15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker. (Hon. G. J. Bell) took thechair at2.30p.m.,andread prayers.
Mr.CURTIN.-I ask leave of the House- tomake’ a statement inregard to the order of business and the consideration of matters before the House.
Leave not granted.
– Can the Prime Minister give honorable members any indication as to when they will have an opportunity further to discuss the statement that he made last week, in connexion with, the war activities of the Government, seeingthat the majority of honorable members were: prevented, from discussing, the matter when it. was previously before the House -owing, to the shortness of the time allotted to it?
– I can; hardly agree that the time allowed for the discussion of this matter was short. It is still an order of . the day on the notice-paper, but’ whether or not if will be- possible- for further time to- be devoted- to it will depend largely on’ the progress made with other business. I propose to ask honorable members to sit on- four days next week, commencing on Tuesday. If there be an opportunity for further discussion-, I. shall be quite glad to have the matter again brought forward.. I point out to the honorable member that further discussion is in any event provided for by virtue of the statements made- by my colleagues- the- Acting Minister’ for Supply and Development and the Minister for the1 Army.
– Is it the intention of the Prime Minister so to arrange the business of the House that an opportunity will be afforded to honorable members to discuss the tariff schedule introduced during the last period of the session? If so, when does the right honorable gentleman expect such an occasion to arise?
– I cannot answer that question off-hand - I have no-t-yet decided the precise order of business - but I hope to make a statement on this andall allied matters relating to the procedure of the House when the sittings are resumed on Tuesday next. 2nd AUSTRALIAN IMPERIAL FORCE.
Shortage of Uniforms.
Mr.MULCAHY.- What reply has the Acting Minister for Supply and Development to the statement that the march through the streets of Sydney had to be abandoned because of -the failure of the Government to provide uniforms for the troops 1
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.There has actually been no arrangement for a- march through the city of Sydney on the date suggested..
– I address to you, Mr. Speaker, a question relating to the acoustic properties of this chamber. On various occasions, honorable members who sit on this side of the chamber are unable to hear what is said by honorable members opposite,, and invariably other members experience, I believe-, similar difficulties. Statements by Ministers, as was the case just now, are sometimes inaudible. Will you, sir, consider action to improve the acoustic properties, or make some- other arrangement that will enable the remarks of all speakers to be readily a.udible?
– The matter of the acoustics of this chamber has been, inquired into on more than one occasion, following upon complaints of their imperfect nature.. The curtains which, as hon- orable membera can see, are hanging across the windows in the top. portion of the chamber were placed, there in the hope that they would improve the- acoustic properties of the chamber. I know that it is difficult sometimes for all honorable members to be clearly heard, and personally ‘ am inclined to think that that is largely due to the conversations that are carried on in different parts of the chamber. Although honorable members do not seriously offend in this regard by conducting conversations in a loud tone, nevertheless the hum of conversation carried on in low tones by many honorable members frequently prevents a speaker from being heard. I am afraid that that cannotbe avoided unless honorable members make up their minds not to engage in conversation in the chamber. Architects have inquired into the matter and they and other experts have discussed with me very seriously the suggestion that loud-speakers should be installed, but I do not think that that would be appreciated. If honorable members consider that something of the kind should be given a trial, I shall be prepared to meet their wishes. I cannot make any other suggestion.
– On various occasions, but especially yesterday and to-day, the voice of the Prime Minister - which, as we all know, is distinct and can be readily heard in most places - seems to have been thrown back in a very broad way, making it impossible for us to distinguish what the right honorable gentleman has said.
– Has the honorable member any suggestion to offer to overcome that difficulty?
– The only suggestion that I can make is that the difficulty is attributable to apparatus ‘ already installed, in the chamber.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether there is any substance in the reports appearing in the press, to the effect that a rise of the price of petrol by 6d. a gallon is contemplated by the petrol importers? In order to allay the alarm that is being voiced by the motor-trading industry will the honorable gentleman make a pronouncement in the matter as soon as possible, particularly in relation to any intention by the Government to investigate such a prodigious increase?
– Anyrise of the price of petrol must be made under the authority of the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner. I am informed by that gentleman that no discussion has taken place between him and the oil companies or the retailers of petrol in respect of any proposed further, rise of price.
– Has the Minister for the Army yet received a reply to the question that I asked last week in regard to the racket that is being worked at the military camp at Rutherford, the military authorities having prevented competition with the camp canteen by a returned soldier who has a store at the main entrance to the camp, by declaring it out of bounds?
– I have sent a letter to the honorable member dealing with this matter.
– I have not received it.
– The answer is that a contract was let for a canteen in the camp, the proceeds to be applied to the benefit of the troops. The storekeeper mentioned by the honorable member set up a temporary building outside the entrance to the camp in order to compete with the canteen. His shop was for a time out of bounds, but it is no longer so. At no time was a picket placed over it.
– Will the Acting Minister for Supply and Development investigate a report emanating from the Under Secretary of the Department of Agriculture of New South Wales that there is a definite shortage of cornsacks, and that orders for sacks cannot be met although harvesting operations are being held up for lack of them? He also stated that there was no prospect of the shortage being relieved before supplies arrived from Calcutta, and that distribution could not take place before the 2nd December.
– I shall make inquiries, though 1 know what the result will be. I have personalis conducted an investigation into the matter, and I have received the assurance of the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales that, owing to the intervention of the Commonwealth, the full requirements of the farmers for cornsacks have been met.
– Can the Prime Minister state’ what amount of money it is pro1 posed to expend on the erection of offices in Melbourne to house the various Commonwealth departments that have been removed from Canberra, particularly those relating to the Army, Navy, and Air Force ? What land has been resumed or purchased, and what is the estimated cost ?
– The departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force have not been removed from Canberra; they have all along been in Melbourne. As to what amount of money is to be expended in providing for rapid, wartime expansion, I cannot say, but as soon as an estimate can be given I shall make it available to honorable members.
Mr.THORBY.- When consideration is being given to the provision of office accommodation for the various branches of defence, will the Primp Minister consider the advisability of transferring the Civil Aviation Department, which, I understand, is still self-contained, to Canberra as originally intended, thereby mak- . ing additional accommodation available at Victoria Barracks in Melbourne?
– The honorable member’s suggestion will receive consideration.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Government proposes to provide . 110,000 square feet of space in Melbourne in which to accommodate the Departments of the Navy and Army? Will this necessitate the erection oftemporary buildings in Melbourne? Is it intended that during the recess the Cabinet will function in Melbourne and not in Canberra?
– The estimate stated by the honorable member of the amount of floor space required is approximately correct. It will be necessary to provide that space: and if it cannot be secured in existing buildings, temporary buildings will need to be erected to provide it. The War Cabinet will continue to hold its meetings principally in Melbourne where the Services are established and where the Services Ministers have their head-quarters.
– Will the Acting Minister for Supply and Development bring under the notice of the special committee appointed to choose the site for a factory in. which to manufacture Pratt and Whitney engines for aircraft the desirability of selecting a site in the Newcastle district, which is the nerve centre of the iron and steel industry of Australia ?
– A decision has been arrived at, and advertisements are appearing in the Sydney Morning Herald in pursuance of that decision.
– In view of the reply given to a previous question relating to the establishment of the aircraft factory, I desire to know now where that factory is to be located?
– In the vicinity of Sydney. The outstanding reason for that is that Sydney is the only, place in the Commonwealth where it is anticipated that an adequate reservoir of trained and skilled artisans necessary for the conduct of that establishment may hope to be obtained.
– What rot!
– Will the Acting Minister for Supply and Development adhere to the previous arrangement made by the Minister (Mr. Casey), and see that the aeroplane factory is built where the best artisans are available and in the place where it can be of the greatest economic advantage to the Government, namely, in the Reid electorate?
– The selection of the site is now being arranged, and due regard will be paid to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– In the event of the Government imposing restrictions on the use of petrol, either by raising the price or by rationing supplies, will the Government give consideration to the making of special provision for persons resident in rural areas, who have not the same alternative means of travel such as trains, boats and trams, that are enjoyed by city dwellers ?
– Should that situation arise, the representations of the honorable member will be taken into consideration.
– Can the Prime Minister secure from those gentlemen who were formerly the members of the Royal Commission on Banking an authoritative statement as to what they meant by the much misunderstood paragraph504 of their report?
– The suggestion of the honorable member is an interesting one, and I shall pursue it in order to see whether it is practicable. This now famous paragraph is much qualified and explained by succeeding paragraphs, but, unfortunately, it is commonly torn from its context and misused. I shall explore the honorable member’s suggestion with a view to seeing whether action can be taken in accordance with it.
– Is it intended that the House shall rise on Thursday of this week, and if so why? Has the decision been reached at the request of honorable members ?
– It is proposed that the House should sit to-morrow, but not on Friday. Next week the House will sit on four days. There are various reasons for this, into which I need not go at present.
-Will the PostmasterGeneral consider having the correspondence of members of the Military Forces franked as was done during the last war ?
– Consideration is being given to this matter, especially as it may apply to the various arms when on active service.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce make arrangements to expedite the payment in Victoria of 2s. a bushel, less freight, for wheat acquired in the No. 1 pool? I understand that payment in other States has already been made, but, up to a day or two ago, none had been made in Victoria for the carry-over wheat.
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister for Commerce.
– Last Thursday, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce whether the Central Wool Committee had requested or suggested to the Woolbrokers Association that it should negotiate with country woolbrokers to have the wool normally handled by country brokers sent to city brokers for appraisement. The Minister promised a reply, but I have not yet received it. May I expect a reply before Christmas, and, if so, on what date before Christmas ?
– 1 must express my . regret if the reply has not yet been received. I shall take steps to expedite its despatch.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce make any statement regarding the sale of Australian wool to Japan, and can he say whether the negotiations are being conducted between the Governments of Australia and of Japan or between the Governments of Australia, and the United Kingdom?
– As has been stated in this House, not once,, but several times, the whole of the Australian wool clip has been purchased by the Government of the United KingdomNegotiations for the sale of that portion-, not required for Empire purposes will take place between the Governments of” the United Kingdom and of Australia.
– Will the Prime Minister give consideration to the Commonwealth and the State Governments conferring with a view to arriving at some unified control of the wheat’ industry, thus obviatingthedual control which prevails at the present-?
– I shall; consider that.’ suggestion.
– When does the Prime Minister expect to be able to disclose to the House the full text of the agreement between the British Government and the Commonwealth Government with respect to the sale of the Australian wool clip?
– I am quite unable to say. There are various matters of detail of greater or less importance which are still outstanding. Insofar as agreement has been arrived at, it has been publicly stated. As soon as the balance of the agreement has been concluded, I shall be happy to inform the House and the public.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) asked me a series of questions in respect of the employment to be given in New South Wales as the result of the allocation by the Commonwealth Government of £800,000 to that State for supplementary defence works. I am now able to inform the honorable member that the permissible income provisions will have no application to the employment of men under this scheme. There will be no discrimination between the unemployed. Men will be drawn from zones local to where work is carried out and employment will be given according to priority of registration.
– Did the Acting Treasurer see in the press yesterday the statement of the Premier of New South Wales indicating that the vast majority of the works to be undertaken under the Commonwealth grant will be outside the metropolitan area wherein is the large aggregation of the unemployed? Will the Acting Treasurer make further representations to the Government of New South Wales with a view to ensuring that every unemployed- man in NewSouth Wales shall have an opportunity to share in thework, irrespective of its location ?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question is “ Yes “, and to the secondpart, “ I am prepared to give it consideration “.
– It has been reported that only a small proportion of the Australians who will be trained as pilots in Canada under the Empire air training scheme, are likely to serve as Australian air units. In view of the opinion of the Australian people that the Royal Australian Air Force should not lose its identity, if the report be correct, will the Acting Minister for Air communicate with the Minister for Air (Mr. Fairbairn), who is now in Canada, and inform him of the feelings of the Australian people in this connexion?
– Negotiations in respect of the Empire air training scheme are still proceeding. The matter mentioned by the honorable member is under discussion. I repeat the assurance given by the Prime Minister that the views of the Australian Government on that particular aspect have been made very clearly known.
– When is the Acting Treasurer likely to be in a position to answer the question I asked a few days ago about the importation of comic strips from the United States of America?
– The matter is still under consideration. A reply will be given in due course.
– Has the Minister for Information instructed the Australian Broadcasting Commission to limit the time devoted to the broadcasting of news bulletins to ten minutes for international news and five minutes for Australian news? In view of the fact that the commercial broadcasting stations set aside longer periods for the broadcasting of news, will the Minister endeavour to have extended broadcasts of news by the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
– The whole question of news broadcasts by the Australian Broadcasting Commission is now under reconsideration. The representations of the honorable member will be taken into serious account.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 10.30 a.m. to-morrow.
[2.54Q. - The proposal before the House is that we should adjourn until 10.30 a.m. to-morrow. Obviously, the purpose of the motion ia to carry out the indication given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a few moments ago that it is not intended to sit on Friday this week. We are, therefore, asked to contemplate a reduction of the working time of the Parliament this week which will not be offset by an extension of the working time of the Parliament next week.
– The House will be sitting four days next week.
– Yes, but only three days this week.
– Three days a week is the normal time.
– I rise under difficulties, because I intended to deal with the matters before the House in another way, but I was prevented. I believe that I shall now be able to say what I intended to say at another time, and strictly keep to the motion moved by the Prime Minister. The motion involves a variation of the normal times for the meeting of the Parliament. It carries the implication of no sitting on Friday and it, therefore, curtails the opportunity that Parliament will have for the consideration of business. I believe that this is due to political difficulties that have arisen as the result of the fact that the parties in this House, other than the Opposition, are unwilling to give this House the opportunity to determine the question of the Australian wheat policy.
Opposition MEMBERS - Hear, hear!
– I believe that if we were to meet at the ordinary time tomorrow and sit on Friday, the opportunity would be available to the House to deal with the matter which was before Parliament last night, which was not decided last night and which is not in any position on the notice-paper to-day that gives any expectation of its ever being heard of again during this period of the session. I have to say, therefore, that, although I shall not divide the House on the motion moved by the right honorable gentleman - I realize that” there may be other reasons which would perhaps justify the motion - none the less, when Orders of the Day numbers 1 and 2 are reached, we shall seek a postponement of them so that there shall be a discussion of Order of the Day number 3. Should there be any opposition to the postponement of Orders of the Day numbers 1 and 2, on the part of the Government or Country party supporters, I shall tell the country that it is because they desire to evade a decision by Parliament on the matters which have been raised in the debate on wheat.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has been good enough to intimate that he will take certain action when Government business is called. If there is any necessity for action along the lines the honorable gentleman suggested in relation to wheat, the Country party will be able to look after itself and will not require the assistance or advice of the Opposition as to how its case is to be conducted, or as to how we are to look after the interests that we represent in this Parliament, or as to when we are to look after them.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! The honorable member must not anticipate a debate on another motion.
– I support the motion moved by the Prime Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister a question relating to the engagement of local unemployed on defence works in their own districts, in preference to the bringing in of men from other districts. The right honorable gentlemen promised to discuss the matter with his colleagues. I wish to know whether he has done so. The employees of some contractors follow them from job to job. This has the effect of preventing local unemployed tradesmen from obtaining work and is grossly unfair to them.
– The honorable member is making a statement; he is not asking a question.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement in the press to the effect that the work at the Allandale military camp is likely to be declared black?
– I have not seen that press statement. My colleague, the Acting Treasurer, has already answered a question to-day in which he stated the rules governing the employment of unemployed men in terms which I thought would be satisfactory to the honorable member. I have not yethad an opportunity to discuss the matter relating to the Allandale camp.
– Will the Minister for the Army make inquiries to ascertain whether a German named Dr. Huth, who has been resident in Australia for seven months and was called up by the police for internment, has been released on account of pressure exerted by Mr. R. W. D. Weaver, M.L.A., of New South Wales? Will the Minister also have inquiries made to ascertain whether there was any justification for this action, and whether certain associates of Dr. Huth, who arrived in Australia at the same time, are now interned in Victoria?
– I shall have inquiries made into the matter, but the honorable member may rest assured that in no case has undue influence been exerted in order to secure the release of individuals.
– That is not the police report.
– Every case is dealt with on its merits and according to whether the keeping in custody of an individual will make for the better safety of the Commonwealth or not. The police are merely the agents of the Military Intelligence Department in the arresting of individuals.
– I should like to know from the appropriate Minister whether margarine has been purchased for either the Navy or the Army?
– Perhaps the honorable member has been misled insofar as the Navy is concerned by an advertisement which appeared in the press recently concerning the supply of a certain quantity of margarine for the Royal Navy. The margarine was not required for the Royal Australian Navy. Butter is used in both the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Army.
– I understand that an increase has been made in the living allowance to married men in the Army. Will the men who have been called up to serve in the Navy also receive that increased amount for the duration of the war? If not, why not?
– If the honorable member is referring to the separation allowance it will apply to the members of the Militia in the longer camps, and also to the men who enlist in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force.
– What about the Navy?
– The men in the Navy are getting the increased allowance.
– I do not think that is so.
– Will the Acting Minister for Supply and Development inform me who prepares the specifications for the building of huts at military camps? Do the specifications set out what foundations should be used by contractors ? Is the Acting Minister aware that the foundations of the huts erected at the Rutherford military camp during the last war became badly infested with white ants? Are not the same principles being applied in the erection of the huts at Rutherford camp on this occasion? What is being done to protect structures at camps’ against the ravages of white ants ?
– The specifications referred to by the honorable member are prepared by the Works Branch of the Department of the Interior. I shall see that his remarks are brought under the notice of the Minister for the Interior.
Inspection of Workmanship
– Does the Minister for the Army consider that competent inspection of the quality and workmanship of soldiers’ uniforms can be provided by inspectors whose salary is about £4 10s. a week? Does the honorable gentleman consider that the conditions now in operation in respect of the inspection of military uniforms are conducive to the best results?
– I am not aware of the salary range for the inspectors’ positions referred to by the honorable gentleman; but I do know that the inspection is carried out with very satisfactory results. However, I shall ascertain what the salary range is and give the honorable gentleman definite information in regard to the matter.
Mascot Aerodrome - Long Bay Rifle Range
– Is it the intention of the Minister for the Interior to ask the Acting Treasurer for funds to complete works now awaiting completion at Mascot aerodrome and Long Bay rifle range?
– I am not able to answer the question offhand. I shall bring it to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for the Interior. 2nd AUSTRALIAN IMPERIAL FORCE.
Rejects at Redbank.
– Has the Minister for the Army yet received a report regarding the allegations of the men at Redbank camp who have been rejected for military service?
– I have nothing further to add to the statement that I have already made that two medical examinations have to be undergone by men enlisted in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force. After the second medical examination a number of men at Redbank camp were rejected. More detailed information which I promised the honorable member will be givento him when it becomes available.
Observance of Award Rates and Conditions
– Has the Prime Minister yet come to a decision in regard to the framing of regulations to prevent sub-contractors who do not pay award wages from securing Government work? Will the right honorable gentleman ascertain whether the materials for the new wool stores at Wentworth Park are being supplied by a firm whichemploys nonunion labour and which on a number of occasions has been prosecuted for breaches of industrial awards?
