16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 9.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Australian Wool Board - Sixth Annual Report, for year 1 94 1-42.
The Australian Wool Board was established under the Wool Publicity and
Research Act 1936, to administer the wool publicity and research fund provided by the tax on wool. Theboard is associated with South Africa and New Zealand in an International Wool Secretariat, the object of which is to improve the quality and increase the use of wool throughout the world. It will be appreciated that the Australian Wool Board is a separate organization from the Central Wool Committee. In view of the present need for economy in the use of paper, it is not proposed that the report shall be printed.
Debate resumed from the8th October (vide page 1546), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr.RYAN (Flinders) [9.33].- If any welcome is to be given to this bill, it will be based on the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread. It may also be said that even that half loaf is very small. If the £2,000,000 which it is proposed shall be paid by way of subsidy be spread over the industry as a whole, the result will be found to be approximately l1/8d . per lb. of butter which, in the present state of the industry and because of the costs it has to bear, will be quite inadequate. For that reason, I am convinced that the measure of satisfaction on the part of the producers will not be great. Furthermore, the subsidy is to have two tags attached to it. The first relates to the fixation and stabilisation of wages, and the second to differentiation of price. According to the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), which was repeated in the second-reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr.Chifley), the Arbitration Court is to be authorized by regulation to take into consideration the level of wages in the industry with a view to their fixation. It is lamentable, but nevertheless a fact, that the level of wages in all the primary industries is much below that of the secondary industries. Apart from the shearers’ award, the wages fixed for station hands is appreciably below that of workers in secondary industries. This shows that primary industries are not in a position to support a higher level than that which now exists. How it can be claimed that the addition of l1/8d. per lb., or in the aggregate £2,000,000, will enable the dairying industry to support a higher level of wages, is beyond my comprehension.
The cost of production varies considerably in the different States. The cost in Victoria is 2d. per lb. below that of New South Wales and Queensland. If the subsidy is to be distributed in accordance with costs, Victoria will receive a much smaller amount than will other States. In addition, Victoria has not suffered so severely from droughts as have other States. According to figures that I have seen, and believe to be accurate, the cost of production is well above the price that is now received for butter. The addition of l1/8d. per lb. will not appreciably affect the profits that are made, and will be insufficient to warrant an increase of wages. The Government appears to be giving with one hand by the payment of a subsidy, and taking away with the other hand for the purpose of benefiting the wage-earners. That will not be of any assistance to dairymen in their present position. The Prime Minister has said that he is convinced that this comprehensive plan will do justice to the industry, particularly to the dairy-farmers and wage-earners in it. I maintain that it will not have any appreciable effect, and will not be at all commensurate with what is needed. As I view the position, the Government is throwing out a smokescreen in order to satisfy two classes to whom it looks for support. Apparently, it desires first to placate the consumers, for which reason it proposes to render assistance by means of a subsidy. A good deal may be said for that form of assistance. It is true that the prices of foodstuffs in Great Britain have been kept at comparatively low levels, very largely by means of Government subsidies, which cover a wide range.
– It was not. The conditions in Great Britain are entirely different from those in Australia. In that country, there is a considerable shortage of food, and thathas resulted in the raising of prices far beyond the average cost of production. There are also other factors, such as costs of transport, and losses caused ‘by enemy action. But the principal point to be considered is that, because of rising prices, a wide range of commoditieshas had to be subsidized, and wages have had to be correspondingly stabilized. Surely that is not necessary in Australia. I doubt whether this form of assistance will be welcomed by the dairying industry, or will be in the interests of the country as a whole. I should prefer the industry to be supported by an increase of the prices of its products, with equitable regulation by the Prices Commissioner. Action along those lines would have a permanent effect. I do not consider that a slight increase of the price of butter would necessarily mean an appreciable increase of the cost of living. In the second place, the Government is seeking the support of the employees rather than of the employers in the industry. An analysis of any determination of wages by the Arbitration Court reveals that it works only in the direction of an increase. The industry is not at present able to support an appreciable increase of wages. I hold the view that the wages of employees in all primary industries are far below what they should be. The position may be corrected only by an increase of the prices of primary products. Until that has been effected, the industry will not be able to support a reasonable increase of wages. Although the subsidy will assist the industry in some slight degree, it falls far short of what is required, particularly by Victorian dairymen.
– The dairymen of Tasmania will be in a worse position.
– I do not concede that; but they may be equally badly off. The cost of production is lower in Victoria than in the other States. Therefore, it seems certain that very little, if anything, will be received by Victorian dairymen. Yet they will have to face the risk of a rising cost of labour through the fixation of wages by the Arbitration Court. I hope that the measure will be reviewed, and that adequate assistance will be forthcoming.
There is one further point to which I shall refer, because it has a bearing on the assistance to be given by the Government to dairy-farmers.Some months ago, for reasons that it considered sound, the Government found it necessary to divert to a factory at Bacchus Marsh milk from that locality which had been sent to the Melbourne market for home consumption. It had been found that this milk was needed in order to supplement the supplies that were available to meet the requirements of the Army and the other fighting services. The deficiency in the Melbourne supply was made good by milk provided by certain farmers in Gippsland. The price paid by the Bacchus Marsh factory is considerably below that which the dairymen formerly received on the Melbourne market. Metropolitan milk is paid for at the rate of 14.5d. a gallon, whereas I understand that the factory rate is the ordinary butter-fat price of approximately 81/2d. a gallon. The diversion has thus caused the Bacchus Marsh dairymen to suffer a distinct financial loss.
– That is not so. The guarantee has been given that the whole of the amount will be recouped.
– I am arguing, not for the Bacchus Marsh farmers, but for the Gippsland farmers.
– They are in an entirely different position.
Mr.RY AN. - I agree. It is because of their position that the Gippsland farmers are suffering.
– They are not. They are sending in only their surplus production.
– Instead of receiving the price of metropolitan milk -1s. 21/2d. a gallon - they receive that amount less expenses, and the deduction that is made in order to compensate the Bacchus Marsh farmers. They therefore receive 21/2d. a gallon less than is received by other farmers who send milk to the metropolitan market. That seems extraordinarily unjust. On several occasions I have taken the matter up with the Minister for Commerce, who has explained fully and clearly the reason for his being unable to do anything in’ regard to it. There is a strong conviction of injustice in the minds of these farmers. They want to know why they should receive 2£d. a gallon less than their neighbours who are supplying milk on the same market under the same conditions.
– That is not the correct story.
– It is correct. The Gippsland farmers should have made up to them the difference between what they receive and what should be paid to them. I ask the Government to consider what action may be taken in order to right the position. There are two ways in which that may be done. The Government could pay the difference, and a new arrangement could be made under which the price of metropolitan milk would be received. The alternative - and I suggest it in all seriousness to the Government - would be to revert to the status quo ante; that the Bacchus Marsh farmers should send their milk to Melbourne, and the Gippsland farmers should revert to the system under which they formerly worked.
– The time for this debate is limited, and I have a large list of intending speakers. If speeches are made at the rate of three to the hour, the majority of honorable members will not have an opportunity to speak at all. Therefore, I appeal to honorable members to limit their speeches as nearly as possible to ten minutes.
.- The payment of a subsidy of £2,000,000 to the dairying industry will be of some value to dairy-farmers in a general way. I hope, however, that it will not turn out to be a premium on inefficiency, which is the danger that I see in the scheme. I am concerned with the position of the southern States under this proposal. Apparently, the drought-stricken areas will receive the greater part of the subsidy, whilst farmers in those parts of Australia where there is a better rainfall, notably Tasmania and Victoria, will not benefit very much. The recommendations of the Tariff Board, which is to consider this scheme, may be of some help in this respect. Clause 6 of the bill provides - (1.) With a view of determining the manner in which the amount appropriated by this Act should be allocated, the Tariff Board may make such inquiries and investigations as it thinks necessary with respect to the factors and circumstances affecting the dairying industry., and shall make, to the Minister of State for Trade and Customs, recommendations us to the allocation to be made. (2.) In making recommendations under the last preceding sub-section the Tariff Board shall have regard to the existence in any area of conditions of drought, to any disabilities of primary producers arising out of circumstances attributable to the war, and to any terms and conditions of employment prescribed by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in relation to the dairying industry or any part thereof.
Those terms are fairly wide. The effects of drought are first to be inquired into, and then conditions arising out of the war. The effect of those conditions is general, and the dairying industry in all parts of Australia should benefit equally in that regard.
– Is that what will happen under this proposal?
– I hope that it will, but I fear that it may not. The dairying industry is conducted very efficiently in Tasmania, and the price of land is not so high there as in parts of Victoria. Therefore, it may work out in practice that farmers in Tasmania will receive little or no benefit under the scheme. Moreover, so far as I can see, no provision is made for assistance to farmers who supply milk to cheese factories, or who sell directly for consumption.
The price of land is an important factor in production costs. It appears to be generally accepted that interest on the capital cost of dairying land represents an average loading of 9d. per lb. on the cost of butter. This is the angle from which we should approach the problem. In the marginal areas, where land is poor and rainfall unsatisfactory, the farmer is in difficulties, not because he has to pay a high price for his land, but because production is low; while the farmer on better land is handicapped by interest charges on the high price which he has had to pay for his land. In order to solve the problem, it is necessary to ensure that dairying is conducted only on suitable land, and that the interest burden is kept at a reasonable level.
Those who are engaged in the industry, whether on their own behalf, working with the assistance of their families, or as wage-earners, are entitled to a proper standard of living. The dairying industry has not been able to provide this in the past. This bill will provide some measure of assistance to the dairying industry, and therefore I support it. My earnest hope is that the efficient farmer, and the man who is farming on good land, will not be denied all benefits under the scheme.
.- I support the bill to pay a subsidy to the d dairying industry, only because no alternative is offering. I support it without enthusiasm, because I believe that it is an entirely wrong way to deal with the problem. If the Government is determined to pay a subsidy rather than adopt the right method of ensuring the payment of an adequate price for dairy produce - the reason, presumably, being to keep down the cost of living - then the subsidy should be paid on a flat rate basis to all the producers of dairy produce, the output of which it ii desired to encourage. Apparently, it is intended that the subsidy shall be paid in some districts, but not in others, and to some producers, but not to others. In my opinion, it is impossible to discriminate between producers in this way without creating glaring anomalies. Even if the Tariff Board, which is to attempt to work out a system of distribution, had the investigating capacity of Sherlock Holmes and the wisdom of Solomon, it could not succeed in its undertaking. The Government will find itself in a bog of complications. Such discriminating assistance will result, as it has always done, in subsidizing the less efficient producers to the detriment of the more efficient ones. These complicated systems have never been successful, but a simple, flatrate payment would at least work more or less satisfactorily, and would be the next best thing to a proper price adjustment.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) referred to the complicated method which was employed by the Department of Commerce in connexion with the milk producers at Bacchus Marsh. Under that scheme, the Government prevented the dairy-farmers at Bacchus Marsh from sending their milk to Melbourne, and directed the .farmers of Gippsland to send milk to the metropolis to take its place. Then it proposed to compensate the Bacchus Marsh farmers at the expense of the Gippsland men. Obviously, . the Gippsland producers should have been given the same price for their milk as was received by all other producers supplying milk to the metropolis.
– The arrangement is being dropped as from the 25th of this month, and the necessary financial adjustments will be made.
– I mention the matter as an example of the ill effect of trying to do in a complicated way what could be done simply. One would have thought that, after its experience in that connexion, the Government would have hesitated before embarking on another complicated undertaking.
I should like to know from the Minister where the report by the special committee on the dairying industry is hidden. Why can it not be tabled? There is a tremendous amount of interest in the report among dairymen, who have a right to know what it contains. By hiding it away, the Government is merely lending colour to the charge that it is not carrying out the recommendations of the report. I hope that the Government will make the report available to Parliament, and to the public.
The production, of dairy foods should be encouraged in every way possible. In good years, Australia used to produce about 200,000 tons of butter, but last year production was down to 170,000 tons. Taking 200,000 tons as the normal production, if we lose 10 per cent, this year because of drought in New South Wales and Queensland, another 10 per cent, because of labour shortage, and 5 per cent, because of the shortage of superphosphate and -inadequate provision for hay and fodder, we get a total decline of 25 per cent., or 50,000 tons. This would leave only 150,000 tons, of which 120,000 tons is required to supply the needs of the civil population, the fighting services and our American allies. Thus, there would be an exportable margin of only 30,000 tons, which is little more than one-third of what Great Britain wants from us, and in Great Britain the population is rationed to 2 oz. of butter or margarine a week.
I believe that all-round encouragement should be given to “the dairying industry, instead of offering it a thing of shreds and patches such as this .bill. Dairymen would be willing to pay generous wages to their employees if they were put in a position to afford them. One unfortunate effect of this proposal is that it will keep the problem of the dairying industry in the political arena year in and year out, and every one agrees that that is undesirable. Of the two evils, acceptance of this subsidy or rejection of it, I regard acceptance as the lesser, and that is the best I can say for it. I hope that the Tariff Board will display more common sense in its consideration of the problem than the Government has done.
.- A case has undoubtedly been made out for assistance to the dairying industry, if the production of an important basic food is to be maintained. Under pressure from dairymen, and from honorable members on both sides of the House, the Government has come down belatedly with this meagre measure of assistance. It is characteristic of the Government that a proposal of this kind should have wrapped up with it an element of Labour policy.
– Why not?
– The honorable member for Ballarat is quite candid, at any rate. He believes that the Government is justified in taking every opportunity to inject the policy of the Labour party into its administrative acts. ] believe that the dairying industry is so important that it is entitled to have its needs attended to in a non-partisan way. The dairying industry has unquestionably established the fact that it is . entitled to assistance equal to at least 3d. per lb. of butter fat. This bill will destroy the degree of stability which the industry achieved, after a . struggle longer even than that of the wheat-growers, by the establishment of the equalization scheme under which, for the last decade, there has been a reasonable home-consumption price and equalization as between that price and the export price. Under that scheme the dairying industry has achieved a degree of prosperity, but cer tainly not enough to pay a living wage to those directly engaged in it, to say nothing of the unpaid members of the dairy-farmers’ families. I join with the honorable member for Ballarat and all other honorable members in their desire that, like the fruit-canning industry, the dairying industry shall be enabled to pay a reasonable wage to those employed in it. At its very best, this proposal is completely inadequate to meet the needs of the industry, and, at its worst, it destroys the stable foundation upon which the industry has been placed. The bill discriminates areas, seasonal conditions, efficiency, and even in respect of persons. It is the most discriminatory measure ever introduced into this Parliament.
– The Menzies Government set a precedent by giving to the Tasmanian apple-growers less than it gave to the Victorian growers.
– I deny that. Every body knows that, like the wheat industry, the dairying industry will be made a subject of pressure politics, and no worse fate than that could befall any industry.
– Pressure politics brought the Country party into existence.
– This is a bad proposal, but I shall support it, because it is better to give meagre assistance to the dairying industry than to deny it any assistance at all. This is the worst possible form of assistance that the wit of man could devise.
. -This ill-conceived measure has been drafted by people who can have little or no knowledge of the dairying industry. I subscribe, of course, to the attempt to give to the dairy-farmer, some additional price for his products. I shall not debate whether the assistance to be given is sufficient - I wish that it were more - but it would appear that the Government is prepared to give a subsidy of £2,000,000 to be paid, according to conditions prevailing in different districts. The industry is subject to seasonal disabilities especially drought, in the northern States, but the cost of production is affected ‘by a score of different things. Whereas farmers in the north may suffer a drought in one season, the other seasons are bountiful and their costs of production are lower than those in the south where the seasons are short. The clearing of land, the. distance the milk and cream have to be carted, and other factors all decide die cost of production. Those who will administer this scheme will have an impossible task if they are directed to distribute this assistance in accordance with varying conditions in the industry. Even those who understand the industry perfectly could not do the job well. They certainly could not do it satisfactorily. A simple way in which to ensure that those engaged in the industry shall receive this assistance is by distributing the money through the co-operative companies on the basis of butterfat delivered to the factories. The work could then be done almost for nothing, but the cost of administering the scheme devised by the Government will be tremendous. The Tariff Board will make an inquiry - that is not the end of the administration - and the cost of that inquiry will reduce the amount available for distribution. The members of the Tariff Board will receive fees very much more than will be received by those who milk the cows. That is fundamentally wrong. The bill should be torn up. I can think of no way whereby it could be made satisfactory in committee. The easiest way out of the situation would be to allow the price of butter to be increased, but the Government’s objection to that method is that it would increase the index number on which the cost of living is based, and consequently raise the basic wage. I have no objection to the Arbitration Court determining the wage that shall be paid in the dairying industry, but those who understand the conditions in this industry know perfectly well that milkers work only a part of the day at milking, and for the rest of the day are engaged in some other occupation, such as ploughing, hoeing or sowing. Is it sensible to have an award for men who spend two or three hours at milking and the rest of the day at some other task, unless the Arbitration Court is directed to determine wages for the whole of the rural industries? The Standing Orders do not permit us to move for an increase of the amount of subsidy, and so that must be left to the Government which, I presume, has acted on certain advice, but this House contains sufficient honorable members with knowledge of the industry to enable the appointment of a committee which would assist the Government to bring down a more satisfactory measure. I should be prepared to serve on it without payment and without having to be given sufficient petrol to enable me to travel round to ask other people what I myself know.
.- This industry has been repeatedly referred to as the Cinderella of all industries. Honorable members have referred to the degrading conditions under which women and children work. But the conditions of the dairying industry have so improved, that it is no longer the Cinderella industry. Many people engaged in it are comparatively prosperous. It is equally true that many others endure great hardships, but they are those whose properties are heavily mortgaged, who pay high rentals, or who share-farm under harsh conditions. It devolves upon this Parliament to ameliorate their conditions. Certain honorable members have painted the conditions in this industry very black, and have said that this bill, instead of emancipating the industry, will make it the subject of pressure politics. Those same honorable gentlemen supported governments which could, and should, have emancipated the industry long ago. It ill-becomes the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) to talk about pressure politics, for he is a member of the Country party which came into being for the express purpose of exerting pressure on the United Australia party and other parties, and which has sent men around the country boasting that by the exercise of pressure the Country party forced this or that government to do such and such in the interests of the section it represents. At last we have in power a party which will ensure that the dairying industry shall be emancipated from the deplorable state in which it was left by the United Australia party, and the Country party. It will do that without any pressure from anybody, because of its knowledge of the facts and because of the close contact of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) with primary industry.
– This bill is an example of the lack of knowledge by honorable gentlemen opposite of the industry.
– What did the members of the Country party do when the Government they supported was in power? The honorable gentleman himself has been “ sitting pretty “ in this chamber for about six years and he has done nothing. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has done nothing. At last something is being done. The honorable member for Bendigo could surely have influenced the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) and his Government, and surely the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) could have influenced the two governments of which he was a member to do something for the industry.
– What about our stabilization plan?
– The industry was not stabilized, otherwise we should not have heard the complaints that have been so prevalent in the last three or four years. Honorable gentlemen opposite have bad a little to say about pressure politics. They, of course, have had experience of pressure politics. But it would seem that the pressure brought to hear upon the right honorable member for Kooyong was not sufficiently great. Apparently, the honorable members of the Country party could exert only enough pressure to secure portfolios for themselves; that clone, they forgot the dairyman. This measure will be welcomed by the dairying industry throughout Australia. I am glad that the industry is being conducted more efficiently by the younger generation of dairy-farmers. The provision in this bill for the fixing of more adequate wages and better conditions for people engaged in dairying is wise. Many of the younger generation of dairymen are ashamed of the conditions that exist on many dairyfarms. It is high time that improvements were effected. As things are, a fairly affluent dairy- farmer on one side of a roadway may be paying totally inadequate wages and employing his workers under sweating condition’s, whilst a less affluent dairy-farmer on the other side of the road may be paying his employees twice as much and giving them much better conditions. That kind of thing should have been stopped long ago. The honorable member for Indi said there were elements of Labour party policy in this hill. What policy would he expect to be expressed in it? Of course, he would not expect the policy of the Country party in relation to the dairying industry to be expressed in it, because that party has no such policy. All that the Country party has been able to do i3 to grab portfolios in composite governments.
