speak or understand Italian. They all want to be thought Australians. As far as the refugee question is concerned, it seems to me that there is no distinction between the man who pushes them into the torture chamber and the man who says, as we do, “ Now that you are in. although we have plenty of room and unlimited jobs for you, will not let you out.” . . .
I enclose a cutting from the West Australian dealing with the domestic labour position.It reads equally true if you substitute farm labour “. If you are able to do anything to assist the country in this direction, you will earn the gratitude of everybody.
I shallquote a few paragraphs from an article published in the West Australian of the 26th November last. It begins as follows: -
A grave shortage of domestic help is reported in the. metropolitan area. Bad as the position has been in the past employment brokers declare that it has never been as bad as at present. Girls will not take domestic work in private homes and they are literally pressed into this service only as alast resort. Employment brokers state that they have numbers of girls available for work, but they want specific’ jobs with domestic service definitely excluded. The proprietor of one employment agency said that 50 girls could be placed as maids and cooks-general in private homes if they were available. There were about sixteen agencies in Perth and it was not an exaggeration to say that if 500 trained girls could be secured for domestic work they could all be placed in employment almost immediately.
Another employment broker said that a serious position had arisen. Prospective employers were desperate. Their appeals for help were an embarrassment to registry office proprietors who could do little or nothing for them. Girls applying for posts after making the request for a job, said: “ But don’t give me housework. I won’t take it on any more.” Mention of housework to nineteen out of 20 girls applying for work provoked a. shrug of the shoulders. Experience had shown that not more than one girl out of ten was prepared to cook for a family and that only about one girl in 20 was a good cook . . . Professional men are perturbed by the shortage of maids and cooks-general for private homes
Mr.Curtin . - If the wives of professional men cannot cook, how can they expect to obtain cooks from other families? The wife of a professional man is no more entitled to domestic assistance than is the wife of a. working man.
– Even a professional man may have a family of fair size, and, desiring a home adequate to his position, may require a maid or maids.
– A working man whose wife has the same number of children as the wife of a professional man, may require a maid.
– The wives of some working men have daughters who could help considerably to solve this problem if they were prepared to take paid positions as domestic assistants. The article concludes -
It was learned that a shortage of domestic workers is not peculiar to Perth. Similar shortages are apparent in Melbourne and Sydney. Fifty girls recently taken to Sydney by the Salvation Army were engaged by employers as soon as the ship berthed at the wharf. The officer in charge declared that he could have placed 200 girls in employment immediately if ho had had them available.
One of the most important problems that this country has to face is that of increasing its population. As the writer points out, the local labour market would be improved rather than injured, by the entry of the right kind of immigrant. I know the writer of this letter, and the circumstances under which he works. He is an orchardist and a dairyman. I myself ran a dairy of over 100 cows until two years ago, and I know the. drudgery that is associated with the work. I had milking machines and concrete yards, &c, but I could not prevent wet weather, slush, cold mornings, and early rising. The3e things are inherent in dairy farming, but the industry itself is very necessary. As this writer says, if our own people will not do the work, we must get some one else to do it. The country i3 not yet sufficiently populated, and refugees and white aliens would think it heavenly to be allowed’ to do the work offering in Australia. If our own girls are doing the work that was formerly done by men, and have no taste for domestic work, so that householders cannot get help, is it unreasonable to admit immigrants?
There is another phase to this problem. People will not go in for large families if they are unable to obtain maids to assist them in their housework. We know that house owners are in the habit of asking prospective tenants if they have any children, and maids are no less particular. They also want to know if there are any babies to look after. Thus, people are being forced into flats where they can more conveniently do the little work that has to be done, but this is detrimental to the country’s welfare. After all, home life is the best for our people. Ono doctor remarked recently that he did not know what would happen to the stomachs of the people, who were going in more and more for scrap meals, because no one was being trained to prepare food properly. Housework is an honorable occupation, but our .people seem reluctant to undertake it. It is not often that I take the risk of incurring unpopularity by speaking on the motion for the adjournment, but I consider this matter to be one of major importance, and I hope that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) will give to it his close attention. I do not oppose the suggestion that 15,000 Jewish refugees should be admitted to this country during the next three years, but we should be able to obtain as well British migrants, and migrants from other white countries.
– The honorable member does not want them to come here to milk cows, does he?
– They can do that if necessary. The wives of our own farmers are doing it now, and .they are not inferior to Jewesses.
