17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Shortageof Supplies Effect on
Food-producing Industries - Subsidies. “
– It is clear that tinned plate is in. short supply in Australia, and it” would appear that the mission sent abroad by the Governmenthas not succeeded in gaining additional supplies for this country. The Australian Glass Manufacturing Company in Victoria is working at one-third of its capacity, and it is unlikely that it can continue to operate at that rate of production unless it receives additional supplies of coal. The effect of this will be. to reduce further . the supplies of bottles and jars that are available in this country. I hare been informed that three mills in Victoria which have been producing board and paper have had to close down. I put it to the Prime Minister that the combination of these circumstances is likely to lead-
– Order! The honorable gentleman is beginning to debate the matter. What is his question?
Mr.HOLT.- Will this combination of circumstances lead to a complete collapse of Australia’s food-producing industries? What action is proposed for an improvement of supplies of coal?
– It is true that production of coal at present is not sufficient to supply all the needs of industry. It was pointed out during a recent debate that the demands on existing coal supplies have risen by leaps and bounds, and that the present requirements of industry throughout the Commonwealth are almost 50 per cent, in excess of those of pre-war years. Existing supplies being’ insufficient to meet requirements, all that can be done is to ensure that they shall be distributed equitably. This is done through the Commonwealth-. Coal Commissioner and. committees in each State. The Commonwealth Government is taking all. possible steps, in conjunction with the Government of New South Wales, in which State the main coal deposits are situated, to ensure that new coal-mines and open-out workings will begin production as rapidly as possible. Any further action which the honorable member may be able to suggest, as a means of increasing supplies of coal, will be received by me and examined by the Minister for Supply and Shipping.’
– The Melbourne Herald last night reported that payments to stimulate coal production were understood to have cost the Commonwealth Government about £640,000. in1943-44? If that is true, will the Prime Minister inform’ the House whether that amount represents subsidies? If not, what, was the nature of the payments ?
– I think that figure correctly represents subsidies, but I shall have a statement prepared setting out the position and the way in which the money was expended.
– Will the acting Minister for Defence inform the House whether Cabinet has decided to institute an Australian War Medal for all members of the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth who. participated in the war of 1939-45, including members of the mercantile marine, civil air pilots, members of the
Australian Comforts Fund and the Australian Red Cross, and embracing civilian men and women who were attached to, or accredited to, the Defence Forces?
– The answer is in the affirmative. . Arrangements are now being made to have such a medal issued. Although difficulties have arisen in the manufacture of the medal, I hope that it will be available at an early date!
Housing: Acquisition of Sites - Land Settlement ‘of ex-Servicemen : Bank Credit.
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction state whether it is a fact, as reported in the Melbourne Argus last week, that the Government’ is considering the compulsory acquisition of all vacant blocks of land in suburban, areas in the capital cities for disposal to ex-service men and women who are prepared to undertake home construction? If so, is the Minister in a position to supply details of the proposal?
– I have not read the report to which the honorable member has referred. No action is contemplated’ by the Commonwealth Government along the lines indicated, but certain action may now be in hand by the Government of Victoria.
– I understand that approximately £400j000,000 of bank credit was made available for war purposes at the interest rate of 1 per cent. If so, will the- Prime Minister consider obtaining, from the same source and at the same rate :of interest, all money required for land’ settlement of exservicemen and home building? If Commonwealth Bank credit was available to help in winning the war, why should it not be forthcoming for the rehabilitation of ex-service men and women?
– It. is true that a considerable, sum -of money was made available in the form of bank credit for the purpose’ of carrying on the war, but only because that was the last financial resource available for the heavy expenditure associated with the war. If the pro- .posal which, has been suggested to the honorable member by certain bodies were adopted, and bank credit were made available without limitation, the result finally would be a complete depreciation of the currency and the utter financial collapse of the country. Admittedly in certain, circumstances, which I do not propose to discuss now, it is eminently desirable to make a considerable . amount of bank credit available, but this is not the time to do that. As a result of the large sums of money that have accumulated in this and other countries, the community has been given an excess of purchasing power. This is tending towards general inflation, from which -the world, in part or in whole, is now suffering. It is true that some bank credit should be made available in any circumstances, but a responsible government has to give thought to the effects of the issue of such credit beyond the absolute requirements of the community. If it were- made available for homes for ex-service men and women, others would have just as great a claim to similar assistance, with the result that credit would be issued without limit and complete inflation would ensue.
Invitations to Visit Australia
– Recently, I spoke to the Prime Minister about the ‘possibility of a visit to Australia by Mr. Churchill at some convenient time, and of the desire of certain sporting bodies which had intimated to me their desire to’ be associated with an invitation to him. Has the Prime Minister anything further to say on the subject?
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), like other honorable members before him, spoke to me about an invitation to Mr. and Mrs. Churchill to visit Australia. I have already told the House that’ an invitation was issued to Mr. Churchill when Mr. Curtin was Prime Minister, and that it still stood. At that- time Mr. Churchill’ was not able to accept. Through the Leader of the Opposition, certain sporting bodies in Victoria intimated that it was desirable that Mr. Churchill should visit Australia. I have sent a letter to Mr. Churchill renewing the invitation previously extended by. the
Australian Government, and suggesting that he might. ‘ come at a time convenient to himself. That was the form in which the original invitation was couched. As honorable members know, an invitation has also been extended to Mr. Attlee to visit Australia. He has accepted, but owing to the Peace Conference, he will not be able to come on the date first proposed. However, he has stated that the visit, is not to be cancelled, but only deferred. I think he will arrive in Australia before the end of the year. In the letter which I sent to Mr. Churchill renewing the invitation to him and Mrs. Churchill, I mentioned that certain sporting bodies, of which the Leader of the Opposition has spoken, would be glad to have him here, and I suggested that a suitable time would be early in 1947.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether it is a fact that the National Security (Female Minimum Rates) Regulations expire in December of this year? Seeing that 40 per cent, of the employees in hospitals and laboratories’ will then be faced with a reduction of wages varying from 6s. 6d. to 16s. a week, will the Minister say what action is contemplated to ‘correct existing anomolies in the regulation, and also to ensure that some tribunal will confirm the present rates so that peace and harmony may prevail in the new year?
– The regulation mentioned by the honorable member is in- the same position as all other .regulations which have kept stable the incomes of over 1,000,000 people during the war. Whatever was done about the regulation governing females’ minimum rates would necessarily have, to be done in - regard to all similar regulations. The only safe way I can suggest to ensure the continued stability of the incomes of more than 1,000,000 people is for them to vote “yes” at the forthcoming referendum. If they should fail to do so - but I do not think. that they will, because the people are too wise for that - the Government will do the best it can to prevent chaos from ensuing.
Claims of the Labo.uk Party.
– Has the Prime Minister seen an advertisement which appeared in most of the daily papers, inserted by authority of the Australian Labour party, containing a photograph of himself in most complacent mood, and smoking a pipe ? Underneath the picture there are words to the effect that the Labour Government has solved the problem of full employment. I now ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that glassworks are not operating to their full capacity, that paper mills have been closed down, thereby throwing numbers of people out of work, and that thousands of other workers are either out of work or are threatened with unemployment because of a shortage of coal. If so, does he not regard the advertisement as a distortion of the truth, and think that it should be withdrawn? Will he also say how much longer Commonwealth offices are to be used for receiving moneys for party funds, and when he intends to .call “ Marco -Polo “ home to this country to answer a few questions regarding external affairs?
– I remind the honorable member that it is not in order to refer to an honorable member of this House as Marco Polo, or by any name other than his office or constituency.
– I again want to make it clear that if questions are addressed to me in the form of the. latter portion of the honorable member’s question there will be no answer to them. Perhaps I have not been guiltless of indulging in propaganda occasionally, but I am here to give what information I can in reply to serious questions couched in proper language. I did see the advertisement to which the honorable member refers, and I thought that the photograph of myself which it contained did not add to the attractiveness of the newspaper. So far as general unemployment is concerned, the position is that it is impossible to obtain sufficient workers to carry out all the tasks that require to be done. It is regrettable that, because of inability to- obtain larger supplies of coal, due, in part, to the greatly increased consumption of coal, as the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has pointed out, some workers are not able to produce as much as they otherwise would. Everything possible has been done by the Government to meet the situation, but the fact remains that sufficient labour is not available to meet the demands of the community.
Influence of Communists
-Has the Minister for Information been advised of a report in the Melbourne Argus that a split over communism has threatened in the ranks of the Labour party in Victoria, and that, as a consequence, the Prime Minister will fly to Melbourne this afternoon? If so, can he confirm or deny the accuracy of the report?
– I should have liked the Prime Minister to answer the honorable member’s question, because the right honorable gentleman knows why he proposes to fly to Melbourne this afternoon. I do not know who told the representative of the Melbourne Argus of the intended visit of the Prime Minister to that city. I heard of it yesterday, and I have an appointment with the right honorable gentleman in. Melbourne this evening. The matters that we propose to discuss, and the other matters to which the Prime Minister will give attention, will, I am sure, have nothing to do with any alleged split in the Labour party in Victoria over communism. For many years I have been a member of the central executive of the Labour party in that State. It consists of leaders of the Labour movement in Victoria, in both the industrial and political spheres, and is a very able body. It has perfect control of the Labour movement in the State. No split is threatened and none is likely. This canard, which apparently originated in the office of the Melbourne Argus, is what one would expect to emanate from Fascist head-quarters in that State. The office of that newspaper is popularly known as Fascist headquarters, and one has only to look at the madman controlling it, Mr. Errol Knox, and some of those who work for him, such as Mr. Rasmussen, who used to be an Argus scribe in Canberra to believe that anything could emanate from the Argus office about any subject. Honorable members and the people generally should take no notice of what appears in that newspaper.
– Now that the industrial trouble in Queensland seems to have ended with the rout of the Communists there, will the Prime Minister use his best efforts with the Communists on the waterfront to bring to an end the shameful incident of the Dutch ships, so that Australian trade with a friendly ally may be resumed and men may not be kept out of employment in Australia?
– The Government has at all times used its best efforts to settle any disputes that arise on the waterfront.
Discharges of Illegal Absentees
– I ask leave to make a short statement relating to discharge certificates issued to members of the forces who have been illegally absent.
Mr.- White. - No. Not until after questions.
Other Opposition members also dissenting,
– Order! The honorable member for Balaclava keeps up a rapid fire of interjections.
– Is that intended for listeners? If so, it is not true.
– Order ! The honorable member has added to his offence by saying that what the Chair has said is not true. The honorable member must immediately withdraw and apologize.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker-
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw and apologize.
– I refuse to withdraw. All I said was-
– Order ! I name the honorable member for Balaclava.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) .put -
That the honorable member for Balaclava be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 21
Honorable members interjecting,
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for ‘Balaclava, having been suspended once previously during the current session, thereupon withdrew from the chamber for one week.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition at a political meeting at Queanbeyan last night that the present rate of expenditure under the heading of war was crazy and incredible? In view of this very serious statement affecting the country’s finances, I ask is it not a fact that a large part of this expenditure is required to honour the promises made to members of the services during the war?
– I have not had an opportunity to read the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition at the . meeting to which the honorable member refers.
– My speech evidently made a big impression.
Mr.CHIFLEY. - In reply to the latter portion of the honorable member’s question, I shall ask leave later to make a statement with regard to financial matters, and an opportunity will be given to honorable members to debate that statement. I then hope to be able to deal with the charge of extravagance in the use of public funds. As the honorable member. has said a great proportion of the increased expenditure estimated for this year is due to the fact that the Government must honour the promises that have been made to exservice personnel.
Strength of Australian Military Forces - Friction between Australianand DUTCH Forces at Morotai. ,
– Will the Minister for the Army state the total strength of the Australian Military Forces, the number and disposition of troops serving outside Australia, and thenumber servingon the mainland? On a previous occasion I asked a question regarding alleged friction between Australian and Dutch troops at Morotai. Has the Minister any information on the matter ?
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I have a question on the noticepaper, Question 26. which covers the same matter.
– Only in part.
– Well it covers most of it.
– I do not think it covers one-quarter of the question asked by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan). The question placed on. the noticepaper by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) refers to the number of men in the Army now in camp in Australia, ‘ and I think that that is about as much of the honorable gentleman’s question as is covered by the question askedby the honorable member for Griffith.
– The total strength of the Australian Military Forces on the 11th July, 1946, was approximately 99,000, of whom 86,000 were on the mainland of Australia and 13,000 outside Australia. Of those outside Australia, 10,026 were in Japan, 2,000 in New Guinea, 550 in Morotai and I think about 330 in Macassar. The honorable gentleman referred to the alleged friction between Australian and Dutch troops in Morotai. I have made careful inquiries, and I am advised that no tension or friction exists between the Dutch and Australian forces there and that complete co-operation between the two forces is maintained. I assure- the honorable gentleman that’ everything possible is being done by the Government to bring troops from Morotai and other places back to Australia as soon as possible, consistent with looking after equipment and loading it onto landing craft transports. Troops are in training to relieve the Australian troops in Japan so as to ensure that our promise shall be carried out to return troops from Japan shortly after they have completed one year’s service there.
Transport or Housing Materials
– I have frequently stressed the fact “that Tasmania is entirely dependent on shipping for the transport to that State of heavy materials. Many houses in Tasmania at present are standing, and have stood for months, without roofs. Cargoes of building materials arrive at infrequent intervals, and it often happens that a consignment of roofing iron is received without the necessary ridge coping or spouting. That means, of course, that no improvement can be affected in Tasmania’s housing position. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping give an assurance that the attention of that department will be drawn to the fact that, in the allocation of cargo space for building materials, it is necessary to have due regard for the shipping of complementary items by the same ship to ensure the greatest possible speed in carrying out the housing programme ?
– I shall confer with my colleague, the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and ascertain whether the matter to which the honorable member has referred can be rectified.
Return of Former Residents: Requirement of Bond
– Can the Minister for External Territories say whether former residents of Papua and New Guinea who have been issued with permits to re-enter those territories to take up residence, are required to lodge a £30 bond, in addition to the cost of their fares, with the shipping companies and air-line operators before they can secure passages ?
– Recently, my attention was drawn to the f<>ct that transport companies were asking former residents of New Guinea and Papua, to lodge a bond of £30 before issuing tickets to them. The department immediately took action to remove this obstacle, because if was considered that old residents of these areas should not be required to provide a bond. The practice now is that when a person applies for a permit to enter those territories, the permit is endorsed by the department in such a way that the transport authorities will, know whether a’ bond is to be asked for or not. In respect of former residents a bond is not required.
– In March last, representations were made to the Prime Minister, on . behalf of the Australian sugar industry, for a subsidy on £667,000 worth of jute goods imported up to the 30th June, 1945. The request was rejected, but consideration of a later claim in respect of importations after the 30th June, 1945, was indicated. As representations have now been made for a subsidy on jute imported during the laterperiod, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will, give the request sympathetic consideration in view of the fact that other industries, including the wheat and wool industries, receive a subsidy, and also that the present sugar crop has been depleted severely by flood, cyclone, frost and drought.
– It is true .that representations have been made at various times regarding the payment of n subsidy on jute used in the sugar’ industry. The matter was considered by myself and the late Minister for Trade and Customs, Senator Keane, and also by Cabinet. The Tariff Board had made an inquiry into the sugar industry, and had reported that, generally, the industry was in a satisfactory condition. Some time ago, Mr. Muir also made representations to me on behalf of .’the sugar-growers, and I then promised that I would ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to make a further examination of the subject with me. I propose to do that, but I am not able to make any other promise at the moment.
Questions Without Notice: Call FROM the Chair.
– I am continually hearing very audible interjections and complaints which appear to reflect upon the impartiality of the Chair in giving the call to honorable members. Therefore, I inform honorable members, although I believe that all of them are aware of it, that the first 35 minutes of the period allotted to questions without notice is recorded and rebroadcast. That, I suppose, is important to them. On Wednesday, I kept a complete list of the names of those honorable members who asked questions during that period, and of other honorable members who asked questions after its expiration. Yesterday, as honorable members rose, I reversed the order of that call. Therefore, those .honorable gentlemen whose questions were not re-broadcast on Wednesday had an opportunity to ask questions which would have been rebroadcast on Thursday. This morning, I. have been endeavouring to call those remaining honorable members who undoubtedly would like to ask questions in the- first 35 minutes. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) ha? not been treated any worse than has any other honorable member, and I shall not show favoritism to .any one in the call.
– by leave - It would” not be practicable to prepare and bring down a budget with detailed estimates and papers before the end of August. The Government therefore does not intend to bring down a budget for 1946-47 to this Parliament. It does, however, intend to bring down immediately two important financial proposals. One of these will provide for a reduction of taxation to apply as from the 1st July this year and the other for a liberalization of the eligibility for invalid and old-age and widow’s pensions. The main purpose of this statement is to give particulars of these proposals, to inform the House of the financial results for last year, and to give some indication of the financial outlook for the current year.
When I presented the budget last September less than a month had passed since the end of the war with Japan. Fighting had ceased, but the whole task of reconstruction lay ahead. It was evident that though we might push forward in this task with all possible speed, the process would take time. In an economic sense, the burden of war would continue and be diminished only gradually, ‘ and this had to be recognized in our financial plans.