– Honorable gentlemen opposite are not prepared to divide the plums.
– We have no plumpickers of the calibre of the honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Indi.
– Surely the honorable gentleman will admit that the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) did something for the dairying industry.
– He made some feeble efforts in that direction, but the degree of success he achieved was insufficient, for no lasting advantage to the industry followed his efforts. Otherwise the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) would not have been able to draw such a doleful picture of brokendown fences, dilapidated homes, illnourished children, and overworked wives, as he drew for us last week. Are we to believe that the conditions in the industry were improved by the efforts of the honorable member for Gippsland, or that they are as deplorable as the honorable member for Richmond alleged?
I fear that some difficulty will lie encountered in providing help on a differential basis in. so-called droughtstricken areas and other localities. We all are well aware that dairymen who may be operating 15 miles south of a butter factory in a given district may be enjoying perfect seasonal conditions, whereas dairymen living 15 miles north of it may be suffering from drought conditions. But how will it be possible equitably to adjust prices to meet such conditions?
– Does the honorable gentleman think that the professors will be able to solve the problem?
– I have a profound respect for professors, whether of the university or of politics, who really know more than I know about particular subjects. I note, however, that the provisions in relation to differentiation are not mandatory. It may be that they will not need to be applied except in a few isolated instances. It has been stated by some honorable gentlemen opposite that the Tariff Board is not the best authority to deal with this subject, but I consider that board to be composed of competent and well-informed individuals. I note, too, that the board is authorized to co-opt a gentleman with expert knowledge of the dairying industry in order to advise it. I hope that the honorable member for Indi will not be co-opted.
Comment has been made during the debate on the alleged unfair treatment of Gippsland dairy-farmers in relation to the supply of fresh milk to the Melbourne market. It has been said that the Gippsland suppliers receive a lower price for their milk than was paid to Bacchus Marsh suppliers who had been formerly furnishing it. As the honorable member for Gippsland did not state all the facts of the case, I shall proceed to do so. Fresh milk was being supplied to the Melbourne market, under contract, by certain Bacchus Marsh dairymen, but an instruction was issued that such milk was to be diverted to a condensory. Milk supplied for that purpose is paid for according to its butter-fat content. The Gippsland suppliers were thereupon requested to furnish fresh milk to take the place of the milk diverted from the Bacchus Marsh suppliers. For that milk they had been receiving butter-fat prices which are lower than the prices paid for fresh milk, and theycon tinued to receive that price for the milk they sent to Melbourne; but they were under no greater disadvantage on that account.
– The milk was diverted from the Bacchus Marsh suppliers because of urgent service requirements.
– Exactly. That material fact, as well as the other particulars I have given, should have been stated by the honorable member for Gippsland. 1 congratulate the Minister upon having introduced this bill. I believe that ii will give satisfaction to the dairying industry. The enactment of the measure is a milestone in the history of this Parliament. That honorable gentleman opposite failed, during the years that they were in office, to do anything to assist the industry was shown clearly a few days ago by the honorable member for Richmond. I believe that the action of this Government will be most beneficial.
.- Without a doubt every one with real experience of the dairying industry will agree that this is an ill-conceived measure. I am satisfied that its main purpose is to give a little more help to persons living in the two States from which this Government has obtained its majority. There can be no question about that. In Victoria, which has a better climate, a greater extent of irrigation, and smaller holdings than most of the other States, and where many dairyfarmers are solely dependent upon their receipts from their dairying operations, this bill will have little beneficial effect. It is probable that the dairy-farmers will find themselves infested with a host of additional inspectors who will harass them in all kinds of ways. The penalties provided in the bill are, in my opinion, out of all proportion to the offences to which they apply. Many dairymen may commit such offences by pure inadvertence, and they should not be called upon to pay heavy penalties in consequence. 1 doubt whether the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) really appreciates the ramifications of this measure.
The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) said that the Country party had done nothing to assistthe dairying industry. That statement was typical of many misstatements that he has made. In my view the provision in the bill in relation to differentiation is unsound and will cause great trouble throughout the industry. As the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) observed, trouble is sure to follow when Government assistance is dependent upon the whim of Ministers who may be in office for the time being. Such a principle is open to all kinds of abuse and is wrong. When the honorable member for Ballarat said that the members of the Country party had done nothing to assist the dairy-farmers he quite obviously overlooked the fact that the present difficulties of the industry are due largely to an increase of labour cost by about 100 per cent, and to an increased cost of not less than 30 per cent, in respect of essential equipment. For these reasons a substantial increase should be made in the price of dairy products. I hope that the Tariff Board will take advantage of the provision in the bill to co-opt expert advice and that it will call upon the services of such men as the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) or Mr. Howie, the president of the Victorian1 Dairymen’s Union, or the president of the Dairymen’s Association of New South Wales. It should not be content to seek advice from professors who are at present advising the Government. If any attempt be made to give expression to purely academic principles the plight of the dairying industry will grow worse. The Minister should give serious consideration to the submissions that have been made to him by honorable members on this side of the chamber.
.- Dairying is Australia’s third largest industry, and this is the first occasion on which it has been made a party political football in this Parliament. Strange as it may seem, I am in agreement with the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) in that I, too, say that the assistance provided in this bill is inadequate. No one can say how much of the help will reach the men actually engaged in the dairying industry. It is a regrettable fact that although the cost of production in the industry has increased tremendously the prices of dairy products have been pegged. The present prices are below the cost of production. Apparently the Government intends that assistance shall be given only iti necessitous cases; but that principle has not been applied in providing assistance for certain other industries, particularly in secondary production. Any industry that happens to be more efficient than another will be placed at a disadvantage; there is to be a premium on inefficiency, and the economic is to become uneconomic. The measure is bad in principle, and I consider that it will prove injurious rather than helpful. It is interesting to note that Government members who know something about the industry disagree with the proposal. It is admitted, and any inquiry will disclose, that the industry is not receiving a proper price for its products. Many deputations have pointed that out to not only this but also to previous governments. What is needed is an increase of price. The people of Australia are in a better position to-day than they have ever been to pay an additional price. The flush of money in the country, by reason of war expenditure, has placed them in a more affluent position than they have occupied for generations. Hardship would not be imposed if they were asked to pay a little more for their butter in order that the producers would not continue to exist in the miserable condition in which they find themselves to-day. I listened last night with the greatest pleasure and approbation to the address in which the Prime Minister called for a display of unity and strength by every individual. Yet to-day we are considering a measure, which has been introduced in a pettifogging party-political way, professedly to assist one of Australia’s greatest industries. The Government still has time in which to reflect. If it be unable to grant the additional 3d. per lb., which admittedly is due to the butter-producers, let it declare what general increase per lb. this measure will provide. I should have no objection to an increase of wages if the dairymen were able to pay it. But if the people will not pay a living wage to the dairymen how can the latter be expected to do so? The Government cannot congratulate itself on its proposal. The employees on dairy farms are mostly the wives and families of the dairymen. Already, outsiders who have obtained work in dairies have been able to demand a 100 per cent, increase of wages, because of the scarcity of labour. Despite that, the price of butter has not been increased. In all sincerity, I ask the Government to make an outright increase of price, not to qualify the assistance, or muddle it up by attaching conditions to it. I should have no objection to an examination of the position by the Tariff Board, or any other efficient body. I am confident that it would recommend the Government to unpeg the price of butter in this country.
– One must accept what is granted ; consequently, there can be no opposition by any honorable member who represents a dairying constituency to the passage of a measure that makes provision for a subsidy. But the adequacy or otherwise of the proposed grant comes very seriously into question, particularly as it is accompanied by conditions and restrictions which will largely remove the benefit that would otherwise be derived from it. The bill provides that the Arbitration Court may make a determination in respect of the wages paid in the industry. F presume that the producer will have to meet whatever additional costs will thereby be incurred.
– The Prices Commissioner will review the position, and will determine what the price of the product shall be.
– I have been unable to find that such a provision has been made. Out of the £2,000,000, the industry will have to bear whatever additional costs may be loaded on it by reason of an arbitration court award.
– Not necessarily.
– If the Minister will assure nae to the contrary, I shall be gratified.
The reason for the subsidy may be briefly reviewed. Last June, a deputation representing the Dairy Produce Equalization Committee and the Dairy Produce Control Board waited on the Minister for Commerce. It pointed out that, unless active steps were taken rapidly on a prices basis, the decline of production that was taking place would be accelerated. The Minister very properly took notice of that authoritative body. He appointed a committee, to which no exception could be offered. That committee furnished a report, which has been in the hands of the Minister for some weeks, and presumably has been responsible for the introduction of this legislation. We have not yet seen the report. I have asked for it on a number of occasions, but so far have not been privileged to get it. But it is commonly believed, and the press has stated, that the committee recommended an increase of the overall price of butter, for a 100 per cent, production, by not less than 3d. per lb. The subsidy will result in an increase of approximately lid. per lb., which is little better than one-third of that which the committee recommended. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), in a statement to the press, said -
The full Cabinet decided to consider the problems of the dairying industry comprehensively, and to place the industry on a war-time basis with a view of ensuring adequate supplies and maintaining producers and workers in the industry under reasonable living conditions. To this end the following important decisions were reached . . .
The decisions were stated. The intention of the Government, as the right honorable gentleman enunciated it, was to place the industry on a war-time basis, with a view to ensuring adequate supplies and maintaining producers and workers in the industry under reasonable living conditions. How far will this bill go towards achieving those aims? I have previously pointed out in this House that in 1938-39 the dairying industry received, under the equalization of price, a total reward of £27,000,000. The amount that it received in 1941-42 was £24,000,000. Consequently, there was a drop of £3,000,000 in the actual receipts. But an examination of the value of £24,000,000 last year, compared with its value in 1938-39, will disclose a difference of £7,000,000. The Government has brought down a bill which makes provision for a subsidy of £2,000,000, subject to all sorts of conditions which must substantially reduce the value of it to the farmers. Although the farmers are £7,000,000 worse off than they were two years ago, out of the £2,000,000 they are to be expected to provide a reasonable rate of wages and reasonable living conditions. Such an expectation, on the figures that I have given, is absurd. What benefit will accrue, to individual farmers from the subsidy? To what degree will the subsidy achieve the objects that have been proclaimed by the Government? If the £2,000,000 were spread over the 64,000 dairy-fanners who milk fifteen cows or more each farmer would receive £30.
– Does not the honorable member admit that some farmers are making a profit at the present time?
– Some of them certainly are; as are some individuals in all other industries. I am taking the general level throughout the industry, not exceptional cases. If a division of the £2,000,000 were made after taking into account the 115,000 males and 28,000 females who are in full-time employment in the industry, the result would be a payment of £14 per annum to each individual. Therefore, it would be absurd to expect higher wages, a raising of the standard of living, or a stimulation of production in the industry. What is the reason for the desire for .an increased production? It is an imperative war necessity. Therefore, the subsidy should not have been treated as though it were merely a sop. Butter is needed as much as guns and other munitions, particularly by the people of the United Kingdom. Australia has been asked to supply to the United Kingdom 80,000 or 90,000 tons of butter this year. The estimate quoted by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), that the export surplus this year will be not more than 30,000 tons, is substantially correct. I made a similar estimate recently. Therefore, the production has declined; and it will decline still further. The intention of the bill may be a good one. but the effect of it will be to accelerate the decline. The farmers will have difficulty in understanding one feature of it. The Arbitration Court may make an award, which may be retrospective to the 1st October. Yet the subsidy may be on a differential basis, one State receiving more than another. But the farmer, whilst committed to a retrospective wage increase, will not know what additional income he may receive. I submit that the retrospective provision be further considered until the farmers in each district become aware of the degree to which they will benefit. If the Government really wishes to stimulate production, it will make the grant in the form of a price increase. We realize that it is faced with many problems and financial difficulties. How is the £2,000,000 to be raised? Evidently resort is to be had to the usual process of currency expansion. I regard that as the wrong method to adopt. There is a vast purchasing power in the hands of individuals whose expenditure has been restricted. The community could well afford to pay an additional 3d. per lb. for its butter. That would divert into channels in which it is needed the spending power that the Government is seeking to dam in different ways. In the first place I am sorry that the Government did not present the report of the committee which it appointed, in order that honorable members might have had the advantage of studying it. The price is too low to encourage production, and the proposal for the assistance of the dairy-farmers is so surrounded with hampering restrictions that it will be of doubtful benefit.
– I represent a fairly big dairying district, but my attitude to this bill is different from that of some of my colleagues. I am absolutely opposed to it; I see no virtue in it whatsoever. Members of the Country party should support the dairying industry; yet, though they say that this is the worst bill they have ever seen, they are prepared to support it. I do not agree with anything in the bill, from the title onwards. . The title describes the bill as one designed to provide assistance to the dairying industry with the object of aiding the prosecution of the war. In my opinion, that is a false statement. The words “ with the object of aiding the prosecution of the war “ should be struck out, and in their place should be substituted the words, “ with the object of implementing the Labour party’s policy “. I heard one honorable member say that the dairyfarmers had asked for bread, and had been given a stone. As a matter of fact, they asked for a higher price for butter, and have been given a trip to the Arbitration Court. There is no need to go to the Arbitration Court in order to get higher wages in primary industries today. Labour is so scarce that wages have been increasing all the time. 1 should be pleased to know whether the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) will take steps to prevent rural workers from receiving more than the award rate in the event of the Arbitration Court fixing a wage.
I object to the method by which it is proposed to disperse the money to the dairy-farmers. I have a strong suspicion that the word “ assistance “ in the bill really means “ bounty “. If so, it is in conflict with section 51 of the Constitution, which says that bounties on production shall be uniform throughout the Commonwealth. I agree with the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) that conditions in the dairying industry are not quite so terrible as one might believe from reading certain journals. It is true that the industry is suffering certain disabilities, the worst of which is a shortage of labour. Another is the shortage of superphosphate, which will interfere seriously with the quality of the pastures. Grass is the most’ important crop produced in the world - more important even than wheat. If the grass crop fails, the production of butter must decline, and nothing the Government can do about it will alter the situation. The Japanese are in possession of Ocean Island and Nauru Island, whence we used to obtain our phosphate supplies, and the Government seems reluctant to encourage the production of superphosphate from Australian deposits. T.t is true that the quality of those deposits is not what we should like, but they have some value.
This scheme will do nothing to assist the dairying industry, but it will create much dissension. If the Government is wise, it will withdraw the bill. If it insists on a bounty, it should adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), and pay a straightout bounty to the factories, which would then make a distribution to the farmers. In any case, what is the need for a bounty? We have a Commissioner of Prices who fixes the price of just about everything, and if the present price of butter is too low, then the Commissioner should increase it. I cannot see that an increase of 2d. or 3d. per lb. on the price of butter should affect the basic wage, but if it should, then the Arbitration Court could make the necessary adjustment. However, I wonder whether the Arbitration Court, when considering this indus try, will provide for the payment of overtime, at the rate of time and a half, to workers who must start milking cows at two o’clock in the morning in order io supply milk .to metropolitan areas.
– This scheme does not apply to the producers of whole milk.
– Why not ? Surely the producer of whole milk is in the same position as the butter producer.
– The producers of whole milk for the metropolitan areas are paid a premium.
– That may be so in the vicinity of Melbourne, but. it is not so in other States. I propose to vote against the motion for the second reading of this bill. It is unfortunate that we should have such a discordant Opposition in this House. The bill affects the welfare of one of the most important primary industries in Australia, yet the Opposition is unable to give a lead with regard to it. This is a bad bill, and it should not be passed.
.- Unless some substantial measure of assistance be given to the dairying industry, Australia will be faced with a shortage of dairy products, and we shall have grave difficulty in supplying the requirements of the fighting forces and the civilian population. It will also be difficult to honour our undertaking to supply dairy products to Great Britain. The amount of £2,000.000, which is to be provided under this scheme, represents about lid. per lb. on the quantity of butter produced annually in Australia, and this is a wholly inadequate measure of assistance. To say that I am disappointed with the bill would be to put it mildly. Indeed, practically the whole of the £2,000,000 will be eaten up with increased wages.
– The Prices Commissioner would take that, into consideration.
– Unless he does so, there will be nothing in the subsidy for selfemployed dairymen. I urge the Minister to increase the price of butter as well as pay a subsidy, and I hope that there will be no time-lag between any increase of wages and the consequent increase of prices of dairy products.
Working conditions in the dairying industry are much worse than those in the secondary industries. “Workers in secondary industries are protected by Tariff Board decisions and Arbitration Courts awards, but there is practically no protection for workers in the dairying industry, and other forms of primary production. Those unfortunate people have to work ten, twelve or fourteen hours a day on seven days a week, and they receive less than half the average wage paid to workers in secondary industries. Surely those engaged in primary industries are entitled to the same standard of living as are other workers. Unless conditions in the dairying industry improve, many dairymen will leave their farms and seek more remunerative employment elsewhere.
The production of butter is declining in Australia generally, and in Tasmania during the first two years of the war the decline, in respect of butter and cheese, was from £2 16s. per head of population to £1 19s. 6d. Only this morning I received from a dairyman in Tasmania a letter which is typical of many others sent to me. I quote the following extract : -
The Australian consuming public can and should pay more for their butter, milk, cheese and cream, as their protection warrants it; the Government could then consider a higher subsidy for what was exported. Unless a change takes place, in my opinion there will be no export of these commodities within the next two years. Imagine yourself on a farm with a wife and family, slushing about in all kinds of weather from twelve to fourteen hours a day, seven days a week, and doing this practically only for food and a few scanty clothes. This is what it means at the present time under the conditions on which we arc asked to produce.
He goes on to point out how the cost of production has increased because the price of everything he has to buy has soared sky high, whilst the price of his product has remained almost stationary. The letter continues -
You will hear quoted, “ One penny per lb. rise in butter-fat “. When the figures for Australia are quoted, this looks quite a big item. But let me say here that it takes rather more than 2.J gallons of milk for one lb. of butter-fat. Last March, when the rise came, the cows on our farms were not quite producing 1 gallon per day per cow; of course, this was after a dry season. So you see the rise was practically useless. In our immediate surroundings a few years ago about 1,300 cows were milked. This season I think there will be about 450, and unless conditions change by this time next year, there will be at the least 100 less, as myself and son milk about 100, and we will certainly give up.
Clause 6 of the bill says that the Tariff Board shall, in making recommendations regarding the distribution of the bounty, have regard to certain factors, including the terms and conditions of employment prescribed by the Arbitration Court. I trust that the board will also take into consideration the shortage of labour on dairy farms. In many instances, dairymen have been compelled to sell parts of their herds, or to allow the calves to run with the cows, because insufficient labour is available for milking. The military authorities refuse to allow Militia men out of camp to help with farming operations. The whole system of calling men for the Army lacks balance and co-ordination. Incidentally, hundreds of acres which were to be sown with peas could not be sown because military authorities refused to release men to do the sowing. The Militia would receive far better training on farms than they do in some camps where they practically idle their time away. The policy of the army authorities seems to be to put as many men as they can into the Army, regardless of the needs of the industrial front. If the present situation continues, we shall have a famine of dairy products and all other foods. I support the contention of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that the dairy-farmers should be given immediate relief and that any adjustments necessary can be made after the Tariff Board has completed its investigation. The assistance proposed under this bill is inadequate; the Government could afford to be much more generous by allowing, in addition, an increase of the price of butter.
