17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. I. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and. read prayers.
– In view of the need for increased water conservation and the generation of greater supplies of electricity in and adjacent to the area served by the Mumimbidgee and Cotter rivers, will the Minister for the. Interior take early action to have the wall of the Cotter dam raised by SO feet, and a hydro-electric generation plant installed at the dam ?
– Tie matter of increasing the conservation of water on the Cotter River is receiving consideration. The latest proposal, I understand, is the construction of another dam higher upstream. So far as I Know consideration is not being given at the moment to the prospects of generating hydro-electric power. I shall have the matter investigated and . supply detailed information later.
Royal Navy Stobbs, Bunnedrong
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether the Sydney branch executive of the Engine-drivers and Firemen’s Union moved last night for a State-wide hold-up of coal supplies because it objects to dismissal notices having been issued to five engine drivers employed at the Royal Navy stores at Bunnerong? Did the’ officer in charge of the stores state that the dismissal notices had been issued in accordance with an instruction by the Commonwealth Government that, when surplus men in government establishments were to be dismissed, single men, and married men who had not had war service, should be discharged before men who had had war service? What action is proposed by the Minister for the enforcement of this instruction?
– A dispute exists because dismissals at the Royal Navy stores are being carried out in accordance with an order issued by the Commonwealth Government. Naturally, I do not know what happened at the meeting last night of the Sydney branch executive of the Engine-drivers and Firemen’s Union. The matter has been submitted to the Arbitration Court; consequently, the less said about it at the moment, the better.
WORLD War I.: New Guinea Opera- tions ; Pensions - “ Montevideo
Maru” : Pensions fob Dependants of Victims.
– Ex-servicemen who served in New Guinea during World War I. are not eligible for service pensions, because New Guinea was not then declared a theatre of war. A soldier who enlisted for service in Prance, but was sent, to New Guinea, where he served for nearly two years, is now 55 years of age, and on account of ill health cannot continue in his employment. He has been informed by the Repatriation Commission that he is not eligible for a service pen-, sion, on the ground that I have stated. Will the Minister for Repatriation give sympathetic consideration to the advisability of amending the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, so as to remove this anomaly and- entitle to a service pen-‘ sion men who in World War I. suffered in New Guinea the rigours of the jungle and a tropical climate?
– New Guinea was a theatre of war for a certain period during World War I., and for the whole of World War 11. If the ex-serviceman to whom the honorable member has referred did not serve ‘ in New Guinea . during the specified period, he did not serve- in a theatre of war ; but if he is now unable to work on account of ill-health, I shall investigate his case with a view to assistance being granted to him.
– About a fortnight ago I asked the Minister for External Territories a question relating to ths treatment which was to be accorded, or is being accorded, to widows and dependants, of civilians who lost their lives during the war in New Guinea, notably those who were lost on the Montevideo Maru. The Minister in a letter to their dependants stated that those victims had given their lives for Australia just as surely as any soldier who fell in action.. I asked whether .these dependants were to be treated in the same way as those who would be entitled to .benefits under the ‘ Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. The Minister promised to give me a reply. I* have not yet received that reply. -I am anxious to receive it, because information which has been supplied to me leads iwto -believe that these people have been treated rather shabbily by the Government.
– The honorable member is entitled to put, whatever interpretation he wishes upon the action taken by the department in .this matter;’ but every fair-minded person will recognize that this Government’ has dealt very fairly and generously with these people. The Government has decided in respect of pension payments to treat the ‘dependants of civilians who lost their lives in the territories in the same manner as it treats dependants of deceased members of the services. With regard to other benefits which would accrue to them under the Australian Soldiers’ Expatriation Act, the Government is now examining certain difficulties which have arisen in that respect. At the moment, endeavours are being made to extend the education facilities to the children of such people and, wherever possible, give them the equivalent of whatever benefits are made available under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. If the deceased civilians were at the time of their death members of the Public Service of the Territories, their dependants receive superannuation payments in addition to the pensions provided by this Government under the scheme already referred to. The honorable member may rest assured that this Government will continue to do everything possible to assist the dependants of those who lost their lives in the circumstances which he mentioned.