The Government acted on the view that early demobilization of the forces was the key to the major problem- of transition. The sooner the great body of men and women engaged in the services and related activities were returned to peace occupations, the sooner would war costs fall and civil production increase to meet the pent-up demand for goods and services which constituted the danger of inflation. General demobilization began on the 1st October last year and I may fairly claim that it has proceeded with -unexampled success. Originally it was planned that by the 30th June of this year 400,000 men and women would have been discharged from the services. In actual fact this target was exceeded by 50,000, so that during the nine months some 450,000 men and women were made available for civil employment. It is probably true to say that nowhere amongst ‘the Allied countries have these results been bettered.
The effect is seen in employment figures. At the 30th, June, 1945, there were 2,650,000 men and women in civil occupations in Australia. At the 30th June this year, despite the fact that a large number of women and over-age men have withdrawn from the employment field, the number in civil occupations is estimated to have been 3,030,000. In other words, nearly 400,000 more people are on civil production now than there were a year ago. This figure, of course, takes no account of those discharged servicemen who are still on leave before taking up employment.
Perhaps the most gratifying feature of this great change-over process has been the rapidity and ease with which people discharged from war. occupations have been absorbed into civil employment. During the past year over 500,000 men and women have been released from defence and other government occupations. Yet at no stage has there been any significant number of unemployed, and the amount paid in unemployment allowances and servicemen’s reinstatement allowances has been negligible.
Budget Results, “ 1945-46
The speeding up of demobilization last ye’ar was reflected in the approximate budget results which are. now available. War expenditure in Australia was £340,000,000, compared with the budget estimate of £298,000,000. For this a group of items arising out of the return and disbandment of troops, the movement of ships and aircraft, and the dismantling and storage of war equipment was principally responsible. Deferred pay alone was £18,000,000 above the budget estimate. The settlement on demobilization of leave and other accumulated credits in pay books also brought active pay above the estimate by £4,000,000. Ship movements and aircraft maintenance cost an additional £5,000,000. Reciprocal lendlease and subsidies -to primary producers also exceeded the estimates by £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 respectively.
On the other hand, due to the delay in the presentation of accounts by the United Kingdom authorities, overseas war ex,penditure reached only £38,000,000, com- . pared with the budget estimate of £62/000,000. Accordingly, actual total war expenditure of £378,000,000 showed a net excess over the budget estimate of only £18,000,000. In the previous year total -war expenditure was £460,000,000.
The reduction on the previous year-‘s war expenditure is less than some have expected. I have, however, already referred to certain major terminal charges which were met in the financial year 1945-46. For deferred pay alone we met a liability of £72,000,000 which had accrued during the war. Other terminal costs are spread over numerous items of expenditure and cannot be isolated at this stage. However, the main items of direct service expenditure show large reductions over the previous year. For example,
Army expenditure on arms, armament and ammunition fell from £2S,000,000 in 1944-45 to £13,000,000 in 1945-46. Expenditure on Army camp expenses and rations fell from £26,000,000 to £17,000,000, and expenditure on aircraft equipment and stores from £46,000,000 to £24,000,000. Reciprocal lend-lease fell from £89,000,000 to £26,000,000.
Against this, certain indirect costs of the war showed an unavoidable increase. Debt charges rose from £34,000,000 in 1944-45 to £42,000,000 last year, primary production .and price. ‘stabilization subsidies from £25,000,000 to £33,000^000, and re-establishment expenses from £1,000,000 to £5,000,000. In addition, a new item of £6,000,000 for contributions to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration appeared.
For the information of honorable members a comparison of 1945-46 with 1944-45 under the main heads of war expenditure is set out in Table No. 1.
Non-war expenditure equalled the estimates at £132,000,000, bringing the total expenditure for 1945-46 to £510,000,000. Excluding taxation collections of £34,000,000 reimbursed to the States, taxation yielded £319,000,000, and other revenue £38,000,000, a total of £357,000,000.
The actual gap between war expenditure and available revenue was therefore £153,000,000, compared with the budget estimate of £152,000,000. I would emphasize particularly that this was financed wholly from the proceeds of borrowings from the public. This means that in the past two financial years the Government has met the whole of its war expenditure without recourse to treasurybills, or any other form of central bank credit.
Details of actual receipts and expenditure for 1945-46 compared with the budget estimates are set out in Tables 2, 3 and 4. The figures are of course preliminary only and subject to adjustment.
In July last year the Government exercised its option of redeeming in London £94,312,000 of Commonwealth and State securities which carried interest at 5 per cent, per annum; £60,000,000 worth of stock was converted into a 3J per cent. loan to mature in 19’65’-69, and £34,312,000 was repatriated to Australia, 3^ per cent, securities of an equivalent amount being issued to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. A further option which accrued in December, 1945, in respect of stock amounting to £14,05o-,000 was also taken up. This stock carried’ interest at 5 per cent, per annum, and it was converted into a 3 per cent, -loan, to mature in 1958-60, at the issue price of £98.
Since the Labour Government took office in 1941 Australia’s governmental loan indebtedness in London has been reduced by £57,000,000 sterling, or £72,000,000 Australian currency. This has been accomplished by the transfer to Australia of debt amounting to £49,000,000 sterling and the redemption of £8,000,000 sterling from the National Debt Sinking Fund.
This reduction of our overseas indebtedness, coupled with conversions of loans to lower rates of interest, has resulted in a reduction of our annual interest liability in London by £4,500,000 sterling, or £5,600,000 Australian currency.
Financial Outlook foe 1946-47.
Although detailed estimates for 1946- 47 have not yet been completed, so that any estimates now given must be regarded as provisional, it is desirable to give some broad indication of the financial outlook for the year.
The field which calls for the closest review is war expenditure, which last year totalled £378,000,000. This group item was used during the war years to cover all expenditures attributable to the war, and the same classification was used last year because the Pacific war was still being fought when the estimates were prepared and a continuance of active war expenditure for a considerable time after V-J day was inescapable. Even during the war years, however, the group item included costs which, whilst arising out of the war, were not direct war costs in the sense that arms and equipment and active service pay were. Debt charges, price stabilization subsidies and re-establishment are examples of these indirect war costs, and since the war ended they have bulked much more largely in the total expenditure. In 1945-46 they accounted for £182,000,000 as follows : -
This represented 48 per cent, of the budget war expenditure of £378,000,000. In the previous year the same items represented only 19 per cent.
Accordingly, when the budget is framed it will be necessary to re-arrange the groupings more in accord with peacetime conditions.
Meanwhile, from the more detailed analysis of last year’s war expenditure set out in Table1., some idea canbe gained of the items in which major reductions can be expected in the current year.
Of these items, expenditure on. the three service departments and reciprocal lendlease is the chief. Last year the total was £333.000,000. This year I hope that it can be reduced by something in the neighbourhood of 50 per cent.
It should be clearly understood what will be comprised in the gross expenditure of the service departments for this year. Much of it will still represent terminal costs of the war. Deferred pay on account of members of the war-time forces who will be demobilized this year will lie approximately £15,000,000. The occupation force in Japan’ and certain forces in the islands have still to be maintained. We have also to provide about £8,000,000 under the lend-lease settle- ment, which. I will describe later, and about £20,000,000 for past liabilities due to the United Kingdom. There will also be a small amount for reciprocal lendlease. These items are in the strictestsense a carry-over from our fighting effort.
Concurrently with the winding up of war-time demobilization, we have to carry forward the organization of our peacetime defences, which will proceed on a basis that recognizes the greater share of responsibility accepted by Australia for security in the Pacific zone. Thus service expenditure this year will be a blend of war-time and peace-time costs, and the latter element must continue beyond this year into the future.
Similarly there will be expenditure, though on a considerably reduced scale, on such activities as munitions, supply and shipping and aircraft production, which had their origin in the war but which have a bearing on future defence and in part also upon our peace-time development.
Next there is a wide and varied group of items which can be described as transitional because they are necessarily incurred in the changeover from war to peace. Re-establishment, training, soldiers’ settlement and war gratuities are typical of these. Last year these items cost £5,000,000. This year they will cost perhaps £25,000,000, ‘ and they must remain at a relatively high level for some years yet.
Our contribution to Unrra, which last year cost £6,000,000 and this year will cost £12,000,000, comes within the group.
Subsidies for price stabilization and, in many cases, subsidies for primary producers, arose out of war and yet are even more necessary in the transition period. Last year expenditure on subsidies was £33,000,000, including £20,000,000 for primary producers. There will certainly be no saving this year and there may yet be some increase.
Finally, there are certain residual war costs which must continue indefinitely War pensions and some branches of repatriation are examples. The cost of these . last year was £9,000,000, This year there “must be a substantial increase. Interest and sinking fund on war loans are in the same category. This year they will amount to £50,000,000, as compared with £42,000,000 last year.
Within the limits of its obligationsto the nation for security and for the reestablishment of former servicemen and women, the Government will curtail war, defence and associated expenditure to an absolute minimum. It is impossible at this stage to give any firm estimate of what the total for these items will be in 1946-47. Nevertheless, whilst those carryover costs to which I have referred will partly offset reduction in service expenditures, I nope that an overall reduction approaching £150,000,000 can be accomplished on the net expenditure of £378,000,000 last year.
Non-war expenditure last year was £132,000,000. There will be a substantial increase this year. Actual payments from the National Welfare Fund will increase by about £21,000,000, ‘ of which £16,000,000 will be provided from the budget. Payments to the States will increase by £6,000,000, and the Department of Civil Aviation, the Post Office and other essential services will require more funds. A total increase of at least £45,000,000 can be expected.
The main conclusions, to be drawn from this review are that, whilst a large reduction in service, costs can be effected this year, there are still heavy expenditures to be met for terminal items, such as deferred pay and maintenance of occupation forces; large recurring items such’ as war pensions and interest and sinking fund, heavy subsidies for price control, and very large increases in normal services, including welfare payments and civil aviation.
As to revenue, a firm estimate can ‘ not be given in a preliminary survey of this kind. The higher level of civil employment, more production, and probably a greater volume of imports, will be reflected in revenue, particularly indirect taxation. In the light, however, of the analysis given above, total expenditure must still exceed revenue by a considerable margin. This margin will be very, much less than last year, but it will still make a substantial call upon finance from public loans.
It must also be expected that more loan moneys will, have to he raised during 1.946-47 to finance the Loan Council programmes. Although public works activities will be limited by the supply of materials and appropriate types of labour, it is to be expected that the State governments and their subsidiary bodies will, endeavour to push forward with their deferred plans for development and the provision of many kinds of public facilities. At the Loan Council meeting next month a loan works programme for the Commonwealth and the States will be considered, and the overall figure will be well above the level of recent years. Housing, of course, will have a very high priority, and it is expected that not less than £20,000,000 will have to be provided on this account.
– Order ! No question of privilege is involved.
– Copies of the statement will be distributed among honorable members in due course.
This analysis demonstrates clearly the limitations which face the Government in considering taxation reductions. Nevertheless, we have clone a lot in a short time, to cut down the financial burden of the war and its aftermath, and to push forward that reconversion of our economy which will bring higher production and more buoyant revenues. The Government is anxious to provide all possible stimulus to this reconversion which appropriate tax reductions can give; . therefore, as I have already indicated, the Government proposes to make a second substantial cut in direct taxation by reducing the income tax, including the social services contribution, at a cost of £17,500,000. Including the reductions made last financial year, this brings the total tax remissions np to £37,000,000 for income tax and £4,000,000 for sales tax, a total of £41,000,000.
Relief will be given through a graduated reduction of rate3. The new scale of rates will have the effect of lifting the income level at which persons with dependants, will become liable to pay income tax.
Tables showing the amounts of income tax and social services contribution that will be payable by various ‘classes of taxpayers in different income groups, and comparing these amounts with amounts payable under existing and peak wartime scales, are being circulated.
The- new combined rates of income tax and social services contribution represent an overall reduction of 22 per cent, from the peak war-time rates first enacted in 1943. On that basis the reductions range from more than 47 per cent, on the lowest incomes to something under 20 .per cent, on incomes exceeding £1,500.
The new rates of income tax will apply for the full year commencing the 1st July, 1946. However, because of the necessity to print and circulate new scales of tax instalments, it may be about the beginning of September before adjustments can be made in the payasyouearn deductions from salaries and wages.
The social services contribution will be levied according to a separate scale. The basic rate will commence at 3d. in the £1, and will increase .progressively by 1/8d. for each £1 of income in excess of £100 until a maximum of 18d. in the £1 is reached. The basic rate will apply in the case of a person who is not entitled to any income tax concessions for dependants, life ‘assurance, &c. In these cases the maximum .rate of lSd. in the £1 will apply to incomes of £220 and over, instead of £170 and over as at present. The basic rate will be varied in order to preserve the concessions allowed to contributors, for dependants, life assurance and superannuation payments, &c.
The rates now proposed for social services contribution will greatly facilitate the work of assessment of the contribution payable. It is therefore proposed to make the rate retrospective to the 1st January, 1946, which is the date on which the contribution was first imposed.
National “Welfare Proposals.
It is also proposed that in respect of old-age .pensions, including service pensions and invalid and widows’ pensions, the permissible income shall be lifted from 12s. 6d. a week to £1 a week and the limit of property allowed from £400 to £650. At the same time certain other liberalizations of the law in regard to property will be made. The full effect of these proposals is explained in the statement which is being distributed.
It is probable that some 50,000 old-age, invalid, and widow pensioners not at present receiving the full pension will receive an increase. In addition, about 95,000 new pensioners will be brought into the field - 10,000 of these as a result of .raising the income test and 85,000 through raising the property limit. The total cost of the proposals will be about £4,500,000 a year.
The Government has decided that the question of any further liberalization of the means te?st shall be examined from year to year in the light of the financial .position existing at the time. Legislation to give effect to the present proposals will be introduced in the current session.
Settlement for Lend-lease and Reciprocal Lend-lease.
On the. 7th June, 1946, the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the United States of America signed an agreement under the terms of which final settlement was reached with respect to lend-lease to Australia, reciprocal lend-lease by Australia to the United States, and financial claims between the two countries arising out of the war. This agreement brought to conclusion many months of negotiations between Australian and United States representatives in Washington, and the final settlement not only represents a most advantageous arrangement for Australia, but also manifests a generous attitude on the part of the United States negotiators to Australia. The settlement undoubtedly reflects the same ‘degree of close relationship and the spirit which existed between the United States and Australia during the war period.
Under the terms of the agreement, the United States Government releases the Commonwealth Government from any liability with respect to materials and services provided under lend-lease and consumed prior to V-J day. ‘ Similarly the Commonwealth Government releases the United States Government from any liability with respect to materials and services provided by Australia under reciprocal lend-lease and consumed prior to V-J day.
The agreement also provides that Australia acquires from the United States unconsumed lend-lease goods and materials, both civilian and military, on hand at V-J day, certain materials and services on order through lend-lease channels but undelivered at V-J day, and certain surplus war property of the United States armed forces. On the other hand the United States acquires from Australia all reciprocal lend-lease materials in the hands of the United States forces on V-J day and materials and services furnished by Australia to the channels but undelivered at V-J day, and the 31st December, 1945. Both Governments reserve a right to recapture lend-lease or reciprocal lend-lease articles held by the armed forces of the other Government, but it is clearly understood that this right will not be generally exercised.
In addition, except for- certain financial claims which are specified in the agreement or in respect of which the liability of either Government had already been acknowledged, all financial claims between the Governments of Australia and the United States arising out of ‘ the war are waived.
Australia has agreed to pay for the post-war value of certain machine tools and other items of capital equipment received under lend-lease and for certain lend-lease non-combat aircraft and spares remaining in Australia. In consideration of this lend-lease capital equipment and of the Australian purchases of certain United States Army and Navy surpluses, to which I have already referred, Australia will make a total and final payment of $27,000,000, or approximately £8,400,000, of which $20,000,000 is payable in United States dollars. The balance of $7,000,000 i3 payable in Australian currency and under the terms of the agreement $5,000,000 out of this $7,000,000 has been earmarked for the development of cultural relationships in a manner mutually agreeable to the two Governments. The remaining $2,000,000 has been earmarked for the purchase by the United States of real property and improvements required by the United States Government for its functions in Australia.
Following conclusion of the agreement, the Government instructed all Commonwealth departments to take immediate steps to declare to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission any goods which are surplus to the Commonwealth’s requirements. The sale of these surpluses to private purchasers will be arranged by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission.
Lend-lease and reciprocal lend:lease represent the largest external financial transaction in the history of the Commonwealth. The total value of lend-lease received by Australia was about $1,500,000,000, -whilst reciprocal lendlease from Australia to the United States was approximately £285,000,000. In view of the very considerable amounts involved and the extremely complex nature of lend-lease and reciprocal lendlease operations, . it is a source of considerable satisfaction to the Commonwealth Government that the final settlement should be based upon the generous and acceptable agreement that has been reached with the United States .Government.
Copies of “the settlement’ agreement are being circulated to honorable members for their information.
Production and Price Control
Greater all-round production of essential goods must be the central aim of economic policy now and for a long time to come. The war years have left their toll in shortages, some of which will take years to remedy. We cannot get back in a day all those standards of living and enjoyment which the war compelled us to forego. Yet we can win them back and much more with them if we will make an effort, and the way is now wide open for us to make that effort.