.- I support this bill which is designed to aid an industry, which although one of the most important in Australia, has been referred to as the Cinderella industry. Governments have come and gone in this Parliament without taking any action which has resulted in raising the standards in the industry. Whatever steps have been taken have been ineffectual. Reference has been made to the assistance given to the industry by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), but, notwithstanding the equalization plan instituted by that honorable member, conditions in the industry remained unaltered. It continued as a family industry with farmers using child labour. No endeavour has been made to raise the standard of living of the farmers and their employees. This measure, which provides for the expenditure of £1,500,000 in about eight, months to assist the industry at a time when production is falling, is a substantia] contribution towards the amelioration of the conditions of the farmers. The fact that the Tariff Board is to investigate the industry is an indication that the Government realizes the importance of the industry and the need for a thorough investigation with a view to improving its economy so that it will be enabled to provide award wages and conditions. I hope that the Tariff Board’s investigations will result in a substantial improvement of the lot of the dairy-farmers.
Application was made to the Industrial Court of Queensland for an award for the dairying industry but, owing to the uneconomical state of the industry, the application was refused. Honorable members of the Opposition have adversely criticized the clause relating to the extension of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act to the dairying industry,but they could not have studied the clause, because had they done so they would haverealized that it is not mandatory. Sub-clause 1 reads -
With the object of ensuring an adequate supply of dairy produce during the war, the Minister or the Attorney-General may request the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to determine any matters with respect to the terms and conditions of employment to be observed in relation to persons employed in the dairying industry or any part thereof.
I direct the attention of honorable members of the Opposition to the use of the word “ may “. It does not necessarily follow that an award will be made. The operation of that provision will be dependent on the results of the investigation carried out by the Tariff Board. I agree that city workers would be willing to pay an extra threepence per lb. for butter, rather than allow conditions of slavery to continue in the industry. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. ArchieCameron) took exception to the title which states that the bill has the object of aiding the prosecution of the war, but I remind the honorable member that the war is the principal reason for the decline of production. The dairy farms have been denuded of men by the military authorities. The “brass hats “ called up the only men on some dairy farms and left the farms in the charge of the women, and it was not until this party took office that steps were taken to ensure the return of those men to their farms. The Government is conscious that the instability of this industry has been intensified by the war, and that is why it has introduced this measure as one which has the object of aiding the prosecution of the war. I should like to see the dairying industry organized similarly to the sugar industry with the wages of employees fixed, the price of milk and cream fixed, and the wholesale and retail prices of butter fixed. Then the farmer, the manufacturer, and the retailer would each know how much he would receive, and the consumer how much he would pay, and, as wages would be fixed, there would be an end to the slavery and the using of child labour which at present disfigure the industry. The honorable member for Barker also took exception to the provision for the making of an award for the industry, and said that an award was not necessary because labour was so scarce that wages were high. If, as the honorable member for Barker insinuated, the employees are exploiting the dairyfarmers, the Arbitration Court, by making an award, will be able to prevent that exploitation.
.- I accept this bill on the principle that a half-loaf is better than no bread at all. I am thankful for small mercies. Since last November, the Government has been asked to do something to assist the dairying industry. This measure is its answer. It is an ill-conceived and impracticable proposal which will be found to be almost inoperative. Dairying is a major war-time industry. It has been called upon to provide a vitally necessary food, for not only ourselves, hut also the American troops in this country, Great Britain and our other allies overseas. The embarrassments which confronted the industry in days of peace have been intensified since the outbreak of war by the continual, but irregular, drafting of men into the Army. Unlike other war-time industries, it has not only had no protection, but has also been subjected to constant irritation. The amount of £2,000,000 which the Government proposes to distribute among the dairy-farmers is equal to only 11/8d. or 11/4d. per lb. of butter fat, and is nothing like what would be required to compensate the dairy-farmers for the increased costs that war has imposed upon them. The Third Progress Report of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries demonstrates how the dairy-farmers’ costs have risen. The following table sets out the percentage increase of some of the farmers’ needs: -
– What is the estimated total increase of the costs of production?
– The average increase of the cost of the farmer’s needs is 50 per cent. In addition, owing to scarcity of labour, wages have risen by 300 per cent. All that the Government intends to do to compensate for that is to make a grant equal to about 10 per cent. of the price of a pound of butter. The following table in the second report of the Joint Committee on Profits sets out the way in which the cost of wearing apparel of the dairy-farmers has risen: -
The price of clothes for women has increased by 50 per cent., for boys by 38.1 per cent., and for girls by 32.6 per cent. The cost of household drapery has been increased by 68.4 per cent.
The cost of setting up and administering the complicated machinery provided for in this measure will be considerable. It would be far better for the money that will be absorbed in policing these provisions to be paid direct to the farmers. For instance, the Tariff Board is to travel around the country. Clause 6 reads -
No money will be paid to the farmers until the country has been traversed by the Tariff Board. The farmers’ embarrassments will be increased under sub-clause 2, which reads -
In making recommendations under the last preceding sub-section, the Tariff Board shall have regard to the existence in any area of conditions of drought, to any disabilities of primary producers arising out of circumstances attributable to the war, and to any terms and conditions of employment prescribed by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in relation to the dairying industry or any part thereof.
Before the money is distributed, the conditions operating in all the States will have to be examined. The delay will be interminable. The proposals are illconceived, and will increase rather than reduce the troubles of the industry. When the Tariff Board reaches a decision its recommendations will have to be considered by the Department of Commerce, which is a busy department engaged on a big job. Some time ago Cabinet appointed a committee to consider the position of the dairying industry, and the Department of Commerce occupied many months in examining its recommendations before submitting the matter to Cabinet. If any such delay occurs in connexion with the Tariff Board’s investigation, it seems to me that the dairy-farmers will receive no help until towards the end of next year. In view of the desperate position of the industry, I ask that arrangements be made by the Government for butter factories to make a special allowance immediately to dairy-farmers. It should be comparatively easy to provide that a substantial addition be made to the cheques of dairy-farmers each month by the management of the factories to which they deliver their cream. It is wellknown that the dairy-farmers, in the main, deliver their cream to co-operative factories in which accounts are carefully kept. If the Government would provide that butter factories should pay an extra 3d. per lb. to dairy-farmers on condition that any adjustments that might be necessary in consequence of the report of the Tariff Board should be made in due course, the imperative needs of the situation could be met at once. The dairyfarmers should be put on the same footing as other producers. Munitions workers and those engaged in other war industries have been granted a war loading addition to their pay; the wheatfarmers have been granted a fixed price for their product; and the pastoralists are receiving a guaranteed price for their wool. Why, then, should not the dairyfarmers be put on the same footing? . I believe that the answer to the question is that the Government fears some adverse reaction on the part of the consuming public, and therefore is not willing to grant assistance in this direct fashion. The dairy-farmers should receive a price for their product which has some proper relation to the cost of production. I regard this bill as being an indirect benefit to the workers engaged in the dairying industry, and not a benefit to the dairyfa rmers. It must be apparent to all honorable gentlemen that as soon as the Tariff Board’s recommendation for the assistance of the dairying industry is adopted, the workers engaged in the industry will submit a log of wages and conditions to the Arbitration Court. Today the dairy-farmers are paying at least three times as much in wages as they paid formerly. In such circumstances, a proposal that £2,000,000 should be earmarked for the assistance of the industry is totally inadequate. It would not by any means meet the increase of the wages bill that will follow a decision of the Arbitration Court. The provisions of the measure are ill-conceived and are likely to do serious harm to the industry.
This measure was introduced only yesterday afternoon, and for that reason it has been impracticable for either the country press or the dairy-farmers themselves to express opinions upon it. Obviously dairy-farmers in more or less remote areas, who are fully engaged in carrying out their usual avocation, have not had an adequate opportunity to advise honorable members of their views on the bill. Had time been available for that purpose I am quite certain that strong antagonism would have been expressed to the bill. However, some comment on the measure has been published in this morning’s city newspapers, and I propose to direct the attention of honorable members to some of the opinions that have been expressed. One newspaper extract reads -
The announcement was unfair to the industry if it meant, in effect, a subsidy to the consumer to enable butter to be obtained at a lower price.
The manager of the Macleay River Cooperative Dairy Company Limited, Mr. G. S. Stokes, said yesterday, in Kempsey. that the subsidy was an “ insult to the intelligence “ of farmers.
– Order ! If the honorable member is quoting newspaper criticisms of proceedings in the House he is not in order.
– I am not doing so: I am quoting newspaper comment on the bill itself. Another comment was -
We have been “ sold a pup “, the milk suppliers will be furious.
Another comment read -
The proposal was one which the industry should unanimously reject, it places dairymen in the contemptible position of receiving a dole.
Still another comment read -
The subsidy would enable higher wages to be paid to farm labour which made it look like a subsidy to rural labour and not to the farmer.
Another comment was -
We reject the subsidy. In view of drought conditions and increasing costs nothing less than 6d. per lb. is acceptable to dairymen.
– Order ! Obviously the honorable member is reading press references to statements made in Parliament. Under Standing Order 268 no member may read extracts from news- papers referring to debates in the House during the current session.
– I give you my assurance, Mr. Speaker, that I am quoting only comments in criticism of the bill. If the bill had been submitted to honorable members in the normal way, allowing time between its introduction, and the resumption of the debate on it for dairyfarmers to express their views more effectively, it would have been found that there was widespread opposition to the measure. The proposal that payments shall be made on a differential basis is most unsatisfactory, and will lead to chaos in the industry. I ask the Minister to review the measure and arrange for honorable members to be called together again next week to consider some more effective means to provide practical assistance for the industry. I am quite certain that if the bill be passed injury will be done to the dairy producers.
.- Although some measure of relief will be granted to the dairy-farmers under the provisions of this bill, the measure does not go far enough. I regard it as a step in the right direction, but I hope that the Government will go farther. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) quoted a comment to the effect that the dairy-farmers had been “ sold a pup”. If one pup cost £2,000,000, I hope that two pups will be sold so that £4,000,000 will be available. The Opposition has condemned the bill lock, stock and barrel, but I do not support that attitude. I believe that the measure should be regarded as only the beginning of a more effective policy to assist the industry.- It should be remembered that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was the leader of the Country party and Minister for Commerce for a long period, and that during his term of office he did nothing to assist the dairying industry. This Government has been in office for only twelve months and is now providing £2,000,000 to assist the dairymen. Some objection has been made by honorable members opposite to the proposal that the Arbitration Court should be required to fix the wages and conditions of workers in the dairying industry. The sooner that is done the better it will be for all concerned. In the old days the shearers, had a very hard time, but since the Arbitration Court made an award covering their work their conditions have been much better. In the old days, too, sugar-growing was a “black-fellow’s industry” in . which kanakas were employed. It was said that white men could not work in the industry. The Arbitration Court subsequently fixed wages and conditions for the industry, and now no one would think of going back to the old days. There is no reason why such an experience should not be repeated in the dairying industry.
– That would be possible if the bounty were great enough.
– That is the point. When the Arbitration Court fixes wages and conditions in an industry, other matters adjust themselves accordingly. I hope that when Parliament re-assembles, the Government will introduce another bill to provide more adequate assistance for dairy-farmers. This industry has been in a bad way for 50 years. Although anti-Labour governments have done very little, this Government, after having been in office for only twelve months, has made a first step towards remedying the position. Knowing the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) as I do, and knowing of his sympathy with all primary producers, including the dairy-farmers, I am satisfied that he will not rest content until the industry has been substantially assisted.
. This measure is entitled “A bill for an act to provide for the granting of assistance to the dairying industry with the object of aiding the prosecution of the war, and for other purposes “. The title clearly shows that the industry is important in relation to the war effort. In fact, it must be regarded as one of the instruments of Avar. The health, not only of our own people, but also of the people of Great Britain and of our allies generally depends upon the provision of proper sustenance. To ensure adequate sustenance an increased output of dairy products is essential. To ensure such an increased production, the conditions in the industry must be made acceptable to the dairy-farmers and their employees. We all are well aware that conditions in the industry are far from what they should be. This is a hazardous calling, in which seasonal conditions play a large part. The work must be carried on for seven days a week, 365 days a year. In these circumstances it must be obvious to all honorable members that the provisions of the bill are utterly inadequate to meet the needs of the case. Dairy production must be made possible on an equitable basis. Although this bill was introduced only yesterday afternoon it has, already, evoked a remarkable outburst of antagonism on the part of the producers. So far from it being a political aid to the Government, it will prove to be a political boomerang.
The measure provides that the Tariff Board shall determine the basis upon which £1,500,000 shall be distributed among dairy-farmers during this financial year. The assistance is not to be provided on a flat rate. Conditions in different localities are to be taken into consideration. I do not believe that it will be practicable to apply a policy of differentiation in the way proposed. The result will undoubtedly be intense dissatisfaction throughout the country. Help should be provided on a uniform basis. It is true that conditions vary in different localities from year to year, and even in the same season; but any attempt to meet these variations will involve administrative problems of the first magnitude. Another objection to the bill is that the assistance is to be granted on an annual basis. Each year, therefore, honorable members will be obliged to reconsider the subject. The consideration by the Arbitration Court of the conditions of work in the industry will involve the payment of a scale of wages and the observance of conditions which will make permanent assistance to the industry almost a certainty, unless the dairy-farmers are assured that they will receive something a little above the cost of production for the goods they have to sell. Dairy-farmers, like people engaged in other industries, are entitled to some interest on their invested capital, and also to a reasonable return for their labour. They are not receiving either at the moment, nor have they done so for a long time. “Wages have been increased in secondary industries with the result that commodity prices have advanced. If wages are increased to the dairying industry the price of dairy products also will have to” increase. That principle has been accepted throughout the Commonwealth for many years. Wage costs are taken into consideration when assessing the tariff protection to be enjoyed by a secondary industry. Deviation from procedure that has been followed for years is a little extraordinary. If the system of wage fixation be involved, it is an occasion for a complete investigation of the whole of the economic system. I cannot conceive any great degree of satisfaction resulting from a subsidy, which apparently will have to be revoted year after year. I again assert, that there is nothing in the bill which guarantees a payable price to the producer. It purports to establish the dairying industry on a basis that will make of it an instrument of war, yet it does not make provision along those lines. The effect of it will be, to bring into existence an arbitration award fixing the wages and conditions in the industry. The war has caused costs to be raised in the industry by up to 50 per cent. What result was achieved by the inquiry conducted at the instance of the Minister, I do not know; hut it is commonly believed that the estimate of the committee was that at least 3d. per lb. would be needed to restore the industry to the equivalent of its pre-war .basis. Yet the bill proposes assistance equal to a mere lid. per lb., the great bulk of which will be lost by reason of an increase of wages. Calculation of the assistance by the method proposed may lead to certain districts receiving little, if any, of it. That is a proposition that I cannot accept. I should have no objection to an industrial award being made in respect of any industry, conditional upon its capacity being equal to the maintenance of Australian standards. The dairying industry cannot be provided for adequately, unless simultaneously provision be made in respect of the milk-producers, who are one of the most important sections of it. For the reasons I have stated, I move -
That all words after “ bill “. be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “be withdrawn and redrafted so as to provide a more equitable scheme, and, in particular, one which will reasonably relate the price received by the primary producer and his costs of production.”
– I second the amendment. I am profoundly disappointed with the bill, which has been submitted in the dying hours of: this sessional period. When the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) appointed a committee to investigate and report to him upon the conditions in the dairying industry, I was hopeful that something useful would be done on behalf of dairy-farmers. The appointment of the committee was universally applauded. All recognized that it consisted of men of wide and varied experience in respect of production and marketing, who would be able to present a report that would be extremely helpful in the preparation of legislation. I regret that the report of the committee has not been tabled. On numerous occasions, the Minister has been invited to make it available to honorable members, but has declined to do so. Even at this late stage, I challenge him to produce it, because I cannot believe that the bill embodies the recommendations of persons who are conversant with the needs of the industry. The title of it is “ to provide for the granting of assistance to the dairying industry “. Frankly, the dairyfarmer is asking, not- for assistance, but for that measure of justice that is meted out to the employer in secondary industry, who receives the cost of production plus ‘ a stated percentage of profit. Application of that rule to the dairyfarmer would overcome all his troubles.
– Why did not the honorable member apply it?
– I had not an opportunity to do so. Under previous administrations, the dairy-farmer was much better off than he is to-day, because of increasing costs which the Minister has refused to take into account in connexion with this legislation. In addition to the difficulty of securing labour, the dairy-farmer has to contend against high wages. The main object of the bill is to provide that the employee in the industry shall have the benefit of an .industrial award, without regard to the interests of the employers. The Government does not care whether or not the dairy-farmer can make the basic wage. Under the bill, some men in certain localities may not obtain any assistance from the amount that is to be distributed.
– Why should they, if they are making a profit out of the industry ?
– The hill is notable, not for what it contains, but for what has been omitted from it. To regulations are to he left matters which should be decided by this House. That applies to the manner of allocation of the amount appropriated, the primary producers to whom payment may be made, and the conditions which will govern payments. When the House is not in session, there may be some reason for churning out regulations at the rate of from twelve to fifteen a day. But there is no earthly reason why they should be the principal feature of this legislation. There will be an army of officers to administer the details of the bill, and this will mean a further drain on manpower. I heartily concur in the remarks of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). It is recognized that in all secondary industries an employer must receive the cost of production, plus a small profit. That is refused to the dairying industry. It has been pointed out that the cost of living would be raised if the price of butter were increased. Are the measure of justice and the standard of living which every other section of the community enjoys to be refused because there are more consumers than producers of dairy products? Quite frankly, I believe that this proposal will not appeal to any section of the community. I agree with honorable members opposite who say that those who are protected by means of wage awards do not want to buy cheap food at the expense of the producer, but are prepared to pay the cost of production. This scheme will preclude them from doing that. I emphatically protest against the failure of the Minister to make available the report that he received months ago from men eminently qualified to present to him an authoritative document. I challenge him to prove that I am incorrect when I say that the bill does not embody any of the recommendations made in that report.
