16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Acting
Prime Minister inform the House what steps are being taken to protect the civil population against air raids? Does he not think that there has been delay in putting air-raid precaution measures on a proper footing? Will he consider some means of blacking out coastal cities, such as Sydney, the glare from which isvisible fromas far as 100 miles away? Is he aware that the glare from Sydney can be seen from Newcastle, and that the glare from Newcastle, can be seen from 100 miles at sea?
Mr.FADDEN.-The matter of airraid precautions has received the attention of the Government for a considerable time. Plans which have been prepared by the Commonwealth and the States have been co-ordinated. Moreover, a special committee has been set up; it is sitting at the present moment under the chairmanship of Senator Leckie. Although some of the States are endeavouring to make capital out of the position, there is no need for undue concern about air-raid precautions. The Government has the matter well in hand.
– In view of the fact that the Premier of Now South Wales refuses to give information to the Manpower andResources Survey Committee which is investigating a matter of vital concern to Australia’s war effort, will the Minister for the Army take action against that gentleman for the new crime of “ gross negligence “ under the amended Defence Act and Crimes Act?
– I am not aware that there has been any such refusal, and I have no intention to take the action suggested.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister inform members whether the Government has definitely dropped the proposal to hold a further secret meeting of senators and members? If so, will he make a statement to the House as to the progress of the war and the disposition of our troops, so far as that can be done in an open sitting of the Parliament? Is there any other way in which members can learn what is taking place ? If he cannot inform members before some new dispositions take place, can he say how members are to get the information?
– No one has been more desirous of giving to members an opportunity to discuss these matters at a secret meeting than I have been; but certain honorable members occupied the time which had been allotted for the purpose. If time permits, I hope that members will be given another opportunity to meet in secret before we adjourn for the Easter recess. Honorable members can rest assured that, as soon as the Government considers that information can be given to them regarding the international position, they will be advised.
– Will the Government give consideration to the taking over by the Commonwealth of all interstate transport, including railways and road traffic, for the period of the war, in view of the rivalry and jealousy between States which is interfering with the proper use of the interstate railway system?
– I assure the House that the Commonwealth Government will take all steps deemed necessary for the adequate protection of Australia, in regard to transport and otherwise.
– Does the Government consider that the internal transport system of Australia, particularly in the coastal region, can be effectively used to preserve national safety while it remains under the control of numerous commissions, boards and other authorities ? If there is any doubt on this point, will the Government have the matter looked into with a view to applying a remedy?
– The matter is receiving the continuous consideration of the Government, and plans are well under way to meet possible difficulties arising from overlapping control.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce been drawn to the fact that numbers of applications under the act providing for the granting of relief to distressed farmers have been refused, and that in consequence the position of those farmers is acute ? Will the Minister take up this matter with the State governments with a view to having these applications reviewed, so that distressed farmers may be given the assistance which this Parliament intended when it passed legislation . for the purpose?
– If the honorable member will bring under my notice the specific cases to which he refers, I shall at once make representations to the State governments in the matter.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister say what encouragement is given to inventors, particularly in relation to devices which may assist Australia’s war effort? I understand that inventors receive more discouragement than encouragement in departmental circles. Has the Government any definite plans to assist these persons in proving the effectiveness or otherwise of their inventions, and will instructions be issued to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to render all possible assistance in this matter?
– At all times the Government gives the greatest possible encouragement to inventors in respect of any device which may assist the war effort, but obviously each invention must be considered on its merits. Each day about a dozen proposals are brought under my notice. There is a special board to deal with inventions, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research also is rendering valuable service in this connexion. If the honorable member will bring under the notice of the Government any invention which he believes is worthy of consideration, it will be investigated.
– As much has been published in the press with regard to the situation in Yugoslavia, has the Minister for External Affairs any official information on the subject to give to the House ?
– Since I answered a similar question yesterday, the Government has received further information from official sources, but it is of such a nature that it cannot yet be given to the House.
– I understand that recently a survey of the cool storage space available in Australia was undertaken. Can the Minister for Commerce saywhether the position is satisfactory in that adequate space is available for the storage of fruit ? If not, will the Government grant assistance to co-operative companies and private firms which are willing to erect cool stores?
– At a later hour to-day I propose to make a statement on the subject mentioned by the honorable member.
Sittings; Railway Transport of Members
– In order that honorable members may be able to make arrangements, is the Acting Prime Minister in a position to make an announcement as to how soon after Easter the House will reassemble?
– I am not in a position to make any statement on that subject at present.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior be good enough to supply me with the precise terms of the arrangement, if it has been reduced to writing, under which the States provide railway transport for members of Parliament?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for the Interior.
-Can the Acting Prime Minister say whenit is expected that the committee which is inquiring into the production of power alcohol will present its report?
– The committee will sit in Canberra to-night for the purpose of completing its report. When the report will be presented will depend upon the progress at to-night’s meeting, but it should be ready in the near future.
Assistance in Production of Munitions.
– I have received numerous communications from persons in my electorate who are interested in sugar milling asking whether there are any prospects of the sugar mills being utilized during the slack season for the production of munitions. Have any investigations of the possibilities of so utilizing these mills been made, and if not, will an investigation be undertaken?
– The subject-matter of the honorable member’s question has not been brought under my notice, but 1 shall have inquiries made and furnish an answer.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform the House, before the Australian Broadcasting Bill is dealt with in this chamber, to what degree the finances of the commission were affected by the reduction of the licence-fee by 2s. last September? Will he also inform the House of the circumstances in which the commission placed £275,000 in reserve?
– I shall be pleased to bring the question under the notice of the Postmaster-General and endeavour to secure the information asked for.
– I understand that Major Layton has come to Australia to make inquiries regarding German socialists and anti-Nazis who have been, interned here. Can the Acting Prime Minister say what facilities will be provided for his investigations? Will he be authorized to visit internment camps and interview internees personally, and, if so, will they be interviewed in private, as otherwise they will be placed in an embarrassing position because of the fact that among the internees are numbers of Nazis and Nazi sympathizers.
– Major Layton has been sent out here by the British Government in connexion with alien internees, whom we are holding in custody on behalf of that Government. He will be given opportunities to visit the camps, and to interview internees. I shall endeavour to obtain full information regarding the matter, and give to the honorable member a further reply later.
– Will the Minister for the Interior institute an investigation with a view to discovering the number of persons who are leaving the western districts of New South Wales for the metropolitan area, because of shortage of work in their own districts, or because they are being called up for military service ?
– I shall give the honorable member’s inquiry my attention.
– In view of the shortage of rolling-stock on the Commonwealth railway between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, and in view of the necessity for using to its maximum capacity the railway between Newcastle and the iron ore deposits in South Australia, will the Government consider the immediate construction of a 4 ft.8½ in. gauge railway between Port Pirie and Broken Hill? Is it a fact that the Government proposes to expend over £6,000,000 to overcome the present break-of -gauge difficulty, when the line of which I speak could be constructed for less than a third of that amount ?
– This matter has received the consideration of the Government, of special committees appointed by the Government, and of the Defence Council. The Government is alive to the necessity for improving transport facilities, and everything that is possible will be done.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce been drawn to the resolution at a recent conference of the New South Wales Graziers Association, asking that the embargo on the export of stud sheep be lifted? Will the Minister take into consideration the fact that the conference was not representative of graziers only, and before he accedes to it will he give the House an opportunity to express an opinion on this important matter?
– My attention has not been drawn to the resolution.
When it is brought before me, I shall give consideration to any request made.
Meat Supplies for Naval Station
– Can the Minister for the Navy state whether it is a fact that, contrary to the regulations, meat is being imported from outside the Australian Capital Territory for the use of the staff attached to the Naval Wireless Station in Canberra?
– I do not know whether that is a fact, and I heard the honorable member’s question with some surprise. I shall look into the matter and, at the first opportunity, let the honorable member know what is the position.
– A great many garage proprietors who are lessees of their premises have suffered heavy loss owing to the petrol rationing scheme, and some of them are facing ruin. Will the Minister for Commerce invoke the National Security Regulations in order to give those persons relief from the obligation to pay rent which the landlords are still demanding at the old rate? Will he take steps to see that rents are modified to meet the decline of business which is due to the action of the Government?
– The honorable member’s question relates to a matter of Government policy, which is not customarily dealt with by answers to questions.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
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 endowments, in respect of certain children, at the rate of 5s. per week for each child.
– Before this matter is carried any further, I think that we ought to hear something about the nature of the bill. The committee is asked to commit itself to a statement that it is expedient to make an appropriation of revenue for certain purposes. Parliament has not agreed to that proposition, and there might be some divergence of opinion as to how the scheme should be financed, and how the abject in view should be achieved. I have very grave doubts of the wisdom of the Government’s proposal.
– The honorable member will have ample opportunity to express opinions either in favour of, or in opposition to, the measure when it reaches the second-reading stage. He will also have an opportunity to discuss the financial aspect of the scheme when we are considering the two taxation measures which are associated with it. I assurehim that no attempt will be made to stifle the free expression of opinion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Holt and Sir Frederick Stewart do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Holt,, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
It is my happy privilege to introduce to the House a measure that will contribute materially to the welfare of 1,000,000 Australian children in 500,000 Australian families. In doing so, I should like to say a word or two about its place in the social legislation of Australia. In the ten years before and after the beginning of the century Australia won a considerable meassure of international respect as a laboratory of social legislation. Victoria set up a wages board system as early as 1896, and the establishment later of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the enunciation of the principle of a basic wage gave Australia claim to leadership in that field. New Zealand introduced old-age pensions in 1899 and was, I believe, the first country in the world to do so on a non-contributing basis. Our own old-age and invalid pensions followed, coming into operation shortly before similar English legislation. Since that time we have tended to rest on our laurels. “We find that Great Britain, despite the enormous demands made on its finances for purposes of war, is spending proportionately more on education, slum clearance and housing, than we are in this country. We find in operation in many countries of the world comprehensive systems of insurance against the social and economic uncertainties that threaten the security of the worker. One cause contributing to our rapid progress in social amelioration around the turn of the century was the desire to avoid a repetition of the suffering and social bitterness that occurred during the great depression of the nineties.
It is the hope of the Government that the national unity evolved by the present crisis will bring in another and even more fruitful period of social progress. We have learned to be proud of our “Australian standard of living”. We must keep it worthy of our pride. We sometimes like to think that the world centre of gravity may move into the Pacific. Such a change would impose upon Australia new responsibilities of social leadership. These aspirations are crystallized throughout the community around the word “reconstruction”. We are not fighting to go back to the world of 1939. If we are to meet the challenge of the dictatorships and evoke the most enthusiastic efforts of our people, we must show that our democratic societyis a vital society capable of adaptation and progress. But at present we are at war and this limits the measure of social progress that we can undertake in the immediate future. Men and materials that might in happier and less crucial times be devoted to the improvement of our national welfare are urgently required for war needs. In fact, there are many people who, while they support the principle of child endowment, question the wisdom of introducing a comprehensive social reform of this kind while the country is exerting its energies to maintain its own security. After a thorough examination of all the factors affecting us at this time, the Government has formed the definite view that the circumstances of war make the measure I introduce to-day even more necessary and appropriate than in time of peace. As we expand our war programme, that portion of the national income available for ordinary consumption must ‘become smaller, despite all of our increased effort. We are all called upon to make sacrifices, and it is reasonable to assume that these sacrifices must grow. It, therefore, becomes imperative that we contrive that the most urgent needs of the community have first claim on the reduced national income available for civil purposes. Child endowment will help to ensure that the exigencies of war do not take away from our children necessary food and clothing.
Honorable members are asked, therefore, to look at this measure as a means of providing that, no matter how the war pinches our incomes, the basic needs of the family will still be satisfied. This view is convincingly affirmed by the eminent economist, J. M. Keynes, in his book How to Pay for the War. At page 32’ he says -
For some years past the weight of opinion has been growing in favour of family allowances. In time of war it is natural that we should be more concerned than usual with the cost of living; and as soon as there is a threat of rising cost of living and a demand for higher wages to meet it, the question of family allowances must come to the front, for the burden of the rising cost of living depends very largely on the size of a man’s family. At first sight it is paradoxical to propose in time of war an expensive social reform which we have not thought ourselves able to afford in time of peace. But in truth the need for this reform is so much greater in such times that it may provide the most appropriate occasion for it.
Honorable members are asked to accept it also as one of the few measures of social progress that it is possible to introduce in time of war and to regard it as a foretaste and pledge of the full reconstruction that will be possible when we can again turn our surplus productive forces to the purposes of peace.
Child endowment can be rightly considered as a profitable national investment. A free enterprise economy such as ours provides inadequate incentive for investment in persons as compared with things. This is because it is rarely possible for people who make investment in persons to profit from it. For this reason governments subsidize education. For this reason also the investment of the Commonwealth Government in child endowment can be expected to make a high return in human happiness. We may reasonably expect amongst the consequences of this measure, some reduction in mortality among children and an improvement in their health and quality. It is not claimed that this scheme will have any spectacular effect on the birth rate. But to the extent that it relieves the economic pressure on the parents of large families, its tendency must be in the direction of improving the rate. The birth rate in Australia has fallen continuously from 1860 until 1934 and has not risen significantly since then. If present birth rates and death rates persist, our population may actually decline. In preparing estimates of the number of children who would benefit from the present proposals, it has been necessary to take into account the gloomy fact that the number of children under sixteen years has decreased by about 4 per cent, since the census of 1933. Any measure which has any substantial effect in encouraging an increase of our population is therefore to be welcomed.
One other consideration which will commend child endowment to the House is that it is proposed as a matter of course to continue payments during periods of unemployment. These payments will constitute a substantial contribution towards maintaining the welfare of children against the industrial hazards of their breadwinners. I do not think that there will be much dispute that if child endowment is to be undertaken, it is preferable for it to be handled by the Commonwealth rather than by the States. We are now experiencing some of the difficulties that arise when State taxation systems get seriously out of line. Some States secure competitive advantages over others in attracting industries, and the differing scopes of social services contribute largely to the different levels of State taxation.
The fact of federation and our pride in our Australian standard of living imply that we desire a uniform level of social progress throughout the Commonwealth.
The need for a system of family allowances has long been recognized. The younger Pitt advocated its introduction in J.795 by pointing out that -
There is a difference in the numbers which compose the families of the labouring poor . . If the minimum wage is to be fixed upon the standard of a small family, those will not enjoy the benefit of it for whose relief it is intended. What measures then can be found to supply the defect? Let us make relief in cases where there are a number of children a matter of right and an honour, instead of a ground for opprobrium and contempt.
The Commonwealth Government appointed a royal commission to investigate this question in 1928, and whilst the majority of the members of the commission were not prepared to recommend the introduction of child endowment at that time, many of the objections raised in their report do not carry conviction in the conditions of to-day. The Leader of the Opposition (M!r. Curtin) was associated with a minority report which did favour the introduction of such a scheme, and I think that he will find that the proposals which are now being introduced are considerably more generous than those which he felt able to recommend in 1928.
The Government has had the benefit of very full advice from the Government of New South Wales on the working of its child endowment scheme, and I should like at this point to express my appreciation to that Government and to its officers for the willing assistance which has been given so freely to us in preparing our own scheme. We have had before us the report of the 1940 select committee of the Victorian Parliament and the very comprehensive evidence given before that body by many distinguished witnesses, including some honorable members of this House. We have examined the International Survey of Social Services prepared by the International Labour Office, and a considerable amount of non-official literature on schemes operating overseas. It can be fairly claimed that we have considered all the fundamental aspects of child endowment, and that the measure I am about to describe is neither rash nor ill-considered.
In the course of inquiries into child endowment in Australia, the question of the number of children for which the basic wage rates prescribed by Commonwealth and State industrial tribunals are deemed to provide, has been gone into very fully. The fear has been expressed that the introduction of child endowment at the present time may lead to a reduction of some basic wage rates, whilst criticism has been coming from other quarters that we propose to endow children who are already provided for in the basic wage. Some discussion of this question may, therefore, be useful. Early in this century, when the Commonwealth and State industrial arbitration systems were being established, it appears to have been widely believed that it was practicable to define “ the normal needs of the average employee regarded as a human being living in a civilized community”. The tribunals were instructed to declare a basic wage that would cover “ needs “ defined in some such way. But the question of what family unit should have its needs provided for was open to varying interpretations, and different units were selected ‘by different authorities.
The Commonwealth court began with a unit of “ >about five “. Some people claim to be able to read into the 1934 “ restoration “ basic wage judgment the view that it should provide for a family unit of four. In the court’s most recent judgment, while it deferred for a period of six months a decision on the application before it, the view was expressed by the Chief Judge that, considered on the basis of needs only, the present basic wage ia adequate for a family unit of three, but offers only a meagre existence for a family unit of four. When the unit gets beyond four, hardship is often experienced. The Chief Judge added that during a portion of his term as a lowwage employee, a married man frequently has a family of more than two dependent children. He claimed that a more logical system would be to grade the basic wage according to family responsibilities. A re-apportionment of the national income sufficient to increase the wages of men and women with more than one dependent child would, he believed, be of advantage to the Commonwealth. The State courts have differed in their decisions as to the family units for which they prescribe a wage. Queensland and South. Australia have adopted a family unit of five, Western Australia a family unit of four, New South Wales dealt with a family unit of three until it followed, from October, 1937, throughout that State the Commonwealth court’s basic wage. It can be reasonably inferred from the judgments of the Commonwealth court during the last decade that the “ needs “ conception of the basic wage has something of the quality of a “ will-o’-the-wisp Common sense supports this conclusion. Even if we could choose an average family unit, it would not reflect the situation of the employee throughout his working life. It would be too large at the beginning and end of his working life, when his domestic responsibilities would be comparatively light, and too small in the middle when his domestic responsibilities would reach their peak.
