17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
-I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the printed form which applicants for naturalization are called upon to submit with their requests. In three places the form prescribes that the applicant must have an adequate knowledge of the English language; but a form which I have before me, and which was supplied by the department, has that portion of the printed text struck out in three places.Will the Prime Minister indicate the significance of that alteration?
– I shall ascertain the reason for the change. I understand that there is quite a difference of opinion as to what constitutes an adequate knowledge of English. It was considered that that matter was difficult to decide, but
I shall have an investigation made, and let the honorable member know the result of it.
– Will the Acting Attorney-General state whether it is a fact that regulation 15a of the War Service Moratorium Regulations was intended to protect servicemen against the acquisition, resumption or seizure of land owned by them? Is the present position, as reported in the current issue of Smith’s Weekly, that no serviceman who has bought a block of land on which to erect a dwelling-house has any legal power to prevent a State housing authority from takingthat land for its own purposes? Is it also a fact, as reported, that this matter was brought to the Minister’s notice two months ago, and is he now in a position to give to the House the facts of the case?
– Smith’s Weekly is a publication which I never read. It obtains its information from most unreliable sources. I say to the honorable member, with all respect, that it would not be wise to base any opinions upon statements published in that journal. At the same time the honorable member is entitled to investigate the matter which he has raised, and I shall arrange for a talk to-day between him and the SolicitorGeneral and myself, so that we may arrive at the truth of the matter, without having to refer to that very unreliable newspaper.
Sales - Surplus Army Vehicles
– It has been brought to my notice that the interests of small buyers are apparently not adequately safeguarded in connexion with the sale of surplus war materials by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping take the necessary steps to ensure that those goods shall be sold in quantities large enough to enable small buyers to have equal opportunity with large buyers to purchase them ?
– I have read some criticism of the kind mentioned, and it appears tobe justified. Small buyers should have the opportunity to make purchases when sales are conducted, and no one should be permitted to make a large profit out of the purchase and resale of war goods. I shall ask the Minister whether arrangements canbe made to give effect to this principle.
Mr.GUY- On the 22nd June, I directed the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Supply andShipping to the fact that a very limited number of surplus Army vehicles was available to primary producers and others in Tasmania. The honorable gentleman promised to investigate the matter, because primary producers were under the disability of having to seek vehicles in a. mainlandState, and bear the expense of having them transported to Tasmania. Can the Minister supply any further information about this matter ? Will he ascertainwhether any additional surplus Army vehicles have been made available for purchase in Tasmania?
– If my memory serves me correctly, some correspondence passed between the department and the honorable member on the matter.
– That correspondence was with the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons).
– At any rate; there was a promise that steps would be taken to try to equalize the distribution of these vehicles to the Tasmanian people. On the face of the report, it seemed that the department was giving the matter attention, but these things have to be followed up in order to see that arrangements made are carried out. I shall do that, and endeavour to assist in every possible way.
Censorship of Mails
– Does the Minister for the Army agree that, in the history of the British and Australian Armies, an officer, by virtue of the commission that he holds, has at all times been entrusted with the censoring of his own correspondence ? Is it correct that, within the last two or three weeks, an order has been issued in battle areas withdrawing this privilege and requiring the submission of the personal correspondence of an officer to a superior officer for censorship purposes ? If so, what is the reason for this sudden alteration of the practice at the present stage of the war ? Is it that some officers have written to members of Parliament, complaining of certain conditions in their areas ? Will the Minister lay on the table of the House all the relevant papers in connexion with this new censorship older?
– I have not seen the order to which the honorable member has referred; but I shall have the complaint investigated, and. shall see whether it is practicable to meet his wishes..
Mr. DEDMAN (Corio- Minister for
Postwar Reconstruction and Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research). - by leave - The settlement of ex-servicemen on the land will, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, be regulated by the agreements reached between Commonwealth and State Ministers in October, 1944. These agreements are based broadly on the principle that, whilst land settlement is primarily a function of the States, the Commonwealth is interested in it as a means for the re-establishment of exservicemen. The agreements, therefore, provide for the acceptance by the Commonwealth of a financial commitment in. connexion with war service land settlement. A factor of great importance is that, with a view to avoiding past mistakes, Commonwealth and State M inisters have agreed that land settlement shall be carried out only in accordance with the following principles : (a) Settlement shall be undertaken only where the economic prospects for the production concerned are reasonably sound, and the number of eligible persons to be settled shall be determined primarily by opportunities for settlement and not the number of applicants; (b) applicants shall not he selected as settlers unless a competent authority is satisfied as to their eligibility, suitability and qualifications for settlement under the scheme, and their experience of farm work; (c) holdings shall be sufficient in size to enable settlers to operate efficiently, and tq earn a reasonable labour income; (d) an eligible person deemed suitable for settlement shall not be precluded from .settlement by reason only of. lack of capital, but a settler will be required to invest in the holding such proportion of his own financial or other resources a& is considered reasonable in the circumstances by the appropriate authority; (e) adequate guidance and technical advice shall be made available to settlers through agricultural extension services.
The broad procedure is that the State will select land which appears suitable for settlement, and submit to the Commonwealth such particulars as location, area, rainfall, soil types and fertility, topography, suitability for cultivation, liability to erosion, water .resources, present and potential use. of the land transport, amenities, and so on. On the basis of this information the Commonwealth and State authorities will decide whether detailed surveys by Commonwealth or State experts ave necessary, and whether the area can be acquired at a reasonable price. Upon approval being given to this action, the State will proceed with the necessary arrangements, and prepare a plan of the proposed subdivision indicating the size of the individual holdings, their use, valuation and other relevant information. After the State has secured Commonwealth approval of the plan, the (State will set apart an area if it is Crown land, or acquire the area, and carry out the subdivision, development and improvement up to the point where it can. quickly be brought into production by a settler. No settlement involving a contribution from Commonwealth funds can thus be carried out by a State unless Commonwealth approval of the plan is secured. This approval will not be given unless “the Commonwealth is satisfied that the ex-serviceman settler has reasonable prospects of making a success of his venture.
Draft legal agreements covering the matters agreed to at tie October conference have been prepared and forwarded to the States for review. Whilst some drafting amendments may be necessary to the documents, it is intended to introduce the necessary legislation this session.
In spite of the difficulties associated with the shortage of the necessary technical personnel, some of the States have already submitted! settlement proposals, and these are at present being examined by Commonwealth officers.
Tentative proposals for acquisition and subdivision of’ areas totalling about 1,000,000 acres have been received from the State of Queensland since March last, and inspections of the areas on behalf of the Commonwealth have confirmed the impression that about 440,000 acres at least of this total area offers prospects for settlement which are sufficiently attractive to warrant more detailed investigation. The proposals in respect of the remaining areas are being considered by the Commonwealth, and an indication of the Commonwealth opinion on them will be given soon to the State.
On the 7th June, the State of New South Wales submitted proposals for acquisition and subdivision of 21 estates involving a total area of about 360,000 acres. It is estimated that these areas will provide for the settlement of about 400 servicemen. On the 17 th July, the State, at the Commonwealth’s request, supplied further information about its proposals, and they will be considered by Commonwealth officers and a recommendation made to the Government.
A proposal for the acquisition of about 60,000 acres for the establishment of an irrigation settlement in the Murray Valley district was received from the State of Victoria on the 7th July, and is being considered.
It had been reported to the Commonwealth that the task of securing suitable holdings for the settlement of exservicemen may be made more difficult by the purchase or lease of large areas of land by companies and other land-owners who already possess substantial holdings. At the request of some State governments, and with the concurrence of all States, Cabinet has agreed to issue a regulation under the National .Security Act by which action can be taken to prevent the transfer of country land declared to be land suitable for settlement by former members . i. f the defence forces.
Mention was made earlier in this statement of certain principles which must be satisfied by any plan of settlement to which Commonwealth approval is to be given. There is, therefore, need for the exercise of the utmost care in the examination of settlement proposals, and this careful examination takes time. The Government is determined, in the in- terests of the settler, to take every reasonable precaution to prevent the costly mistakes being made which were a feature of soldier settlement undertaken after the 1914-18 war, and which occurred through the apparent desire of those responsible to settle a large number on the land in the shortest possible time without proper regard to the suitability of the settlers, or the farms.
Eligible persons desiring to apply for settlement under the scheme should submit their applications to the war service land settlement authority in the State in which settlement is desired. These authorities are -
New South Wales - Under-Secretary, Department of Lands.
Victoria - Secretary, Department of Lands.
Queensland - Secretary, Land Administration Board.
South Australia - Director of Lands.
Western Australia - Director of Land Settlement.
Tasmania - Secretary, Closer Settlement Board.
Northern Territory - Secretary, Department of Interior.
Other Territories - Secretary, Department of External Territories.
Applicants who are eligible for benefits under the settlement scheme are then classified according to their suitability immediately or after their training for settlement. Arrangements have been made with State authorities so that men selected for settlement will receive any training that may be necessary to supple- ment their past experience. In general, training will take place on farms with approved farmers, but this may be supplemented by a short intensive course covering the business and practical aspects of farming.
As pointed out earlier, the Commonwealth will be required, under the scheme, to assume certain financial commitments which may, as time passes, become fairly substantial. The nature of the commitment in eachState, and its extent, will depend upon whether the State is, in effect, an agent of the Commonwealth or whether it is a principal in the scheme. In the case of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, which are to act as Commonwealth agents, the Commonwealth will, in addition to certain costs of administration, provide training and pay to applicants selected for training, living allowances and certain transport and other expenses incidental to their training.The Commonwealth will also provide living allowances for settlers during an assistance period of twelve months and meet the cost of any remission of rent and interest during this period ; make a capital contribution equal to three-fifths of the excess, ifany, of the total cost of acquiring, developing and improving the holding over a valuationwhich would give the settler an opportunity to make a reasonable labour income, after meeting certain costs associated with his holding; and bear any losses arising under any guarantees given by the Commonwealth in respect of advancesby credit authorities for the provision of working capital, effecting improvements and purchasing stock, plant and equipment. The States will make a capital contribution equal to two-fifths of any initial writing down.
In the case of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, which are to act as principals, the Commonwealth will, in addition to the costs of Commonwealth administration, provide training, and pay living allowances to applicants selected for training, as well as certain transport and other expenses incidental to training; provide living allowances for settlers during an assistance period of twelve months and half the cost of any remission of rent and interest during this period ; and make a capital contribution of half of any initial writing down and bear half of any losses arising from guarantees given in respect of advances for working capital, purchase of equipment, &c. The three States will, in addition to the cost of State administration, make a capital contribution of one half of the initial writing down, and bear half of any losses arising from guarantees given in respect of advances for working capital, purchase of equipment, &c. ; bear half of the cost of remission of rent and interest during the assistance period; and be responsible for all other expenses.
In “view of the Commonwealth’s responsibilities under the land settlement agreements, approval was given some time ago to the creation within the Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction of the position of Director of “War Service Land Settlement. Applications were invited for the position by advertisement throughout the Commonwealth, and Mr. W. A. McLaren has been appointed. Mr. McLaren was a member of the first Australian Imperial Force, and has been an officer of the Public Service of New South Wales for about 25 years. Prior to his appointment to the present, position, he held a senior administration post in the New South Wales Treasury. He has already entered upon lis new duties. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Land settlement scheme for ex-servicemen - Ministerial statement, 20th July, 1945, and move -
That the paper bc printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McDonald) adjourned.
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction inform the House whether, in the proposals for the settlement on the land of ex-servicemen in the post-war period, arrangements have been made to grant licences to those settlers who desire to grow wheat or any other primary product on which restrictions operate in Australia to-day? Will the Minister also give an undertaking on behalf of the Government that no soldier settler shall be placed in a worse position than >any other farmer in respect of the right to produce any primary product?
– When it is necessary for licences to be issued to soldier settlers for the growing of wheat, they will be issued almost automatically by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. With regard’ to any other form of primary production in respect of which a licensee system is in vogue, similar procedure will be followed. Speaking generally, soldier settlers will have the same freedom of opportunity to use their land as have other landholders’.
Taxi-cab and Hire-oak Drivers.
– The regulations which restrict the number of taxi-cab plates issued in country towns have, to some degree, limited the ability of drivers who were called up, or who enlisted, to reestablish themselves. Will the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) consider relaxing those regulations, insofar as hi3 department is entitled to do so, in cases where they react harshly on exservicemen wishing to return to the taxicab and hire-car business?
– Normally, the limitation of the number of taxi-cab and hire-car licences is dealt with by the State authorities. However, under war conditions considerations of petrol allowances and the conservation of rubber supplies are involved. I shall list this matter for consideration at the next meeting of thi3 War Road Transport Committee, on which the State authorities are represented, and I shall ensure that the matter is fully discussed in order to see how assistance can be rendered in the cases in which the honorable member is interested.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to a report published in last night’s Melbourne Herald that thousands of Australian farmers, who have been waiting for months in the hope that their labour problems will be solved by the release of servicemen on occupational grounds, are almost certain to be disappointed, as nearly 20,000 applications for specially nominated personnel have accumulated in the offices of the Man Power Directorate in the hope that at least a substantial proportion will be provided from the quota to be released on occupational grounds? In view of the importance of maintaining the maximum rate of food production and in order to enable rural producers to know exactly where they stand, can the right honorable gentleman give some indication of tie Government’s policy regarding the release of man-power for primary production?
– I have seen the article mentioned. As I have previously informed the House, the allocation to rural industries of men released from the services from time to time should meet some of the needs which the right honorable gentleman has in mind. 1 refer now to men who will be released on other than occupational grounds. I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, who is chairman of the War Commitments Committee, in an endeavour to provide a more detailed answer to the right honorable gentleman.
– Is the Treasurer yet in. a position to announce the total liabilities of the Commonwealth Government in respect of war damage insurance, and is he able to say whether the balance of money remaining with the Treasury will, he remitted, pro rata, to the insurers?