– Last week I drew attention to an undoubted anomaly in the distribution of drought relief to cerealgrowers, in as much as it debars a wheatgrower of -20 or 30 years’ standing from participation in this’ relief, merely because, through no fault of his own, he was prevented from sowing wheat in 1944. Similarly, ex-servicemen and others returning from war work who have sown their first crop cannot participate in the relief. Is the Minister favorable to such growers receiving this benefit, and will the Government provide 50 per cent, of the cost of their participation ?
– The distribution of drought relief, and the technical difficulties that have arisen in respect of this matter, are entirely the concern of the State authorities, who could approach the Commonwealth Government regarding it. The whole position will be oxamined further, and a reply will be given to the honorable member later.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether an indication could be given as to how soon the passenger and cargo service between Sydney and Hobart would be reestablished. That service ceased during the war period, and Hobart merchants are placed at a great disadvantage. Is the Minister now in a position to state when the service will be renewed ?
– The honorable member will be aware that, with one exception, all ships on that run were taken over by the Government for troopcarrying purposes. Some of the vessels are still engaged in that work, and others have been returned, but a fairly lengthy period is required for their overhaul to make them fit to resume service in the coastal trade. The Minister for Supply and Shipping is doing all he can to expedite these overhauls. . Although I understand that he is not able to state when the service will be resumed, it is hoped that in the near future additional ships will be available for that purpose.
Mr. WINSTON CHURCHILL.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Australian Country party regarding the notice of motion standing in his name, which invites the House to record its grateful appreciation of the war-time leadership of Mr. Winston Churchill. . Will the right honorable gentleman state how long the motion has been on the notice-paper, and whether he has had an indication from the Government as to whether it will be debated before the Parliament is dissolved?
– Is it in order for an honorable member to ask a question of another honorable member other than a Minister? If so, you might remember, Mr. Speaker, that on Tuesday the Leader of the Opposition protested against a question on the ground that it contained propaganda.
– The question asked of me by the honorable member for Fawkner relates to a motion of which I gave notice so long ago that I cannot remember the date. It has remained on the notice-paper ever since, and I had hoped that long ere this the House would have had an opportunity to. place on record its grateful admiration of the outstanding leadership, inspired courage and dogged tenacity by which the Right Honorable Winston Spencer Churchill brought the peoples of the British Commonwealth of Nations out of the abyss of 1940, through the terrors and tribulations of 1941 and 1942, to the victories of 1943 and 1944, and the complete and glorious European triumph of 1945. Now, however, I do not expect that this Parliament, which represents the people of Australia, willhave an opportunity to pay this necessary tribute to the greatest man which the British Empire has produced during the last century, perhaps the greatest, indeed, who has ever served the cause of civilization.
– by leave- On Tuesday last, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) inquired about barbed wire, held as surplus material by the Army in Queensland. All galvanized barbed wire declared by the Army to be surplus has been allocated for flood relief, and for use on the tick fence. The Army has been asked by the Department of Supply and Shipping to find out whether it has any further surplus supplies. Immediately the existence of such a surplus is known to my department it will be allocated for emergency purposes such as those I have enumerated.
Activities OF ARCHBISHOP Simonds
– Is it a fact that the Roman Catholic Coadjutor Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr. Simonds, is at present on the continent of Europe recruiting migrants for Australia ? What is the exact relationship of Dr. Simonds’s work to the Government’s official immigration programme? Has any specific quota been allotted to Dr. Simonds, and what conditions have been attached? Does the Minister not believe that it is highly desirable that the selection of migrants should be strictly free from sectarian significance? Will the Minister lay on the table of the House all papers relating to the visit of Dr. Simonds to Europe?