I now turn to a consideration of the salient features of the bill itself. The essential provision is that endowment at the rate of 5s. a week should be paid for all children under the age of sixteen years, in excess of one child in each family. The Government has given a great deal of consideration to the provision of endowment in respect of the first child. While it approached the question sympathetically, it has decided that payment in respect of the first child is not warranted. On the Commonwealth court’s own recent finding, the present basic wage is adequate for a man, wife and one child. Since most married people have at least one dependent child - at the census of 1933 this applied to 60 per cent, of married males - the presence of one child in the household does not put it at a serious disadvantage compared with the living standards of its neighbours. Studies of malnutrition and ill-health among children,, both in Australia and abroad, show that these appear seriously only in large families and that first children are clearly in a superior position. The inclusion of first children in the benefit would raise the cost of the endowment in Australia by over 80 per cent. - that is, it would increase the amount of payment at present proposed, namely, £13,000,000, by another £11,000,000. Current expenditure of this type should obviously not be made from loan sources, and the raising of a further £11,000,000 from taxation, on top of that made inevitable by war requirements, would augment difficulties already being experienced.
Existing schemes elsewhere exclude the first child and sometimes more children from benefit. The New South Wales scheme pays 5s. per week to dependent children in excess of one in certain lowwage families. The New Zealand social security legislation gave a family benefit of 4s. per week to dependent children in excess of two. That, I understand, was also the extent of the legislation recommended in the minority report of the Royal Commission on Child Endowment in 1928. The 1940 report of the Victorian select committee proposed that the payment should begin at 4s. a week for the fourth child. The many European schemes existing before the present war either did not endow the first child or else paid it at a lower rate. This bill provides for payment of all dependent children in excess of one, irrespective of the income or occupation of their parents. It has been suggested in some quarters that endowment should be given only to children of wage and salary earners, but there are many other people with low incomes, such as small farmers and independent tradesmen, whose exclusion would be unjust and invidious. An income limitation also involves a regular means test which, in addition to being embarrassing and irritating, is expensive to administer. The saving which would be effected ‘by imposing an income limit is not nearly so considerable as most honorable members would imagine, and as it is proposed, in view of the universal grant of endowment, to abolish the prevailing income tax deductions in respect of each child after the first, those taxpayers on the larger incomes will be called upon to make a direct contribution to the financing of the scheme. Under a system based on limitation of income, the payment of endowment for the current year must necessarily be based on the parents’ income of the previous year, and this frequently involves anomalies that defeat the object of the endowment. There are now about 1,830,000 children under sixteen in Australia, and it is estimated that 1,000,000 are dependent children in excess of one child in each family, and therefore eligible for endowment. Payment on account of each of these at the rate of 5s. a week, or £13 a year, would amount to £13,000,000.
It is proposed that the cost of child endowment be financed as follows: - A tax on all pay-rolls at the rate of 2£ per cent, on amounts in excess of £20 a week, or an annual amount of £1,040. It is expected’ that £9,000,000 per annum will be raised in this way. Something more than £2,000,000 will come from the abolition of the income tax deductions for each child after the first, and it is proposed that the balance will be financed from general revenue. The question of finance will be dealt with fully in a separate measure, and I do not propose to discuss it in detail at this stage. The New South Wales Government is at present spending £1,300,000 a year on its own scheme, and has announced that this will be withdrawn when the Commonwealth Government scheme comes into operation. We have adopted the principle that endowment is to be paid universally to each dependent child after the first. The effect of this will be to add endowment in respect of certain children who might strictly be said to be already covered by some form of endowment. For example, allowances are paid in respect of children of war pensioners and of members of the fighting forces at the present time. A private in the Australian Imperial Force, by way of illustration, with four children receives a weekly allowance of 10s. 6d. for each child. The Government has taken the view that the country would not desire the children of war pensioners or of members of the fighting forces to be excluded from the operation of an additional general benefit of this kind; consequently, it proposes that such children shall be eligible for the additional endowment.
Endowment will be paid also in respect of children residing in private charitable institutions and children boarded out by the States. Recognizing that the State governments themselves have certain social responsibilities, the Government does not propose to pay endowment to children in institutions which are substantially supported by the States. The general scheme of endowment will relieve the States of some expenditure on persons who would otherwise require relief. There is less need, therefore, to subsidize the work that their child welfare departments have long undertaken. Payment will be made for all children maintained by private charitable institutions. Thus there will be no exemption of the first child. British subjects coming from overseas will be able to claim endowment after they have been in Australia for twelve months, this period being generally taken as the statistical distinguishing mark of a non-tourist. Endowment will be payable to children born in Australia of alien fathers, because such children are British subjects. Endowment will also be payable for the same reason to children not born in Australia from the time that their father becomes naturalized. It is proposed to pay endowment to the children of aborigines and half-castes, where it is shown that they are living under conditions comparable with white Australians.
The Commonwealth Public Service scheme, which has been in operation since 1920, is financed by a theoretical fund provided by deduction from the basic wage of all adult officers. Endowment under the new scheme will, therefore, be payable to public servants, as also to those receiving endowment under private schemes. It will be a matter for the Public Service unions and those participating in private schemes to determine for themselves the future of their present arrangements.
Another liberal feature of the Government’s proposals is the provision for endowment to continue until the age of sixteen years. The New South Wales scheme, like most schemes established some time ago, provides for endowment only until the fourteenth birthday. It will be generally agreed that under our present educational systems, many children are entering upon the period of greatest expense to their parents at about this age. All State governments have been considering raising the schoolleaving age from fourteen to fifteen years, and we can assume that this is a likely post-war development. The census records and the experience of the Taxation Commissioner reveal that relatively few children under sixteen years of age earn as much as 10s. a week. Moreover, if children are forced to begin earning early, it is generally because of poverty in the family, and a continuance of endowment to the age of sixteen will be of particular value in these cases. The number of children to be provided for by the present bill would be reduced by 7 per cent. if payment ceased at fifteen and by 14 per cent. if payment ceased at fourteen.
The proposals provide that the claim of a parent or guardian for endowment should be based on actual responsibility for maintenance and not on natural relationship. Thus adopted and illegitimate children would be claimed for, if otherwise eligible by those maintaining them. Natural relationship would not give the right to claim, if it did not involve maintenance. This policy is in accordance with the principle that endowment is being introduced for the benefit of the child. Except in special cases, endowment will be paid to the woman in direct charge of the children, who will usually be the mother.
– Where is provision made in the bill for that?
– We are not attempting to cover in the bill the multitude of varying circumstances which may arise. Take, for example, the case of a family of five in which two of the children are living with the father, the mother is living in another State and perhaps one or two children are living with a grandparent. It is impossible to provide in the bill for cases of that sort; they will be covered by regulations which will be prepared and submitted for the consideration of the House before the scheme comes into operation. The Commissioner will have a discretion to pay endowment to the father or guardian or any other selected person. This will help to distinguish the endowment from normal income and it will place it directly in the hands of the one accustomed to laying out money for the children. The Government’s policy in this connexion contains no reflection on the Australian father, but experience of administration with other endowment schemes, notably in New South Wales and New Zealand, and on the continent of Europe, shows that the best return is obtained from endowment when it is expended by the mother.
Endowment will not be regarded as income for taxation purposes, and it is expected that the States will follow the Commonwealth’s practice in this regard. Let me say finally, Mr. Speaker, that this Parliament has already accepted on behalf of the people of Australia the country’s obligations to the aged and infirm, and it has generously interpreted our responsibility to those members of its fighting forces who have suffered in the country’s service. The Parliament is now invited to inaugurate another major reform which itself, by making specific provision for the health and well being of our Australia of the future, will stand as a conspicuous landmark along the road of social progress. We are desirous that the benefits promised under this scheme shall be given promptly. We are proceeding with the necessary administrative preparations with a view to having the schemein operation as from the 1st July of this vear. We can achieve that result if members from all parts of the House assist with the passing of the necessary legislation. On behalf of the Government, I offer this measure to the House, confident that members will welcome the opportunity of contributing to the welfare of the 1,000,000 young Australians who will benefit directly from it. I ask the House to give the bill a speedy passage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Mr. ANTHONY (Richmond- Assistant
Minister) [11.23] . -I move-
This motion is the foundation of a bill designed to ensure the means of financing the larger part of the cost of the family endowment scheme. I take it that there is little need for me to justify the principle of family endowment.
Insofar as that may have been necessary, it was done by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) who has just introduced the bill which embodies the details of the scheme. However, as this is a taxation bill its justification requires statement now. Few taxation measures ever introduced into this House have had a worthier object than this, namely, the provision of funds to supplement the wages and income ?f the family man. That may seem ordinary enough, but I submit that the decay of the family is amongst the greatest dangers that assail’ Australia to-day. I am fully conscious of the immediate and deadly peril of this present war, and I view the slow decline of the numbers of our child population as a more insidious and potentially more deadly danger than any other that besets us. At present there are, 100,600 fewer children under fifteen years of age in Australia than there were seven years ago. That means that a few years hence there will be fewer young men and women to carry on the work of the nation, and to develop and hold Australia. If the next generation is to hold Australia its numbers must be large enough to develop and defend it,
I do not say that, by itself, the provision of additional income for families will encourage larger families; but I do submit that it will help them very materially, and that it is a first and necessary step in a wider national programme for the encouragement of family life. I am aware that there are many factors in the situation other than income and that in years gone by families grew irrespective of income. What I wish to emphasize, however, is that times have changed, the attitude of the people has changed, and income and standard of living now rank as important considerations for the family man as for others. That being the case it is national wisdom to provide more income for the family groups. The bill which will follow the passage of this motion seeks to provide a substantial part of the finance, and an essential part, for without finance the additional family income cannot be provided.
As a nation we have been blind too long to the decrease of our child popula tion. Only this week the Commonwealth Statistician reported that for eight successive years, from 1932 to 1939, the birth rate was below replacement needs. In other words, the number of children born during that period was less than sufficient to replace the present generation. But that does not indicate the full seriousness of the position. If the present low birth rate continues, our numbers of virile young men and women will decrease gradually and inevitably. If the nation continues to be less reproductive of human life it may also become less productive in the industrial sense, less able to defend itself, and consequently less able to survive as a free people. No single measure will turn the tide, but the child endowment scheme will help, and it is a beginning. I submit that the House in debating the child endowment, measures has a momentous duty to the nation. Only the gravity of the problem could justify the introduction of legislation such as this at a time when we are in the midst of war. But the gravity of the problem, the very fact that valuable lives must be lost in defending the nation, not only justifies, but also demands that we initiate action now to provide additional income for the encouragement and assistance of families.
The amount of finance required for this purpose is large. The benefits under the proposed scheme are wider than those operative in New South Wales. The State scheme is restricted by finance and by the fear of imposing high costs which would handicap its industries in interstate competition. In New South Wales child endowment is paid only where the family income is under 5s. a week for each child, other than the first child, in excess of the basic wage. It provides a means test, and takes into account total family income. This scheme is far wider and consequently more costly. Since the plan is on a national basis it has not been restricted by fear of its effects on interstate trade. But because it is comprehensive and thoroughgoing it will be more costly, and so cannot be financed from present sources of revenue. All current revenue, and much more, will be needed to finance our defence expenditure. Even after existing taxes are raised to the limit and credit is expanded to the limit of safety we shall still find it difficult to bridge the gap between national revenue and necessary war expenditure. We cannot, as a nation, afford to curtail our war expenditure, even in order to finance family endowment.Some part of the cost of the scheme may be met from general revenue but, in the main, we must find new revenue for the purpose, and, in the opinion of the Government, no means of doing so is more appropriate than the proposed pay-roll tax. Wages are now fixed at flat rates irrespective of the size of families. Family endowment is a special supplement to wages, and under this scheme it will be graduated according to the size of the family. As it is, therefore, a logical adjunct of the wages system, the money required to pay it is a logical addition to pay-roll costs of employers. It is necessary for the Commonwealth to collect the money, pool it and distribute it to families, because, obviously, if employers had to pay more wages to men with families than to others, the family men would not get a jab at all.
The basis proposed. for financing this family endowment scheme is that approximately two-thirds of the cost is to be borne by pay-rolls, and that is approximately the proportion that will be paid to wage-earners.
I know that it may be suggested that we should finance family endowment from credit expansion, but credit is already being expanded to the limit of safety. It would be a fraud on innocent people to go on expanding credit for any additional need, because once credit expansion be turned into credit inflation prices would soar and so rob endowment payments of their purchasing power.
Briefly, the bill provides for a tax at the rate of2½ per cent. on the wages paid by employers. With a few exceptions such as hospitals, charities, religious institutions, &c, all classes of employers will be liable to tax, and all wages, which term includes remuneration of all kinds, will be taken into ‘account. The machinery bill will provide exemptions which will exclude employers who do not pay more than £20 in wages in any week in the financial year. Employers whose pay-roll fluctuates so that it sometimes exceeds £20 and sometimes falls below that amount will receive the benefit of an adjustment at the end of the year if their total wages bill for the year does not amount to £1,040. In brief, the tax will be paid by employers who pay wages in excess of £1,040 a year, and then only on the excess amount. The issue before honorable members is plain. We should decide now whether we are, or are not, prepared to provide finance for this scheme. Involved in that issue is the question of whether Parliament approves of the scheme. I shall submit the Pay-roll Tax Bill as the best, most logical and, indeed, the only available means of raising the necessary finance.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to define the scope of the proposed tax on pay-rolls and to provide the machinery for its administration. The tax, as honorable members are aware, is intended to provide additional revenue for the payment of cash allowances for the benefit pf children. The scheme will be possible only if additional revenue can be raised. Honorable members have already heard my remarks on the merits, under present conditions, of a tax on pay-rolls, so I shall now confine myself to an explanation of the provisions of the assessment bill.
The measure is divided into nine parts. Those to which I particularly direct attention relate to liability to taxation, registration and returns, and collection and recovery of the wages tax. Except in a few details, which I shall notice later, the other parts of the measure make no departure from precedents established by other taxation acts now current.
Clause 12 of the bill provides that this tax shall be levied and paid on all wages paid, or payable, by any employer in respect of any period occuring after the 30th June, 1941. Wages of all kinds, including those for domestic service, are brought into the taxable field, and each employer must, for the purposes of the act, aggregate all kinds of wages paid by him. 1 direct the attention of honorable members to the definitions of “ employer “ and “ wages “ which appear in clause 3 (1), and to the classes of exempted employers particularized in clause 15. Briefly, it may be said that with some few exceptions, all classes of employers will be liable for the tax in respect of the payment of all kinds of wages.
Clause 13 provides that the tax shall be paid by the employer who pays, or is liable to pay, the wages. This means, simply, that the employer, and not the employee, is the person liable for the tax. The general application of the tax is, however, immediately limited by clause 14 which provides for the allowance to all employers of an exemption to be calculated at the rate of £20 a week.
Clause 15 provides for a very restricted field of exemptions. These do not call for much comment. The exemption granted to diplomatic, consular and other representatives of other governments, and to certain trade representatives, is limited to the wages paid to their official staffs, and does not extend to the wages paid by them in the course of any activities not connected with their official positions. In addition to the foregoing, a complete exemption is granted in respect of religious or public benevolent institutions and public hospitals.
It is the intention of the bill that no employer who pays wages amounting to £1,040 or less shall in effect pay the tax. Section 14 provides an exemption at the rate of £20 a week, but there are many cases in which the employer’s wages bill will fluctuate. Sometimes it will be more than £20 a week, sometimes it will be less. Generally speaking, whenever it is more than £20 a week the employer will be liable for tax; and whenever it is not, he will be exempt. Obviously, it will sometimes happen that an employer will have paid in wages during the year an amount less than £1,040, which is the sum of the weekly exemptions of £20, although he may also in the same year pay tax in respect of certain weeks during which his wages bill was above the exempted amount. Such cases are covered by clause 16, under the provisions of which any such employer who has been an employer during the whole qf the financial year will receive a refund, or a rebate, of the amount of tax paid or payable by him in respect of the year. If he were an employer during only a part of the year, the exemption of £1,040 will be reduced to an amount bearing the same proportion to £1,040 as his period as an employer bears to a year. That provision is necessary to avoid giving an employer, for a part of a year only, an advantage over an employer for a full year. A further provision in clause 16 relates to the class of taxpayer who is an employer during only a part of the year. In businesses in which the wages charges fluctuate with different periods of the year, it is possible for the whole, or the greater part, of the wages for the year to be paid in the course of a comparatively short time. It is possible, for example, for an employer to take over a business of that kind during the year, but at such a time that what is virtually the wages bill for the year has still to be paid after he has taken over. In such a case, it has been considered reasonable to treat the employer as if he had been paying the wages throughout the year. The same thing applies where the employer relinquishes the business after having paid the bulk of the wages for the year. In either case, the Commissioner must be satisfied as to the facts before applying the provisions.
Part IV. deals with registration and returns. The first clause of this part requires every employer who, in any week after the commencement of the act, pays wages at a rate in excess of £20 a week, to apply to the Commissioner for registration as an employer. Application must be made within seven days of the end of the month in which that week falls. Of these provisions, it need only be said that a similar system is already in operation under the sales tax acts and that it has substantial advantages from the administrative point of view.