– Although a great deal of war damage has been assessed by the War Damage Commission, there is still some work to be done in that respect, and, therefore, I am unable to supply the exact amount of war damage insurance that will finally have to be paid. I shall endeavour to obtain an approximate figure and supply it to the honorable member. In regard to the remainder of the amount collected., its disposal is a matter for Parliament itself.
– I referred to the balance left after all approved claims have been paid.
– I shall ask somebody else to refer the question of the disposal of that amount to Parliament at the proper time.
– About a month ago I suggested that the honorable member for Werriwa should be made Minister for Housing and that the Department of Works, should be regarded as a side-line, and by an extraordinary coincidence that has happened. I now ask the honorable gentleman, in his new capacity as Minister for Works and Housing, whether he will look at the applications for building permits and seek out those from servicemen, particularly those who wish to build shops and dwellings, so that they may be given some kind of priority? Will the Minister also make a statement on housing at an early date, and set out the Government’s intentions in the matter, seeing that the War Service Homes Department seems to be paralyzed?
– I have already made several statements about housing. The new Department of Housing covers the whole of the housing activities of the Commonwealth, including the administration of war service homes, which will now be dealt with under one Minister. The matters raised by the honorable member have already been attended to, and I can assure him that the policy of the Government is “ full speed ahead “.
– Has the Prime Minister read the press statement that the Senate of the United States of America has narrowly rejected by 52 votes to 51 a motion to delay the adoption of the international monetary agreement reached at Bretton Woods? As this agreement has to be adopted by the end of the year, if any move is to be made for its adoption by this Parliament, will the Prime Minister arrange for a brochure to be issued setting out all available information on the subject for the guidance of honorable members? I suggest that expert opinion for and against the proposals should be included,, and that the matter be distributed, soon so that there will be ample time for honorable members to give full consideration to the agreement before it is debated by Parliament.
– The honorable member may have forgotten that, followingupon the return of the Australian delegation from Bretton Woods, the AttorneyGeneral and I arranged to have a summary prepared, setting out as far as possible all the matters relating to theconference and the implications of the proposed agreement. That was circulated to honorable members some months ago» and attached to it was a copy of the proposed agreement.
– Would not expert opinions also be useful?
Mr.CHIFLEY.- Everybody seems to be an expert on finance. I do not know what class of experts the honorable member has in mind. The Government consulted with three or four men who attended the conference, and Professor Melville, the economist attached to the Commonwealth Bank, was closely associated with the preparation of the document. If the honorable member can suggest any further information which might be valuable in dealing with the agreement I shall be glad to consider his proposal.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for the Army to the fact that for some time a wrecked service vessel has been lying on the beach at Byron Bay without supervision. It is rumoured to contain explosives. A few days ago a tragic accident occurred at Byron Bay in which a boy was killed by a bomb and eleven others were seriously injured. The Byron Bay Council has requested me to ask for an investigation as to what cargo the vessel contains. If it contains ammunition, will this be removed as soon as possible, and in the meantime will a guard be placed over the vessel, since children cannot be prevented from encroaching there? Will the Minister order an inquiry into the whole of the circumstances?
– Was the explosive which caused the accident obtained from the vessel ?
– The local council intimates that there is no definite information as to the origin of the bomb.
– An immediate investigation will be made, and if there are any explosives in the vessel a guard will be placed in charge of it, in order to obviate the possibility of accident.
– I understand that the Australian delegation to the Empire Wool Conference in Great Britain has returned to Australia and has presented its report to the Government. Has the Government considered the report, and is the Prime Minister in a position to make a statement regarding the matter?
– One of the two Commonwealth representatives at the conference returned last Friday and the other on Tuesday. I have had only a brief opportunity to discuss with them the result of their talks with representatives of the other dominions and with the other gentlemen who accompanied the delegation as advisers, namely the representative of the two wool-growing organizations and the representative of the Central Wool Committee, Mr. Justice Owen, who was assisted by Mr. Young. I hope that on Monday afternoon the Cabinet sub-committee which has been advising the Government regarding this matter will have an opportunity to meet all of the members of the delegation. I expect that the report on the matter will be available to Cabinet at a reasonably early date, say, within the next fortnight. The honorable member will appreciate the fact that the matter dealt with affects the other dominions which are parties to the general agreement. I cannot say when it will be possible to make a statement to the House. Legislation will be required, because an appropriation will be associated with the agreement if it be adopted by this Parliament. I am anxious to have the matter settled as early as possible, and so doubtless are the British Government, and the other dominions. I promise to expedite consideration of it, in order that the House may have full information at an early date.
– The Commonwealth
Gazette issued on Thursday, the 12th July, contains a number of orders under section 92 of the Australian Broadcasting Act, made by the Postmaster-General, relating to certain persons who are alleged to have offended against the provisions of that act. Does the Minister representing the Postmaster-General propose to make a statement of the circumstances to the House? Is the suspension of the radio artists mentioned to be lifted, as the press has reported? In view of the experience that has been gained, is any revision to be made of the undemocratic method which the act provides for the imposition of penalties for alleged breaches of its provisions?
– ‘Certain penalties have been imposed by the PostmasterGeneral upon alleged artists who believe that they have a perfect licence to pollute the home life of the nation. The Postmaster-General has made a full statement to the Senate in connexion with the matter. I shall arrange for a copy of it to be supplied to the honorable gentleman. I see no reason why I should repeat it in this House, unless I am requested so to do.
– Are the suspensions to be lifted?
– I advise the honorable member not to take too much notice of press prognostications in regard to the lifting of the suspensions. The Post- in master-General will decide the issue without any assistance from the press. When he has made a decision, he will announce it personally, and will not give an indirect indication of what, he proposes to do. In regard to the allegation that the provision of the act under which the Postmaster-General took action ia undemocratic, all that I have to say is that in the last Parliament, this House, after a full discussion, wds so satisfied that the clause contained nothing undemocratic or contrary to the public interest, that it did not divide on the clause.
Stock Wastage Due to Strikes
– Last November, I addressed this question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture^ -
Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider the justice of providing Government compensation to stock owners whose stook wastes at saleyards and slaughteryards owing to irresponsible people indulging in strikes and deliberate go-slow methods?
The Minister was good enough to promise that the matter would receive consideration. Evidently, it has not reached finality, because I have not since received further advice. Has the Prime Minister any knowledge of the position that has been reached? Will he consider the payment of compensation, particularly to those stock owners in the southern part of Queensland who suffered recently because of a strike of bacon factory employees, for the circumstances leading up to which they were in no way responsible?
– I have no knowledge ‘ of the matter raised in the question addressed by the honorable member to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but I shall endeavour to expedite a reply. Judging by the statement of the honorable member, the matter he has raised in the latter part of his question will need careful scrutiny. I am prepared to have it examined.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendinents
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to matrimonial causes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Although the Commonwealth Parliament has full legislative power with respect to divorce, no divorce legislation has been passed by the Parliament, with the exception of a short act passed after the last, war, the provisions of which are analogous to certain provisions of the bill. The objects of the measure are twofold - first, to en-able an Australian woman married to an overseas serviceman or other person from overseas to institute divorce proceedings in Australia; and. secondly, to .provide that a person domiciled anywhere in Australia may institute divorce proceedings in the State or Territory in which he or she is for the time being resident. 1 propose to deal first with marriages nf Australian women to overseas servicemen. The necessity for legislation arises, as honorable members will understand, by reason of the number of marriages in Australia between members of overseas forces stationed here and Australian women. In order that the House shall have a proper understanding of the bill, a brief reference to the existing jurisdiction of Australian courts in divorce is desirable. The first point is nhat the jurisdiction of an Australian court to dissolve a marriage arises, generally speaking, only where the parties to the marriage have their domicile in the State or Territory concerned. The second point is that the domicile of a person is the country in which is situated his or her permanent home. The third point is that the domicile of a married woman is always that of her husband. When an. Australian girl marries, for example, an American serviceman in Australia, their normal expectation would lie to return to the United .States of America after the war; that is, to the place where the man has hig home, and where he carries on whatever work in which he is engaged in civil life. The permanent home of tho serviceman in such cases is still regarded as being iri the United States of America, consequently, he retains his domicile there. In accordance with the third point that I have mentioned, his wife also becomes domiciled in I he United States of America.
Under the existing law, if the husband or the wife commits a matrimonial offence, such as would entitle the other to institute divorce proceedings, those proceedings cannot be instituted in Australia because the domicile, that is, the permanent home, of the parties is not in Australia.- This position is capable of inflicting grave hardship, particularly where the wife is the person who desires to bring divorce proceedings. There would, in most cases, be considerable practical difficulty and inconvenience in adducing the necessary evidence to found divorce proceedings in a United States court. Moreover, Only those with considerable means at their disposal could afford to institute proceedings overseas.
The bill is designed to provide that proceedings to dissolve such a marriage, which has broken up before the parties have returned to the land of the husband’s permanent home, may be taken in the courts of this country. The proposed provisions would not apply where the parties have gone to live in the country of the husband’s permanent home, since it appears to be just that in those circumstances the ordinary rules should apply.
– The effect up to tha! point is that the divorce will be recognized in Australia, but will not be recognized in the United States of America.
– Yes, but the right honorable gentleman understands the difficulties that have arisen in connexion with this matter.
– Yes, and I can foreseethat a lot of difficulties will arise under this legislation, also.
– I gave as an example the case of an Australian woman, married to a United States serviceman,, but the provisions in the bill are applicable to any marriage celebrated in Australia, between a man domiciled out of Australia and a woman domiciled in Australia, on or after the 3rd September, 1939, and before an appointed day, which, it is not proposed to fix before the end of the war. When, in peace-time, a man from another country marries an Australian girl, he would normally be able to return to his own country ; but in thepresent abnormal circumstances, a couplecannot, in many cases, return to the husband’s permanent home. The problem to be met is, therefore, a temporary one, and for that reason the Government thinks it desirable that the application of the provisions of the bill should belimited to marriages celebrated within theprescribed period.
The principle of this part of the bill is one which, I trust, will commend itself to this House. Similar legislation hasalready been passed in Great Britain, and provision is included in this bill for a reciprocal arrangement between Australia and any other country passing: similar legislation for the recognition by each country of divorces granted under the corresponding legislation in the other. I do not propose at this stage to say any more about the details of this part of the bill, which can be explained in the committee stage.
This bill also makes provision to meet the difficulty which arises where a person, wishing to obtain a divorce is resident in a State which is not that of the domicile. Such a difficulty most frequently arises where a wife is deserted by her husband, who goes to another State and establishes a new domicile there. As I have said, a wife cannot acquire a domicile separate from that of her husband so that, in such a case, she acquires her husband’s new domicile and cannot take proceedings for divorce in the State where she resides. In some, if not all, of the States, provision has been made to meet this difficulty by providing that a deserted wife shall be deemed to have retained, for the purposes of divorce proceedings, her domicile in the State in which she was deserted. It is by no means certain, however, that a divorce: obtained under this provision is valid elsewhere than in the State in which it is obtained, and if either’ party to the marriage remarries he or she runs some risk of committing bigamy. The position I have mentioned is a cause of great hardship. The difficulties of expense, and of producing the necessary evidence, frequently preclude a deserted wife from instituting divorce proceedings.
The bill does not provide for an Australian domicile in respect of matrimonial causes, nor does it provide for uniformity in divorce law in Australia, but it does purport to remove some of the disabilities at present suffered by persons, particularly women, in connexion with the institution and conduct of matrimonial causes in Australia. Under the existing laws a suit for divorce must be brought in a court of the part of Australia in which the parties are domiciled. This has been found to be a cause of hardship in many cases, and, accordingly, the bill provides that a person who has been resident in a State or Territory for not less than one year may institute divorce proceedings in that State or Territory, although that person is not domiciled there.
– That provision will ‘be equally available to the deserting husband as to the deserted wife.
Mr. -CHIFLEY. - I think that is correct. The grounds on which the divorce may be obtained are the grounds provided by the law of that person’s domicile. I wish to lay special emphasis on the latter provision, the effect of which i3 not to enlarge or increase the grounds on which any person may take proceedings for divorce. The sole effect of the provision is to help the person to take proceedings in the court of the part of Australia in which he or she is resident, but only on the grounds which would be available if proceedings were taken in the court of the domicile.
The object of this part of the bill is one which, I feel sure, will commend itself to the House and; if the legislation is passed, this Parliament will undoubtedly earn the gratitude of many women who are at present, through lack of means or other circumstances, prevented, from obtaining a divorce to which they are morally, if not legally, entitled. The matter of a uniform divorce law was discussed at the last Premiers Conference.
– I suggest that consideration should be given to a general Australian marriage law, not merely a divorce law.
– The honorable member must realize that it a “ sticky “ subject. Divorce legislation was discussed as length between the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) and the Premiers at the last conference over which the late Prime Minister presided. It was stated in fairly strong terms by the State Premiers that great hardships were being inflicted on some women who had married overseas servicemen, and who found themselves now without support, and with no opportunity of getting a divorce. My recollection is that the AttorneyGeneral promised to prepare for the Commonwealth Parliament legislation which would meet the difficulty in regard to domicile. I propose to leave my learned colleague, the Attorney-General, upon his return, to argue the difficult points raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). I realize my limitations.
– Admittedly, the legal points involved are very complicated.
– I agree, and, therefore, I am introducing the bill at this stage so that honorable members may have ample opportunity to study it and be prepared to raise such matters as they deem necessary when the AttorneyGeneral resumes his position in this House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Re-establishment and Employment Act provided for the establishment of a Commonwealth employment service. If honorable members will refer to section 47 of that act, they will see a description, in some detail, of the functions of the employment service. I need not repeat what I said, in my second-reading speech on that bill, regarding the Government’s intentions in relation to the employment service and the discontinuance of existing war-time man-power controls. Suffice it to say that, as was expressed in the White Paper on Full Employment, it is the Government’s intention to develop, in the shortest possible time, an employment service to provide to employers and workers a free service of the highest efficiency. It will be an integral part of the Department of Labour and National Service. Time is a vital factor, because the service must be functioning before demobilization if it is to play a significant part in the rehabilitation of discharged service personnel and the reestablishment of civilian war workers. The demands on the service, at that time, will be very heavy. However, the em- ployment service will be a continuing instrument, and a most important piece of machinery in the fulfilment of the Government’s plans for maintaining a high level of employment in Australia.