– The substance of this question was raised by the honorable member the other day and I at once asked for information in relation to it from the Department of the Interior. That information is not quite complete. As soon as it is available I shall pass it on to the honorable member.
– In view of the fact that the Government has seen fit to vary the personnel of the Australian Wheat Board by the addition of representatives of the millers, will the Prime Minister give consideration to the addition of some genuine grower representatives to that board ?
– I am not sure that I should not refer that question to the growers’ representatives on the board in order that they may express an opinion as to whether or not they are acting in the interests of the growers and to give them an opportunity to dispel any doubts the honorable member may have as to whether ‘the growers are fully represented on the board.
Censorship of Press References
– Has any restriction been imposed by the censor in respect of the publication in’ newspapers of the prices being obtained for the wool and other primary commodities overseas?
– Not to my knowledge.
– When will the Minister for Trade and Customs he in a position to make a statement to the House in regard to the export of hides and sheep skins!
– I regret that I have not yet been able to have that statement prepared. I hope to be able to make it to-morrow.
Appointment of Mr. Brigden
– Is the press report correct that Mr. Brigden has been appointed Secretary of the Department of Supply and Development? Is this the same Mr. Brigden who was the chairman of the National Insurance Commission? If so, was the Government under any obligation to provide him with a salary of £2,250 a year as chairman of that commission, and is the appointment to his present position due to his particular ability to do the job, or to the necessity for finding him something to do for the money it has to pay him ?
– Taking the last part of the honorable member’s question first, the answer is in the affirmative. Mr. Brigden is possessed of qualities which merit that salary. His appointment as Secretary of the Department of Supply and Development was also born of the same reason. It had nothing whatever to do with the question of any obligation to that gentleman.
– Will the Minister make inquiries regarding the failure of a firm known as Concrete Constructions Limited, which is engaged on building works at the Newnes shale oil-field, . to observe a decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in respect of builders’ labourers and the payment of the country allowance? This firm is undertaking work which is being paid for by the Government, and, at present, it is continuing to refuse to observe the decision of the court.
– The honorable member was good enough, before the House met, to bring to my notice correspondence which he had received regarding this matter. I immediately instituted inquiries, and had hoped to have received a reply for him by this time. I expect it will come some time later during the day. When it is received, I shall see that full information is conveyed to the honorable member.
– I have made inquiries into the complaint made yesterday by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) that serious delays occur in the hearing and determination of cases by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. As a result of my inquiries, I am satisfied that, as a general rule, cases are heard and determined with reasonable prompitude. In cases involving standard hours or the basic wage - which by section 18 (4) of the act are required to be adjudicated upon by a full court - some delay has at times occurred owing to the difficulty of arranging for sittings of the full court and for conferences of the judges. The Stove-makers’ case, to which the honorable member refers, is a case necessitating; decision by the Full Court. It is anticipated that the matter will be dealt with, shortly.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I have received from the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “the advisability of including other ports and places as wool-appraisement centres additional to those fixed by the Central Wool Committee “.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn. in order to draw attention to - the advisability of including other ports and places as woolappraisement centres additional to those fixed bythe Central Wool Committee.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I rise to order. On the notice-paper is Order of the Day No. 4, which reads -
Sale of Australian commodities to the United Kingdom and other aspects of wartime marketing - Ministerial statement - Motion for printing paper.
My point of order is that, as I understand the letter which the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has forwarded to you Mr. Speaker, the subject that he proposes to discuss relates to aspects of wartime marketing, and that subject, I believe, is involved in the consideration of Order of the Day No. 4. I venture to think that, having regard to. the comprehensive scope of Order of the Day No. 4, there is very little that the honorable gentleman can say in respect of the subject-matter of his letter to you that he could not say equally as well, in the discussion of Order of the Day No. 4. If that be the case, I submit that, under the Standing Orders, he is unable to anticipate debate on a motion that already appears on the notice-paper, and, consequently, his motion is out of order.
– The subject-matter of my motion has no relation to that involved in Order of the Day No. 4; it relates to the appointment of appraisement centres under the scheme for the Imperial purchase of Australian wool. If the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Cur tin) will wait until he hears what I have to say, he will learn that there is something that may be said in regard to that specific matter which concerns very deeply the State of which he is a representative.
– I have considered the motion of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) in relation to that debated yesterday for the printing of a paper concerning the sale of Australian commodities to the United Kingdom and other aspects of wartime marketing. The matter which the honorable member for Forrest says in his motion that he wishes to discuss is not mentioned in the ministerial statement, although it is true that it could be discussed in the consideration of that statement. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) contends that the phrase “ other aspects “ may be so interpreted as to include this particular matter. I agree. But the phrase “ other aspects “ is so very wide that I feel that on that ground alone I should not be justified in ruling this motion out of order, inasmuch as this particular matter was not discussed during the course of the other debate.
– The debate was not concluded.
– It was commenced, and was continued for some time. I feel that I should not be justified in ruling this motion out of order on the ground submitted by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I am not moving this motion lightly. I consider that quite an important principle is involved. Immediately it was learned in Australia that the Imperial Government had purchased our wool clip for the duration of the war and for a year thereafter, and, furthermore, that a Central Wool Committee would be appointed to carry out the principles of the purchase agreement, many of us were urged to make representations to have adopted the appraisement centres that were used under the previous purchase scheme. At the request of our constituents, we approached the Minister for Commerce (Senator McLeay) to urge that he instruct the Central Wool Committee to adopt such appraisement centres. To those who waited upon him, the Minister said that such matters would need to be referred to Mr. Bell, the chairman of the Central Wool Committee. Representations were consequently made to Mr. Bell. On my journey to Western Australia at the conclusion of the last period of the session, I spoke to Mr. Bell over the telephone and was informed by him that he was merely chairman of the committee. He advised me strongly to get in touch with Mr. McGregor, the buyers’ representative on the committee, as that gentleman was a big man on it. I got in touch with Mr. McGregor, and learned that, although the committee had not then been gazetted, he had fully made up his mind that in Western Australia appraisements would be made only at Fremantle; he would not think of having them made at either Geraldton or Albany. The personnel of the Central Wool Committee is as follows: - chairman, Mr. Bell; executive member, Mr. Yeo; representatives of the growers, Mr. Abbott, Mr. Boyd, and Mr. Cole; representatives ofthe brokers, Mr. Young, Mr. Carson and Mr. Cheadle; representative of the buyers, Mr. McGregor; representative of manufacturers, Mr. Laycock. Mr. McGregor seems to be the dynamic personality on the committee. It was only when I contacted him that I encountered antipathy to appraisements ‘being made at either Geraldton or Albany; the Minister, the Assistant Minister, and the chairman of the committee saw no objection to the previous appraisement centres being adopted. When I returned to Perth, I found that a deputation had been arranged with the Premier of the State. It was the most representative deputation of Federal and State members that I have ever attended in WesternAus tralia. Those who formed it were unanimous in requesting that appraisements should be made at the two ports of Albany and Geraldton. The Premier pointed out that he had already been in contact with the Prime Minister, to whom he had made a strong appeal for appraisements to be made at those centres. Senator Collett also sent a telegram expressive of the feeling of Western Australia in this matter. Senator Collett is the only Ministerial representative that that State has, and he ranks no higher than an Assistant Minister, although his very considerable ability entitles him to full cabinet rank. He was acquainted by the Minister for Commerce with the fact that the Central Wool Committee was opposed to the making of appraisements at any place in Western Australia, other than Fremantle. A further deputation waited on the State Wool Committee with a similar object. In a letter that I wrote to the Prime Minister, I stated -
Speaking for Albany, briefly, the case is as follows: -
1 ) In the previous appraisement scheme, appraisements were made at Albany.
The quantity’ of wool available within the Albany zone is about 45,000 bales.
There are ample storage space and dumping facilities.
The Albany woollen mills could handle the scouring necessary relative to that quantity of wool.
Ample shipping facilities are available at Albany.
The port of Albany is a fortified one.
The differences in railway freights would mean a saving of eight to ten thousand pounds to the growers.
The ships that called to lift the wool could in all probability find space for apples and pears, the bulk of which are stored within that zone. I need not stress to you the very great and difficult problem which has been created in this industry by the shortage of shipping to export our apples and pears.
The normal employment of wharf labourers and other workers will be restricted. All the avenues of business within the zone will be placed at a disadvantage.
No one can question the wisdom and necessity for the Government to appoint expert ‘ assessors, but when such are given powers which enable them to subvert the policy of the Government it seems to be wrong and dangerous. It surely must be more economic for two or three appraisers to go to 45,000 bales of wool than to take 45,000 bales of wool two or three hundred miles to two or three assessors.
There is no comparison between the claims of Albany and those of Ballarat and certain other inland towns mentioned in the press. In the case of Albany, it is railed to the stores at a shipping port. In the case of Ballarat it is railed to stores at Ballarat and after appraisement has to be re-railed for shipment.
In the light of the reasons given, I beg that you will cause the claims of Albany and Geraldton to be re-eonsidered urgently as the wool is waiting transport.
Yours sincerely, (Sgd.) J. H. Prowse.
Western Australia has a coast-line practically equal to that of the rest of Australia. Wool grown -in the district extending from Eucla to Wyndham has to be carted to one centre for appraisement. That is an example of taking the mountain to Mahomet, with a vengeance. Prior to the last war no wool sales were held in Western Australia, and the first appraisement of Western Australian wool was made in Melbourne. My own consignment had to go there for appraisement. Later, appraisements were made at Fremantle, Albany and Geraldton.
After the scheme was wound up, sales were regularly held at Fremantle. Sales were also instituted at Albany, but it was found impracticable to get a sufficiently large panel of buyers to attend, and the sales were abandoned, the wool going to Fremantle instead. The Prime Minister, in his reply to me, stated -
Tn deciding upon the centres in which the appraisement should take place the Central Wool Committee gave very careful consideration to the claims of Albany and Geraldton, along with a number of other centres outside the capital cities. [ ask the Prime Minister to give some consideration to the matter, but his guid- ing star seems to be the Central Wool Committee. I do not think it proper for a newly appointed committee, which may have qualifications for assessing wool values, to determine matters of policy for the Commonwealth Government. The argument of the Prime Minister was to the effect that, as sales had not been taking place at either Geraldton or Albany, that was evidence enough that it would not be economic to have wool sent there for appraisement. I have already pointed out that the wool sales at Albany were abandoned because they could not get a sufficient panel of buyers to attend. Overseas wool buyers come to Australia with a fixed itinerary mapped out for them, and it was found impracticable to get them to visit Albany, or to go up to Geraldton. Therefore, those growers who were not shipping their wool to London had to send it to Fremantle. The situation now, however, is quite different. The wool has been sold, and all that is necessary is that a value be placed on it. Large sums of money have been expended in Albany and Geraldton in providing wool stores, and the State Government has been at great expense to provide railway facilities and wharfage. The storage space provided by the various firms at Albany is as follows: -
There is space there for the storage of 45,000 bales, but it must remain idle “because this new Central Wool Commit- tee has already determined the Government’s policy. The Prime Minister appealed to the country at the outbreak of war to apply a policy of “Business as usual “. I ask the Prime Minister to apply his own policy in the case of the appraisement of the wool clip. I ask honorable members to consider what this would mean to the district of Albany. In 1826, the British Admiralty directed Captain Lockyer to take possession of that part of the Australian continent for Britain. Albany is the oldest town in Western Australia, having been established 112 years ago. Its progress has been steady from die beginning. It has, as I have pointed out, storage space and rail and wharfage facilities. There are freezing works there, and it is the centre of ,a considerable fat lamb trade. Wheat is shipped from the port, and woollen mills have been established. The people of the district have taken a pride in its development, and they now feel that what has been built up with so much labour is being taken away from them, simply because it has been decided to centralize the appraisement of wool at a point 300 miles away. There are many waterside workers in the town, some of them born in the district. They, with their wives and families, are dependent for a livelihood on the handling of produce passing through the port. The action of the Government in this regard is well calculated to make these people feel that they are being unjustly treated. It is not long since a plebiscite was taken in Western Australia, and a majority of two to one of the electors voted for secession from the Commonwealth. I may mention that the Albany district was exceedingly generous to the late Mr. Lyons when he visited it at the time that poll was being taken. I have here a copy of a telegram which has been sent from Western Australia to the Prime Minister: -
Do you know that wool is being stored in open yards at Fremantle, while empty sheds are available both at Geraldton and Albany.
I am not raising this matter now simply because I happen to be the representative of Albany. I have not moved the adjournment of the House for twenty years, and I am doing it now because I feel, as do the people in the west, that they are being unjustly treated by a Government which has left a newly appointed committee to determine its policy for it, while the policy of that committee seems, in turn, to be determined by the woolbuyers representatives. The decision of the Government has been arrived at in opposition to the repeated appeals of the Premier of Western Australia to the Prime Minister. Not once, but three times, he appealed to the Prime Minister, and the only reply he could get was that the Central Wool Committee had advised against what he asked for. The Prime Minister has transferred his authority to this newly-appointed Central Wool Committee. The action taken by the Premier of Western Australia is set forth in the following extract from the West Australian, of the 17th October, last:! -
The Premier said yesterday that, in view of the decision of the Central Wool Committee that no further appraisement centres would be approved, he sent the following telegram to the .Prime Minister:: - “ Tremendous dissatisfaction exists among producers and residents of the districts of Albany and Geraldton at the decision not to allow those places as appraisement centres for wool acquired on account of the British Government. ‘ The State Government is endeavouring to make all decisions regarding war matters in accord with the procedure in the last war, which are accepted in good spirit. The ports of Albany and Geraldton have all facilities for appraisement and shipment of wool and considerable money will be saved to producers if appraisements are carried out there, as in the last war. Extreme hostility will be shown against the board and the Government if it is decided to cut out Geraldton and Albany as appraisement centres. It is eminently desirable that the present unity of the people towards war problems should be maintained. I very earnestly suggest you might take a personal endeavour to rectify the position, which cannot bo vitally important to the hoard in view of the satisfactory experience of the procedure during the last war.”
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– I desire to support the statements of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), not only with regard to the port of Albany, but also with regard to the port of Geraldton, which is the chief port in the electorate of Kalgoorlie. On the 17th of last month, the following tele- gram was sent by the Premier of Western Australia to the Prime Minister : - “Tremendous dissatisfaction exists among producers .and residents of the districts of Albany and Geraldton at the decision not to allow those places as appraisement centres for wool acquired on account of the British Government. The State Governnent is endeavouring to make all decisions regarding war matters in accord with the procedure in the last war, which are accepted in good spirit. The ports of Albany and Geraldton have all facilities for appraisement and shipment of wool and considerable money will be saved to producers if appraisements are carried out -there, as in the last war. Extreme hostility will be shown against the board and the Government if it is decided to cut out Geraldton and Albany as appraisement centres. It is eminently desirable that the present unity of the people towards war problems should be maintained. I very earnestly suggest you might take a personal endeavour to rectify the position, which cannot bc vitally important to the board in view of the satisfactory experience of the procedure during the last war.”
That is how the people of Western Australia view the matter. Repeated representations have ‘been made to the Prime Minister on this subject by representative bodies in Albany and Geraldton, and by the honorable member for Forrest and myself. Replying to these representations, the Assistant Minister for Commerce, Senator McBride, gave as an excuse for the Government’s decision, that the committee wished to have as little dislocation of trade as possible. His argument is vitiated by the fact that what the Government proposes will, in fact, upset trade. For many years there have been shipped from Geraldton direct to England large quantities of wool from areas 500 miles inland. It is 318 miles from Geraldton to Fremantle, and Albany is 340 miles southeast of Fremantle. This is not a case of one of the smaller States coming cap in hand to the Commonwealth asking for a favour; we are simply asking to be allowed to manage our own business in the way that we know to be best. In these circumstances I cannot understand why the Government should hesitate for one moment to give effect to the recommendations of the Premier of Western Australia and the wishes of the people of that State.
The second objection raised by the Assistant Minister for Commerce was -
It would be unfair to establish new centres and cause extra cost to Australian woolgrowers. It would be unwise to’ incur the extra expense of holding appraisements at Geraldton and Albany.
I concede that the Assistant Minister has been in Western Australia, but I doubt whether he knows very much about it.
– He was shown through the freezing chambers.
– And I have no doubt he was very impressed by what he saw. But he seems to have become South Australianized” since returning home. He says, “ Extra cost to Australian woolgrowers “. That is the very thing that we are trying to combat. To take the wool from Geraldton to Fremantle will mean an extra cost of 8s. 4d. a bale, a total extra cost of £20,000 to the wool-growers in the district that I represent. The people are wrathful about this. They cannot understand how the Government or the Central Wool Committee could so far depart from normal business methods as to centralize the wool appraisement of such a vast wool-growing area as Western Australia at the one port, unless it be due to the totalitarian and bureaucratic methods which the Government has brought into play since the outbreak of this war.
The other objection raised by the Assistant Minister for Commerce was -
It was decided that appraisements would be held at established centres where auction sales had previously taken place. It can reasonably be assumed that under the auction system sales were held at all centres where this could be economically done to meet the needs of woolgrowers generally. The Central Wool Committee, therefore, feels that as these centres could not justify the establishment of wool selling centres in peace-time conditions, it would be unwise to incur the extra expense in holding appraisements at these places.
That is Geraldton and Albany. There is no need for auction sales. The wool is already sold. When there was need for selling or appraising wool in Geraldton or Albany, it was done, and, frequently, ships went direct to London from those ports fully laden with wool. I left the honorable member for Forrest to speak about his own electorate, which includes Albany. I can speak with authority about Geraldton. At
Geraldton no less than £1,000,000 has been expended on harbour works. Apart from traffic to the gold-fields, the port depends entirely on wheat and wool. At the port there is a large number of workmen. The number of workmen has been reduced since the introduction of bulk handling of wheat, but that is inevitable with the march of progress. Ordinary citizens and workmen alike are anxious that all employment that logically belongs to the port should be retained in Geraldton. The Minister’s last objection cannot hold water as a valid objection. The people at Geraldton, very much on the lines on which I have proceeded, have set out an answer to the objections raised by the Assistant Minister for Commerce as follows -
Sending wool to Fremantle, of course, involves carriage of the wool for more than 300 miles and an extra charge of 8s. 4d. a bale in freight. It is astonishing how people in States far distant from the Federal Capital have difficulty in establishing their claims with ‘ people settled in the capital, more particularly with those people who are associated with these newly created committees who claim to know better how to run the business of people 2,000 miles away, than the people engaged in their own business who are on the spot.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– Frequently in this House the Government is charged with interfering with the activities of public servants and of organizations which are set up to control various aspects of our economy and which are considered to be more capable of carrying outsuch functions than we who happen to be members of this assembly. To-day, however, we are charged with unreadiness to interfere with the arrangements made by a body which I am sure no member of this House, not even the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) who moved the motion, would suggest is not much more capable than are we to determine the detailed matters associated with the handling of the Australian wool clip under existing conditions.This is is not a matter of high policy as was suggested in the speeches to which we have just listened. The appointment of appraisement centres is rightly a matter which has been delegated to the Central “Wool Committee, on which, let me emphasize, there are representatives of the wool-growers. Regulation 18 of the National Security (Wool) Regulations, states that -
Each State Wool Committee shall, under the Central Wool Committee, carry out all arrangements for the appraisement of the wool.