The frequency of the returns to be made is fixed by clause 18. Returns will be required monthly, as in the case of the sales tax. The form of return to be used will be designed so as to avoid placing more than the necessary minimum of extra work on the taxpayer. It is partly with that object, and partly with a view to relieve the administration of unprofitable work that clause 19 contains a provision empowering the Commissioner to relieve the taxpayer from furnishing monthly returns in cases where he is of the opinion that no tax will be payable by an employer or, if paid, will be refunded. The employers referred to, are of course, employers who have paid wages amounting to £20 in any one week, and who are registered in accordance with clause 17. In such cases, the taxpayer will, in general, be required to furnish an annual return of wages paid so that a suitable check may be imposed.
Clauses 20 and 21 merely give the Commissioner the powers to call for further returns or information which are invariably given in taxation measures. Of the clauses of Part V., only numbers 22 and 23 need be noticed here. Clause 22 requires the employer who is liable to pay tax to pay it within the time prescribed for lodging his return. In effect, the employer will, as in the case of sales tax, assess himself each month and remit the tax to the Commissioner with his monthly return. By clause 23 the Commissioner is given a general power to make assessments, and a particular power to assess tax and additional tax where the taxpayer has defaulted or otherwise offended against the law.
One other point, perhaps, deserves particular mention. It will be noticed that, by clause 3(1), the term “ company “ has been extended for the purposes of the bill to include partnerships. Under the bill, a partnership will be an employer, and will be liable for payment of the tax. The provision ensures that a member of a partnership will not be required to aggregate his share of the partnership pay-roll with any separate pay-roll for which he may be responsible. The several liabilities of each member of a partnership for payment of the partnership tax, however, is not destroyed.
The provisions with which I have dealt contain the substance of the new scheme of taxation. Stripped of the complexities arising out of special cases, the scheme may be described in outline as follows: - The pay-roll tax is a tax on the payment of wages. It is payable by employers. Every employer is entitled to an exemption at the rate of £20 a week. The tax is payable monthly, and employers must make monthly returns to the Commissioner. Every employer liable to pay tax must register.
For the rest, there is no necessity for me to enlarge on the contents of the bill. Full machinery has been provided for such matters as administration, the collection and recovery of tax, objections and appeals, penalties, prosecutions, release in cases of hardship, and so forth. I need only say that the provisions relating to these matters are consistent with the corresponding provisions in other taxation acts and contain no innovations. The Government has laboured to evolve a scheme which will give as large a measure of generous treatment to the taxpayer as is consistent with the urgent demands of finance. I believe that, in theabnormal circumstances of these times, this bill may be justly claimed to be a fair and reasonable solution of the problem. In that belief, I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
. - I move -
That a Joint Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon -
I do so with a due sense of humility, because I am certain that every one who has made even the most cursory examination of the problems of the apple and pear-growing industry in war-time must be aware that the organization set up by the Commonwealth Government to handle those problems has a very difficult task to perform. At the same time, I am conscious of the fact that from the inception of the apple and pear acquisition scheme very strong criticism has been levelled against it by every section of the community. Large numbers of the growers, many newspapers, and members of all political parties in every Parliament of the Commonwealth have joined in this criticism. In those circumstances, and in view of the tremendous waste of good fruit that is taking place, it is incumbent upon this Parliament to appoint a select committee to inquire whether the organization is functioning as Parliament intended it to function. I waa informed this morning by a representative of the United Australia party that he had heard in his party-room that I was not serious about this motion, and did not desire the appointment of a committee. I hope that this is not evidence that the Government is indulging in a form of sabotage in order to persuade its supporters to oppose this motion, and thus avoid the necessity for an inquiry. All of the individuals constituting the Apple and Pear Marketing Board have had experience in different phases of the industry. But it is no reflection upon them that an inquiry should be sought in order to discover faults and improve the organization, or replace it with some more effective scheme of marketing. In order to give honorable members a clear idea of the position, I shall trace briefly the history of the apple and pear acquisition scheme. In 1938, because of the perilous position in which the industry found itself, this Parliament passed a law relating to the marketing of apples and pears, which provided for the establishment of a committee representing the Commonwealth Government, the growers, and the exporters. It was to function almost entirely in an advisory capacity. The Government was given power to finance the operations of the scheme, through the medium of a tax, not to exceed f d. a case, on fruit exported from Australia.
– The Apple and Pear Council had been formed voluntarily before that time.
– That is true. As a matter of fact, this industry has been in difficulties since 1933. The board was to act in an advisory capacity.
– Put the case fairly. It was to deal chiefly with export problems.
– I mentioned that the organization was established to deal almost entirely with the export problems confronting the industry.
– That is so.
– The honorable member will also admit that it was established for the purpose of giving advice regarding the improvement of fruit qualities, and conditions in the industry generally.
– Internal conditions.
– Exactly. The board was to be constituted as follows: - One representative of the Commonwealth Government, four representatives of the Tasmanian growers, two representatives of the Victorian growers, one representative of the New South Wales growers, one representative of the Queensland growers, one representative of the South Australian growers, two representatives of the Western Australian growers, and one representative each from Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, of the exporters of apples and pears. The growers nominated representatives to the Ministers for Agriculture in the respective States. The Ministers then selected the most suitable men and nominated them to the Commonwealth Government, which in due course appointed these men to the Apple and Pear Marketing Board. The organization had hardly commenced operations when war broke out. The Minister for Commerce at that time realized that the industry was in a very difficult situation, because,, in the year prior to the war, the industry had produced 11,000,000 cases, of which approximately 5,000,000 were exported. He visualized conditions under which not more than 2,000,000 cases of fruit could be exported in the first year of the war and realized that chaos would reign unless something were done to establish a proper form of marketing organization within the Commonwealth. Therefore, on the 17th October, 1939, he called a conference of interests engaged in the apple and pear industry. The Ministers for Agriculture of the various States were also present. The Minister for Commerce submitted the following questions to the conference: -
Are you in favour of the compulsory acquisition of the apple and pear crop?
If ships cannot be provided for the export trade, what extra quantity could be consumed by the Australian market through increased consumption and canning?
What assistance could be expected from the States in publicity, or otherwise?
Is a compulsory marketing scheme practicable?
Could prices be fixed wholesale and retail? What advances would be required and when ?
The secretary of the Department of Commerce pointed out that if all fruits were to be handled, they would have to be marketed by an authority established for that purpose. In order to improve marketing methods and stimulate the marketing of fresh fruit it would be necessary to take complete control of the whole crop, which could be done only by acquiring the crop. This was a fundamental necessity. After the conference had considered the position generally, it referred the six questions submitted by the Minister for Commerce to the Apple and Pear Marketing Board for consideration. Later, the following conclusions were presented to the conference: -
The board was in favour of the compulsory acquisition of the apple and pear crop.
Substantial expansion of the Australian market is expected to result from organized propaganda and advertising.
The board says definitely yes. lt is desirable that they should be fixed.
At the conclusion of the conference the Assistant Minister indicated that he would collate the suggestions which had been made and place them before the Minister, after which the Government would consider whether the crop should be acquired and a pool created. Subsequently the crop was acquired. Under National SecurityRegulation 148, which was gazetted on the 13th November, 1939, power was given to the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board, through its executive, to acquire, market and sell or dispose of the Australian apple and pear crop. Under it power was given to-
That is a brief history of the situation up to the period when the board was empowered to deal with this important problem. The scheme had hardly got under way when there arose strong public criticism from growers, consumers, and members of Parliament.
– And merchants.
– Yes, and merchants also. The criticism came from persons who considered that their interests would be adversely affected, and also from persons who, to say the least, were not concerned with the welfare of the applegrowers. I think that is a fair statement.
– Although much of the criticism was unfair and unjustified, there is room for fair criticism of the scheme on account of the appalling waste that has taken place and the inability of the board, the Minister or the Government to make a vigorous effort to dispose of the crop. The Labour party was so convinced that the criticism was justified, that in August, 1940, its Leader (Mr. Curtin) in his policy speech said -
The fruit problem makes necessary a review of the Constitution and methods of the fruit acquisition board.
Since then the 1939-40 season has passed. “We were told that it was hoped that there would be no loss during 1939-40. At that time, the board knew what shipping would be available. Nevertheless, prior to the adjournment of Parliament for the Christmas recess, the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Anthony) introduced a bill to provide for the appropriation of £750,000 to meet the losses incurred under this acquisition scheme. Because of incompetence, stupidity, or perhaps an act of God - I am unable to say which - the scheme, instead of returning a dividend, made a loss, so that the Minister had to ask the authority of Parliament to take £750,000 out of Consolidated Revenue in order to make up the deficiency. I do not know the reason for that loss. Probably there was incompetence but there may have been other factors as well. At this stage I am unable to say, and that is why I ask for an inquiry. I do not believe in condemning any one until the facts which would enable me to judge are made available to me. The board itself believed that a dividend would be paid. I repeat that at that stage there was no question as to the availability of shipping.
– The shipping season had already closed in August, 1940.
– In submitting the bill to the House the Assistant Minister said -
Fortunately the Government was able to arrange for the shipment to the United Kingdom this year of about 2,000,000 cases of apples and pears at very satisfactory prices.
– That is right.
– The Government knew that it could get rid of that quantity, yet a loss of nearly £750,000 was made. In December, 1939, Mr. J. B. Mills was optimistic about the success of the scheme, for on the 29th of that month he wrote a letter, the concluding paragraph of which stated -
Every grower retains his rights in the pool and it is hoped that, at the end of the season, there will be a dividend which will be declared on a varietal basis. There is every reason to believe this will be the case notwithstanding the fact that Tasmania has a crop of 7,000,000 cases to be marketed.
It will be seen that the chairman of the board believed that the scheme would result in a profit and that there would be no call on the Consolidated Revenue.
– Was that letter not written in December, 1940?
– No, it was written in December, 1939. When the scheme was inaugurated, the board which controlled it was inexperienced in the handling of large quantities of fruit. It had to come to a decision as to the best way to pay the growers for their fruit, and ultimately it decided on the assessment system. Inspectors were sent to the various orchards to estimate the quantity of fruit which would be available, and on the basis of their reports advances were made to growers. Subsequently, it was found that much of the fruit which had been assessed could not be marketed. I do not know the reason. Perhaps it was because the board, being new, had not organized its distribution. Since then we have entered the 1940-41 season, and one would have thought that, with the experience of the 1939-40 season to guide it, the board would have been in a position to avoid a repetition of the appalling losses of both fruit and money in 1939-40. We find, however, that the waste this year is greater than it was last year. I admit that the difficulties have increased in the meantime, but so has the experience of the board. To-day we have to face a situation in which there is no export trade in apples and pears. The Australian market will be asked to absorb 5,000,000 cases of apples which ordinarily would be exported. Notwithstanding the power with which this board was clothed, and the assurance by the Minister that efforts would be made to organize the disposal of the crop, there is no evidence of such effort having been made. No unorthodox attempt has been made to retail the fruit to consumers at reasonable prices. The prices charged for apples throughout the ‘Commonwealth are higher than are justified. During the last few months I have visited numerous shops in various parts of the Commonwealth and inquired why apples are so dear. Invariably, I have received the answer that, if it were not for the board, the fruit could be sold for Id. or 2d. per lb. less. I do not accept that as a complete explanation of the high prices, because I know that retailers are human, and that many of them are willing to make the board a stalking horse in order that they may exploit the consuming public. I point out that the regulations empower the board to organize the retailing business. If, as I expect, retailers are exploiting tbe situation, and charging excessive prices to the public, thereby reducing the consumption of fruit, it is the duty of the board to see that that exploitation ceases. Alternatively, it is the function of the board, seeing that it owns the fruit, to engage in retail marketing itself, or engage in any activity which will prevent exploitation. The conference which the Minister for Commerce convened in 1939 reported definitely in the afiirmative to the question “ Could prices be fixed wholesale and retail ? “ Why has no effort been made to fix prices on the retail market when the conference said that it was desirable that they should be fixed? Why has Professor Copland, the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, not been called in? Why has not the board itself sent an officer to the various retail shops in order to ascertain whether prices are excessive; and why has not the public been informed that prices are excessive if they are, in fact, excessive? I do not want to be unfair to the board, for I believe that a great measure of responsibility in connexion with this scheme rests on the Minister and the Assistant Minister. I believe that the board, or the Minister, or the Government, is deliberately refraining from making an effort to dispose of the whole of this vast crop of fruit. I hope to prove that statement.
– Why should any of them do that?
– Probably those in control consider that an effort to market the whole of the crop may increase the losses. I am not able to say that that is the reason. I believe that a vigorous effort to market the whole of the crop would reduce, not increase, the losses. However, I may be wrong. I emphasize, however, that my statement has some support. In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 20th February, 1940, Mr. Anthony is reported to have said -
500,000,000 Will Not be Picked.
A prominent authority on fruit said in Sydney yesterday that 500,000,000 apples would rot on the trees or be dug into the ground in Australia this year. The Assistant Minister for Commerce, Mr. Anthony, has appealed to Australians to help the war. effort by eating more fruit, and in commenting on the appeal the fruit expert said that because of the good season, more than 11,000,000 cases of apples would be produced. “At the ordinary consumption rate only about half of these would be sold. We expect, however, to persuade the public to buy about 2,000,000 additional cases, leaving more than 3,000,000 cases unsaleable,” he said.
If this report is correct, the Minister connives with the board in making no attempt to sell 3,000,000 cases of apples.
– Yes, I have quoted that.
– The other statements which the honorable member has quoted were not made by me. They were put into my mouth by some pressman.
– According to the newspaper report, the Minister said that it was of no use sending the fruit to the market, and that most of the huge surplus would never be picked.
– I did not make that statement to the Sydney Morning Herald. I never had an interview with any representative of the Herald on those lines. I think the writer must have picked on somebody around the markets, and attributed what he said to me.
– Nevertheless, I believe that what is stated in that article is very near to the truth. I have visited the orchards, and talked with the growers. I have seen communications from the board instructing growers not to pick their fruit until they were told to do so. They have been informed that, in all probability, their fruit will not be required because for some reason - and it may be a good reason - the board and the Minister are convinced that it will be impossible to sell 3,000,000 cases of this year’s crop. Here is another extract from the Sydney Morning Herald: -
20,000,000 Apples in New South Wales.
Facts for the Board. (By Our Land Editor.)
More than 20,000,000 apples will go to waste in New South Wales within the next few months.
Yet the superintendent of the Apple and Pear Board in Sydney, Mr. Arthur Stevenson, has denied the Herald’s statement that large quantities will be allowed to rot in the orchards.
Mr. Stevenson has completely disregarded the effect of the scheme on the Commonwealth, and has confined his remarks to New South Wales, where, as has been pointed out repeatedly, the wastage is not so heavy as it will be elsewhere.
His statement that it will be necessary for New South Wales this year “ to import about 2,000,000 cases of apples and 500,000 cases of pears “ does not give a correct impression of the position.
That New South Wales will import from other States later in the year is certain. It is the regular course of the fruit business, but the bulk of that fruit will not arrive until the New South Wales season is practically over.
Nearly 12,000,000 cases of apples will be harvested in Australia. Normal consumption will absorb about 0,000,000 of these. If 2,000,000 more cases can be sold as a result of an appeal to the public to “ eat more fruit there will still remain a surplus of move than 500,000,000 apples that cannot be handled under the present scheme.
It may be too late now to save a large portion of the wastage.
Plans to this end should have been made months before the crop was ripe.
This is what Senator Mcleay said in 1939-
One of the problems in marketing the new season’s crop will be to find an adequate market to absorb supplies which will become available because of restricted oversea markets, as a result of the war.
I have here another statement of the Assistant Minister, published in the Sydney Morning Herald, from which I quote the following : - “ Our choice was either to control the export surplus flood, which would have deluged the home market, or to allow chaos to reign”, Mr. Anthony said. “The Government has chosen the more difficult path of controlled marketing “. .
That being so, it is the duty of the Government to make a greater effort to ensure that supplies of this health-giving fruit are made available to the public at a reasonable price. The present retail price is high. There is no evidence of any constructive effort by the board or by the Government to deal with the retail trade and, in the meantime, the fruit is rotting. The board cannot deny that. I am sympathetic with the Government and with the board in the problems they have to face, but, in the interests of every body concerned, some inquiry should be made into the operation of a scheme which last year resulted in a loss of £750,000. An effort should be made to devise a method by which the people will get ample supplies of fruit at a reasonable price, while ensuring adequate compensation to the growers. It will be observed that I am not ventilating any of the individual grievances of the orchardists, which are varied and* many, and relate, amongst other things, to payment for unwanted varieties, assessment of crops, and final payment for last year’s crop, which, in some instances, has been delayed for 12 months. I do not know whether the responsibility for the present unsatisfactory state of affairs rests upon the Minister, or the Government, or the Apple and Pear Marketing Board. I am satisfied, however, that ample power exists for the inauguration of a better scheme. This is not a party matter. As a member of the Labour party I have accompanied senators representing other parties on visits to the orchards, and have interviewed growers in their company. The growers in my district are in favour of the scheme, whilst those in other districts are opposed to it. I quote the following from the Melbourne Herald -
Members of the State Parliamentary
United Australia Party who inspected orchards at Forest Hill, Burwood and Wantirna to-day, expressed amazement at what they termed the disastrous results of the operation of the Apple and Pear Board.
I would not go so far as to say that the operations have resulted disastrously, but they have not been so effective as the growers and the public expected. Perhaps nothing much can be done to improve the position this year, but there is next season to look forward to, and steps should now be taken to meet the position.