In considering the means which would be adopted to set up the employment service, the Government concluded that there was already at hand an organization which, with development and suitable modification, could be moulded into an employment service. I refer to the National Service Office organization, which, in addition to discharging purely man-power functions, is already discharging some of the functions of an employment service. In particular, a special rehabilitation section has been developed as an integral part of the whole organization to deal with the employment and rehabilitation of discharged service personnel. These, with the exception of those specifically released to undertake work of high priority, and. whose rights are preserved, are assisted to the utmost extent in finding employment suitable to their qualifications, experience, aptitude, physical conditions and personal circumstances. That is the function of an employment service.
When it became necessary, after the outbreak of the Pacific war, for the Commonwealth to set up an organization to mobilize all our labour resources, the States very generously made available to the Commonwealth the services of a number of their officers who were then engaged in labour exchange work, and were associated with Departments of Labour. The States also seconded to it a limited number of experienced officers, who had special qualifications or administrative experience fitting them for the work to be undertaken. During, the last three years or more, all of these officers have acquired’ valuable experience in employment work, and the Government believes that the Commonwealth cannot afford to lose this experience at a time when it has made the development of a Commonwealth-wide employment service a matter of major policy. Accordingly, the Government proposes to provide for the appointment to or employment in the Commonwealth Public Service of the State officers and employees concerned. This bill makes that provision.
Repr esentatives of the Commonwealth recently met representatives of the State Governments, under my chairmanship, and discussed, the terms upon which the State officers might be so appointed or employed: This bill, in conjunction with a bill to amend the Superannuation Act, which the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) explained yesterday, is in conformity with the arrangements discussed at that conference.
This bill provides for the appointment to the Com!monwealth Public Service of permanent State officers now engaged in the performance of certain defined duties in or for the Department of Labour and National Service. It provides also for the employment in the Commonwealth Public Service, in a temporary capacity, of those temporary State employees similarly engaged. It converts the status of certain other temporary employees, appointed by tike DirectorGeneral of Man Power, into that of temporary Commonwealth public servants. Those who will be eligible for appointment in a permanent capacity in the Commonwealth Service will be those permanent State officers who have been performing in or on behalf of the Department of Labour and National Service duties in relation to the organization of man-power, or the placing or rehabilitation, of persons in employment and matters related thereto. Also eligible will be permanent State officers who are members of the forces and would otherwise, in the opinion of the Public Service Board, have been performing similar duties; and permanent State officers who, in the opinion of the Public Service Board, would -be without positions in the State Public Service because of the establishment of the Commonwealth Employment Service, or of the carrying out of the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act. Those eligible for temporary employment in the Commonwealth Public Service are those temporary State employees of similar classes of eligibility who were employed in the State services before the 31st January, 1942.
Clause 6 deals with the continued temporary employment by the Commonwealth of the temporary employees appointed by the Director-General of Man Power, in-eluding those who were appointed under the machinery of the State Public Service Acts after the 31st January, 1942, specifically for the purpose of secondment to the directorate. Though technically temporary State public servants, these employees are really in no different position from those appointed by the Director-General directly. The temporary employees dealt with by the clause are really .already Commonwealth employees, and all that the clause does is to pass them from the jurisdiction -of the Director-General, from a staffing point of view, to that of the Commonwealth Public Service Board.
One of the most important features of the bill is that no State employee, as defined in proposed new section 81a. shall be appointed or employed in the Commonwealth PUblic Service unless he so elects. Proposed new section 81b deals with this point. The Public Service Board is drawing up a staff establishment for the Commonwealth Employment Service, and what is proposed is that each State employee shall, when being requested to elect, be advised of the classification of, the remuneration payable, and the conditions generally applicable in respect of the proposed appointment or employment. There will be no .alteration of the State employees’ status on their becoming Commonwealth public servants. Thus, permanent State officers will become ‘Commonwealth permanent officers, and temporary State employees will remain temporary employees on transfer to the Commonwealth. State officers will be appointed to the division of the Commonwealth Sea-vice equivalent to that in which they were placed in the State Service. Because of special experience and qualifications, and because they will be needed to undertake similar work to that performed in the State Service, some State general .division officers, who will thus automatically become fourth division officers in the Commonwealth, may be allotted to. positions normally classified’ in the third division. However, all this will be made clear to the State employees, and it will be for each to weigh the question whether he should -transfer or stay with the State. Subject to the provisions of the bill, when the officer or employee becomes a Commonwealth public servant, he will be, for. all- purposes, subject to the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act and Regulations, as if he had been appointed in the normal way.
In setting up its employment service, the Commonwealth is undertaking what has previously been regarded as a function of the States. I need not repeat the reasons moving the Government to decide to establish its own Australiawide service. These have been stated by me already in this House. The point which I desire to make now is that, because the Commonwealth is assuming these functions, the bill must make provision to remove any hindrance to the transfer to the Commonwealth of the State officers previously engaged in the State services in the performance of these functions, and, as well, of those other State officers who have, over the past three or more years, gained specialized experience of employment matters which we cannot offord to lose. Accordingly, provision has been made in the proposed new section 81e for the non-application of any preference law to the appointment or employment of the State employees defined in section 81a. The plain fact is that this bill will really enable a limited number of State public servants who have been on loan to the Commonwealth for a number of years, and those other State servants defined in section 81a, to become Commonwealth public servants. The States themselves want this secondment arrangement to be finalized so that they can adjust their own staffing position. Moreover, without these State servants, the Commonwealth would be very hard pressed to establish its employment service within the time available. The officers concerned constitute only the nucleus of the organization that will be required, and the preference law will apply to the appointments to the Commonwealth Public Service of any other persons who may ultimately be needed to staff theemployment service.
I refer now to the other provisions of the bill. They provide for the preservation, after appointment or employment in the Commonwealth Public Service, of the basic rights and privileges that the State employees possess. The proposed new section S1f gives a guarantee that, after they become Commonwealth public servants, they will not be worse off from the remuneration point of view than they would have been in the State service. Employees on incremental scales will be covered by this section. Of course, there must be qualifications to this. In the first place, we can protect a State employee only to the extent that his remuneration is already determined or assessable. We cannot take into account the possibility that a State employee might one day become, for example, head of the State Public Service. The option that We shall give to the State servants in deciding whether to elect to transfer to the Commonwealth or not will enable each to assess his relative chances of advancement in the Commonwealth Service and the State Service. At the same time, we cannot place the State servant who elects to transfer to the Commonwealth in any different position from the normal Commonwealth public servant, should he, for example, commit a breach of discipline which justifies a penalty in the form of salary reduction. All of the sections of the Public Service Act which have been quoted in the opening words of the proposed new section Sir, are provisions authorizing salary reductions either as a disciplinary measure or in the event of a surplus of officers developing in the Commonwealth Public Service.
In all, the Government believes that the conditions set out in this bill, which must be considered in conjunction with the amending Superannuation Bill, to which I have already referred, are generous. The object is that, as the successful establishment and development of the Commonwealth Employment Service is largely dependent on the Commonwealth acquiring the bulk of the State servants eligible under the bill, the conditions to apply to their transfer should bc at once fair and1 equitable to all parties affected and not repel State servants when considering whether to elect to transfer. At the same time, honorable members will’ appreciate that we have to obviate the creation of internal staffing problems and anomalies within the Commonwealth Public Service by introducing a group of officers with special privileges. Therefore, subject to the special provisions of the bill to which I have referred, when the State officers become Commonwealth public servants following their election to resign from the State services, they will, as I have already stated, be in just the same position as all other Commonwealth public servants.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 21st June (vide page 3428), on motion by Mr. Scully -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition has no objection to the passage of this bill, but it has certain shortcomings with which I wish to deal at length. The bill provides for payment of certain sums to the States of Victoria and Western Australia on account of drought relief. A conference was held last year, and afterwards a bill was passed by this Parliament providing for the payment of £1,500,000 to the States for drought relief. The drought conditions proved to be worse than was expected at that time, and consequently the Government, after further consultation with representatives of Victoria and Western Australia, has seen fit to increase the amounts payable to those States. No objection canbe taken to that procedure. However, there is an unsettled difficulty between the Government of South Australia and the Commonwealth Government regarding frost relief. As far as I know, South Australia is the only State affected by this problem. In order that the House may understand the position, I refer to the financial conditions under which the three small States of South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania are operating as the result of the uniform tax legislation. There was a debate in the South Australian Parliament on the 9 th November, 1944, with reference to the passage by the Commonwealth Parliament of the drought relief legislation which will be amended by this bill. The Premier of South Australia then called attention to the unsatisfactory relations between the State Government and the Commonwealth Government on the matter of frost relief. He had no complaint about the State’s treatment in relation to drought relief.
Frost damage is a serious matter in South Australia. The estimated losses on fruit alone, due to frost, in that State last year amounted to no less than £300,000, consisting of the following amounts : - apples, £18,000 ; pears, £6,000 ; apricots, £49,000 ; peaches, £9,000 ; plums and prunes, £5,000 ; wine grapes, £96,000 ; drying grapes, £90,000 ; and citrus fruits, £27,000. A perusal of the report of the debate in the South Australian Parliament shows that the estimated loss on citrus fruits was only 5 per cent. of the total value of the crop, and, in ordinary circumstances, one would imagine that the private growers could afford to bear that loss. However, that figure does not disclose the full story. Certain districts were not affected at all by frosts, whilst, in others, practically the whole crop was destroyed. In some areas, particularly the Inman Valley, many trees were completely ruined by frost and will have to be grubbed out, and the South Australian Premier has said that in other places it will take from two to three years for the citrus orchards to return to normal production. For a State like South Australia, already suffering from one of the worst droughts in its history, to be struck simultaneously by frost is almost disastrous. The Commonwealth Government’s treatment of the State in this matter cannot be tolerated by the Opposition. The State is obliged to provide one half of the funds allocated for drought relief, and it is prepared to accept the same responsibility in respect of frost relief, but, so far, the Commonwealth Government has not agreed to that arrangement.
I have received from the Premier a copy of a letter which he addressed to three members of the State Parliament who represent parts of theCommonwealth electorate of Wakefield, namely, Messrs. B. H. Teusner, W. Macgillivray and P. H. Quirke. This letter sets out in clear detail the position with which the
State is faced. It is dated the 15th May, 1945, and reads -
Further to the discussion in my office upon the question of frost relief. I now wish to set out the position for you, as I understand that you desire to take the matter up with Mr. Smith, M.H.R.
The South Australian Government passed legislation to enable relief to be given to producers who had suffered frost damage in the same manner as had applied to drought losses. The legislation passed by Parliament provided that -
Every such grant shall be made in accordance with arrangements made between the Government of the State and of the Commonwealth or between Ministers acting on behalf of those Governments. A person shall not be eligible for a grant unless he is one of a class of primary producers approved by or on behalf of the Government of the Com monwealth as being eligible for grants.
The Commonwealth was requested to cooperate in the same way as had been provided in respect of drought relief. Numerous requests were made to the Commonwealth, including a report from Mr. Strickland setting out the scope of the loss and a suggested basis upon which assistance should be granted. The Commonwealth Government was asked to contribute upon the same basis as has been provided for drought relief. At the conference at which it was decided that drought relief should be issued, the Commonwealth Government agreed that the Loan Council should make the money available for South Australia’s share of the grant, as Mr. Curtin pointed out this State did not have the financial means to make a contribution otherwise. This agreement of course only applied to the drought relief, and, unlessa further agreement is made with the Commonwealth along the same lines, this State has not the financial means to make any substantial contribution. Actually, this year this State is confronted with what appears to be a very large deficit.
You will see from the above that although the State of South Australia was actually responsible for the repayment of drought relief, it is ultimately dependent upon the Commonwealth for the provision of all of the money required for this purpose. The same position will apply with regard to any extension of the legislation now under consideration. Unless the Commonwealth Government is prepared to make the finance available in accordance with the legislation which has been passed, this Government hasno power to make the necessary grants.
The only other matter which you should bring under notice is the suggestion made by Mr. Chifley that this State has the right to go to the Grants Commission for additional money at the end of the year if such is required to meet deficits in its Revenue Account under the Income Tax Reimbursement Act. Application has already been made to the Grants Commission along these lines, but it has been strenuously opposed by the Commonwealth Treasury itself on the grounds that as this State is receiving an annual grant under section96 of the Constitution no further action is necessary, and that in due course the Commonwealth will make a special grant which will rectify the financial position.
I enclose a copy of a report received by me from the Under Treasurer in regard to this matter. You will see from this that theCommonwealth Treasury deny the right suggested by Mr. Chifley, and, alternatively, put forward a suggestion which may mean a larger grant at some time in the future, probably eighteen months hence, but this of course is too speculative to meet the present position, even if the Government had authority to deal with the matter in this way.
I feel that Mr. Smith should emphasize to the Commonwealth that as they receive all of the revenue and taxation from these industries they have some obligation for assistance in time of difficulty, and that the offer made by the South Australian Government of a grant upon a fifty-fifty basis is very generous, considering the meagre finance at the disposal of this State.