Most of our resources are free once again for civil production, and full employment of these, steadily maintained, can work wonders in output. Then, as output and real incomes rise, taxation can be reduced still further. It has been our policy to remove all forms of control which, tend to hinder genuine business dealings and the production of essentials. But we remain inflexibly opposed to those false inducements which inflated prices and excessive profits would give.
Control of prices in Australia has been a triumph of war-time administration. The fact that over the whole war period retail prices rase not more than 24 per cent, and that during the years when the strain on our economy was greatest they did not rise at all, is a record with which not more than two or three other countries can offer anything to compare. But we shall not gain the full value of this achievement unless it can be carried on into the peace years when the balance of production and demand can be trusted to look after price levels. At present purchasing .power still greatly exceeds the supply of goods and services, and must Continue to do so until local production and the flow of imports catch up with consumers’ needs. Current earnings are running high and behind them, are the unspent balances and reserves built up during the war and augmented in recent months by the large disbursements of deferred pay to servicemen, so that the potential danger of inflation has so far been very little abated. The Government’s ‘price stabilization plan will no doubt require to be modified from time to time in accordance with the readjustment of basic cost and supply factors in the transition from war to peace. The Government is keeping the position under constant review, and will continue to use prices control as an instrument for the protection of consumers and the preservation of balance within the economy so long as the need remains.
I lay on the table the following papers : -
That the financial statement be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in abill for an act to amend the Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1945.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. - This bill proposes an amendment of a minor nature to the Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1945. The amendment is complementary to the introduction of a separate graduated rate of social services contribution. At present, the rate of contribution in cases where the maximum rate of1s. 6d. in the £1 does not apply, is ascertained by reference to the amount of income tax the taxpayer would pay, after deducting all rebates, if income tax were levied on his taxable income at 871/2 per cent, of war-time rates of tax.
In the notional income tax assessment, all rebates are allowed. The rebates so allowed include the special rebate of 2s. on each £1 of interest derived from certain government and semi-government loans included in the taxable income of the taxpayer.
Now that the rate of contribution is to be calculated without reference to the amount of income tax payable, it is necessary to make special provision in the Social Services Contribution Assessment Act so as to preserve to persons in the lower income groups the benefit of the special rebate of 2s. in the £1 on interest on such securities. The effect of the proposed amendment will be that where a person does not obtain the full benefit of the rebate in his income tax assessment, the whole, or relevant part, of the rebate will, as the case requires, be allowable from the social services contribution otherwise payable by him.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to make provision, in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth, for the control of materials which are or may be used in producing atomic energy, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Invalid and Old-ag’e Pensions Act 1908-1945.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
It is with considerable pleasure that I move the second reading of this bill, which provides a substantial measure of relaxation of the means test in relation to invalid and old-age pensions payments. I am sure that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and my other Cabinet colleagues would permit me to say that this bill is the first step in a long-range plan designed to eliminate’ completely the means test from our social service legislation.
The chief features of the bill are, first, the raising from 12s. 6d. to. £1 a week of the amount of income which an invalid or old-age pensioner may -have without his pension being affected; in respect of a blind pensioner the permissible income will be increased from £5 to £5 7s. 6d. a week; secondly, the raising of the property bar from £400 to £650; thirdly, the elimination of certain items of property from consideration in the assessment of a pension, and, lastly, though by no means the least the removal of an objectionable feature of the present law, namely, the disqualification for pension benefit of an adult invalid, whose parents are deemed to adequately maintain him. About a year ago the Government decided to eliminate this and several other anomalies by the introduction of a consolidated measure dealing with social services, but circumstances have made its introduction impossible.
When old-age pensions were introduced in June, 1909, the permissible income was 10s. a week; and the maximum rate of pension was also 10s. a week. Although there have since been many increases of the maximum pension, there has been only one increase of the permissible income. That was made in .1923, the increase being from 10s. to 12s. 6d. a week. The maximum pension at that time was 17s. 6d. a week; it is now 32s. 6d. a week. It is anomalous that, whilst the maximum pension has advanced during the past 37 years from 10s. to 32s. 6d. a week, the -permissible income has risen only from 10s. to 12s. 6d. a week.
The effect of the increase of permissible income provided’ for in the bill will be that in future income in excess of £1 a week, instead of 12s. 6d. as at present, will be deducted from the pension of 32s. 6d. a week. The amount of income which will preclude payment of any portion of a pension to an unmarried or widowed person will thus become £2 12s. 6d. a week, instead- of £2 5s. In respect of married persons, it will become £5 5s. a week instead of £4 10s. A married couple, both pensioners, will be able to receive income of £2 a week between them, in addition to a maximum pension of 32s. 6d. ,a ,week each, a total of £5 5s. a week. ;T-hey may also own their own home, without.-. any. limit in value, and other property under £120 without their pensions being affected.
The benefit of the increase of 7 s. 6d. a week in the limit of permissible income will also be extended to blind persons. The blind are already in a favoured position in this respect, the amount of income which a blind person may have without reduction of pension being £5 a week. This will be raised to £5 7s. 6d. a week. The effect will be that income in excess of £5 7s. 6d. a week, instead of £5, will be deducted from the pension of 32s. 6d. a week. The amount of income which will disqualify a blind person from receiving a pension will thus become £7, instead of £6 12s. 6d. a week. Where both husband and wife are blind they will be able to have between them an income of £5 7s. 6d. a week, and each may receive the full pension of £1’ 12s. 6d. a week, a total of £8 12s. 6d. in lieu of the present amount of £8 5s. a week. Where they have income in excess of £5 7s. 6d. a week, half the amount of excess income will be deducted from each pension.
In 1909, ownership of property to the value of £310 disqualified a claimant for & pension. The progressive scale of ^deductions was the the same as at present, namely, £1 per annum for every complete £10 in excess of £50. These deductions then eliminated, the pension of £26* per annum at £310. There has been only one increase of the property limit. It -was made in 1923, the increase’ being from £310 to the. present figure of £400. At that time the maximum pension was “ 17s. 6d. a week. The retention of the £400 limit, while the pension has ^advanced from £45 10s. to £84 10s. per. -annum, has resulted in the arbitrary pro- vision that, whereas a person with property, other than a home valued at £400 may receive a pension of £49 10s. per annum, a person with property, other than a home, valued at £401 or more, cannot receive any pension at all. That anomaly will be rectified by the measure before the House.
The effect of the higher property limit provided for in the bill will be that unmarried or widowed persons with property, apart from a home, valued at between £401 and £650, who now receive no pension, will be eligible for a pension ranging from a nominal sum up to £49 10s. per annum. Pension up to the same amount will be payable to married claimants who between them possess property, apart from a home, between £801 and £1,300 in value. It is proposed to retain the present scale of progressive deductions from pension - £1 per annum for every complete £10 above £50- for property up to £400, but £2 per annum will be deducted for every complete £10 of property between £401 and £650, thus eliminating the penton of £84 10s. per annum at £650:
As honorable members are- aware, home in which a pensioner resides does under the present law, the value of a not affect the rate of pension, no matter what its value may be. This exemption has operated since 1912. The bill provides for additional classes of property to be disregarded.. These concessions relate to surrender values of life assurance policies up to a limit of £200, the capital value of any life interest or annuity, the value of any contingent interest and the present value, up to £500, of any reversionary interest. Legacies or shares in estates of deceased persons will also be disregarded until they are actually received by the pensioner.
To my mind it has always been anomalous and somewhat unfair to hold against a pensioner as property the amount which he could obtain by surrendering a small life policy. These policies are usually kept alive by the exercise of the utmost thrift on the part of those pensioners who hold them. A pensioner cannot obtain the surrender value without substantial loss of premiums paid, and it is scarcely just to reduce the pension on account of the policy and thus perhaps force him to suffer that loss.- Where the policy is a fairly substantial one, carrying a surrender value of more than £200, only the excess over £200 will be taken into account, and against this excess may be offset the property exemption of £50.
The present treatment of the capital value of a life interest or an annuity as property is . also a definite anomaly, as the life tennant or annuitant cannot at the same time enjoy his interest or annuity, which is taken into account in the income means test, and derive any benefit from the capital which, nevertheless, is taken into account in the property means, test. The treatment of a contingent interest as property is also anomalous. An example of this is the case in which the pensioner will receive a benefit if he survives another person; if he does not survive neither he nor his estate can benefit from the interest. The bill will remove these anomalies.
A reversionary interest is a more tangible asset. Usually the pensioner is to come into possession of an estate or property upon the death of a life tenant.
If the pensioner pie-decease. the life tenant, the estate or property in due course goes to the pensioner’s estate. Nevertheless, a good deal of hardship is caused by treating such interests as property of the pensioner. The type of reversionary interest held by a pensioner is usually not sufficiently attractive to enable him to dispose of it to advantage, and, consequently, the treatment- of such aa interest as property in his hands only deprives him of pension benefit whilst leaving him without present advantage from his reversionary interest. It is, therefore, proposed to disregard £500 of the present value of any reversionary interest. For such an interest to have a present value in excess of £500, the estate or property would need to be fairly substantial, and the period before it is likely to be received by the pensioner relatively short. In such a case only the excess of the present value over £500 will be treated as property of the pensioner, and against this excess may also be offset the previously mentioned exemption of £50.
A legacy or a share in a deceased estate is, of course, property for the purposes of the Act, but it frequently happens that there is considerable delay in realization and distribution of the estate. The legacy or share in the estate vests in the pensioner and forms part of his assets from the date of the testator’s death but, in practice, the department takes the bequest into account from the date of grant of probate or letters of administration. However, where the realization and distribution are delayed, hardship is caused by treating the bequest as property of the pensioner before he actually receives anything in respect of it from the estate. It is proposed to remove this cause of hardship by providing that the amount of the pensioner’s share or interest shall not to be treated as property until it has actually been received by him. There is adequate power in the act to deal suitably with any case which may possibly arise where a pensioner may seek to take undue advantage of this provision by being party to delay in distribution of the estate.
All the concessions contained in the bill in regard to income and property will apply not only to old-age .and invalid pensions but also to allowances paid to the wives of invalid pensioners. The maximum rate of allowance to the wife of an invalid pensioner is 15s. a week, and the assessment is affected by income and property in exactly the same way as an invalid or old-age pension payable to a married person. Consequently, recipients of such allowances at reduced rates on account of income, or on account of any of the items of property which are to be disregarded, will receive increases as a result of the liberalizations provided in the bill. The additional allowance of 5s. a week paid to the wife of an invalid pensioner in respect of one child under sixteen years of age is not subject to reduction on account of the income or property of’ the parents.
I come now to what is known as the adequate maintenance provision of the act. This provision has operated since the inception of invalid pensions in 1910. It specifically disqualifies a claimant, irrespective of age, if his .parents adequately maintain him. Whilst there is justification for this where the claimant is under 21 years of age, the application of this principle to claimants over that age is indefensible. Approximately 400 claims for invalid pensions are rejected annually under this provision, about twothirds being those made by invalids over 21 years of age. In some cases the claimant is between 40 and 50 years of age. There is even an instance of an invalid, 55 years of age, who was refused a pension because he was fully maintained by this widowed mother who derived an income of £3?0 per annum from a farm.- In another case, an invalid 46 years of age was disqualified because he was kept by his father, a widower, whose income as an orchardist was £294 per annum. I doubt if it was ever intended by the Parliament that invalid pensions should be refused in cases such as these, but, while the provision remains as at present; it must be applied to all cases on the facts,, irrespective of the age of the claimant.
The depressing effect on an adult invalid of the realization that he must remain indefinitely a financial burden on his parents can well be imagined. Added to the deprivation of most of the normal enjoyments of life, this-is a heavy penalty for the invalid to carry through life. The payment of a pension to an invalid at the age of 21 years will create a desirable sense of independence and give the invalid an added interest in life, which will not only serve somewhat to mitigate his affliction, but will also strengthen his position as a unit in society.
It is estimated that the concessions provided for in the hill will enable increased payments to be “made to some 42,000 oldage and invalid pensioners, including wives of invalid pensioners, who are now receiving reduced payments. There will be no need for pensioners to make application for the increase. The Department of Social Services will make the necessary reassessments within a very short time after the date on which the bill becomes law, and the increased rates will operate from the first pension pay-day after that date. The concessions will also bring approximately 88,000 additional persons into the old-age and invalid pensions field. The total additional cost in respect of oldage and invalid pensions is estimated not to exceed £4,250,000, raising the annual cost from £29,000,000 to about £33,250,000.
The liberalized conditions in regard to’ income and property will also be applied to widows’ pensions and to service pensions payable to ex-servicemen in respect of age and invalidity. Separate bills amending the Widows’ Pensions Act and the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act will be introduced for this purpose and opportunity will then be taken to explain the effect of the liberalizations in relation to such pensioners. I am confident that the bill will have general support from honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned. .
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Widows’ Pensions Act 1942-1945.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The chief features of the bill are similar to those contained in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, namely, an increase from 12s. 6d. to £1 in the weekly amount of income which a widow pensioner may have without her pension being affected, the raising of the property bar in the case of a widow over 50 years of age, without dependent children, from £400 to £650, and the elimination of certain items of property from consideration in the assessment of a pension.
The Widows’ Pensions Act provides for the payment of a maximum pension of £1 17s. 6d. a week to a widow of any age who is maintaining one or more children under the age of sixteen years, known as a class “ A “ widow, and for the payment of a’ maximum pension of £1 7s. a week to a widow, over 50 years of age, without dependent children, known as a class “B” widow. It also provides for the payment of an allowance of £1 12s. 6d. a week, for a period not exceeding six months after the husband’s death, in the case of a widow under 50 years of age who has no dependent child. Thelast-mentioned class of widow, known as class “C “, if in necessitous circumstances, is not subject to any specificincome and property limitations.
The present permissible income for both class “ A “ and class “ B “ widows is 12s. 6d. a week. The effect of the increase provided for in” the bill. will be that, in future, any income received by a class “ A “ or class “ B “ widow in excess of £1 a week, instead of 12s. 6d., will be deducted from the pension. The amount of income which will preclude payment of any pension will become £2 17s. 6d. a week in the case of a class “ A “ widow, instead of the present amount of £2 10s., and £2 7s. a week in the case of a class “ B “ widow, instead of the present amount of £1 19s. 6d.
The bill removes an anomaly in the case of a class “ A “ widow. At present there is included- as income in the assessment of her pension 5 per cent, of the net value of her assets, apart from a home, or the actual income, whichever isthe greater. Thus, even in respect of money in the bank on which only 2 per cent, interest is received, 5 per cent, is included in the computation of income.
In future, only the actual net income received by the widow from her money or property will be taken into account.
Under the present law ihe limit of property for a class “ A “ widow is £1,000, apart from her home, and there is no scale of progressive deductions from pension, on account of property.’ The present limit of property for class “B” widows is the same as for invalid and oldage pensioners, £400 apart from a home, and the scale of progressive deductions from pension is also the same, £1 per annum for every complete £10 of property above £50. The bill provides for the present limit of £400 to be raised to £650, as proposed for invalid and old-age pensioners. The present scale of deductions will remain the same for property up to £400, but the deductions for property between £401 and £650 will be £l for every complete £7, thus eliminating the pension of £70 4s. per annum, £1 7s. a week, at £650.
As honorable members are aware, under the present law the value of the widow’s home, furniture and personal effects is disregarded in the assessment of pension. The bill provides for additional classes of property to be disregarded. These are the same as provided for in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, namely,. the surrender value of life assurance policies, up to a limit of £200, the capital value of any life interest or annuity, the value of any’ contingent interest and the present value, up .to £500, of any reversionary interest. Legacies or shares in the estates of deceased persons will also be disregarded until they are actually received by the widow.
It is estimated that the concessions provided for in the bill will enable increased pensions to be paid to some 8,000 widow pensioners who are now receiving reduced pensions. The Department of Social Services will make the necessary re-assessments promptly without application by the pensioners concerned, and the increased rates will operate from the first pension pay-day after the date on which the bill becomes law.” The concessions will also bring approximately 7,000 additional widows into the pension field. The total additional cost is estimated at £250,000 per annum, raising the annual cost from £3,500,000 to £3,750,000.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
That a tax be imposed upon incomes at the following rates: - - Division A. - Rate of tax in Respect of a Taxable Income Derived from Personal Exertion.
If the taxable income exceeds £300 but’ does not exceed £1,000 the rate of tax for every £1 of taxable income up to and including £300 shall be 14 pence and the rate of tax for every £1 of taxable income in excess of £300 shall be 48.02 pence increasing uniformly by 02 of one penny, for every £1 by which the taxable income exceeds £301.
DivisionB. - Mate of Turn in Respect of a Taxable Income Derived from Property.
DivisionC. -RatesofTaxinRespectofaTax- ableIncome Derived Partly from Personal ExerlionandPartlyfrom Partly from Property.
Division D. - Rates of Tax by Reference to an AverageIncome.
DivisionE. - Rates of Tax by Reference toa NotionalIncome.
DivisionF. -Rates ofTaxPayablebya Trustee.