– I support the amendment. The legislation introduced by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) yesterday represents a belated recognition by the Government of the need to do justice to one of the most important industries in Australia. The honorable gentleman stated that the Government recognizes the importance of dairying as a war-time industry. It is more than a war-time industry. It will play an important and valuable part in the post-war period of reconstruction. Consequently, apart from any other consideration, it must be maintained on a sound economic basis. The Government proposes to apply a new method for the economic support of a primary industry. Apart from the complicated conditions attaching to the subsidy. the amount proposed is totally inadequate. Honorable members who preceded me have pointed out that the Government has not taken this House into its confidence in regard to the report furnished by the special dairy committee appointed to inquire specifically into this very important matter. Apart from members of the Cabinet, no honorable member has seen that report. In its absence, we can only judge by the information available to us the .means that are best calculated to assist the industry. I have information to the effect that last November, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) undertook to consider the i nuking of a declaration in respect of the price of butter, the Prices Commissioner intimated that the decision not to permit an increase to be made at that time had been, reached after an examination of data submitted by the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee. Figures that had been collected from all over Australia and had been scientifically checked disclosed that butter was then being sold at 1.65d. less than the cost of production. Yet the industry at that time sought an increase of only Id. per lb., proving that it was prepared to make a contribution to war economy and did not selfishly seek to gain the amount represented by the increase of the cost of production. This application was rejected, on the ground that increases of costs had been offset ,by increased returns to dairyfarmers, and that the effects of more recent changes in connexion with demand were obscure. Members of the United Country party and the United Australia party, who were interested in country electorates in which dairying is carried on met the Prices Commissioner, with the result that the Prime Minister arranged for a review to be made within three months from the 27th November. This review resulted in the granting of an increase of the retail price of butter throughout Australia by Id. per lb. Three months ago, the Government appointed a committee to inquire into certain aspects of the dairying industry. The deliberations of that committee had to be completed within one month. Honorable members of the Opposition have been kept in complete ignorance of the findings of the committee, and the decisions reached by the Government in respect of it. It is neither reasonable nor just to treat the Opposition in that way when it has to engage in such an important debate. We were at least entitled to he informed of the findings and recommendations of the committee. Because that information is denied to us, Ave have to consider a new form of assistance to an industry, without basic information or a sound foundation upon which to form. ‘ a judgment. The reason for the absence of the report must be obvious. Its recommendations must be entirely different from the scheme that we are asked to consider and adopt. The bill is a monument of inequity, delay, confusion, and differentiation-. It will lead to nothing but dissatisfaction. I recognize and appreciate that this inadequate subsidy has been proposed in order to keep down the cost of living. Why should the dairying industry be the first in Australia to make a contribution towards the new economic order? The cost of living is the whole basis of the arbitration system. The dairying industry is being asked to accept a paltry dole, instead of equitable treatment based on the cost of production and a decent Australian standard of living. It will not happily accept such a paltry amount as 1¼d. per lb. I shall not vote against the subsidy of £2,000,000, despite its inadequacy, because I hope that it will be followed by an adjustment by which equity will be done. The bill should be withdrawn, for the purpose of reviewing the scheme. The industry should receive a price based on the cost of production and decent Australian living standards.
– The amendment is unacceptable to the Government, and its object is to harass. If the Opposition wishes to obstruct the passage of the bill, the Government is prepared to leave things as they are, and to throw on to honorable members opposite the responsibility for whatever consequences may ensue.
– That is a very definite threat.
– I direct the attention of honorable members to salient features of the bill, which apparently they have overlooked. The first aim of the Government is to provide financial assistance immediately to the industry. For this purpose,the House is asked to appropriate £1,500,000, in order to cover the unexpired portion of the present financial year. I say without hesitation that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has displayed the greatest degree of common sense in his approach to the subject. Although he considers that the subsidy is not so great as he would like it to be, he has nevertheless commended the Government for having brought the proposal forward. He is the only member who has made the right approach; and he is the most experienced dairying authority in the House. His attitude is in strong contradistinction to that of other honorable members, who havehad little or no experience of dairying matters. The Tariff Board and the Arbitration Court will be requested to present interim reports as rapidly as possible, so that there shall bo no delay in the making of payments. Moreover, payments will be retrospective to the 1st October, and. will he made direct to the producers.
It was pointed out by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that an important feature of the bill was the provision that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and
Arbitration would be asked to determine wages and conditions of employment for those engaged in the industry. This clause denotes the desire of the Commonwealth Government to assist those who are engaged in this very important industry, and the subsidy will enable the employers to pay their employees a reasonable wage. Many dairy-farmers do not employ hired labour; therefore, they will themselves benefit from this measure. There is the further point that the action now taken by the Government can be regarded as the first step towards the adjustment of conditions within the industry. The Prime Minister has pointed out that the control of prices will still come within the purview of the Prices Commissioner, and it, is expected thathe will review the industry when the determination of wages, if any, has been made.
Certain members of the Opposition have suggested that £2,000,000 a year will not provide an adequate return to the dairy-farmer. I do not. agree with this view. Early this year, the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner granted an increase of1d. per lb. in the price butter. The present subsidy, extended over the whole industry, is equivalent to approximately l1/4d. per lb.; thus, the increased price of butter for local consumption is approximately 21/4d. per lb. Now, let us look at, the export side. Recently, the British Government increased the contract price of butter by 4s.8d. a cwt., sterling, or5/8d. per lb. To this must be added the increase from the present subsidy of l1/4d. per lb., making the increase for export butter 17/8d. per lb. If we equalize these two increases, it will be found that the increase over all butter production will be slightly more than 2d. per lb. Proportionate increases will, of course, apply in respect of cheese. I suggest that, the industry, as a whole, will appreciate the action of the Government which, within a period of seven months, has been able to secure for it such a substantial increase over practically its total production. As honorable members know, it, is proposed to set up machinery to equalize the return to factories and to the producers, and this work will be placed under the direction of one of the leading Commonwealth authorities on dairying. I hope that these provisions will bring about that increased production of butter which is so urgently needed in order thatwe may meet the pressing demands of the people of the United Kingdom.
-Will the report of the Special Committee on the Dairying Industry be released for the information of honorable members?
– Yes, on asubsequent date.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from12.40 to 2.30 p.m.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Statute of Westminster Adoption Bill 1942.
War Service Estates Bill 1942. department of war organization of industry.
Debate resumed from the 8th October (vide page 1541), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the following paper be printed: - “ Activitiesof Department of War Organization of Industry - Ministerial Statement, 30th September, 1942.”
.- The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) is confronted with enough difficulties without my attempting to add to them; therefore, I propose to offer only constructive criticism. Probably, he has the most unpopular job of any member of the Cabinet; but he is facing it with ability and determination. Most of the difficulties with which he is confronted arose from the fact that the previous Government handed over the direction of war industries to representatives of big business interests. Perhaps it believed that those men were best able to do the job; but the effects of that policy have been unfortunate. Honorable members will recall the prospectus issued by the former Prime Minister, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), when he returned from Great Britain. He declared that it was the policy of his Government to freeze out the smaller concerns, and divert production to the largo firms. That is why the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner), as first Minister for War Organization of Industry, was so handicapped in his efforts. He really did not have a chance from the beginning. The policy of the last Government was to place all orders for war materials with large firms, and millions of pounds of public money was expended upon erecting munitions annexes alongside the workshops of those firms. I led numerous deputations to Ministers on behalf of smaller firms, which wished to participate in the war effort, and at one time I produced 40 letters from manufacturers, some of them employing hundreds of workers, who were anxious to engage on war production, but were unable to obtain orders. They could have done with annexes and machines and financial assistance, but no help was forthcoming. All were engineering firms which could have rendered valuable assistance in the prosecution of the war. Because they were unable to get orders they lost their trained workmen, who were drawn away by the big firms.
Under the administration of the last Government, it took a long time to absorb info war industries the labour that was offering. In my own electorate there were, twelve months after the war broke out, 3,000 men out of work; the total of unemployed in New South Wales was 30,000. That record compares unfavorably with the record of the present Minister for War Organization of Industry. During the last twelve months, hundreds of thousands of men have been employed on war production. Moreover, the present Government is encouraging the smaller firms to embark upon the manufacture of war materials. The Clyde Engineering Company, the oldest in Australia, used to employ about 1,000 workmen. It was doing some war work, but wished to turn over completely to the production of munitions. A representative of the Munitions Department visited the works and described the plant as a lot of junk. However, the present Government gave the firm orders for trench mortars and 25-pounder guns, and 2,000 men are now employed. As a matter of fact, it is the only firm manufacturing trench mortars in Australia, and honorable members know what an important part these weapons play in modern warfare. Probably, our troops would not be so successful in New Guinea if they were not equipped with trench mortars. The Purcell Engineering Company has also entered upon war production in a big way.’ This firm has laid out £250,000 on plant and machinery; yet over fifteen months elapsed after the war broke out before it was given an order for the manufacture of lathes. These machines are vital for the production of munitions; without them, no guns or tanks or shells could be manufactured. That company could not get orders. The Munitions Department refused to build an annexe for it. The (Capital Issues Board even refused to allow it to increase its capital in order to expand. Some of its machines were taken to other establishments. It lost many of its skilled workers. When, finally, as the result of our fight in this House, the company received orders, a great deal of time was lost in collecting the staff, and the company had so much trouble that it lost more than £20,000 on its first order. That firm is now turning out fifteen lathes a week for the Munitions Department, and it employs 300 or 400 workers.
The firm of W. T. Carmichael Limited, stove manufacturers, was anxious to transfer to war industry. Honorable members will recollect that the managing director came here to demonstrate the Sten gun which he wanted to manufacture. Many months passed before he received orders in conjunction with Die Casters Limited, of Melbourne, for the manufacture of what is now called the Austen gun, the worth of which has been proved. It is cheaper to produce than any other weapon of its type. Mr. Carmichael told me that when he visited the works of Die Casters Limited he was impressed with the drive and efficiency of those in charge of it. That is the firm to which the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) referred when he said that certain of its operations had been diverted to Australian Consolidated Industries Limited. I could refer to many other firms which received similar treatment, and to which recognition came too late to be of any use, because they had lost their labour and their machines to other industries, with the result that they had to be merged into larger concerns.
I agree that a certain amount, of rationalization of war industry is desirable, but we must ensure that we shall not set up a monopoly control that will, in the course of time, supplant the Government. I hope that, while the Government is arranging transfers from non-essential industries to war industries, it will take steps Lo see that monopolies shall be properly controlled and shall not become all-powerful.
I disagree with the policy of not compensating the smaller businesses which are going out of business. If the Government drives them out of business or takes such steps as will automatically cause them to be driven out, it should compensate them or ensure that the businesses which remain and automatically derive the goodwill of those driven out. shall pay for that goodwill.
Much of the work that the department is carrying out is necessarily destructive, hut there is plenty of scope for it to be constructive. I am satisfied, from what I have seen in industries in my own electorate and other places, that there is a waste of men, machines, and materials which could be overcome by a proper system of co-ordination. I have raised this matter before, because I know that this waste is costing millions of pounds. It could be overcome if a production board or a director of production were set up. The example of the United States of America should be followed. I realize that, particularly since this Government has been in power, there has been a great increase of production, but there is scope for a greater increase. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 3rd October, contains the following: -
Washington, 2nd October. - Congress), the Government, and Washington were trailing far behind the people in war spirit, said President Roosevelt at a special press conference yesterday after his return from a fortnight’s coast-to-coast tour of the country. He covered 8,754 miles and inspected Army and Navy bases, shipyards, tank, aircraft and munitions plants, Army, Navy, and Marine training centres, supply depots, and embarkation ports. The White House described the tour as “ most successful “.
Mr. Roosevelt said that, on the whole, the war production programme was going extremely well, probably at 95 per cent, of efficiency, with both labour and employers working well towards the objective of maximum output at the greatest possible speed.
The President said he saw some remarkable achievements. He saw the Henry J. Kaiser shipyards, at Portland, Oregon, launch a 10,000-ton liberty ship ten days after the keel was laid; the Andrew Higgins yards in New Orleans deliver an anti-submarine boat only four days after it was ordered, and mammoth tanks rolling from the Chrysler pla.nt in Detroit. He saw a ship launched with full steam up and its siren blowing. He also saw a United States submarine with nine Japanese flags painted on its conningtower - indicating the number of ships sunk.
No doubt, the United States of America has some of the outstanding organizers of the world, but there is no reason why we should not endeavour to emulate its example, and set up a board to coordinate all production departments. It is not sufficient, to say that each department has its own particular method of co-ordination, because there is considerable overlapping and waste owing to lack of co-ordination of all departments. I have seen employees idle for clays and weeks on full wages while waiting for supplies of materials to come forward. Sometimes the materials have been lost at sea. With a. proper system of coordination, waste of that sort would not occur, because there would be somebody to ensure the diversion of idle men or machines or surplus material to places where they could be used. I congratulate the Government on having taken the lead to establish production committees, representative of the management and the workers in the government munitions factories, and other government establishments. There is a great opportunity with proper co-ordination to utilize the spirit of co-operation between the management and the workers, and, by its extension, we could probably double or treble the production in short time. In Great Britain and the United States of America the system of production boards has been in operation for some time. I am sure that we have in Australia men of the type of Kaiser whose services could be used to full advantage. I know of men of executive ability whose own businesses exist no longer and who are anxious to assist in increasing war production, but the departmental policy is to concentrate on employing skilled technicians and to neglect organization. Organizers are as necessary as are skilled workers. I remember reading about a steel magnate in the United States of America who said that he did not know much about steel but a great deal about men, and that he had the organizing ability to get the best work out of them. I wrote to a high official in the Munitions Department on behalf of a mau who had held an important position in a large bank. The answer I received was that the department had no vacancy for men on £500 a year or anything like it. In other words, it was not prepared to pay £10 a week for an executive officer. We cannot run this war on the cheap. This is being penny wise and pound foolish. The Government must realize that it is as important to organize industry as it is to employ skilled workers in it.
I know that the Minister is doing his best to deal with zoning by setting up committees, but the committees are too far away from the centres of operation. The only logical way in which to handle this problem is by delegating the authority to local bodies, not, perhaps, existing municipal or shire councils, but say, county councils, which would cover a wider area than a municipality or a shire. Such bodies would be answerable to the people. Under the present system the consumers have no redress other than a complaint to the central body, and, if that complaint brings no satisfactory result, that is the end of the matter, but the people would be able at the triennial elections to deal with the local governing authorities if they did not give satisfaction.
I hope that the Minister and his department will give some -attention to the matter of post-war planning. As one goes amongst industries one sees that there is no plan for an immediate change-over to post-war production. If the war were to end to-morrow there would be a state of chaos, because many months would be occupied before the industries could change over to peace-time production, and, in the meantime, hundreds of thousands of workers would be walking the streets looking for employment. I hope that the Government will ensure that all enterprises shall have ready to put into immediate operation when the war ends a plan by which they will be able to transfer to the production of peace-time needs and thereby keep their workers in full-time employment. I also hope that the Government will give consideration to planning generally for the post-war period,, and that plans will be evolved whereby model factory settlements will be created so that the workers may live near their places of employment with all the required shopping facilities within easy reach. At present many workers have to rise at 5 a.m. to start work at 7 a.m., and after working a twelve-hour shift do not reach home until 9 p.m., which leaves little time for sleep, and none for recreation. In developing the plan I have in mind, the theory of decentralization should be applied because there is great scope in the rural areas for industrial development. Proper decentralization of industry with modern factories and associated housing schemes will make for greater efficiency, more production, and a much happier and healthier community.
– I compliment the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) on the able manner in which he dealt with the activities of the Department of War Organization of
Industry. His experience in the business community enabled him to examine the workings of this department from the point of view of a large section of the Australian community whose operations have come under the notice of the department during the last year. The Government and the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) should pay due regard to his observations, which were made solely in a desire to improve the working of the department and to cause as little dislocation as is possible. Having examined the Minister’s latest review I find myself in complete agreement with the honorable member for Robertson that many of the bright dreams of the Minister in April, when he made his previous statement, have failed, and that, apparently, he has realized the utter futility of many of the theories that he then enunciated.
I have always considered it unfortunate that this department was placed under the control of a Minister with such marked socialistic leanings. In support of this view, I direct attention to a press statement attributed to the Minister on the 10 th August. The honorable gentleman was reported to have said -
Even if it savoured of socialization,he was not going to refuse toput anything into operation in his department if it was in the interests of the community, merely because sonic critic would tellhimhe was just trying to bring in socialization.
In the face of these observations, many of the Minister’s denials that he was using the war to introduce a policy of socialization count for little.
I also direct attention to an address which the Minister delivered at Wesley Church, Melbourne, on the 3rd May. He was reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph as having said -
With the abolition of profits, ground rents and interest, a perfect industrial system could operate. The guiding motive of industry is production and services rendered for thecommunity. The re-organization of industry in Australia should be based on the paramount importance of sanctity of labour.
– Hear, hear!
– That is not the view of the vast majority of our people. The Opposition is under an obligation to point out that the Government has no mandate’ to apply such a policy. During the budget debate- the honorable member for Maranoa. (Mr. Baker), said he had often heard: the cry raised that Labour waa using, war-time conditions as an excuse to introduce its policy. He went on to declare -
We. make no apology for that; that is why we are here.
The Opposition holds the view that the Government has no- mandate to act in that. way.
Previously I have drawn, attention to the fact that the Department, of War Organization of Industry desired to eliminate all branded, goods, Should full effect be given to that policy, small manufacturers and retailers who could not be classed as capitalists, but who constitute a Targe section of the middle class, will disappear. That is what will happen, for instance, in the proprietary medicine field if the department’s plana he carried’ out. The only alternative to such a policy wi-lP be to deal: in black markets- or to substitute, facsimile prod.ue.ts.. Should tha public ba driven, to dealing in unbranded products, al small businesses will rapidly be eliminated by chain stores.
If the Minister succeeds in driving all the business of one particular class, into a monopoly, the, way will be left open for- nationalization. We. have read in the. press, of small traders, market, gardeners, poultry farmers and other members, of the middle class, section of the community called up for national service, having, been ordered to dispose of their businesses within the briefest periods.. Even when these people succeed in finding, buyers, they generally have to sell their concerns at cheap rates. Unless they are willing to do so their entire capital assets will be destroyed, and they, will be left, with the liability of last year’s income tax to meet.
In examining the operations of this department, it is difficult to- discover where co-operation ends and coercion starts. Confusion and chaos have been created by this new organization.. The Minister- has stated frequently in this House and ako in the press that he has secured’ the co-operation of. certain interests, but this so-called co-operation is>, in many instances, obtained because, the parties- affected know that the Minister possesses such wide- war-time powers: that he can wield the big- stick..
The Opposition appreciates that, because of the war, we must go short of many supplies which previously we received from overseas or which were manufactured in this country. It is also wellaware that the necessities of war make it imperative that there, shall’ be manychanges in our method of manufacture. But the new situation could’ have been met without undue governmental interference had the people affected been given an opportunity to make the necessary adjustments.
The Minister’s rationalization, plans are undermining factory production at a time when such production, should be maintained at, maximum capacity. Factory production has been, reduced in many cases,, when it should ba increased., Frequently, tha Minister’s plans have been destructive- and not constructive. It is on this; fundamental principle that the. Opposition challenges, the policy of the Minister.
I shall- now offer a few detailed observations concerning- the operations of this department. The way in- which it has exercised its. functions has; created many doubts, caused! many complaints^ and awakened rauch public apprehension’. There is evidence of interference; with industry, and of an extension of the department’s charter into the areas of price control, with a strong bias in favour of monopolies.
The reported’ plan under which proprietary medicines have been threatened with extinction has been stated to provide for the preparation of only 30 basic formulae to replace existing proprietarymedicines. At most, I have, been informed, there would be 6ft medicines, giving the consumer the choice of No. 1 and 2To. 2 of each commodity. These would be manufactured by three large manufacturing companies at most, and would be distributed through one wholesaler. Both tha manufacturers and distributers would have monopoly rights. It has been suggested that there are too many chemists in Australia. Presumably, if the Minister gives effect to his plan, the individual chemist, rather than the chain chemist, will be liquidated. This should immediately strengthen the position of the manufacturers who control chemist chain stores. I direct the Minister’s attention to an article in the Labour paper, The Century, of the Sth May, under the heading, “ What is behind the patent medicine abolition plan?”, in which it is stated that patent medicine manufacturers believe that the war situation is being used to establish monopoly control of medicine in Australia. Within the last week or two, The Century has reiterated that view.
To return to the subject of brands and trade marks, I point out that companies whose plant is unsuited for transfer to war production, and whose brands may be removed from their products, will become bankrupt very quickly. Rationalization is sensible when man-power is saved and machine potential is fully occupied. In such circumstances it may result in some saving of cost and in some cheapening of products to the consumer. But, apparently, the Minister for War Organization of Industry does not consider brands or trade marks to be of prime economic importance. He declared in Parliament on the 29th April that brands and trade marks in themselves use up valuable resources of printing and packaging. In his mind, this gave rise to a query as to whether competitive product markings could be permitted to continue in those cases where a standardized product would obviously promote both efficiency in production and equity as between producers. The Minister continued -
This du’.’.- not mean that we are planning a general offensive against brands and trade marks; but it does mean that I shall not hesitate to move in every case for the most effective rationalization plan, irrespective of the interests of particular firms in product marking of one kind or another.