.- The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) is to be commended for bringing forward the proposal for the appointment of a joint committee to inquire into the operations of the Apple and Pear Marketing Board, and I trust that the House will agree to it. Since I have been a member of this House I have always been prepared to assist the Government in any way I can in dealing with the problems of the fruitgrowers. The growers whom I represent in Tasmania are in favour of the acquisition scheme, and they will welcome any inquiry which the Government sees fit to hold. What has actuated the honorable member for Ballarat, and the orchardists “in Victoria, in asking for an inquiry is the fact that the Government expects to lose £750,000 on the operations of the board last year. The estimated crop last year was 13,000,000 bushels. The board paid out on 75 per cent, of the crop, that is, on about 10,000,000 bushels. I was not able to get the exact figures from the Department of Commerce, but that was the approximate quantity. Thus, on 10,000,000 bushels, the board paid out 2s. a bushel, amounting to £1,000,000, and on the operation a loss of £750,000 was incurred. Surely that calls for inquiry. Of the 10,000,000 bushels to which I referred, 2,000,000 bushels was shipped overseas, and sold f.o.b. at a good price. That left only 8,000,000 bushels to be financed bv the Government for the whole of Australia. The growers had to deliver the fruit to the packing sheds at 2s. a bushel, being allowed some small compensation for the cost on carriage if they lived a considerable distance from the sheds. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who was Minister for Commerce at the time, gave an extra ls. a bushel later, but that was not given for all the fruit assessed, but only for what was delivered.
– Too much roguery was afoot. As the responsible Minister, I did not intend to pay for non-existent fruit.
– Admittedly, a great deal of fruit, which was assessed, was not in existence; but adverse climatic conditions destroyed a considerable quantity after the crop had been assessed.
– Surely the primary producers are not rogues !
– No. The fruit was assessed honestly, but the terrible heatwave which occurred in March 1940 caused millions of bushels to go to waste.
– A lot of fruit was bootlegged, too!
– Whilst that is true in some instances, the great majority of growers made every effort to ensure the success of the scheme. About 8,000,000 bushels had to be financed at 2s. a bushel in order to return a loss of £750,000. Shipments overseas totalling 2,000,000 bushels yielded a satisfactory return. Some of that fruit brought 10s. a bushel f.o.b., which meant that 4s. a case was paid into the pool. If the exports paid their way, 8,000,000 bushels of apples remained to yield the loss of £750,000. Apart from climatic conditions, faulty handling and negligence caused serious wastage. Fruit which was shipped from Tasmania, was placed in cool stores in Melbourne. When, later, it was transported by rail to Sydney, its condition was so rotten that liquid seeped from the cases. So soon as the fruit reached the market, it was condemned. In that way, thousands of cases were destroyed.
Visiting the Sydney market last November, I noticed a stack of fruit containing about 1,000 bushels. An official, who was present, offered to sell me the lot at ls. a case, although the cost of marketing the fruit varied between 6s. and 7s. a case. When I asked him for an explanation of this anomaly, he quickly revealed the reason. The apples were still in the original wrappings, which, six months before, had been used in the Tasmanian packing shed. The fruit had never been repacked. Little wonder that it was rotten when it was marketed! That wastage meant a big loss to the industry.
In the early part of the season every fruit-grower was of opinion that he would receive a dividend in addition to the original disbursement of 2s. a case, which was a very low price for the fruit. When the honorable member for Barker was Minister for Commerce, he authorized the payment of a further ls. a case, but nobody expected that that distribution would be the last.
– Did not growers receive payment on a much greater quantity of fruit than they actually produced ?
– Payment was made upon a considerably greater quantity than was marketed.
– Than orchardists were able to deliver !
– That is not so. Orchardists could have delivered- the fruit, but they were not permitted to do so. A section of the general public thinks, quite erroneously, that a good deal of roguery was prevalent among growers, who now have to bear the odium of that unfounded suspicion. An apple-grower myself,’ I have beer, exporting to the London market for the last 40 years, and experience has taught me to specialize in a variety known as the Cox Orange Pippin. When other lines failed, it always sold well to a brisk demand. The best sizes for the London market are 2 inches and 2£ inches, and for Cox Orange Pippins I received between 15s. and £1 a bushel. This year, the board decided not to permit growers to export that variety in sizes under 2$ inches and 2i inches, which immediately excluded our most profitable selling line.
Growers were also instructed not to pick fruit until they were notified by the board so to do, with the result that they could not harvest the largest apples early so as to allow the smaller ones to develop. During the second week in March, I sent my employees to shake the trees in order to cause the fruit to fall. In my orchard alone, there were 700 or SOO bushels of apples which should have returned me £1 a case on the London market. Unfortunately I had to wait until I received instructions regarding shipping arrangements for the inter-State market. An excellent reason why the crop did not reach the assessed amount, was that growers were not permitted to pick the apples until the end of the season. In addition the adverse weather caused considerable wastage. As a grower, I am sure that every orchardist in Tasmania did his best to ensure the success of the scheme; but I regret that similar co-operation was not forthcoming from growers in other States. Some of them thought that they should be given a free market, where they would be able to dispose of the whole of their crop. Such an attitude was selfish; but the applegrowing industry was far too important to be sacrificed in the interests of a selfish minority. The honorable member for Ballarat stated that growers in portions of his electorate were encountering severe hardships. A few years ago, orchardists in the Harcourt district lost their crop through thrip and suffered severe financial loss. At present growers generally are experiencing equally difficult times. A small section, particularly in New South Wales, was the principal offender in resisting the marketing scheme, and I realize that the board has had great difficulty in administering it. In the circumstances the proposed inquiry will be of great value. My objective is to see that plentiful supplies of fruit are made available to the people at a reasonable price. Up to date, no real effort has been made to achieve this end.
– A big attempt to do that was recently made in Hobart.
– Yes. According to the Hobart Mercury, a retailer offered twenty apples for 6d., and members of the public formed a queue while waiting their turn to be served. In that instance, apples were reaching the public cheaply. A paragraph which appeared in the mainland press recently forecast that the loss on the apple and pear acquisition scheme this year will amount to £7,000,000. That is incorrect. In order to return such a deficit, the board would have to abstain from marketing any fruit at all. At the same time, the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) expects that the year’s operations will disclose a loss, though probably it will not be great.
– The honorable member knows what the position is in Tasmania ?
– Yes ; I also know the price that fruit is bringing. Later in the year, we shall market in Australia 500,000 bushels of Democrats, which will yield from 10s. to 14s. a case. But the board will pay to the grower only 3s. a case.
– The price of 3s. a case is for the fruit on the tree.
– That is so. To that price must be added the expenses incidental to marketing. Some apple3 have to be wrapped, and wrapping paper now is dear and scarce. But even allowing for such expenses, there is a big margin between 3s. and 10s. Fruit that has to be delivered by motor lorry to markets situated near the orchards should be placed in cheap second-hand cases; it would not be necessary to provide lids for them; and the containers could be used a number of times. Although deliveries could be made very cheaply in that way, to date the board has not attempted to adopt the practice. Retailers in Hobart informed me that fruit was rotting in the suburbs, though they had to pay 7s. . a case for that which they purchased. All that the board has done has been to persist in telling me that it proposes to raise the grade and make available to the public the very best varieties. I agree that first-grade fruit should not be wasted whilst second and third grades are sold to the public; but there is always a medium course. If the price be excessive, the public will not buy. When the retailer, to whom I referred earlier, reduced the price, the immediate demand for fruit was remarkable. Many Australian breadwinners are in receipt of low incomes and if they can purchase apples cheaply, the family budget will benefit. As the Commonwealth already expects to lose a certain amount on this year’s operations of the acquisition scheme, the board should endeavour to market the best grades.
The honorable member for Ballarat, in commenting upon the formation of the Apple and Pear Marketing Board, mentioned that it was established for the purpose of administering the export of fruit. Great dissatisfaction was expressed in Tasmania on learning that it had only one representative on the board.
Sitting suspended from12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– The importance of adequate representation of Tasmanian growers in the board must be apparent when it is realized that during last season Tasmanian growers shipped no less than 64 per cent. of the total fruit shipped from Australia, and that they grow a good deal more than one half of the total quantity of fruit grown in Australia. Queensland has one representative on the board, South Australia one, Tasmania one, and Victoria and Western Australia each have two. The Minister will no doubt say that the ehairman and the deputy chairman of the board represent the whole of Australia and not individual States; but I point out that the chairman, Mr. J. B. Mills, is a member of the Export Control.
Board in Victoria, and that the deputy chairman, Mr. Soothill, was a member of the Export Control Board in Western Australia. It appears that Tasmania is not given more adequate representation on the board because the larger and more prosperous States exert too big an influence on the decisions of the Government. The price at which fruit is sold throughout Australia varies. Granny Smiths and Delicious apples are sold in Tasmania for 3s., whereas similar apples are sold in New South Wales for from 4s. 9d. to 5s. Other varieties of apples not equal to some of the varieties included in the second and third grades in Tasmania are sold in New South Wales for from 4s. to 4s. 6d. That is an injustice to the Tasmanian growers. The Apple and Pear Board estimated that Tasmanian growers would probably be able to export 1,250,000 bushels out of a total crop of 5,000,000 to 6,000,000 bushels ; but the growers on the mainland expect to market practically the whole of their crop. In Sydney the week before last, I saw medium-sized Granny Smiths on the market which, while they conformed to the regulations, would have been better left on the trees for another month. Unsuitable fruit was placed on the Sydney market very early in the season whilst fruit from Tasmania was allowed to rot on the ground. It is all very well to say that the growers are recompensed to some extent for unpicked fruit, but it must not be forgotten that if the fruit is left to rot on the trees a good deal of seasonal employment is lost. I support the request of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) for the appointment of a committee to inquire exhaustively into this matter. Such a committee could make comprehensive investigations as to the leakages that have taken place and ascertain what has brought about the losses by the board which have almost equalled the payments made to the growers. The Tasmanian quota should be increased far above 1,250,000 bushels. I know the difficulties associated with shipping space, but with proper organization sufficient space could be secured to move considerably more than the quota allotted to Tasmania. In that State we have cold storage space for a considerable quantity of apples and pears awaiting shipment, and with a proper marketing scheme a greater part of the Tasmanian crop could be placed on the mainland markets. In the early part of my speech I referred to the dumping of considerable quantities of Tasmanian fruit in New South Wales. The Minister admitted last year that the fruit was good when it was taken out of the cool stores in Tasmania, but that it was spoiled following the breakdown of the refrigerating machinery while it was in transit. It was said further that climatic conditions last year were unsuitable for the storage of fruit. During the recess I visited many cool stores and was told that last year fruit in cool stores kept very well indeed. Actually what happened was that the fruit was taken out of the cool stores in Tasmania where it was keeping very well, was brought over to Sydney, railed to Orange, and kept in cool stores there until it was practically rotten, when it was sent to Sydney and dumped. That information came to me from authoritative sources. It is apparent that some people are out to make the apple and pear acquisition scheme a failure.
– Who would want to make the scheme a failure, the board?
– No. I know the Assistant Minister (Mr. Anthony) and the former Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) have both given the growers every assistance, but influences were at work to make the scheme a failure.
– That is so.
– These matters should be investigated by a committee such as that proposed by the honorable member for Ballarat. The Tasmanian fruit-growers want the scheme to succeed; they realize that their future prosperity depends upon it. No government can afford to let the apple and pear growers go to the wall. If the industry be allowed to languish, and the war continues for another three years, its reestablishment will take fifteen years. Fruit growing is unlike wheat growing. A wheat-farmer who experiences a bad season can fallow his land and wait until the following year to put in his crop. Once the fruit grower has planted his trees they must be attended to continuously or they will be ruined. I trust that the Government will not allow the fruit-growing industry to go to the wall.
– We have done our utmost to prevent that.
– I agree with the honorable member for Ballarat that this is not a party matter. It is for all of us to do our utmost to assist the growers. I trust that the Minister will agree to the appointment of a joint committee in order that the complaints of the growers may be fully probed, and that it will be given an opportunity to ascertain how the operations of the board resulted in so great a loss and who reaped the benefit.
.- The mover has asked that a parliamentary joint committee be appointed to inquire into the operations of the Apple and Pear Marketing Board. I do not oppose the appointment of such a committee, but I do not know that it can do a great deal of good. It would not be very difficult for the committee to make recommendations to improve the scheme, but the effectuating of those recommendations would be quite a different matter. Ii has had only one season’s experience and no doubt it will profit by the mistakes made last year, and do its job this year reasonably well. Obviously there were some faults in the administration of the scheme. I do not suppose any member of this House was optimistic enough to think that the scheme could be carried through without a hitch, but even if the board had carried out the scheme perfectly, neither the consumers nor the producers, would have been completely satisfied. In Tasmania the scheme is, in the main, accepted gratefully by the growers. They certainly desire that it be continued; but I am afraid that quite a number of growers on the mainland would be glad to destroy it at once if they could do so. Many of them think that, because they have good markets for their fruit in Sydney and Melbourne, they should be able to dispose of their fruit without regard for the interests of the Tasmanian growers. At any rate, that was the attitude of quite a number of growers on the mainland last year. What they did not take into consideration, however, was the fact that the Tasmanian growers should be free to place their surplus fruit on the Melbourne and Sydney markets. If the Tasmanian growers did this in a year of big surplus the mainland growers would not have been able to sell their fruit profitably. At its inception the scheme was regarded as being a real necessity for the reasons given by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost). It was welcomed in Tasmania particularly because that State wa3 the biggest grower and exporter of apples. “When the export of fruit became impracticable because of the lack of shipping space a surplus accumulated. Last year the surplus in Tasmania was not very great because seasonal conditions were unfavorable and fruit did not mature. This year, however, the surplus will probably be between 4,000,000 and 5,000,000 cases, and it is obvious that some fruit will be wasted. According to a press statement quoted by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), the Minister said that it was hoped that we could increase the consumption of apples in Australia by 2,000,000 cases. If it were possible to increase the Australian market for apples by 2,000,000 cases, that would, of course, be a fine thing, but there would still be a surplus of perhaps 4,000,000 cases. I have no doubt that more apples could be placed on the Australian market if the trade were thoroughly organized, but we shall not, so far as I can see, be able to dispose of the whole of the crop. Many of the critics of the apple and pear acquisition scheme contend that the surplus fruit should be given away. It must be perfectly clear to every body, however, that if so much fruit were given away, that proportion of the crop which can now be sold would not be marketable. My view is that the apples should be offered for sale at a reasonably cheap price. It would be far better to make them- available under such conditions than to cause a great deal of waste by maintaining prices at a high figure. I question whether the merchants who, in normal times, deal with the fruit on the markets of Sydney, Melbourne and other cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth are the best fitted to deal with the present abnormal situation. I concede that it is difficult to find competent, disinterested persons to do work of this kind, but I am satisfied that the board is making a worthy effort to cope with the situation. Many complaints against the scheme have consisted in wild exaggerations of its defects. If the price of apples on the mainland market is too high, it must be very different from the price in Tasmania. I was at my home during the week-end, and I saw a case of excellent apples which had cost my wife 4s. That is not an unreasonable price. In my view, it would be impracticable for the Apple and Pear Marketing Board to engage in the retail trade, and even if it did so,. I am quite sure that its operations would be subjected to quite as much criticism as they are to-day. I have no doubt that in some respects our applemarketing procedure is faulty, and it is true that, generally speaking, the price of apples when bought from fruit-barrows and shops in normal times is three or four times greater than the price which the orchardists receive for them. Nevertheless, I am opposed to any suggestion that the board should engage in the retail trade. I favour the establishment of conveniently situated depots throughout the Commonwealth from which people could buy good apples by the case at a reasonably cheap price. It would be far better to dispose of a large quantity of apples under those conditions than to restrict sales to a limited quantity at high prices, and thus make it necessary for millions of cases to be destroyed.
No good purpose would be served by appointing a committee merely to criticize, last year’s operations of the Apple and Pear Marketing Board. That would be a waste of time. The reason why the Government lost £750,000 through the operation of the scheme last year was largely that the value of fruit was assessed while it was still on the trees, and advances were made in conformity with the assessment, but the crop did not develop as expected. Unfortunately, some orchardists in various States were greedy. Many were quite dishonest. They wanted not only the advance on their fruit while it was still on the tree, but also the fruit itself after it had ripened, so that they could sell it. There is no reason to assume that the orchardists of Tasmania are more honest than those of the mainland States, but I believe that those in close association with this scheme agree that, generally speaking, the Tasmanian orchardists behaved honestly in this matter. The Commonwealth lost money because the immature crop was assessed at an amount one-third in excess of actual realizations. I anticipate that some loss will be incurred this year, but it will not be so great as that of last year. If arrangements can be made for the sale of apples at a reasonably cheap price at numerous conveniently located depots throughout the Commonwealth, the loss will be reduced. I am not favorable to the proposal that poor quality apples should be given away while large quantities of good quality apples remain unsold. I shall not oppose the motion for the appointment of a committee, but I question whether any satisfactory results will flow from its activities.
– The honorable gentleman is a pessimist.
– That is not so. I speak from a wide experience of the results achieved by such committees. The Apple and Pear Marketing Board, individually and collectively, has a wide knowledge of this industry and its personnel is predominantly representative of the growers. The board, no doubt, has learned a good deal from last year’s activities, and it will avoid some of the mistakes that were made in marketing the last crop. We may anticipate, therefore, that the losses this year will be much smaller, though, unfortunately, we may not be able to ship any apples overseas. Mistakes are inevitable in connexion with any scheme which is hurriedly put into operation to deal with the marketing of surplus products, and we cannot expect perfect results. Critics of this scheme should bear in mind that the whole plan waa designed to serve the interests of the growers. In fact, no one wants the scheme except the growers. It would be a pity, in my opinion, if adverse criticism by those who claim to speak for the growers or, for that matter, those who claim to speak for the consumers, should lead to the abandonment of the whole project. If wholesale criticism be indulged in this year, as it was last year, I should feel inclined to let the whole scheme go if I had the administration of it. Yet, it would be regrettable if, because some orchardists in some States were dishonest last year, and pursued a selfish and short-sighted policy, the best interests of the great majority of the orchardists were allowed to suffer. The scheme has been a good thing for the orchardists of Tasmania, and also, I believe, for the people of Australia, and its abandonment would be seriously detrimental to the apple industry. As the honorable member for Franklin wisely pointed out, if the apple industry were ruined during the war it could not be revived for several years. For that reason I hope that those who have been so severe in their comments will be a little more considerate. This industry should be supported, and I hope that the scheme will continue in operation.