For every £1 of the taxable income in respect of which a trustee is liable, in pursuance of either section ninety-eight or section ninetynine of the Income Tax. Assessment Act 1936- 1946, to be assessed and to pay tax, the rate of tax shall be the rate that would be payable under. Division A, B, C, D or E, as the case requires, if one individual were liable to be assessed and to pay tax on that taxable income.
Division G. -Rates of Two Payable bya Company, other than a Company in the Capacity of Trustee.
For every £1 of the taxable income the rate of tax shall be -
For every£1 of interest in respect of which a company is liable, in pursuance of sub-section (1.) of section one hundred and twenty-five of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1946, to pay income tax. the rate oftax shall be Seventy-two pence.
Division H. - Tax Payable where Amount would otherwise include Odd Pence.
Where, apart from this Division, the income lax which a person, would be liable to pay under the preceding Divisions, before deducting any rebate to which he is entitled inhis assessment, leaves an amount of pence remaining when expressed in pounds and shillings -
if the remaining pence do not exceed six - the income tax payable by that person shall be the amount so expressed in pounds and shillings: or (ft) if the remaining pence exceed six - the income tax payable by that person shall be the amount so expressed in pounds andshillings plus. One shilling.
Provided that this paragraph shall not apply-
to the mutual income,as defined in. sub-section (1a.) of section one hundred and sixty of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1946, of a life assurance company.
It is again my pleasing duty to introduce an income tax resolution which proposes a reduction in the rates of income tax for individuals. As I have already indicated to honorable members in the Financial Statement which I have just read, the Government proposes that the rates of income tax and social services contribution for the present financial year 1946-47 be reduced so as to grant relief to theamount of approximately £17,500,000. The revenue involved’ in the proposed income tax reduction, apart from the reduction in social services contribution, is estimated at £14,000.000per annum. Compared with existing rates,t he combined new rates of income tax and social services contribution will represent reductions ranging from . 39 per cent, on the lowest incomes to 7 per cent, on an income of £5,000, or an overall reduction of approximately11 per cent.
The proposed reductions are additional to the121/2 per cent, reduction made by the Government last year at a cost to revenue of approximately £20,000,000 per annum.
The newcombined rates of income tax and social services contribution will represent an overall reduction of about 22 per cent, when compared with wartime rates of income tax. That will represent more than 47 per cent, on the lowest incomes, tapering off to something under 20 per cent, on incomes of £1,500 and over.
Theminimum taxable income for income tax purposes will remain , at £201, but taxpayers in all grades of income willbenefit from the proposed reduction.
Under the new scale of rates, . the average rate of tax payable on a taxable income of £201 is a fraction of a. penny. The rate increases progressively until a maximum of 10s. 3,32d. is reached at £5,000. Where the taxable income exceeds £5,000, the rate will be 10s. 3.32d. in the £1 on the first £5,000 and 14s. 6d. on every £1 in excess of £5,000. The maximum rate of 14s.6d. will be additional to1s. 6d. in the £1 social services contribution for which income taxpayer? will also be liable.
Property rates are slightly in excess of personal exertion rates in the lower brackets of income, and the excess gradually increases until on a property income of £1,000, the combined rates of income tax and social services contribution exceed the combined rates on personal exertion income by approximately 25 per cent. However, the difference in the rates then gradually diminishes until the rate on that part of the taxable income in excess of £5,000 is the same for both personal exertion and property income.
Tables showing the amounts of income tax and social services contribution that will be payable by various classes of taxpayers in different income groups, and tables comparing these amounts with amounts payable under the existing scale and under the war-time scale, are being circulated to honorable members.
I would draw the attention of honorable members to the fact that the new rates will have the effect of raising the limits of income which may be derived by persons with dependants before incurring any liability for income tax. These persons, however, will be liable for social services contribution. Compared with existing limits, the amounts which will be free of income tax under the new scale will be as follows : -
The other provisions of the resolution correspond to those included in the annual income tax rating. measure.
The new rates will apply for the full year commencing the 1st July, 1946. However, owing to the necessity of having to print and circulate the new scales of tax deductions, it may be about the beginning of September before the necessary adjustments can be made in the amounts of tax deductions from salaries and wages.
The usual printed memorandum explaining the provisions of the Government’s taxation measures is being circulated for the assistance of honorable members.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
Schedule ofrates ofcontribution Payable in respect of the contributable income of a contributor other than a trustee.
The concessional rate of contribution for every £1 of the contributable income shall be the rate which bears the same proportion to the basic rate as the amount by which the contributable income exceeds the rebatable amount bears to -
The concessional average rate of contribution for every £1. of the contributable income shall be the rate which would be the concessional rate if, in ascertaining the concessional rate in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (2) of this Schedule -
That, in lieu of the provisions of subsections (1.), (2.) and (3.) of section five of the Social Services Contribution Act 1945, the following provisions apply to the imposition of social services contribution: -
The social services contribution legislation, which the Government introduced last year, imposed a social service’s contribution graduated to a maximum of 1s. 6d. in the £1. The Contribution Eating Act, in effect, provides that where the maximum rate does not apply, the amount of contribution payable by a contributor shall equal the amount of income tax he would pay, after deducting all rebates, if income tax were imposed on his taxable income at 871/2 per cent, of war-time rates.
A new and simplified scale of social services contribution has now been devised. The new scale is incorporated watches worth £20 or £30.To-day, in order to replace those watches, they will be obliged to pay about five times the pre-war price; When those men joined the Australian Imperial Force, Australia urgently required their services. They undertook to obey the orders of their commander and the Government undertook to pay them a certain amount of money a day and to feed and clothe them. That was the true position. Through no fault of their own they became prisoners of war. They obeyed the order to surrender. In Singapore, we received orders to “hold fire”, and we surrendered at the order of a higher command. In that way, we became prisoners of the Japanese. From that time until our release, we were not fed or clothed by the Army. Therefore, I contend that the Army should now reimburse the exprisoners who had to make definite financial sacrifices in order to feed and clothe themselves. If they had been on leave in Australia where even war-time conditions were congenial, and lived for five or six days or longer in Sydney or Melbourne, the Army would have paid them a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day because while they were on leave the army was not maintaining them. But because our troops were prisoners in Malaya, where they had to sell their personal belongings in order to get a hit of food, and, more than anything else, because the war is over and they are not wanted again the Army is disregarding them altogether. Rudyard Kipling wrote of this attitude to the soldier in peace-time -
It’s Tommy this an’ Tommy that an Chuck him out, the brute! ‘
But it’s ‘ Saviour of ‘is country ‘ when the guns begin to shoot.
Now the Minister states that the treatment of prisoners of war has not been “ illiberal “. Can the right honorable gentleman tell me of anything that prisoners of war received that soldiers who served in Australia vh rough out the war have not received? Prisoners of war have received the same payment as any ordinary soldier who was stationed at Royal Park, Melbourne, for instance, for the whole period of his service. However, the home-front soldiers received subsistence allowance at the rate of. 3s. a day for periods when the
Army was not feeding them. That is something that prisoners of war did not receive. In view of the injustice that is being done to 15,000 loyal Australians, this Government must accede to my request.
– I refer to the need for the stabilization of an industry other than the wheat industry, regarding which there was an interesting debate this afternoon. The industry which I have in mind is located in a very remote part of the Northern Territory. It is the mica mining industry, which is carried on. east of Alice Springs. That is the only part of Australia where mica is produced. The future of the industry is very doubtful. The Australian Trade Commissioner’s report on the mica industry in India shows clearly that there is considerable likelihood of an increase of prices for mica produced in that country. This, of course, will have an effect on the cost of imported mica in Australia. In my view, it would be a great pity if the Government allowed the Australian industry to go into the discard as the result of the cessation of the system of price control, which has been exercised under the National Security Regulations with beneficial results to the miners. I use the word “ beneficial “ guardedly, because miners have told me that, although the industry was stabilized during the war, they believe that traders, not producers, benefited mainly from the high prices paid for super mica - I could describe the product as “ super-super mica “, because it is of very high quality. Some of the miners felt so keenly about this exploitation that for a time they hid much of their production until their high’ sense of duty obliged them to deliver it. They were incensed because dealers operating on the market were reaping the fruits of their labour in the inhospitable territory where mica is found. The Commonwealth Government has absolute constitutional power to do whatever it wishes in its own. territories. Neither the restrictions affecting price fixation nor the difficulties encountered under section 92 of the Constitution arise in respect of its power to regulate mica production in the Northern Territory. Therefore, it could exercise the treatment that they had been receiving from the Nationalist party - now the Liberal party - which then, as to-day. represented John Darling and Sons, Bunge (Australia) Proprietary Limited, Louis Dreyfus and Company . Limited, and others who live by speculating in wheat on world markets. The farmers elected certain representatives to the Parliament of Victoria - the State in which the first organization of wheatgrowers was formed- and when these men entered the Parliament they found their natural allies were, as is the case ‘ to-day, members of the Labour party. Labour members held out the hand of friendship because they too realized that the wheat merchants were of no benefit to the community, standing between the farmer and the consumer and levying tribute out of all proportion to the services rendered to either. The result was that , the Premier of the day - an antiLabour Premier - sensed the danger that the projected compulsory wheat pool would become a reality, and advised the Governor to dissolve the Parliament. In an endeavour to destroy the Country party, he then went to the country and branded the representatives of the farmers as syndicalists, or something worse than socialists. However the Victorian wheat-farmers remained steadfast, and returned Country party members on the principle of a compulsory wheat pool. “What happened? The then anti-Labour Premier extended to the Country party members an invitation like that of the spider to the fly - “ Come into my parlour “ - and the men who had been returned to the Parliament as farmers’ representatives sold out their* principles for portfolios and participated in ‘ a composite ministry. This state of affairs has continued ever since. The whole history of the Country party is closely associated with the sad story of the wheat-farmer. I support this proposal because of the uncertainties that exist within the wheat industry. Wheat-growers have to contend with all kinds of natural hazards, including fire, drought, flood, hail and plant diseases; but as a practical grower I say that one can cope with most of these to some degree at least. One can insure his crop against fire and flood, and offset the devastation of drought by adopting scientific methods of crop rotation, fodder storage . and fallow. One can also deal with the problems of plant diseases; but so. far. he has been unable to cope with the violent fluctuations of prices which can be, and are, affected not only by international finance but also by the internal economy and the political actions of exporting and importing countries. That has spelt tragedy and ruin to the wheat industry. So much so, that although the industry had enjoyed reasonable prices for many years after the last war, immediately the crash came in the early 1930’s a large percentage of wheat-growers throughout the Commonwealth were thrown into a state . of financial chaos. As proof of that assertion I draw attention to the fact that on the 19th March, 1940, the then Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, said that there were 2,000 abandoned and deserted wheat-farms in Victoria, and that conditions in New South Wales and South Australia were equally as bad. In 1939, Mr. H. L. Simpson, president of the Country party of Victoria, stated that no less than 80 per cent, of wheat-growers in that State were bankrupt. On the 1st August, 1940, the Melbourne Herald published a report that the Farmers’ Debt Adjustment Board considered that 75 per cent, of Victoria’s 13,000 wheat-growers were facing a financial crisis and that only from 5 per cent, to 7 per cent, were financially sound. In 1939, the Minister for Lands in Western Australia, Mr. F. M. Troy, stated that in that year alone, 710 farms had reverted to one bank, namely, the Agricultural Bank of Western Australia and that abandoned properties throughout the State totalled 2,791, the farmers concerned being ordinary bank clients, soldier settlers and group settlers. These were the conditions of uncertainty existing at that time. Forced sales had become the order of the day. Many farmers were caused to commit illegal nets such “as selling wheat which was under lien, to endeavour to get a few pounds to carry on. I well remember that one unfortunate woman who sold about twenty bags of wheat for no other purpose than to raise sufficient money to bury her husband - she had been told by the undertaker that she had to pay before the burial would be carried out - was brought before the court. Honorable members opposite express great concern for ex-servicemen, particularly in relation to land settlement schemes; but I recall that the late Frank Evans, a returned soldier of the last war and a man with a large family, was thrown into gaol because he was unable to meet his commitments. He died” in gaol, and so that his spirit might live, the wheat-growers of Western Australia subscribed to a fund to provide a memorial to this man, who, in war, had fought for his country and who, in peace, had endeavoured to protect his family. Had this scheme been offered to the wheat-growers at any time during the last sixteen years, it would have been eagerly grasped as the salvation of tha industry. To-day, however, a section of the community - a very small section - hesitate to accept it. This hesitancy is due to three reasons. The first is caused partly by the actions of the merchants who do not desire the introduction of the orderly marketing of wheat in Australia. The second is brought about partly by the temporary increase of world prices, and a certain optimism which has been created by merchants and some politicians who desire again to .put the wheat industry up for auction. As in the past, those politicians submit alternative proposals for no other purpose than to cause confusion among the wheatgrowers. They hope that while the farmers disagree among themselves, they will be able to save the situation for the merchants by preventing the implementation of the bill. In other words, the opponents of the scheme seek to divide the wheat-growers in order that t!.3y may rule and exploit them. Tint desire has existed for a considerable time. In support of his contentions last night, the Leader of the Opposition said -
In those circumstances, a poll should be taken among growers before the legislation, comes into operation.
That is just another ruse to’ delay the introduction of this scheme. Therefore, all . wheat-growers and others who have the interests of the industry at heart must support the bill, and not be misled by. the political manoeuvres of its opponents. When honorable members oppo- site were in office, they had opportunities to assist the industry but they showed no real desire to aid it.’ In their endeavour to outbid the present proposals, they are making extravagant promises which, if given effect, would crash with the first decline of world prices and again throw the industry into chaos. During the 1939-40 season when wheat-growers were poverty stricken and in despair, a deputation waited -on their elected representatives in Canberra and requested an increase of 3d. a bushel. At that time, the guaranteed price was 2s. 6d. a bushel. According to a member of the deputation, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who claims to be a champion of the wheat-growers and who knew that the industry was in dire need of assistance, stated that he “ refused to embarrass the Government “ by consenting to refer the request to Cabinet. The fact that the wheatgrowers were embarrassed, and their families were compelled to live on an income of £1 a week left him unmoved. All that concerned the honorable member was a desire not to embarrass the Government The honorable gentleman was afraid of losing his portfolio. When a former Minister for- Commerce, Mr. Archie Cameron, visited Western Australia’ some years ago, he assured wheatgrowers that, on his return to Canberra, he would leave no stone unturned in order to guarantee the industry a price of 10s. a bag or 3s. 4d. a bushel. What happened? After the honorable gentleman returned to Canberra he ceased to be a Minister. I say in favour of the honorable member that when he makes a promise., he usually tries to honour it. If the walla of the Cabinet room could repeat the conversation that took place between the honorable member and his colleagues upon his return from Western Australia, the real traitors to the wheat industry would be revealed.
Last night the Leader of the Opposition said that there was a fairly well established practice in Australia that before schemes of this kind were put into operation, the wishes of the growers should be ascertained. People who heard the right honorable gentleman’s speech might be excused for believing that no consideration whatever had been given to the wheat-growers. The truth was that full consideration was given to them, and they discussed this matter in conference with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I shall explain briefly what took place at that conference and the ultimate conclusions. “When the conference met on the 12th December last, the Government submitted a plan the basis of which was a guaranteed floor price of 4s. 8d. a bushel f.o.b. “When the export price of wheat exceeded that figure, 50 per cent, of the amount of the increase was to be paid to the grower, and the remaining 50 per cent, to the growers’ fund. The home consumption price was to remain at os. 2d. a bushel f.o.b. ports. The Australian Wheat Growers Federation discussed the plan for a day, and then submitted to the Government a counter proposal, namely, a guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. ports, and when the price of export wheat exceeded that figure, 50 per cent, of the increase was to be paid to the grower and 50 per cent, to the growers’ fund. The Government and the wheat-growers regard the Australian Wheat Growers Federation as the recognized authority in the wheat industry. The conference adjourned, and the Minister ‘agreed to submit the proposals for further consideration. The difference between the Government’s plan and the federation’s plan represented 6$d. a bushel in the minimum guaranteed price; it was estimated that the difference between a fixed payment f.o.r ports and the same payment f.o.b. ports would be approximately gd. a bushel. After considering the proposals, the Government agreed to the federation’s request provided that, when the export price exceeded 5s. 2d. a bushel, 60 per cent, of the excess would go to the fund and the remainder would go direct to the growers. This also was not acceptable to the growers, and, after further representations had been made on their behalf, the Government agreed to a distribution of any excess on a 50-50 basis, thus acceding in full to the requests made by the. federation at its December conference at Sydney. When skating round the subject, last night, the Leader of the Opposition said that he could find no legal reason why the 1945-46 harvest should be included in the scheme. The reason is that an agreement to do so was made by the Government with the federation. To prove my statement, I draw attention to the following extract from the minutes of the conference : -
Mr. . Nock moved, Mr. Robertson seconded : “ That the 1045-4C crop be eliminated from the plan and the plan to commence from 1940-47.”
After considerable debate, Mr. Diver moved and Mr. Maycock seconded - “That the question be pit”. That motion was defeated.