There is no evidence in any of the Minister’s statements that he is attempting to curtail consumption. Everything points to elimination of some or all brands, with consequent standardization or monopoly production which can more easily be taken over by the State.
As the honorable gentleman must be held responsible for the policy of the department which he administers, I consider that I should say something about his views of the economic results of his actions. I have it on good authority that at a conference held in Melbourne on the 10th April last, the Minister expressed the following views : -
I am not interested in the retention of brand names. They can be resurrected after the war. I regard any subsequent disruption of existing economics and tax-paying capacities as unimportant. The Government is not concerned with money. The Government can create money and is doing so.
With the knowledge we have of the honorable gentleman’s views on financial matters, I have not the slightest hesitation in accepting what I have just quoted as an accurate report of what he said. I am also informed that on the same occasion the Minister declared -
There are too many radio stations, but they have some value in maintaining morale and should be continued. If they cannot continue to function on reduced advertising revenues, the Government would subsidize them or nationalize them.
As additional evidence of this trend I refer to the curtailment of banking businesses in country centres throughout Australia. It is not surprising that people in country districts are asking what is behind the move which, in many places, is depriving them of banking facilities they can ill afford to be without. Whilst I shall do my utmost to safeguard the interests of the country people, I approach this subject from the point of view of the nation as a whole. Long before the honorable member assumed his present ministerial post, his views on private banking institutions were well known. On the Srd December, 1940, he stated that there was a clear-cut case for making the Commonwealth Bank the only bank in the community. He claimed that the proposed closing of bank branches was intended to aid the war effort in three ways, of which the release of man-power was the chief. He also stressed that the closing of branches would release suitable “ centrally situated premises “ and accounting machines. The Minister was unable to keep politics and his own personal socialistic views out of his discussion with representatives of the banks. He said that whilst the Government was not at present contemplating the nationalization of the banking system, he believed that from some points of view that would be a simpler approach. The honorable gentleman also told the managers of the trading banks that he would not agree to the closing of any branch of the Commonwealth Bank. He later told delegates of the Bank Officers Association -
Where there were perhaps six trading banks operating the number might have to be reduced to one trading bank and the Commonwealth Bank.
He is also reported to have said -
One method for the releasing of man-power from the various bank services would be nationalization of the banking system, but that was the last step.
He added -
If necessary, officers might have to be transferred from trading bank staffs to the Commonwealth Bank.
The Minister’s plans for the rationalization of the banking industry have now been under consideration for a great many months, but he does not appear to be able to reach finality.
In criticizing the operations of this department, the Opposition is actuated solely by a desire to afford the Government the benefit of its advice, which is based on the experience of persons with a first-hand knowledge of the problems under consideration. It is our desire that every action taken by the Government shall be directed towards the effective prosecution of the war. Therefore, when we regard any action as likely to destroy the structure of industry, to impede the nation’s war effort and to impair our prospects of post-war reconstruction on a sound basis, we consider that it is our duty to direct public attention to the subject. Provided that the measures introduced to control industry in war-time are just and equitable, and are properly administered, we shall offer no objection to them. We must, however, ensure that industry generally shall be safeguarded, so that when the war is over we shall be able to go straight ahead with the task of placing the nation on a stable footing.
I do not propose to go into these matters in greater detail. I have said sufficient to establish the trend of the honorable gentleman’s administration and to show the danger of the policy which he is applying. That policy is creating an increasing uncertainty in the mind of the business community and middle classes in Australia. I hope that the Minister will accept what I have said as constructive criticism, and will not regard it as personal. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) has had a wide business experience, and he indicated clearly yesterday the situation that is developing. The doubts that have developed in the minds of the men and women carrying on small businesses in this country are undoubtedly militating against a maximum war effort and the sooner something is done to relieve their anxiety the better it will be for the nation. The sooner the Minister appreciates the need for an alteration of policy the sooner will confidence be restored in the community in general.
.- This is the only opportunity that honorable members have had for some considerable time to discuss the administration of the Department of War Organization of Industry. I hope that the Minister will realize that, notwithstanding anything I may say, I believe that he is doing an honest and capable best in his department. The honorable gentleman is known to be a student of socialism. I am a socialist, but I am quite satisfied, from my study of socialism, that it does not propose the extinction of the small business man. Over and over again socialist parties have declared that it is not the object of the socialist movement to extinguish small businesses. It has been again and again pointed out that the process of evolution is extinguishing small industry and that no effort can preserve it. But that is a very different thing from deliberately trying to extinguish small industry, which is neither the policy of the Minister nor the policy of his party. Having said that, I criticize the policy that is being applied through the Department of War Organization of
Industry, because I believe it to be unjust and; extremely dangerous. The sooner we realize what is happening, the sooner will it be possible for us to apply a remedy. We donot desire to be in a position of disorder and demoralization, but unless the present policy of the Department of War Organization of Industry be relaxed, that undoubtedly will soon be our position. People are suffering many things to-day which they will not patiently suffer after the present tension is relaxed. Many people in our community who thought they had made their positions secure, are to-day finding that all sense of security is being taken from them. It is not the deliberate policy of this Government to strengthen monopoly at the expense of small businesses, but undoubtedly the Government’s policy is having that effect. Many small enterprises are being destroyed with resultant advantage to large business enterprises. This is coming about partly as an inevitable result of the war effort. In the English Economist of the 4th July there is an article which deals with the report of a committee appointed by the Board of Trade to deal with this problem. I do not think it is beyond the wit of man, and certainly not beyond the wit of the Minister for War Organization of Industry, to evolve a policy under which the people who are going to the wall as the result of government policy may be compensated at the expense of other persons who are being enriched as a result of it. I believe that those whose position is being strengthened by government policy should indemnify those whose positions are being weakened and destroyed thereby. I represent two industrial suburbs, in which I have found that the small shops are being extinguished and their customers are drawn to the big metropolitan shops. The chain stores and other large establishments of the cities are being enriched, whilst the little concerns are going under. After I had raised the matter, the town clerk of Brunswick, one of the municipalities that I represent, wrote, to me the following letter : -
I am directed to bring to your notice that my council is very much perturbed about the closing of many small businessesin this city, the cause of which is apparently due to rationing and the shortage of man-power,and in the debate at the last meeting of this council, when the motion to write you on this, subject was submitted, it was stated that large shops could obtain all the man-power and goods they needed, but thatthis was not so in the ease of the small shops. My council feels that there is something, wrong and unfair that such a condition exists, and whilst it is not suggesting a remedy,it considers that only members of the federal Government can place things upon a proper and just footing. To that end the council has asked me to write to you in the hope that something will be devised toimprove the existing state of affairs.
No one would suggest - certainly not the council from which that letter emanated - that the policy of the Government is to grant man-power and goods to large establishments and refuse them to small concerns. Yet that is how the policy has worked. The greater economic organization of the large shop enables it to conduct its operations with fewer men and to purchase in large quantities more economically than can men who are operating in a small way. In my constituency, small shops are unable to obtain supplies of sweets and confectionary, yet these goods are displayed in large quantities in the metropolitan stores. That is not just. The Government ought to work out a scheme whereby the small traders who are being driven to the wall will be protected as far as possible and, if that be not possible, will be indemnified at the expense of those who are waxing fat in consequence of the policy that we are being forced to apply. I also believe that the policy that is applied in relation to food in a time of too great plenty is not one that should be applied in a time of scarcity. It is’ extraordinary that only a few years ago certain producers were encouraged to restrict or cease their production; and now the community cannot purchase the food that it needs because of exorbitant prices, which only the welltodo can pay.
From my observation, and from complaints that have been made to me, I am led to believe that the working of long hours in munitions and other factories is not conducive to the highest production. Dr. Lloyd Ross, a well-known figure in the Labour movement, a prominent member of the central executive of the New South Wales branch of the party, the secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Railways Union, and an out-and-outsupporterof this Government, in an article that appeared in the September issue of the Australian Quarterly, entitled “ Trade Unions and the War”, concentrated in a sentence theviews that he had expressed inother pamphlets and writings -
We are corrupting our movement with continuous overtime, as well as increasing our labour costs, intensifying war-time weariness, and undermining long-range sustaining power.
So soon as the present tension becomes at all relaxed, we shall have an outburst ofdiscontent from those who are suffering in patience the results of the present policy. A good deal of what has happened has been forced upon us. Yet it ought to be possible for this Government to ensure, first, that the small traders who are being driven to the wall shall be indemnified at the expense of those who are benefiting; and, secondly, that all the goods available for sale to the public by retailers shall be properly rationed in order that thewealthy and well-organized store may not use its greater capacity to purchase inorder to extinguish its smallrival.
– in reply - In the now famous” Pollard “ letter, my department was designated one that was to he consistently attacked by the Opposition during this sessional period. That the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden)hasseen fit to take part in this debate, proves that that policy is being pursued. The attack in Parliament was preceded by a barrage of propaganda in the press, directed at myself and at my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). During that propaganda, two words were coined -Dedmanism and Wardism. I have not an exact knowledgeof what those two “isms’“were intended to mean. But I do know that there isno necessity for me to coin an expression containing the name ofthe honorable member for Robertson (Mr.Spooner), because the word “Spoonerism “ is already in existence. It denotes an idiosyncrasy. As the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), who is a student of Freud, willknow, idiosyncrasies often arise from a sense of frustration on the part of those who are subject to them. I have no doubt that the fuliminations of the honorable member for Robertson were due to a sense of frustration, in that I had been able to achieve something inthe Department of War Organization of Industry, whereas he had been unable to achieve anything. From what I know of the honorable member’s career before he entered this Parliament, I am aware that he flirted with heterodox theories offinance. I use the expression “ flirted “ deliberately, because I do not believe that he had a profound belief in the theories that he advanced.; otherwise governments of his kidney would have made use of the principle - an which I believe, ami which has been enunciated so often by honorable members on this side - tha t national credit can be used to enable idle resources to be put to work. If the honorable member, and the governments that he supported, had done that, there would not have been a shortage of 150,000 houses in the Commonwealth when the war broke out, and the task of the Department ofWar Organization of Industry in the control of building would have been very much less difficult than it is to-day.
The honorable member was formerly in the Parliament of New South Wales. In due course he entered this Parliament; and in June of last year he was appointed Minister for War Organization of Industry. In his speech, he expressed the opinion that the Departments ofWar Organization of Industry, Supply and Development, and Munitions, should be placed under the control of one Minister.. Did he take steps, when he was Minister, forthe amalgamation of those three departments? Not one word did he then say about the necessity for so doing. I point out that governments to which the honorable member gave allegiance were the ones to subdivide the Department of Supply and Development into the Departments of Supply and Development, and Munitions, and later tosetup the Department of War Organization of Industry.Therefore, it is rather futile for the honorable member atthis late hour to suggest the amalgamation of those three departments. The honorable member gave a grandiose description of plans he had had for the organization of industry for war purposes. I say quite definitely that when 1 took over the Department of War Organization of Industry, the papers in it consisted of half a dozen sheets of foolscap. I challenge the honorable member to deny that during the three and a half months of his tenure of office the department failed to make a single submission to Cabinet, or to. issue a single order or regulation on the subject of organizing industry for the purposes of war. This mountain of intellect laboured for three and a half months, and did not bring forth even a mouse; or, if it did, the product was stillborn, and the public did not see it. At the end of three and a half months, the honorable member was “ dragged screaming from the tart shop “, and he has continued to scream ever since. I am glad to be able to place before the House evidence that every member of the business community does not share the opinion of the honorable member or the Leader of the Opposition. The following letter was addressed, to me personally by the business manager of the very well known Rydge’s Business J Journal : -
Under separate cover I have pleasure in posting to you a copy of the October issue of Rydge’s which features the story of war organization of industry.
This is most enlightening and wiLl be much appreciated by the business men who are readers of Radge’s. I feel sure that they will be amazed at the immensity of the organization required to achieve the desired results and will realize, probably for the first time, the tremendous task that lies ahead of the Department of War Organization of Industry.
I, personally, had my eyes opened, and sincerely congratulate you on the establishment of this organization, which is doing such a thorough job with merited success.
Trusting the presentation of the article meets with your approval.
Yours very truly,
A portion of the criticism of the honorable member for Robertson arose from a complete misconception of what the functions of the Department of War Organization of Industry should be. The honor- able member said that he was somewhat doubtful as to whether Australia had not undertaken to do a little more in regard to its war effort than it was possible for it to do. He went on to say that one of the functions of the Department of War Organization of Industry should be to survey the whole range of war activities of this country, including the number of men in the fighting services, in order to decide whether there were not too many men in the Army and too few in industry. I put it to the House, that that is a matter of very high policy; in fact, it is a matter that is discussed and decided by the highest body in the Government, namely, the War Cabinet. To suggest that the Department of War Organization of Industry, and myself as a comparatively junior Minister, should undertake the task of deciding what should be the strength of our armed services, is too silly for words. So I say that in many respects the criticisms of the honorable gentleman arose from an entire misconception of what ought to be the functions of my department. The honorable gentleman went on to say that my department had not accomplished very much. I hardly know what to make of his speech. In one sentence he said that I had not dome anything; yat a considerable portion of his speech was devoted to the argument that I had done too much. In my opinion, the transfer of 400,000 persons from, civil employment to the war effort since this Government took office and 1. assumed charge of the department is an accomplishment of which the department may well ‘be proud. That diversion of labour from normal peace-time work to the national war effort, has been achieved without any serious dislocation of the .economic life of the community. I am not claiming all the credit for that. But I do claim that the department that I administer has been instrumental in preparing the plans upon which the diversion took place. I am proud that my department was the author of many of the plans for which I have been criticized. Those plans had to be submitted to the Production Executive of Cabinet, of which the Department of War Organization of Industry is the secretariat. I make that clear, not because I want to “pass the buck”, but because I should like the House to realize that all those plans were examined exhaustively not by one Minister alone but by a body of competent Ministers. They were studied from the point of view of each department that is represented by a Minister on the Production Executive. In this respect, all must agree with the proverb, “ In the multitude of counsellors there is safety”. The honorable member went on to say that another function of my department should be to present a picture of the entire economic activities of the nation to the Government. He displayed crass ignorance of what has actually happened; because, in the month of April, my department placed before the Government a review of the whole of the economic life of the community, and on the strength of’ that report the Prime Minister made in this House the statement that the plans- of the Government envisaged the transfer of 318,000 persons from their existing occupations to the war effort between that date and the end of the year. That transfer meant the steady flow of 35,000 persons each month from their ordinary occupations to the war effort. From the date of that statement until to-day, this steady flow has continued. Not only was a review made in the month of April, but in addition a continuing review has since been made. Cabinet has only recently considered the latest review by the departmental committee set up by the Department of War Organization of Industry to deal with this particular matter.
I pass from the general aspect to a few specific matters that have been mentioned by honorable members. Both the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) referred to the subject of banking, and the honorable member for Robertson cited some figures which emanated from the largest bank in Australia. The policy of the Government is to close down some of the bank ‘branches in centres where several branches are operating, leaving the business to be concentrated in those remaining.
– Hotels come under the control of my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), and I do not. propose to interfere with his able administration. According to the figures cited by the honorable member for Robertson, this particular bank had closed 168 branches ; but a great many of them were in towns where no other bank was operating. In other words, the bank closed down its smaller branches, leaving many centres unprovided with banking facilities. It did not do what we wanted done, namely, exchange business with other banks, and close down branches where several branches were open. I regret to say that I have had very little co-operation from the banks generally in the carrying out of Government policy. The banks have closed down small branches, and blamed my department for making them do it. They have told their clients that I was responsible for the closing down of the branches, when it had actually been done against my wishes. Unfortunately, I have no more power to prevent the closing of a bank branch than to prevent the closing of a grocer’s shop. Members of the Opposition frequently declare that we should follow the lead of Great Britain, particularly in regard to the formation of a national government. They cite the example of Great Britain when it suits their book; but they conveniently forget what is being done in Great Britain when that does not suit them. My original statement regarding the rationalization of banking in Australia was made in March, and in the following May the British Government, believing, evidently, that what we proposed to do was reasonable, decided to apply a similar policy, as is shown by the following report published in the Canberra Times : -
The Associated Press’s disclosure of the proposal for telescoping the financial institutions, including those of Australia, was recalled to-day, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Kingsley Wood), in reply to an inquiry as to whether it was proposed to secure any further release of man-power from financial institutions, stated that a further review of the position was now necessary.
The honorable member for Robertson blamed me for not having consulted sufficiently with the representatives of industry. I do not suppose that there is any other Minister in the Government who has had more consultations with the representatives of industry than I have had.. The honorable member made a sneering reference to the vestless “vic- tory suit”. When the scarcity of clothing was being considered by my department, we decided to consult the representatives, of the industry,, and ask them how cloth could be saved. The Master Tailors Association of New South Wales suggested the elimination of vests. On the one hand, the honorable member chides me for not consulting the representatives of industry, and then, when I take their advice, he makes a sneering reference to what was done.
– The Minister took the “ V “ out of vest, anyway.
– Yes, and we shall take the “vest” out of vested interests, too, before we have finished. The honorable member for Robertson also mentioned stock licks. I advise him not to rush in where any circumspect angel would fear to tread. When the scarcity of salt was brought to the notice of my department - honorable members may not be aware that salt is being rationed in a neighbouring dominion because insufficient supplies are forthcoming from Australia - we asked ourselves whether any saving could be made in connexion with the salt used for licks. We consulted the veterinary departments of all the States, and they unanimously endorsed the proposal to prohibit the manufacture of saltlicks for sheep ; yet thehonorable member asks me why I did not consult with the people who ought to know. If the State veterinary authorities do not know, who does?
– Why not ask the men who run the sheep?
– Ifwe want to find out something about medicines, we do not ask the patient, but the doctor. I happen, also, to be the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which ‘ has a section, known as the MacMaster Laboratory, devoted to the health of animals. Some years; ago, it conducted experiments in order to find out whether saltlicks were beneficial to sheep, and the emphatic conclusion was reached that they were of no benefit whatever. The honorable member suggested that we should have consulted the men who run the sheep; but I point out that the MacMaster Laboratory is subsidized to the amount of £10,000 a year by the Australian Wool Board. That is evidence that those interested in the wool industry have every confidence in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the work it does to promote the health of animals. With that advice from every State veterinary department, confirmed by the findings of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, my department could not do anything else, having regard to the- general shortage of salt, but prohibit the use of salt licks.
The Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Robertson, and the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) referred to the closing of small businesses. I confess: that this matter has worried me greatly; but I do not think that the Opposition has any right to complain. The first occasion when small businesses suffered was when the last Government introduced petrol rationing, which had the effect of closing down hundreds of small garages.
– Does not the Minister think that petrol should have been rationed ?
– Yes, I believe that rationing of petrol should have been introduced at the right time; but that is not the point. The Leader of the Opposition now claims that owners of small businesses which have been closed down should be compensated; but no attempt was made by the last Government to compensate the owners of small garages which were closed down as a result of. petrol rationing.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) displayed lamentable ignorance of what my department is doing., He criticized rationalization when he was really talking about rationing, and he criticized rationing when he was talking about rationalization. It Itis obvious that the honorable member does not know the difference between the two. He said that I had introduced rationing in order to release labour. That is incorrect. That would be true of rationalization, but it is not true of rationing. Rationing has not had for its purpose the release of manpower,but merely the more equitable distribution of goods in short supply. The fact that the honorable member is confused between the two terms shows that he has no comprehension of what my department is doing.