.- I have the privilege of representing in this House an electorate in which apples are grown, and I have, therefore, listened with deep interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost). Whenever troubles occur in an industry it is necessary to attack them at the source. The consumers, undoubtedly, need the apples that are grown. The difficulty is to find a means by which they can be made available at a price which the consumers can afford to pay. At its heart, this is a monetary problem. If a stream is polluted we must find the reason of the pollution, even if we have to go to its source. In this case, the fundamental trouble is undoubtedly our present monetary system, for it will not permit trade to flow freely. We shall get nowhere with this problem, as we get nowhere with many other problems which face us, until we deal effectively with our monetary system. It is necessary to go back as far as 1694 to reach the source of our present difficulties. In that year William Paterson, an adventurer, founded the Bank of England. It would be to the advantage of honorable members to read the book, The Master Problem, by Desmond Allhusen, for it records the activities of that notable adventurer. Ever since William Paterson founded the Bank of England the consumers of Great Britain have been short of consumer credits. Wherever the same monetary system has been put into operation, the consumers have .been short of consumer credits. The trouble is not confined to the purchase of apples. It affects the purchase of all the commodities -which the people require. To put it in a simple way, there are not sufficient trucks to carry the goods from the producers to the consumers. We shall not get far in our attempts to solve this problem until we attack and remedy our monetary system. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) has told us that apples could be purchased in his district for 4s. a case. In parts of my electorate the people consider themselves fortunate if they can buy apples for 4s. a dozen. We must get down to the fundamental difficulties associated with our monetary system before we can hope to make it possible for the consumers to buy, as freely as they desire, the goods of the producers.
.- I do not intend to criticize the Minister who has the duty to administer this scheme, for he has been influenced to a large degree by the members of the Apple and Pear Marketing Board, who are, in the main, apple-growers. A loss of £750,000 was sustained on the operations of the Apple and Pear Acquisition Scheme last year. I do not believe that any honorable member expected anything but a loss, but we all hoped that, during this, the second year of operation, the loss would be very much smaller. On this subject, I can speak with authority only about South Australia. Tasmania grows a far greater quantity of apples than is produced in South Australia, and its crops do not fluctuate much from year to year. But in South Australia there are glut seasons and lean seasons. This has been a glut season, and I understand that the crop will total about 1,500,000 cases. In the past, about 500,000 cases have been exported annually from South Australia, so that normally 1,000,000 cases would have been left for local consumption this year. It should have been the duty of the Apple and Pear Marketing Board to endeavour to market the entire crop locally. I believe that this could be done if an economic method of distribution to the consumers were evolved. Recently in South Australia I inquired about the price of apples. The figure quoted to me was 4d. per lb. For weeks prior to that time my wife had been paying 4d. per lb. for apples delivered at the door, but there are thousands of people who cannot afford to pay that price. The price arranged by the Apple and Pear Marketing Board for the best South Australian apples was 3s. 3d. a case, which is the equivalent of slightly less than Id. per lb., the average contents of a case being 40 lb. I have suggested to the board that it might be possible to establish one big depot in Adelaide where apples could be retailed to consumers at lid. per lb. In arriving at that price, I estimated that secondhand cases, which would be quite satisfactory for this purpose, could be purchased for 4d. each. My calculations led me to believe that 6d. a case would pay the costs of cartage, to which would be added 4d. for the case. Having allowed ls. 9d. a case for the costs of growing, packing and delivering, that left a margin of lid. a case to cover the expense of distribution. The majority of apples produced in South Australia come from orchards within a radius of about 25 miles of the principal market. Therefore I believe that my scheme is practicable. I fail to see how the cost of distribution could exceed lid. a case. At 4d. per lb. apples cost 13s. 4d. a case, which is far too much to ask the basic wage-earner to pay. I believe that, if housewives could go to a depot and purchase a dozen lb. of apples for ls. 6d., the whole of the apples grown in South Australia would be disposed of by the end of the season, and it might be possible even to import some from Tasmania. At the present time housewives only buy a pound of apples occasionally, because they cannot afford any more.
Early in the season I visited a merchant in Adelaide to inquire the price of a case of Duchess pears for preserving. The wholesale price quoted to me was 9s. a case, and in answer to an inquiry I was told that fruit vendors would be required to pay the same price. Such prices put the purchase of adequate supplies of fruit beyond the capacity of the average basic wage-earner’s family. Fruit is more necessary for working people than it is for the more leisured classes, and it should be the duty of the members of the board to endeavour to arrange a price within the reach of these people. At the present time prices are twice as high as they should be. I visited the orchard of one grower whose crop was estimated at about 7,000 cases. He told me that he was informed by the officer who valued his fruit that he would be paid at the rate of 10s. a tree for most varieties, and that a few hundred cases only would be required from him. The officer said that the best thing to do with the remainder was to let the fruit fall from the trees and “ we will pay for them “. By “ we “ he meant the taxpayers of Australia. This is not right, particularly at a time when people both in the cities and in the country districts are crying out for supplies of apples at reasonable prices. The honorable member for Darwin said that the board should never have entered into the retail business. I believe that it could do so profitably if the plan I have suggested were adopted. The scheme could be put into practice in South Australia at any rate. After paying 4d. for the case, and allowing 6d. a case for the cost of cartage, and ls. 9d. for growing, packing and delivery, an amount of lid. would be left to cover the cost of distribution. The consumers would benefit considerably from the disposal of the entire crop at a reasonable price, and also, at the end of the year a big fund would have accumulated, and this could be used to pay some of the working costs of the board. I foresee that there will be a huge loss during this season, but next year we shall be able to benefit once more from the mistakes of the past and reduce expenses. I do not oppose the proposal of the honorable member for Ballarat that the matter be inquired into by a select committee. Probably much good would result from such an inquiry and it is our duty as legislators to do the best that we can for the people whom we represent. I hope that the Minister will take notice of the suggestions I have made and will pay particular attention to my statement about apples being allowed to fall from the trees at the expense of the people. I believe that, if my suggestion were carried into effect and a depot established in Adelaide for the sale of apples at 1-fcd. per lb. - a good price for both consumer and producer - the scheme would be so successful that within a month of two other depots would be in operation in the big suburbs and country towns. I urge the Minister to give very earnest consideration to this proposal.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks of honorable members who have spoken on this subject. Some of the arguments advanced have a substantial amount of merit in them. Nobody realizes more than those who have to administer and control the Apple and Pear Acquisition Scheme the difficulties that are inherent in it. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) stated the position accurately when he said that the very first consideration actuating the Government in creating an acquisition scheme was the welfare of the growers. In November of last year, when I was charged with the responsibility of investigating the position of the apple and pear industry, and of recommending to the Government the policy which it should pursue during the 1941 season, I was confronted with a number of conflicting claims. A large number of growers advocated the complete abolition of the pool; others wanted a new sort of scheme, such as one which would involve the payment of .compensation to Tasmania and Western Australia in order to keep the fruit from those States off the market ; and others were anxious that the scheme should be retained in its existing form. I made very careful inquiries into the whole position. I visited a number of States in an effort to inform my mind on the subject. I realized, as every honorable member must realize, that the most difficult thing for the Government to do was to continue with the acquisition of apples and pears, and accept responsibility for the administration of the en. tire huge scheme. Having investigated the position at first hand, and applied my personal knowledge as one who has been intimately associated with the marketing of large quantities of fruit for many years, I came to the definite conclusion that, if an acquisition scheme were not put into operation for the 1941 season, absolute chaos would rule not only amongst the apple and pear growers but also amongst growers of other fruits. The prices of apples and pears have a definite effect on the value of bananas, oranges, passion fruit, pineapples and other fruits. It is well known in the trade that when one variety of fruit is glutting the market, all other varieties lose value in sympathy. Therefore, in order to stabilize the entire fruit industry of the Commonwealth during this difficult time it was necessary to adopt once more some form of acquisition. In considering the kind of acquisition scheme which should be put into operation for 1941 we had the experience of 1940 to guide us. Every reasonable person will admit that in 1940 the board, which had been brought into being at short notice, had to encounter severe difficulties. It was not formed for the purpose of dealing with a large surplus of fruit. As the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) pointed out, it was formed originally in order to deal in an advisory capacity with the export trade. But Hitler’s actions in September, 1939, caused the export market to be cut off from Australia, so that this organization, formed for the purpose of advising the Government on export problems, was suddenly given the task of marketing in Australia the huge surplus of fruit which could not be marketed overseas. Any reasonable man will excuse the mistakes made by the board and the Government in the circumstances which then prevailed. I do not say that things were not done which should not have been done, and vice versa, but I do say that any board attempting the same job would nave made similar mistakes. This year we endeavoured to take advantage of those mistakes, one of which was the method of assessment. In the 1940 scheme a grower was paid, not on the crop that he delivered to the board, but on the crop which it was thought he would have. In January an inspector assessed the crop which was expected to be harvested in March or April, and the grower was paid on the basis of 75 per cent, of that assessment. In other words, the grower was expected to carry a loss of 25 per cent, if necessary. Seasonal conditions affected the crop with the result that the quantity of fruit which ultimately was delivered was not nearly so great as had been assessed by the inspectors. Many growers were paid by the board for far more fruit than they harvested, but that is not to say that there was any fraud on their part. Some growers whose crop was assessed at, say, 5,000 cases, delivered only 3,000 cases because of adverse seasonal conditions. That happened in so many instances as to account for much of the loss which was sustained. In any case, it is reasonable to assume that, under the conditions which operated last year, and which may operate again this year, the people of Australia must carry some of the burden which the primary industries, particularly those which have lost their export market, are now carrying. If for no other reason than the shortage of shipping, it will be almost impossible to transport from Tasmania to the mainland the entire quantity of fruit that is available this year. We shall have great difficulty in getting ships to transport the fruit that we can sell, let alone fruit which we may find difficult to sell. In normal years between 4,000,000 and 5,000,000 cases of Tasmanian apples are sold overseas. That market has completely disappeared; not one case of apples will go overseas from Australia this year. It .will be seen, therefore, that, even if there were a market on. the mainland for the fruit, it will be extremely difficult to get the whole of the Tasmanian crop to the market.
There has been a good deal of criticism of the prices charged for apples to consumers.
– It is justified.
– I have given this matter a good deal of attention and have urged on all concerned that efforts be made to see that the public gets fruit at reasonable prices. Until now, it has not been easy to do so, because until the flush of the season there is only sufficient fruit in the market to meet normal requirements at reasonable prices. Now, however, that the fruit is coming in freely, the public is able to get it on conditions which the board can, to some degree, control. I have here an advertisement which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald offering apples at 7s. 9d. a bushel case.
– How many workers have 7s. 9d. in their pockets with which to buy apples ? Why are they not offered in smaller quantities ?
– A case contains from 15 to 16 dozen apples, so that at 7s. 9d. a case, the cost is about 6d. a dozen for the best Tasmanian apples. That price does not return to the Government the amount that it pays to the growers, plus costs and charges. Indeed, New South Wales fruit is sold at a loss of about ls. a case. In respect of Tasmanian fruit, the return just about meets the cost. There is no provision for a surplus to pay for the fruit which will never be marketed.
– The overhead costs are too great.
– The board is faced with a situation in which a surplus on its operations is impossible. There must be a loss; it cannot be avoided. The only alternative is to raise the price, and that would defeat its own object because it would lessen consumption. I have given instructions that fruit is to be made available to the public at the lowest possible price. A charge of 6d. a dozen for apples which last year were sold for ls. 6d. a dozen is a fairly generous enlargement of the purchasing power of the people. The honorable member for Ballarat suggested that in order to reduce prices the board should enter into the retail trade.
– I did not say that; I said that it was a matter to which the board should give attention;
– The honorable member said that the board should itself engage in the retail business. It is easy to say that the board should do that, but I point out that, apart from other considerations, it is almost impossible to get sufficient labour to pick the fruit, let alone sell it. The policy of the board is te compel retailers to bring down prices by itself fixing the price for wholesale quantities. The advertisement to which I have referred suggests that neighbours should combine to purchase cases of apples, thereby getting the benefit of cheap fruit. I admit that a great deal more can be done, but the board is not assisted by a great deal of the criticism that has appeared in the press and elsewhere. I take no exception to the remarks of honorable members in this House to-day - it is fitting and proper that this matter should be discussed here - but there is a kind of propaganda which is deliberately designed to discredit the board and ultimately to have it wiped out.
– That is true.
– The Assistant Minister says that apples are being sold at 7s. 9d. a case. The grower is paid 3s. a case, and therefore it would appear that costs amount to 4s. 9d. a case.
– In respect of Tasmanian apples, 3s. is paid to the grower, 2s. 3d. represents the cost of the case and packing, and ls. 9d. the freight and forwarding charges.
– A case should cost only lOd.
– Marketing costs were greater last year than the amount paid to the growers.
– That is where we want to assist the Government.
– Last year the amount paid to the growers of apples and pears was £1,372,000, whilst the cost of packing, marketing and distributing the fruit amounted to £1,474,000. In many instances, the cost of distribution is greater than the value of the fruit. That was the case last year and most of the loss arose from that fact. The honorable member for Ballarat said that the loss on the scheme last year amounted to £750,000. Wb-en the final figures are tabulated the actual loss is expected to be about £620,000. I emphasize the desire of the board and the Government to protect the interests of both growers and consumers, particularly the former, because their livelihood is at stake. We have tried to get prices for the fruit which, while being reasonable to the public, will enable growers to remain on their orchards. Should the scheme this year be a colossal failure, there will undoubtedly be an agitation for its abolition, and therefore my endeavour has been to keep the scheme as close to a budgetary balance as possible.
– We are trying to help the Assistant Minister to do that.
– Psychological factors enter into the marketing of fruit. For instance, a picture in a newspaper showing what purports to be a man tipping apples into a dump has a bad effect on the market. Such a picture recently appeared in one of our newspapers and, therefore, I obtained from the carrier shown in the picture a statutory declaration, in which he said -
The load of refuse shown in the picture did not consist of apples. A few apples may have been mixed through, but if any the percentage would be extremely small. The load shown in the picture I declare consisted of a mixture of onion peels; potatoes;; tomatoes; cabbage; carrot tops; oranges and broken cases.
– -In what newspaper did that picture appear ?
– It appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
– What does the Assistant Minister intend to do about it?
– Following the publication of that picture, I made a statesment in this House, but not a word of it appeared in the Daily Telegraph. That picture convinced many people that apples are so plentiful that they should be sold at very low prices, or given away free. In such circumstances, it is impossible to sell themat fair prices.
– Did the Assistant Minister inform tie proprietors of the Daily Telegraph that the impression created by the picture was shown to be false by the affidavit of the carter?
– After I had made a statement in the House on the subject I gave a copy of it to the representative of the Daily Telegraph, but, as I have said, not one word of it was printed. That is the sort of propaganda that the board has to face.
– That is the newspaper that has the impudence to try to teach patriotism to me.
– As to the appointment of a committee which the honorable member for Ballarat has proposed, I have frequently stated that I should welcome any assistance that can be given in dealing with the difficult task confronting the board and the Government. I am, however, concerned for the administration of the Apple and Pear Board, the members of which are very fully occupied. I shall recommend that a parliamentary committee be appointed, but I hope it will have consideration for the men who are performing a particularly difficult task, and who, in some instances, have vacated easier positions to do this work at the express request of the Go vernment. I refer particularly to the deputy chairman of the board, Mr. Soothill, of Western Australia, who left his position there at my request, broke up his home, and came over to the east to undertake workon the board, having been lent for the purpose by his own firm. I do not want these men to be taken away from their proper duties at the very peak of the season.
– Just what has the Minister in mind, then?
– I approve the appointment of a joint parliamentary committee, but I think that a committee of eight might be too large. Instead of having four members from the House of Representatives and four from the Senate, there might, perhaps, be four from one chamber and two from the other..
– But the Minister accepts the principle of appointing a joint committee ?
– Yes. The apple and pear industry is only in the same position as most of the other exporting primary industries are getting into. We have the same . problem in regardto wine. I do not know how we are going tosell all the wine we are producing.
– It will keep.
– Yes, but there is not unlimited storage space. The same problem has arisen in regard to meat and eggs. The people of Australia must be prepared to foot the bill for providing relief for the primary producers, who, for many years past, have maintained Australia’s credit overseas by their exports. I do not think anyone would wish to deny to the primary producers a fair deal during the war. While we are seeking to maintain the Australian standard of living in other directions, there is no reason why the standard of living of the primary producers should be allowed to sink to a lower level than ever before. That, however, is what would happen unless the Commonwealth Government uses a part of the public revenue for their relief.
.- One would imagine from the speech of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Anthony) that there was no glut of apples and pears this year, but I have in any possession certain information that throws an entirely different light on the matter. It looks as though the Apple and Pear Marketing Board was born under an evil star, and the Minister has used a big stick to quieten the newborn infant. Those who have objected to the scheme have been met by ministerial threats, particularly in New South Wales. In consequence of that attitude, the Australian fruit-growers’ conference recently passed the following resolution: -
That conference emphatically Opposes the introduction of board control for the marketing of fruit, or the acquisition of any fruit by the Commonwealth Government under the war eme’rgency powers without first consulting the growers of the fruit that may be concerned.