– I listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). This is a subject that has given me some concern in dealing with immigration. I know from my own experience, and from reports that have come before me, of the shortage of both domestic workers for household duties, and of agricultural workers. Particular regard is paid to this state of affairs in the Government’s migration poli:y, in respect of both assisted British migration and alien migration. I assure the honorable member that the Government’s migration policy will tend towards the correction of the state of affairs of which he has complained. For instance, of 4,500 nominations received since the re-introduction of assisted British migration last February, by far the greatest proportion are of young men and women who will engage in agricultural occupations or domestic service, or of boys and girls who will be trained for those occupations. The statistics indicate that of the white aliens who come here, by far the greater proportion consists of those who will engage either in agricultural occupations, or do domestic work in the homes of their own people who have preceded them or in other homes. Of S,011 white aliens who came here last .year, 2,738 were agricultural workers, and 1,753 undertook home duties, making a total in those two categories of 4,491. The occupations of the others were - Assistants, clerks and labourers other than agricultural labourers and artisans, 1,736; children, 1,183 ; persons to engage in manufacturing industries, 237 ; professional people, 211; persons to engage in the building trade, S6; others, 71.
.- Last week I asked the Minister for Works (Mr. Thorby) the following questions: -
What proportion of tho £1,300,000 allocated to the Australian Capital Territory will be spent at the Causeway, Molonglo a-nd Westlake settlements ?
What is proposed by his department regarding -the removal of slum areas from the Australian Capital Territory?
The whole of the works programme of tho Australian Capital Territory is to be reviewed with a view to employing the maximum number of skilled and unskilled labour at tho earliest possible date.
There are no slum areas in the. Australian Capital Territory. 1 was amazed to read the reply to my second question. I have inspected the settlements at Molonglo and Causeway and if the Minister does not regard them as slum areas I am wondering what sort of city Canberra will be if he is allowed to have his way. In order to show that other Ministers in the present Government do not regard the matter in the same way, I quote the following statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) on the 17th October, 1935 : -
On the 1st October, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) asked me a question regarding the slum conditions in Canberra. It lias been decided as a matter of Government policy to abolish as early as possible the tenements at Molonglo.
On the 31st October, 1935, the then Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) in reply to. a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) two days previously, said -
The Government intends demolishing the buildings at Molonglo . . . and it is hoped that tho demolition will have been completed in about eighteen months.
In 1935, Dr. L. W. Nott, once a member of the House of Representatives, who has rendered excellent service in tending the sick at Molonglo and Causeway, said -
The wooden houses at the Causeway and Molonglo . . . were climatically quite unsuitable, and there was piteous over-crowding, as many as twelve people being compelled to live in one small house.
The present Minister for Works, who controls building operations in the Territory, apparently considers that the housing conditions at Molonglo are quite satisfactory. Those houses were built originally for an internment camp during the war, and were subsequently utilized to accommodate workmen, the intention being that this use should be for a limited period only. They were never intended for permanent occupation. During the- past few weeks I have repeatedly sought information regarding the housing conditions in Canberra, and on several occasions I have been informed that the Government, through one of its Ministers, would indicate the manner in which the present congestion is to be relieved. So far no such statement has been made, and it seems impossible to induce the Government to state its policy in this matter. Almost six months of the present financial year has elapsed, and the overcrowding at Molonglo and Causeway should not be allowed to continue any longer. Apparently the Minister for Works believes that the present overcrowding is justified. It is true that there are fewer houses in these settlements, but I understand that there are more people living in those that remain. I urge the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), who is the only Minister present in the chamber, to bring this matter under the notice of the Minister for Works, and endeavour to induce him to make the promised statement so that the people will know what the Government proposes to do during this financial year. If nothing further be done, they will conclude that the Government is satisfied that these slums, or almost slums, aro to he allowed to remain.
.- Yesterday a report of the International Committee on German and Austrian refugees, and a report of the Australian delegation to that gathering were tabled in the House. Shortly after ward’s, a statement was made by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) on the subject, of migration. The. Lender of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) spoke, and although I row to speak, I was not afforded an opportunity to do so. As one who is very interested in this problem, 1 now ask the indi.ilge.nce of the House while I make a few observations on it.
The statement of policy by the Minister for the Interior on the. matter of German and Austrian refugees is welcome, and is in line with recommendations I have made to the Government. As Australian delegate, to the International Conference at Evian in July last, called at the invitation, of President. Roosevelt, I was impressed by the desire for cooperation in an endeavour to solve this tragic problem. Though’ persecution was not then so acute, there was a general desire for co-operation among the representatives of the 32 nations present, and the conference unanimously resolved to continue and develop the work of the Inter-Governmental Committee. As a result a Bureau of the Committee was formed, which met. later in London, and thereby the machinery was set up to transform a haphazard flight of destitute refugees into a more orderly exodus. This body has since asked the participating countries to indicate the numbers they are prepared to receive. The ministerial announcement that 15,000 will be admitted to Australia over a period of three years is Australia’s reply, which is a slight increase on previous admissions, the Commonwealth having pursued a policy as liberal as that of any other country.