That puts the position of South Australia very clearly. There is no doubt as to the damage which has been inflicted by frost. The legislature of South Australia has passed an act providing for relief to farmers affected by drought and frosts, but it has not the necessary financial resources to give effect to that legislation. The State Government has appealed to the Commonwealth, and has been told by the Treasurer that if it goes to the Commonwealth Grants Commission it may obtain some assistance eighteen months hence. This position will have to be reviewed in the near future. Victoria is affected in the same way as South Australia. The ability of the various States to withstand adversities of an unforeseen character, while the present income tax legislation operates, will require serious attention from this Parliament in the not far distant future. When that time comes South Australia may get a better arrangement with the Commonwealth than it secured on the last occasion. I have before me a copy of a minute sent to the Treasurer of South Australia by Mr. P. C. Drew, chairman of the South Australian Grants Committee, which states -
As requested by you, I am submitting a report on the Commonwealth Treasury comments on the claim made by the State under the State Grants (Income TaxReimbursement) Act 1942.
On the 12th February last, you informed the Chairman of the Commonwealth Grants Commission that you were pf the opinion that the payments made to South Australia pursuant to section C of the State Grants (Income Tax Ee-imbursement) Act 1942, were insufficient to meet revenue requirements of this State for the financial year 1944-45. Following on this communication to the Chairman of the Grants Commission, a sitting was held in Melbourne in March of this year at which the Commonwealth Treasury ‘presented their views on the application for additional grants under the Income Tax Reimbursement Act. The following comments were made by the Commonwealth Treasury: -
In this regard we question whether there is any pressing need, at the present juncture at least, for any special assessment to be made of additional (Income Tax Ee-imbursement) grants to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, whose financial position is already adequately safeguarded by the annual grants made under section 96 of the Constitution.
The only valid objection, which in our judgment, can be advanced against using the commission’s ordinary methods to meet both purposes is that of the “time-lag” which has always been accepted as a drawback. Up to date, however, the disadvantage of the “time-lag” has been satisfactorily met by the system of advances.
We cannot agree that in essence there should be any difference between the procedure of assessing the annual grant under section 90 of the Constitution, as now carried out by the commission, and the procedure necessary to determine “additional financial assistance” under the Income Tax Ee-imbursement Act.
Any increase in the grant fixed by that act must automatically affect the annual grant subsequently calculated by the recognized methods of the commission. The one cannot be considered without regard to the other,
For these reasons, the Commonwealth Treasury considers that adjustments under the Income Tax Eeimbursement Act should be made, if at all, on the basis of actual budget transactions only, and, preferably, in the case of the States who are claimants for annual grants under section 9G of the Constitution, as part of the normal procedure for assessment of those grants.
It will be noted from the last part of the Commonwealth Treasury’s comments that they consider in the case of States who are claimants for annual grants under section! 96 of the Constitution (viz., South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania) any adjustments wider the Income Tax Ee-imbursement Act should be made as part of the normal procedure for assessment of grants under section 90 of the Constitution which is the ordinary annual grant. The grant for South Australia for the year 1944-45 under section 96 of the Constitution has already .been recommended to and voted by the Commonwealth Parliament, therefore, if the suggestions of the Commonwealth Treasury are adopted, further grants could not be considered until the Grants Commission takes up the consideration of our case - probably about the’ end of the present calendar year, which, of course, would be too late for inclusion in the budget figures for this financial year.
If “we are to accept paragraph 18 of the Commonwealth Treasury’s submission, namely, that adjustments under the Income Tax Re-imbursement Act should be made, if at all, on the basis of the actual budget transactions only, it will mean that if a ‘State finds itself financially unable from its own resources to meetexpenditure caused by unforeseen emergency, the attitude of the Commonwealth Treasurer to it at the end of the financial year will be “ Having not incurred this expenditure, you are not entitled to anything from the Commonwealth. You did not have the resources, and not having clone anything we cannot help you “. That ia the position which now faces the three less populous States, and Queensland and Victoria may in future find themselves in a predicament similar to that of South Australia. I have shown that there should be a speedier and more just allotment of the revenues between the Commonwealth and the States to enable the latter to meet emergency expenditure. The Premier of South Australia made the following statement in the House of Assembly on the 9th November last: -
The State is providing half the money for drought relief and it can only dp that because it has the assurance from the Commonwealth and the other States that they, will be prepared, if necessary later in the year, to increase our loan appropriation sufficiently to cover the £450,000 under the agreement. Money in the first instance has to be paid out of the general revenue of the State, but as we know that our general revenue will not be sufficient to carry this charge, ultimately we shall have to raise the money in some special way. To the extent that we cannot cover the money out of general revenue, it is proposed that the Commonwealth Government, through the Loan Council, will make available the necessary additional money to finance this proposal. New clauses prepared provide that the Treasurer may float a loan to cover the money. Actually, I have the assurance of the Loan Council that it is prepared to make the money available. It will be made available as a deficit on ordinary revenue. On present figures we shall have a deficit this year, and I do not think it would be proper for the State to attempt to finance relief measures’ out of deficit. Not only would we have to pay possibly 3i per cent, for the money, but I remind the House that deficit finance comes under a definite clause of the Financial Agreement, which provides that in addition we have to pay a very heavy sinking fund rate of not less than 4 per cent. Therefore, the interest paid would be not less than 7i per cent., and no State could long continue to finance its activities on such a deficit basis.
That reference is to the £450,000, being South Australia’s moiety of the cost of drought relief. The position would be still worsened and further complicated if the State -were able to get the Commonwealth to agree to the provision of £300,000 for frost relief on the basis set out in Mr. Playford’s speech. That is an additional proof of the necessity for a thorough reconsideration of the financial arrangements between the States and the Commonwealth regarding these matters.
Frost may appear to be a matter which should not cause great difficulty, but, as a member of the Parliament of South Australia in 1927, I recall damage to the amount of hundreds of thousands of pounds being suffered by settlers along the river Murray through, frosts, just as their vines were coming into flower. They experienced practically a total failure of their grape crops in that year. [ am told that last year, for the first time in the memory of white men, ice was seen on the river Murray at Renmark, and in that district large numbers of orange trees were killed, by a succession of severe frosts. Many methods have been tried in an endeavour to overcome frost damage, but so far no successful means has been discovered of combating it. I am afraid that we shall not be very successful in finding means of overcoming the effects of natural phenomena of this description.
– Does the honorable member regard frost as being one of the consequences of drought?
– I am glad the honorable member has raised that point. The meteorological records in South Australia prove that very heavy frosts and drought conditions usually occur simultaneously. The intensity of frosts is not nearly so great in normal seasons as in drought years. There is another point which may appeal to the honorable member - in a year of drought the general condition of the trees and plants is weaker than in the good years; consequently, they are less able to withstand the rigours of frost. Although this may apply with particular intensity in South Australia, parts of other States also are affected; for example, the top portion of the Wimmera electorate, and the Murrumbidgee irrigation area of the electorate of Riverina. Frost has a habit of occurring on flat, low-lying country, and doing terrific damage under certain conditions. The view of many producers is that they are no more responsible for frost than for drought. A lot more may be done than has been done if there be a proper understanding of the possibilities of country in which the rainfall is not very high. Proper steps may lead to the mitigation or avoidance of some of the damaging effects of both drought and frosts. Unfortunately for the producer to-day, such steps are not taken.
Although I have no criticism whatever to offer in regard to this bill or of the legislation that was passed last year, I affirm that it is to the Commonwealth Treasurer that the producer must look for relief should he be overtaken by calamities such as those to which I have referred, because an overwhelmingly large proportion of the financial resources of Australia are to-day in the hands of the Commonwealth Treasury. The Commonwealth collects the whole of the income tax from the growers of grapes:, apples, wheat and wool; therefore, it must accept the obligation to investigate this matter. I have no desire to press for a division, in view of the present composition of the House and the inability of my friends opposite to acknowledge the force of any argument advanced. The electorates of some honorable members opposite are affected equally with mine. In fact, my electorate does not suffer the worst effects in South Australia, a worse sufferer being the electorate of Wakefield. It would be good if the Minister for Post War Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) could be induced to give the assurance that the matter will be promptly considered, with a view to a satisfactory conclusion being reached. I am satisfied that the case that I have presented is a good one; that must be conceded by honorable members opposite. Therefore, the Commonwealth Government, which has the lion’s share of the financial resources of Australia, has an obligation to meet the exigencies of the situation, by reconsidering the matter of frost relief andi granting an effective measure of assistance to those producers in my State, who, according to an official estimate, have suffered a loss of not less than £300,000 by reason of damage caused by frost last year.
– 1 listened with close attention to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), and entirely agree with many of the points that he made. But I find it difficult to decide whether the Commonwealth should consider granting relief because of damage caused by frost. Damage that has come under my notice is that caused by hailstorms. At times, I have seen the entire destruction of crops from this cause. That is a matter which should be considered by a conference of ‘Commonwealth and State Ministers of Agriculture.
This bill, which provides for an increase of the payment to the drought stricken farmers of Victoria, and relief for those affected by drought in Western Australia, establishes two vital principles. The first principle is that of the joint responsibility of the ‘Commonwealth and the States to provide relief for primary producers. The second principle is that any relief provided should be without “ tags “. What is the use of relief that has “ tags “ attached to it? The primary producers have been charged with the grave responsibility of maintaining a second front - the food front - at a time when the nation has had to grapple with one of the worst droughts in its history. I am proud of the fact that the Government is .providing relief without any “ tag “, which means that the indebtedness of the primary producers will not be increased. At least one State Premier has argued that whilst the States should retain sovereign rights in respect of agriculture, whatever assistance may be needed should be provided by the ‘Commonwealth. He is Mr. Dunstan, the Premier of Victoria. Prior to the Premiers Conference which determined that the Commonwealth and
States should jointly be responsible for the provision of drought relief, Mr. Dunstan had advised the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association that, in his opinion, the only obligation that rested on the State was to provide money for drought-stricken farmers in the form of a loan. I have reason to believe that he persisted in that attitude at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers at Canberra, and was forced to modify it only because the Premiers of the other drought-affected States accepted a greater degree of responsibility. I mention this only because Mr. Dunstan has since claimed credit for the provision of drought relief. In regard to the second principle, that of providing relief without adding to the indebtedness of the farmers, it may be said that the great weakness of previous legislation designed to help them was that it merely postponed the day of financial reckoning. I have in mind particularly, the Farmers Debt Adjustment scheme. Whilst it is true that schemes of that kind have been designed to assist the farmers over long periods of low prices rather than adverse seasons, the disadvantage has been that the relief has been by way of loan and has hampered rather than helped them. On that account, the present approach to the problem should be welcomed by every honorable member. Although drought relief will help stricken farmers to provide for their immediate needs, more is required if they are to be safeguarded in the future against the worst effects of drought. The real reason why relief is urgently needed to-day by the cereal growers is that for a long period in pre-war years they were handicapped by extremely low prices. Honorable members can recall the .payment of ls. 6d., ls. 9d. and 2s. a bushel for wheat. As all honorable members are aware, the responsibility for rewarding adequately those who are engaged in farming pursuits resides with the State governments, which are not equipped to deal justly with the subject. For this reason, the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation has asked the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States to accept responsibility for a stabilization plan for the wheat industry. That is absolutely essential. I understand that the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) has assured the federation that the Commonwealth is prepared to co-operate to the maximum degree in ensuring greater stability of wheat prices in the post-war years. There must not be a return to ls. 6d., ls. 9d. and 2s. a bushel.
I believe that some of the State governments also have indicated their preparedness to co-operate with the ‘Commonwealth in surmounting the difficult constitutional barriers that exist .to-day. Unfortunately, however, some of the States have been a little tardy in recognizing the need for immediate action to safeguard the industry. Although the initiative does not lie with the Commonwealth in this matter it should, nevertheless convene at an early date a conference of State Premiers or State Ministers of Agriculture in order that a suitable stabilization plan may be speedily drawn up. I emphasize this point, because our cereal industries, and, more particularly, the great wheat industry, are more seriously affected by drought than are other branches of primary production. If we can ensure that the cereal industries are prosperous it will follow automatically that there will be ample supplies of fodder to carry us through bad seasons. We should not overlook the fact that the wheat industry, which is to receive the greater part of this amount of £3,700,000 for drought relief, has been responsible during the drought for the saving of many millions of head of stock. I have been told that the consumption of wheat for fodder in a normal year is about 10,000,000 bushels. Last year, it was about 70,000,000 bushels. Honorable members will realize that, had it not been for the substantial carry-over of wheat from previous years, stock losses during the drought would have been very much greater. The people of Australia owe something to the wheat-growers who prevented such a tragic loss. In his secondreading speech on the bill, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that he was appalled to note how few people outside the farming communities had any idea of the difficulties which farmers had to face. Honorable members will understand some of those difficulties if they east their minds back to the summer months when terrible dust-storms were sweeping the country. For some reason, insufficient recognition is given to the farmers’ unceasing fight against adverse climatic conditions, pests, &c. We have a duty to ensure that prices for farm products shall be commensurate with the difficulties and hazards of production. If the rural industries are stabilized after the war there will be no need in future for the introduction of bills of this kind in bad seasons. The prices of farm products should be so fixed as to provide for periods of low yield, and those periods occur fairly frequently in Australia. I endorse the statement by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture when he said that this bill was an indication of our appreciation of the efforts of the farmers. I express the heartfelt hope that they will now enjoy a series of good seasons which will mean so much to them and the people of Australia generally.