– That was well recog nized even before the Minister proved it.
– The Leader of the Opposition mentioned branded goods. My department has never at any time considered the abolition of brands in a general way; but it has imposed some restrictions. Let us consider the position in regard to cloth, which isbeing manufactured in large quantities for the services.For reasons of efficiency, one factory may concentrate exclusively upon the manufacture of air force blue, although formerly it made a variety of branded cloths which were sold to the public. If a factory which is instructed to concentrate upon civilian production were allowed to sell its products under its own ‘brand, that brand would be much more widely distributed among the public than was formerly the case, and it wouldreap atrade advantage over the firm which is exclusively engaged upon the production of material for the services. ‘Therefore, the use of brands hasbeen restricted in cases of that kind.
The Leader of the Opposition also mentioned patent medicines. I do not knowwhere he obtained his information, but nine-tenths ofwhat he said was a fairy tale, neither morenor less. The action taken toy the Production Executive was in accordance with asubmission from the Minister for Health (Mr. Holloway), and provided that formulae for patent medicinesshouldbe submitted to the Commonwealthhealth authorities.
If, upon examination, it was found that a medicine did not do what was claimed for it in the advertisement, its manufacture wasprohibited. That is all my department has done in regard to patent medicines. There is no question of creating a monopoly. All that the Production Executive proposes to do, on the advice of the Department of Health, is to cut out those patent medicines which are of no value to anybody in the community, except, perhaps, the people who audit the accounts of the manufacturers.[Extension of time granted.] The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) also told a fairy tale about a plan for concentrating thebusiness of chemists.
-I thought that the Minister might have consideredit.
– The right honorable gentleman should not put these ideas into my mind, because I may act upon them. The Government has made certain plans for the conduct of the war in the Pacificand the defence of Australia. They include the munitions programme, the manufacture of equipment, the building of strategic roads and railways, the cons truction of aerodromes, the building of invasionbarges and lighters, and scoresof projects which will strain the labour resources of thiscountry to the limit. Between now and March, ifwe are to give effect to these plans, diversion of labour must take place tothenumber of more than200,000 people. That diversion can he done in an ordered way only by the preparation of plansby adepart- mentsuch as the Department of War Organizationof Industry. Ihave told the House whatmydepartment has accomplished. We have doneit in an ordered manner and in such a way that theeconomic life of thecommunity has not beensubjected to astrain greater than couldbeborne . If we planahead in the same manneras we have acted,I am sure that we can divert that labour.I am proud of what the department has done, and I challenge any one to show that the vast diversion of labour that has so far been accomplished could have been earned out in any otherway.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the (late of its next sitting.
Canned Fru its - P otatoes .
It has been reported to me that canned fruit salad was requisitioned for the American troops. In order to comply with the requisition, the Australian authorities returned to the Shepparton cannery quantities of canned peaches, pears, apricots and pineapples for retreatment. The cans were opened and emptied, the fruit sliced, and some passion fruit added. The fruit was re-canned as fruit salad. The shortage of tinplate is so intense as to make impossible the packing of certain commodities which were canned inpeace-time. The syrup which was wasted in that operation contained large quantities of sugar, a commodity which is rationed.
In anticipation of receiving a defence order for fruit salad, the Shepparton Preserving Company opened large cans of tropical Queensland fruit to mix with locally produced fruit - peaches pears, &c. This action by the cannery was discovered by service authorities, and the cannery was immediately prohibited from further making up this mixed salad pack. There was no dispatch from either the Australian or the American Army depots of supplies to the cannery. The honorable member, in effect, said that either the Australian or the American forces were sending back to the cannery cans of fruit tobe opened and cut up for salad.
– I did not understand the honorable member to say that.
– I think that the honorable member for Fawkner meant that canned fruit had been taken out of the trade to be repacked.
– From the honorable member’s statement that cans of fruit had been sent back to the cannery, I inferred that he was referring to supplies to the forces; but that does not matter. The facts are as I say. No fruit was sent back. In peace-time it has been the practice of the cannery to bring from Queensland large containers of tropical fruit which, at a certain period, are opened so that the fruit can be mixed with peaches, pears and apricots.
– Was the syrup poured away?
– It may have been, because the tins were opened. The point I wish to make is that representatives of the Department of Supply and Development keep a close watch on canneries in order to ensure that tinplate shall not be wasted. It was in carrying out that duty that the officer at the Shepparton Preserving Company’s cannery saw that peace-time activity being continued in war-time. The department took immediate steps to ensure its discontinuance. The American forces were disturbed about the press reports of the honorable member’s speech. They considered that it was a reflection on them and that it would make a bad impression on the public. They communicated with the Department of Supply and Development about the matter. Yesterday the honorable member for Fawkner, in a personal explanation, complained that a member of the Contract Board had made a statement on the subject to the press. He did not make a statement to the press, but he did inform an American war correspondent, at his request, of what had really happened. He made the statement in good faith but the information was not used in the way in which he meant it to be used, because it was passed to the newspapers. The Department of Supply and Development is to be commended, not criticized, for its part in the affair.
The honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell), on the same occasion, raised the matter of potatoes and directed attention to the fact that potatoes were rotting on the wharfs in Tasmania.
– “Deteriorating” was the word I used.
– At any rate, 1 was concerned about the honorable member’s statement, because potatoes are in such short supply, and I should like the honorable member to provide me with details. I do not deny that his charge may be established. Potatoes may be left on the wharfs because of lack of shipping. I am given to understand that last week a shipment of potatoes arrived in Sydney in a bad condition. That may be proof of what the honorable member said. The Department of Supply and Development would be obliged if the honorable member would supply full particulars.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Minister used the word “rotting”, which also appeared in the press. I said that potatoes were deteriorating, and explained that it was because they had been dug when immature and had remained on the wharfs for a long time. I referred in my speech to a question by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) about potatoes that had deteriorated on the wharfs in Sydney, and had been distributed to the public in a rotten condition. I did not imply that potatoes were shipped in that condition.
Sitting suspended from 4.15 to 4.80 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Answers to Questions - Engineering Tradesmen - Sittings of Parliament - Constitution Alteration Committee - War Situation - Repatriation : Case of R. S. Owen - ‘Salt Licks for
Sheep - Apples and Pears - Australian Broadcasting Commission : Broadcast of Addresses - Divorce Law - Discharged Soldiers: Issue of Civilian Clothes - Dairying Industry : Rearing of Calves - Potatoes - Australian Army: Minors in Operational Areas; Amalgamation of FORCES - Preservation of Civil Liberties - Citrus Industry.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I desire to inform honorable members that instructions have been issued that final answers to questions upon notice which have not been given before Parliament rises, arc to be furnished by letter as early as possible to the honorable members concerned. When Parliament re-assembles the texts of replies which have been furnished by letter in the interim will be submitted to the House by the appropriate Minister, with a view to their incorporation in Rannard.
As the result of the representations made by trade unions in the engineering industry, the Government has agreed that legislation will be drafted with the object of ensuring that after the termination of the waa- the rights and status of recognized tradesmen in certain engineering and other war industries shall be preserved and protected. The draft legislation will be submitted to Parliament during the next sitting period.
I express to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), and to honorable members generally, my deep appreciation of the help they have given me during this period of the sitting. I am conscious of many acts of courtesy that have been shown to me. The Government proposes to call Parliament together before Christmas. If the war situation necessitates, an early sitting will be held. I am hopeful that, the committee appointed to consider the Constitution Alteration (War Aims and Reconstruction) Bill will have made sufficient progress to enable an interim report to be submitted to honorable members when they meet. I hope that the deliberations of the committee will be of great advantage to honorable members. It may be that the comMi£t*ee will occupy .some time in ‘considering the bill, and that, .therefare, the meeting of Parliament will haws to be arranged to .fit in with its programme. It is desirable that the subject be given adequate consideration.
The war still rage3, but I do not think that the enemy is making gains on any front. I believe that the cause for which we are fighting is being vindicated.
£4.33].- -I am gravely concerned about the statements made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) in this House during his speech on the budget on Wednesday, the 23rd September, in which he alleged that a young married returned soldier had been shabbily treated by the officers of the Repatriation Commission. Those portions of his speech to which I particularly refer read -
I -regret that I feel ‘obliged to say that I consider the doctors and officers generally of the Repatriation Department seem to regard it as their job to prevent as .many returned men as possible from getting a pension . . .
Even men who have returned from this war have been treated shabbily by the department. I have in mind a young married man who had his shoulder blade broken ‘through a bomb explosion. After <his return home he. was an inmate of the ‘Caulfield Military Hospital for two or three weeks, but he received no treatment. I ‘tasek .up his case and subsequently he was given some .treatment, but was finally discharged on an unsatisfactory basis. He is a farmer’s son, but be is physically incapable of working on a -farm. He has been granted the magnificent pension of 1’Os. 4d. a week, and his wife lias been allowed 4s. a week. I do not blame the ‘Government, because it was -a matter of ‘administration.
Inquiries have elicited that the soldier referred to is Robert Stanley Owen, VX47448, sergeant, 2/3rd M.G.B., who was returned ‘to Australia, having sustained a wound, as described by the honorable member. In older to show how completely the honorable gentleman has misrepresented the position to the House., and in justice to the officers he mentioned, I submit the following facts: -
Owen’s first dealings with the Repatriation Department were in January, 1942.
He returned from overseas on a hospital ship, .and, .after three weeks’ leave, was admitted to the 115th Australian General Hospital, at .Heidelberg, Victoria, which is under the ‘Control of the Department of the Army. He was immediately “ boarded “ for reclassification, but the military authorities notified him that he was to be discharged -from t3ae Australian Imperial Force, and he was sent to the Caulfield Military Discharging Depot on the 1st January, .1942.
On -the “6 th January a letter, written from Echuca, was received from exSergeant Owen. at the Victorian branch office of the Repatriation Department, asking for information in regard to a wai* pension. As service records had already been received by the .Repatriation Department on the 10th January, a rail warrant was sent directing him to report at the Repatriation Branch Office in Melbourne on Thursday, the 15th January. This he did, and, after examination by the medical officer, immediate admission to the Caulfield Repatriation General Hospital was recommended. Owen entered that hospital, on the 16th January, and treatment by electrotherapy short-wave diathermy .was immediately ordered and commenced.- This was continued until the ‘9th February, when it was supplemented by massage treatment. He remained in the Repatriation General Hospital. Caulfield, until the !8th April, 1942, when he was discharged. It was considered that further progress would be more than likely to occur if he engaged in active civilian occupation, for which he was considered quite fit. He had only been retained in hospital because he lived iaa the country.
To show how unfair and unfounded were the .allegations .made by the honorable member f or Bendigo, I point out that he stated that Owen “ was an inmate of the Caulfield Military Hospital for two or three weeks, but he received no treatment “. It is inconceivable that any one, unless he had been deliberately misled, could have made such unfounded statements. ‘The facts are that during his period -at Caulfield Hospital, Owen received -58 short-wave treatments and 42 massage treatments, each treatment Hasting from IS to 25 minutes.
Concerning the alleged shabby treatment mentioned by the honorable member for Bendigo, I point out that although the date of Owen’s discharge had been fixed by the Army for the 31s.t January, 1942, immediately he was admitted to the Repatriation General Hospital, Canlfield, the Repatriation Department made representations for cancellation of this date, and, in consequence, Owen was not discharged until the 20th April, 1942. His pension commenced on the 21st April, 1942. Owen lodged a claim for unemployment sustenance on the 6th June, 1942, and continued to receive sustenance at the rate of £4 10s. a fortnight, exclusive of war pension, from the date of the lodgment of claim, until the 5th September,. 1942. Owen appealed against his assessment of war incapacity to the Assessment Appeal Tribunal, which is a completely independent body. He was examined by two independent specialists on the 18th August, and their report shows that there was really no physical disability, that there was no wasting, that all movements of the shoulder were . good, and that most of his trouble appeared to be of psychological origin. It will thus be seen that the honorable member’s allegations, and especially his statements relating to the doctors and officials of the Repatriation Department, who, themselves, are, of course, returned soldiers, are entirely without foundation.
– I bring to the attention of the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) an article which appears in Bulletin No. 147, dated Melbourne, 1942, issued by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and entitled “Enzootic Ataxia and Copper Deficiency of Sheep in Western Australia “. I direct special attention to page3 38 and 39, which relate to farm management and copper supplements. On page 39 of the pamphlet the following statements appear: -
Under Western Australian conditions the supplement can be conveniently administered in lick form, since salt licks containing copper sulphate are relished by sheep and readily taken by young, lambs. Licks currently contain from 0.2a to 0.5 per cent, copper sulphate, the concentration being adjusted to aim at an average daily consumption in the vicinity oi 10 nig., of Gu. Although supplementation for only a portion of the gestation period may prevent ataxia, it is recommended that licks be available to the flock throughout the year, since regular consumption results in marked improvement in the health and production of the adults and in optimal development in the lambs. [ ask the Minister whether that statement may be accepted as an accurate presentation of the position in relation to the use of salt licks.
.- I was glad to hear the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. ‘Curtin) concerning answers to questions, upon notice. Two days ago I asked a question regarding the quality of leather supplied to Tasmania. I shall be glad to receive that reply in due course.
I wish to bring to the notice of the Government the unsatisfactory position that exists in regard to the price of apples. I have before me an article which appeared in the Sunday Truth of the 4th October, which gives some remarkable discrepancies, or apparent discrepancies, between the prices paid to growers of apples and the prices charged to retail purchasers-. I realize the difficulties that have faced the industry in the last few years owing to the loss of our export trade, and also the difficulties that have faced the Apple and Pear Marketing Board. The remarkable thing to me i& that although we have lost our export trade in apples and pears, the prices charged for the fruit in Australia have been higher than I have ever known them to be. At the same time great quantities of fruit have gone to waste in Tasmania. I am well aware that transport is a problem. There ia a market available on the mainland, but it has been difficult to obtain shipping. On occasions when large consignments have been brought to Australia trouble has been encountered in providing cool storage. The whole problem of transport is difficult. There is, however, in my opinion, a disposition on the part of some people to exploit the general public in consequence of the prevailing difficulties. I should not mind so much if I thought that the grower was getting the benefit; but. I atn fairly certain that he is not. The figures published in the article to which I have referred show that for some time exploitation has been practised by certain members of the community. The board ought not to attempt to exploit the community because of the present situation. Not at any time are apples worth 9d. per lb.; yet a fortnight ago they were displayed for sale at that price in Melbourne. In my opinion, to charge that price for apples, and 6d. and Sd. per lb. for pears, is to practise daylight robbery. The article makes the following statement : -
In an interview with officers of the Apple and Pear Board last week, the following facts
Those are stated, to be official figures, supplied to a representative of this newspaper. I am convinced that the public is being asked to pay more. The points that I make are: That the grower is not receiving the benefit of the price paid for apples by the retailer; that if the board is charging undue prices to the retailer, it has no right to profiteer at the expense of the community in these days; and that, if it is not receiving an undue price, some action should be taken by the Prices Commissioner in order to ensure that the public shall not be exploited by the middle class section of the trade in the retailing of this fruit. The appropriate Minister should get the Prices Commissioner to consider action against exploiters in this regard.
– A few days ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) gave an answer to a question in relation to broadcasts from Wesley Church, Melbourne. In the course of it he read to the House a report that he had received from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The relevant portion of the report was substantially in these terms -
The second talk was programmed by Rev. Dr. Irving Benson while he was under notice that exception had been taken to the first talk and was, therefore, aware that the propriety or otherwise of such talks was under consideration by the Postmaster-General and commission.
I have had a communication from the Rev. Dr. Irving Benson, who is in charge of the Central Mission at Melbourne. He is exercised about that statement, because it is not in accordance with the facts. The facts as he sets them out - and I have no doubt whatever that they are truly set out - are these -
On the 24th August, I arranged with Professor Woodruff to address the “ Pleasant Sunday Afternoon “, and duly notified the manager of the Australian Broadcasting Coinmission by letter on the 3rd September that Professor Woodruff would speak on the 23rd September on “ This Liquor Tyranny “. Five days later, on the 8th September, you sent a letter to me enclosing a protest by the United Licensed Victuallers Association objecting to Dr. Mackeddie’s speech on “ Alcohol and Efficiency “, and asking if I would comment. I was away in Newcastle when your letter reached my office and I was not advised of it. Immediately on my return to Melbourne on the 1 7th September I replied to you saying that the best comment was to forward Dr. Mackeddie’s script to the Postmaster-General so that he could form his own opinion.
The point is, that the title of the address was notified by Dr. Benson - that is to say, the talk was programmed by him - eight days before the letter from the Australian Broadcasting Commission, enclosing the protest of the United Licensed Victuallers Association, was received at the office of the Central Mission. It is desirable that that be stated; because it would bc serious indeed if the suggestion should go unchallenged that the gentleman who presides over this mission, who ha3 done great work in the city of Melbourne, and whose pulpit on Sunday afternoon - as the Prime Minister knows - is an open forum, the speakers being by no means confined to one political party, had in. some improper way included a subject in a programme after he had been told that the matter was the subject of controversy. I am quite sure that the Prime Minister will agree that it is desirable that the matter be set right.
I should like to say this before sitting down : As the Prime Minister has himself pointed out, there is nothing denominational about the service at Wesley Church on Sunday afternoon. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has spoken there. I believe that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has done so. Certainly the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) has. I have spoken there, perhaps, once a year, for some years past. It is in no sense a political forum. But it is a. very valuable forum for the discussion of social questions of wide interest. Dr. Irving Benson and hispredecessors are to be congratulated upon the broadminded way in which they have approached these questions, and the opportunity they have given the people to hear them discussed.
.- In the first place, I ask the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) whether he proposes to do anything in regard to a uniform federal divorce law, or alternatively the alteration of the law so as to adopt the domicile of Australia as a sufficient ground for all jurisdictions in divorce.
The answer that I received to a question concerning the issue of civilian clothes to discharged soldiers would appear to be, that a free issue of a civilian outfit is made to soldiers in necessitous circumstances who, at the time of their discharge, have less than £20 due to them, including deferred pay, but that a civilian outfit is not freely issued to any other soldier. I submit that this policy should be reconsidered by the Department of the Army. It is pointed out by my correspondents that a soldier who is discharged after a short period of service receives a civilian outfit, whereas a man who has served for a considerable time is forced to provide a civilian outfit for himself, either out of his deferred pay or in some other way. It is suggested that whenever a soldier, particularly one with long service, is discharged, he should receive a civilian outfit gratis.
I now come to a more serious matter. The view has been expressed to me by numbers of people that there is a great probability of a shortage of food in Australia, due largely to the increased demands by the various services on the food supply of this country. It is said that the danger is aggravated by directions which have been given by the department - I take it to be the Department of Commerce - to producers. The direction of which complaint is made is an instruction, or suggestion, that calves should be reared by dairy-farmers instead of being killed. The objection taken is that the rearing of calves naturally diminishes the milk supply. Those who have been in touch with me on the subject have urged that the milk supply, instead of being diminished, should be maintained and, if possible, increased. It is also represented to me that sufficient care is not taken to ensure that seed potatoes are placed in the hands of persons who will make the best use of them. It is suggested that seed potatoes are being wasted by being supplied indiscriminately to people without any departmental ascertainment of the use to which they will be put. The point is that, unless proper steps be taken to prevent it, there will be grave danger of a shortage of food in the near future.