That in the event of the Government deciding to control fruit under the War Emergency Regulations that the industry be consulted and that growers be the controlling factors.
I approach this matter of the compulsory acquisition of apples and pears with an open mind. Even in the Orange district some of the growers favour the scheme, whilst others oppose it. The Colonial Secretary for New South Wales, Mr. Tonking, is so opposed to it that he has applied to the High Court to have the regulations declared invalid. He cannot be dismissed as an irresponsible person seeking to embarrass the board merely for his own selfish purposes. There must be some reason for the opposition which has developed. I propose to cite examples of the board’s administrative acts which call for investigation, and I shall first discuss certain occurrences in regard to the marketing of pears which, in New South Wales, ripen before the apples. The board, from its experience of last year, and from the information supplied to it by the various departments of agriculture, should have been able to anticipate a glut of pears, and to have taken measures to ensure that there were adequate supplies- of cases on hand. Discussing the position in regard to William pears, the official organ of the Fruit-growers Association stated recently -
Early in February the problem of ripe William pears worried all concerned, and this ripe fruit was available in both shops and upon street barrows at inviting prices. The Apple and Pear Board exercised its authority by reducing arrivals of matured fruit, and at all times the inquiry for Williams on the. green side was good. The William season, however, appeared to be a briefer one than usual, and one’s personal experience of fruit purchased would indicate that growers had left this pear too long upon the tree so that ripening was accompanied by juice deficiency.
I suggest that the pears were left too long on the trees because there was a shortage of cases. It has been estimated that 30 per cent, of the crop in one district was not marketed because cases were not available. I do not propose to accept responsibility for all the statements that have been made in this regard, but some of them are of such importance as to warrant the holding of an inquiry by a parliamentary committee. Here is one allegation: Mr. L. Sampson, of Orange, asked for 2,000 cases from the agents of the hoard in Orange. He was supplied with 900 cases, and it was impossible to get any more. As a result he had to get cases elsewhere or leave a large proportion of the crop on the trees, and get no return from it. In the end cart-loads of pears were being dumped, or taken to piggeries in order to get them out of the way. That situation arose out of the mismanagement of the agents, or of those who were responsible for supplying the agents. Last year, first-class hemlock cases in shucks were quoted at ls. 6d. each, whilst pine cases were supplied at 10d. each. This year pine cases are being charged for at ls. 7d. each at the local depot. What is the reason for the increase? Surely this warrants an inquiry. The scheme is proving extremely costly because of the charges associated with the delivery of fruit from the orchard to the places designated by the board, these charges including the price of cases, and the cost of cartage, which is stated to be exorbitant. The board has to meet such charges. The unfortunate grower is blamed for many things. Last year, he became the object of opprobrium because he did not deliver to the board all the fruit for which he had been paid. If he had consigned the whole of his crop, the same difficulty which has arisen this year would have been encountered last year. The fruit .could not have been distributed. The fruit-growing industry concluded that the board did not want the delivery of the entire crop, because it would have been obliged to provide additional cases, and pay for additional cartage, cold storage and transport from the country to the metropolitan area. In the circumstances, it winked an eye whenever the suggestion was made that the board might require the entire crop. The board declared, in effect, “ If growers deliver to us the percentage for which we have paid, we shall be content. “
Persons who are accustomed to criticize the grower seem to have lost sight of another matter. Many orchardists in the Orange district for years arranged for the distribution of their fruit through their own organization. One man, who has approximately 2,500 trees, has made available all of the facts to me, and I shall have pleasure in presenting them to the joint committee. On their own initiative, the growers established this distributing organization, which abolished the middle man. They delivered fruit direct from the orchard to the consumer. With the establishment of the board, the organization was disbanded, but no compensation was paid to its originators. As much of their fruit was not acceptable to the board, the orchardists concerned lost not only their organization but also their customers.
When the board acquired some of the best fruit grown in New South Wales, it made no provision to insure it against damage by hail. It simply declared that from the 1st January it would acquire the fruit, but it expected the orchardist to spray it in order to ward off disease, and to harvest the crop. As the board, from that date, virtually became the owner, it should have insured the apples. If on the eve of the harvest, a hailstorm destroyed the fruit or rendered it unacceptable, the board would disclaim all responsibility. It would not only refuse to pay for the fruit, but also decline to permit the grower to market it. Such fruit, if taken from the trees immediately the storm had passed, would be hail-marked and broken, but it would be better than the public have been buying in Sydney during the last ten years. The Government should make provision to compensate orchardists who suffered in that way from the negligence of the board. The proposed joint committee could inquire into that phase of the matter, and I repeat that I am prepared to make available to it all the information at my disposal.
Although orchardists, who delivered their fruit to the board five or six weeks ago have not yet received payment for it, the Assistant Minister was not aware of the fact until I informed him. That suggests that something is radically wrong with the liaison between the Acting Minister and the administrative staff. The following instruction was issued to inspectors of the Apple and Pear Marketing Board in connexion with the purchase of and payment for fruit -
Fruit should be graded and packed and delivered so that payment can be made within ten to fourteen days.
In the case to which I referred no payment has yet been made, although the fruit was delivered five weeks ago. Such delay calls for investigation.
Fruit, upon delivery at a country railway siding, may be examined and accepted by a representative of the board. The apples are then carried by rail to Sydney. Some time later, the orchardist may receive from the Department of Commerce a notification that the fruit is infected with codling moth. I suggest to the Assistant Minister that, in order to avoid expense, the fruit should be inspected at the orchard. The representatives of the board should know whether the trees have been properly sprayed and should be able to detect, by an examination of a cross section of the fruit, whether it is infected. The periodical reports of the inspectors of the Department of Agriculture of the several States would serve as a guide.
The fact that fruit is placed in cold storage, and after a period it may be found to be unacceptable to the board, also creates dissatisfaction among growers, because they receive no payment. The matters which I have mentioned could, with advantage, be investigated by the proposed select committee, since some extraordinary happenings have occurred in connexion with the administration of the board that warrant full inquiry.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Perkins) adjourned.
Western Australia: Defence Contracts and Secondary Industries; Railway Rolling Stock; Yampi Sound IRON Obe; Unemployment; Abandonment of Farms - TransAustralian Railway : Housing Conditions; Train Crews; Leave of Air FoRCE Trainee : Passenger Traffic - Cool Storage: Ministerial Statement - Munition Factories in South Australia: Housing - Air Mail Revenue: Australia and the Middle East - Apple and Pear Acquisition Scheme : Flinders Electorate - Fresh Food and Ice Company - Defence of Newcastle and Northern Coal-fields - Employment in Coalmining Industry - Oil FROM Coal - Parliament : CENSORSHIP op Speeches - Parliament House : Accommodation - Commonwealth Public Service : E lection Candidates - House Rents.
Motion (by Mr. Anthony) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- On the 14th March, I directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development a question relating to the granting to Western Australia of a share of defence contracts. From the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender), I received the following reply : -
The question of placing orders to the utmost capacity that Western Australia can absorb is receiving the earnest consideration of the Department of Munitions and it will be developed as machine tools, and tools and gauges, become available.
The answer, in the circumstances, may be considered reasonable. I say “may” advisedly, because any delay in giving effect to the Minister’s undertaking will cause great disappointment in Western Australia. Since the outbreak of war, colossal sums of money have been expended in the Commonwealth as a portion of Australia’s contribution to bring about the defeat of the Axis powers, and in the raising of that money no differential treatment has been shown to any State. Whilst Western Australians dislike as much as the people of any other State the method which the Government has adopted to raise the money, they are contributing on a per capita basis to the cost of this immense expansion of defence activity. In addition, their most prosperous industry, goldmining, has been burdened with an additional impost which is styled “ the gold tax “ but which is known in Western Australia as the “ gold steal tax This special impost upon an already-heavily burdened industry returned to the Commonwealth, for the financial year 1939-40, the sum of £1,214,621, and from the 1st July, 1940 to the 2Sth February, 1941, the sum of £1,026,000. According to estimates, £1,400,000 will be collected from this source during the current financial year. Through an adjustment of the industry allowance by the Arbitration Court when the Government imposed the levy, every worker employed in the gold-mining industry in Western Australia contributes 2s. a week to the tax. Despite this burden Western Australia has not gained a single Government-established industry, as the result of the creation and expansion of war annexes for the manufacture of guns, shells, gun-carriages, and transport wagons, and proposals for the construction of ships. Manufacturers in Western Australia claim that they could produce much of this equipment, but up to date they have been denied an opportunity to do so. In fact, figures published in the West Australian on the 7th March show that whilst all other States show substantial increases, the number of factory employees in that State decreased in 1940 by 100. Figures published by the same journal and taken from the statistical summary on unemployment released by the Acting Government Statistician disclose that the number of hands employed in Australian factories has increased in every State with the exception of Western Australia. The increase of the number of factory employees in the various States is as follows : - “Western Australia showed a decrease of 100. Whilst it must be admitted that, in the early stages of the war, advantage would be taken of the well-established factories in the eastern States near the larger reservoirs of skilled or partiallyskilled labour, I claim that there is not now any justification for the continuation of the policy of centralization. In fact, it is imperative that the Government immediately set about to alter its policy to one of giving to the smaller and more distant States a fair share of its very necessary war expenditure. A munitions factory should be established in Western Australia as a supply base for Singapore. The establishment of such a factory should be undertaken immediately for strategic reasons and in the interests of national safety and development, in order to facilitate the growth of heavy industries using deposits of local iron ore and other base metals which for very many years have remained undeveloped, despite attempts of various companies to exploit them. At Yampi Sound, there is an unlimited quantity of first-quality iron ore. The development of these deposits would prove beneficial not only to Western Australia, but also to the Commonwealth as a whole. Yampi Sound is situated on the north-west coast of Western Australia, which, in the interests of national safety, urgently needs population. The development of these deposits would result in the fostering of other important adjacent industries which, at the moment, are clamouring for necessary markets. If shipping facilities were provided at Yampi Sound, adjacent industries, particularly raising sheep and cattle, would be greatly expanded. I have great faith in the possibilities of the north-west of Western Australia, which has remained too long in an undeveloped state. There are large deposits of high-quality manganese, leadand asbestos in Western Australia, which cannot be developed unless substantial factories aire established in that State. If provision be made for their development, a great export industry will be established in post-war years. This war will not last for ever and when it is over our established war industries will have to be directed to peace-time manufacture. This aspect of the problem should always be in the forefront in our planning. Any policy that tends to develop a corner of the Australian continent and leaves States with large areas comparatively undeveloped is wrong in practice, unsound economically, and dangerous from a national defence point of view.. I put my case for Western Australia in an effort to secure for that State what Americans would term a “ fair deal “. My appeal is not of a parochial character. I merely ask that this National Parliament shall govern in the interests of Australia as a whole.
Another matter of great importance which I submit for the consideration of the Government is the imperative necessity for a more equitable distribution of the funds recently allocated by the Commonwealth Government for the construction of additional rolling-stock. I stress the urgent necessity for a -share of this work being made available to the railway workshops and engineering firms in Western Australia. I particularly bring to the notice of the Government the wisdom of making provision for a considerable amount of this work for the trans-Australian line to be undertaken at Kalgoorlie. As I have already pointed out, Western Australia has received very little advantage from the present industrial expansion due to the war emergency, and it is considered that a larger allocation of money for this purpose should be made to that State. If that be done it will help not only to balance the present disabilities suffered by Western Australia through its remoteness from the larger centres of population, but. also to provide in that State engineering facilities to meet even greater problems associated with our war effort.
I propose now to refer briefly to thu housing accommodation and living conditions of employees on the transAustralian line. Why their plight has gone unnoticed for so long is beyond my comprehension. These people are entitled, because of their isolation, to the very best accommodation and living conditions, and the Commonwealth Government should give immediate attention to this important matter. The very nature of the climate in which these people have to work demands that every effort should be made to improve their lot. It is also desirable that better conditions should be provided for the repair gangs who live ki tents and are shifted from time to time from one centre to another in trucks. Only this morning I received the following letter from the Minister for Railways in Western Australia : -
I paid a visit last week to that portion of my electorate (Kanowna) which lies along the trans-Australian railway line, and had complaints made to me regarding the TPB van used for passengers. This van is extremely uncomfortable to travel in and very rough, and is especially unsuitable for women and children who have to travel by it on occasion. It is almost impossible to keep one’s seat when the train is travelling.
They ask that you make representations to the Commonwealth Railway Commissioner for better accommodation. All they are asking is an ordinary passenger coach, for the convenience of those travelling on the tea and sugar train. [Leave to continue given.] I have not yet had an opportunity to present a case to the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) on behalf of these men because of his absence in Queensland, possibly connected with an attempt to establish a tory government there.
– He is welcoming the American Fleet to Queensland.
– At the first opportunity I shall make representation to him on behalf of these men, and I trust that he and his colleagues in the Cabinet will agree that the living conditions of these people should be improved.
I wish to say a word or two in defence of the train crews on the trans-Australian line who were referred to in a disparaging way in this House last week by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). The honorable member said -
The stewards on the east-west railway will not serve more than three sittings for meals, and, consequently, some passengers have to carry their own food with them. I ask the Government to give serious attention to these matters.
That statement should not .be allowed to go unchallenged. It is a grave reflection on what is perhaps the finest body of men in the service of the Commonwealth. By their courtesy and the quality of their service they have earned a reputation that has gone a long way towards popularizing travel by the trans-Australian line, and I am sure the travelling public will endorse what I have said. The facts in this case are that only a certain number of passengers can be successfully handled with the existing facilities and space on the train. If that number be exceeded without extending the existing facilities, the reputation that these men have enjoyed up to date will be destroyed. Responsibility for this matter rests upon the Government. It should remedy the unsatisfactory position by providing additional rolling stock and an additional train.
In conclusion I propose to refer briefly to the subject of unemployment in Western Australia. Despite the huge war expenditure in the Commonwealth, the Government of Western Australia is charged with the responsibility of providing employment on a part-time basis for an army of 6,000 people - part-time employment at a time when every nerve should be strained in the interests of the safety of the country ! Several causes have contributed to the unfortunate situation in respect of half-time work that exists in Western Australia. (Shipping restrictions have seriously reduced the amount of employment available at all ports throughout the State. Drought conditions in the pastoral industry have reduced hy approximately 60 per cent, the number of workers normally engaged. The agricultural industries also have provided their quota of half-time workers. In many districts throughout the State which had previously been reckoned as safe the wheat-farmers have been compelled to walk off their holdings owing to adverse seasons and crippling bankinterest charges. I have forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Department a letter sent to me by the secretary, of the Morawa Roads Board appealing for Government help to enable settlers to escape from the grip of the trading banks. This gentleman informed me that more than 30 farmers had left the district in the last three months, in consequence of adverse seasonal conditions having made it impossible for them to meet the demands of money-lenders. The settlers desire the Government to come to their rescue so that they may be able to continue working on their holdings. Like other people, they wish to maintain their families in decent conditions. I know the agricultural districts of Western Australia as well as any man. I was horn in the centre of the farming areas of the State. Morawa has always been considered a safe wheat-growing area. It is regrettable, therefore, that men who have battled for a number of years to establish farms in that area should now be compelled to abandon their properties. Such worthy settlers should not be left to the mercy of banking companies, nor should they be compelled to drift hack to the cities where only part-time work is available to them.
I consider the matters with which I have been dealing to be of such importance as to merit ventilation in this House and I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to my representations. Western Australia is entitled to a larger share of the additional public expenditure that is being incurred in connexion with our war effort, and I hope that it will be given the attention that it deserves.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) upon his speech and assure him that the matters to which he has directed attention will be brought under the notice of the responsible Minister.
I take this opportunity to inform honorable members of the steps that have been, and are being, taken to provide extra cool storage throughout Australia to meet the needs of our export industries, as well as to make provision for the storage of commodities required for home consumption.
Because of our large exports of refrigerated products, cold storage is of vital importance to Australia under both peace conditions and war conditions. Consequently, in the months before the war, a review of the storage facilities throughout the country was made by the Department of Commerce, working in conjunction with State government departments through the Australian Agricultural Council. It was found that in order to provide against interruptions of overseas shipping, additional capacity was required.
I shall deal first with the needs of the butter industry. Shortly after the outbreak of war the Hamilton Cold Stores at Brisbane undertook the building of substantial additions which have now been completed. The stores at the Port Curtis works also have been extended Added accommodation has been secured for butter at the Brisbane abattoirs. Since the commencement of the war, the storage capacity of Queensland has been increased to hold an additional 230,000 cases.
As the shipping outlook had become worse, it was recently decided that still more storage was required to hold butter against delays in shipment. It was also considered necessary to make such provision as would enable butter to be held in the large producing areas in the Northern Rivers districts of New South Wales. It was made clear that should coastal shipping be interrupted, the rail or road transport facilities could not carry the large quantities of butter normally sent to Sydney. Again, it was con sidered that stores were required to hold butter in the large consuming areas at a distance from the producing districts. The whole question was considered by the Department of Commerce, in consultation with representatives of the dairying industry, and a committee of four was appointed to report on the situation. The committee worked almost continuously for three weeks in order to complete its task. As the result of its findings the following works have been decided upon and most of them have been commenced : -
Queensland. - Temporary addition to Hamilton Stores to accommodate 150,000 boxes of butter. At Gladstone additional accommodation for 60,000 boxes.