– I am not averse to the giving of extra assistance to cereal-growers, but I criticize the bill on the ground that it does not provide sufficient assistance to those who are most in need of it. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), in his speech to-day, as on other occasions, showed that he is suffering from an. ailment which might be diagnosed as “ Dunstania “. The honorable member reacts unfavorably because the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, is a man of action, who is certainly trying to do something for those who are in need of assistance because of the drought. If he compares the record of the Dunstan Government with that of the Queensland Government, he will quickly see which of them is doing something for the primary producers and which of them is doing absolutely nothing. The Queensland Government has done just nothing at all to assist wheat-growers suffering because of the drought, or to assist graziers, or to compensate fruitgrowers who have lost their crops because of frost. Mr. Dunstan is at least doing something for the farmers in his State. Up to a point I agree with the honorable member in praising the bill, because no “ tag “ has been attached to the granting of benefits under it. Nevertheless, it seems anomalous that assistance should be granted to some wheat-growers who are in no way financially distressed, whilst fruit-growers who have lost their entire crop because of frost, and graziers. who have had to endure three years of drought, receive no assistance at all. The cerealgrower loses his crop for the one season, but many graziers have had no return from their properties for three years, and even now, when rain has fallen, they are unable to restock. Their cash resources are expended, and they can get no further financial accommodation from the banks or similar institutions. Neither can they get any assistance from their State governments. To all intents and purposes they are bankrupt. If the amount of money which is to be distributed as drought relief is limited, it would have been better to apply a means test so that grants would be made only to those who need it, and the money saved in this way devoted to relieving distress among graziers and other primary producers. In the south-western part of Queensland, the drought lasted for three years. Stock losses were heavy, and now that rain has fallen there will be further losses from the cold which accompanies the rain. Probably more than 1,000,000 sheep will die from cold. We hear about sunny Queensland, but recently the maximum temperature in the south- western area of Queensland was 44 degrees.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) referred to crop losses from frost. At the end of last year, I introduced a deputation to the Minister for Commerce .and Agriculture seeking assistance for deciduous fruitgrowers in the Stanthorpe district. Some of them have lost their entire apple crop, because of a late frost. We asked for assistance for growers who had lost 50 per cent, or more of their crops, but Cabinet rejected our request. Apparently, -Cabinet thinks that a man who loses his entire crop of apples has nothing to complain of, as compared with the man whose wheat crop is a failure. The wheat-grower may be a member of “this Parliament receiving a salary of £1,000 a year, but if he loses his crop through drought, he will receive assistance under this bill. I am not opposed to that, but I say that the other fellow should get something, also. We made representations to the Queensland
Government for assistance, but drew a blank there as usual. This frost came as late as October, and, in many case3, completely ruined 75 per cent, of the fruit crop. I believe that some assistance should be given to fruit-growers in those circumstances.. Inasmuch as this bill makes no provision for them, I criticize it ; otherwise it has my support.
.- J support the bill. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) eulogized the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan. I have listened to the honorable member speak on the subject of orderly marketing. I have heard him advocate assistance to primary industries, and, generally speaking, I have found myself able to agree with the opinions that he expressed. I cannot, however, support him in his praise of the Premier of Victoria, who was the only Premier who wanted to put a “ tag “ on the distribution of this money. He was the only one who wanted the money to be advanced to the farmer? as a loan instead of as a grant. I fail to understand the attitude adopted by the honorable member.
– I referred to his record generally. I did not agree with the stand that he took regarding the loan.
– When a Premier has such principles as Mr. Dunstan has, he cannot expect to be supported by those who have the interests of the primary producers really at heart.
– What about the Government of ‘Queensland?
– For 30 years, Labour governments in Queensland have enjoyed the confidence of the people. The Parliament of that State is the most democratically elected legislature in the Commonwealth. An honorable member opposite suggests that the electorates in Queensland have been “ jerrymandered “ to suit the interests of the Labour party ; but I contend that in arranging electoral boundaries, no one can surpass “Artful Albert “ in Victoria.
I deeply regret the .necessity for this measure. It shows that the scars of drought are seared more deeply into the flesh of Australia than we at first believed. Some months ago, this Parliament passed legislation granting relief to drought-stricken farmers, and to enable them to plant a crop this season. Now, it appears that they suffered, more heavily than we realized earlier, and require additional assistance. The necessity for the introduction of this bill demonstrates that the great wheat-growing industry of Australia has, for many years, wavered on the brink of a precipice. Its financial stability has been so precarious that wheat-growers, when beset by any crisis, large or small, have been obliged to appeal to governments for assistance. For years, the industry has not been able to command an adequate price to enable it to withstand losses caused by drought or frost. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), in outlining the effects of frost on the citrus industry, proved conclusively that all the rural industries sail close to the wind, financially. This bill should be a warning to the Parliament and the people of Australia that they must, in the postwar period, give a greater measure of security to primary producers, particularly by fixing maximum prices for all primary products that are sold in the markets of the world. On the 10th July, 1941, an international conference was held in Washington to discuss wheat marketing. The five countries represented there were Argentina, the United. States of America, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, which is one of the biggest consumers of wheat. From that conference emerged the International Wheat Agreement. The speculators in. the great cities of the world - the men in the “ mop-it-up clubs “ - will endeavour to destroy it. Provided they make their profits, they ignore the sufferings that their business methods impose upon wheat-growers. If their plans do not miscarry, the wheat-growing industry of Australia will again be thrown into the hurly-burly of international speculation, and this Parliament will be obliged to pass many bills in future to assist wheat-growers to remain in production. During the war, the Government has used, its powers under the National Security Act to stabilize the primary industries and to guarantee to them adequate prices. Six months after the War, that authority will lapse, and the Government will have to devise other means to ensure the maintenance of economic equilibrium. Therefore, all political parties should join forces to support the International Wheat Agreement, and to apply a similar principle to our other primary industries.
.- I am glad that the Government has seen fit to increase the amount of money available for the relief of droughtstricken primary producers; When similar legislation was introduced a few months ago, we hoped for an early termination of the drought, and for a rapid return of better conditions. Unfortunately, those hopes were not fully realized. I agree with the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) that wheat-growers possibly have had the worst deal of any section of primary producers. One of the reasons is that they have carried on their shoulders a large number of secondary industries.
– The honorable member knows that it is the truth. The Australian wool clip returns between £60,000,000 and £80,000,000 per annum, and is- one of the greatest stabilizing interests in the Australian economy. But the wool-growers have not received any assistance. Some primary industries have been helped financially, but the measure of assistance is very small compared with that which has been granted to many secondary industries. Some of the secondary industries are vital to our existence as a nation, but others have been a burden to the country. Honorable members opposite cannot deny it. Even in war-time, the only section of industry which has not been put on a cost-plus basis is primary production. Indeed, no other class of industry has so many opponents. All the great vested interests in the capital cities are antagonistic. In addition, nature is the enemy of the farmers and pastoralists. Any person who has travelled through the great wheat belts of Australia, beginning in Western Australia and passing through South Australia, north-west and northern Victoria, the Riverina and western New South Wales, and parts of Queensland, will have some conception of the obstacles that primary producers must overcome before they can earn a living. Some fertile areas, which, in normal seasons, would support a fairly large population are almost deserted to-day. A few people are straggling back to those districts, and are trying to re-establish themselves under almost impossible conditions. The irrigation channels are choked with sand, and the settlers cannot get any water. Horses have been sent away for agistment, or have been slaughtered to provide food for greyhounds. Few tractors are available. When many of the primary producers enlisted at the outbreak of war, they sold their tractors. Now, some of them have been discharged as medically unfit, and they are unable to replace this machinery. This bill will not assist them.
The Commonwealth has already disbursed the following amounts: - To New South Wales, £475,000; Victoria, £725,000; South Australia, £330,000; and Western Australia, £40,000. But the States are also carrying a portion of the burden. New South Wales has distributed £927,000, Victoria £1,310,000, and South Australia, £660,000. Apart from wheat-growers, wool-growers have suffered heavy losses through the drought. Large holdings in the western Riverina, which, in normal times, were shearing 20,000 sheep, now shear about 2,000 sheep. One man had 32,000 sheep a few years ago. Now, he estimates that he has 1,800. Wherever a few sheep are running on his property, he erects a temporary yard and shears them. They are so weak that he cannot muster them, and drive them to the usual shearing shed. Many pastoralists, who lease their properties, have great difficulty in making a living. Some will be able to restock, at enormous cost, but others are practically ruined. This bill will not help them. Nor will it aid dairy-farmers. It is futile to offer reasonable prices for butter and milk if dairy-farmers cannot produce them owing to shortage of fodder. Partly because of the drought, and partly because of the Government’s stupid method of price-fixing, hay has not been cut in many parts of the country. No inducement was offered to compensate for the extra labour involved.
– Not only have the wheat-growers suffered severely through the drought, but dairymen and wool and meat producers also were ‘ severely affected. Although dairymen in the more favoured areas have received fairly satisfactory prices, those in my own electorate, in the northern and north-western portions of Victoria, and in the Riverina were hit hard by the drought. They have also suffered owing to the fact that they have had to send many of their young stock to be slaughtered, and the disability will continue for several years. In Victoria according to the Government Statist, there are approximately 800,000 milking cows, and only 66,107 springing heifers. Those who have had experience of dairying, particularly in the areas carrying large numbers of cattle, realize that, owing to mammitis and other diseases, approximately replacement of 20 per cent, is required annually, and. the necessary stock for replacements will not. be available. People in the drought areas, owing to the shortage of forage, losses of stock and the- compulsory sale of young cattle, have suffered sever monetary loss. The sheep and meat producers have experienced heavy losses and stock is still dying because of the cold weather. Victoria to-day has approximately only 16,000,000 sheep, the lowest number since 19’21. Farmers have been forced to sell ewes at from 10s. te 15s. a head, and older sheep sent to dehydration plants at from 2s. to 5s., a head. At present, better-class ewes are bringing from 30s. to 35s. a head, despite the fact that very little feed is yet available. In view of the fact that these primary producers, as well as the wheatgrowers, have been compelled under our tariff laws, and under the “ cost-plus “ system operating in secondary industries, to carry the remainder of the people of this country on their backs, they ar? entitled to every consideration and assistance. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) and other Government supporters suffer from “ Dunstanitis “. They have also attacked the Honorable N. A. Martin, Minister of Agriculture in Victoria, but the people who suffered from the drought are the best judges of the efficiency of fodder distribution. I have before me several letters which have been addressed to Mr. Martin. The first is one from the secretary of the Nhill Agricultural and Pastoral Society -
On behalf of the Committee of the Nhill Agricultural and Pastoral Society I wish to convey to you their thanks and appreciation of the magnificent work done by yourself in arranging for feed and water for stock from the Wimmera District.
By having this work attended to efficiently it has been the means of saving thousands of sheep, . cattle and horses from the Nhill District.
Another letter “addressed to the Minister for Agriculture in Victoria was from 57 farmers and stock-owners who are members of the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association in the Quambatook district, thanking the Minister for the efficient way in which he had organized the distribution of fodder, and stating that many families had been enabled to continue their farming operations and had saved a certain number of stock, despite the appalling conditions experienced. Any honorable member is at liberty to peruse copies of these letters. I have another signed by 31 farmers in the Nullawil district, including three shire councillors and prominent business people. Prom Wycheproof there is a letter from the local branch of the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association signed by the honorary secretary, Mr. J. J. Keane, intimating that it had. passed the following motion: -
The members of the Wycheproof Branch of V.W.W.G.A. desire to express to Hon. N. A. Martin, Minister of Agriculture, their sincere appreciation of his continued and untiring efforts on behalf of the man on the land during the ravages of this extreme drought.
– Has not the honorable member been referring to the cheap wheat which was made available by the Commonwealth ?
– No. All kinds of forage was made available. It is useless to attempt to feed horses and milking cows entirely on wheat. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) robbed Victoria of fodder in order to feed race-horses in New South Wale?. Subsequently he redirected the fodder to Victoria, after a storm of prorest, in this House,
– There was no robbery.
– Perhaps that is what Ned Kelly said to the bank manager when he robbed the bank at Jerilderie, but he took the money. The two cases are parallel. Similar conditions prevail in South Australia and in the Riverina. If the farmers do not receive assistance, large areas in Victoria will revert to big holdings and become practically desert country. It would he deplorable if Australia lost the production of these farmers at a time when food and clothing are urgently needed for people in Great Britain and in the countries which have been released from the enemy. If farmers in droughtstricken areas go out of production, they will increase the drift of population to the cities, and great loss will be suffered by Australia and the rest of the Empire.
.- The object of this bill is to give legal sanction to action already taken in the provision of certain moneys for the assistance of growers of cereal products who have suffered through drought conditions. As one who is actively engaged in the industry, I express my appreciation of the help given. The assistance was on a more generous scale than ever previously experienced. The payment in respect of wheat crops which had completely failed was 12s. 6d. an acre and in the case of oat crops 7s. 6d. an acre. The resultant cheques sent to the growers have been of great assistance to them in enabling them to carry on their holdings. The conditions laid down to qualify growers for participation in the relief were that those who had sown their crops and had experienced a complete failure should receive the full amount of the relief payments.
Farmers who prepared their land but refrained from sowing the seed because of the extraordinary dry conditions will participate to the extent of 50 per cent, of the rates which I have mentioned. A number of growers could not qualify for participation in this assistance. Some of them decided to relinquish their farming operations altogether, and although they had suffered losses during two years of drought, unfortunately they were not able to receive any compensation on that account. These conditions were laid down by Commonwealth and State Ministers in conference. Other sections of the rural community which suffered on account of the drought, have been mentioned by other speakers, particularly the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who spoke of citrus growers and vine growers who produced grapes for dried fruits and wines, and as fresh fruits I have in mind the plight of some hundreds of citrus growers in the Murray Valley area, whose orchards suffered almost complete extinction as the result of the disastrous frosts which occurred during the drought period. Some of these men were financially ruined. In some instances, every orange tree in their groves was killed by the extremely severe frosts. As far as I know, no compensation has been provided for them by either the State or the Commonwealth. Although growers endeavoured to protect themselves against damage by frost, it was impossible for them to apply comprehensive safeguards. The Commonwealth and the State should collaborate in providing some financial assistance for these men to enable them to replant their orchards, pay their commitments, and re-establish themselves. I hope that, at one of the numerous conferences between State -and Commonwealth authorities, this matter will be listed for discussion and that something will be done to provide against the future contingency of disasters of this kind.