– No “gag” I
– Strangely enough, the motion was submitted by one of two men who supply the honorable member with, most of the information which he uses to attack the Government. ‘ As the honorable member remarked, the “ gag “ was not applied, showing that the subject was fully debated. The matter was then adjourned until all other questions had been considered. This indicates that it must have been fully debated. The minutes of the conference continue as follows : -
After reconsideration, Mr. Maycock .moved, and Mr. Marshman seconded - “ That subject to the Government accepting (c) (as below) we raise no objection to
” (quoted hereunder).
“‘The guaranteed floor price to be 5s. 2d. f.o.r. with participation in the additional return where the crop concerned realized more than 5s. 2d.”
o ) “ The guaranteed price should apply for five years and should be reviewed within that time with the intention of giving a further guaranteed period. The idea would be t;o have always a guarantee for a reasonable time limit. To review it regularly and make adjustments for the period and the price at each review. The initial period would cover the present crop (1945-40) and the following four crops to 1949-50.”
That proves that agreement was reached between the Government and the federation. The Government agreed to the federation’s requests, and the federation agreed to the inclusion of the 1945-48 crop in the scheme. We will not be misled by technical or legal arguments raised by honorable members opposite. The Leader of the Opposition would not be .” game “ to persuade any growers to take the matter to the High Court because he knows that, if he did so, he would call down upon his head the wrath of a large majority of the growers. It has been said that the growers are in debt and should continue ro receive the high prices that they received last season so that they will be able to discharge their debts. I say that high prices for wheat have been the main cause of growers getting into debt. Whenever the price of wheat has increased, the prices of all other commodities have increased simultaneously. However, whenever the price of wheat has fallen, there has always been a lapse of about two years before the prices of other commodities have fallen in proportion. The primary producers have always been caught in that way. Instead of postponing the scheme for another year, we should endeavour to bring it into operation now we have the - opportunity to do- so, and so build up some reserve as a protection against the time when world prices will fall. The people who are opposing the scheme refer to what happened after World War I. .and say : “ See how prices maintained stability for so many years “. It is absolutely misleading to compare the conditions which, existed after World ‘War I. with present conditions. I refer to my own experience to show the fallacy of such a comparison. When I first started wheat production eighteen years ago - some years after the end of World War I. - I took a long time, with a team of horses, to plant 250 acres of wheat. I had to work at top pressure if I wanted to plant an extra 40 acres. The position to-day is vastly different. About a month ago I had my first holiday since I became a member of this Parliament, three years ago.. I went to my farm and, unfortunately, one of my employees became ill while I was there. I took his place, and intwelve days I planted 500 acres of wheat. That shows clearly the* vast improvement, that has been effected in methods of wheat production. Another point to be considered is that the high prices prevailing throughout the world to-day will stimulate production in all wheat exporting countries, even in unproductive areas, and also in countries usually considered to be wheat importers. My views are supported hy the following statement recently made by the Canadian Minister for Agriculture, and I point out. that there are no keener judges of the wheat industry than the Canadian .people:- lt would be contrary to the interests of Canada and of Canada’s wheat-growers to take advantage of the necessity . of former allies by charging higher prices for wheat, thereby encouraging an economic expansion of wheat acreage in both’ importing and exporting countries, including Canada.
That, Dominion recognizes the danger of high prices. The Leader of the Opposition said that he would be a pessimist who’ considered that, the price of wheal would drop within the next five years. That is contrary to my experience, an<! that of many world experts, in 1937. One expert, representing- Broomhall and Company, said -
The wheat export carry-over has nowdropped below a certain figure. We must enjoy stability of price for two or three years, and then we may look for a gradual decline of the world’s market values.
That was the view of a recognized leading wheat, authority in the world, not of the Leader of the Opposition. What happened? Within six months, not four or five years, the price had again crashed. As a wheat-grower, I want the industry to be protected against a recurrence of such an experience. How can we know what is to be the policy of importing countries? It will be remembered that before the last war it was said that Italy was paying 12s. a bushel, Germany 10s. a bushel, France. 15s. a bushel and Britain Ils. a bushel for wheat. The Australian wheat-growers were receiving approximately ~3s. a bushel. Why? Because those countries were endeavouring to become economically self-sufficient in respect of wheat, and were financing their wheat operations out of their internal currency, whereas Australia had to compete on whatever market was open fo it. All of these problems have to be faced. As one who has experienced the poverty of the wheat industry and has been dependent on it for his living for eighteen years, I shall not be misled by the promises of those who will again endeavour to auction the industry with a view to obtaining political support from it. Having listened to the Leader of the Opposition, the wheat-grower can have very little faith in any promise he may make. We have been informed, 1 admit by the press, that the Australian
Country party and the Liberal party have arranged to have a joint, policy in relation to this matter. Yet we did not hear the slightest exposition of policy by the Leader of the Opposition. We should like to hear a joint declaration of policy, if there is one. The Leader of the Opposition said he was convinced that there must be a reasonable minimum price for a reasonable amount of wheat. I warn the grower to guard against proposals for the production of a reasonable amount of wheat. That was the basis of the Menzies-Page scheme, first propounded - a marketable crop of 140,000,000 bushels. Tn the first year, the deliveries exceeded by 14,000,000 bushels the amount guaranteed; consequently, in effect, the guarantee was worth practically nothing. The honorable member for Indi advocated his policy at a recent conference. I describe it as his policy, because 1 do not know whether the party to which he belongs yet has a definite policy in relation to wheat. His leader’ (Mr. Fadden) has stated that the price- of wheat should be 5s. 9d. a bushel, whereas he has said that it should be 5s. 2d. a bushel. I say in fairness to him that he advocated the payment of 5s. 2d. a bushel at railway sidings. When a member of the conference asked him whether that was for an unlimited quantity of wheat which could be grown, he realized his responsibility and said, “ No treasury will give you an open cheque “. The Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Australian Country party, and the honorable member for Indi have publically advocated three different policies. Should there ever be a joint declaration, I advise my fellow wheat-growers to discount by one-half any promise that may be made. I well remember the large sign-boards in every wheat district throughout Australia, depicting a cheque drawn on the Commonwealth .Bank of Australia, made payable to “ Mr. Wheatgrower” for an amount of £20,000,000, and signed “ Lyons and Page “. When ‘ the parties led by those two gentlemen were returned to office, the £20,000,000 was reduced, first to £12,000,000 and then to £10,000.000. I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition suggest the appointment of a board to endeavour to ascertain the cost of production; but T was more pleased by the statement of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, that he intended to submit to the Government the proposal that a board should be appointed to ascertain the cost of production. I hope that the recommendations of this body will receive treatment different from that accorded to the report of the Royal Commission on the Bread, Flour and Wheat Industries. As a “ fob-off “ before an election, the then Government said, “ We will appoint a royal commission “. . An expenditure of £50,000 was incurred with a view7 to determining the cost of producing wheat. That object having been achieved, the only subsequent action was the publication of a number of books on the subject. The report of the royal commission stated that it had made only what it regarded as “ a rough estimate “ of the cost of production. That was the only result achieved by an expenditure of £50,000. There is too much humbug talked about the cost of production. The fact is that costs vary from day to day, from farm to farm, and from year to year.
– Does the honorable member believe that it is impossible to determine the cost of production?
– I believe that it is not possible to arrive at a proper cost of production basis.
– Then on what basis should a guaranteed price be fixed?
– -If the honorable member will wait I shall tell him. I suggest to the Minister that he should ask the proposed board to find a formula similar to that by which the basic wage is fixed from time to time. It should take into consideration the five main factors in the cost.” of production - wages, interest, machinery, ‘superphosphate and fuel - including petrol, oil, grease, &c, and according to the price index of. those items so the basic price of wheat should bc determined. I have been fighting for the stabilization of the wheat industry since 1932. At that time, prices were” at their lowest ebb, and poverty stalked the wheat lands. Now, in 1946, we happen to be on the crest of the wave of high prices. Conditions in 1932 were dangerous because they involved poverty for the wheatgrowers; conditions new are equally dangerous because, if we are not careful, they, will result in inflated values for wheat lands and stimulate production in importing countries. I am particularly pleased that the bill provides for the continuation of the compulsory pooling system for the marketing of -wheat.” This is the system which had to be introduced to help Australia through World War I. and World War II. On both those occasions the speculators and wheat merchants failed the growers and the country, and the pooling system had to be introduced. If that system was good enough to see the industry and the. nation through two wars it is good enough to keep in time of peace.
– I support the bill, and I agree with the Minister (Mr. Scully) that the wheat industry, over the “years, has been a troubled one. I also agree that, a few years ago, prices for wheat were so low that growers could not obtain a reasonable return for their labour. I am pleased that it was not necessary for the growers to bring pressure upon the Government to introduce this stabilization measure. It was introduced willingly and expeditiously by the Government, whose attitude in this respectwas in marked contrast with that of previous governments. The representatives of the wheat-growers have practically beaten a track to Parliament in the course of their unsuccessful attempts to induce previous governments to sponsor legislation which would ensure them justice. In fact, the growers had practically to threaten to use artillery in order to get even the smallest consideration from antiLabour governments.
I am pleased that the stabilization plan is to remain in force for five years, and that provision is to be made to extend it for a further period if desired. The bill was introduced by the Government at the request of the wheat-growers, expressed through the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. Similar requests have been made repeatedly in the past, and there can be no doubt that the growers wish their industry, to be released from the clutches of .the wheat merchants and speculators who have always controlled it, except for brief periods during the two wars. The growers have a deep-seated fear of returning to the haphazard methods which obtained under the open-market system. The wheat speculators bought when prices were low, as they usually are at the beginning of the harvest, and sold later in the year when prices rose temporarily. The speculators were known as. men who farmed the farmers. For years their political tactics were to divide the farmers by suggesting to them that under organized marketing they would lose their freedom. It is only necessary to compare the fine homes ‘ and luxurious business premises of the wheat merchants in the capital cities with the living conditions of the farmers in order to see who has bad the better of the deal under the system of open marketing. Through their organizations, the farmers learned that the freedom with which the merchants were concerned was not the freedom of the farmers, but freedom for themselves to gamble in the people’s food. The farmers are now organized, and have for some years been anxious for the institution of a system of orderly marketing on a Commonwealth-wide basis. This bill gives effect to their wishes, and the industry is to be stabilized for a period of five years. In this way the Government is giving to the growers that to which they are justly entitled. The Government, by this arrangement, is seeking to put a floor into the wheat market. Ministers know that it is easier to arrest the fall of wheat prices than to wait until they .have fallen, and then try to raise them again.
The plan, as I have said, operates for five years, and not for one year. The minimum guarantee is 5s. 2d. a bushel, f.o.r. ports, for every bushel of wheat which the grower markets. In this respect there is a marked contrast between what the present ‘Government has done and what has been done by previous ministries. It will be remembered that, in the war-time plan introduced by the last Government, provision was made for its guaranteed minimum price to apply only to 140,000,000 bushels of marketable wheat. Of the 1941-42 crop, the wheat marketed exceeded that figure by 13,000,000 bushels, and growers, on delivery of their wheat, did not receive one penny in the form of an advance. This happening, I understand, gave rise to the idea that the party led by the -Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) should call itself a “Liberal party”. It is a striking commentary on the hypocrisy of those who sponsored and supported that action that they are now critical of what, by comparison, might be called the liberal provisions of this measure. It ‘ is also striking that members of the Opposition, who were responsible for confining the representation of wheat-growers on the first Australian Wheat Board to two members, should now question the undoubted goodwill which the present Government has shown to the wheat industry. Its goodwill is proved by the fact that seven out of nine of the members of the Australian Wheat Board are the elected representatives of growers, and that the chairman, in addition, is a wheat-grower, one of the foundation members of the wheat-growers’ organization, and the first president of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation.
The present Government was responsible, shortly after it came to office, for suspending from operation those clauses of the war-time wheat stabilization scheme which provided _ that growers should contribute to an equalization fund 50 per cent, of the price by which export returns exceeded 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. In that action the Government made it possible for wheat-growers to obtain added returns from the Nos. 6, 7 and 8 wheat pools, from which the returns to growers exceeded 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. These are not the things, of course, which we expect to learn from honorable members on the Opposition benches. They are the things which indicate where the real friends of the wheat-grower in this House are located. The real test . of sincerity, so far as the attitude of the Opposition on this measure is concerned, lies in what it did when it had power iri this Parliament, and not in what it proposes should be done now that it has been relegated to the cold shades of Opposition.
In the Australian Country party corner, we. have a body of men who are now considerably fewer in numbers, it is true, than they were in the last and previous parliaments. These men were elected to Parliament because they attacked the members of the renamed United Australia party whom they charged with having neglected the best interests of the wheat-growers and other sections of primary producers. Their parliamentary mission, they claimed, was to assure the emancipation of wheatgrowers and others who were being crushed by food speculators represented by the predecessors of the present Liberal party. In the twenty years in which the Australian Country party has had representation in this Parliament, it has been associated with composite ministries most of the time. After twenty years, it would be compelled, by the known facts, to admit that wheatgrowers and others were in a worse position financially .than they were when Australian Country party members first darkened the doors of the Commonwealth and State parliaments. Wheat-growers in particular know that only too well, and they are not being misled by the fictitious promises and election concoctions of Australian Country party representatives in this House.
When the Government first sponsored this plan, at the request of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, it named the price of 4s. 8d. a bushel f.o.b. The Wheat Growers Federation met in December last, and asked for 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. ports, equal to 5s. 2 3/4d. a bushel f.o.b., or 6 3/4d. a bushel more than the price the Government had named. The Government immediately agreed to this, but suggested that the contribution to the stabilization fund should be 60 per cent, of the excess price over 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. ports for export wheat. The federation did not agree to the 60 per cent, proposal, and asked the Government to provide for the payment of 50 per cent, to growers and 50 per cent, to the stabilization fund. The Government, after consideration, agreed to this proposal. The federation has asked for an increase of the price of wheat for local consumption fixed in 1938 by joint action of the States and the Commonwealth. Action to alter that agreement, of course, can be taken only by amending existing legislation. The federation apparently considers that 5s. 2d. a bushel for wheat consumed locally is below production costs. It apparently recognized, however, that production costs have yet to be determined, and thai, there are no tabulated data or price index to support the claim.
– The honorable member for .Forrest said that they could not be obtained.
– He made a good speech in support of the primary producers, and I am afraid that the Opposition will not be able to present so good a case. His statements were irrefutable, and the farmers will not be misled by any sweet nothings which the Opposition may promise. At a recent conference, the federation asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that a commission of inquiry to investigate costs should be . appointed by the Government. The Minister promised that the request would be the subject of a recommendation that he would make to the Government. In the House this week, he also promised, in reply to a question, that he would recommend that the .Australian Wheat Growers Federation should have direct representation on such a. cornmission, if one were appointed. It is obvious from the facts which I have mentioned that the Government has met over 90 per cent, of the requests which growers’ representatives have made.
The provision of a stabilization plan for . the wheat industry is not a matter which should interest wheat-growers alone. It is indeed a matter of great national importance, in that primary industries are Australia’s key industries, and that a rise or fall of the price of primary products has a definite affect upon our economic structure. There, is, undoubtedly, a close relationship between price levels for -primary products and the volume of employment or unemployment which exists throughout the community: When prices for primary products fall, the effects are- first felt by the. farmer, and after him by country business people and country workers. The effects are next felt in our secondary industries. The loss of the farmers’ purchasing power results in lessening his demands for secondary goods, and so unemployment follows in considerable volume in capital cities. It is, therefore, as I have stated,, a matter of national urgency that we should prevent, a return to unpayable pre-war prices lor wheat and other primary products. This measure aims to stabilize the wheat industry and the principles embodied in it are of vital concern to every section of the community. In the past, prices for farm products, including wheat, have been so low that farmers have been compelled to rely on unpaid family labour or causal- itinerant labour, for which they were compelled to pay lower wages than they wished. I remember quite well the old bygone days when we frequently met on the road the old -sundowner, renowned in song and story, who carried his swag from one town to another between harvests. We must never witness that spectacle again. The wheat-farmer must be placed on a basis which will enable him to pay reasonable wages to his employees. Since the price of wheat has been stabilized it has been possible to apply an award fixing the wages and conditions of harvest workers, and from my own knowledge, wheat-growers invariably paid award rates with pleasure. Their claim on the community generally and on this Parliament is that they should be assured a minimum reward commensurate with their services to the community. They have to take their chance with the elements over which they have no control. That, surely, is a sufficient hazard. They are entitled to’ a return which will enable them to meet their liabilities and at the same time enjoy a reasonable standard of comfort. These statements may not be regarded as original. It is true that they have been uttered previously; and it is also true that they have been uttered by members of the Australian Country party, and at times, by members of the Liberal party, but there is some virtue, however, in their utterance from this side of the House in that immediately this Government assumed office it commenced a programme for the rehabilitation of the wheat industry in the form of increased minimum guarantees. There is no doubt that the days in which a Commonwealth government could offer insult to the wheat-growers of Australia by giving them a first advance of 2s. 6d. a bushel at sidings have ended. It is clear that if the votes of wheat-growers count for anything, future governments which attempt to reduce the price of wheat below 4s. a bushel at country sidings will not remain long in office. It is- also clear, that in the measure now before us the Government is wisely laying down a structure for peace-time marketing of Australia’s wheat. Apart from spasmodic action during the two world wars, when wheat merchants were unable to finance the industry, and government assistance had to be provided, wheatgrowers in -the past have been totally unable to make any advance towards obtaining an organized marketing scheme for their product. Now, for the first time in history, apart from those emergency war periods, wheat-growers may hope for organized marketing which will ensure their future prosperity. The Government has not only sponsored the plan; it. has also done everything possible to secure the willing and wholehearted cooperation of the States in its implementation. A great deal of preliminary work has been necessary in order to carry the plan to its present stage, and if the measure is wrecked, as some members opposite appear to hope, all that preliminary work will be lost and will have to be recommenced later. Those who attack the measure therefore place themselves in the position of gambling with the future of a great industry and with the financial stability of every individual engaged in it. I trust that their efforts will not bc successful. If this plan to Stabilize the wheat industry is not placed upon the statute-book it will at least not be because of lack of support on the part of members of the Australian Labour party. Not only do honorable members on this side of the. House fully support the bill, but they are also assured of the support of the representatives of Labour in the State parliaments. Mr. C. T. Chapman, president of the South Australian Wheat Growers Association, a practical farmer and a firm supporter of the Government’s stabilization scheme, in. an article in the South Australian Wheatgrower of the 22nd June - gave cogent facts and figures to justify his support of the Government’s proposal. I shall not quote the whole of his. statement but I draw the attention of honorable members particularly to this passage -
I say . deliberately as .a genuine wheat grower who has kept proper books over the last 24 years, and costed for a number of those years, that this plan,- even as proposed, is a much better proposition than those of the past years and it definitely gives some measure of security to the industry.