New South Wales. - Temporary stores to be erected at central factories situated at Byron Bay, Lismore, Casino, Grafton, Kempsey, Taree and Bega. These stores will enable butter in those areas to be held without relief at the peak of the season for approximately six weeks. It was also decided that in order to make the Sydney position as secure against a hold-up of exports as could reasonably be expected, storage should be provided for three months’ supply at the height of the export season. Sydney has considerable cold storage resources, but in order to meet the objective it was decided to erect a temporary store to hold from 100,000 to 150,000 boxes of butter.
Victoria. - The State Government had already commenced an addition to its own stores at Melbourne, but it was agreed that extra space for about 290,000 cases of butter was required. Accordingly, it was decided to obtain the right to use certain stores in and around Melbourne to cover about 165,000 boxes. The balance of between 100,000 and 125,000 boxes will be provided for by an arrangement under which the Victorian Government will still further extend its stores.
South Australia. - In South Australia the storage position for butter was found to be satisfactory.
Western Australia. - A report is being awaited. It is possible that some little increase will be required.
Tasmania. - Some extra accommodation is required and arrangements have been made in conjunction with the State Government to fix, at an early date, the most suitable place for the additional stores. Accommodation will be increased in both the northern and southern areas of the State.
By arrangement with the dairying industry, half of the cost of certain of the additions decided upon as a result of the findings of the committee will be met by the industry, and half by the Commonwealth Government. In the case of the Government Cool Stores, Victoria, the cost will be shared by the two governments and the industry. In the case of Gladstone, the Queensland Government has been asked to defray the difference between the cost of a temporary store and the cost of a permanent structure which it was desired to have erected there. The total cost of these additions will be approximately £250,000, of which the Commonwealth liability will be about £120,000.
I desire to record my appreciation of the co-operation of the industry. Its representatives readily appreciated1 the difficulties of the position that had to be faced, and showed every disposition to assist the Government.
Considerable additions to cool stores were also found to be necessary to cope with the needs of the meat industry. When it was decided that our storage capacity for meat was inadequate, the Government laid down, after con sultation with the Meat Board, that the management of all major meat-works in Australia should be required to have at their plants sufficient capacity to hold their export killings for six weeks at the peak of the season. This was agreed to by the various organizations, with the result that the companies, at their own expense, undertook the necessary additions, most of which have been completed. Those that have not been completed are in course of construction. Many of the works, of course, have storage facilities considerably in excess of six weeks’ killing capacity. Since the war, additional storage for approximately 13,000 tons of meat has been provided or is in course of construction throughout the States.
As with butter, the shipping outlook demanded further provision for the storage of meat, and it was decided that space for about 14,000 additional tons was required to be distributed through all States except Queensland, and that where works had storage for at least six weeks’ killing capacity the Government would assist to bring the storage space to three months’ killings at peak rates. Of the total added requirements, New South Wales and Victoria will together take about 11,000 tons. Appropriate arrangements have already been made with the various organizations, and work has been commenced.
The expense involved in providing this extra meat accommodation will be about £260,000, of which the Commonwealth Government will meet half. The balance will be met by the proprietors of the works affected. The Homebush Abattoirs, which is owned by the New South Wales Government, will provide 5,000 tons. In this case, the two governments will share the expense. I express the thanks of the Government to proprietors and controllers of the various meat-works for their ready co-operation and for their speedy and effective carrying out of the plans decided upon.
It is expected that the extra storage for butter in factories of Queensland and New South Wales will be completed within four months, and that at Melbourne and Sydney before the opening of the next season. In respect of meat, all additions will be completed before the height of the next lamb export season.
Many difficulties in connexion with killing operations will thus he obviated.
– I direct the attention of the Government to a matter of great urgency in relation to the housing of employees who will be engaged at the munition factories that are being erected in country areas of South Australia, notably at Salisbury and Smithfield. Greater provision than seems to be contemplated should be made for housing the employees in close proximity to the factories. I understand that :the Government proposes to arrange certain railway facilities from Adelaide to those districts. That will involve additional travelling time for the. workers, who will be required to work for long hours, and will also cause them extra expense. But there is another point about which I am most seriously concerned. The greatest number of employees at these factories will be women, and they will be required to work at least two shifts, if not three. As a result, many of them will be expected to commence duty at midnight when others finish their shifts-. This will involve night travel to and from the works at times when community services that would otherwise be available will have ceased. The very least that this Government should do is to arrange for accommodation in the form of women’s hostels near the works. I consider that it should go a step further than that, and provide proper housing conditions for all workers who will be engaged at these factories. Why should the Commonwealth add to the congestion that already exists’ in our city areas ? There is plenty of room available for housing schemes in the districts where, the factories are being erected. I know that; the Government is afraid that it may build up shadow towns which will be almost completely evacuated after the war. But the areas to which I am referring are sufficiently close to Adelaide to be of value in the development of a suburban scheme. Any housing accommodation provided there now would be of material assistance after the war in sparing Adelaide from congestion such as that which exists in certain other metropolitan areas of Australia. Residents of Adelaide do not want to have the whole of the city’s. population concentrated in one small area. They want it to be distributed as widely as possible, so that they may enjoy comfortable and healthy living conditions. This can be ensured by providing now some means whereby new suburbs can be created about the outskirts of Adelaide. Houses erected for munition employees can thus be made to serve a dual purpose. This is a reasonable proposal, and instead of waiting until the need for expansion becomes pressing, the Government should proceed with the work immediately. I trust that the Government will make a satisfactory reply to my representations, because municipal bodies in Adelaide are interested in the class of undertaking which I have suggested and wish me to notify them of the Government’s intentions.
I also voice a complaint on behalf of an employee of the Commonwealth railways, who has enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force, and has had difficulty in securing annual leave due to him for his railways service.
– Has he been given leave to serve by the department?
– Yes. He was called up by the Air Force yesterday. He had been accustomed to meet the convenience of the department by taking his annual holidays in December,, and’ he had not had annual leave since December, 1939. The railways authorities say that because he commenced his service with them some time in May of one year he cannot now be granted the, holidays for which he has applied. It is absurd that a Commonwealth department should so discourage men from rendering service in our fighting forces. This man will not now have an opportunity to take out the annual leave- to which he is entitled. He will receive monetary payment in lieu of the furlough, but he would have greatly preferred! to have had leave of absence.. Other employees of the Commonwealth railways may have, suffered in a similar way. This sort of thing is consistent with what I have noticed about the administration of the Commonwealth railways system. It is time that a complete, overhaul was made of the management of the department. I hope to be able to convince the Minister for the Interior (Senator Poll), to whom the department is responsible, that a thorough overhaul of the department’s methods is necessary. I hope that there have been no other cases in the Commonwealth departments similar to the oneI have mentioned. Let the Commonwealth be a model employer and show private enterprise the proper way to treat employees.
.- I compliment the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) on his statement of the case for Western Australia for a more adequate share of war expenditure than has been granted to it. I desire to correct an impression of a portion of his speech which was based on a remark that I made yesterday when I directed attention to the congestion on the trans-Australian railway and its inability to carry the volume of passenger traffic offering. Owing to the discovery of enemy mines in the Great Australian Bight, a large number of people have been discouraged from travelling between Western Australia and the eastern States by sea. The interstate shipping services have been restricted, and consequently a large volume of passenger traffic has been diverted to the transAustralian railway. So great was the number of passengers carried on the train that more than three sittings of passengers at a meal were necessary. Having had experience of travelling on the trans- Australian trains for 25 years, I regard the stewards as a trustworthy body of men who carry out their duty faithfully. I consider that they were justified in refusing to serve more than three sittings a meal, which involves nine sittings a day. The service on the railway is tri-weekly and there is sufficient passenger traffic offering to justify a daily service if the Commissioner of Railways had adequate rolling stock. The provision of adequate rolling-stock is vitally important, because in the event of a sudden movement of troops becoming necessary, a serious traffic tangle would occur. The Commissioner of Railways is doing the best he can with the rolling-stock available. Western Australia is an important State.
– The honorable member is not parochial?
– The value of Western Australia’s production for export is equivalent to £38 a head of its population, but Melbourne, which has twice as many representatives in this House as has the State of Western Australia, does not produce for export goods to the equivalent of 6d. a head of its population, The people of Western Australia purchase goods to the value of more than £10,000,000 a year from the eastern States, but the eastern States buy goods to the value of less than £1,000,000 from Western Australia. Because of the restriction of interstate shipping services and the congestion on the trans-Australian railway, Western Australia is almost severed from the eastern States. This is the third occasion on which I have raised this matter, and I hope that the Government will give it immediate attention.
.- Having been closely associated with railway working for a number of years I am impelled to believe that the fault lies with the management when I hear persistent complaints about the working conditions of the men employed on the transAustralian railway, the shortage of rolling-stock, the state of the track, and inconvenience caused to passengers. I consider that the grounds of these complaints should be investigated by an appropriate authority, armed with full power to inquire into the administration of the railway system. If the existing situation be not rectified, there might be a complete breakdown in the movement of passengers by rail between the eastern States and Western Australia in the event of abnormal circumstances arising.
Yesterday the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in this chamber furnished replies to questions that I asked concerning the revenue received for the carriage of air mail between Australia and the Middle East and the Near East I thank the Postmaster-General for his prompt reply. I was prompted to ask the question because the suggestion was made to me that the Government had received such a large revenue from the air mail service since Australian soldiers were stationed in the Middle East that it could afford to grant a further reduction of the air mail postal rate for the benefit of our citizens who have relatives and friends serving in that theatre of war. The reduced rates of 9d. for letters and 5d. for post cards has operated since November last. The following statement sets out the revenue derived from air-mail correspondence between Australia and Malaya, India, Palestine and Egypt during the years 1938-39 and 1939-40 : -
The total amount of revenue collected on air mail correspondence from Australia to Malaya, India, Palestine and Egypt during the years 1938-39 and 1939-40 was £7,704 and £20,495 respectively. During July, 1938, and the period September, 1939, to June, 1940, inclusive, the charges were at the rate of 9d., ls. Id., ls. 0d., and ls. <>d. per half oz., respectively for letters and half rate for postcards. For the intervening period the charges were uniformly 5d. per half oz. for letters and 3d. for postcards.
The revenue collected for the half year July to December, 1940, was £51,015. The revenue included in the foregoing figures represented by correspondence from Australia to members of the Commonwealth forces in the Middle East was for the year 1939-40, £5,000, and for the half year ended 31st December,’ 1940, £34,912.
It will be seen that since our boys have been in the near East and Middle East, the revenue derived from the carriage of air mails to those places has increased tremendously. It seems to me, and it is the popular view, that despite the reduction made in November last the charges are still far too high, and represent something in the nature of profiteering by the Postmaster-‘General’s Department at the expense of those who are serving with the forces overseas. I bring this matter under notice, because I believe that it should be reviewed in the light of present- day circumstances. As a matter of basic principle, we should not endeavour to make profits out of the boys and girls overseas and those corresponding with them from home. It should be sufficient if the return covers the cost of the services rendered, plus a small margin. That principle should apply especially in respect of a service between the members of our fighting forces and their relatives at home. The present rates are higher than the charges on letters and postcards from England, and are certainly more than the average person in Australia can reasonably afford, particularly when more than one member of a family is serving with the forces overseas. As it is almost impossible to maintain regular correspondence by letters carried by sea-going vessels, the air-mail is practically the only means of communication with the forces. I make no complaint regarding the service itself, for mails are frequent and regular. I speak from experience, for I have a son serving overseas, when I say that letters arrive at intervals of about fourteen or sixteen days. My complaint is against the charges, and is made not so much on my own account - for I can afford to pay them - as on behalf of those with smaller incomes, especially those families who have more than one representative in the forces abroad. I strongly urge the Postmaster-General to give as good a service as is possible at the cheapest rate, and to avoid anything in the nature of profiteering in respect of communications between the people at home and their representatives in the fighting forces overseas. Last year the profits from this department were enormous, and whilst I believe that the department should be conducted as a business concern, and that the people who use the service should pay for it, we should endeavour to provide extensions to country centres and more modern equipment in isolated districts. We should, especially in these times, ensure that, in addition to a Tegular and frequent service, it shall be conducted as cheaply as possible.
.- I draw attention, as a matter of urgency, to the situation in which metropolitan and peninsula fruit-growers in the Flinders electorate find themselves as the result of the operation of the apple and pear acquisition scheme. In pre-control days these growers derived a substantial portion of their income from local markets. They grew fruit suited to the requirements of local consumers, whom they supplied either direct or through regular retailers. It is no exaggeration to say that a large proportion of the income of those growers was derived from the Victoria market in Melbourne and local markets at their doors. As the result of the acquisition scheme they have lost the goodwill in their businesses, the profitable employment of their time in the handling of their own fruit, the use of the metropolitan and co-operative stores for which they themselves had paid, and also the extra price which they obtained for growing the particular kinds of fruit desired by their customers. As the result of acquisition they have lost practically all these advantages without compensation, and I ask the Government to look into the matter in order to ascertain whether it is possible for them to be compensated.
– I direct the attention of the House to a question and the answer thereto which I asked on notice recently of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden). The question was as follows: -
The Acting Prime Minister replied -
My attention lias, as the result of the honorable member’s question, been drawn to the press article in question. The remission of penalties imposed under acts of any State is a matter which concerns that State only. The Commonwealth Government, even if it so desired, has no power to appoint a royal commission into this matter.
Be that as it may, this is a matter which no decent man or woman can overlook. The article upon which the question was based contained among others the following passages: -
The record of the monopoly milk company - The Fresh Food and Ice Company - goes back over many years. It is a disgraceful record. It includes convictions for adulterated milk, for adulterated bread, for filthy premises and for the underpayment of its workers. Nevertheless, it has now been revealed that this company has been” able _ to secure substantial reductions of the fines imposed upon it in some flagrant breaches of the law. The Government has not sought to justify or excuse this lavish mercy to a rich firm which has so consistently defied the community and scorned the law. Instead, the Government, during the past couple of weeks in
Parliament, has been trying, by a variety of stratagems, to evade the full disclosures of the offences of the Fresh Food and Ice Company, and of the gentle mercy extended to this lawbreaking corporation … At that time 20 offences had been committed. But the Minister had wiped out the fines in some of the cases and had halved the fines in the remainder . . . The fines imposed, almost without exception, have been absurdly small . . . but the company can go to the Government and have fines either wiped clean out or reduced to half. The chairman of directors of this company, which deals extensively in food (ice, milk, meat, poultry, ice-cream, bread) is Colonel Playfair. He is a member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales. He is a big clubman and a bigwig social lion.
A number of speeches has been delivered to-day on the need to protect the workers. I now speak in defence of the children, those little innocents whose birthright is being niched from them. I appeal for the protection of those little ones. The wages of the worker have to be carefully husbanded ; there is nothing to spare, and the least he expects is fair value for his money. It is criminal to skim the cream off milk before delivering it to homes where there are children to be nourished. It is thus that malnutrition comes upon the people. A well-developed people is a country’s first line of defence. How then can the Commonwealth disclaim responsibility in this matter? The Acting Prime Minister said that it was not a matter for the Commonwealth Government. It is a matter for all Christians. We must set our faces against this sort of thing. The very purpose of the childendowment scheme which is now proposed is the development of our people. That purpose will be set at nought if purveyors of the necessaries of life are to be allowed to escape the consequences of their wrong-doing in selling adulterated food. The quality of the food must be protected at all costs. In the circumstances recited in the article from which I have quoted’, I can imagine a doctor telling a mother that her child is languishing and must have a pint of milk a day and the mother, out of her scant share of the world’s goods, buying another pint, only to find that it is of no use and that her child still languishes. Who will deny that this matter concerns us all? Shakespeare says -
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
The chairman of directors of the Fresh Food and lee Company is LieutenantColonel Playfair, a member of the Parliament of New South Wales and a man whom I have never met and never expect to meet. He wears the King’s uniform and is “ an officer and a gentleman “. It strikes me, however, that “ playfair “ is the exact reverse of “ fair play “. The strictures on the company as contained in Truth’s article remind me of Dracula, the vampire. Only vampires could descend to the bloodsucking tactics of stealing the vitamins of the helpless. The time has come when we should have another Elizabeth Barrett Browning and another Tom Hood to put into words the cry of the children and to awaken in the people a sense of their duty to those who cannot help themselves. The children have a right to be protected and surely we, as members of this Parliament of which we are so proud, are the custodians of the little ones. We all remember the words of Christ: “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not; for of such is the Kingdom of God ‘ . Honorable members may ask why I take up this matter. I have had much to do with children. For twenty years, I was an inspector of schools and I know how fine, pure and glorious our children are. That is why I protest so strongly against this scandal which Truth has so commendably exposed. I commend what I have said to honorable members on all sides of the House, hoping that there is not one man present who would condone such conduct. All must register their emphatic protest as I do to-day.