I refer now to the losses of stockowners, particularly sheep-raisers. Losses of sheep throughout the. mixed farming and small grazing areas have been very great during the two years of drought. These appalling losses were greatly accentuated by the shortage of fodder reserves. All sorts of reasons have been stated for this shortage, but, as a practical fanner and grazier, I say definitely that the main contributing factor was that, because of the war, our man-power was so reduced in the years immediately preceding the drought that we were unable to cut and conserve the fodder crops that we had sown. We were compelled to limit our conservation of fodder, and we stored only so much as we considered to be sufficient to carry us on from year to year. In my opinion, that is the real reason for the present fodder shortage. I do not endeavour to assign the blame for this state of affairs. A great deal of political football has been indulged in in an endeavour to allocate blame to one authority or another. I dissociate myself from such tactics. Something should be done to prevent a recurrence of this serious loss of stock due to fodder shortages. We can guard against such disasters by planning ahead and giving encouragement to the farmers. They know what to do, but many of them are restricted by finance and manpower shortages. I urge the Government to co-operate with the State authorities in planning a national fodder conservation scheme. If it fails to do so, there will be further great losses of stock in the future, to the disadvantage not only of individuals but also of the nation as a whole. At this time, we need to build up stocks of foodstuffs for our own needs and also for the needs of allied nations and the starving peoples of countries which have been devastated by war. I ask the Government to give special consideration at an early date to providing substantial financial assistance to enable small stock-raisers to restock their properties. There is every indication fiat prices of store stock will increase considerably. They will be dear and hard to obtain. Consequently, there will be a great deal of economic waste because those farmers who have stocks of fodder and grass will not be able to purchase the sheep that they need. -These people complain that the Government provides financial assistance for wheat-growers and other primary producers, but, up to the present, has done nothing for stockraisers. This is an important problem, and the Government will be charged with neglect if it does not endeavour to improve the position. I should fail in my duty if I did not draw attention to it.
Prom the national point of view, in these times when an amount of a few millions of pounds counts for little in the general scheme, it would be advisable for the Government, not only in the interests of the nation, but also in its own interests, to assist farmers to restock their properties. All of these problems which affect the primary industries, whilst varying from time to time, are ever recurrent. Therefore, it would be sound policy to reconstitute the Rural Industries Committee of this Parliament which functioned for a period, and give to it some permanency, so that it could investigate periodically both the short-range and long-range needs of the primary industries, and recommend to the Government what action should be taken.
– There is an Australian Agricultural Council.
– But that consists of Ministers of Agriculture.
– And their departmental heads.
– Exactly. But what is wanted is a committee that would be able to visit all parts of Australia, take evidence when required from various groups of primary producers, and report direct to this Parliament. The disadvantage under which the Commonwealth is now placed is that when the Australian Agricultural Council meets it relies absolutely upon the reports that are placed before it by the representatives of the States. There should be a check upon its proposals, The reconstitution of the Rural Industries Committee would be of considerable advantage to the Commonwealth when making decisions designed to benefit the primary producers. If one parliamentary committee justified its existence more than any other, it was the Rural Industries Committee. I am glad to say that it has been the practice of the present Government to accept in toto the recommendations made to it by almost every parliamentary’ committee that has been appointed.
– What recommendations of the Rural Industries Committee were carried into effect?
– I cannot answer that question offhand. The recommendations of the all-party parliamentary committee in regard to a war gratuity, for example, were accepted in. toto; so were the recommendations of many other committees. A direct link between primary producers and the Government - which, in the final analysis, has to shoulder the responsibility for policy - would be of great advantage. I commend the suggestion most earnestly to the Government, and I hope that the Minister at present in charge of the House (Mr. Frost) will convey it to the Prime Minister.
Some criticism has been offered in respect of the work of the Prices Commissioner and his staff. I would say a word in their defence. I do not claim that everything they have done has been perfect; far from it. But a most difficult task has been tackled, and a fair degree of success has attended the efforts of the Commissioner to keep prices at a reasonable level. One of the reasons adduced by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) for the shortage of fodder was that the Prices Commissioner had fixed prices for chaff and hay which were not attractive to the producers. That is debatable. There are two ways in which the matter must be viewed. On throne hand, there is the large number of producers and other consumers of fodder who want to purchase their requirements at reasonable prices; for example, thai large section of primary producers which, for the reasons I have previously stated, had no fodder with which to feed their stock. On the other hand, the producer who has a surplus of fodder for salp wants to get as much as he can for it. That is one of the complexities of our competitive system. Conferences I have had with the Prices Commissioner have convinced me that he and his officers desire to hold the scales evenly between buyers and sellers. I frankly admit that many mistakes have been made; nevertheless, I do not blame the Commissioner and his staff for all that has happened. They are entitled to a word of praise for having kept prices on an even keel. When I had the privilege of visiting other countries a year or so ago, I could see that no real control of prices- wai being exercised, and that conditions were drifting towards inflation. There has since been further deterioration, and that is being reflected in the cost of article.1 that we have to import. The prices of tractors tod other machinery have been increased because of the lack of effective price control in the country of origin. The Prices -Commissioner has done a reasonably good job, and without him out position would have been very much worse than it is.
I have -no criticism to offer in regard to the bill, which merely proposes to give legal effect to what has already been done. There is a wide field in Australia for a well-considered scheme of drought insurance covering primary producers. I have consistently advocated such a scheme from time to time, but have not had very much response from either producers or the Government. Take, for example, the wheat industry, with which I am most conversant. A contribution of, say, 2d. a bushel by the grower of wheat, and a subsidy of a similar or a larger amount by the Government, would build up in a few years a fund that would completely obviate the need to plead to governments from time to time for financial assistance to offset the effects of drought conditions. Such a scheme would meet the position, and could be easily worked. The same principle could be applied to many other primary industries. The cost to the Commonwealth would be no greater than it now has to bear when providing drought relief.
– The provision of a few more dams might not be out of place as an insurance .against drought.
– That is so. A great work lies ahead of us in planning water conservation throughout the Commonwealth as a whole. We have not done nearly so much in that respect as we could have done in the past. The fact that our rivers, streams and lakes ‘are so small in comparison with those of other countries, makes it still more necessary to devise a policy of water conservation on the basis of not allowing one drop of water to escape. I could enlarge upon this subject, but I do not propose to do so at this juncture. I again commend the Government for introducing the measure. It should follow up this step by providing similar assistance to other sections of primary producers who are victims of drought. There can be no doubt that this policy will pay dividends in the national sense far in excess of the cost involved in granting assistance of this kind.
.- I support the bill. The principal act provides that grants may be made to New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The measure now before us increases the amount of the assistance of £1,500,000 made available by the Commonwealth under the principal act to £1,855,000.
I do not intend to approach this matter from a parochial point of view. However, no assistance has been given under the principal act, nor is any proposed in this bill to primary producers in the small State of Tasmania. Of course, we cannot prevent adverse seasonal conditions, and special provision must be made to offset losses caused thereby. My primary object in speaking at this juncture is to point out that whilst Tasmania is nor subject to severe droughts, primary producers in that State encounter periods when stock feeds are reduced to dangerous levels because of adverse seasonal conditions. Indeed, it might be said that producers in that State frequently suffer severe losses because of too much rain. In such periods, vegetables and root crops, for instance, rot in the ground, .and involve producers in considerable loss. At different periods of the year crops are also damaged by severe frosts and hailstorms. The latter play havoc with fruit. One might say. in passing, that the Minister for Repatriation is not the only “ frost “ which afflicts Tasmania. In that State, frost often lies on the ground like snow. Such conditions involve primary producers in considerable loss, and also have a very bad effect upon stock. The point T make is that these conditions are more severe and cause greater damage in Tasmania than in any of the other States. Therefore, I support the suggestion made by the honorable, member for Ban-ker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that the Government should investigate the possibility of extending assistance of this kind to primary producers who suffer loss as the result of hailstorms and severe frosts. That class of assistance is urgently required by primary producers in Tasmania.
.- I support the bill, which supplements generous relief already provided in respect of losses resulting from drought conditions in Victoria and grants relief to sufferers in Western Australia. This relief is to be administered by the States which will subsidize it on a £1-for-£1 basis. As previous, speakers have mentioned, this is the first occasion on which this Parliament has given assistance to primary producers in the form of a straightout gift. No one suggests that the grant will be sufficient to cover the total loss suffered as the result of drought conditions ; but the measure of assistance is substantial and will enable recipients to recoup themselves portion of the cost they have incurred in planting crops which failed because of dry conditions. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) did not make any helpful suggestion with respect to the problem of dealing effectively with droughts. Indeed, he implied that the Government now found it necessary to provide this assistance mainly because of some failure on its part to look after the interests of primary producers. He said that the greatest burden being borne by our producers to-day was the policy of the Government with respect to secondary industry, to which, he asserted, the Government was providing an unfair measure of protection at the expense of primary producers. The object of the Government’s policy with respect to secondary production is to build up a home market, because in that way we can provide the best market for our primary producers, fixing, where necessary, homeconsumption prices in respect of certain commodities. The greatest burden being borne by our primary producers to-day is the burden of debt. However, the honorable member and his colleagues in the Australian ‘Country party have always opposed any attempt to relieve the producers of the burden which they carry in respect of mortgages, &c. Only recently, those honorable members opposed the Government’s banking” legislation merely in order to conserve the interests of mortgagees. The Australian Country party has not made any worthwhile contribution towards solving the problem of helping primary producers as a whole.
The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) had much to say in praise of the Premier of Victoria. I point out to him that the Premier of Victoria refused an offer by the Commonwealth to subsidize a scheme for the conservation of fodder in the ratio of £2 to £1 to be provided by the State. “Why did the Premier of Victoria refuse that offer ? It is of no use for honorable mem bers- to say now, as did the honorable member for Bendigo, that the farmers were not encouraged to grow hay. I remember interviewing the Minister for Commerce in the 1941-42 season on behalf of farmers who had sown more than the allotted area under wheat. They were supposed to cut the surplus area for hay, but because of the labour shortage they were allowed to strip it. There, was an opportunity then to establish fodder reserves. Some of the other State Governments accepted the Commonwealth offer to subsidize farmers for the production of fodder.
– What about Queensland?
– There has been a Labour government in Queensland for many years, and the marketing of primary produce is fully organized.
– But what has the Queensland Government done in the way of drought relief?
– There is a far better Government in Queensland than in Victoria. The Commonwealth Government has been severely criticized by members of the Australian Country party, but what have those members themselves done for the farmers in the past? The honorable member for Bendigo painted a harrowing picture of a discharged soldier, perhaps suffering from wounds or sickness, trying unsuccessfully to get a tractor. Why can he not get a tractor? .Because members of the Australian Country party, and their political friends, have been opposed to the setting up in this country of secondary industries. Members of the Australian Country party have been successful up to the present in misleading the farmers on these matters, but now the farmers are waking up to them. They are realizing that, because of the fiscal policy which has been applied by previous governments, they have had to rely on overseas markets for the sale of their products, and have had to accept low prices. That is why the farmers are always in debt. What are we going to do to improve the situation? That is what should be concerning -members of the Australian Country party, yet they opposed the Government’s banking legislation which offered the only hope which the farmers have of freeing themselves of the ‘hurden of interest. Under our present system, interest must be paid, drought or no drought. Interest is more important to honorable members opposite than is human life. They talk of equality of sacrifice, but they support legislation which insists upon the sanctity of interest, even at the expense of human lives.
– You are a poor thing!
– The honorable member himself is a poor thing if he supports a system like that. I am a farmer and a soldier settler, and I, and others like me, were told that if we did not meet our interest payments we would lose our properties. Our object is to get the farmers out of debt. As the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) pointed out, the farmer has many difficulties to contend with, apart from drought. - Even, in good years prices may be low, and there is always the interest to be met on his mortgage. Damage by frost is sometimes very serious in fruitgrowing areas, and in the vineyards. Sometimes great fires sweep large areas of Australia^ Only recently, I myself was very nearly burnt out. My brother was burnt out, losing 96 cows out of 100, and his home as well. We must try to devise protection against such dangers. We can establish fire breaks, but even they are not always effective. Sometimes great damage is done by floods, or there is an outbreak of rust in wheat, so that the farmer, instead of harvesting ten hags to the acre, harvests only two or three bags of lowgrade grain. How are these difficulties to be met? I believe that the only way is for the farmers to contribute in good years to an insurance scheme - not one conducted by private insurance companies, as members of the Australian Country party would favour, but conducted by the Government. The Commonwealth Government has power to legislate in respect of insurance. In this way, losses from drought, &c, would be made good out of the insurance fund, instead of from revenue grants contributed by the taxpayers. The relief which is to be afforded under this measure will not get the farmers out of debt. There may be a sequence of good years now, bur there will be droughts again in the future. As for frost damage, that will have to be covered by insurance, as in the case of hail.
As the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) rightly pointed out, the man who loses his wheat crop through drought, loses his labour and the seed, but that is all. Probably, if the next season is a good one. he will get .a better crop off that land because it has lain fallow. However, when a man loses his stock in a drought he loses his capital, and that is a very serious matter. After the drought breaks, stock will be scarce and dear, and he may have to pay as much as 30s. a head for sheep. Probably, his property is already mortgaged, and he may experience difficulty in obtaining financial accommodation. He may be able to buy stock on a three months bill, but when the bill falls due he may not be able to meet it, and the stock will be sold. The only way to guard against that sort of thing is to establish reserves of fodder. Men who have suffered stock losses can be assisted effectively only by the provision through the Mortgage Bank of advances at low rates of interest, say, 1 per cent. Stock purchased by means of the money provided would be under lien to the bank until the debt was .liquidated, naturally, but, at least, the pastoralists and dairyfarmers whose stock has been depleted or destroyed by the drought would be able to get on their feet again and produce the food and wool that Australia needs. The honorable member for Bendigo will agree that .never before has’ the dairying industry enjoyed such high prices. In passing, I impress upon him that those high prices result from the application of the Labour party’s policy of a better deal for the dairying industry. However, it is essential that prices be stable so that in good’ years the dairy-farmers may recoup their losses in lean years. This bill is, of course, restricted to cereal-growers, but many wheat farmers also grow wool and raise fat lambs. In addition to having suffered great losses through the failure of the wheat crop, they have also suffered the .loss of their breeding ewes. So they fall within the -category ‘of those who need the assistance of advances at a low rate of interest for restocking.