The objective of the Government and the committee is to do everything that the honorable member for Forrest suggested we should do, that is, allow business to be conducted as usual. How has business been conducted so far as the two ports, Albany and Geraldton, are concerned? It is true that during the last war appraisement centres were, for portion of the time, located at those two ports, but, immediately after the war, it was found impossible to maintain those ports ascentres for the aggregation and sale of wool. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) said that from Geraldton tremendous volumes of wool are shipped overseas. I have the figures for the last two years before me. In 1937- 38 the total shipments of wool from Geraldton were 2,230 bales and from Albany 2,130 bales, each representing a little more than 1 per cent, of the total wool production of Western Australia. For the year -1938-39, to bring it right up to date, I find that the figures are even more illuminating. Whereas the total wool production of Western Australia in 1938- 39 amounted to 214,000 bales, the total quantity of wool shipped from Geraldton was 2.100 bales, less than 1 per cent, of the whole of the State’s production, and from Albany, 1,700 bales, also, of course, less than 1 per cent, of the total State production.
– That was when there were no auction sales and the wool had to go to Fremantle for sale.
– The restriction of sales to Fremantle is an indication that in normal times, pre-war times, the industry itself did not desire that activities associated with the disposal of wool should be carried on at Albany and Geraldton. Otherwise, why did the industry not maintain the position that existed during the last war? It has been suggested that Western Australia has suffered unduly - has been selected for some inequity - but Western Australia is not the only State in which there is only one appraisement centre. Emphasis has been placed on the policy of the Government to interfere with business as little as possible. The action of the Central Wool Committee is in full accord with the policy. It is carrying out the policy of “ business as usual “ by concentrating the appraisement of the Western Australian wool clip in the one centre. As I have said, there are two other States in which the same situation exists. There is nothing further I need say on this matter. We have in this case, as in all other aspects of our marketing schemes, placed the direct control of details in the hands of representatives of the industry, and endeavoured to keep a balance between all sections of the industry. We have said to them, “ You do the job. You know more about it than we do “. They, in their judgment, have decided on a single appraisement centre for Western Australia, and the Government does not feel bound to interfere with their decision.
.- As the representative in this House of the port of Townsville, I endorse what has been said by the mover of this motion, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). The Assistant Minister for Commerce (Senator McBride) suggested that Townsville had suffered because it had not agitated enough, but that is not so. I has agitated, but the present situation, which leaves Townsville out of account as a centre for the appraisement of wool, has been brought about by the wool-brokers. The port of Townsville ships annually no less than 100,000 bales of wool- sometimes more, but never less. It is anticipated that the quantity will be even greater than that this year because of tha better season. I accordingly urge upon the Government the necessity for it to reverse the decision of the Central Wool Committee and to make Townsville an additional place in Queensland for the appraisement of wool.
Mr. H. B. Marks, Secretary of the Townsville Chamber of Commerce, on receipt of a letter from the Richmond branch of the Graziers Association urging that wool appraisements be established in Townsville, has communicated with the authorities supporting such a suggestion. No doubt the Chamber of Commerce will strongly support the action of their secretary. For many years, even before the last war, the proposal to establish wool sales at Townsville and Rockhampton was advocated. The chief disability against such sales in Townsville was its remoteness. The buyers in those days had only ship transport, the railway was not then through from south, and a visit to a northern sale would require nearly a fortnight of the buyers’ time to attend at Townsville. To-day, appraisers by using aeroplanes or flying boats could do their work in about a third of the time required 25 years ago. With wool appraisement also at Rockhampton, the cost of travelling would be divided between the two centres.
If the wool were now auctioned, some growers would probably prefer to sell in Brisbane or Sydney, where, because of the greater number of buyers, there might be keener competition. Now that wool is appraised, however, that incentive to sell in the big centres disappears. The transport costs of wool are on the higher scale and growers are naturally keen to get their produce on board an oversea boat at the lowest possible cost. Under present appraisement conditions, wool from north-west Queensland is railed several hundred miles to Townsville, stored, taken by coastal boats to Brisbane or Sydney, carted from the steamer’s side to the big wool stores, and when sold is oarted back to the oversea steamer. At Townsville the wool could be stored, appraised and shipped from the store direct into oversea boats. Under such conditions the transport of wool 800 miles to Brisbane, unloading and loading of wool there and carting both ways from store to wharf would be obviated.
It might be argued that oversea steamers would not be available. No alarm need be felt on that head, because the Townsville sugar, meat and wool seasons are at their height from May to October, and at least a couple of oversea boats visit the port weekly. Last year the exports of Townsville totalled nearly 500,000 tons - double those of Brisbane - and it is certain the tonnage will be greater in the current year. With imports handy to 200,000 tons, the port’s trade is about 700,000 tons per annum, and so long as this tonnage is maintained the steamers will be ready to lift it. Brisbane is the only wool-selling centre in Queensland, and is situated in the southeast corner of the State, 1,500 miles from some of the State wool-producing areas.
There are eight wool-selling centres in New Zealand ; three in Victoria ; three in New South Wales; one in South Australia; two in Western Australia; and two in Tasmania. Hobart, in the lastnamed State, sold 28,455 bales last year and Launceston 31,453, a total of 59,79’S bales as against the export of 100,000 bales from Townsville, and that at the end of a series of droughts extending over ten years. In normal seasons the export of wool here would’ reach 150,000 bales; yet, though appraisers have to cross the seas to appraise 59,798 bales in Tasmania, 100,000 North Queensland bales, less, 18,100 bales dumped and shipped direct’ overseas, but which would probably, remain if there were North Queensland appraisement, have still to be dragged 800 miles. Government officials generally travel on the higher scale, hut it will surely cost very many times as much to carry 100,000 bales of doubly-handled wool to Brisbane as it would to convey a few appraisers to Townsville.
Last year 18,100 bales were dumped in Townsville and sent direct to overseas ports. On the above facts the concentration of North Queensland and Central District produced wools in Bris-bane for appraisement does not make foi economical handling, and is not in the interest of the producer. The cost of appraising the wool at Townsville and then shipping it direct by oversea steamers, should be considerably less than dragging it SOO miles by sea. to Brisbane. This extra handling must impose a burden of thousands of pounds on the wool-growers, against which the salariesand expenses of a few appraisers would be insignificant. But we are in the hands of those above us; if the Mahomet appraisers will not come to our mountain of wool then 80,000 to 100,000 bales will have to bc dragged to Brisbane for them to “ look sec “.
A further suggestion to the same effect made by Mr. Marks in a letter to the Minister for Commerce (Senator McLeay) should be given the most careful consideration. He pointed out that a definite financial disadvantage would be inflicted upon the wool-growers if their wool had to be sent to Brisbane. Shipping the wool at Townsville represents 10s. u bale, or at least £50,000 on the season’s clip, due to loading and unloading, and extra freight and handling charges incurred in transferring it to Brisbane, which is the farthest north appraisement centre. Seeing that most of the other States have at least two appraisement centres, it is a short-sighted policy to restrict Queensland to only one.
This afternoon, the honorable member for Kennedy and I had a conversation with the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Senator McBride) on the subject, and the Assistant Minister remarked that Townsville had not been awake to its own interest in that it had not taken this matter up long ago. The trouble has been, of course, that the big wool-selling firms have resisted all attempts to include Townsville as a woolselling centre. I suggest that these big firms have been actuated solely by selfinterest. Certainly their conduct has not been in the best interest of the woolgrowers.
Originally, Townsville was a selling centre for tobacco leaf, but subsequently the big firms showed that they were sufficiently influential to compel all tobacco leaf to be sent to the big tobacco floors in Brisbane. The policy now being applied in relation to wool is undoubtedly designed to assist the big wool-selling firms. It cannot truly be said that ade quate shipping is not available at Townsville, and I have shown clearly that theexpense involved in appraising the wool at Townsville would be far less than would be incurred in sending the wool to Brisbane. It may be argued that adequate space for appraising the wool is not available at Townsville.- I am not able to speak with authority on that point, but the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), who has big business interests in Townsville, could nodoubt indicate the facilities available there. I feel sure that suitable accommodation could be found in Townsville if it were required, i therefore urge that the Government should:- take this matter up at the earliest possible moment with the object of having the wool appraised at Townsville.
.- L have no doubt that the Acting Minister for Supply and Development (Sir Frederick Stewart) gave the right instructions to the Central Wool Committee in regard to this matter, but the committee, either through ignorance or through influence which was brought to bear upon it, is not acting upon the instructions. This is obvious not only from what the- honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) has just said, but also from information that I have received. In my opinion, it would be far less expensive, in many cases, for wool from certain big country districts to be sent to specified local receiving centres and for appraisers to be sent to those centres, than for the wool to .be taken to the nearest centre for appraisement.
I make a particular plea in the interests df Portland, Victoria. This is an excellent deep sea port at which overseas ships frequently call to load meat and butter. I can see no reason at all why they should not also load wool. There should be no need to send all of our wool to the capital cities.. At one stage, butter was being sent to Melbourne from the Portland district to be tested, after which it was brought back to Portland in the ships which called there to load meat. Representations were made to the Department of Commerce on the subject, with the result that the butter is now tested and loaded at Portland. At present, the wool from that district has’ to go either . to Melbourne or- Geelong for appraisement. I have no doubt that a food deal of it afterwards returns to
Portland in overseas ships which call there to pick up butter and meat. For some years after the last war, only about 1,000 bales of wool a year were sent away from Portland, but gradually, through the energies of prominent business men, the consignments have increased to 11.000 bales, which was last year’s total. It is estimated that 14,000 bales would have been available there this year under normal conditions. I admit that, relatively, this it not a large tonnage, but the business has been growing. “With the normal development it would increase very greatly in the next few years. However, if from now onward all of the wool has to be sent to Melbourne or Geelong for appraisement the business will be lost to Portland, and it will take a very long while for the port to regain the business after the war. We should not put the business men of the district to that very great expense, particularly as the appraisements could be carried out at Portland at far less cost than would be incurred in sending the wool from the district to Melbourne or Geelong.
The policy at present being applied is directly opposed to the Government’s declaration that it desires business to be interfered with as little as possible. Even this afternoon, the Acting Minister for Supply and Development informed us that the Government’s desire is that business shall be conducted as usual, yet the Central Wool Committee seems to have been entrusted with functions that, properly, should be discharged by Parliament.
– That is not so.
– It appears to me to be verydefinitely the case, for the committee is interfering with the normal course of business insofar as Portland is concerned.
– That is so.
– The honorable member for Herbert has shown that the same kind of thing is occurring elsewhere.
– It was customary to send the wool to Brisbane from
North Queensland, for the sales were held in Brisbane.
– But the wool is already cold in this case.
– I cannot see any justification for sending upwards of 100,000 bales of wool from the Townsville district to Brisbane simply for appraisement. It would be far less costly to send the appraisers to Townsville.
– The customary procedure is being followed, as far as practicable, in all cases.
– The Department of Commerce saw the wisdom of permitting the butter from the Portland district to be tested there and loaded straight on to the ships for transport overseas. I submit that the same procedure should be followed in respect of wool. Facilities are available for storing the wool at Portland, and no justification exists for sending it to Melbourne or Geelong. There is also a precedent for making the appraisements at Portland. I understand that largely through the representations of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) wool is being appraised at Ballarat. It is also being appraised at Albury.
– Were the sales conducted at Portland prior to the sale of this year’s clip to Great Britain?
– No. In order to hold sales at Portland much more roomy stores would be required than are available, and these could not be built except at great cost. But the situation is quite different when only appraisement is required. Appraisements could easily be made at such places as Portland, Townsville, Albany and Geraldton. The adoption of this policy would involve far less expense than the transport of the wool to the capital cities. Moreover, the business interests at these ports would be very greatly stimulated. If the present procedure is persisted in, businesses which have been developed at the expense of a great deal of energy on the part of local business men during the last 20 or 30 years will be ruined. I therefore urge the Government to give very serious consideration to the request which has been made for the carrying out of appraisements in local centres.
.- This subject should most certainly receive the serious attention of the Government. To put it mildly, the whole business is smelly indeed. It is not surprising that is the case-; it is inherent in the constitution of the various wool committees established by this Government. In the first place, we find that the Central Wool Committee is dominated by the great broking houses of Australia. On that committee there ai-e three representatives of the largest woolbroking houses, three growers’ representatives, one buyers’ representative, and one manufacturers’ representative. On <;ach of the subsidiary wool committees established in the various States there are three brokers’ representatives and only two growers’ representatives and one buyers’ representative. In justice to the primary producers, I suggest that the commission agents have the least right to representation on these committees. Yet we find that on all of those committees there is a preponderance of representatives of the great metropolitan wool-broking houses; in not one case has a representative of a provincial wool-broking house .been appointed. That is the root of all this trouble. I do not blame the great wool-brokers for doing everything in their power t.o secure representation on these committees. To put it mildly and kindly, they have seen in the establishment of these committees an opportunity to shake off the small woolbroking houses in the country centres which, at any time, are a considerable source of annoyance to them. The small woolbroking houses have no representation on these committees, and to show that the Government has given scant consideration to their interests, I shall bring a particular case to the notice of honorable members, and as concretely as possible relate the actual facts to the House. I was informed in Ballarat on Sunday, the 21st October, that the Ballarat Wool Stores was not to be recognized as an appraisement centre. I was not at that stage approached by the proprietor of the stores, but in the interests of the 26 men employed by him I wrote to the Minister for Commerce (Senator MoLeay) pointing out what it would mean if this warehouse were not recognized as an appraisement centre. On Tuesday, the 23rd October, the proprietor of the stores telephoned me and indicated that, since the 7 th October, he had had no word from the Central Wool Committee regarding his request that his stores be appointed as an appraisement centre. I was so impressed with the seriousness of the situation that I immediately telephoned the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Senator McBride), who very courteously agreed to see me on the following day. I then interviewed Senator McBride, who said, “ We have appointed this committee to administer and handle this scheme, and, of course, it is a matter for the committee “. I said, “ It is a matter of policy which the Government and its Ministers should determine”. Senator McBride was then kind enough to ring the representative of the Central Wool Committee, Mr. Yeo, after which he informed me that Mr. Yeo had told him that negotiations were proceeding with the proprietor of the Ballarat Wool Stores, and that it was hoped that the matter would be settled. I subsequently discussed the matter by telephone with the proprietor of the stores. He repeated that he had had no word from the Central Wool Committee since the -7th October. ‘ As Senator McBride had said that negotiations were proceeding with the proprietor of the stores, I suggested that he should telephone him at Ballarat, lie did so, and my statement that no further negotiations had taken place with the Central Wool Committee was confirmed. In further conversation with the proprietor of the stores, Senator McBride ascertained that the so-called negotiations with the Central Wool Committee actually turned out to be negotiations between the proprietor of the stores and the Wool Brokers Association of Australia. Last week I asked a question in relation to this matter in the House in the following terms: -
Can the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce tell me whether the Central Wool Committee has requested or suggested to the Wool Brokers Association that it should negotiate with country wool-brokers to have the wool normally handled by country brokers sent to city brokers for appraisement?
This question was simply framed and capable of being understood, either by the Minister in this . House or his colleague in another place, yet, although a week has elapsed, no answer has been given. Does not that confirm the fact that these so-called negotiations were but attempts by, other interested parties to swallow up a small wool-broking business? That position should not be permitted to exist. I afterwards ascertained the exact nature of the negotiations, and I challenge the Minister to deny the accuracy of my assertion. This is actually what happened : The negotiations that took place were . between representatives of the big city wool-broking organizations and the proprietor of the Ballarat Wool Stores to give them his appraisal business if his stores were not recognized as ari appraisal centre. If that is not a public scandal, I do not know what is. I am prepared to justify that statement up to the hilt. I admit that Senator McBride met me readily and made an appointment for the next day. After discussing the matter with me he said “ The Central Wool Committee is to meet to-morrow “. I said “ Will you let me know the position to-morrow ? “ He replied that he would do so. However, the following day passed and no decision was arrived at, with the result that I had to make a trip to Melbourne on the next day. I went to the Department of Commerce and asked for Senator McBride; I was informed that he had gone to Adelaide. I then asked for Senator McLeay, and was informed that he was attending a meeting pf the War Cabinet. Later, I ascertained by roundabout means that Ballarat was “to be an appraisal centre; but I did not receive confirmation of that Until the 31st October. This is the kind of treatment members of this House receive from Ministers. There is some justification for the belief that Ministers knew that this business could not be defended. In this matter the Government is acting in a haphazard and autocratic fashion. In the interests of decent government and fair play I ask that these wool committees be re-constituted in such a way as to give majority representation to those sections which are most interested in the operations of the committees, namely, the growers, purchasers, and employees.
Going through the list of appointees to the State committees, it is seen that the big wool-broking organizations get it both going and coming - they have majority representation not only on the Central Wool Committee, but also on the State committees. We hear often in this House a plea for decentralization. This firm which I have mentioned has been established in Ballarat for seventeen years. It has never bought or sold a pound of wool; it employs 70 hands, and has a magnificent store witu storage space for 70,000 bales of wool. Although it is prepared to pay the salaries of appraisers, travellers from the great metropolitan wool houses come along to it and say “ Boys, if you are stiff enough not to be recognized as an appraisal house, what about giving us your business?”. [Leave to continue given.] If it sends its wool to the big broking houses in the metropolis it loses contact with all of its clients for the duration of the war, and the final result will be that the big metropolitan organizations will put it out of business. That is a scandalous state of affairs. It is the duty of a responsible government to see that the interests of’ the small men are protected. I hold no particular brief for country wool-brokers as such, but at the same time I point out that they are rendering a valuable public service for which they are entitled to fair and decent treatment. They should not be subjected to victimization in this way. I support the protest made by the honorable member for Forrest.
.- Representing as I do a city constituency, I have no electoral interests in this matter, and I feel that I am sufficiently detached to be able to support this motion on the principle that the Central Wool Committee is acting wrongly in insisting that all of the wool in a State should be carried to the chief port. Centralization is one of the evils of Australia. The drift from the country to the cities has been going on for many years, with the result that the population of our rural districts is being rapidly depleted. We are beginning to find that this problem is almost insoluble. For ‘that reason we should see that in dealing with goods produced in the country we do not take any measures which, would tend to deplete the rural population and disadvantage the interests of those who have established businesses in country towns. This war is likely to go on for some years, and I fear what the result of it is likely to be. Unwillingly, I think, we are being forced to the socialization of our primary industries. I regard that as a very bad development, because socialism has always been attended by the evil of centralization. [Quorum formed.] I have not the fear that some honorable members have of those organizations which are engaged in the buying and selling of primary products. Those agencies have been of great “value to Australia and I fear that, if the war continues for a few years and a system -of selling and handling all primary produce under government control is introduced, they will be in danger of going to the wall. That would have a bad ‘effect on the country as a whole.
– The honorable member is introducing “ parish pump “ politics.
– I am not expounding “ parish pump “ politics ; I : am speaking on the pointthat control of products by Government-appointed organizations must ultimately cause disadvantage to rural industries. Take for instance a town like Albany. A wool export trade was carried on in that town at one time by good companies, which erected sheds and arranged for ships to visit ‘the port; but of recent years sales have been held only at Freinantle, and almost all of the wool produced in the Albany district has had to be taken to the market at Fremantle. For that reason the figures quoted by the Minister (Sir Frederick Stewart) representing the Minister for Commerce’ in relation to exports of wool from Albany-; -
– Were misleading.