– The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) referred to the price of apples. It is not one of my functions to defend the administration of a government department, but I hope that in presenting a case to the Parliament, I always do so fairly. Knowing that members of Parliamentwould often be misled unless they investigated complaints made to them, I always take the trouble to inquire into a case before I make any complaint concerning it, and I think others should do so. The honorable member for Bass said that about a fortnight ago apples were offered for sale in Melbourne at 9d. per lb. I have never known apples to be offered for sale at that price at any period of the year. A fortnight ago I purchased, in Melbourne, Jonathan apples - one of the most popular varieties of eating apples - for1s. a doz., or1d. each. I bought them at the railway station, where apples are not usually cheaper than elsewhere. I also saw them at the same price in other shops in Melbourne. The difference between the price paid to the producer of apples and that charged to the consumer varies considerably. Frequently the consumer thinks that the price that he pays is too high. There may be several reasons for that; one is that some of our legislation, is responsible. The price charged for apples varies greatly in Australian cities. In some shops in Collins-street, Melbourne, for example, apples are very much dearer than on barrows in the streets or at the railway station. In addition to buying apples in Melbourne at Id. each, my family purchases apples from time to time in Tasmania by the. case. Up to the time that I was last at home, the. price charged for the best eating apples was 5s. 6d. a case delivered to the home. For that fruit the producer was paid 3 s. a case, and presentation costs, which cover packing, case, &c., amounted to ls. 2d. In the circumstances, 5s. 6d. was not, an unreasonable charge. In the light of those facts the case presented by the honorable member for Bass was a gross exaggeration. Apples can be purchased at much lower prices than he stated.
.- In the absence of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), I draw the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr.. Curtin) to some questions which I hs.ve raised in this House on several occasions. I do so now because I am not satisfied with the result of the representations that I have made. I believe that the Government’s policy which allows young men of eighteen years of age to be sent to battle stations is utterly wrong. The matter has not been satisfactorily adjusted, notwithstanding that the Minister for the Army has told us that from the 15th or 16th July last, there has been in operation a new order under which boys under 20 years of age, who have not had at least six months’ training, are not to be sent to battle stations. That, however, is a policy for the future. I am concerned with the fact that youths are now at battle stations at Darwin, and in far northern Queensland, and New Guinea. In the last war, when the fighting was nothing like so arduous as it is in New Guinea, to-da.y - there was not the same privation, the same dense jungle, the same danger from malaria and other tropical diseases., or the same heavy rainfall. I had hoped that as the result of the visit to New Guinea of the Minister for the Army and the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) some change would be made. Having been to New Guinea and knowing what the country there is like, I urged that Ministers should visit New Guinea, in order to acquaint themselves with conditions there. I thought that on his return from New Guinea the Minister for the Army would say openly that it was no place for youths of eighteen years of age.
– What age would the honorable gentleman fix ?
– I should be prepared to fix it as low as nineteen years, because that was the minimum age at which soldiers were allowed to go to France in the last war.
– In the last war, very many under nineteen years of age served in France and some were wounded.
– If the right honorable gentleman adheres, to that statement, I say, as one who was adjutant of a battalion in France during the last war, that he has been misinformed.
– If a young man who is not yet nineteen years old refuses to leave New Guinea would the honorable member compel him to return to Australia ?
– I say advisedly, that in the interests of the Army and of the lads themselves, that no soldier under nineteen years of age should stay in New Guinea. I do not qualify that statement in any way whatsoever. Many lads of eighteen years of age, who are there today would resent being told to return to Australia. They would resent what they would call my interference to-day. However, I have the courage to urge that they shall be relieved from service there as early as the exigencies of war permit. I do not suggest that .this should be done by disorganizing the Army; the withdrawals can be effected in a systematic way. The Army has a big job ahead of it, and we must husband our man-power. We are not doing that by sending undeveloped lads to the north, where they are campaigning under conditions of great hardship,and are likely to contract tropical diseases. The Minister for theArmy referred yesterday to a newpolicy dating back to the 10th July. I appreciate the fact that this new policy has been embarked upon; butthe fact remains that lads in theireighteenth year are still in New Guinea. I know some from my own electorate who are still there, unless they have come away within the last few days. I ask the Minister to have them brought back to Australia and given leave. Then they should be medically examined in order to see whether they have contracted atropical disease, and afterwards they should be given duties in Australia commensurate with their age. I know that the Defence Act provides that males of eighteen years of age are liable for service in Australia and its territories ; but Ido not think that lads of that age should be sent to serve in the tropics. I trust that the Minister will bring this matter before the next meeting of the War Cabinet.
I also ask the Minister to give further consideration to the proposal for the amalgamation of the Australian Military Forces and the Australian Imperial Force. It ispreposterous that ours should be the only army in the world which is operatingunder two different sets of conditions. If we were attacked in Australia,and theJapanese were driven back to the coast, and we wished toembark men on transports to follow the enemy to Java or elsewhere, our commanders would have to order the Australian Military Forces to stand aside while the Australian Imperial Force went on. At the time, the Australian Military Forces might be right opposite the places where embarkation should take place, and the Australian Imperial Force might he many miles away, so that a re-arrangement of forces would be necessary. The advantages gained in battle wouldbe lost, and it might cost tens of thousands oflives to re-establish the position. The Ministerfor the Army paid a tribute to theMilitia. I endorse his remarks;but I am convinced that themorale of our fighting forces, which to-day is very high, would be higher still if the Minister would do what I am asking, and what the members of the forces themselves, and their commanding officers, want done.
– I support the request of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) for the withdrawal of lads of eighteen years of age from Papua, and other northern battle areas. During the Great War, Great Britain did not send toFrance youths ofeighteen until after the collapse of General Gough’s Fifth Army. Then, Mr. Lloyd George sent 230,000 lads of that age toFrance; but I remember reading in the London Times his explanation that they were being sent only of dire necessity. I propose to read to the House some extracts from letters which I have received from womenin various parts of Australia. In the first letter, a mother writes as follows-: -
My son was first calledup on the 31st March, 1942. Hewas then eighteen years andsix months old. He was allotted to the 24th R.A.E., and after ‘being in camp threeweeks, he wassent to Townsville. The last letter from Townsville was datedthe 4th July,sayinghe was going to an unknown destination. I heard nothing more ofhis whereabouts until I received a fieldcard dated the 16th July, After receiving the field card, I hadan interview with Mr.- the member for– who assuredme that my son was not at a battle stationas no boy of eighteen was being sent there. After a long silence I received a letter on the 22ndSeptember,informing mehe was in New Guinea. My husband has returned from the Middle East, and is at presentservingin northern Queensland. My other son is also in camp, and I am quite alone and very worried that so young a boy should have been sent to abat tle station, with so little training.
Hoping you maybe able to use thisinformation as concrete evidence that boys of eighteen were sent to battle stations.
The next letter comes from Annandale. in New South Wales, and the woman writes as follows: -
Re your question in Parliament,if it was true boys of eighteen were sent toPort Moresby. I can assure you it is perfectly true. My own son was sent in May of this year. He was eighteen years and four months, when called up in January. To prove this further, I wrote to the Prime Minister re this lad, and he assured me on the 20th March that lads of his age were not to be sent , to battle stations. I wrote him again when he was sent, and he referred my letter to Mr. Forde. I also contacted Mr. Rosevear. My reply from Mr. Forde was to the effect that on the 18th March certain instructions were issued.
The third letter is from Marrickville -
My eldest son has been serving in the Darwin area since January. He is 22 and, of course, a man. I have no reason to object. He takes his chance with the Test; but I am greatly concerned about my young son, knowing that he should never have been sent to where he now is. If it were possible for you to force a showdown on this issue and have my son and his young associates returned for duty in their home States, you will have earned, I am sure, the gratitude of many parents of these unfortunate boys.
– How old is he ?
– The writer states-
My young son was sent into camp on the 5th January last, about three weeks after he turned eighteen, was dispatched to Port Moresby on the loth May last, without any leave whatsoever.
The fourth letter is from Annandale -
I have two sons in the Army and the youngest one of eighteen years was sent to Port Moresby, while the eldest one is in Australia. The latter has been in the Army fifteen months, but the young one was in cu mp only four months and sent straight to Port Moresby. Boys of that age are not lit for battle stations and Mr. Curtin assured us that boys under 21 years would not be sent to battle stations.
The fifth letter is from Belmore -
You nsk if it is true that boys of eighteen years of age have been sent to New Guinea. Well, 1 have definite proof as my own son. who is eighteen nml » half years old, is at present somewhere in New Guinea and has been there for four months. When I knew that he had been sent to New Guinea, I wrote to Victoria Barracks and also to Mr. Forde himself to have him returned as he is too young and inexperienced to become a frontline soldier, and was informed that nothing could be dune. I have both replies to these letters and cun produce them for your examination if necessary.
The sixth letter is from Brisbane -
Your remarks in the House in reference to young boys without training being sent to New Guinea and the battle areas are correct.
As the father of one of these Australian Imperial Force boys, I congratulate you and can assure you there are hundreds more like myself who also thank you.
The writer of that letter signs himself “ Anxious Father “. The seventh letter has been written by a lady, from Gladesville, Sydney, whose brother is in Port Moresby -
I, as a sister of an eighteen-year-old boy in Port Moresby, New Guinea, would like to support your statement in Parliament . . He had barely three months’ training, and without final leave, was shipped to the abovementioned place. It is really scandalous to think that these young lads, who have had inadequate training should be sent to such a place as that. Lads of this age have not fully developed, and it is cruel placing them where they are to see the horrors of war, seeing cruel scenes they will never forget.
The eighth letter is from Abbotsford -
I have a son over there (in New Guinea) eighteen years of age and he has been over there for twenty weeks to-day. He only had four months’ training. I think it is a scandalous shame to send a boy of that age over there with such a climate.
During recent months, Smith’s Weekly has taken an active interest in youths sent to battle stations. According to that publication, it has a. big file of letters on the subject, and is prepared to make those letters available to the Minister for the Army upon request. I shall now give to the House information contained in an article of that newspaper of the 8th August, which has a. particular bearing on this subject. The article states that a mother at Picton, New South Wales, addressed a letter to the Minister’s colleague, the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini), against the sending of her son, a member of the Australian Military Forces, aged eighteen, with only five months’ training, to a northern battle station. I quote from the newspaper the reply which the Minister for Home Security gave to the mother’s protest -
The Minister for the Army stated some time ago that he had given direct instructions that no members of the Militia Force should be sent to battle stations unless they were properly trained, and has issued further instructions to this effect within the last fortnight. However, owing to some of these young lads being part of a complete unit that was sent away, n number of the type in question have been overlooked and sent. The Minister is endeavouring, at the earliest possible moment, to have this rectified and these boys returned.
Those are some examples of the protests which I.,’ and other honorable members, have been receiving from fathers and mothers throughout Australia. I urge the Minister to take up the matter immediately with the Commanderin.Chief of the Allied Land Forces, in order that lads of eighteen years, and under, who are now in the New Guinea battle area, shall be returned to bases in Australia where they can be adequately trained for active service by the time they reach the age of nineteen years. I believe that if the Minister insists that this action be taken, many hearts in Australia will be brighter than they are to-day. These things cut right across the heart and morale of the nation. The Minister can rectify the matter, and it- is his bounden duty to do so.
I now wish to make a suggestion to the A ttorney-General (Dr. Evatt) with respect to the preservation of civil liberties. Many people are very worried over this matter at present. I have received letters from relatives of Australian citizens who have been interned. I do not propose to read those letters. I suggest that it would bring about a very much better feeling throughout the community, and among honorable members, if the Attorney-General could see his way to set up an all-party standing committer for the preservation of civil liberties in this community. One function of the committee would be to look into cases of dispute as to the justification for internment.
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s request.
.- I support the protests of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) against the sending of soldiers of eighteen years and under to battle stations. We cannot deal with this matter effectively merely by rectifying individual cases. It involves consideration of the general principle which should be applied throughout the Army.
General Routine Order No. A.171, which was issued on the 10th July, 1942, states -
In addition, a definite assurance was given that that, instruction was issued with a view to obviating the risk that soldiers affected by that order would be posted to forward operational stations, when a brigade, or battalion, is ordered at short notice to move. At that late hour, men trained in a unit cannot be pulled out without disorganizing the unit. reducing its efficiency, and impairing the morale of the remainder of the forces. From letters which I have received, and from those read by the honorable member for New England, it appears that a number of men under eighteen years are still serving in New Guinea. If we examine this order we find that this is still possible, for the order merely excludes from service youths under twenty who have had less than six months’ training; but all youths of eighteen and a half and upwards with more than six months’ training can be and still are being sent to operational stations. I hold that this state of affairs is unfair to the youths themselves, to their mothers, and to the units in which they serve. It is unfair to the youths, because they are still adolescent, and have not the stamina to stand the hardship which active warfare entails. They just, go under, as any one with experience knows. It is unfair to the mothers, who still regard their adolescent- sons as children, which in fact they are. It, is unfair to the Army, because the presence in the ranks of boys likely to go down under hardship imposes an additional strain on the other men and reduces the efficiency of the units. The time has therefore come for the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to take up this matter seriously with a view to putting it on a proper footing. It has been said, I think by the Minister for the Army, that, after all, youths of less age are to be found in the Navy and the Air Force. It is true, as we all know, that going back in history midshipmen and cabinboys, and so on, of 14, 15 and 16have served in the Navy very well. We also know that inthe Air Force there are large numbers of men of eighteen years of age, or not much older. But the fact remains that in both services the conditions are vastly different from those existing in the Army. In the Navy the accommodation, the food, and normal routine hours are no different in war from peace. In the Air Force the conditions are largely similar. The men are far removed from the front line. They live in tents and huts with proper food and normal hours of work. They are not subject to the hardship that the troops in the front line undergo. That argument cuts no ice. No nation sends its youths into the front line, especially in days of modern warfare, unless it is forced by events to do so. I referthe Minister for the Army to what took place in the last war, and to what is taking place to acertain degree in this war. The honorable member for New England cited the British army, with which I was associated in the last war. I know from my own experience that men under nineteen years of age were not sent tothe front line, butwere kept back in depotsand training camps asreserves. Theywere not sent to the front line until thegreat emergency of 1918, when the Germans broke through, and then it was necessary to call upon every one, regardless of age, efficiency, or health. The same applied to the Australian Army. In 1917 we had in France divisions some of the units of which contained quite anumber of youths about eighteen years of age. They were withdrawn by order of the CommanderinChief from the front line, and sent back to reserve. In 1917 there was no Australian serving in the front line under the age of nineteen years. Inregard to France, I quote from volume 4, page 5, of theOfficial History of Australia in the War of 1914-18, by Dr. Bean-
Prospective Campaign for 1917.
The position was such that the French
Government, to provide for the prospective campaignof 1917, had to call up for service the 1918class, youngsters of only 18 and19 years,a proceeding naturally accompanied by anguish to the nation.
Iask the Minister for the Army to note those words, “ anguish to the nation “. The extractcontinues -
Briand was forced to explaintoa secret session of the chamber not only the immediate causes of this measure, but the whole situation.
That was the practice in France, which was and still may be a great military nation. These facts show that nations with far more military experience than we possess,havesent their youths to the firing line only in the greatest of emergencies. I ask the Government whether at the present stage a grave emergency exists. I say that it does not. There is no call to send our children into the firing line. Ithereforeask the Government to review the position from that point of view. I ask the Government, first, to withdraw all youths under nineteen from forward operational areas, in particular from New Guinea, and, secondly, to consult its military advisers with a view to making a decision of principle with regard to the whole matter.. That principle should be that no soldier shall he posted to a military unit in a fighting or operational area if he is less than nineteen years of age. It is my opinion, based on some experience of general military operations, that nineteen is the minimum age at which youths should be sent into action; but the minimum might well be increased to twenty, if the present requirements of the Army permit it to be. I am not able to judge whether that is so. The youths in these categories should be posted to training units and depots or to units which have permanent stations in areas which are unlikely -one cannotsay more than that in the present state of affairs - tobe the scene of fighting.
– What about the Navy?
– It applies toboth.
Mr.SPOONER (Robertson)[5.34].I take this opportunity to make the House and the country informed upon the problems of the citrus industry, because ofquestions that have been asked in this House in the last weekor so.
I refer particularly to a question asked by the honorable member for Darling. (Mr. Clark) yesterday, when he asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin.) whether he would make arrangements for a fixation of wholesale and retail prices for fruits and vegetables. His question followed questions asked by other honorable members more specifically about the citrus industry. If anybody is making money out of the citrus industry, it is not the grower. Because citrus fruits have been high-priced recently, there is in some directions uninformed opinion to the effect that growers are coining money out of the war.
– The growers at Gosford must be the only ones who are not satisfied !
– I represent one of the largest citrus areas in the Commonwealth.
– And one of the worst.
– That is not so.
– The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley), who comes from NewSouth Wales, knows this electorate, which contains the main citrus-growing areas of the coastal districts of that State and produces probably 40 per cent. of all the citrus fruits grown in Australia. The quality of its products is well known all over the Commonwealth. A large percentage of the men engaged in the industry are small growers. It is not one for men with large capital reserves. Most of them are on small areas on which they have expended the whole of their small capital. They depend almost entirely on their annual production of citrus fruits. This year there have been two extraordinary developments which have affected the position of growers. One was the seasonal conditions during the summer and autumn months, which are the growing season. As the result of extreme drought conditions in New South Wales early this year, the citrus crops in the coastal districts, and I believe in the Murrumbidgee area, are said by the Department of Agriculture to be 30 per cent. lighter than normally. Although I accept that as the official percentage, I am well aware of individual cases where the reduction of the crop this year due to drought conditions is as high as 75 per cent., and I have heard of many places where the crops are from 50 per cent. to 70 per cent. lighter than in a normal year. A well-known grower writes to me from the Kurrajong district, which is in the electorate of the Treasurer, that his normal crop is 3,000 cases but this year he will market only 700 cases.. That is due to the season. The citrus-grower, of course, has to suffer those conditions like all other primary producers, but in addition he is asked this year to make a very large contribution to the Governments’ requirements of citrus juice for the fighting services, and is doing it willingly. I pay a tribute to the Minister for Supply and Development, who is very capably and sympathetically administering the department’s requirements of citrus fruits. There is, therefore, no question of politics in what I am saying. I saw the Minister in Melbourne, and he made all arrangements for his department to investigate the growers’ position. I do not suggest that the department has treated citrus-growers unfairly. The Army requirements forcitrus fruits this year were very different from those of any other year. The presence of so many Americans demanded the manufacture of citrus juice in large quantities, and the department very properly decided to obtain the fruit by means of a quota deduction from the crops of all growers. That meant that the first-class table fruit which in other years was marketed by the gro wers at full prices must be sold this year to the department at a. very much lower figure. At present good citrus fruit realizes approximately 22s. a bushel case, but arrangements have been made to sell it to the Government at £15 a ton, which is equal to approximately 6s. 3d. a bushel case. The effect of those two influences, the heavily diminished yield and the sale of a substantial proportion of the crop to the Government at considerably lower than the market price, is that the grower must depend on what remains for most of his income. It is a very much reduced residue, and, consequently, the position of growers this year L-5 by no means enviable. I have been informed by many of them that this year it is impossible for more than a few growers to cover working expenses. That, fact should be known to the public who should not imagine that because citrus fruits are priced highly in the shops the grower is getting the benefit. Whatever the prices are, the net return to the grower after allowing foi- the two circumstances I have mentioned is that he will receive very much less than in other years. That is the position of citrus-growers in New South Wales, in which, I understand, 70 per cent, of all the citrus produced in Australia is grown. Some is grown in South Australia but I do not know how much. I am not referring to the position of the grower in that State, but I am interested in a State where 70 per cent, of the citrus is grown, and directly interested in an electorate which produces more than half of that 70 per cent.