– What does the honorable member regard as a reasonable rate of interest?
– In the present conditions, it would not be over-generous to provide money free of interest, at any rate, for the first two years.
– But what is a reasonable rate of interest in normal times?
– In normal times the rate of interest on money advanced on the security of stock should, I think, be the Commonwealth Bank’s ruling rate of 3f per cent.
– Order !
– That would certainly be better than rates of from 7 to 10 per cent, which have to be paid to private lenders.
– I ask the honorable member to return to the bill.
– I do not object to the question.
– But the Chair does.
– Then I make it a part of my speech. I think the rate of interest on money advanced for restocking should be as low as 1-J per cent. This is not a matter affecting only individual persons. National prosperity i3 at stake, and all steps to avert its collapse must be taken.
. -No .one on this side objects to the bill, as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. Even Government supporters have described as a mere pittance the relief provided, for drought-sticken primary producers under this bill and the act that it amends. This bill, like its predecessor, relates only to cereal-growers, principally wheat farmers. When ever this Parliament debates drought relief there is a tendency to confine attention to the wheat industry. It would almost seem that that is the one industry that suffers from drought, hut, in the last two years, particularly the last twelve months, the pastoral industry and the dairying industry have sustained the heaviest losses in their history, and I hope that this measure to assist the growers of wheat and other cereals will not be the end of the Government’s consideration of the drought problem. The herds and flocks of a great many dairy-farmers and pastoralists have been almost wiped out. They have to obtain bank accommodation in order to restock and get once again into production. They, too, need help.
This bill increases by £355,000 to £1,855,000 the money to be provided to certain States on a £l-for-£l basis for disbursement to cereal-growers. That money will be of assistance to those who receive it. Undeniably, the wheat-growers, who will be the principal beneficiaries, have suffered colossal losses in the last twelve months. The wheat crop in Victoria in 1943- 44 was 19,733,332 bushels, and in 1944- 45, 3,497,677 bushels- a drop of more than 16,000,000 bushels. While that fall was taking place, an additional 348,000 acres was put under wheat. The Victorian oats crop fell f-rom 3,704,985 bushels in 1943-44 to 1,335,429 bushels in 1944-45. The Australian wheat crop was about 100,000,000 bushels short of the crop in the previous year. At present-day prices that represents a loss to this country of about £40,000,000.
Three months ago I said in this House that if rain did not fall before the end of May, Australia would lose between 20,000,000 and 30,000,000 head of sheep. I believe that my forecast came true, and that we have lost at least 20,000,000 head of sheep, which, at an average of £1 a head, is a loss of £20,000,000. The value of the wool clip this year will be £18,000,000 less than the return in 1942-43, and £6,000,000 less than last year. Consequently, the drought will represent a capital loss to Australia of between £70,000,000 and £80,000,000. That is a national disaster. If it were not for war finance and inflationary policies, Australia undeniably would be compelled to regard more seriously this blow to its economy. This disaster has been the greatest in our history, with the possible exception of the drought in 1902. Those are the facts, and’ honorable members must face them. War expenditure, by concealing some of the effect of those losses, does not solve the problem. The losses will be experienced for some years, and must affect every individual.
– The honorable member 1$ painting a dismal picture.
– It is a true picture. If the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) will take a pencil and paper and calculate the losses that the drought has caused in the rural industries, he will arrive at approximately the same total as I have. It is advisable, at times, for us to look at the true picture, because many people have the idea that the issue of unlimited credit, as in war-time, can continue indefinitely. They forget that inflationary policies are creating a burden of debt that will be felt by future generations. This burden is an overdraft which we shall have to meet. In the meantime, we must realize what the drought has cost this country, and take it into consideration when formulating national policy. I want the general public to realize what the drought has coat Australia, and how it will effect every citizen. When people realize that, they will insist upon the Government taking action for the purpose of preventing a repetition of such a calamity.
Let us consider whether any omissions by the Government of the day have contributed to the disaster. I believe that the inaction of the present Administration has contributed most materially to the calamity. I refer particularly to the fodder position. Undeniably, war increases the demand for food. History has proved that. Great Britain realized that food would be an urgent requirement, not during the years of war, but also in the immediate post-war period, and improved production by offering payable prices and reasonable wages, and providing adequate man-power for the rural industries. Not even in the darkest day of 1940 did Great Britain fail to provide sufficient man-power for the production of food.
– Order! [ remind the honorable member that the bill deals with drought relief, and ask him to relate his remarks to it,
– I am dealing with drought relief, because I am referring to the supply of fodder. Obviously, the lack of fodder has contributed to drought losses. Australia, unfortunately, did not have sufficient sense to tackle the problem in the manner in which Great Britain handled it. Every honorable member will admit that the lack of fodder during the past twelve months has been due, in large measure, to lack of manpower.
– Obviously the honorable member has not a practical knowledge of the problem. In the western districts of Victoria last year millions of tons of meadow hay could have been cut if adequate man-power had been available. Primary producers appealed to the National Service officers in their districts for labour, but none was provided. Consequently, the meadow nay could not be harvested. The lack of that fodder has now caused the loss of millions of sheep and cattle. As I stated, Great Britain adopted a wiser policy, and » committee which recently investigated the rural industries declared that never before in the history of that country had the countryside looked so well kept. ‘ What happened in Australia? In 1942 almost every available farm-worker was called up for military service, although the Government had neither the staff to train them nor equipment for them. Suddenly realizing its mistake, the Government put a “ blanket “ over primary industries, exempting all persons then employed in them from military service. It was too late.
At the outbreak of war, the prices of chaff, oats and, hay were about equal to, or under, the cost of production, and the Prices Commissioner declined to permit an increase. Six months ago, I issued a warning that the price of oats, 3s. a bushel, had been barely payable twenty years ago. The fixation of low prices for fodder undoubtedly has had a serious effect during the last few years because farmers, lacking labour, discontinued the production of hay and oats and concentrated on more profitable lines like wool and meat. So, we have had rising sheep numbers in this country and a falling supply of fodder reserves. The low ceiling prices fixed by the Prices Commissioner are one of the main reasons for the shortage of fodder during the last year, and has contributed to the loss of millions of sheep and hundreds of thousands of head of cattle, including dairy cows. I come now to the wheat industry. Did the Government tackle this industry in a statesmanlike manner, or only with a view to furthering its own political ends ? The Government’s scheme was to guarantee a payable price only on the first 3,000 bushels produced by a grower. That, of course, was a bid to gain the votes of the small wheat-growers, who constitute 70 per cent, of all wheatgrowers in the Commonwealth. The Government forgot, however, that the remaining 30 per cent, produce 70 per cent, of Australia’s wheat. Because wheat is now in short supply, sheep-raisers in drought areas cannot get wheat to feed to their flocks. From the end of last month, no more wheat will be available to feed starving stock. I have received a letter from a leading stud-farmer in my own district appealing to me for assistance to obtain wheat to feed his stud stock. The Government’s wheat policy has been largely responsible for the present deplorable position. If we had continued to feed wheat to starving stock at the rate in operation until a month or two ago, we” should not have had enough wheat for our own food requirements. The Scully plan was based not upon the needs of the industry, but upon party political considerations. The Go- vernment apparently forgot that if the production of wheat by successful and efficient growers is curtailed, the nation as a whole must suffer. Because of it3 handling of the man-power problem, its administration of prices, and its wheat policy generally, the Government has added materially to the difficulties which have been experienced by primary producers during the last twelve months.
– I invite any honorable member opposite who believes that I am talking rubbish to make a plain statement to the House of the ceiling prices fixed, say, twelve months ago, for the commodities which I have mentioned. Mistakes of this kind must be avoided in the future, and they can be avoided only by sound planning. Otherwise, production will continue to decline. The Government must lay down policies of a permanent nature in its handling of the problems of primary producers. Stable prices must be guaranteed for the most important of our primary products. Only in that way will the future of primary producers of this country be safeguarded. That is the first essential. The second task which must be tackled competently is fodder conservation. Many factors are involved in this problem. Fodder conservation should start on individual farms. That, of course, involves considerable expense. Sheds and silos must be built, and plant, including mowers and ploughs must be purchased. In this country to-day plant is very expensive, and building costs are high. In the dairying industry particularly, fodder conservation has an important bearing upon the maintenance of production. The Government might well consider granting assistance to individual farmers to erect buildings and acquire plant for fodder conservation schemes. Possibly that could be done by waiving interest payments. At least, money should be made available at low rates of interest. A man who wishes to conserve meadow hay, for instance, requires three or four draughthorses, a dray and a mower, involving a capital cost of between £300 and £400.
– Generally speaking, most of that equipment is already on the farms.
– No. That is one reason why large-scale fodder conservation schemes have not been undertaken in the past. Apart from what may be done by individual farmers to meet their own requirements, it is important that a firm Government policy on fodder conservation be laid down. Here .again many factors are involved. For instance, a government fodder conservation scheme might involve the storing of fodder on individual farms, the fodder remaining the property of the Government. A census could be taken every year to determine fodder requirements and stocks. In Victoria, it has been estimated that requirements in most years would amount to 1,200,000 tons. In March of this year, stocks amounted to only 410,000 tons, which was far short of requirements. In the event of fodder stocks being insufficient to meet requirements, what can the Government do to rectify the position? First, it could assist farmers to erect stores and could fix payable prices for fodder to ensure that adequate supplies will be grown. Fodder, of course, deteriorates and stocks have to be replaced from time to time. A comprehensive conservation policy, however, would mean that in time of drought requirements would be met. Eventually the fodder will be sold and the Government will be recouped its expenditure. This matter should be above party considerations, and it should not be beyond the ingenuity of the House to devise a satisfactory policy for the solution of the problem.
The losses would have been much greater during this drought had not extensive irrigation works been undertaken in this country. In 1902 there was an estimated loss of 50,000,000 sheep, and one of the reasons why the loss was less on this occasion is that in the meantime attention has been paid to water conservation. Most of the large streams on the eastern side of the continent will have to be dammed, but care should be taken to ensure that some of our best agricultural lands shall not be inundated. This mistake has been made in the past in impounding large bodies of water. We shall be foolish if we do not try to learn the lesson to be derived from droughts, and, if we turn our attention to means of avoiding losses in future, the recent disastrous drought may prove to have had at least one redeeming feature. Many farmers apart from wheat-growers have suffered severe loss, and assistance should be given to them also. The primary producer who specially interests me is the dairy-farmer. Heavy losses of dairy cattle have been experienced in northern Victoria, and great difficulty arises in restocking farms. The building up of herds by breeding young stock results in a loss of production for four or five years. The cost of restocking pastoral properties presents a difficult problem, and surely pastoralists are entitled to some relief. The Government is aware of the importance of these primary industries, which must be placed on a sound foundation if the people engaged in them are to succeed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Smith) adjourned.
Vegetable Production on Atherton Tableland - Wheat for Pig-raising - Royal Australian Air Force: Warm Clothing - Kangaroo Island Communications - Military Offenders: Allowances to Dependants - Overseas Travel:. Repatriation of British Serviceman - Broadcasting : Ministerial Prohibitions.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I regret that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) is absent through indisposition, and I hope that he will soon be back in his accustomed place. I am in receipt of a letter from the Atherton branch of the Northern Country party in these terms -
At a meeting of the above branch of the Northern Country party held on the 15th July, 1945, I was instructed to write and draw your attention to the position of vegetable growers on the Atherton Tableland.
Large quantities of vegetables are now going to waste, as there is now no market available. These vegetables were grown at the instigation of the Federal Government for consumption by the services, and the many growers in this area are now faced with the serious problem of disposal of crops, owing to the fact that no intimation of a necessity for the cessation of production in consequence of the removal of troops was given to the growers.
It is considered that, without any conflict with security necessities, the producers could have been informed of some approximate time when the consumption of vegetables would be likely to decrease. As it is, many acres of vegetables are now rotting in the fields or are being ploughed into the soil.
One member of the meeting asked if vegetables could not be transported by air to island operational areas where the diet of troops could thus be improved.
Your assistance in regard to this matter would be appreciated by vegetable growers on the Atherton Tableland, many of whom have purchased irrigation plants, tractors and farm machinery to enablethem to grow the vegetables for which there is now no market.
Will the Minister at the table (Mr. Frost) have the matter investigated so that appropriate action may be taken? Extensive advertisements and propaganda were issued by the Government urging farmers to grow vegetables.
– Under contract?
– I cannot say, but I shall direct attention to several instances of wasteful expenditure and mismanagement in connexion with the campaign. Its disastrous results were shown in the replies to questions asked by me with regard to the venture at Home Hill, and the Government should take stock of the situation immediately. In my own electorate men were urged to act patriotically by trying to step up vegetable production, in order to supply foodstuffs required by our armed forces. The market of these growers has been cut off almost overnight, and their crops have been left to rot on the ground. The matter warrants prompt consideration by the Government. Thousands of troops were recently stationed on the Atherton Tableland. Large camps were established in that favorable climate, and the local residents were urged to grow vegetables foi’ them. Plans should have been laid for the proper organization of the venture, and the farmers should have been informed as to the duration of the period for which they were required to supply vegetables. They should have received early notice when the troops were to move on. That notice was not given, and now the whole scheme has suddenly collapsed. The troops have moved on, and the growers are left with acres of vegetables for which they have no market. The matter should be dealt with expeditiously and sympathetically and a re-adjustment should he made on practical lines. I commend to the Minister the recommendation that these vegetables should be transported by air to island operational areas, and thus improve the diet of the troops stationed there.