– I would not go so far as to say “misleading”, but although they may have provided a reason for the decision of the Central Wool Committee not to appraise wool at Albany, they give no indication of the amount of wool likely to be shipped from Albany if the wool were appraised at that port. The estimated production of wool in the Albany district is said to be 45,000 bales ; I believe that it would be quite fair to assume that 30,000 bales would be exported through the port if the growers were left free to do so. I have no interests in Albany; but we should have some regard for the people who settle in the -country districts and we should not be ever-ready to make all roads lead to the main ports or the main cities. We should take every opportunity to afford some assistance to those who are doing great work for the country by carrying on rural industries. Under present conditions it is difficult for country producers to be financially successful and the shrewder persons will not go into the country, with the result that there is a tendency towards centralization in the cities. Honorable members representing Western Australia in this Parliament have frequently complained that centralization is being effected in the eastern States; this is a case of centralization within a State; it is on the same principle.
– The Government’s system involves no new departure.
– But the personnel of all Government appointed committees and boards is such that they have a city outlook; that is evident in central bureaux and committees everywhere ; they have not the interests of the smaller places at heart. The Minister has submitted that the Government, having appointed thecommittees, will in the main rely on them in matters of detail. I ask him not. to let that attitude be carried so far that he will not be prepared to review the principles upon which they act. A very sound principle was enunciated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) at the inception of these new organized marketing schemes. He said that the Government would purchase and handle the produce of the country, but that it would endeavour to ensure that business would be carried on as before.
– That is exactly what is being done.
– Thatis the error which the Minister fails to recognize because he has in mind the fact that there have been no exports from Albany for some years past. That is simply because the only wool sales held in Western Australia have been at Fremantle. The Albany people, having carried their wool 300 miles or more to Fremantle, could hardly lie expected to carry it back to Albany in order to ship it overseas. The figures quoted by the Minister refer to years in which no sales have been held outside Fremantle, and therefore have no application in determining what would be the normal export of wool from the Albany district. The export figures would be related to the quantity of wool grown in the district which could be conveniently handled at the port.
– Wool was not being exported from Albany before these committees were formed ; therefore business is merely being carried on as usual.
– As I explained earlier, that is because wool grown in the Albany district had to be carried to Fremantle to be sold. Under these national security proposals sales will no longer be held at Fremantle, because the wool is to be sold abroad. Thus, the necessity for transporting wool to Fremantle has ceased to exist, and the shipping of wool from the Albany district should follow its natural course through Albany. There is no reason why vessels should not be diverted to Albany to load wool that- can conveniently be handled there. It would be easier and more convenient to send three valuers to Albany than to transport perhaps 25,000 bales of wool from Albany to Fremantle.
.- 1 support the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) in his appeal for the selection of Townsville as a centre for wool appraisement. I have received tele.gi ams from branches of the Graziers Association along the north-western Queensland line, over which all of the wool grown in the north-western districts of Queensland is transported to Townsville. The secretary of the Graziers Association at Richmond sent me the following telegram : -
Understand matter of making Townsville wool appraisement centre now before Parliament. Richmond Branch Graziers Association urges your support proposal. If adopted would mean saving ten shilling per bale to growers.
A message from Julia Creek reads as follows : -
Understand matter of establishing appraisement centre at Townsville which my branch Graziers Association support coming before House Wednesday. We will greatly appreciate your assistance to bring same into being for which we thank you in anticipation. and a third from Hughenden is in the following terms: -
Would ask you please strongly support our effort to have wool appraisement centre established in Townsville.
Those .branches represent the three most important centres in the wool-growing area.s of north-western Queensland. As the honorable member for Herbert pointed out, approximately 100,000 bales of wool will be exported from Townsville this season. In the past, that quantity has been exceeded, but owing to bad conditions that have prevailed in some districts, the quantity of wool for export has been reduced. The areas north of the north-western railway line are what might be termed new wool areas, because until a few years ago, sheep were not reared in that part of the country, which was always regarded as a cattle country. To-day, however, flocks are increasing enormously in number, because the land has been found to be good and suitable for the production of* wool. It is inevitable that the export of wool from Townsville must increase considerably in the future. Up to the present, approximately 20 per cent, of the wool produced, in Queensland, which stands third on the list of wool-producing States, and which is not far behind Victoria, passes through Townsville. The point is that Townsville is a port through which passes a large percentage of the country’s meat exports, the whole of Queensland’s production of silver lead in the form of ingots from Mr Isa, an annual total of 500,000 tons of exports and approximately 200,000 tons of imports pass through the port of Townsville upon which many thousands of pounds have been expended on improvements. From May to October, during what is known as the meat and sugar season, at least two overseas vessels call at the port weekly. It is evident, therefore, that if Townsville were named as a wool appraisement centre, there would be no difficulty in obtaining sufficient shipping space. A further point is that it would not be necessary for the loaded ships to travel to the south, because they could return to Europe by the Torres Strait route. Another important fact is that wool produced in northwestern Queensland is sent to Brisbane or Sydney to be sold. No sales are held in Townsville, not because there have been no demands for them, but because many producers, on whose behalf I am speaking chiefly to-day, selectors, men who have secured their land by ballots, have had to seek assistance from financial firms, and, as a consequence, have been compelled to send their wool dips to Brisbane or Sydney. Some of them have to send their wool 800 miles to Townsville and then a further 800 miles by steamer to Brisbane. If Townsville were made a wool appraisement centre the growers would not be saddled with the cost of transporting their clips from Townsville to Brisbane, which would save them the expenditure of 10s. a bale, or a total of £50,000 a year. To-day the honorable member .for Herbert and. I waited on the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Senator McBride) in an endeavour to have Townsville appointed as an appraisement centre. The Minister practically told us that the matter was one for the Central Wool Committee to decide. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) has just explained to the House what interests are represented upon that committee and where the control of the industry is now exercised. The Government has again shown where its sympathies lie ; it has delegated to an outside body powers that should remain in its own hands. Governments of the same political colour as the present one have in the past delegated their responsibilities to royal commissions. Now we find that when we demand the appointment of certain centres for the appraisement of wool to save £50,000 a year for the wool producers, whom members of the Country party say they represent, the answer given to us is, “ I am sorry, but nothing can be done “. These producers received similar harsh treatment from the Government in 1936 when ‘an appeal was made for assistance to enable those in financial difficulties to carry on. That appeal fell on deaf ears. The endeavour has been made to put into operation the policy of decentralization and to do something for those who are populating our northern coastal strip, but the powers that be say, “ We are sorry ; nothing can be done The cost of erecting buildings and installing machinery is urged as a reason for rejecting the proposal. In a period of twelve months the £50,000 that could be saved would be more than sufficient to defray the cost of the necessary buildings and machinery. We have been told to prepare for a threeyears’ war. If it be that the war should last three years, the sooner Townsville is appointed as a wool appraisement centre, the better, because then the wool-growers of north-western Queensland would benefit by at least £100,000. Victoria has three wool appraisement centres, yet its wool production is little more than that of . Queensland. I am not complaining about what has been done in respect of Victoria, New South Wales, or any other State, but I » am criticizing the policy under which the wool-growers of north-western Queensland are compelled to send their wool to Brisbane.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.Isupport the motion of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), which has been moved with a view to consideration being given to the very important matter of the advisability of including other ports and places as wool appraisement centres, additional to those fixed by the Central Wool Committee, because I represent the very important centre of Rockhampton, in central Queensland, which has a population of 30,000 and is the capital city of the very wealthy Central Queensland wool producing district. Rockhampton has been endeavouring to become a centre for the holding of wool sales for many years and, as far back as the last war, a centre for wool appraisement purposes. The repeated representations of the local interests in this direction have fallen on deaf ears because of the octopus-like grip that is held by the huge auction wool-broking firms of the capital cities of Australia. I expected the Minister (Sir Frederick
Stewart) to give more sympathetic consideration to this very reasonable request, but he at once showed that he did not grasp the importance of it and that he was ready to hide behind the Central Wool Committee, his reply being that the Government had set up this committee and did not intend to interfere with its deliberations and decisions.
– On details.
– If the Government proposes to pursue that course to its logical conclusion in respect of all other matters, it will undermine the whole system of democratic government and ministerial control. If the Minister will not accept responsibility for the decisions of the Central Wool Committee in cases of this sort, the result will be to hand over control to an oligarchy consisting of representatives of huge wool-broking firms and the three pliant representatives of very large pastoral interests who are handinglove with the wool-broking organizations. Since its inception, the Labour party in this) Parliament has always stood for decentralization. The people in the outlying centres of Australia are living under many great disadvantages compared with the privileges of those who live in the more thickly populated areas. In Rockhampton, Townsville, and many other centres throughout Australia, men and women are doing great work in bringing up good Australian families, who have comparatively few opportunities to ad-, vance themselves because the big centres have practically a monopoly of the large secondary industries, and all of the influential financial houses and wool-broking firms are situated in the capital cities. I expected that this Government would have taken every factor into consideration before deciding what should be the wool appraisement centres for the whole of Australia. It cannot hand over its responsibility to any other authority, or say, “Don’t blame us: the Central Wool Committee has done this “. I made certain remarks concerning that iniquitous committee yesterday. It has on it three representatives of the big auction woolbroking firms and three large pastoralists. I showed clearly how these gentlemen are using the unprecedented powers that have been handed over to them for the purpose of putting out of business hundreds of small wool merchants who are competing against them. Can we leave it to them to see that justice is done to the claims of Rockhampton, Townsville, and other centres, for consideration as wool appraisement centres? We cannot, because they are not on the committee to consider the matter on its merits; they have to answer to the huge auction wool-broking firms which, down the years, have strongly opposed every request by new centres to be considered as wool appraisement centres or as centres for the holding of wool sales. When representations were made in respect of Albury, Ballarat, Geelong, Goulburn, and other centres, the same opposition was shown. These huge woolbroking organizations do not wish to go to the expense of sending their representatives to Rockhampton, Townsville, and outlying centres, nor have they any inclination to incur the expense of erecting buildings or of making arrangements with local interests for storage accommodation. Their object is to drag everything to the capital cities, and evidently the Government intends to allow them to do so. During the last war, the wool appraisement centres were - in Queensland, Brisbane; in New South Wales, Sydney and Albury; in Victoria, Melbourne, Ballarat and Geelong; in South Australia. Adelaide; in Tasmania, Hobart and Launceston; and in Western Australia, Fremantle, and, after a time, Albany and Geraldton. During the present war, according to information furnished by the Minister, yielding to pressure, two additional centres were appointed in New South Wales, at Newcastle and Goulburn, and, later, one at Ballarat, which was previously excluded. I congratulate the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), on the effectiveness of the fight that he put up. I remind the Minister that Goulburn is only a little over 100 miles from- Sydney, that Ballarat is about 80 miles from Melbourne, and that Launceston is 124 miles from Hobart, whereas Rockhampton is 400 miles north of Brisbane, and Townsville is over 400 miles farther north. To-day, over 100,000 bales of wool pass through Townsville. We have been told in eloquent terms by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), who has Townsville in his division, that the appointment of that city as a woolappraisement centre would mean a saving of £50,000 to the pastoralists of northwestern Queensland. The same may be said of the pastoralists of central Queensland, who carry over 2,000,000 sheep. The appointment of Rockhampton as an appraisement centre would, be a great thing for what is practically the capital city of central Queensland. It would mean more employment there, more handling charges, and greater distribution of the wealth that flows from our wool industry. I remind the Minister that a strenuous fight was waged by representative people in Rockhampton when wool-appraisement centres were being established after the outbreak of the last war. Deputations went as far south as Melbourne and very effectively put before the Government the claims of that centre; but the Government on that occasion, as the present Government has done on tha.3 occasion, hid behind the Central “Wool Committee, this octopus-like organization which stands as a bulwark of protection for the huge auction wool-broking firms. For how long will the Minister continue to hide behind these bureaucratic institutions which the Government has established? Does he propose to discard the responsibility of a Minister?
– It looks like it.
– It certainly does. His conception of the importance of these matters appears to be so obtuse that we cannot expect sympathetic consideration from him. He seems to lack understand-ing of the problems of the outback portions of Australia, and to have too ready an inclination to yield to the pressure of huge firms like Dalgety and Company, Younghusband’s Limited, the , New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company Limited, and other firms which, since the outbreak of war, have been able so to increase their business that they are able to impress upon their shareholders the view that their shares are more valuable than they were in pre-war days, with the result that the value of those shares has risen by from 8 per cent, to 17 per cent, on the different stock exchanges.
– “Whilst the businesses of the people in the ports have been destroyed.
– That is so. I submit that we should not stand for that any longer.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– I wish to add one or two observations to those that have already been made by other honorable members, in connexion with this very important matter. The Government should seize the opportunity afforded by the proposal of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) to give practical application, to the desirability of decentralization in Australia. It now has a wonderful opportunity to take adequate and proper advantage of all harbour, storage, railage, and other transport facilities which would be available in connexion with wool appraisement in ports away from the capital cities. The honorable members for Herbert (Mr. Martens) and Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) have made out a definite and very convincing case in support of the merits of Townsville as an appraising centre. The Minister (Sir Frederick Stewart), in combating the arguments of those gentlemen, said that the only reason which the Central Wool Committee had been able to advance against the appointment of such centres is that they were not appraising centres, and not centres in which wool sales were held, in pre-war days. That is so. There is no need to go into the reason for sales not having been held in those centres in pre-war times. It was due, not to what the local citizens considered were their merits, or to lack of agitation by the business people and pastoralists concerned, but entirely to the fact that the brokers did not offer any encouragement to the proposal. The argument used was that buyers would not go there, and that consequently the necessary market was not available. The Minister has stated that the reason why they should not be made appraising centres is that that would involve an alteration of pre-war conditions. An alteration of pre-war conditions is the very reason why proper advantage should be taken of the opportunity to have appraisements made in those centres. There is no need to encourage buyers to go- to .them. Th£ wool clip of Australia has been .purchased by the British Government, and the only matter that remains to be handled is the appraisement of its value. Opportunity is thus afforded to have appraisement carried out in centres such as Rockhampton and Townsville, the effect of which would be to bring about desirable and requisite decentralization.
We know very well that the centralization of industry and population in Australia has created a most disturbing situation. Out of a population of approximately 7,000,000, over 4,000,000 are gathered in the capital cities, and that undue preponderance dictates the fiscal policy of this primary producing country. The Government now has an opportunity to take a step in the direction of decentralization. It should accept responsibility for its own policy; it should not shelter behind a committee which it has appointed. This is a matter of vital importance, one upon which the Government must make up its own mind. It has been stated that, by having wool appraised at Townsville, it would be possible to effect a saving of £50,000 a year to the wool-growers of north-western Queensland. Those of us who are concerned with the economic welfare of the country know that it is important to keep costs of production and distribution as low as possible. Where we have an opportunity, as here, to make a saving in this direction it should not be neglected. It is estimated that 100,000 bales of wool would be sent to Townsville for appraisement. There is a fine port there which is visited annually by 647 ships of an aggregate tonnage of 2,445,000. We must take a broad Australian view of this problem. It is of great importance to Australia that north-western Queensland should be populated and developed, and no obstacle should be allowed to stand in the way. Therefore, I urge the Government to avail itself of this opportunity to bring about a measure of decentralization by establishing wool appraisement centres at Rockhampton and Townsville in Queensland, and at those centres in Western Australia that have been mentioned by other honorable members. I hope that the Government will instruct the Central Wool Committee to apply a policy of decentralization in this regard.
.- The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) is to be commended for having brought this matter to the notice of the Government. Notwithstanding the reply of the Minister (Sir Frederick Stewart), I am not yet without hope that the position will be corrected. There is little that can be added to the remarks of honorable members who have already spoken. I associate myself with the motion because I regard it, howeverimportant it may be as an isolated instance, as being of even greater importance in that it draws pointed attention to a policy which is of fundamental importance in the development of Australia. We hold a territory of 3,000,000 square miles with a population of slightly less than 7,000,000 people. It was only natural that, in our endeavours to equip ourselves with the most economic methods of transport, we should have been driven to a certain measure of centralization. Nevertheless, every one will admit that the development of the country is being retarded by a system under which more than half the population of the continent is living in the six capital cities on the sea-board. That situation has developed because of the continued application of a policy of centralization practised by every Government of Australia, State and Federal. It is further helped by the action of vested interests in the cities which desire to swell the city populations, and to ensure that the produce of the country shall be delivered to the cities for disposal and shipment, so that brokerage and other charges may be levied on it. ‘
– Those city interests are the chief supporters of the United Aus.tralia party.
– They are also the chief supporters of the present Opposition in this House. The vast rural areas, Which are crying out for development, a>re adequately represented in this House only by the Country party. While there may have been some pretence of justification for the centralization of wool sales, because they can be satisfactorily conducted only in the presence of a large number of buyers, yet, when the wool has been sold, as now, and it remains only to be appraised by a group of four or five men, every argument in favour of centralization falls to the ground. I find myself unable to comprehend the attitude of the Minister who has spoken on behalf of the Government in support of the present intention of the Central Wool Committee. I am inclined to think that the Minister has taken the easy way out. He has taken the attitude that, at this time, when he and his colleagues are working under heavy war-time pressure, the easy way is to lean on the advice of the Central Wool Committee - a body of men very competent, I have no doubt, to handle the appraisal of wool, but not properly concerned with the policy that should ‘be applied to the development of this country. Their job is to appraise the wool and arrange for its shipment. Lt is not a normal function of the com”mittee to determine matters of policy: to decide whether it is in the interests of the nation that the existing policy of centralization should be further aggravated or not. That very question is, however, one of supreme importance to the Government, which should make a decision on it. I join with other honorable members in urging the Minister, even at this stage, to give an assurance to the House that he and his colleagues will review the decision of the Government. I trust that they will see the futility of a policy which proposes that 50,000 or 100,000 bales of wool , should be transported distances up to 500 miles for inspection by four or five mcn, instead of sending the men to inspect the wool. No justification of that proposal can be offered. I trust that this debate, and the expressions of opinion that have fallen from supporters of the Government, members of the Opposition and members of the Country .party, will have the effect of persuading the Government that it should apply, wherever possible, a policy of decentralization, as being the wish of the elected representatives of the people of Australia. Not only should that policy be applied in this instance; it should also be applied generally. This country cannot possibly go on to the destiny that awaits it if we are to perpetuate a system under which more than half the people are huddled in six capital cities on the sea-coast. Until there is a more reasonable geographical distribution of the population, Australia cannot be effectively developed. I regard this as merely an incident - though a very important one - which focuses attention on this accursed policy of centralization that has held back the development of the country for so many years. It has been practised by the State governments in their refusal to institute a system of through freighting on the railways. I join with other honorable members in urging the Government to review its decision.