If honorable members will road the proceedings of the Inter-Governmental Committee, and the report of the Austraiian delegation, they will see that representatives of certain countries offered opportunity for experienced agriculturalists, while limited scope for pro fessional men and trained workers was proffered in others. There was, however, general disapproval of any large-scale scheme of migration as being calculated to arouse racial feeling. A process of infiltration was considered more likely to enable tile refugees to be easily assimilated into the national life of the country to which they migrated ; this is the policy that the Government is continuing.
As chairman of the committee set up at. Evian to hear the case from the various Aryan, non-Aryan and Jewish organizations - representatives of about 40 of them attended at Evian, where they told the story of their persecution - I was struck by the necessity for action, and concluded my report to the main conference, as follows : -
The moving stories told disclose » great human tragedy which calls for early amelioration and challenges the conference to cooperative action to that end.
The Minister said that preference would be given in the selection of refugees to artisans and industrialists who could give some help to Australia. That is in line with what I said at Evian. That policy was adopted long ago by Great Britain, and I am glad that it is to be the policy of Australia. Centuries ago England gave sanctuary to persecuted Flemish and French refugees, and thereby gained many new industries, including weaving. So to-day, by wise selection, particularly among Austrians, can Australia gain too. At the Evian conference not. all the representatives were Jewish. There were representatives of the Quakers and other peace-loving organizations, and many non-Aryan Christians, the part-Jewish types, and others. I know from the evidence given there - honorable gentlemen can read it in the supplements to the, concise report of the Inter-Governmental Committee- that there is a great scope for establishing new industries in Australia by the immigration of skilled artisans, of types that we have never had before. They would do a great good to the Commonwealth.
Every one welcomes tho unhesitating acceptance by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), for the Labour party, of the principle of the help that Australia is giving to these refugees in their time of trouble. 1 hope that the
Opposition will also adopt a liberal outlook in respect of the admission to Australia of people of our own race. Ours is a predominantly British community,, and the Government must view with alarm the excess of departures over arrivals of persons of British stock. Having in some measure overhauled the migration organization at Australia House - the Government has sent n new officer there - it should make a determined effort to clear up the misunderstandings that prevail in England regarding Australia’s migration policy, so that, not only shall we receive those refugees to whom we extend sympathy in their trouble, but also our own kith and kin, in order to supply the main nian power needed by the nation. I counsel this advisedly, because I know from conversations that I had in various parts of England and Europe recently, that there is a definite misunderstanding of the Australian policy. I received a deputation from twenty British organizations, arranged by the Royal Empire Society. There was scarcely a person at that deputation who did not believe that Australia did not want British migrants. The misunderstanding arose from the fact that in the depression assisted migration was discontinued. I do not blame any one for that, because I think that any government would have taken similar action. But the belief persists in many quarters that Australia does not want British stock, and the Government should dispel it by proper publicity.
– Mr. Crutchley knew butter than that.
– Yes, Mr. Crutchley is a. splendid ambassador for Australia. So are all others who have been here. Whenever Empire Parliamentary Association delegates visit Australia, the representatives go back to Great Britain as champions of this country.
The trades unions could help in dispelling the illusion that Britishers are not wanted here. T have been told by nien in England that there is unwillingness among British people to come to Australia, because those who do come here have the greatest difficulty in obtaining admission to trade unions;- in fact, that some unions have prohibited their admission. One, man who spent some time in Australia told me that he returned to England because he could not join the union. The trade unions should throw their doors open to British workmen. J know, from my administration of the Department of Trade and Customs, that in many skilled trades there is a scarcity of artisans in Australia. There is definitely a shortage of skilled men in the engineering, pattern making, and like trades. The British people should be told that there is room in Australia for them and their families. We must encourage them to come here so that we shall maintain the predominance of Britons in our population and have the right kind of man-power to ensure our safety and progress.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong) 4.46].. - I should like the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) to place before the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) a matter affecting clerical employment in the Australian Capital Territory. Temporary assistants and clerks employed in various Commonwealth departments in Canberra work under the Commonwealth Public Service award, which prescribes payment much less than the basic wage, unless they have qualified to receive more, because although that award provides for eighteen days’ annual leave, those men never qualify for annual leave owing to the fact that they are put off after three months’ service. Some of them will be dismissed before Christmas. I ask that, when their employment is terminated, they shall receive pay in lieu of holidays on a basis of one and a half days’ pay for each month of service. Another matter which I bring forward would come under the control of Mr. Speaker, and I ask the Deputy Speaker (Mr. Prowse) to place it before him. It concerns the treatment of temporary employees at Parliament House. The employment of many of them terminates when Parliament rises. I suggest that they be given the same consideration as I have suggested should be given to temporary assistants and clerks in the Public Service. They should be compensated for the loss of holidays.