Mr. Chapman continued ;
Get your legislation enacted while the oppor.tunity exists. History proves that once measures like this are rejected it is many years before ever the opportunity present? itself again. “
The wheat-growers of Australia can and will build real security as the result of this stabilization plan which, according to Mr. Chapman’s calculations, would have saved his firm more than ?14,000 had it been in operation during the period 1922-23 to 1942-43. Knowing the conditions under which so many wheat-growers lost their farms I advise them not to be misled by the carping criticism of those who are not so much opposed to the bill as they are anxious to get Labour out of office at all .costs. I listened with a great deal of interest’ to the speech on this subject delivered by the Leader of the Opposition last night. The right honorable gentleman freely interlarded his remarks with the usual platitudes, but offered not one constructive suggestion whereby the lot of the wheat-growers could be improved. As usual, he merely played with words. It was obvious that he was anxious that this plan should be postponed. The theme of his speech from beginning to end was procrastination. I learned in my youth that procrastination is the thief of time. If the wheat-growers and primary producers do not take time by the’ forelock and support the Government’s scheme embodied in this measure they will seriously retard the industry.’ I support the measure.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McEwen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Whether we in this House like it or. not we have been thrust into the atomic age. Our first experience of applied atomic science does not suggest that it will necessarily be a comfortable age, though the scientists assure us that their discoveries and achievements will serve constructive as well as destructive ends. We approached the atomic age by way of a great deal of unspectacular experiment and thought, in the field of pure science. Practically the only hints which honorable members had prior to 1945 caine in the fictional prophecies of H. G. Wells and an occasional popular science article in the press. For, as the tempo of atomic experiments and of international unrest advanced step for step during the 1930’s an intense secrecy began to envelop the practical results which scientists were deriving from their labours.
With the outbreak of war this condition of secrecy became much more complete as between the belligerent groups, but the final allied achievement of the atomic bomb was directly attributable to a magnificent instance of scientific cooperation between Britain, Canada and America more immediately, though Australian scientists had a hand in the work and Australian raw materials were amongst those upon which experimental work was performed. With the bursting of atomic bombs on Japan a stage of wild popular speculation, recently stimulated by the much publicized Bikini tests, has followed, though for the time being secrecy continues to be the rule regarding the processes of harnessing the new power. At the same time, however - and this is the central point before the House to-day - there is a general realization that the problem of control of atomic developments and raw materials is one of immediate and inescapable urgency. It is indicative of the gravity of the problem, and of its world-wide character, that the attempt at control has occurred simultaneously at the national and international levels. Usually, in the past, men have sought first the local and national solutions to their problems, while neglecting their impact on international affairs.
For that reason the establishment of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission simultaneously with the presentation of atomic energy control legislation to the Parliaments of Britain, America, Australia and other countries emphasizes the vital urgency and importance the issue has assumed in all minds. .It is, I think, a matter for justifiable pride on the part of this Parliament that Australia has one of the places on the Atomic Energy Commission and that it should have fallen to an honorable member of this House, the Minister for External Affairs . (Dr. Evatt), to lead the commission at the very outset of its work. His is .the task of guiding the commission and its committees in their first steps in attempting to evolve the practical scheme of international control which the Commonwealth Government favours and for which the peoples of the world devoutly hope. It is, at the same- time, a matter for most favorable notice that the expert consultants of the American Secretary of State, under the leadership of David .Lilienthal, of the Tennessee Valley Authority, have produced an enlightened and far-sighted report on the relation between national and international controls in this field. I commend the Lilienthal report to honorable members.
I have stressed that there is general realization that the problem of control must be tackled immediately and internationally. It appears to be equally agreed in all responsible quarters that, within each country, there should be public control of the basic raw materials and their treatment. That is, there must be governmental control of the holdings, development, manufacture, export or import of these substances. For any system of control of atomic energy must be based on knowledge of where these metals are, what is being done with them, and upon the certainty that their use is in public hands responsive to public direction -and policy. It may be that, in time, there will be more or less full international control in this afield, but in the meantime considerations of defence at least dictate active governmental control.
The South Australian Government and Parliament, appreciating that the principal known Australian sources of radioactive substances are within that State, have already taken legislative steps to ensure their control by the .State. For that prompt action they are to be commended. This Parliament has, however, responsibility to the whole Australian people for its defence and security.. That the national development of atomic energy is inextricably bound up with defence no longer requires to be laboriously demonstrated to anyone. The Commonwealth is also charged with the conduct of Australia’s external relations and control of atomic energy has now become the very stuff of international relations generally. The Commonwealth Parliament would, therefore, be recreant to its trust if it did not assume a genera] control or supervision over all Australian sources and development of this new power. How complete that supervision or control will require to he must be determined from time to time and according to circumstances. The present bill is an enabling measure which sets up the framework of control.
The provisions of this bill are simple and general. Uranium and other similar substances throughout the Commonwealth Territories, known or subsequently discovered, become the property of the Commonwealth. The Minister is empowered to prohibit holding or dealing in these substances anywhere in the Commonwealth except by licence; all holdings must be turned over upon demand in return for agreed or determined compensation.’ All past and future discoveries of these substances anywhere in the Commonwealth must be notified within one month. Persons may be interrogated on the subject and Commonwealth officials may enter on land or property to search or test. The Minister may have an advisory committee of “five to assist him in administering the act. A regulationmaking power under the act and” penalties for breaches of the terms of the act are provided.
The bill has been drawn with due regard to the relevant clauses of the parallel British measure. In all matters related to atomic energy we are maintaining the closest contact with the British Government and their experts. During the war Professor Oliphant, the brilliant Australian leader- in this field in Great Britain, visited Australia and discussed certain aspects of atomic energy development with the Commonwealth’s scientific advisers. In London recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) discussed the subject with British Ministers, with Professor ‘Oliphant’ and others. Professor Oliphant consented to -witness the Bikini tests as an official Australian observer. Some honorable members, comparing this measure with British and American legislation, may feel that this bill is less farreaching. That is, in some respects, true. It is due primarily to the relative backwardness pf Australian work in this field to date - we have had other preoccupations in the war years at least. The bill is draw, however, in fairly general terms and it is the Government’s belief that it affords the necessary broad basis for rapid expansion of our work 011 atomic energy.
It has been my responsibility in this short sessional period to introduce two bills - the measure now before the House and the Australian National University Bill. There is something strangely significant) in their coincidence in point of time. This bill: on the one hand, represents a broad attempt to ensure public control and development in Australia of potent forces which overshadow our whole future for good or ill. The Australian National University, on the other hand, is to include a physical sciences research school which we hope to see turning developments in the use of atomic energy to men’s service rather than their annihilation. It is to have a medical research school where further knowledge of radio-active substances may help our- scientists to make new medical advances. There is to- be a social sciences research school fitted, we hope, to meet the human challenge which atomic energy presents. Finally, the Australian National University is to have a research school of Pacific studies which will, we hope, point the way to improved international relations in this part of the world where to-day the atomic bomb is tested in peace but where we hope it will never again be used in war.
In commending the bill to the House. I express the hope that we and the world- may use wisely, humanely and constructively the new power for whoso local control we are providing.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison V adjourned.
Import Licences; - Drought Relief - Australian Prisoners oe War: Subsistence Allowances - Mica - Wolfram -Tennant Creek : Rehabilitation - Meat Industry : Price of Pigs - Housing : Position- in Queensland; Availability of Materials - The Parliament : Call from thi-: Chair - Wak Pensions - Industrial Disputes - Shipping .
Motion (by Mr. Forde) proposed- t hat the House tlo now adjourn.
– The senseless restrictions and prohibitions imposed, by the Division of Import Procurement with regard to import . licences is seriously jeopardizing primary production. Numbers of complaints have reached me regarding the overbearing and unpractical interference of this division with essential imports ranging from hand separators to ballbearings. For instance, a large number of ball-bearings is used in the manufacture of harvesting machines. There has been an acute shortage of these bearings during the war. Last season production of agricultural machinery was maintained only by procuring quantities of these bearings by air from Britain, although the freight for this means of transport was extremely high. In an effort to avoid similar troubles this year, Australian manufacturers approached British suppliers to make early shipments against old standing orders for the bearings which are required for this season’s programme. However, British manufacturers were overloaded with work and indicated that there was one .type of bearing which they could not provide.
Adequate quantities of this particular type were available from the Swedish S.K.F. company from stock, and accordingly it was approached and it agreed to supply the bearings. Application was made in December- last to the Division of Import Procurement for an import licence in respect of these bearings. Throe months later, on - the 26th March this year, the licence was refused on the ground that these bearings could be manufactured in Great Britain. At that very’ time, bearing manufacturers in Britain were trying to obtain quantities of the same kind of bearings from Swedish sources, because of the acute shortage in Great Britain. Latest advices are that British manufacturers cannot commence shipment for at least another fourteen weeks’ - which means that delivery cannot be given here until towards the end of the year. The result of this nine months’ delay .has been the tying up of agricultural machinery for lack of one essential bearing, procurable in’ Sweden, and unavailable in Britain, for which the Division of Import Procurement continues to refuse an import licence. It may be argued that the policy is one of solicitude for British manufacturers. But here is another case which shows the incorrectness of such an assumption. Certain agricultural implements supplied to farmers by Australian manufacturers contain .a box of tools, among which is a 1-lb. hammer. These hammers had been imported from Britain for many years. Further supplies were ordered early in 1945, but the application for a licence was refused by thc Division of Import Procurements. Meanwhile the hammers were sent from Britain, and arrived here six months after the end of the war. Thereupon they were confiscated as prohibited imports, and the farmers had to go without them.
Roller chain is another essential item needed for the manufacture of agricultural implements. Australian firms were informed early in January this year that British manufacturers would be entirely unable to fulfil Australian requirements for this season, and consequently urgent inquiries were made throughout the United States of America. The result was that deliveries of portion of the Australian requirements were promised for delivery by June. Application for an import licence was made early in May. It was not until seven weeks afterwards that the Australian applicants were informed by the Division of Import Procurement ; hat chain for “ new manufacture “ and chain for “ replacement parts “ had to lie segregated. The licence for new manufacture had to be applied for in Melbourne, but that for replacements would lie dealt with by the Sydney office of the division. The licences were issued on i lie 25th June - nearly two months after the date of the application. Meanwhile the need was so urgent that the chain was loaded on shipboard and the manufacturers undertook the risk and possible financial loss of having the chain confiscated here if the licence happened to !><> refused. as in the case of the hammers mentioned previously. There was extreme urgency in this case, every day was vital if machines were to be ready for the harvesting season.
Mv main interest in bringing this matter forward is on behalf of the primary producers of this country. Every effort should he made to keep them supplied with the necessary machines and implements for the maintenance of production. The Government’s policy is imposing great difficulty on the manufacturers of these implements. In fact, it seems- that the ordinary import policy of this country has been superseded by the haphazard, dilatory and often illogical action of the Division of Import Procurement. It is useless for the Government to give lip-service to the farmers about its desire to increase production, and to send tractor-investigating missions overseas, headed by the DirectorGeneral of Agriculture, while at the same rime the bottlenecks in the Division of Import Procurement exercise an everincreasing internal stranglehold on Australian production
.- 1 bring to the notice pf honorable members an anomaly in the distribution of drought relief to cereal growers. I have made representations in regard to this matter on previous occasions, but I do not seem to be able to get very far with it. I shall trace briefly what ba3 happened up to date. The first information that came to me was that wheatgrowers who had not sown wheat in 1944 were not eligible for drought relief following the failure of their 1945-46 crops. That ruling deprives many hundreds of wheat-farmers who are justly entitled to relief of the right to receive any relief payment. Just because a farmer did not sow wheat in 1944 it does not mean that he is not a genuine wheat-grower. Amongst- the growers who have been rendered ineligible for drought relief by this restriction are farmers of 20 or 30 years’ standing, who, in 1944, because of the drought and tie poor condition of their horses, did not plant wheat, but took their stock south in an effort to save them. Unfortunately, despite this action, most of the stock died; and now,’ because they did, not sow wheat in 1944, and although they have suffered further loss due to drought in 1945, these men’ cannot obtain relief. In an endeavour to rectify this anomaly I communicated with the Premier of Victoria, the Honorable John Cain. In reply, that gentleman stated that the Commonwealth had insisted that it would provide 50 per cent, of the money for the drought relief scheme only if payments were restricted to growers who had suffered a loss in ‘ the 1944-45 season as well as in the following year. It appeared then that the Commonwealth was to blame for the restriction, and so I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) what was the attitude of the Commonwealth Government to this matter. The Minister replied -
Drought relief this season is provided for cereal- growers who were affected by the 1944-45 drought and who had another crop failure affecting the present 1945-40 crop, because the drought did not break in their districts in time to sow the 1945-46 crop. This was thu basis of the case put up by the States for assistance, and it is not practicable to extend the scope of the scheme which was approved.
Some one is “ passing the buck “, because in his letter to mo Mr. Cain said -
It w;is made clear at the officers conference that if the Commonwealth Government decided to meet half the costs of the scheme it would only bc on condition that the proposed relief payments would be restricted to those farmers who had suffered losses from the drought of 1!U4 ami who were again seriously affected by the drought conditions prevailing in certain districts.
Did the State Government or the Commonwealth Government impose this restriction? The Victorian authorities blame the Commonwealth Government, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has thrown the blame back on. the State. No one will accept the responsibility, and in the meantime wheatgrowers who have suffered serious loss are receiving no relief. Fallowing time is at hand, and, after years of drought, wheat-growers who have suffered grievous financial loss require assistance to carry on this great industry which can provide the food so urgently required throughout the world. If the Commonwealth Government expresses its willingness to extend the benefits of the scheme to the farmers I have mentioned, the onus will then be directly on the Government of Victoria. I have received many letters protesting against this anomaly. One comes from a woman whose husband has been a wheat-grower for 20 or 30 years. She herself owns a small block of land. In 1944 her husband planted wheat on his own property, and the crop was a failure. In 1945 he decided to sow some wheat on his wife’s property. That crop too failed, but because wheat had not been sown on that property in 1944. the farmer is debarred from participating in drought relief. That is entirely wrong, and it is . time this Government stated some definite policy in regard to this matter. I am sure that an adjustment of this anomaly will be made, but I urge that speedy action be taken. Too. long have these men waited for relief. When they applied for it they found on the application form a statement that, farmers who had not sown wheat in 1944 were ineligible for relief. And here is the important point: If a farmer, planted only 30 acres of wheat in 1944, he is eligible for drought relief payments in respect of 600 acres or more for the 1945-46 crop; but, if he did not sow any wheat at all in 1944, but endeavoured to save his stock by moving them to more suitable area3, . losing perhaps threequarters of them, and suffering far more loss than the farmer who planted only a paltry amount of wheat in 1944, he is ineligible for relief although he had sown a large area in 1945. This is a great injustice to many hard-working wheatfarmers, and as the representative in this chamber of the electorate of Wimmera in which many of these men live and work, anc! are making a valuable contribution to the stable economy of this, country, I protest emphatically against the existing state of affairs and ask the Governmento make its policy known, at the earliest opportunity. 1 como now to another matter that 1 have ventilated in this chamber on one or two .occasions. I refer to the payment of- a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day to former prisoners of war in Japanese, hands. These men did much to prevent, the Japanese from reaching Australia and were captured through no fault of their own. During the debate on the Overseas Telecommunications Bill earlier this week, one speaker said that had it not been for the telecommunications service provided by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited just prior to tinCoral Sea battle, the Japanese might have succeeded in invading Australia. That is only part of the story. Had it not been for the magnificent campaign of the 8th Division against the Japanese on the Malayan Peninsula, .all the telecommunication services in the world would not have kept the Japanese from Australian soil. So why does the Government not recognize the men who saved this country? I have already raised this matter on two occasions, and I know that my contentions have the support of many honorable members opposite. Some of them have said to me, “ We believe that those troops should be paid the sustenance allowance”, and that view is held widely throughout Australia. I speak on behalf of 12,000 or 15,000 members of the Australian Imperial Force who, as every Australian knows, suffered more severe hardships during World War II. than did any other Australians. I refer to the matter again now because I have just received a reply from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to my representations on behalf of those men. The right honorable gentleman has always given most courteous replies to my questions, and I appreciate the assistance that he has rendered to me in many ways since
I became a member of this Parliament. However, on this occasion, his reply does not meet with my approval. I asked -
Seeing that officers of the Australian Imperial Force who were prisoners of war in Japanese hands have been paid their full field allowance for the whole of the term of their imprisonment, and that, in normal circumstances, a member of the Australian Imperial Force, when not being fed by the Army, is paid asubsistence allowance of 3s. per day. will the Minister for the Army favorably consider a proposal that other ranks, who were prisoners of the Japanese, should be paid a subsistence allowance of Z.* a day for the term of their imprisonment, bearing in mind that the Army was not called upon, during that time, -to feed and clothe them ?