– The matter raised by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) is of great importance to every outer seaport in Australia, and also to some of the big country towns. All parties in this House will agree that Australia is suffering greatly from the degree of centralization which has already taken place. I do noi intend to be a consenting party to the application during wartime of a policy which, under the excuse of war conditions, will still further accentuate the evil of centralization in our capital cities. The honorable member for Forrest has a perfect right to be concerned about the future of the port of Albany, and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) about that of Geraldton. In other States ‘things are somewhat different. There has been recently a most interesting report on the wool industry of Queensland issued by Mr. Payne of that State. Here, the other day I went right through that report The position of Townsville is described, and all sorts of devious methods of State policy are shown to have been resorted to in order to enable State governments to get away from the practice of decentralization which most of them preach, but sometimes do not observe. The same thing applies to many of the inland towns. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) was somewhat eloquent about his own particular trouble, and there is also that great town of Albury through which many of us pass at different times on our way south.
– The wool-brokers own the store there.
– That may he so. Things should be decided not on whether the stores are owned by certain wool-brokers but on what will suit the convenience of the wool-growers in the various districts. It is no longer a question of whether auctions are to be held ; it is a question of appraisements for the duration of the war. I do not wish, and I do not intend, to be a consenting party to a policy which will make the position for certain outports and country towns during the war worse than it was at the time when war broke out. Rather would I support the Government in a policy which would, during the war time, develop some of those centres. One of the things we are badly in need of in this country is an increase of the size of certain country towns and outports, and also an increase of the number of those country centres, and anything which militates–
– What are you looking at the clock for?
-I am entitled to look at the clock if I like. A policy designed by any governmentto deal with any aspect of the wool industry must take into consideration important matters, one of which naturally is the matter of shipping.
– Centralization is needed for shipping.
– There must be a balance. No State offers a better example of the need for balance than Tasmania. The difficulty about the State of Tasmania is that it has several good, deep seaports. That is not at all the case with the less favoured coast of the mainland, but there are in almost all States good ports which are not used. At this stage, we should not do anything by way of deliberate Government policy, policy either evolved by the Government or consented to by the Government, which will detrimentally affect the outports in existence to-day.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. John Lawson) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of bounty on the export of fortified wine, and for Other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. John Lawson and Sir Frederick Stewart do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. John Lawson, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 15th November(vide page 1143) on motion by Mr. John Lawson -
That the paper be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 8
– The statement made to Parliament by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) in respect of the control of prices and prevention of profiteering during the war, contains a good deal of information, but there are some remarkable omissions, one of which may be described as extraordinary. The machinery set up contemplates the regulation of prices by the Government and the Controller of Prices has agreed to an increase of the price of many commodities above the rates previously in force. He has allowed merchants and others to charge prices having regard to war conditions. The most extraordinary thing is that the price of wheat has not been fixed by the Controller of Prices, notwithstanding the declarations of the growers of wheat that the price is too low, and the efforts that have been made on their behalf to secure a more satisfactory price. It would appear to be entirely attributable to the Country party in this Parliament that this is so. In fact, I say definitely that the reason why the farmers are not getting a better price for wheat is the fault solely of the Country party. The fixation of prices in respect of this important commodity evidently calls for the fixation of the Country party before anything effective can be done.
The presence in this community of persons who are prepared to exploit their fellows by profiteering in consequence of the war, is implicit in the statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs. He acknowledged that excessive prices could easily be levied upon the people of Australia unless merchants and others were restrained by the exercise of machinery under the control of the Government. That is perfectly true. But the continuance of prices that are unprofitable to producers in . important primary industries indicates that the obligation that rests on the Government to fix prices on a fair basis for these commodities has not been discharged. This statement bears the heading, “ Control of Prices and Prevention of Profiteering during War “. Quite obviously a statement which relates to the “ control of prices “ does not imply that prices should be limited to an existing figure. It also envisages the elaboration of machinery to ensure that there shall not be any profiteering during the war. The examination and control of prices should certainly include the prices of primary products. This involves governmental action to make the financial provision that the situation demands. But when a proposal is submitted to the Parliament with the object of indicating what would be a fair price for wheat, one would have imagined that, if there were any genuineness in declarations that have been made by certain members of the Government to the effect that Parliament would not be muzzled, a decision would have been permitted on the subject. That has not been permitted. The plain fact is that certain representatives in the Parliament who claim to be here specifically in the interests of the primary producers and most certainly in the interests of the wheat-growers have squibbed at the first opportunity that offered itself to give a direction to the Government in respect of wheat prices.
I would be the last to offend against the Standing Orders, but as this debate relates not only to the prevention of profiteering but also to the control of prices, I feel justified in saying that a decision should have been reached upon what is a just price for wheat. The wheat industry has been described as constituting the spinal column of our economic system, and I am staggered that, when we are dealing with elaborate machinery with respect to the control of prices, and are seeking to express to the Government our opinion as to what should be a fair price for wheat, we are prevented from doing so. Undoubtedly those who are engaged in the production of wheat are at present receiving an unprofitable price for their product, although it is one of the essentials to human existence.
Apart from the manoeuvring of the Country party, and its professions that it stands for a fair price for the growers of wheat, we are faced with a situation that, although one member of that party yesterday moved an amendment in which he indicated what, in his opinion, was a fair price, the Country party ran away from the issue. How can we expect any solvency in the economic life of this nation when we are faced with the spectacle of an important industry being trafficked in merely for votes? The members of the Country party are supporting a Government which will not deal justly with the wool-growers-
An Honorable Member. - The honorable gentleman meant the wheat-growers.
– Yes, I meant the wheat-growers; but it must be recognized that the small wool-growers are also being unfairly dealt with, for the debate in the earlier part of this afternoon’s sitting indicated clearly that the small woolgrowers were being exploited by reason of the fact that unnecessary costs were being inflicted upon them by the operation of government policy.
The absence of any specific indication in the statement of the Minister that the Government intends to ensure the payment of a fair price for primary products is one of the weaknesses that has to be faced.
The exposition given by the Minister of the manner in which the price-fixing machinery is operating to keep prices down when they are rising steeply, did not convince me that the machinery is working effectively. Two things are necessary in regard to this matter, and the statement, in my opinion, is unsatisfactory in these two respects. In the first place, the action of the Government has failed to protect the workers against excessive prices. I concede that it is not easy to elaborate machinery of this kind within a few weeks of its introduction. I shall leave it to my colleagues to set out in closer detail the general principles which we think should be employed to this end. The levying of excessive prices upon the consumers should not be permitted in order that certain people may be able to make substantial profits out of the war and to find themselves at the end of it richer than they would otherwise be. “We say that the consumers should be protected. In respect of tea, timber and many other articles in common demand, the machinery devised by the Government is proving ineffective.
In the second place we say that not only has the Government failed to discharge its responsibility to fix a fair price for primary products, particularly wheat, but also the Country party has connived at its failure. Every body who knows anything at all about the subject must agree that the price which the Government has fixed for wheat is unfair. Objections to the proposed price have been stated by the wheat-growers on frequent occasions, and they were echoed in this House yesterday. But when it comes to the taking of positive action to assist the wheat-growers, the only party which can be depended upon to deal with the matter is the Labour party, for it is the only party which has a positive plan for the organization of the wheat industry. Through good and ill repute it has done its best, by legislation when in power, and by proposals when in Opposition, to put the wheat industry on a sound economic footing. I leave the matter there in the firm belief that the country will clearly perceive that the troubles of the wheatgrowers to-day are entirely attributable to the fact that this United Australia party Government is representative of vested interests in Australia, and that the United Country party, as shown by its actions in this Parliament, is not truly representative of the primary producers. The only party that the wheat-growers can look to for effective action to ensure that a reasonable price will be paid for their wheat is the Labour party. The only way that a just price can be obtained for wheat is for the people to elect a Labour government composed of my colleagues and myself.
– The impassioned statement just made ‘by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) might carry some weight with honorable members if history had been abolished before he began his speech. The words we heard were the words of the honorable member for Fremantle, but the thoughts, in many instances, were those of the very notorious Major Douglas, a gentleman represented in the Commonwealth by a party which is active in the honorable member’s own State, and also in other States,, but with which the Leader of the Opposition does not desire his party to be associated. He wants to reap every political advantage that can be gained from the use of the jargon of Major Douglas, though he does not want to touch the wretched policy itself. Let honorable members recall, the history of the efforts made in the last few months to assist the wheat industry. I ask honorable members to search the Hansard reports and they will find that only last week a discussion occurred in this House on this subject. At that time honorable members of the Labour party were as silent as the tomb.
History is eloquent on the part that the Labour party has played in the efforts to assist the wheat industry.
– We have always sought to assist the wheat industry. The leader of the Country party should tell the truth.
– The interjection of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) was most disorderly.
– The honorable member for Barker ought to stick to the truth.
– I am always happy to do so. If honorable members will go back to the period of the 1929 elections they will recollect that the then honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) stated on the hustings that he had- the authority of his party to say that, if returned to power, it could and would pay 6s. 6d. a bushel for wheat. I ask honorable members to say whether that promise was ever fulfilled. What was the result? The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has, I think, disappeared. Well may he disappear when questions of the failure of the Labour Government to stand up to its promises in regard to wheat are raised.
– On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so far I have not heard the honorable member mention the motion before the House.
– They can’t take their medicine.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! Honorable members are distinctly disorderly in interjecting in this fashion. With regard to the point of order, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) was permitted by Mr. Speaker, before I took the chair, to refer to the fixing of an unduly low price for wheat. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is following the same course.
– If it comes to a question of squibbing on the wheat industry, one would think the Labour party was a perpetual Guy Fawkes day. I notice that the honorable member for Capricornia has returned to the chamber. I was referring, during his absence, to the famous Calare election when 6s. 6d. a bushel was promised to the farmers, and to Labour’s election promises of 1929. I now give honorable members the fulfilment of those promises in the words of the honorable member for Capricornia himself.
– The honorable member must refer to wheat prices.
– I am dealing with the question of prices of wheat referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. According to Hansard of the 12th December, 1930, the honorable member for Capricornia, who was then gracing the Treasury bench as Minister for Trade and Customs, in dealing with the wheat situation, said -
It has decided, after very careful and serious consideration, to guarantee the grower-
– On a point of order, the matter for discussion before the House is the statement of the Prime Minister on price-fixing to prevent profiteering. I submit that what was said regarding the price of wheat in 1929, like the flowers that bloom .in the spring, has nothing to do with the case.
– The Chair has already given a ruling on the point.
– I am quoting the prices of wheat which were determined by the then Government of which the honorable member for Capricornia was Minister for Trade and Customs. After having promised that the Labour Government would fix the price of wheat at a certain figure, the then Minister said -
It has decided, after very careful and serious consideration, to guarantee the grower 3s. a bushel f.o.b., equivalent on the average to about 2s.6d. at country sidings for f.a.q. wheat of the 1930-31 crop.
As a wheat-grower, I say that the guarantee given by him was not worth the breath with which it was spoken. I did not receive the guaranteed price; the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) did not get it, nor did the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McHugh). Honorable members opposite know as well as I do that if they were returned to power to-morrow the guaranteed price of 3s. 10½d. a bushel for wheat, promised by the Leader of the Opposition in Perth, could not be found by a Labour Government. There is a difference, I can assure an honorable member who is interjecting, between asking for a thing and giving it. There are many aspects of the question which have to be considered.
– It was with the approval of the Country party that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) moved an amendment yesterday that would have had the effect of fixing a price for wheat.
– I have nothing to hide, nor has my party anything to hide, in respect of what took place . between representatives of the Country party and the Prime Minister this afternoon. The country is entitled to know the facts. They are these: The Country party, in the ordinary course of events, met this morning and discussed the question of wheat. It believes, as honorable members opposite have claimed to believe many times, that things should be got by negotiation.Five members of my party, the honorable members for Swan , (Mr.Gregory), Riverina (Mr. Nock), Indi (Mr. McEwen),Calare (Mr. Thorby), and myself, representative of the whole of the party, waited as a deputation on the Prime Minister. We put a certain proposition before the right honorable gentleman. The members of this Parliament have a perfect right to put propositions to the Prime Minister if they desire to do so, and the Opposition has no right to question them. The Prime Minister replied that he required time to consider our proposition and that he would put it before Cabinet on Monday.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).It does not apear to the Chair that the honorable member is discussing the motion before the House.
– I am only replying, Mr. Speaker, to a debate which took place during your absence from the chair.
– The honorable member has no right to reply to anything that was said if it was out of order.
– If I may say so, sir, a most extraordinary attack was made during the last half hour or so upon my party and myself. Surely, in all fairness, I am entitled to reply in a way that suits me best.
– I ask the honorable member to discuss the motion.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not discuss the motion.
– Order !
– I say most definitely that he did not do so.
– Order ! This defiance of the Chair must not continue. The honorable member must discuss the motion.
– The question that we are discussing is the fixing of a price for wheat following a statement - I am not going to call it what perhaps I might have called it - of the Minister for Trade and Customs. In discussing that statement, the Leader of the Opposition has seen fit to launch an attack on. my party in relation to the fixing of the price of wheat. I am now endeavouring to reply to his remarks. It is a fact that the members of my party waited on the Prime Minister this afternoon with , regard to the fixing of the price of wheat and the methods under which the Government-
– It appears that the honorable member is still not discussing the motion.
– We put a certain proposition to the Prime Minister this afternoon while the House was sitting on behalf of the Country party in this chamber. The Prime Minister promised that he would place it before Cabinet on Monday, and that after he had discussed it with his Cabinet colleagues he. would make a statement on the wheat position.
– What, another one?
– I hope that the Leader of the Opposition, during the resit of his life, will never again make a statement such as that which he made in the Sydney town hall last Monday night.
– Order ! The honorable member must realize that he is not discussing the motion. I askhim to do so.
– Subject to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, in debating that question, I think I am entitled to discuss the fixing of the price of wheat.
– The Chair has not ruled otherwise.
– Then J am all right. What is the position with which we are faced with regard to the fixing of a price for wheat? Honorable members opposite, as I have pointed out, have many times in the past had a “ go “ at fixing the price of wheat. The Leader of the Opposition said that it should be a just price to the producer. I feel sure that the honorable gentleman, on second thoughts, will qualify that statement. If he is unfortunate enough to assume power in the very near future, will he go to the farmers of Australia and say, “I shall fix the price of wheat ; I shall put no limit on the quantity of wheat you may grow. You can produce as many bushels of wheat as you like, and I and my Government will stand up to the fixed price of 3s.10½d. a bushel “ ?
– It is quite clear that the honorable member is discussing the production of wheat and the ramifications of the wheat industry- matters which have already been discussed on other motions.
– In view of what took place a little while ago, it is difficult for me to carry On. In fixing the price of wheat any government must see. that a fair price depends to a very large degree on the market possibilities with which the industry is faced. Honorable members opposite must concede that there is a vital distinction between the fixing of prices for secondary products in a country like Australia, where we have no export surplus of secondary products, and the fixing of pricesfor certain primary products which are not easily marketed under present world conditions.
– Does the honorable member think that the Government price is a joist price under these conditions?
– The Government has not fixed any final price for wheat. Up to this stage the Government has not said, “We shall or we shall not state at present what the fixed price is “. If the Leader of the Opposition were clothed with the responsibility of government at present he Would be a little less enthusiastic about fixing the price of. wheat than he was this afternoon.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), apparently with his leader’s approval, named a certain figure in his amendment yesterday.
– . Order ! These constant interjections, which are obstructing the debate, must cease.
– All that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked for yesterday was the reconsideration-
– Order ! The honorable member is obviously referring to the wheat question as debated upon another motion yesterday. The Chair is able to discriminate sufficiently to know that he is not now in order, particularly in discussing an amendment which was moved yesterday to another motion.
– At any rate the question of prices for any exportable commodity may now be discussed, although I doubtwhether the present is the besttime to discuss it; but it has been raised by the Leader of the Opposition and honorable members are entitled to express their opinions. We must look fairly and squarely at the position which faces certain export industries, particularly in relation to price fixation. The farming community would be in an excellent position if the Government could say : “ We shall quote a price which some of us have in mind, and we shall guarantee that price for the whole of the crop which is purchased “. That would provide a fixed price throughout Australia. If the principle of a fixed price is to be accepted by the Commonwealth Government, the farming community, and the wheatgrowers in particular, must be prepared to accept a limitation of production. At this stage we cannot discuss the limitation of production; I merely mention it in passing. I do not wish to advocate the one without recognizing the necessity for the other.
– The honorable member did not recognize the other in the amendment moved yesterday.
– The two things must go hand in hand if price fixation is tobe effective. I recognize the limitations imposed on honorable members in this discussion; I recognize also that grave difficulties will confront wheat-growers in the near future. Those of us who are engaged in the industry speak most feelingly on the matter because our feelings are centred on our pockets.
– Order ! The honorable member is not discussing the statement before the Chair.
– The question of fixing a price for wheat could best he discussed under another motion; apparently members of the Opposition agree with me on this point.
– That is what we wanted to do.
– The Country party will be prepared to do that at the proper time. Obviously, while negotiations are in progress between the Government and the Country party on this question, the time is not opportune to force an issue in this chamber; the Country party is not to be trapped by the Labour party into an attempt to do so.
Another matter affecting primary industries which I wish to bring before the Minister for Trade and Customs concerns not only the matter of price fixation, but also the very interesting subject of profiteering. I am not well acquainted with conditions in the fat lamb industry in other States, but I am well aware of what happened in South Australia when the Government decided to enter into a contract with the United Kingdom for the purchase of fat lambs-
– Order ! The honorable member is again discussing a matter that is not relevant to the statement before the House, but which was included in another statement. The Chair cannot allow him to continue along those lines. It is quite clear that honorable members wish to discuss other statements, but the statement now before the Chair is one that can properly be discussed apart from any others.
– In explanation, I point out that I wish to refer to what I believe to be absolutely unjustified profiteering, which, if I understand the situation correctly, was dealt with very extensively by the Minister for Trade and Customs in his statement last week.
– The statement also dealt with prices generally.
– The question of prices and profiteering must be linked together.
– The sale of these goods to the United Kingdom cannot possibly have anything to do with the statement now under discussion.
– I mentioned it in order to show what I am trying to discuss. When war broke out, a certain arrangement was entered into with the United Kingdom and thereupon the question of the prevention of profiteering became dependent upon the action taken by the Government to ensure the carrying on of primary industries as in normal times. Instead of appointing certain people as its agents, with a view to obtaining the best available price for the producers, the Government apparently allowed people to go out on their own account and make the greatest possible amount of profit out of the producers. Information which was available to the people who were acting to their own advantage was not available to the producers of fat lambs. Obviously, from the point of view of the average stock-raiser the position was not very satisfactory. Even if the producers had been aware of the price being paid for fat lambs at Smithfield market in London, they would not have been able to calculate from that the price on hooks at the abattoirs at the nearest point to themselves. The prices paid for fat lambs by certain people acting in their own interests and the prices which they realized on the re-sale of the lambs were such that the Government should institute an inquiry. The difference between the prices they paid for the lambs and the prices they received on re-sale constitutes profiteering. This profiteering continued for some weeks until the State Government published in the press information received from the Agent-General in London, stating the London prices, together with a statement of the prices ruling at the abattoirs in Adelaide as calculated by experts in the Department of Agriculture. An official statement has been supplied to the Parliament of South Australia showing the values of first, second and third grade lambs of every weight. I have received information from a member of the South Australian Parliament, who is a fat lamb raiser, giving the names of many of his neighbours, together with the prices that they realized for their lambs. These prices were as low as 7s. 9d. apiece for first grade lambs.