– I regret that the honorable member should have asked a question on this subject without having first consulted me. I could have told him the whole story of immigration proposals as they affect government agencies, and religious and secular bodies. This country needs population. It ought to be the aim of any government to increase the population of Australia as quickly as possible, in view of the dangers which will confront us from now on. Dr. Simonds came to see me in Melbourne and told me that, at the request of his own church, he was going .to England to recruit a number of children, primarily for orphanages in this country. I told him that he would be free to bring any children here under conditions that would apply to every other religious or secular organization. I have had discussions with the trustees of the Lady Northcote Homes Trust in Victoria. They comprise a number of distinguished persons, including the Chief Justice of Victoria, Sir Edmund Herring, Sir Harold Luxton and Mr. A. W. Coles. I discussed with them the programme which their organization had’ in mind to bring boys from England to their farm at “ Glenmore “, Bacchus Marsh. Mr. Brown of that organization is at present in London, and I did everything to facilitate his departure. The Lady Northcote Homes Trust is the only body which has, so far, put forward any real proposals for the development of its work, and the Government has given every encouragement to it. A subcommittee of Cabinet, consisting of five Ministers, was appointed to consider giving to this purely secular body financial assistance towards any capital expenditure that might be incurred by it in the extension of its work. The sub-committee devised a plan which has since been submitted to the State Government of Victoria asking for its cooperation, and I am happy to say that the Government of that State is prepared to help also. As a principle, the Commonwealth Government has decided to contribute on a £1 for £1 basis for approved capital expenditure to any organization, whether religious or secular, prepared to do something to bring British children to Australia. I have not made any special arrangement with Dr. Simonds or any other Catholic dignitary, or, indeed, any dignitary of any other church, but I would be glad to help all churches which are prepared to do as much as the Lady Northcote Homes Trust proposes to do, in order to bring British children to Australia.
– These are not British children, but Continental children.
– I am not responsible for newspaper statements in regard to visits by any persons to European countries to bring child migrants to Australia. The view of the Government after an exhaustive inquiry, is that there will be very few child migrants to come here from anywhere. The Government originally had a proposal to bring 50,000 British children to Australia, but, happily it found that there was not that number of orphan children resulting from the aerial bombing of Great Britain or from enemy submarine warfare. Only between 3,000 and 4,000 children who were so orphaned are available in Great Britain, and the United Kingdom Government, with pardonable pride, claims that they are its responsibility and are not available for migration to other countries.I ask honorable members to bear with me if my reply is rather lengthy, because some unfair implications are associated with the question of the honorable member for Parramatta. In conclusion, I say that there is practically no government in Europe to-day with which the Commonwealth Government, or any religious or secular organization in this country, can deal in regard to the migration of orphan children to Australia.
Cattle Dip near Alice Springs.
– About a fortnight ago, during a discussion in this House regarding the partial prohibition of the transport of cattle from the Northern Territory, the Minister for the Interior promised that a cattle dip would be established at or near Alice Springs. I understand that the dip has not yet been provided and that there has been a conference between representatives of South Australia and the Administrator of the Northern Territory on the subject. I now ask the Minister for the Interior whether such a conference has been held and, if so, whether he has any information to give to the House?
– Following a suggestion made by the Administrator of the Northern Territory, Mr. Driver, that a conference should be held between officers of the Department of the Interior and representatives of the South Australian Government, the Chief Veterinary Officer, Colonel Rose, was sent to Alice Springs to investigate and report upon the need for such a conference. I assure the honorable member that special attention has been given to the problem, and I am certain that the difficulty which has arisen as the result of the prohibition imposed by the South Australian Government will be overcome.
Export Embargo - Price
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give consideration to the lifting of the embargo on the export of oats from Australia; alternatively, will he take steps to ensure that oat-growers receive a payable price for that commodity?
– At present the Government has no intention of lifting the embargo on the export of oats. A considerable portion of the Commonwealth is now suffering from the effects of drought, and the Government is determined to avoid a repetition of the state of affairs that followed unrestricted exportation of fodder and grain in the past. Accordingly, until the local position improves, the ban on the export of oats from Australia will be continued. I shall have inquiries made with respect to the matter raised by the honorable member in the second part of his question.
– Will the Trea surer have a comparative statement prepared and circulated to honorable members as soon as possible showing how much taxpayers in each of the salary ranges indicated in his financial statement will pay in respect of income tax and social security tax?
– I shall ascertain whether it is possible to supply the desired information.
Contract with United Kingdom Government.