.- I bring to the notice of the Government the serious situation that has developed in my district in regard to the supply of wheat for the feeding of pigs. Dairy-farmers and pigraisers in the district have endeavoured to comply with the request of the authorities to raise more pigs, yet they now find that, with pigs on their hands, they are unable to obtain necessary feed. I have received from the manager of the largest co-operative dairy company on the north coast of New
South Wales - the Norco Company of Byron Bay - a telegram which reads; -
Position in Richmond-Tweed area very serious owing non-delivery wheat for pig raisers. Our stocks are exhausted, and were exhausted on the 30th June. No deliveries yet for July. Wheat Board allocation for July, when it arrives, will give approximately a quarter of one bag each settler. Would appreciate assistance.
The position is desperate. I leave it to the appropriate Minister to endeavour to provide immediately the requirements of the farmers, and thus avoid the wholesale slaughter of pigs which otherwise would go on .the bacon market. If feed cannot be obtained, the pigs will have to be killed for the porker or the small goods trade, in which event they will not be of very great value in relation to the meat supply for the war effort.
– I have received, to-day from a man whom I know very well in Adelaide, a telegram reading -
Something wrong here. Royal Australian Air Force personnel from tropics landing here tropical kit, no greatcoats, one blanket only in transit. Weather freezing. Understand Army procedure different. Suggest contact Minister for Air immediately
That is self-explanatory. I would no? have mentioned it this afternoon had the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) not been absent from Canberra on other business.
The next matter that I raise concerns sea ‘transport to Kangaroo Island, one of the detached parts of my electorate. Recently, a meeting was held in Kingscote of the combined district councils of Dudley and Kingscote, which embraces the area of Kangaroo Island. The chairman of the meeting, Mr. Mervyn Smith, has written to me in the f ollowing terms.: -
The Coast Steamship Company’s Karatta runs, as you probably know, once a week ord). It leaves Port Adelaide at 6 p.m. on Friday evenings, arrives at Kingscote about 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, leaves again at 9 a.m. on the same morning, calls at Penneshaw shortly after lunch and arrives back in Port Adelaide at any time between 6 p.m. and midnight on Saturday evening. This allow? very little time for unloading and loading both here and at Penneshaw. It is a most tiresome trip for all concerned and times of arrival and departure are not at all suitable for the public, travelling stock, &c.
It is realized that during the past few year? (treat difficulties have been experienced to provide a suitable service for coastal shipping but in view of the better conditions now existing overseas and paper reports that more ships are becoming available this matter is brought to your notice. Pastoral interests in the island are showing increased activity, fat stock barley gum and other commodities have to be shipped away for the Adelaide markets and increasing difficulty is being found to obtain space. The same applying to stock and goods to the island.
At one stage before the war, there was air transport to Kangaroo Island. That is still continued to some extent, but only for passengers and very small parcels. Prior to the war and subsequent to its outbreak, there was a daily motor service from Adelaide to Cape Jervis. Passengers and freight were then transferred to a launch, on which they were taken across to Penneshaw, from which there was a motor service to Kingscote. That service has been discontinued during the war; consequently, the island is dependent to-day on the steamship Karatta, a very small vessel which has long since reached the age entitling one to a vote. Kangaroo Island is an area that has not yet been nearly developed to its capacity. It has a good rainfall. Some of its soil is poor, and some of it is good. In the last few years, much has been done to open up the country. I am not at present arguing that the State Government has any plans for the extensive opening up of new areas. However, I stress that Kangaroo Island is one of the two areas in South Australia - the other being the south-eastern portion of the State, in my electorate - in which there is virgin soil that is capable of being used for soldier settlement. Apart from that, the immediate need is for an improvement of the transport facilities between Port Adelaide and Kangaroo Island. A lot might be said for making the point of departure Glenelg instead of Port Adelaide, because it is farther south and nearer to the island. I cannot say whether that would be practicable; consequently, I do not express any opinion concerning it. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (.Senator Ashley) should investigate the complaint that I have ventilated, with a view to remedial action being taken.
.- I raise a. matter concerning people who find it very difficult to fend for themselves, and who must have the sympathy of the House when, their circumstances have been made known. Hardships are inflicted on the wives and families of soldiers who are sentenced by courts-martial and have to serve the sentences in detention camp? or civil gaols. After they have been sent to gaol, they are discharged from the Army. Within three or four weeks, their families are informed that their allotments and dependants’ allowances are to cease.- Would any one say that the innocent should be punished with the guilty? I do not question the findings of courts-martial, because they give an accused a fair trial. However, service sentences iri the main are far more severe than civil sentences for offences of equal gravity.
At this juncture, I shall content myself . with citing one case. It is that of a man who lives in my electorate. He is serving a sentence of eighteen months detention because he was absent without leave for a period of 38 days. He has written to me to say that his wife, who now has two children, is receiving only a sustenance allowance of 26s. a week. He went absent without leave because of the illness of his wife’ and his elder infant. To-day this unfortunate woman is thrown upon the mercy of charitable institutions. I could cite more serious cases of distress. This woman has a baby two years old who is ill in Fairfield Hospital, and she has just given birth to another child. The sentence of eighteen months is rather heavy. In addition, the man’s wife and dependants are also severely penalized, because the wife’s allotment and the dependants’ allowance, as is the usual practice, were stopped within a fortnight of the man being sentenced. This means that the wife and children will lose, approximately, £40. Insufficient thought is being given to matters of this kind on the part of those responsible. The man suffers the ignominy of imprisonment because he serves his sentence in a civil gaol; and his family suffers severe hardship. A soldier is now obliged to make an allotment of 3s. 6d. a day to his wife, and that allotment is stopped a fortnight after he is sentenced.
At the same time, his family may not even be aware that he has committed a crime. To-day the wife receives 26s. a week as sustenance and an order for groceries from a benevolent society. Out of that sum she pays rent at the rate of 22-s. 6d. a week, which leaves her only 3s. 6d. a week to meet expenses, including fares to visit her sick child daily in hospital. I am sure that honorable members generally will agree that hardships of this kind should be alleviated. I believe that it is only necessary to bring such matters to the notice of the responsible Minister to have the necessary action taken. The allotment and the dependants allowance should be continued in such cases. Years ago, when a soldier who was a pensioner deserted his wife and did not present himself to collect his pension from the Repatriation Department; the wife’s pension was automatically stopped. However, that was rectified. Similar action should be taken in the cases of men serving detention sentences by continuing to pay the wife’s allotment and also dependants’ allowances. This plea applies not only to service prisoners, but also to civilians whose imprisonment involves their dependants in severe hardship.
Yesterday I asked a question dealing with the case of a British soldier who was in Australia when war broke out and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He served overseas, and was taken prisoner in Greece, being repatriated to Australia about a year ago. He has been given a base job, but is anxious to return to Great Britain. The Minister, in his reply, said that he would take up the matter. He wrote several letters to me on the subject, and gave me the impression that something was being done. However, the last letter I received from the Minister was to the effect that if the man could receive his discharge he could return to Great Britain. The Minister must have known that a year ago. When I addressed a question on the subject -this morning to the Acting Minister for External Affairs he said that it was not a matter within his jurisdiction. It is not fair that this man, who has been separated for seven years from his family should not be able to return to his home because he happened to be in. this country at the outbreak of war and enlisted in our armed forces. I cannot understand the failure of the appropriate Minister to take action in this matter, particularly when we know that passports are being made available to persons to attend a Communist Youth conference overseas, and also to people to undertake business trips abroad. While Ministers profess to be sympathetic towards this case, it seems to be nobody’s business. This man cannot get a job as a merchant seaman. He offered his services in that capacity, but was told that he could not be accepted, and would have to wait for his passage until his turn came. He has pointed out to me that his deferred pay will be expended before he is able to leave this country. I urge the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) to bring the matters I have raised to the notice of the appropriate Ministers.
.- This morning I asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he could inform the House of the circumstances in which certain radio artists had been suspended from their broadcasting activities for a period of three months by the order of the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron). In the meantime, I have had an opportunity to read the very lucid and temperate statement which the PostinasterGeneral made in the Senate on the matter; and, as the result, my. own consideration .of the issues raised has been greatly assisted. The statement was clear and informative, and certainly clarified my mind with respect to one or two points on which I was not previously informed. Before dealing with the matter in detail, I should like to say that I, and, I believe, all honorable members, fully appreciate, as was evidenced in their approach to the Australian Broadcasting Act, that a very much closer supervision of material presented over the air is called for than is, perhaps, necessary with respect to other forms of entertainment. In the case of stage presentations, or motion pictures, parents are given a reasonable opportunity, in advance to inform themselves of the kind of performances which either they, or their families, intend to attend. Radio programmes are essentially home entertainment in which, all members of the family are accustomed to participate ; but they are given no indication in advance of the material which is to be broadcast. Therefore, Parliament has, I think, acted wisely in determining, upon the recommendation of the Broadcasting Committee, that there must be a stricter standard observed in respect of matter broadcast over the air than in, respect of matter used in other forms of entertainment. It is only fair to say, as the Postmaster-General pointed out, that the commercial stations themselves have, in the main, exercised a very prudent restraint and. a sound discretion in regard to material presented. The fact that action of the kind just taken is sufficiently novel to be arresting is proof that the commercial stations exercise their own informal but effective censorship. But although the Minister is on sound ground when he says that the power exercised was conferred on him by Parliament, and that Parliament acted on the recommendation of an all-party parliamentary committee; there are considerations which call for analysis and criticism when, we see the power being exercised. It is true that there is a safeguard against arbitrary ministerial action, a safeguard of which I was not aware until 1 heard the Minister’s statement. I did. not know until then that the Minister, before he acts, has before him . the recommendation of the Broadcasting Advisory Committee for the State in which the offence is alleged to have been committed. This committee is representative of the Postmaster-General’s Department - the Deputy Director himself being chairman - the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the commercial broadcasting stations, and the general public, which hag four representatives. The Minister claims with some force that this arrangement affords protection for the broadcasters, as it is inconceivable, to use his own words, that a PostmasterGeneral would take action under section 91 or section 92 of the act unless he was supported by the recommendation of the committee. The Minister said that, before deciding to make an order in this case, he carefully considered the report of the Broadcasting Advisory Committee, and, after himself examining the script, came to the conclusion that the persons concerned should be given a salutary lesson. It is clear that the Minister had power to act, this power having been conferred on him by Parliament, and he was fortified in the decision he took by the recommendation of the Broadcasting Advisory Committee in the State concerned.
However, allowing all those factors on the side of the Minister and after paying a tribute to the manner in which he has . presented the story, I still feel that the operation of the system is unsatisfactory if the example we have had is a fair indication of bow it works. I direct the attention of the House to the penalty which was- imposed upon a number of individuals - hot upon the broadcasting stations, nor on the advertisers, but on. the performers: They were suspended for a period of three months. It may very well be that the occupation in which they were engaged is the only one in which they could earn anything like the same remuneration. Therefore, the suspension of their activities for three months could represent a- very heavy monetary penalty. Assuming that the artists were paid something between £10’ and £20 a week, their suspension for three months could involve a financial loss of between £120 and £300. Only a very serious offence, if tried before the courts,, would be punished so severely, and I understand that that was the first time that any penalty had been inflicted upon these performers.
– That does not mean that it was the first .time they had offended.
– I am making my comments on the information supplied by the Postmaster-General himself. It may be that the persons concerned were warned previously. I do not know.
– The PostmasterGeneral says that they had been warned.
– There is no reference to that in his statement. It may be that the advertisers or the stations concerned were warned but, from my own knowledge of the .activities of such performers, I think it is true that, with very few exceptions, the matter which they put over the air is supplied to them by the station concerned or by the advertiser. The performer is an instrument for presenting to the public material supplied to him, and the performer has little if any discretion in determining what is to be said over the air. Therefore, there is ground for criticism that the Minister has singled out the instrument, in the person of the entertainer, for punishment, when that person might fear that by objecting to putting over material supplied to him, he would jeopardize his employment. If a severe penalty is to be imposed, it should not be applied to the performer solely, while the advertiser and the station concerned are allowed to escape without any penalty atall.
– We cannot blame the employer for faulty workmanship by his employees.
– I do not think that the question of faulty workmanship arises in this case. There is no suggestion that the manner of presentation was objected to. It was the script that was the subject of com plaint. This brings us back either to the advertiser, who insists upon certain material being broadcast, or to the station which permits it tobe broadcast I confess that my first reaction upon reading the newspaper accounts of the incident, was to believe that the Minister had acted arbitrarily and in an autocratic manner, and that some more democratic procedure should be devised for dealing with these matters. I found on examination little cause for complaint about the manner in which the Minister acted. Clearly he acted as required by the legislation passed by this Parliament, but I believe that, in this instance, the exercise of the powers conferred by the Parliament has certainly given an uneven effect to the imposition of a penalty for the offence that the Parliament set out to penalize. I think the Postmaster-General himself, now that he has had experience of the way in which the power operates, would agree that the whole matter could wellbe examined again by the Broadcasting Committee.
– The honorable member will admit that the Minister acted on the advice of the Advisory Committee.
– Apparently, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) was not here whenI made clear that I was not attacking the Postmaster-General. Honorable members will agree that I have referred appreciatively to his statements on this matter. I admitted that he had acted according to the power conferred upon him. There was in his most recent statement about his intention to discuss the matter with the performers concerned and in the press reports that the suspensions may be lifted an indication that he is not altogether satisfied with the prescribed method of dealing with offences. If that is so, I think he might well request the Broadcasting Committee to examine the operation of the Australian Broadcasting Act to ascertain whether amendment is called for. I return to my original comment that strong supervision is necessary over broadcasting, but that, at the same time, the Parliament ought to consider whether it is wise to depart from the normal practice of prosecuting alleged offenders in the courts.
– None of the matters raised come within my responsibility, but I shall place the various requests made by honorable members before the Ministers concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
National Security Act -
National Security (Emergency Control)
Regulations - Orders - Military power during emergency (2).
National Security (General) Regulations -Orders -
Taking possession of land,&c. (11).
Use of land (2).
The following answer to a question was circulated: -
House adjourned at 4.23 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 July 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450720_reps_17_184/>.