– Something is wrong there.
– The names of those persons would be familiar to the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McHugh). Prices of 7s. 9d., 8s. 6d., and 9s. 9d. were paid to the producers for best-quality lambs, which were worth anything from 15s. to 18s. or 19s. apiece. If that does not constitute one of the worst kinds of profiteering, I fail to understand the meaning of the word “ profiteering “. As I understand it, profiteering may be carried out in two ways. According to the general acceptance of the term, it refers to cases of traders in wholesale and retail lines who take unfair advantages of conditions arising from war or other occurrences in the sale of certain commodities which they have in stock.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
– One or two principles are involved in the matter of profiteering. The first thing that this House can lay down as a principle which cannot be questioned in any circumstances is that production, trade, and industry are carried on for two purposes, the one being to secure a payable price to the producer, and the other, to sell at a tolerable price to the consumer. All merchants, all middlemen, all marketing organizations, function in order that those two objects may be achieved; they constitute a balance. But under some of the present practices this balance is not arrived at.
I shall not delve further into the lamb question, but shall pass on to other matters, one of which, relating to chemicals, I have already raised with the Minister by correspondence. I shall cite my own experience. Walking into a chemist’s shop in Adelaide and asking for a certain well-known proprietary article, I was told that the price had been increased from 1s. 6d. to 2s. That was a Nyal product. I do not think that since the outbreak of war there has been any increase of the cost of raw materials which would justify a 33 per cent, increase of the price of that article. Other cases have been brought by me to the notice of the Minister in correspondence that I have addressed to him.
– What was his reply?
– Ihave not yet received one. I have to give him time, quite realizing that he has a fairly tough job in watching developments in these matters. Allegations have been made in regard to the cost of certain chemicals which come from even a partly Governmentowned institution - Imperial Chemical Industries. These matters must be watched. If the costs of commodities are to be increased, those increases must be iustified.
The press has forecast an increase of the price of petrol. Petrol is . a very important commodity in’ this community. The suggestion is that out of an increase of 6d. a gallon, 3d. is to go towards the increased cost, the distributor is to get1d., and the Government is to get 2d. I should be extremely interested to know by what new set of circumstances retailers of petrol in Australia are entitled to another1d. a gallon on the sales that they make. This affects every transport system in Australia in which petrol and its cognate fuels are used. There is a good deal which could be said concerning the development of producer gas as an alternative to petrol, but that obviously cannot be debated under this motion unless the question of profiteering be involved.
– Will not the increase of the price of petrol bring that about more quickly?
– Certainly the increase will act as an incentive to owners of heavy freight lorries especially, to change over to some cheaper fuel. If any restrictions on the use of petrol are imposed, I believe that action in that direction will be taken by means of. customs regulations. Any restrictions imposed on the use of petrol should be based not on the quantity which the purchaser is in the habit of using, but on the function to which its use is devoted. A person who is engaged in, say, freight haulage operations, passenger services, and the like, in country districts, is very much more entitled to the full ration than would be a person who, for purely social reasons, runs a car in a country town or suburban area.
There is also the interesting case of cornsacks, in which another very important principle is involved. It became a matter of government policy that the whole of the produce of certain primary industries should be taken over under war legislation. If it were right for the Government to take over the whole of the wheat and barley industries, and to control thewhole of the flour output of the community, common sense obviously dictates that the receptacles in which the wheat has to be marketed, namely, cornsacks, should also be taken over by the Government. We should not have had the state of affairs to which my attention has been directed in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne, under which, it is reported, a very heavy increase of the price of cornsacks, which were in store at the outbreak of war, followed that event, not only in Australia, but also in Calcutta. It is the belief of many men who are closely associated with the industry that those cornsacks which were in store were sold almost immediately back to Calcutta at a profit by the merchants who held them, and were then repurchased by those same merchants a week or so afterwards, the cornsacks not having changed their location.
– Does the honorable member consider that that can be substantiated ?
– Has the Minister made investigations?
– I have.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That the honorable member be given leave to continue.
– The Leader of the Opposition will listen to the honorable member now, will he?
– I have listened to him all the afternoon. He refused me leave to make a statement to-day, and this is how I retaliate.
– I express my deep appreciation of the action of the Leader of the Opposition, an appreciation that is all the more- sincere in view of the interesting fight that we had before dinner to-night. This matter of cornsacks is very interesting from the point of view of many primary industries. I am not so sure that everything that could be done was done to see that those industries were protected. There has been quite a lot of talk and correspondence in connexion with the matter. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman) is interested in a good deal of what is occurring in South Australia with respect to the handling of second-hand cornsacks, and the enormous increase of price that has taken place in connexion with that commodity as the result of the outbreak of war. No man can tell me that there should, have been any increased cost in relation to second-hand cornsacks, because they have not to be brought from overseas; they are already in the country. Any increase was made not on account of increased costs but purely to bring unearned increment to those who happened to be the holders of them at the time.
If the question of profiteering is to be tackled, it must be tackled from two aspects: First, from the aspect of those who are the purchasers of goodswhich are held by other people; and, secondly, from the aspect of those who are the sellers of commodities which they are producing. It is well-known - the Minister, being the representative of a country area, will know as well as I do - that in 99 cases out of 100 a producer has practically no voice in the disposal of his product. There is a market, and he must take what it offers when his product is ready for disposal.
The Government will have to take a very serious view of one or two of the things that I have pointed out to-night. The’ Minister for Trade and Customs also controls the wine industry in this country. That, industry will next year afford an excellent example of the points that I am malting. The honorable gentleman will be told that certain people in the wine industry will not be able to purchase any more grap.es. There is going to be a terrific fight over that. The producers will almost certainly be told by some makers that a fair proportion of their crops should rot on the vines. If there is one industry among the primary industries of Australia which is more helpless than another, it is the wine grape industry, because, as soon as the fruit is ripe, the grower must find a buyer for it; if he cannot, the fruit simply rots on the vine. There is no other alternative. He cannot dry it, because it is not a drying grape, and he cannot crush it and store it on his own premises because that would involve him in a very ‘considerable outlay of capital, as well as cause him to have difficulties with the Excise Department. Therefore this producer is in a particularly helpless position. I plead with the Minister, who I know is trying to do a good job under difficult circumstances, that, when the necessity arises, he will take hold of this wine grape industry in both hands and sit in their places one or two gentlemen who for some time past have had a pretty good “go” at the expense of the producer.
There are other points to which one could refer, but I think that I have had a very fair innings. I have even had a second innings, at the wish of the Leader of the Opposition. I can only say in closing, reverting once again to the wheat argument on which we started, that if there is to be any debate in respect of the fixation of the price of wheat in this community. then, so far as I am concerned, I am prepared to meet the Opposition at any time. In days gone by I fought a Parliament on my own. I am not alone on this occasion; there are sixteen others here who will render me assistance. If the Opposition wants it hot and rough’, then the Opposition can so have it.
.- I ask for your consideration this evening, Mr. Speaker, on account of an incident that occurred this afternoon while you were in the chair; you left the chair shortly afterwards. An attack was made upon me and my colleagues by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). I regard it as strange that some persons should judge others according to their own standards. The impression that the Leader of the Opposition tried to leave, not in the House, because he could not do that, but among the people, was that I had brought forward in this House an amendment in connexion with the prices of certain articles, and had- then, when there was a possibility of its being discussed, dodged away for the purpose of assisting the Government.
– This matter may not be discussed now.
– I am talking about prices. Why was the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) allowed to make a personal attack on myself and others this afternoon on a motion relating to prices and profiteers. If you permitted the Leader of the Opposition to make that attack-
– The matter arose when the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was speaking. I did not allow it. The honorable member is referring to a debate which took place yesterday, and that is not in. order.
– Then. I ask that the record of that speech, be expunged from Hansard.
– That cannot be done.
– It is very discreditable
– I cannot allow the honorable member to continue on those lines.
– It is very discreditable - I am not referring to your action, Mr. Speaker - that such an attack should have been made. I am not much used to political tricks, or to the methods employed to evade the ruling of the Chair.
I have no desire to do that, but I want something in the nature of justice when discussing matters before the House. I moved an amendment calling on the Government to take certain action in regard to wheat prices. The objective I had in view was to achieve something by negotiation, if possible and to claim the most favorable terms possible for the wheatgrowers. I had previously taken part in deputations to members of the Government on this matter, and would have been only too pleased to have joined a deputation to press the issue further. I had put a certain proposition before the House, and it was debated. When the matter was being debated, I noticed how carefully it was avoided by every honorable member on the other side of the House ;.not one showed a disposition to support it. To-day I took part in a deputation to the Prime Minister in connexion with the price of wheat. I want to achieve something by means of negotiation for the people I represent - not simply to play political tricks. With other members of my party I waited on the Prime Minister in an effort to obtain better conditions for the wheat-growers. We were told that certain proposals that we had put forward would be considered at a meeting of Cabinet on Monday. Therefore, the question had to be considered whether we should await the decision of Cabinet. As a member of that deputation I am prepared to postpone discussion until Cabinet deals with the matter. If honorable members opposite are in earnest, they know that there is nothing to prevent them from bringing the matter forward again with the aid of those who desire that something definite should be done.
– We tried to do it to-day, and the honorable member voted against us.
– If honorable members opposite desire to obtain better prices for the wheat-growers they will have every opportunity to do so, and they can rely upon the assistance of members of this party. I ‘do not intend to allow the debate on wheat prices to lapse.
It is desirable that the Government should watch the position very carefully in order to prevent profiteering. Only to-night I received two telegrams dealing with this matter. I do not know what the Government proposes to do in the way of instituting a War Times Profits Tax, but I submit that this session should not be allowed to close before something is done. Unless the position is watched very carefully, it is possible for traders to evade such taxation. I remember that, during the last war, practically the whole of the Australian trade in a certain commodity was divided between two firms in the proportion of two-thirds and onethird, respectively. The company which handled two-thirds of the business was not able to show any profit, while the company which handled only one- third was able to pay income tax, and also a very large sum in war-time profits tax. There is room for a great deal of dodging by the smart division in matters of this kind. I know of one business man in Sydney who sold his Australian stocks to a company which he established in Hong Kong, and all profit made by trading went to the Hong Kong company. Steps should be taken to ensure that, if undue profits are made, either by cleverness or good luck, a big proportion of them should go back to the national revenue. Prices are steadily rising, and this rnakes^ it very difficult for the primary producers who are compelled to accept such low prices for their products. The Government, instead of placing the entire control in the hands of a professor of economics, should appoint as his assistant a sound business man who could watch the operations of those engaged in industry.
– We have very well qualified business consultants.
– There should bc a business man as well.
.- The discomfiture of members of the Country party has been all too evident during this debate, and it was particularly apparent when we listened to the outburst of the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Archie Cameron). The country is indebted to ‘the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Curtin) for throwing the spotlight on these gentlemen so that we may know just where they stand when it comes to a matter involving the welfare of the primary producers. This afternoon, we were able to prove once again to the people of Australia that members of the Country party are merely sham fighters.
– The honorable member is out of order in referring to matters which the House has decided by its vote earlier in the sitting.
– This has been a most illuminating experience. It is evident that members of the Country party have no real desire to ensure to the primary producers a fair return for what they produce. They are not prepared to support action that would safeguard the primary producers.
This debate affords an opportunity to review one of the most important aspects of wartime administration. It has to do with the domestic economy of the nation which vitally affects the living conditions of every man, woman and child in the country. The Government evidently recognized the urgency of the matter because, within 48 hours of the declaration of war, it set up machinery designed to give the impression, at least, that it intended to protect the public against the exorbitant demands of the merchants. Unfortunately, sufficient evidence has already accumulated to prove that all of the endeavours of the Government in this direction have failed to check the rapaciousness of those who are prepared to reap rich profits from the sufferingsof a war-wracked community. Just as was the case during the last war, the merchants will once again endeavour to levy toll upon the Australian public. The archives of this Parliament are filled with records which prove that those engaged in commerce were not moved by the needs of their country during the last war, but were prepared to make high profits whenever the opportunity offered. The Inter-
State Commission, which inquired into prices during the last war, issued a most illuminating report which showed how certain traders mercilessly exploited the public. This should have been sufficient warning to the Government to take immediate action to prevent a repetition of such occurrences. It is true that the Government has challenged the action of certain large commercial interests in raising prices, and that prosecutions have been launched in the courts. Unfortunately however, so ineffective is . the machinery provided by the Government to deal with cases such as this, that the courts have refused to convict the persons charged. The merchants have triumphed once again. What does the Minister intend to do to correct the position and to require those people who have evaded the regulations to make retribution to the Australian public?
– Even in those instances, there was certainly no profiteering.
– The people to whom I am referring disregarded the price that should have ruled for their commodity, and it was only because the Minister was unable to prove that the price fixed in the proclamation, under which the prosecutions were made, was in fact the price ruling on the 31st August, that the magistrate dismissed the cases.
– What does the Minister call profiteering?
– I do not know. But I do know that he would go a long way farther on the road than would the Opposition to justify the actions of these people.
– The fact that I prosecuted them proves how wrong the honorable gentleman is.
– That is questionable; when the prosecution was launched it was evident that the defendants knew that there would be no penalty for their misdeeds. They knew there was a way of escape by reason of the imperfection of the regulations. If there be anything worth while in the profession of the Minister that he wished to bring those people to the bar of justice to answer for their actions, he should have made some effort to correct what was obviously a mistake by the Executive in the regulations.
Investigations in the last war disclosed that rents, groceries, clothing, boots and shoes and every other item within the range of necessaries of life, were at an unduly high level. Every precaution must be taken to see that there is no repetition of that in this war. Far more preferable to the- excess profits tax of the last war is a more rigid system of price-fixing. We should make it impossible for excess profits to be made. The Government in office during the last war was of the same political complexion as this Government, and it was not even ready to take 100 per cent, of the excess profits. Instead, it divided the loot with the pirates.
Merchants use devious methods to escape the law. For instance, normally, warehouses have two or three different price lists, the prices charged varying according to your grading as a customer. When war breaks out and profit fixing takes place, warehousemen claim the highest range of prices as the prices ruling on the prescribed date. The other price lists are scrapped, notwithstanding that the warehouses thereby no longer conform to their own commercial rules. To cite a further example of how the wholesalers evade their obligations, I know of a wholesale drug firm in Adelaide which, before the war, sold its products by the ounce and by the pound, the price by the pound being the smaller. When the price-fixing regulations came into operation, the per-lb. price list was suspended and the per-oz. list produced as evidence of the prices ruling on the 31st August. Thenceforth, the firm charged its customers, who formerly bought on the per-lb. basis, the peroz. prices. Even for 50 lb. of a product, the price is computed on a peroz. basis, whereas, of course, formerly, the basis was the per-lb. rate. That sort of thing makes it possible for wholesale firms to escape the effect of the pricefixing regulations. That position must be corrected.
One of the most glaring instances of the leniency which this Government is showing to the people who are making a big “rake-off” as the result of this war also occurred in Adelaide. At the outbreak of war, certain agencies which dealt in cornsacks increased the price to the primary producers of South Australia. Protests were made to the Deputy Prices Commissioner, and he found many instances of deliberate evasion of the price fixed for cornsacks. But, instead of taking speedy action against the offenders, who knew that they were committing a breach of the law, he invited them to communicate with him so that he could inform them of the price that they could properly charge, as if they were not already aware of the price that they should charge! As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) rightly said, these people gamble with excess profits as against the penalties that they may be required to pay if they are brought before the court. In this country there are many commercial people who are ready to take the risk of prosecution in order to gain excessive profits, because they know that they have the most lenient of all governments with which to deal. Tender solicitude to people who take that attitude to the public welfare is something that the public will not tolerate and will put an end to at the first opportunity. It is not the retailers, the small business men, who are responsible for profiteering and exploitation. It is the rich merchants. We have the evidence of the secretary of the Retail Traders Association of New South Wales about the increases that were made of the prices of certain commodities, particularly groceries. That touches the living conditions of the Australian people. The Housewives Association, which is well equipped to know whether profiteering is occurring, has produced evidence of such exploitation requiring immediate attention and action by this Government. As an indication of what has happened, I have been informed by the Housewives Association that on the Monday after the outbreak of war, wholesale firms and agents for manufacturers met with a view to determining what should be the price of women’s hosiery. The meeting resolved to increase the price by ls. a pair. That is profiteering at the expense of Australian womanhood.
The Prime Minister indicated in his speech on this subject that necessity existed to protect the interests of the people in wartime.. I submit that necessity also exists to do so in peacetime.
We should not wait until peace is restored before we take action in this direction. We have an immediate and definite responsibility to act now.
In my opinion the time is opportune for this Parliament to overhaul its constitutional powers in respect of trade and commerce. It is doubtful whether the Parliament could constitutionally do many of the things in peacetime that are being done at present; but’ if the situation were put to the public clearly, while they are face to face with the problems of the day, I believe that they would approve of the clothing of this Parliament with much greater constitutional power.
– I must ask the honorable member not to pursue that subject.
– I was merely emphasizing the need for the exercise of similar powers in peacetime to those how being exercised. We should be just as watchful for profiteering in peacetime as we are in wartime.
– The honorable member .may not, on this motion, discuss proposals for the alteration of the Constitution.
– I shall abide by your ruling, sir.
Whenever we talk about the necessity to expand the credit resources of the nation we are told that it will lead to an increase of prices. If increased prices are likely to lead to credit difficulties there is all the more reason why the Government should be very watchful to protect the public. An undue increase of commodity price-levels should be prevented, even if the most drastic action is necessary. The opinion of the Labour party is that the national credit could be expanded to assist in the financing of our defence expenditure. The action that the Government has taken in regard to price fixation and profiteering is a step in the right direction, but we should like to see it display more determination” ‘and resolution. The time will come’, no doubt, when the electors will place a more effective government upon the treasury bench, but in the meantime the general community should be invited to’ assist in- the maintenance of prices at a proper level. We do not desire’ any thing in the form of a bureaucracy to be developed, but we need adequate evidence to be furnished of the earnestness of the Administration to safeguard the interests of the public. The Minister for Trade and Customs told us that prices had been fixed for 160 items. That is a very small number compared with the vast variety of commodities to which attention should be devoted. The Minister ought to give a great deal more of his time than he is giving to this aspect of his administrative responsibilities. Unscrupulous merchants should not be permitted to exploit the public, and the Government should take every opportunity to act promptly and effectively against those who commit breaches of the regulations. The utmost severity of the law should be brought to bear upon those who disregard the best interests of the community. While I appreciate what is being done, I urge the Government to be more watchful than it has been.