– I understand that negotiations are proceeding between the Australian Government and the Government of the United Kingdom in relation to the renewal of the contract for the sale of Australian meat to Great Britain for a further period at a new scale of prices. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, at the earliest possible moment, release details of the new contract prices and indicate the date upon which they are to come into effect? I am prompted to ask this question because the new level of values will have a distinct bearing on the value of livestock, particularly of breeding stock, in the Australian markets. The Minister will appreciate the fact that it would be inadvisable for information on this matter to leak out prematurely, either from United Kingdom or Australian sources, and that all people interested in the live stock industry should have an equal opportunity to know at the earliest moment what level of prices is to prevail.
-I shall have investigations made in order to ascertain what stage has been reached in these negotiations. When theagreement has been completed a public announcement will be made without delay, because I recognize how important an early announcement of the new prices must be to the industry. I assure the honorable member that the Government would in no circumstances’ give prior information to one section of the industry, which might seek to exploit its advantage to the detriment of another.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House of what progress has been made with the replacement of machinery at Nauru and Ocean islands, destroyed at the beginning of the war in the Pacific? Will he state also what are the prospects of an early restoration of full supplies of superphosphate to this country?
– Activities at Nauru and Ocean islands are now under the direct control of the British Phosphates Commission, and I am informed by the Minister for External Territories that the general position is very hopeful. We are looking forward to increased supplies of phosphatic rock from Nauru, where undoubtedly the best superphosphate is obtained.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Raw cotton - Questions of assisting production in Australia.
Ordered to be printed.
Australia-United Kingdom Agreement - Store at Portland.
– Will the
Minister for Commerce and Agriculture lay upon the table of the House all documents relating to the Australia-United Kingdom Wool Agreement of 1939?
– If there are no unforeseen difficulties, 1 shall -““take the action sought by the honorable .member.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question with relation to the Commonwealth wool store now in course of erection at Portland. An acute housing shortage exists in that town. Is it a fact that the only building contractor in the town is employed with all his staff in the erection of the wool store? Does the Minister consider that the erection of the store should be continued, particularly in view of the unanimous opinion in the wool trade that the provision of this and other wool stores is not only wasteful but also harmful to the trade?
– I am not aware how far construction of the wool store at Portland has proceeded. However, I say definitely that it was the unanimous wish of all interested parties, including the municipal authority and growers in the district, that the store should be erected at the earliest possible date. I also know that vested interests are opposed to the erection of the store as they are opposed to the Government’s policy of decentralization of industry. However, the Government will carry out that policy and disperse industries as much as possible throughout the Commonwealth. The construction of the wool store at Portland will be proceeded with as expeditiously as possible.
– During the war, 150 sporting pressmen had their binoculars impressed, and now that the war is over, these glasses are being sold by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping ascertain whether it is possible to sell the binoculars back to the individuals from whom they were acquired, as they are definitely tools of trade.
– This matter was considered by the Government recently. Certain members of the community made their binoculars available for the war effort on the condition that they would be returned after the war. Others made their binoculars available unconditionally. At a later stage, of course, binocu lars were impressed. It is impossible to identify the owners of the binoculars that are now being sold by the Disposals Commission, and the arrangement that has been made is that, so far as possible, binoculars similar to the ones impressed will be sold back to the individuals concerned, or handed back to them if they were donated free of charge in the first instance.
Southern Queensland Air Service
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether an application has been received for a licence to conduct an air service from Brisbane to southern Queensland towns, including Dalby, Roma, St. George, Goondiwindi and intervening centres? If so, has a licence been granted, and to whom ?
– An application, or applications, for a licence to operate the service mentioned by the honorable member has been made, but I am unable to say whether a licence has been granted. I shall make inquiries and furnish an answer to the honorable member at the earliest possible opportunity.
Steel Construction Communist Influence
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether the production of steel houses in Victoria will affect industries like the motor-body building in- . dustry in South Australia? I ask this question because it has been stated in the Adelaide press that this project will cause unemployment in South Australia.
– At the moment, I am not in a position to give a satisfactory answer to the honorable member’s question, because I do not know to what degree the Victorian Government has made, or is making, arrangements for supplies of sheet steel for its housing programme. However, I shall have inquiries made and obtain the information sought by the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Works and Housing seer, the statement of the Secretary of the Builders Labourers Union in Sydney, Mr.