T am sorry that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has left the chamber, because I desire to reply to some aspects of his speech. The honorable member deplored the excess of departures over arrivals of British stock. I am sure that that is due, in the majority of cases, to the fact that conditions are more attractive in Great Britain than in Australia. The honorable gentleman also appealed to the trade unions to open their doors to British migrants. I do not know of any trade union which has closed its membership books, except for the reason that it has dozens of men on its books who cannot find employment in the calling in which the union operates. When we consider the fact that there are 160,000 unemployed in this country, it is not surprising that British people should return to Great Britain. If engineers, carpenters and trade unionists of various kinds have left Australia to go back to England, it is because the conditions there attract them. According to a newspaper account, 247 men of those classifications, most of them competent to do the work required in this country, left Australia early this year. I agree with the honorable member that it is necessary to increase the man-power of this country, but I must tell him that he is entirely misinformed when he suggests that one reason for the departure of British people is because they cannot become members of the union. Of course there are some unions which have members enormously in excess of the demand for their services. I instance the Waterside Workers Federation. I am informed that it has between 3,000 and 4,000 men onits books in one city, but rarely are more than 2,000 men employed on the waterfront. Work cannot be found for more. In my opinion the excess of departures over arrivals of British stock is due to the fact that this Government and governments of a similar political hue have brought about a set of affairs in this country which makes it no longer attractive to skilled workers. I hope that what has been said will influence the Government in the direction of malting conditions here more attractive than they arc.
I trust that the representations that I have made on behalf of the temporary assistants in the Public Service and Parliament House will have the sympathetic attention of the Minister for the Interior and Mr. Speaker respectively and that the complaint will not have to be repeated next year.
– I shall bring before the appropriate Ministers the matters raised by those honorable members who have spoken, and replies will be furnished to them in due course.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 28 of 1938 - Australian Third Division Telegraphists’ and Postal Clerks’ Union.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment of G. G. Jewkes, Department of the Treasury.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 110.
House adjourned at 4.01 p.m.
The following answersto questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– A reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries will be made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
;White asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What action (if any) has been taken by the Government in the matter of the recommendations made by the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers on constitutional matters, held at Melbourne in 1934, on the following matters: - Company law, navigation, jurisdiction of the High Court, exhibition of cinematographfilms, wireless broadcasting, quarantine, and fisheries in territorial waters ?
– The matter is being looked into, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorablem ember’s questions are as follows : -
The value of the net exports of gold coin and bullion (i.e. excess of exports over imports) records of which are availablefrom 1851to1937-38 is £A682,739,000.
Consul-generalfor Germany :
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Papua and New Guinea: Australian
n. - On the 23rd November, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
The attached table shows the quantity and value of each product of New Guinea and Papuan origin imported into Australia and admitted free of duty, the duties payable on similar products admissible under the British preferential and general tariffs respectively, and the amount of duty that would have been levied on similar importations at the rates imposed under the British preferential and general tariffs respectively. The particulars set out therein relate only to the year ended the 30th June, 1938. Considerable time and expense would he entailed in extracting similar details in respect of the period from the 1st January, 1.927, to the 30th December, 1.937, and for each financial year in that period, and I do not consider that such expense would be justified.
Naval Land Wireless Service:
t. - On the 1st December, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice- -
– Questions relating to the organization and staffing of the new
Department of Civil Aviation have been receiving attention, and an investigation is at present being made by the chairman of the Commonwealth Public Service Board. The report of the Kyeema inquiry is expected to be submitted to the Government next week. During the inquiry most of the senior officers of the Civil Aviation Branch entered the witness box and gave evidence on oath, much of which related to administration. Until the report of the committee is received, it is not possible for the Minister fully to answer questions relating to the Government’s policy or intentions concerning the new department.
i asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 December 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19381202_reps_15_158/>.