.- I should not have risen to participate in this debate except for the absurdity of some of the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). The sooner the honorable member can reach some understanding of the rudiments of price-fixing, the better it will be for him, and the more ready we shall be to listen to what he may have to say. I confess to disappointment at his speech as I understood that he had been rather active in trying to discover the so-called robbers of the public. He mentioned a certain firm of druggists in Adelaide and told us that it was invoicing certain of its goods at so much per oz. in preference to so much per lb. in order to evade the detection of its alleged profiteering activities. That absurd observation revealed clearly the honorable gentleman’s ignorance of commercial practice. In any case, I ask why he did not make these remarks in Adelaide? I imagine it was because he is afraid of his political skin. The honorable gentleman also had something to say about the Housewives Association. He should not attempt to hide himself behind the skirts of the women in the community. Altogether, his observations showed a lamentable ignorance of commercial affairs, which is surprising in one who has been Speaker of this House and who is the representative of an industrial constituency. The honorable member must realize that it would be impossible to perfect a price-fixing organization within a month or two. In my opinion, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) has acted effectively in the time at his disposal. He is to be commended for having given such prompt attention to the operations of the timber merchants. The morning after certain representations were made to him on this subject, officers of his department embarked upon an inquiry into the prices of timber. We might have expected the honorable member for Hindmarsh to commend the Government for this action, but he did not see fit to do so. So far as I can gather from his remarks, he did not even bring directly under the notice of the Minister the case of the Adelaide drug firm to which he made reference. When honorable members of the Labour party occupied the Government bench some years ago, they made certain promises, not in respect of profiteering, but in respect of bribery.
– Cut that out !
– I withdraw the remark. There are ways in which the Government, as well as the private individual, may profiteer at the expense of the community. Honorable members know that when some time ago a battle was being fought in Calare, the members of a certain party promised the wheat-growers a guarantee of 6s.6d. a bushel. They were merely raising the price in an attempt to get a representative of their party into this Parliament. Another gentleman - I think it was Jack Lang - went even further and said “ If you return us to power we will give you 7s. 6d. a bushel”.
– The honorable member is not discussing the bill.
– I was merely endeavouring to show the inverse reasoning of honorable members opposite.
– The honorable member is out of order.
– I am impelled to make these remarks by the charges levelled by the honorable member for Hindmarsh against a Minister who has assumed the responsibilities of his office only within the last few months. When we consider the ramifications of trade and commerce and the wide range of subjects with which he has to deal we must realize the tremendous difficulties which must have confronted him. In his criticism of the Minister the honorable member was, to say the least of it, decidedly unfair and I feel sure that he, on reflection, will realize that it was unworthy of him. During the course of his speech he did not make one constructive suggestion to the Government. He said that he discovered a lady who told him that when she went into a shop to purchase a pair of stockings just after the outbreak’ of war she was forced to pay an extra1s. for them.
– The honorable member ought to know something about stockings.
– At all events I know more about them than does the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and, moreover, I would not use the statement of the lady regarding the high price of stockings as the basis on which to frame a charge against a responsible Minister of State. At least the honorable member should have sent his own wife into the shop to buy the stockings.
– I would not send somebody else’s wife.
– No, but the honorable member would use the evidence of somebody else’s wife as the basis on which to lay a charge in this House. I would not have spoken during this debate but for the stupidities uttered by the honorable member. He said that the Australian people are looking to this Parliament to protect them during these difficult times. I am glad that a United Australia party government is in power to-day, and if Labour were offered the reins of government in this country, I feel sure that the honorable member would be the first to say that he would prefer that the honour should be left to another party. If we offered the government benches to the Labour party to-morrow, the honorable member for Hindmarsh would be the first to advise his leader not to accept them, because the party- to which he belongs does not know where it stands in regard to this war and the measures that should be taken to prevent profiteering.
The members of the Labour party claim that they stand behind the Government up to the hilt in its attempt to prosecute those dreadful men who, taking advantage of these difficult times, are profiteering at the expense of the community. The honorable gentleman advocated the utilization of the national credit of this country in an attempt to solve the pricefixing problem. I do not know how he would do it other than by increasing the purchasing power of the people. I have always said that price-fixing is the first door to socialization. I do not believe in it. If we fix prices, we must also fix wages.
– That has already been done.
– Not throughout Australia. A large number of people in Australia do not work on fixed wages. Price-fixing must mean fixed wages for a number of men in industry. If you fix profits you must also fix wages, and any attempt to fix prices must inevitably lead to State socialism. When I came into ‘ this House eight years ago, the honorable members opposite claimed that there was a man in Sydney greater even than Lenin.
– Who was that?
– Jack Lang. Price-fixing must inevitably lead to the establishment of the socialistic state as conceived by Lenin. The aims of the Labour party are professedly socialistic. As one of the planks of its platform, Labour boldly declares that it seeks control of the means of production, distribution and exchange. If Labour were in control of this country at the present time, we should have a system of government not unlike that which obtains in Russia where the Government found that the only way to deal with capitalists was to shoot them.
– Has not the British Government fixed prices in England?
– Get to the motion before the Chair.
– I knew that honorable members opposite would not relish my remarks about Russia. They have no wish to be tabbed in the group to which they really belong. Every time they face their masters they endeavour to delude the people into thinking that somebody else supports the principle of communism; but, fortunately, their efforts to side-track the electors so far have not been successful.
– The honorable member must discuss the motion.
– I was endeavouring to give a little information concerning what price-fixing really means. I believe that in times of emergency, such as this, the Government should endeavour to restrain any profiteering which it knows exists.
– Restrain ?
– Yes, we have often had to restrain even Labour Premiers in the past because of their great desire to retain what does not belong to them. At a time like this, we should endeavour to develop among business people a high standard of ethics. In this time of stress people should realize that unduly high profits should not be made to advance the position of individual members of the community, but that, on the contrary, profits should be kept as low as possible in order that those on the lowest rung of the ladder may be afforded the highest standard of living. What militates against the achievement of this desirable state of affairs is that dishonest men, in order to live in luxury and ease, are prepared to gamble away the rights of their fellow men. . I have not fought against socialism for the last 35 years without learning that honorable members opposite are in their hearts false to their expressed convictions. The great misfortune, however, is that the working men whom they profess to lead are misled because they never tell the truth about the goal towards which they are leading. The honorable member for Hindmarsh said that the Government condoned offences of price inflation for food, clothing, and other necessaries of life. Apparently the honorable member is not aware that honorable members on this side of the chamber have a keener conscience and a higher sense of morality than he has. That is proved by the fact that at each election over the last nine years the Labour party has failed to secure control of the. Government. It has even been unable to capture, with its very best men, the electorate which I represent and which was once held by the Labour party with a majority of 22,000. That is clear evidence that honest men prefer a man who tells them the truth to one who tells them false stories of what the Labour movement represents. The electors know what the Labour party stands for. When the honorable member for Hindmarsh charged the Government with condoning price inflation .and encouraging dishonest men to be unfair to their fellows, he misrepresented the position. The honorable gentleman must know that all men cannot be made honest. Moses framed the commandment, “ Thou shalt not steal “, but men of his creed have been known to steal. Human nature is such that it is impossible to obtain a uniform standard of morality and a uniform standard of living. Until men understand the principles of brotherhood-
– How does the honorable member connect his remarks with price-fixing?
– Until the honorable member can understand that the true ideal of government in this country is not to seek place and position but to foster brotherhood, he cannot understand how price-fixing is related to dealings amongst the people of the nation. I repeat that price-fixing has its use in cases of emergency, and so far the Government has done a good job in this connexion. It has warned the commercial community that it will not permit abuses that were permitted during the last war by a Labour government, which failed in many cases to prevent men from amassing wealth out of the misfortunes of war. One of the first things that this Government set out to do after the outbreak of war was to institute a system of pricefixing. Honorable members are aware that not more than three weeks ago, I’ drew the attention of the Government to the fact that timber merchants had increased prices. Unless the Government follows the methods of Stalin and decides out:of-hand without fair trial that men are committing offences and must be. punished, it will find that some men will take advantage, of our laws to evade, as far as possible, the control of prices. Before the war. timber merchants allowed a discount of 33^ per cent, to certain of their reliable cash customers, but immediately war broke out and a price-fixing authority was formed, they decided to discontinue those allowances, while their price lists remained nominally the same. Recently a man who had built one cottage shortly before the outbreak of* war told me that when he built a similar one some months later he found that for the same quantity of timber he had to pay an extra £16 10s. I told him that it was useless to tell me of the case unless he was prepared to make his name public and give evidence; but he said that he was afraid to do so because he would not be able to get any more timber from the merchants. The Government is opposed to that sort of thing. The mud-slinging of honorable members opposite will not have any effect on the community. Whenever they sling mud at the Government and try to show that there is a way into Parliament through some peculiar method of condemning the actions of other parties, without proving themselves that they have ability to govern the country properly, -they will only discredit themselves in the eyes of the people. The Government has given evidence of its intention to control prices, but an organization of the dimensions of a price-fixing authority cannot be built up in a few weeks, or even months. Any man with business experience knows that it will take a longtime to cope with the methods adopted in business. I advise honorable members to try to inform big business men and small’ traders that the future of this country depends largely on a system of price control involving honest dealing. They should disseminate the doctrine of brotherhood, which is not to take unfair advantages of men, but to give service tothe community.
– The honorable memberhas donned the cloak of an unctuous saint..
– I should not think that if the honorable member were regarded as a standard. If honorable members opposite wish to do their best for thecountry, they must emulate the Government, and tackle the avaricious -profiteers, the men who want wealth only for themselves, in their own dens. When a man is able to make a profit, sufficient tosatisfy his own needs, that profit shouldbe returned to the public in the form- of “ lower prices or handed back to the State in order that social services may be rendered to those who most need them.
– I have listened with patience to the honorable member for Barton .(Mr. Lane) and I wonder whether he would have us believe that his standard of morality is higher than the standard of others who have the honour to represent constituencies in this Parliament. In reply to references made by the honorable member to the ability of the Labour party to govern this country, I point out that we on this side of the House are willing to take our place when the people are prepared to entrust us with the reins of government. We are prepared to deal not only with price- fixing but also with other matters which are in need of attention, but we shall never accept a position on the treasury benches as a minority party and stay there on the sufferance of those who occupy the cross benches.
Some aspects of prices control affectparticularly the State of Tasmania; probably the most important is that question of shipping freights. A State occupying the insular position of Tasmania depends very largely for its prosperity on shipping freight rates. Obviously it is affected to a greater degree than any other State. Immediately on the outbreak of war, business men in Tasmania were informed by the interstate shipping combine that freight rates would be increased by 20 per cent. The Government, through the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, gave immediate attention to the question, and its prompt action is worthy of commendation. I wish to be fair and give it credit where credit is due. We in Tasmania, however, are not satisfied that everything possible has been done to prevent unfair price increases that are now operating. I am indebted to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) for informing me of what has actually been done by the Government, and particularly by himself and the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, in regard to shipping freight rates. But, I am not satisfied that the increase of 10 per cent, now operating is justifiable, and I hope that the Commissioner will follow the matter up through the regulations mow in force, in an endeavour to bring down freights to the lowest level consistent with allowing the shipping companies to make a reasonable profit. The immediate effect on prices in Tasmania has been fairly substantial, because most of the commodities come from the mainland, and therefore an increase of even 10 per cent, is considerably greater when the commodities reach the consuming public. In any event, those who desire to exploit the community are given the opportunity to say that the increase of shipping freights is responsible for the additional charges imposed. That, I know, is being done.
I direct attention to what happened as the result of increased freights during the last war. The value of the shares of the Adelaide Steamship Company rose from 21s. in August, 1914, to 46s. 6d. in August, 1919. The improvement in respect of the shares of Huddart Parker was 26s. 4-^d., the rise being from 22s. to 4Ss. 4^. Glancing down the dividends list, I find that in August, 1914, the dividend of the Adelaide Steamship Company was 6 per cent, and that of Huddart Parker 5-J per cent. In 1915 the dividend rates were respectively 6 per cent, and 5 per cent.; in 1916 they were 8 per cent, and 7 per cent.; in 1917, 10 per cent, in each case; a 1918, still 10 per cent, in each case; whilst in 1919, they reached the tremendous figures of 17£ per cent, and 11 per cent., respectively. I hope that the Government will take cognizance ;of what happened in those days, and will profit by that experience. There is no doubt that the shipping combine is. a very powerful one. The shipping companies do not act as separate units, but speak with one voice. It is said that trade unions speak with one voice. Even if they do, their voice is not nearly so effective as that which speaks for the combine to which I have referred. These facts are probably better known to the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner than they are to me. I hope that he is keeping a careful check on these very illuminating figures. It appears that the existing contracts for war risk insurance, at a rate of 2 per cent, for 91 days, will expire at the end of this month, and that new contracts will then be entered into. That information has been furnished to me by the Minister.
Then there is the matter of housing. I know that action has been taken by the Government for the fixing of house rents. Whilst that may have deterred certain landlords, we know that there are some who are ever ready to exploit the community in respect of house rents. Probably no section of the community is exploited to a greater degree than are tenants of houses. I could cite quite a number of cases in which this has been done, but shall content myself by mentioning only one case. It is that of a man who said to one who had been a good tenant of his for a number of years, that as from the 1st November his rent was to be raised by 5s. a week. That having been reported to me, I immediately made inquiry of the Deputy Prices Commissioner, who advised me that rents were fixed as at the level of the 31st August, and that they could not be interfered with until the 31st December. I do not think that the Government has given this matter as much publicity as might have been given to it. When this particular landlord was made acquainted with the position, he refrained from taking the action he had contemplated taking. That wass only one case which came under my notice. The fact is, that there is a disposition on the part of landlords to exploit their tenants. “ Business as usual “ is their slogan, and they endeavour to get as much rent as they can from the tenants who occupy their houses.
The Minister indicated to-night, by way of interjection during the speech of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), that up to date 160 items had been covered by price-fixing regulations. Although that is a fairly substantial list, I am yet inclined to think that the pace at which prices are being fixed has not been as rapid as it might have been. After all, 160 is not a tremendous number of commodities in view of the whole range of commodities that are sold to the public. I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh that it is not so much the small storekeeper, as the warehouses and big businesses, that are responsible for exploitation. Information in this respect has been furnished to me by business men who have made purchases from warehouses in Flinders-lane, Melbourne. One man in particular informed me that he had no doubt that the goods were available, but he was told that they were not, and that he could have only a limited proportion of his requirements, and even those at an advanced price. Whilst I realize that it is difficult for the Government to obtain definite facts in relation to these matters, I consider that, when there is evidence of profiteering, an example should be made of the culprit, so that there might be a deterrent effect on others who might be similarly inclined. I believe that the Government is quite sincere in its efforts to tackle this problem; but it is a tremendously big problem, and must be tackled resolutely if the end desired is to be achieved. The Minister has said that it is important to control any increase of the cost of a basic service such as transport in Australia, because of the effect of such an increase on costs of production generally. I entirely agree with that; but the same principle applies, not only to that particular aspect, important though it is, but also to other aspects. Although the Minister takes some pride in the fact that 160 commodities have been covered, I urge him to press on with the task of covering the whole range of items in respect of which exploitation is possible and probable.
– I point out that those 160 items may cover several thousand different lines.
– They may relate to 100,000 different lines.
– That puts a different complexion on the matter. I cannot imagine, however, that the number would be 100,000”.
– One item alone covers 10,000 lines.
– If that be so, the Government is doing a better job than I had imagined. In regard to housing, I suggest to the Minister that wider publicity be given to what the Government has done and what the law provides, because I do not think that the people are aware that house rents have been fixed as at the level of the 31st August. I feel certain that there are cases in which exploitation is being practised. If the facts were more generally known, those landlords who desire to exploit might be deterred from doing so.
– Power has been delegated to the States.
– I realize that. It was . the State Deputy Commissioner whom I approached with a view to obtaining information, when the matter was first raised. I believe that the Deputy Commissioner in Tasmania is doing a very good job. He is traversing the State, and endeavouring to place the position on a satisfactory basis, with as little inconvenience as possible to the business community.
Unlike the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), I consider that pricefixing has to be tackled on broad lines, such as are advocated by the party to which I belong. That would be for the good of the community, and it certainly would be bad for certain persons who arc members of that state of society from which the honorable member for Barton obtains his support. Idealism, as it affects price-fixing, could be translated into actual reality by the party to which I belong, if it were given the opportunity to put its policy into operation. We should have no hesitation in dealing with these matters, not only during a state of emergency, but also in normal times. This party considers it necessary so to extend the ramifications of government that life would be made happier and more prosperous for the people generally.
While giving the Government credit for what it has done, I have no hesitation in saying that if we were given the opportunity we would do better.
.- -In common with other honorable members on this side of the House I anxiously awaited the statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) on the price-fixing regulations and their administration. We were told in September last that it was the intention of the Government to peg prices as from the 31st of August, and that the Government would ensure that no excess profits were made by traders, either wholesale or retail. On the 5th October regulations were issued for the purpose of carrying out the Government’s proclaimed intention. It was obvious from the start that the regulations fell far short of the ideal, not so much in their wording, as in the arrangements made for their administration. The Government wanted to be able to say to the people that itwould prevent the* making of excess profits; that it would avoid a repetition of what occurred during the period 1914-18. It is true that a price-fixing commissioner was appointed who was vested with certain powers, but, al the same time, there was instituted the averaging system for the regulation of prices, a system which has the effect, not of stabilizing prices, but of forcing them up. The Government conferred powers on the commissioner, and then took them away by instituting the system of averaging in regard to most commodities. The Minister made much of the fact that he had placed on the list 160 items. That is true, and the items may be seen in the various issues of the Commonwealth Gazette. There is, however, no mention in the Gazette of the price at which the commodities are to be sold in any particular place, but merely a bald statement to the effect that the Commissioner has decided that the prices ruling on a particular date should apply. In the Gazette published on Friday, the 8 th September, there was a list of items, but only two or three of them had any bearing . on the cost of living. The others concerned commodities used in the heavy industries, and were of interest to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, but not to the general public. Even now more than half of the items on the list do not affect the cost of living. The basic principle of price fixation is that it should benefit the greatest possible number of people. Apparently, however, the cost of living is a matter of secondary consideration to the Government. The Minister said that there had been unavoidable price increases. But we were told that prices would be pegged as from a certain date, namely the 31st of August. To-day, the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Archie Cameron) said that second-hand cornsacks had risen enormously in price. That is a matter which does not directly affect the cost of living, but it is proof that the price-fixing regulations are not having the effect of stabilizing prices. Apparently Mie regulations do not provide a deterrent sufficiently powerful to prevent the charging of higher prices in respect of cornsacks, and what applies to cornsacks applies also to other things. The Minister said that it was the intention of the Government to protect the Australian consumers. That is the desire of the Opposition also. The consumers must be protected.