– When I came into the House, and found that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) had invaded my electorate, I thought that I might be pardoned for saying a few words upon the subject with which he has been concerning himself. It relates to a certain area of land which has been taken over by the Commonwealth Government for munitions purposes. It is amongst the best land in the State, and has been acquired despite the fact that it has been held by the same families for the last 80 or 100 years. However, they have entered no protest because they realize that the taking of the land is a national necessity at this time. It appears to have been much easier to take the land rapidly than to pay for it rapidly. A good deal of the money has not yet been paid, and, in some cases, the exact amount of the indebtedness has not even been determined. The land is situated between ten and fifteen miles from Adelaide, and I understand that it is the intention of the department that the people who are to work in the factories shall be brought each day from Adelaide in the south, and from Gawler in the north, and taken back at night. The area is admirably situated for service by tramways, buses or railway. The policy of the Government is, apparently, that it should, instead of planting a large population in the vicinity of the factory where they would be in danger of being bombed in the event of an attack on the factories itself, provide facilities for carrying the workers backwards and forwards each day. I think that is a wise plan, though I admit that there is some force in the point raised by the honorable member for Hindmarsh regarding the difficulty of working night shifts under such conditions. That difficulty, however, is attendant upon night work in all factories. I do not grumble at the honorable member for Hindmarsh for coming into this matter, because he is the only Labour representative of the State in either this House or in the Senate, and, in the circumstances, he may feel justified in discharging some of the duties of a senator. I merely suggest that he may not have been without thought of transferring a number of workers from the city area into the Wakefield electorate, where they would swell the Labour vote. It would be a strange thing if he were actuated by that consideration, but that, at any rate,/ might be the effect of his proposal. I agree with him that we should not expand the metropolitan area at the expense of the country, but unlike him, I do not support the policy which in the past has had the effect of concentrating the greater part of the population of the State in one restricted area. The fact is, that nearly 57 per cent, of the population of South Australia is gathered within a radius of ten miles ofthe Adelaide General Post Office. Now the. honorable member for Hindmarsh proposes to use some of the best land in the State as sites for the homes of persons who will be employed in the munitions works. In that I disagree with him. I. trust that the time will shortly arrive when we shall no longer have need to manufacture munitions of war, and when the land can return to those persons who are best fitted to use it. I trust, that before long the ploughshare and the pruning hook will again be: used on this land upon which it is now proposed to manufacture weapons of war. When that time comes, thosewho occupied and developed the land for so many years should receive at least as much consideration as those who,, owing, to the exigencies of war, are in temporary occupation of it.
– I regret that I have to speak now when many members have gone home, and when only one Minister is, present in the chamber. I understood that an opportunity was to be afforded honorable: members to discuss at a secret meeting the statements which were delivered by Ministers, at a previous secret meeting, and it is grossly unfair that this opportunity should be denied them.. All that honorable members were. able to do at that meeting was to listen to Ministers, but some honorable members have information of vital importance to impart to Ministers on defence matters. The way in which Parliament has been conducted during the last two weeks seems to indicate that Guy Fawkes might have had some justification for his attempt, to blow up the British Houses of Parliament on the 5th November, 1605. I am alarmed’ that the Government is not doing all that it could to evoke the best response possible from the people of this country, or to inspire them with necessary patriotic zeal. The people certainly realize that Australia is worth defending. In the coal-fields area in my electorate, from which is drawn much of the coal required by our war industries for the manufacture of raw materials, thousands of men are still unemployed.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Although I am most in-
- Excised by direction of Mr. Speaker. terested in what the honorable member is saying, I think that he should reserve his remarks for a confidential meeting.
– Perhaps the Assistant Minister will indicate whether the Government intends to hold another confidential meeting.
– At the moment, I am not able to indicate when the next confidential meeting will be held. However, I shall bring the honorable member’s remarks immediately under the notice of the Acting Prime Minister. At the same time, I suggest that, for defence reasons, he should refrain from discussing the subject further. I also ask representatives of the press not to give publicity to the remarks already made by the honorable member.
– I fully appreciate the request made by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Anthony). However, I point out that when the House assembled on Tuesday last, I was the first to suggest that another confidential meeting of members should be held. I was then informed that such a meeting would be arranged for that afternoon. However, no such meeting has been held this week, although the adjournment of the House was proposed at an early hour on Tuesday in order that such a meeting might be held. Later, when the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) asked the Acting Prime Minister when the proposed confidential meeting was to take place, he was. informed that no such meeting would be held. Consequently,I am reluctantly compelled at this juncture to raise those matters, in the. interests, not only of the people whom I directly represent, but also of our war industries generally. The information which I have detailed has been given to the Acting Prime Minister. I am amazed, therefore, that something has not been done along the lines I suggest, particularly as approximately 4,000 miners are still unemployed in that area. [eave to continue given.] Surely these men could be used, instead of military trainees,on such work as the erection of temporary defences.
Unfortunately, Ministers pay no attention to the suggestions which are constantly made to them by honorable members. In response to
*ExcisedbydirectionofMr.Speaker. our representations, we receive a stereotyped reply which reads: “Dear Sir, I desire to acknowledge receipt of your representations. The matter will be investigated “. After that, we hear nothing more about it. The unsatisfactory treatment which is meted out to honorable members compels them to ventilate these matters in Parliament. The subject with which I have been dealing was not discussed at the secret meetings recently, although it is of urgent national importance.
Both the late Prime Minister, Mr. Lyons, and the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), upon visiting the northern coal-fields, promised to take immediate action to relieve the straitened circumstances of the unemployed there. In his policy speech in 1934, Mr. Lyons promised to proceed immediately with a plan for the erection of plant to extract oil from coal. I have filled many, many pages of Hansard with valuable information upon this subject, which I have gleaned from research into the progress made in other countries with this important process. For ten years, I advocated in season and out of season the adoption of this process until I became known as the “ oil from coal “ man. When I was speaking upon this subject some years ago, 1 exhausted my time, but the former member for Kennedy, the late “Darby” Riordan, offered to complete my speech for me. Incidentally, he had been a metalliferous miner. I had been a coal-miner. Hampered by my rough notes, he was making heavy weather of the speech when a former member for Fawkner, the blind barrister, Mr. Maxwell, interjected : “ Is the honorable member speaking of gold or coal ? “ Mr. Riordan replied that he was speaking of coal, whereupon Mr. Maxwell invited him to spell it. “ C - o - 1 - e “ replied Mr. Riordan. I mention that episode to show how little notice had been taken of my advocacy. When Sir Archdale Parkhill was Minister for Defence, I reminded him of the futility of Australia having large mechanized units and a big Air Force unless the Commonwealth had an assured supply of the oil fuel they would require. Restrictions upon the use of petrol are becoming more and more severe, but the Government has made no attempt to exploit New South Wales coal, which is the best in the world. Its oil content is 15 per cent, greater than that of British or continental coal, but Great Britain and other countries have developed the extraction of oil from inferior coal. Unfortunately, Australia neglected my warnings and now we are dependent upon the safe arrival of oil tankers, which have to run the gauntlet of enemy raiders. The Government has taken a step in the right direction by assisting the establishment of the shale-oil industry. That is not nearly so important as the extraction of oil from the vast deposits of coal in New South Wales and other States. I have given figures to show that oil could be extracted from coal at a cost of 7d. a gallon. It seems that it has just been a matter of sabotage. And who has been responsible for that sabotage? The Government, of course. Anybody can see why the Government has done that; obviously it is under the control of the major oil companies who make every effort to prevent any development likely to deprive them of their markets in thi3 country. Do honorable members think that Great Britain has undertaken the extraction of oil from coal just for a joke? Do they believe that the establishment before the war of a huge plant at Billingham-on-Tees was just a charitable gesture? That plant is now supplying fuel for seventeen air force squadrons and crude oil for many ships of the Royal Navy. On many occasions I have made representations in connexion with this matter, but the Government has maintained a wall of silence. It almost makes one suspicious of where the United Australia party and the United Country party obtain their party funds. I assure honorable members that we on this side of the House receive no donations from outside interests. I always have to pay my own election expenses. Reports submitted by royal commissions, and by other bodies which have conducted inquiries, have recommended to the Government that the coal-oil industry be established, but nothing has been done. The Government does not appear to he aware of this country’s essential needs in war-time. It is just as essential to extract oil from coal in this country as it is to train troops to fight, or to manufacture aeroplanes or mechanized equipment for the Army. What is the use of one without the other? I have consistently advocated the revival of the coal industry in peace-time by modern scientific methods of extracting oil from coal, but the only reply given to me is that the venture would not be a commercial proposition. Is the building of battleships, aeroplanes and all the other hellish instruments of death a commercial proposition? Of course it is not. Why then should that argument be used against this proposition? The production of oil fuel in this country is a national necessity. Agitation is still going on. We may be a bit worn and battered, but we shall continue the fight for the adequate defence of this country, a vital factor in which is an independent supply of fuel. Vast quantities of oil fuel are being brought from overseas, whereas Australia’s demands could be supplied by the development of our own resources.
– I rise to reply to the point of order raised by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price). The supervision of Hansard is a function which devolves upon the Speaker for the time being. On a previous occasion, speeches were made in this chamber which, although quite appropriate to the occasion, contained passages which in my opinion should not appear in the official report. I consulted the honorable members whose speeches were affected, namely, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and they agreed with me that certain passages should be eliminated. Accordingly, I gave instructions that they be excised. On this occasion I propose to follow the same course in regard to the speech just delivered by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James).
– I take it that that applies only to portions of the very impressive speech delivered by the honorable member ?
– And the honorable member for Hunter will be consulted?
– Yes. I shall always consult honorable members whose speeches are affected. Whilst I say that it is a function of the Speaker to exercise supervision, the Speaker does not claim the right to be judge of the nicety of language, or even of the propriety of treatment ofthe subjectmatter. That is a matter for the discretion of honorable members themselves. But occasionally expressions are used in this Parliament which should not appear in our official report.For instance, disloyal, obscene, blasphemous, and unnecessarily offensive expressions should not be included.
– I am sorry for that, Mr. Speaker.
– I am not referring to the honorable member for Hunter. I am merely citing some categories of expression which I consider it is my duty as Speaker to eliminate from Hansard. To the expressions which I have already mentioned might be added statements which would be of assistance to the enemy. I repeat that I shall always consult with honorable members whose speeches are concerned, and endeavour to reach an agreement with them.
– I rise to a point of order. The matter to which I wish to address myself in particular has been, in part, clarified by your reply, Mr. Speaker, to the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Evatt). You have been good enough to make it clear that you do not propose arbitrarily, on the ground of public safety, or on any other grounds not recognized in the Standing Orders or in parliamentary practice, to exercise any kind of censorship of the speeches made by honorable members. I appreciate that. The position in this war at present is different from that which obtained during the last war. In the last war the Senate, by resolution, empowered the President to censor speeches and to excise any matter which it was thought should be excised. Subsequently a similar resolution was passed in the House of Eepresentatives empowering the Speaker in the same way. On this occasion that has not been done, and I hope that it will not be done. I trust that the public safety will be considered sufficiently conserved by the method which you, sir, have already suggested, namely, by consultation with the honorable member whose speech is in question, who will doubtless consent to the excision of any part of his speech which may be helpful to the enemy in this tragic conflict. I wish to say on this point merely that the Parliament is the one public place in which the right to free expression of opinion remains. I express the hope that Parliament in its wisdom or otherwise will never impinge on the rights of honorable members to express their opinions freely, subject to good taste and the Standing. Orders.
– The honorable member agreed that much of the matter to which he referred might better have been discussed at a secret meeting of members of both Houses of the Parliament. On behalf of the Government I request the press to be particularly discreet as to what is published regarding our defences at Port Stephens and Newcastle.
.- I desire to address you, sir, on the question of the accommodation of members in this House, and I suggest that you bring the matter before the House Committee at some future appropriate time. The accommodation provided for honorable members is very restricted and that provided for Ministers, if not restricted, is, in some respects, overcrowded. A more judicious allotment of the space available in this building might conduce to a more proper discharge of their public duties by members and Ministers. I do not reflect in any way on the previous allocation, but the exigencies of the war situation have made the position such that some re-arrangement of the existing accommodation is both necessary and urgent is surely obvious to all. I have noticed the large number of people who try to crowd themselves into that portion of the chamber roped off for the accommodation of official secretaries, assistant secretaries, private secretaries, expert advisers of the Government, and members of boards set up by the Government - and their number is almost legion - who come here to advise Ministers when the House is sitting, particularly at question time. It has struck me on occasions that you might even have to arrange at no distant date for the erection, of a mezzanine floor in this chamber in order to accommodate the large number of officials who wait upon Ministers and whose attendance is deemed desirable.
I ask the Assistant Minister to take note of the fact that an unsuccessful candidate at the last federal election has been re-admitted to his post in the Commonwealth Public Service; but when he made application for the restoration of his privileges, such as sick leave, furlough and seniority, he was advised that, under the law as it now stands, his previous service could not be credited to him. In fact, while he got his job back and the same rate of salary that he enjoyed when he contested the election, he had to start de novo with regard to sick leave, furlough and seniority. I suggest to the Minister that one piece of. legislation which might well be considered by this House when it resumes is an appropriate amendment of the Commonwealth Public Service Act in order to permit Commonwealth public servants to contest elections in the same manner and with the same rights as are enjoyed by the State public servants in New South Wales and Victoria. In those States if a public servant contests an election and is defeated he resumes his position in the public service without resigning his position or forfeiting any of his rights. I have no doubt the Minister will give that matter sympathetic consideration. I am particularly desirous that, in such a measure as I have suggested, as in another measure passed by this House yesterday, the principle of retrospectivity shall be applied.
According to the press, regulations have been promulgated under the National Security Act dealing with the fixation of house rents throughout the Commonwealth. In November or December of last year I had the privilege of addressing the House upon the grave shortage of houses, particularly in- Melbourne, brought about mostly by the natural increase of the local population but largely by the arrival in Melbourne of large numbers of people from country districts because of the great increase of employment in the munitions industry. The position then was grave. I told a story of one rapacious landlord who expended a few pounds on painting and decorating a terrace of houses, and immediately raised the rent to the unfortunate tenants by no less than 25 per cent. I asked that the regulation be altered to provide that the onus of applying for an increase of the rental value of any property be thrown on the landlord. Honorable members opposite, notably the honorable members for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), Henty (Mr. Coles), and the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) indicated support for my remarks but the Government did nothing. The high rents arebearing with great severity on many wives of men serving with our forces overseas. Though an additional ls. a day was provided in the budget to assist the wives of these men who had children dependent upon them, the extra money is going, in numerous cases, not to the wives but to the landlords who have taken advantage of the grave shortage of houses,, to extort a little more rent from their tenants.
I subsequently made representations on this subject to Professor Copland and they were acknowledged last January, but an alteration has only just been made and even now it is unsatisfactory. The board that is to be appointed to deal with this matter in Victoria is to be clothed with certain powers of investigation, but, unfortunately, the onus of proving that a rent is not excessive has not been placed upon the landlords. Consequently I am obliged to request the Government to give further attention to the subject. Tha matter is so important that it should not be left for determination by Professor Copland, in Canberra, or by Mr. Bishop, in Melbourne. It should receive the direct and immediate attention of the Government. The people who are obliged to occupy homes of the poorer class should not be robbed by their landlords, many of whom have grown very rich by exploiting their tenants.
– in reply - The representations made by the honorable members who have participated in this debate will be submitted to the appropriate Ministers, and will receive careful attention.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Finance - Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for year 1939-40, accompanied by the Report of the Auditor-General.
Ordered to he printed.
Landa Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes - Cronulla, New South Wales.
House adjourned at 5.49 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) 209. (b) 40.
In addition, both airmen and aircraft women are provided with certain scales of clothing, accommodation and rations. In those cases where accommodation and rations are not issued in kind, identical allowances are paid in lieu.
n asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
What is the total amount expended to date on improvements to the flying boat bases at - (a) Darwin, (b) Brisbane, and (c) Sydney?
Mr.McEwen. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
At Brisbane the temporary base at Pinkenba, which cost £6,758 has been temporarily abandoned owing to the breaking of the main sewer near this base. A temporary base in the HamiltonReach is in use at present. A permanent base at Pinkenba will be constructed after the war and when certain improvements in the vicinity are made by the local authorities.
Co-operative System: of Primary Production.
asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
In view of the chaotic condition of rural industries and the failure of various Governmental Boards to organize adequately and stabilize them, will the Minister invoke the National Security Regulations for the purpose of inaugurating a co-operative system of production and distribution in all rural industries on the basis of producer control with local autonomy to the various co-operative units, and a central advisory body to be established to sponsor and supervise generally the operations of local organizations?
– The Government has already considered proposals of this nature, but is not prepared at this stage to adopt them.
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Australian Wheat Board to make a further payment to farmers on account of the No. 2 Wheat Pool?
– It is expected that a small additional payment to growers will be possible when the accounts of No. 2 Poolare complete.
n asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
Will the Minister lay on the table of the House a statement showing (a) the names of all firms which have had annexes installed to their premises; and (b) the conditions under which such annexes have been built and/or equipped by the Ministry of Munitions, and the respective costs thereof? 2. (a) What firms have received orders for the supply of war materials on a cost plus basis?
r. - Theanswers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Although the Minister, for reasons of public interest, is unable publicly to disclose the list of annexes, he is prepared to answer the honorable member’s question in respect of any particular annexe.
r. - Yesterday, the honor- able member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) asked, without notice, whether figures would he supplied relating to the reduction of petrol consumption in the various States since the introduction of rationing, and whether serious consideration would be given to the appointment of a representative of Western Australia to the Commonwealth Liquid Fuel ControlBoard.
The Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following replies to the honorable member’s questions. -
PURCELL Engineering COMPANY
– On the 25th March, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) asked a question, without notice, concerning the supply of a gear shaping machine to the Purcell Engineering Company.
The Minister for Munitions has furnished tho following reply to the honorable member’s questions : -
As the Purcell Engineering Company already had a gear shaping machine in use of the type indicated, and baa a gear hobbing machine which apparently was not being used, permission to instal a second gear shaping machine was refused with a view to allotting it to some other manufacturer not so well equipped. Upon the Purcell Engineering Company making further representations, it was decided on Friday last to grant its request for the machine, and the company was so advised on Saturday morning, 22nd March last.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 March 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1941/19410327_reps_16_166/>.