– The citrus industry has a good deal of leeway to make up as a result of the embargo.
– That is quite true. It is not an industry which can live on its own fat, because it has had to pass through difficult days of re-organization. The embargo on the export of mandarins to New Zealand compelled fruit-growers to pull out thousands of acres of trees, and to make a fresh start. I hope that my words will reach not only honorable members and Ministers, but also the public, and make clear to them that the price of citrus fruits to-day is not due to any profits made by the growers, but that on the contrary the growers are in an unfortunate plight. I hope that the Government order some investigation that will cover the whole of the industry’s difficulties. Such an investigation is overdue. What the Government has just done in regard to a very major industry will be a necessity in other directions shortly, and I hope that the Government will, in the next few weeks, embark upon a comprehensive investigation of the problems of the citrus industry for the purpose of placing it on a sounder footing. If the war continues much longer, the citrusgrower will be obliged to make a larger contribution to the national needs than he has been called upon to make this year, and I am afraid that under present conditions he is not financially able to do so. Now is the time to have the industry looked into. The citrus-grower requires a little more than the cost of production ; he wants some reasonable profit for himself.
– I should not have risen but for the remarks of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner). I represent one of the largest citrus-growing districts in Australia, and I have had a good deal to do with citrus-growing. If the citrusgrowers of New South Wales are unable to make end3 meet when they are receiving 22s. a case for their fruit, there is something very wrong. The honorable member has told us the most fantastic story I have ever heard on this subject. I have never paid so much for oranges as I have been paying this year, but I am able to get all I need at lis. a case. T.f the Gosford growers can get 22s. a case for their fruit the growers in the Riverina should be getting 50s. a case for theirs. I know the Gosford district well. I visited it frequently while I was Minister for Commerce. I say quite frankly that some of the orange groves there are a disgrace to the growers. They are unkempt and ill-tended, and I have told the growers so to their faces. I know something, too, about the applegrowing districts represented by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). I should’ be quite prepared to meet the apple-growers there at any time to discuss the industry. They, also, have a great deal to learn. I was Minister for Commerce when the New Zealand embargo on Australian oranges was removed, and what happened? The first two shipments that were sent to New Zealand were the cause of serious complaints. Hundreds of cases were condemned because they had been falsely labelled. If any honorable gentleman wants more information on that point he may obtain it from files in the office of the Department of Commerce.
– From where did those oranges come?
– From New South Wales.
– Are all the saints in South Australia?
– They are not; nor are all the sinners in New South Wales. Some of them are to be found in this Parliament. If the Government commandeers fruit for defence purposes it should pay the growers a fair price for it. Reports have been made that 3s. 6d. acase has been paid for some commandeered fruit, though I have not been able to obtain confirmation of the price. Growers in South Australia received6s. 3d. a case for their fruit. I am in close touch with citrus-growers in my own district, and they inform me that they are well satisfied with the present state of affairs. They consider that they are on the best wicket they have known for a long time. If the growers can get 6s. or 7s. a case for their fruit, they reckon everything is all right. At present they are getting11s. a case. I know that,because I have paid that price. The honorable member for Robertson has said that growers in his district are receiving 22s. a case.
– But only for 30 per cent. of the crop.
– What are they receiving for the rest of it?
– They have only had a 30 per cent. crop because of drought conditions.
– I do not think that drought conditions should be blamed for the price.
– Does not supply govern the price?
– Supplies are heavy in some districts. There is no export of cirrus fruit to New Zealand this year to my knowledge.
– I know of one grower whosent 6,000 cases to New Zealand a month ago.
– That is only a small proportion of the requirements of New Zealand. I do not believe that any considerable quantity of Australian citrus fruit is going to New Zealand this year. New Zealand began its austerity campaign a good deal sooner than we began ours, and I understand that it has made a heavy cut in such imports. I know that the citrus-growers have their problems in regard to labour and superphosphate. I know, also, that an increase of the price of citrus fruit will not solve those problems. There is a good market for citrus fruit in Australia, and seeing that other commodities which are normally available on the market are not available this year, the marketing prospects of the citrus-growers should be brighter than usual. The citrus-growers in my district are well satisfied with the treatment they are receiving.
A good deal could be said about the quality of citrus fruit marketed in some States. The citrus-growers of New South Wales, for example, could learn a great deal from those of Victoria and South Australia.
– And also from those of Western Australia.
– The citrusgrowers in the coastal districts of New South Wales and in parts of southern Queensland market fruit which could not be sold in South Australia. If people offered it for sale they would be prosecuted. A great deal more attention should be given to the quality of the citrus fruit grown in some areas. We should pay attention to varieties as well. The Australian citrus-growers have never marketed in any quantity grapefruit which is palatable to the Australian community.
– The honorable member himself gave me some excellent grapefruit in South Australia.
– Grapefruit, of good quality is grown in only a few localities, but. the Australian citrusgrowers should specialize in its production. If they did so they could produce a fruit equal to any imported from California or Palestine.
– Hear, hear !
– The trouble with the citrus-growers in the coastal districts of New South Wales is that they are too busy selling orchards to one another to grow good fruit. The over-capitalization of the properties is one of the big problems of the industry.
– What action would the honorable gentleman suggest to meet that situation?
– I may be a lamb to look at, but I am not going to be caught with a question like that when speaking on the adjournment. It i.* a most difficult thing to protect a fool from his folly, or to prevent a man from gambling if he wishes to gamble. If people will pay unjustifiable prices for properties it stands to reason that they will be in trouble. That applies to the citrus industry as well as to the wheat and dairying industries, and the honorable member for Robertson knows it as well as I do. That is one of the big troubles in the citrus fruit and certain other industries. People desire to own land not for the purpose of living on it and improving it, but in order to dispose of it to somebody else at a fair profit.
– The question of the military service of young nien between .the ages of eighteen years and nineteen years has been raised by several speakers this afternoon; but, before I indicate what further action I intend to take on the matter, I shall make clear the position of myself and the Government, and outline the definite instructions that have been issued to commanding officers. All men between the ages of eighteen years and 60 years are liable for service under the Defence Act. I have great sympathy with the views of honorable members regarding the position of young men between the ages of eighteen years and nineteen years. When the matter was first brought to my notice in January last, I issued an instruction that youths who had not been well trained should not be sent to the tropics. Again, on the 3rd .February, I drew the attention of the AdjutantGeneral to my previous instructions that no untrained youths between the ages of eighteen years and nineteen years should be sent to Darwin or the tropics, and that only mature and well-trained men should be sent to serve in those areas. On the 18th March, a further minute was recorded by me to the Adjutant-General that no young men under twenty years of age, with less than six months’ trainLug, should -be sent to advanced operational stations, and I gave a direction that that view be implemented. On my instructions, the Adjutant-General then issued an instruction on the 18th March, 194’2, that all young men of the age of eighteen years be drafted into training depots. On the 8th April, an instruction was issued to Head-quarters, 7th Military District - that is, Darwin - that all personnel between the ages of eighteen years and nineteen years at present serving in the 7th Military District were, as far as possible, to be regarded as reinforcements, and withdrawn from units to depots in the district, or given other rear employment. A similar instruction was sent to the 8th Military District - Port Moresby - on the 3rd April, 1942. On the 27th April a reply was received from Port Moresby that action was being taken to withdraw eighteen-year-old men to training depots and rear employment.
– They were sent f orward after that date.
– On the 10th May the Adjutant-General replied as follows to the Commander of the 1st Army, with regard to the policy to be followed relative to young men under twenty years of age:-
Present policy is to permit personnel under twenty years of age actually serving with units to proceed to operational areas provided they have had three months’ training. Reinforcements under that age not to join unit until they have completed six months’ training. Owing urgency present move and if sufficient reinforcements not available to comply with six months restriction, authority given complete with those having at least three months’ training. Endeavour obtain reinforcements from those nineteen years and over.
The Commander-in-Chief, General Blainey, proceeded to Sydney, at that time, and satisfied himself that only men with more than three months training were sent to operational areas. A general routine order, No. A1 71, under the heading, “Universal Service Personnel under the age of twenty years” was issued on nay instructions on the 10th July, 1942, reading as follows: -
That was issued as the result of further discussions I had with the CommanderinChief, following certain complaints by honorable members. I am not saying this in justification of what has been done.. In. the Navy, lads between the ages of seventeen and ahalf years and eighteen years are sent to operational stations, and a similar position obtains in theRoyal Australian Air Force. A son ofthe Secretary to the Department of the Army went overseas at the age of eighteen years.
My attitude on this matter is set out in the instructions that have been issued. I can give a definite assurance that the instructions issued three months ago that soldiers under twenty years of age, who had not. had at least six months’ training would not be posted to units was issued with a view to obviating the risk of their being posted to forward operational stations, when the brigade or battalion was. ordered at short notice to move. If a body of men has only 12’ or 24 hours’ notice to move, it is difficult to pullmen out; their places have to be filled by men from other units who are probably untrained. That would be demoralizing to the whole unit. That is why the decision was made that these young men should be allotted to training depots and not to units. I understand the natural anxiety of many parents when their sons are despatched to forward operational areas. That concern is occasioned irrespective of the age of the sons.
I am informed by the CommanderinChief that all cases are considered on their merits, when application is made for the return of young men from forward operational areas. Applications have been made for the return of young men, not only those between the ages of eighteen and nineteen years, but also those of other ages-, and for varying reasons. The opinion of the Commander-in-Chief is that unless there is, very good reason, such as extreme hardship or illness, it is extremely detrimental to the morale of the troops to bring, soldiersback from forward operational stations, except on leave in turn, according to the time that they have been at their stations. I appreciate the views of honorable members on this matter because those views coincide with my own. I shall re-examine the whole matter and I ask the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) and other honorable members to forward to me definite evidence regarding it.
– I have sent a great many letters on the matter to the Minister.
– I receive about 600 letters a day and I shall ask my staff to look up any that have been forwarded by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and other honorable members. If honorable members will hand to me the letters that have been read, I can find out whether my orders have been disregarded by military officers. If they have, action will be taken against those officers. I shall also take the matter up again with the Commander-in-Chief, in order to ascertain the number of youths, if any, between the ages of eighteen and nineteen years who are in the forward operational areas in New Guinea. When I’ visited the troops there, I took a particular interest in this matter, and! asked for the age of any youthful soldier whom I met. I was informed by quite a number of them that they were nineteen and a half years old, but by not one was I told that he was under nineteen years of age. Honorable members must appreciate the difficulty that confronts the Commander-in-Chief, in the control of 500 commanding officers throughout Australia. An order having been given, there is no guarantee that every one to whom it is addressed will comply with it. Where evidence of noncompliance is furnished, I shall see that the officer concerned is dealt with.I shall ask the Comma nder-in-Chief what, arrangements he can make in regard to any young men between the ages of eighteen and nineteen years who are in that forward operational area, with a view to having them removed to a base at which they may be kept until they reach the age of at least nineteen years before being allowed to go into action. Honorable members have mentioned to me boys of eighteen years who have been sent to many of the most favored spots in Queensland, Western Australia, and other places, and have protested against their having been sent there. Some persons who live in Melbourne have complained to me about lads having been sent to Warwick or Goondiwindi, which they regard as being in the tropics. I presume that they have no knowledge of the exact whereabouts of those places. All that they know is that their sons have been stationed somewhere in Queensland.I assure the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) that the matter will be further discussed with the Com- mander-in-Chief. I shall furnish a reply to him later.
Other matters brought under my notice have been dealt with on other occasions. I shall see that they are further considered, and shall furnish replies to the honorable members concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Beer Excise Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 415.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes - Geelong, Victoria.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of office machines.
Taking possession of land, &c. (31).
Use of land.
Orders by State Premiers - New South Wales, Queensland.
National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Orders by State Premier - Queensland (2).
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1942 - No. 10 (Building and Services Ordinance).
Superphosphate Bounty Act - Return for year 1941-42.
House adjourned at6.8 p.m. to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Foodstuffs and the Agricultural Council. The Agricultural Council, as the honorable member will be aware, is comprised of the Ministers for Agriculture in the various States, and has as its chairman the Minister for Commerce, who is deputy chairman of the Food Council. In all the States except Victoria, the Directorate of Defence Foodstuffs has set up Defence Foodstuffs Advisory Committees, with the Ministers for Agriculture as their chairmen. These advisory committees arc responsible to the Controller of Defence Foodstuffs, who is the executive member of the Food Council, and who is in turn responsible to me as Minister of the department charged with the administration of defence foodstuff matters, and as chairman of the Food Council. In Victoria there is no such advisory committee, as the head office of the Defence Foodstuffs Directorate is situated in that State, but with the approval of the Minister for Agriculture there is constant association between the officers of his department and those of the Controller of Defence Foodstuffs.
n asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
In view of the changed conditions in connexion with the distribution of and the restrictions on food supplies, will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior consider the removal of the prohibition on the entry of meat into Canberra?
– It is not considered that any changed conditions governing the distribution of food supplies warrant alterations to the control of meat in the Australian Capital Territory. To permit the entry of meat into the Territory under conditions in any way comparable to the local production, would involve long rail transport, which is not desirable in the national interest.
r asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mr.Calwell asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mr.Calwell asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Mr.Forde. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The staff employed in the production, distribution and circulation of Salt and the daily rates of pay,, excluding deferred pay and dependants’ allowances, but including, subsistence, are as follows: -
The circulation and distribution staff also handle the distribution of the Current Affairs Bulletin, and of such other publications as may be produced by’ the Army Education Service.
PetrolPool - Rebates to Resellers.
– On the 2nd October, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr.Calwell) asked whether the gallonage commission paid to resellers of petrol would, under the new petrol arrangements, be retained by the oil companies, and, if so, was there any particular reason why they should become the major beneficiaries under the scheme.
I have since examined the position, and find that the intentions of the company are to dispense with the services of agents in those localities where there are depots owned and operated by the industry ; depots in these centres will also be reduced to the minimum. In districts where this plan is not practicable, it is proposed to limit the distribution to the minimum number of .agencies. To the extent that agencies are entirely eliminated, and distribution affected through industry owned and operated depots, there will be a reduction in expenditure -on account of commission. Similarly, it should follow that the saving in man-power over the whole of the industry will result in a reduction of operation costs.
As the prices charged by the pool company are controlled by the Prices Commissioner, who takes into account the gross and net profit, and who is fully acquainted with the intentions of the company in regard to rationalization, it seems apparent that the companies will derive no financial benefit from the new arrangement, and that the savings effected will be reflected in the price to the consumer.
In order that this aspect will be observed, I propose to bring under the notice of the Prices Commissioner both the question raised by the honorable member and the reply I have furnished in order that he will have before him this information for his guidance in the regulation of prices of this product.
Man-power: Employment in FREEZING Works.
d. - On Thursday, the 8th October, the honorable member for Wimmera (.Mr. Wilson) asked me the following question, without notice: - is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that officers of iia department have issued orders to farmers9 sons to leave farms and go to certain metropolitan areas to operate freezing works, whilst the Minister for Commerce has been endeavouring to secure labour to operate freezing works in country areas? In addition, does the Minister agree with the policy of still farther denuding the country districts of labour., which is already in short supply?
A reply will be conveyed to the honorable member by letter during the parliamentary recess, and incorporated in Hansard at the beginning of the next sitting period.
s asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
What is the comparison of accidents, fatal and minor, between collieries controlled by steamship companies and those owned by other interests, such as the Broken Hill Proprietary collieries, where thousands of pounds have been spent on safety measures?
– If this information is available, it will be conveyed to the honorable member by letter during the parliamentary recess, and incorporated in H<ansard at the beginning of the next sitting period.
Labour for SHEARING
d. - On the 30th September, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) asked the following question: -
Before the approach of the shearing season next year, will the Minister for Labour and National Service convene ft conference of representatives from each shearing zone in Australia for the purpose of effecting necessary adjustments so that in future shearing operations may be carried out with a minimum of loss and inconvenience ?
I intimated then that I would he prepared to call for a report as to the operation of the existing scheme, and after discussion with the DirectorGeneral of Man Power, to «all a conference of all interested parties so that amy difficulties that might have arisen might be obviated.. I now desire to give to the honorable member the following facts as to the operation of the zoning scheme and the action proposed.
In. the Commonwealth there are, iai round numbers, 120,000/000 sheep, most of which are normally shorn from .July to November in a space of about twenty weeks. In Queensland, there is some autumn .shearing, which accounts for 20,000,000 sheep. To shear 100.,000,000 sheep in twenty weeks would mean that 5,000,000 sheep a week must be shorn, or nearly 1,000.000 sheep a working day, with no allowance for delays clue to wet weather. The shearing season, however, is not an even one, but, starting in July, it works up to a peak in the latter part of August. September and early October. During this period, it is probable that 2,000,000 sheep a day are shorn in the normal season. The shearing of 2,000,000 sheep a day requires the services of 20,000 shearers and 20,000 other shed workers, so that at the height of a normal season a labour force of about 40,000 men is engaged.
The purpose of the shearing regulations, promulgated shortly after the man-power organization was constituted, was to extend the normal shearing season of twenty weeks to 26 weeks, and thus effect a reduction of the labour requirements for the season. To achieve this extension, the warmer districts were zoned so that the shearing would be conducted at an earlier date than normally, and shearing in the cooler districts was postponed until a later date. Care was exercised when zoning the later districts to avoid the possibilities of stock losses clue to the ravage of the blowfly and grass seed. The zone boundaries were determined in a thoroughly scientific manner, having full consideration for (a.) the direction of the natural flow of labour from west to’ east and south; (b) railway systems; (c) sheep populations; and (d) altitude.
In order to assist, with the administration in each State, a committee was set up to act in an advisory capacity. These committees comprised practical sheep nien, who were thoroughly conversant with the requirements of the pastoral industry and who were representative of all sections of the grazing community, having been drawn from graziers’ organizations, fanners’ organizations, the Australian Workers Union and manpower.
Unfortunately, the regulations governing this season’s shearing were not promulgated until May, with the result that many applications for exemption were received owing to the shearing period allowed conflicting with the lambing season. An analysis of the claims for exemption in the earlier zones, where shearing has been completed, show that up to 60 per cent, of the total applications .received were based on these grounds. The zoning principle was further prejudiced by this year’s seasonal conditions, which were, in fact, so difficult that it is reasonable to suppose that they will not recur for some years. Severe drought conditions prevailed during the early part of the season, and graziers were not disposed to shear sheep in poor condition while they were being hand fed. Later, from three to five inches of rain fell over most areas of the State, and the resultant floodings precluded droving of the flocks to the shed, and caused delays in shearing. Notwithstanding these adverse influences, the zoning system did achieve its purpose, and has enabled shearing to he conducted with a minimum of releases from the armed forces.
Experience gained during the current years’ operations has shown that it will be necessary to make some adjustments to the zone boundaries and permissible shearing periods for the coming season. This matter is under consideration at the present time by the zoning of Shearing Advisory Committees for the respective States, and a meeting will be called during October, when representatives from all the States interested in the zoning system will discuss the 1943 operations and recommend any necessary alterations to ensure the orderly flow of labour throughout the eastern States. Representatives of New South Wales, Riverina, West Darling, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and of any other State affected will be invited to attend, and will have an opportunity of reviewing problems that occurred during this year’s administration, and submitting suggestions for the improvement of the scheme generally. It is proposed that the meeting shall be representative of all interests affected, and members will include graziers who have properties in the zoned areas. A further report will be submitted when the recommendations of the conference are received.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 October 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19421009_reps_16_172/>.