In one statement the Minister said that there had been unavoidable price increases due to higher freights, &c. If freight charges are a determining factor in price, one would expect that commodities manufactured in Sydney or Melbourne, and transported to Brisbane by rail or sea, would sell in Brisbane at a higher price than in the place of their manufacture, but that is not so. Queensland has for long enjoyed a lower cost of living than any other place in the Commonwealth, because, for the last 20 years, there has been a pricefixing authority functioning in that State. The Minister said that the price of kerosene, bicycles and paper had increased. With the exception of kerosene, these articles do not affect the cost of living. I am not concerned with the price of paper or bicycles, but I am concerned to keep down the cost of living. I shall be honest with the Minister. Before coming to Canberra recently, I consulted certain traders in Queensland, men whom I know personally, and asked them how the Commonwealth regulations would affect their prices. One man said in answer to my question, “ They’ll do me. They have given me what I always wanted, an opportunity to fix my own prices without governmental interference.” That is what has happened as a result of the institution of this system of averaging. I know that price-fixing is a new departure as far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned, and I do not wish to be unduly critical I say to the Minister, however : if we are to have price-fixing, let it be established on a proper basis from the beginning. . I do not know who drafted the regulations, but it appears obvious to me that he must have had very little experience of price-fixing, otherwise he would not have provided for the discredited system of averaging. In 1920, when the Profiteering Prevention Act was passed in Queensland, a suggestion was made to the then price-fixing commissioner by interested traders that the averaging system should be adopted. He said to them, “I have been empowered by the legislature to fix prices. That is my job, not yours.” It would appear that the regulations have been drafted in the interests of the traders, rather than of the general public. If that be so, it must be admitted that they are achieving their purpose. The Department of Trade and Customs in “ Prices Circular No. 2 ‘r explains the operation of the Prices Regulations Order No. 2,. and it contains the following example of how the averaging system will work in respect of imported goods: -
Taking the old stock and the new stock, adding the two together, and dividing by two, we arrive at . the new selling price. It is a vicious circle because, if this war continues, the prices will rise with every new arrival of stock. The process of averaging will go on and on and ever on until we find wage-fixing tribunals raising wages with wages chasing prices ever higher, not that wages will catch prices, because they never do. Thus the circumstances which the Government is seeking to obviate will inevitably come into being - the destruction of stable prices. There is no escape. There is a special provision for the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner to take action, but he will not do so, because the averaging system will be operating and he will say, “ That is the price which has been automatically arrived at through the system of averaging”. The system will permit of the exploitation of the whole of the populace.
Then again, instead of there being a fixed price for a commodity throughout the trade, the price will vary from trader to trader, and the general public will be in no better position than it is at present. In Queensland one can go from shop to shop and find the same prices ruling in all because the State Commissioner of Prices fixes a maximum. Occasionally, you will find some traders selling articles at prices slightly lower than those charged by their rivals, but there is a definite maximum. Under the averaging system there is no fixed maximum; most of the prices under the Commonwealth scheme will be fixed, at the mere wish and whim of the trade, as a maximum price by the commissioner.
If you are to have a Prices Commissioner, let him do the job. These existing regulations will inevitably smash stability of prices. It is only ten years since the economic depression, and if these regulations continue to operate we shall find ourselves in an even worse morass than that of 1929.
Paragraph 11 of the Commonwealth regulations provides that -
Where the Commissioner is satisfied -
that a body recognized by him as being representative of traders in or manufacturers of any particular goods has conducted an inquiry as to a reasonable price for those goods, and
that the price recommended by the body is a reasonable price for the sale of goods by wholesale or retail, as the case may be, the Commissioner may so declare, and thereupon, until the Commissioner otherwise orders, that price shall continue to be the maximum price for the sale of those goods by wholesale or retail, as the case may be.
That provision is contrary to the provisions contained in section 7 of the Commonwealth Industries Preservation Act and Part III. of the Queensland Profiteering Prevention Act of 1920. We have had experience of traders fixing prices, the oil companies for instance. It is reported in the press now that there is to be a rise by 6d. a gallon of the price of petrol, but we are told that the Government knows nothing whatever about it. The Brisbane CourierMail of the 13th September, 1939, contained the following article: -
PETROL BACK TO OLD PRICE.
From 4 p.m. on Monday until 11.15 a.m. yesterday motorists had to pay1d. a gallon more for their petrol. Prices are now back to their old level, following an order by the Commissioner of Prices (Mr. E. E. Lindsey) that the retail rates must remain at those ruling on August 31.
His order says that when wholesale prices are advanced retail prices will be increased automatically to the same extent.
There is the Queensland Commissioner of Prices pegging prices at the level on the 31st August, under the State act. The article proceeds -
Oil companies in Brisbane have not yet received advice of a rise in prices following the increase of Id. a gallon in the Customs duty. It was stated that two or three days might elapse before wholesale prices were changed.
The president of the Garage and Service Stations’ Association (Mr. Luton J. White) said, yesterday that the price had been increased on Monday afternoon because the association received information from the Customs Department that an increase was authorized. Garage owners understood that they would be liable to pay the extra Id. a gallon duty immediately, and that it might be made retrospective to Saturday, when the Minister for Customs (Mr. Lawson) signed the order authorizing the increase in Customs duty.
There had been a misunderstanding Mr. White added and garage owners were pleased that the Commissioner of Prices had made the matter plain. They had no desire to increase prices unnecessarily.
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) said, “ I do not believe in pricefixing. It is socialism “. But let me inform him that price-fixing prevents exploitation. The Queensland commissioner prevented exploitation on that occasion. The difficulty is, however, that the Commonwealth regulations override those of the State. I foresee that the authority of the Queensland commissioner will be gone in respect of all commodities proclaimed in the Commonwealth Gazette. The fixing of prices will be placed in the hands of the traders through the averaging system. What is the reason for this averaging system? It may be suggested by those who favour that system that the Commonwealth cannot do what is done in Queensland because the Queensland legislation affects only retail prices. That is so, but that is because of the operation of section 92 of the Commonwealth institution. Even if the Queensland Commissioner wanted to fix the prices of wholesale commodities, he would have difficulty in doing so, because he could not fix the wholesale. price of any commodity that was brought from another State. That has been established by the High Court in the McArthur case. In Queensland the wholesaler knows what the retailer will receive and he charges accordingly. Section 92 of the Constitution would not prevent the Commonwealth from ‘fixing wholesale prices.
To cite an instance of a commodity the prices for which cover a wide range, I instance electric light globes. The wattage of electric light globes covers a wide range and there is a great variety of brands. Perhaps the Commonwealth authorities will say that it is ‘difficult to fix the price of electric light globes, because of that great variety of powers and makes. The result will be different prices in different towns. The Commonwealth price fixer has fixed the price of bread and sugar in two centres. Why not fix all prices in all centres ? Why not empower the Deputy Prices Commissioner in each State to fix the price for each State just as the Commissioner of Prices in Queensland fixes prices in Queensland and, by preventing exploitation, gives to the people of that State the lowest cost of living of all States. The fact that the Commonwealth regulations will override the State price-fixing law in respect of at least certain commodities will mean that the Queensland people will find their cost of living rising steeply. My suggestion is that the price-fixing authority in each State should be given full power. Give the Queensland Commissioner of Prices the same powers that lie had before these regulations and let him do the price-fixing for Queensland. He is doing a good job and has the respect of the public and the traders. Why should his powers be overridden and the people of Queensland thrown to the wolves? I have briefly referred to the Queensland Act. I commend it as the model which should be used for the Commonwealth. The act has been in operation for 20 years and has given general satisfaction. Under it the Commissioner of Prices has the widest possible powers. He can do what he likes, and from his decision there is no appeal. It may be autocratic power, but up to the present it has been exercised in the interests of the general public.
Part III. of the Profiteering Prevention Act of Queensland prohibits the making of agreements for the fixation of prices. Prices may be fixed only by the Commissioner. The policing of the fixed prices is effective. The work is done, first of all, by the general public. Keen shoppers know what they should pay for particular articles j and if higher prices are charged, they naturally report the matter to the Commissioner of Prices. In distant towns, members of the Police Force, at the request of the Commissioner, supply lists of commodities and the prices charged for them at the local stores. These are examined by the Commissioner, and any necessary action is taken by him. In addition, shop and factory inspectors are employed to police the fixed prices. If the Commonwealth price-fixing legislation is to be policed like the awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, it will be a poor look-out for the general community. The Queensland Commissioner of Prices has been able to prevent abuses. Possibly the people of Queensland have been fortunate in the appointments to this office. At any rate, the act has been administered sympathetically and it has worked smoothly. It has prevented profiteering and the exploitation of the public, and has given the people of Queensland the lowest cost of living. The chief objective of the Commissioner at all times has been to control retail prices. He has been particularly concerned with the price of such staple articles as bread, meat and milk, and has maintained a continuous check on them. Moreover, nothing has been attempted by the Commissioner which has been against the interests of the primary producers. Bread distributors and also the distributors of other commodities have from time to time applied to the Commissioner for increases of prices, but their applications have been rejected when the Com* missioner has ascertained, by investigation, that increases of prices have not been justified. Undoubtedly the cost of living has been kept in check in Queensland.
The annual report of the Commissioner of Prices for Queensland for the year ended the 30th June, 1939, states that -
Investigations were also made during the year respecting the charges for firewood, ice, chemists’ dispensing fees, funeral charges, bricks, cement, galvanised iron, building materials, timber, fruit cases, coke, and various other commodities.
These items are all of vital importance to the general public.
Another matter of consequence is that the cost of administering the act for the twelve months ended the 30th June, 1939, was only £1,539 14s. lid. So that for the expenditure of a little more than £1,500 the general public of Queensland was saved many thousands of pounds.
I commend the Queensland Act to the Minister and his advisers and suggest that it be adopted for Commonwealth purposes. The success of this legislation in Queensland has been due in no small measure, perhaps, to the fortunate selection of the officers who have administered it. The fullest legal power is given to the officers of the department to carry to a successful conclusion whatever they put their hand to, and the department has never over-reached itself. The act has clipped the wings of the profiteers. The prestige and authority of the Commissioner are high. I consider that the Commonwealth could not do better than apply the Queensland system, with suitable minor variations, to Commonwealth needs. If this be done, stability will be achieved, confusion will be avoided, the prices of commodities will be effectively controlled, and the brake will be applied to those whose actions might otherwise increase ‘the army of unemployed in this country.
– From the remarks of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) it might ‘be assumed that Queensland is a modern Utopia, and a “ haven of the blest”. The moving story which the honorable member told us, however, does not square with the facts, as indicated by the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures. According to the Year-Booh for 1937, the index figure for Brisbane for the December quarter of 1936 was 1431, while that for Broken Hill, which is regarded as a fairly expensive place in which to live, was 1423.
– What was the figure for Sydney?
– It is 1542, which, it is true, is higher than Brisbane; but as one who lives near the border of Queensland in northern New South Wales, I am well aware that the traders in my area buy the bulk of their requirements from Sydney. Although this involves several hundred miles of additional transportation as against purchases in Queensland, the traders prefer. to buy in Sydney as it is a better market. However, I did not rise merely to refute the view of the honorable member for Kennedy that all the virtues of the world reside in the government led by the Honorable W. Forgan Smith. My main purpose was to commend the Commonwealth Government for what it has done to control prices. Just how effective this work will ultimately prove to be remains to be seen, but the necessity for action along these lines must be apparent to everybody. It is essential, from the point of view of primary industries, that the cost of living shall not be permitted to rise beyond the limit of the increased price Si imported commodities. The prices of butter,, wool, meat, cheese and other Australian export commodities has been fixed for twelve months. It cannot be varied from day to day, or month to month. If the internal cost of living rises within the twelve-months period for which the price of our export commodities has been fixed, it will be very greatly to the disadvantage of the primary producers and will undoubtedly lead to an agitation for an increase of the price of their commodities-payable by the Government of the United Kingdom. The last thing that the primary producers of Australia wish to do is to make it harder than necessary for the British Government to carry on the war. Britain is fighting this war with all its resources of men and money, and possibly the best contribution Australia can make is to Weed Great Britain as little as possible. If the Government’s price-fixing machinery -works well, we ought not to encounter very great difficulties in the maintenance of our own economic status. I feel sure that the primary producers of my own district, and in fact, throughout Australia, will not press for higher prices than are absolutely necessary to enable them to meet their own difficulties in consequence of the increased prices of the things they need. Despite everything that we may do, some increases of price are certain when the warehouses dispose of the stocks they at present hold and have to replace their goods at higher prices. The Government should, however, do its utmost to see that nobody profits unduly through the war.
One matter that may possibly be overlooked by the Government should be brought under notice. I refer to fertilizers, which are used in very great quantities in Australia. According to the Year-Booh to which I have already referred, Australia fertilized 18,000,000 acres of land in 1936, and used 820,000 tons of artificial manures for the purpose. It is consequently of great importance that the price of fertilizers should be carefully watched, and that prices should be fixed for the next twelve months. A point that requires particular attention is the price of potash. This is an important product and it is very difficult to ascertain, at present, whether the fertilizers companies intend to charge for it on the basis of present or new supplies. I direct the Minister’s attention to this matter because it is of great importance in view of the large quantity of fertilizers used and the vast acreage to which they are applied.
Another matter with which I propose to deal briefly is ‘the establishment of a board to control the prices of hides and skins. I have been at some pains to ascertain the full facts in relation to the establishment of this board, and I am not satisfied that justice has been done. I have ascertained from the Minister for Commerce (Senator McLeay) that the personnel of the board consists of seven gentlemen, three of whom come from Sydney, three from Melbourne, and one from Brisbane. The last-mentioned has been appointed to act merely in an advisory capacity and has no vote. Although Australia produces for export about 1,000,000 cattle skins valued at over £1,000,000, and about 750,000 calf skins, only one representative of the producers has been appointed to the board. This is one of the Victorian representatives about whom I do not know very much other than that I understand he is a well-qualified man. But Victoria is not one of the great hides-exporting States. No representative of the producing interests has been appointed from New South Wales, which is a large producing State, nor are the Queensland producers represented, although that State is also a large producer of hides. In fairness I must say that a representative of Queensland in the person of Mr. Burke was offered a position on the board, but found it impracticable to accept it. Mr. Armstrong, the sole Queensland representative, is to act purely in an advisory capacity, and, as I have already said, is to have no vote. Western Australia and South Australia have no representatives at all, although it must be admitted that they are comparatively small exporters of hides and skins. Practically the whole of the representation on this board, which I regard as one of the most important from the- primary producers’ point of view, is centred in hidebrokers, merchants and exporters, master tanners, leather manufacturers and leather and footwear manufacturers. Four of the members of the board are of the designations I have mentioned. I raised this matter before the appointment of the board in the hope that the claims of a representative of the producers’ organizations in Queensland would have received consideration. I understand that consideration was given to the claims of one gentleman, but he was not appointed. That was the very courteous official reply which I received. The question has been raised as to whether it is necessary to have this board at all, because the price of hides and skins is determined, not by the local market, but by the markets of the United States of America, Great Britain, and the Continent, if there is any market there now, and Great Britain alone has been in the habit of taking straight-out a half-million cattle skins. I feel that the Government could have controlled the prices of hides and skins without setting up such a board as this.
I trust that the Minister will look into some of the matters which I have mentioned in order to ascertain for himself what the actual position is. I do not intend to deal with any other subject; I realize that the ground has been fully covered by other speakers. I conclude by saying that I endorse the action of the Government in endeavouring to control prices. I believe that it is making a sincere effort to do something in this regard. I believe also that great control of prices will be exercised by the moral effect on traders and retailers throughout Australia of the knowledge that the Government possesses the power to take disciplinary action should it be called for. This will, I think, achieve more than the board’s actual work ; but notwithstanding that, there are many avenues in which the board could do good work. I believe that it is doing its work conscientiously.
Debate (on motion by Mr. James) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
National Security Act - National Security ( Securities ) Regulations - Notice - Returns of securities.
Australian Broadcasting Commission Act - Seventh Annual Report and Balance-sheet of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, for year 1938-39.
Dried Fruit’s Export Control Act - Fifteenth Annual Report of the Dried Fruits Control Board for year 1938-39, together with Statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinances of 1939 -
No. 10 - Police Offences (No. 2).
No. 11 - Public Parks.
No. 12 - Amendments Incorporation.
Public Health Ordinance - Regulations amended.
House adjourned at 10.36 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
n asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act,as property, and deducted from the pension rate of an oldage pensioner who holds a policy?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following information : -
r asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Mr.John Lawson. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Dried and Canned Fruits : Purchase by United Kingdom.
asked theMinister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following information: -
Dried vine fruits and canned apricots, peaches, pears and pineapples are included in the purchase arrangements with the United Kingdom Government, and the prices of the canned fruits mentioned are at present the subject of negotiation with the United Kingdom Government.
r asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What quantity of tobacco leaf has been taken from bond by the British-Australasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited for each of the months of July, August, September, October and November, 1838, and July, August, September, October and November, 1939?
– It is not the practice to disclose the transactions of individual companies.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following information : -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following information: -
Public Service Examinations.
s. - On the 16thNovember, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked the following question, without notice : -
On the 24th October bust, the Commonwealth Public Service authorities held Examination No. 2232 for clerks in the Third Division. Two hours were allowed for the arithmetic paper. Problem (c) in part 1 was impossible of solution. Can the Prime Minister state whether it is the intention of the Public Service Commissioner to disallow that problem, or to allocate marks to those who attempted a solution?
I am advised by the Public Service Board that question No. 1 of the arithmetic paper for Commonwealth Public Service Examination No. 2232 was in three parts, one part of which was stated as - “ (c) Find three consecutive numbers whose product is 21,914.”
The product should have been shown in the question as 21,924. The examiner (who is not an officer of the Commonwealth Service) intends to give for parts (a) and (b) of question No. 1 the credit which he would normally have given for the three parts. Consequently no candidate will fail who would have passed but for the error which occurred in the setting of part (c) of the question.
Royal Australian Air Force: Staff Housing Arrangements - Instructors’ Rates of Pay - Recruits.
t. - On the 16th November, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked the following question, without notice : -
Can the Minister for the Army inform the House of the reason why the most fashionable part of Sydney, where . property is the most costly, has been acquired for the housing of the heads of the Royal Australian Air Force? What reason actuated the choice, which will menu extra cost?
I am now in a position to. inform the honorable member that the property was not selected on account of its location, but because of its general suitability for the temporary housing of a head-quarters unit as regards floor area and facilities for guarding the important documents which will be held there. Many properties were inspected in other parts of Sydney, but the Point Piper property was considered the most suitable. The rental to be paid compares favorably with that of other less satisfactory properties.
– On the 16th November, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked the following question, without notice : -
Isitafactthat the rate of pay of the recently-appointed instructors of the Royal Australian Air Force has been reduced to 14s. a day from 23s.6d. a day, which rate is paid to members of the permanent Royal Australian Air Force, many of whom will be trained by these instructors?
I am now. in a position to inform the honoralble member that the 45 instructors undergoing the instructors’ course, which commenced on the 16th October, 1939, were appointed to the rank of pilot officer and are paid at permanent Air Force rates, viz., 18s.1d. per diem active pay plus lodging, fuel, light and ration allowance (or issues in kind), totalling 6s. 3d. per diem if married and 4s. 9d. per diem if single. All instructors appointed subsequent to the 16th October, 1939, will receive the special force rates of pay, &c, of a pilot officer, viz., active pay 16s. per diem, and free single quarters, fuel, light and ration*.
In addition, separation allowances of 3s. per diem for wife and1s. for each child under sixteen years of age are payable in the case of those married. At the outbreak of war 50 cadets were undergoing training for commissions in the Royal Australian Air Force. Those cadets on graduation will receive shortservice commissions in the permanent Air Force. Some of them will probably undergo certain intermediate or advanced training by the instructors receiving special force rates. All other cadets trained during the war will, however, be paid special force rates on graduation and appointment to officer ranks.
On the 16th November, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) asked whether residents of New Guinea were debarred from entering the Air Force, and also whether persons were debarred because they have had malaria.
I have ascertained that the position is as follows: -
Commonwealth Departments : Premises in Melbourne.
s. - On the 17th November, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked the following questions, upon notice -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 November 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19391122_reps_15_162/>.