The Minister for the Army replied -
In reply to the honorable member it is desired to state that the pay account of a member of the Australian Military Forces who was held in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp was credited with the pay and pay allowances pertaining to his rank for the period of his captivity. Officers detained as prisoners of war by the Japanese did not receive 3s. per day subsistence allowance but their pay accounts were credited with 3s. per day field allowance which is a normal pay allowance made to al! officers serving outside Australia. No debits were made to the pay account of such members for the period of their captivity other than for payments made by way of allotment from such pay in accordance with the member’s directions.
The treatment thus accorded to prisoners of war in relation to their pay accounts was not illiberal and it is not proposed to credit the member’s pay account with subsistence allowance as suggested by the honorable member.’
I desire to analyse that reply. First, there is no doubt that the system of payment to officers of the Australian Imperial Force, who were prisoners of war, was certainly not illiberal. In fact, it was most liberal. What is the purpose of the officers’ field allowance ? Officers have certain social obligations that other’ ranks do not have, and this allowance enables them to meet those calls. In the officers’ mess, the field allowance enables them to purchase little extra luxuries to which officers perhaps are entitled. Sometimes, the whole of the field allowance is credited to the mess, and the officer does not draw it. When the field allowance is credited to the mess, the money is used to supplement the food which, under normal conditions, is supplied by the Army. When officers were in prisoner of war camps, they did not have any social commitments, or the little extra luxuries which the field allowance is specifically designed to cover. Therefore, why should they bc paid the field allowance when other ranks are denied subsistence allowance? Certainly, it is their normal allowance under normal conditions; but when officers were prisoners of war, they were not living under normal army conditions. If the Government does not propose to honour its obligations to the other ranks the field allowance should not be paid to officers. I always believed that the policy of the Labour movement in Australia was to fight for the “under dog”. Today, the policy of the Government is definitely giving officers preference over the other ranks. I assure honorable members, as one who was a prisoner of war in the hands of the Japanese- -the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) will support this statement - that the’ men who got the “ rawest “ deal in the prisoner of war camps in Malaya, Japan, Siam and Burma were those of the other ranks. They had to do all the work, and al times were on a light diet. At. Changi Camp at least, the officers were never placed on light diet rations or commanded to work. The men, of the ranks had to do the work, and, therefore, they should receive some definite payment for it. [Extension of time granted].
While our troops were prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese, they had to sell their personal belongings and, with the proceeds, buy food in order that they might live. I have already stated in this House that it is erroneous to believe that when the Australians were taken prisoner at Singapore’, the Japanese seized all their belongings. The men were allowed to keep all their belongings, such as watches and rings, which they valued. They were marched to Selerang Camp, and after they began to suffer from starvation, they were forced to sell those belongings. If they had not sold some personal belongings and been able to buy coco-nuts and other food, a much larger percentage would have died. Some of the watches which the men sold were valued at £20. To-day, I read in a Sydney newspaper that the price of watches, which, before the war, cost £7 10s., is now £35. Some possessed market will remain firm. These miners have a right to rehabilitation after the way in which the mines were ruthlessly taken away from them during the war when the cost of production was £2 18s. a unit. The Government put Chinese workers into the mines and immediately pushed the cost up to £5 10s. a unit. So the miners were deprived of the right to rehabilitate their mines. As pioneers and’ individualists they were producing mica at58s. a unit. When the Government assumed control, that figure was raised to . 110s. a unit, and a loss of nearly £250,000 was incurredin the production of only £37,000 worth of wolfram. I believe that the report of the Auditor-General has been printed and is available to-day; consequently, I shall learn before long exactly what loss was sustained. The result does not redound to the credit of the Government, which appeal’s to consider that these minerals can be produced in bulk. The production of mica and wolfram is the occupation of miners on’ a purely individualist basis. Therefore, I ask the Government to treat these men as individualists and to provide them, at the earliest moment, with the necessary rehabilitation facilities; because we need these minerals, and there is an opportunity to produce them in the Northern Territory.
I received to-day further correspondence from Tennant Creek. I thought that I had exposed the whole position with sufficient vigour last week, and had been as factual as I always am on such subjects, because my information is obtained from the secretary of the Miners and Leaseholders Association at Tennant Creek; but that gentleman has felt impelled to write to me again, for the simple reason that the Minister for the Interior has not seen fit to reply to my vigorous attack in respect of the rehabilitation of Tennant Creek, and the Treasury has declined to rehabilitate the miners there because it had not been declared a war area, despite the fact thai the batteries were taken from the wolfram fields, the miners lost their tools of trade, and the buildings were torn down by the Army authorities. Of course Tennant Creek was in a war area, even though it was not so declared, whilst Darwin was declared.
Troops passed throughit numbering hundreds of thousands, and the whole area was looted. Yet the Govern-‘ merit blandly refuses to rehabilitate the miners, who can get absolutely no compensation. “That is a disgrace to the Government. If the Minister believes that there are Communists at Tennant Creek and Alice Springs, he is mistaken. Certainly there is a Communist cell in Darwin;but the majority of the “ wharfies “ there are good unionists, and only a small section of them are Communists. It will avail the Minister nothing to run away , from the men at Tennant Creek and Alice Springs, and to throw in my teeth the declaration that there’ isa Communist cell which he will not meet.
– That is not true. When did I say that?
– That is the inference to be drawn from the refusal of the Minister to meet the men of Tennant Creek and Alice Springs.
-That is not true.
– The Minister has stated in this House that he is not going to be led into that trap. The ex-Administrator of the Northern Territory has said that the whole of that area is “Red “. It is not.
– I did not make any mention of Communists.
– This is the letter that I have received from Mr. Rowe, secretary of the Miners and Leaseholders Association at Tennant Creek -
At a general meeting of the above association held on 7th July, 1946, I was instructed to ask the Mines Department to have the leases on the Tennant Creek goldfield surveyed. Prospectors arc put to great trouble trying to locate protected gold lease applications, and on accountof the leases not being surveyed it is almost impossible to prove location in a court of law. The department has held survey fees for years in many cases, and we think that as the survey fees have all been paid it is time we received value for our money.
That isa subject with which I am particularly familiar, having been a mining surveyor years ago in the extensive mining areas of Cloncurry and Mount Isa, and having surveyed the Granites and parts of Central Australia in 1932. It is incumbent on a licensed surveyor to produce two copies of his surveys. One some form of price control and distribution of mica from Alice Springs. At present, mica is trimmed and graded in Melbourne. Strong, arguments can be advanced in favour of doing this work at Alice Springs, which is closer to the point of production. The mica-miners would then have an opportunity to supervise the handling of their product. As a result of the present lack of supervision, many of them do not entrust their winnings to the Melbourne depot for trimming and classification. They believe that people who are interested in the grading of the mica, purchase it after it has passed through the Commonwealth pool. If the work were done at Alice Springs, the miners would be able to see how their product was being classified and make sure that they received the proper price for it. I ask the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) to confer with the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) on this subject. The handling of waste products also should be considered. If the work of trimming and classification were done at Alice Springs, much of the mica which is now abandoned at the mines might be used for the production of paints, varnishes, linoleums and so forth after grading and initial treatment in a grinding works. The insulation properties of mica make it possible for inferior grades to. be ground into powder for use as insulation material in various trades. 1 ask the Minister to consider extending into peace-time some form, of control which will ‘guarantee to the miners a payable return for their product. The Government has complete power to prevent the importation of mica from overseas. Apart from India, the only supplies of any importance come from Brazil. The world demand for mica, as the result of the destruction ‘of large quantities of electrical equipment in many countries, is likely to be very high. Therefore, Australia should aim at the establishment of an export trade. The cost of mica used in the manufacture of electrical and other equipment is so small in proportion to the total -cost of production, of an article that it could easily bear a special local price without seriously impairing the competitive ability of secondary industries. Only by guaranteeing prices over a period of years can the continuation of mica-mining on a reasonably large scale in Central Australia be made possible. As the present price control arrangements are due to expire a.t the end of this year, early consideration should be given to this matter so that miners will know what the future holds in store for -them. Many dealers are anxiously awaiting the day when price control will end. They will then be able to purchase inferior mica from abroad and cut prices, especially on medium grades which are most in demand and which are in greatest supply. The whole matter is of such vital importance to the future of the Northern Territory that I urge the Minister to have a thorough investigation made and to arrive at a decision before the present control scheme ends.
Another important mineral produced in Central Australia is wolfram. A bill was introduced this afternoon relating to the control of materials which may bc used for the production of atomic energy. It is no secret that Central Australia possesses materials from which catalyst agents may be produced. One definition of a catalyst is, “a substance that disturbs everything else but. does not disturb itself”.
– Order! I hope that the honorable member is not anticipating debate on a bill introduced this afternoon.
– I am merely pointing out that the present Government is a “catalyst government” which disturbs everybody else in Australia without dis.turbing itself. In dealing with wolfram production, I am relying on correspondence which has been handed, to me by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). Scheelite tungsten produced at. King Island is marketed in the United States of America at $24 a unit, less $S import duty, which represents a net return of approximately £4 16s. a unit. Wolfram tungsten is marketed in the United Kingdom. The wolfram miners have been disturbed about the future prospects of their industry, although the postion now is brighter than it was a. few weeks ago and it seems that the
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Works and Housing L. C. Lucas.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Commonwealth purposes - Newcastle. New South Wales.
Postal purposes - Blakehurst, New South Wales.
House adjourned at 5.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
applicants who replied to advertisements in metropolitan newspapers and technical journals.
Mr.CHifley. - On the 10th July, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) directed a question to me regarding representations from the Premier of Victoria requesting that Victoria should be represented on the Australian Aluminium Production Commission.
I have informed the Premier that, whilst his viewpoint on the matter is appreciated, there is a difficulty in that the present arrangement is a partnership between the Governments of the Commonwealth and of Tasmania, and that there would have to be amendments of acts of both Parliaments. Before these could be secured, it would be necessary probably to present convincing reasons to the respective Parliaments, and it is doubtful at the moment whether the investigations proceeding are sufficiently advanced to warrant any conclusions. Mr. Cain was further advised that I was prepared to submit to my Government a proposal that the State of Victoria should be admitted to a partnership in the aluminium production project, subject to the consent of the State of Tasmania being first obtained. Isuggested to him, however, that it was a matter upon which, in the first instance, he might confer with the Premier of Tasmania.
Armed Forces : Demobilization ; A ustralian Prisoners of War; Subsistence Allowances; Discharges of . Illegal Absentees.
– On the 4th July, the honorable member forReid (Mr. Morgan) said that a number of young men withfouror five years’ service in the armed forces were desirous of returning to civil life in essential industries and asked if I could indicate the prospects of their early discharge.
I am now able to inform him that discharges to the 6th July totalled 293,987. Where return to essential industry is required, such applicationsare considered by the Commonwealth. Employment Service in conjunction with the Co-ordinator of Demobilization and Dispersal. All applications recommended by these authorities are referred to the Army, copy is sent to the head office of the Mines Department in Brisbane, and the other copy is retained by the Mining Warden at Cloncurry, Charters Towers, or wherever he may be. There is in Queensland a complete map of the area surveyed. I understand that that is the case also in Western Australia. I visited Western Australia at my own expense and re-organized the whole of the mining department of the Northern Territory, on the basis of the system in operation iii that State, but miners have told me that my good work has been undone. I. urge the Minister to have, the surveys completed. There are mines producing on; which gives a return of 5 oz. of gold to the ton. and there will be bloodshed at Tennant Creek if men start “ j limping” one -another.?’ claims. The Minis:ter know? quite well that in such isolated parts very little is needed to cause a “ flare-up [Extension of time granted. ] 1 have received this .further letter from Mi-. Rowe - 1 am instructed by the above association to a>k your help in getting war-time exemptions on gold-mining’ leases at Tennant Creek cancelled. We have been in communication with the- Minister foi- the Interior, and Director nf Mines on this matter. These exemptions are retarding development work on the field,, there, are 73 leases under exemption, about, five are held by men now in the services, the rest are held bv people who are not and were noi in the services, and who it seems do not intend to work tin- leases until the ‘exemption expires. The Minister has informed us that the exemption must stand until peace i* signed and six months after:’ and that it seems, that special legislation is required to alter this. As this legislation is in the form of -in ordinance we think that legislation should be put through at once as there will always be a six months after. As His Majesty will legally be at war until peace is signed with Japan as well as his other enemies, you can see that it is possible for these exemptions to last for years.
The association would also ask you to try and ascertain the position of Tennant Creek leaseholders and others in regard to wartime compensation, nearly all of our leases were denuded of machinery, buildings, and tools by the army authorities and the Mines Department. The replacing of any of these things is very expensive, and my association think that the leaseholders and others arc entitled to compensation for their losses.
So do I. The letter continues -
We do not have to apologize for asking your assistance’ in these matters, as we know that von will be only too pleased to help us.
This is the second occasion on which I have had to bring this matter before the House. I ask the Minister to do something for that area. A special Minister, or an assistant Minister, should be delegated to direct the administration of the Northern Territory, because obviously the Minister for the Interior is too fully occupied with other matters to bc bothered with it.
.- I rise, not to state a case, but merely to endeavour to elicit some information upon a matter with respect to which I have not yet succeeded in learning the facts. A couple of weeks ago, I directed the attention o!’ the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) to the report that a meeting had been held in Melbourne, attended, so I had been told, by the Deputy Controller of Meat, a representative of the Deputy Prices Commissioner, the honorable member, for Ballarat (“Mr. Pollard), and representatives of certain bacon-curers, exporters, and wholesalers. I stated that, as a result of thu discussions at the meeting, the decision was taken that the value of pigs at auction should bc reduced, and to that end, it had been reported, an inspector had been appointed and had been instructed to attend country auction sales. I asked whether the. Minister would elicit the facts and inform the House of them. My reference was to a report of a recent incident. On Thursday of last week, the Minister said in the House that such a state of affairs- had substantially existed a year ago, but my information is that the incident to which I refer took place merely a few weeks ago.
I now speak with a view to my remarks being eventually referred to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, so that he may inform the House later whether such an incident occurred again in Melbourne a few weeks ago, and whether there was a meeting of which no producers of pigs were informed, or at which no representatives of the industry had an opportunity to attend, but as a result of which a decision was taken to reduce the price pf their product at auction. I also wish to know whether,, as a result of that meeting and that decision, a Mr. Wilson,- or anybody else, was appointed to attend country auction sales, and by whatever method he chose to adopt, prevent the price of pigs at auction from rising beyond a certain- level. The whole point of my query at this stage is to ascertain whether, in the administration of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, a man who was himself a regular pig-buyer, or was associated with a firm which was a buyer of pigs, was appointed to attend country auction sales with authority to prevent the price from going beyond a certain level. I ask for a plain answer to that question, because an important point of public administration is involved. My second query is as to whether such a gentleman did attend pig sales, and did, by virtue of his authority, control the price at which pigs were sold at the sales which he attended. Do the books of the auctioneering firms reveal that’ subsequently he or his firm was recorded as a buyer of pigs at those sales?
.- I support the able and eloquent plea of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) for the provision of a sustenance allowance of 3s. a day for those unfortunate members of the Eighth Division and others who served in various theatres in World War II. and were made prisoners of war. I have made representations to that effect to the Minister and in the House on previous occasions. T have also raised the question of granting leave to troops now in Australia similar to that enjoyed during the war. I have stressed the need for this leave and for field allowances. I was disappointed at the reply of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and T urge him to reconsider the matter. I hope that as a result of a. review these requests may he granted.
I have risen mainly to draw attention to the extraordinary difficulties of people engaged in primary and secondary industries in Queensland because of the neglect of that State for many years. The position has been intensified by five months of industrial trouble of the worst kind in the history of the State. In consequence of this turmoil, many commodities which Queensland lias to obtain from the southern States are now unprocurable, such as fencing wire, wire netting, barbed wire, galvanized iron, galvanized pipes and spouting, and galvanized iron for troughs and tanks. Galvanized piping required for housing, and for agricultural purposes such as for irrigation plants and windmills, is unprocurable in that State. The situation has been difficult for a long while, but the recent industrial trouble has made it very much worse. All honorable members know that the housing position is calamitous. Building operations are held up because goods made of galvanized iron are unprocurable. As a result of a question which I addressed t’o the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) two days ago, I was informed that the numbers of war service homes applied for in certain localities in Queensland are as follow: - Ipswich, 1G; Toowoomba, 39 ; Gympie, 3 ; Rockhampton, 32; Warwick, 3; Maryborough, 19; and Bundaberg, 22. Of the 525 applications for these homes in Brisbane, only fifteen are now being erected, but in the other Queensland towns which I have mentioned not one has’ been built. Since 1941- 42, no. fewer ‘than 14,952 war-service homes have been applied for. In 194.1-42 only seven of them were built; in 1942- 43 six, and, in 1944-45, eight. In the financial year just concluded, 98 homes Ifad been built up to- the 31st May. The position is acute in Queensland because of the inability to obtain the -necessary building materials, including nails. I ask the Minister at the table (Mr. Forde), as a Queenslander, to appreciate the many difficulties that the people of that State have .experienced in recent years. Those difficulties have been accentuated by the recent industrial turmoil. Will he ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) and the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) to take all possible steps to ensure that all orders for essential materials for Queensland shall be executed and delivered with the utmost expedition. Let us forget thepast and have special arrangements and supervision provided to make certain that the commodities required urgently by those engaged in primary and secondary production and in house construction shall be provided with the utmost dispatch. If the ordinary routine procedure is followed it will be impossible to overtake the lag.
Final])-, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to 1)rot( t against the way in which the call has been exercised this afternoon. I rose to get the call immediately the adjournment motion was proposed. Although you have every right to call any honorable member you wish, the accepted practice is that members of the opposing parties shall receive the cai. alternately, but the call has been given in such a way that I did not get it “at the time when I had every right to expect it.
.- I hope the Minister for the Army. (Mr. Forde) will be able to help me in connexion with the case of a lieutenant who appealed against the pension allotted to him for a disability. According to the medical evidence, his disability is such that his condition will become worse and worse until ultimately he will not be able to walk at all. In spite of this, he was granted only a 20 per cent, pension. He wishes ]ne to make it clear that he has no complaint against the tribunal so far as the courtesy with which he was received is concerned. That was everything that could be desired. He was given a rail warrant, and was paid 12s. a day while attending the tribunal. However, he has asked that the records concerning his case should be available to him so that he may support his claim before the tribunal. He was not allowed legal aid at the hearing. He could call any one else he liked, but he could not have professional assistance. Neither was he allowed access to the files, which were available to members of the tribunal. The doctors questioned him about the records which were in their possession. The chairman also asked questions, and his answers were noted. Then he was allowed to state his reasons for appealing. He was told nothing more, and after he went home, the decision of the tribunal was communicated to him, namely, that his application was refused. He says that he would be permitted to appeal again, but what use would that be. He asks that the records be made available to him so that he might get the advice of a civil doctor on his case.
– Perhaps 1 shall be permitted to offer the honorable member for the Northern’ Territory (Mr. Blain) a word of advice in connexion with the matters pertaining to the Northern Territory about which he spoke. I suggest that better results would be obtained if he were to come to my office and discuss with me the problems of his constituents. I have advised him that! am available at all times to hear representations regarding industry in the Northern Territory. Not only am I available, but 1 am anxious to render such assistance as they deserve from this or any other government. The honorable member mentioned the mica industry. I have already discussed the difficulties of this industry with my colleague the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley), and we have prepared a recommendation on the subject which will be submitted to Cabinet. There are many difficulties associated with the production, grading and export of mica, but the industry is worthy of help. In particular, the men who have gone out to develop the industry deserve consideration. Afterwards, the honorable member rambled on about the use of gold-mining machinery at Tennant Creek for the mining of wolfram. At that time, gold was regarded by the Government as non-essential, and the machinery was used for the production of wolfram because that metal was required in the manufacture of equipment used in the defence of Australia. I remind the honorable member that I represent the electorate of Kalgoorlie, in which 70 per cent, of the gold mined in Australia is produced. During the war, mining machinery was torn out of practically every mine in the Kalgoorlie electorate, and I was one of- the first to go through the electorate appealing to those in the industry to take out the machinery, and also to release the miners, because I realized that the need of the country stood before that of the mining industry. Much of that machinery has not yet been paid for. I can assure the people of the Northern Territory that I am at all times willing to give sympathetic consideration to their problems. Prior to the war, the Northern Territory had a white population of approximately 5,000 people. The present plan of development envisages a . population of 15,000 people. During the war no less than £15,000,000 was expended in ‘ that area on defence projects. I appeal to the honorable member to give the Government his whole-hearted, support in attempts to convert the results of a great part of that war expenditure into peaceful pursuits. I assure him that every reasonable proposition he brings before the Government will receive the most careful consideration.
– I am satisfied with the position of officers. I am concerned about the plight of other ranks.
– Such a payment would not apply to all soldiers who served outside -Australia, because most of them’ were fed and clothed by the Army.
– The field allowance, as I pointed out, is paid to officers so that they may be able to meet certain social obligations resulting from their rank. Those social obligations were unknown in prisoner-of-war camps, and, accordingly, in their case the ‘ so-called “field allowance’”’’ is nothing more than a subsistence allowance under a different name.
Mr. -FORDE. - No, it was not’ a subsistence allowance, but what is called a field allowance, to which all officers are entitled under Army regulations. Does the honorable member say that the officers should not have been paid the allowance, or that it should be withdrawn from them ?
– What is the right honorable gentleman’s conception of- the field allowance?
– Speed it up now !
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice-
– The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
E mp ire Air Trai ning Scheme.
e asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Ansons (turreted) (less wings) 232
Ansons (standard) (less wings) 704
Rattles . . . . 364
Oxfords (less wings).. .. 391
These were the actual numbers of aircraft received, but subsequently, payment was made to the United Kingdom Government for a certain numberofthose aircraft which were utilized exclusively for strictly Royal Australian Air Force purposes as distinct from training.
In addition the British Government supplied a sufficient number of aircraft to equip five (5) Spitfire squadrons, two (2) of which were Empire air training scheme squadrons, and a sixth squadron was” formed from surplus aircraft supplied.
Moth airframes. (ii) Initial range of spares for Anson, Battle and Oxford aircraft and associated engines. (iii) Spare parts for maintenance of above-mentioned aircraft and engines. (iv) Equipment necessary for the outfitting of all types of instructional schools formed under the Empire Air Training Scheme Agreement (ground equipment, although received from the United Kingdom, was charged to Australia). which, provided that the man is not regarded as a “ key “ man in his employment, arranges his immediate discharge.
e - On the >4th July, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) asked the following question : -
As officers of the Australian Imperial Force who were prisoners of war in Japanese hands have been paid their full field allowance for the whole of the term of their imprisonment, and as, in normal circumstances, a’ member of the Australian Imperial Force, when not being fed by the Army, is paid a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day, does the Minister for the Army favour the proposal that other ranks, who were prisoners of the Japanese, should be paid a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day for the term of their imprisonment, bearing in mind that the Army was not called upon, during that time, to iced and clothe them?
The pay account of a member of the Australian Military Forces who was held in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp was credited with the pay and pay allowances pertaining to his rank for the period of his- captivity. Officers detained, as prisoners of war by the Japanese did not receive 3s. a day subsistence allowance but their pay accounts were credited with 3s. a day field allowance, which is a normal pay allowance made to all officers serving outside Australia. No debits were made to the pay account of such members for the period of their captivity other than for payments made by way of allotment from such pay in accordance with the member’s directions. The treatment thus accorded to prisoners of war in relation to their pay accounts was not illiberal and it is not proposed to credit the member’s pay account with subsistence allowance as suggested by the honorable member.
Mr. TURNBULL asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction,’ upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
2 and 3. From October, 1943, onwards, recommendations were made to the services by the Man-power Directorate for the discharge on occupational grounds of 19,600 men for the building industry and 10,242 for the timber industry. The numbers of men whose discharge was approved were 14,489 for the building industry and 5,960 for the timber industry. Included in the recommendations made for the release of men for the building industry were upwards of 2,000 men for building materials in short supply and the -majority of these have been discharged. It is not possible to indicate precisely how. many of the 14,4S!) men approved for discharge to the building industry were actually discharged between August and December, 1945.
e. - On the 1.0th July, the honorable member lor Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked me whether I had read an article in Smith’s Weekly indicating that, although I had stated that discharge certificates issued to deserters would be endorsed to show that they were being discharged for “ disciplinary reasons “, this was not being done and deserters were still being issued with clean discharges if they applied for them.
I advised the honorable member that E had not seen the allegations hut that I had been assured by the Chief of the General Staff. Lieu tenant-General Sturdee, that all certificates of discharge were endorsed to indicate that the deserter was being discharged because of illegal absenteeism. I have since read the article and note that it states that, “on unim«peachable authority Smith’s Weekly learns that no new instruction has yet been- issued to countermand the original general routine order, which said, that all soldiers illegally absent prior to the 31st December, 1945, would be discharged forthwith “. As a result of inquiries which I have made of the Acting AdjutantGeneral, Brigadier Wardell, I find that definite instructions were issued that, in order to obtain their discharge certificates, members must apply in person, and that the discharge certificate when issued would’ be clearly endorsed in block letters with the words,’ “Discharged in absentia for misconduct because of illegal absence”. This instruction has been fully observed throughout the Commonwealth. The ActingAdjutantGeneral despatched a signal to
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
£99,850. No; this result is due to the fact that the amount brought to account in March included payment for certificates redeemed in February.” The average monthly net proceeds of certificates for the year 1945-46 was £178.000.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The only funds coming within this category were those approved for the Allied Intelligence Bureau and the Far Eastern Liaison Office. Both were established” by the CommanderinChief. South-West Pacific Area, and were under . his own control, until the Far Eastern Liaison Office was transferred, at General MacArthur’s request, to the control of the Australian authorities, the functions being primarily associated with special intelligence in the operational areas, for which the Commander of the Allied Land Forces was responsible. The funds of these organizations were provided by contributions by the Australian, United States of America and Netherlands Governments. In view of their highly secret nature and association with operational plans, the approved rules of procedure provided that the expenditure of the Commonwealth’s contributions should not be subject to detail audit by the Auditor-General. Provision was made, however, for the furnishing of annual financial statements showing the expenditure under broad headings, which were certified to by the directors of the Allied Intelligence Bureau and the Far Eastern Liaison Office. In the case of the Allied Intelligence Bureau, General MacArthur. as Commander-in-Chief, South- West Pacific Area, undertook personally to be responsible to the Governments concerned for the proper utilization of the funds provided. The statements relating to the Far Eastern Liaison Office were submitted by the Chief of the General Staff, for whose guidance the following rules were laid down: -
The officer to report the result of his inspection to theChief of the General Staff.
Both funds were closed following the termination of hostilities.
Allied Intelligence Bureau. - To obtain and . report information of the enemy in the South-West Pacific Area, exclusive of the Continent of Australia and Tasmania, and in addition, where practicable, to weaken the enemy by sabotage and destruction of morale and to lend aid and assistance to local efforts to the same end in enemy occupied territories.
Far Eastern Liaison Office - .
To influence subject populations in enemy-occupied territories to (a) refuse co-operation to the enemy forces by denial of labour, food and supplies; (b) to give full co-operation to our own forces during the period of reoccupation; and (c) to instigate subversive activities against the enemy.
Tobacco and Cigarette Papers.
e. - On the 4th July the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) asked a question regarding the shortage of tobacco, and I promised to make an early statement on the position.
I have- conferred with the Minister for Trade and Customs on the matter, and now inform the honorable member that inter alia thatmuch delay was occurring in the completion of the audit of a large amount of expenditure?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The only funds coining within this category were those approved for the Allied Intelligence Bureau and the Far Eastern Liaison Office. Both were established” by the CommanderinChief. South-West Pacific Area, and were under his own control, until the Far Eastern Liaison Office was transferred, at General MacArthur’s request, to the control of the Australian authorities, the functions being primarily associated with special intelligence in the operational areas, for which the Commander of the Allied Land Forces was responsible. The funds of these organizations were provided by contributions by the Australian, United States of America and Netherlands Governments. In view of their highly secret nature and association with operational plans, the approved rules of procedure provided that the expenditure of the Commonwealth’s contributions should not be subject to detail audit by the Auditor-General. Provision was made, however, for the furnishing of annual financial statements showing the expenditure under broad headings, which were certified to by the directors of the Allied Intelligence Bureau and the Far Eastern Liaison Office. In the case of the Allied Intelligence Bureau, General MacArthur, as Commander-in-Chief, South- West Pacific Area, undertook personally to be responsible to the Governments concerned for the proper utilization of the funds” provided. The statements relating to the Far Eastern Liaison Office were submitted by the Chief of the General Staff, for whose guidance the following rules were laid down: -
The officer to report the result of his inspection to theChief of the General Staff.
Both funds were closed following the termination of hostilities.
Allied Intelligence Bureau. - To obtain and report information of the enemy in the South-West Pacific Area, exclusive of the Continent of Australia and Tasmania, and in addition, where practicable, to weaken the enemy by sabotage and destruction of morale and to lend aid and assistance to local efforts to the same end in enemy occupied territories.
Far Eastern Liaison Office - .
To influence subject populations in enemy-occupied territories to (a) refuse co-operation to the enemy forces by denial of labour, food and supplies; (b) to give full co-operation to our own forces during the period of reoccupation; and (c) to instigate subversive activities against the enemy.
Tobacco and Cigarette Papers.
e. - On the 4th July the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) asked a question regarding the shortage of tobacco, and I promised to make an early statement on the position.
I have conferred with the Minister for Trade and Customs on the matter, and now inform the honorable member that inquiries have recently been made in New South “Wales and Victoria, the two main manufacturing States in regard to both, tobacco and cigarette papers, with a view to ascertaining the reasons for the present shortages of these products. The inquiries disclosed that reasonable supplies of tobacco leaf and paper for the manufacture of cigarette papers are available and that the present shortages are due in both cases to a decline of production due to a shortage of female labour in Sydney and Melbourne. In an effort to overcome this difficulty, the two largest tobacco manufacturers are taking steps to establish tobacco factories at Forbes (New South Wales) and Healesville and Shepparton (Victoria) in order to tap new sources of supply of female, labour. Similarly, the only New South Wales manufacturer of cigarette papers has commenced production at a new factory at Rutherford and, provided labour is available, full production will be reached next month. The firm concerned states that production at Rutherford will go a fair way towards relieving the present shortage. On the 27th June, the. Minister for Trade and Customs approved of the issue of import licences for reasonable quantities ofcigarette papers, subject to production of evidence that the papers are available for reasonably early shipment. A temporary prohibition has also been placed on exports of cigarette papers. These measures, together with the commencement of manufacture at Rutherford, should eventually improve the position regarding supplies of cigarette papers.
Ambulances fob Country Districts.
– On the 4th July, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) addressed the following question to me: -
In view of the patriotic action of many country communities during the war in subscribing funds for the purchase of ambulance vehicles for presentation to the armed forces, will the Government consider, as a matter of policy, allocating to such communities in need of ambulance services suitable vehicles from existing army stocks?
The Government has a full appreciation of the generous gifts of ambulances which were made available during the war, but is unable to see its way .to depart from the principle of not returning these donations as any such departure would involve the Commonwealth in many claims which would be impossible to meet. The Commonwealth Disposals Commission, which is charged with the disposal of all surplus vehicles, will give sympathetic consideration to any application to purchase an ambulance from the limited number of vehicles available.
New Guinea: Copra.
d. - On the 4th July, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann), asked the following questions : -
Have any quantities of copra been forthcoming from New Guinea in recent months? Have any quantities been held up for want of shipping, or is sufficient shipping available for the demands of exporters ? Will the Minister for External Territories supply figures relating to the tonnages exported from New Guinea?
I replied as follows : -
Some quantities of copra were held up because of the lack of shipping, but that position has been cleared up recently. As soon as the requisite information is obtained, I shall furnish the honorable member with particulars of the quantities exported in recent months.
The particulars of the exports of copra from the Territory of . Papua-New Guinea, since the 1st January, 1946, are as follows: -
Repatriation : “ Montevideo Maru “ - Pensions for Dependants of Victims.
d.- On the 3rd July, 1946, when the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), asked a question regarding the application of the benefits of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act to the dependants of New Guinea civilians who lost their lives when the Montevideo Maru was torpedoed, I replied that action had been taken some time ago to provide pension benefits equivalent to those paid to the dependants of privates in the Australian Army, and that the latest information regarding the question of providing additional benefits under the Repatriation Act would be secured and made available to the honorable member.
I am now in a position to advise the honorable member that the question of extending to dependent children- of the New Guinea civilians mentioned, educational benefits similar to those available under the Australian’ Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, is at present under consideration.
Royal Australian Am Force: Deten- tion op Members awaiting. Court- martial.
asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
Mr.- Drakeford. - =The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows :-
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 July 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460712_reps_17_187/>.