Fred Thomas, that many housing projects are being run unofficially by strong Communistcontrolled cells, which are the real cause of the delay in home building? Will he have Mr. Thomas’s allegations investigated and inform the House of what action he intends to take in the matter ?
– The only answer that I can give to the honorable gentleman is that which I gave to the honorable member for New England when he asked the same question recently. Whether Communist cells are operating in the building trade is a matter for the housing authority of New South Wales and I advise the honorable gentleman to address his question to that quarter.”
Australian Delegation : Status of Senator Grant
– Can the Acting Minister for External Affairs explain the reason for the alteration of the status of Senator Grant, who is now proceeding to the Peace Conference? Previously he was an advisor, and I notice that now he is an observer. There must be some reason for that. Is it that at last the Government has realized that no being, human or divine, conuld advise the Minister for External Affairs?
-The honorable member is somewhat confused. I think the report that the honorable gentleman read dealt with the attendance of Senator Grant at the International Labour Conference to be held at Montreal. He will attend that conference as a representative of the Commonwealth Government. Senator Grant’s status at the Peace Conference will be the same as it was originally.
– Is the Minister for External Territories able to say whether permits to secure timber from Papua and New Guinea can be made available? Is the Department of External Territories able to deal with applications for timber permits that may be made to it?
– The Government is making a complete survey of the timber resources of the Territory. No new permits are being issued. Existing permits are being recognized and holders are being allowed to return to the Territory to operate. In regard to the issue of further permits, tie Government, cancelled all applications for permits in existence at the outbreak of war. When new timber areas become available for working it is proposed to call for tenders, and areas will be allocated in that way.
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say how many ex-service men and women are receiving reconstruction training?
– The latest date for which figures are available is the 31st May, when 54,000 former service men and women were receiving training under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. Of them 12,000 were under- . taking university training and 42,000 technical training. The total does not include those who had completed their reconstruction training courses at that date.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to press ahead with the extension of telephone services in country districts and also to give consideration to the urgent need to provide trunk line services in outlying centres. Will he also give consideration to the reduction of charges to many primary producers in connexion with the installation of telephones?
– I shall ask the Postmaster-General to deal sympathetically with the honorable member’s request and suggestions. Shortages of material and man-power and the inability of the postal department to erect new exchanges determine the rate at which extensions can be made; and, probably, the number of subscribers determines to some degree the service charges.
– I have received from the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose’ of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The necessity for the setting up of an expert Commonwealth authority to report to this Parliament and the States on extensive and minor water conservation and hydro-electric schemes in order to ensure against recurring devastating droughts such as that in Queensland at the present time.
– I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– My object in submitting this motion is to enable the House to discuss the necessity for appointing an expert Commonwealth authority to report to this Parliament and the States on extensive and minor water conservation and hydroelectric schemes in order to mitigate the effects of recurring devastating droughts. I urge the Government to appoint this authority immediately and on receipt of its reports, confer with the States with the express intention of reaching an agreement to launch hydro-electric and water conservation programmes throughout the country. I emphasize the importance of water conservation schemes to the welfare of primary producers and the development of Australia, and for making our land ready to receive a vastincrease of population, and for the expansion of our primary and secondary industries. Water conservation and hydro-electric schemes can be accomplished by the construction of dams on rivers and creeks and across gullies. No scheme can be too small. The hydroelectric schemes should be capable of supplying our immediate kilowatt needs as well as providing for future requirements. Such works will encourage people to settle in Australia, and promote the decentralization of our population and industries. I am aware of the existence of a ministerial statement that water conservation and hydro-electric programmes are State responsibilities. In the United States of America the federal authority has the power to construct those works, but the States own the land. However, the Federal and State authorities in America, by co-operation, have overcome their difficulties in the national interest. In Australia, the railways are owned and controlled by the States, but recently the Commonwealth Government instituted investigations, collected information, and submitted to this Parliament and the States’ reports, maps and specifications for the standardization of railway gauges. The maximum cost of that project, according to estimates, will be £220,000,000; What the Commonwealth can do in co-operation with the States to standardize railway gauges, can also be done in undertaking water conservation and hydro-electric programmes. I urge too the setting up of a national expert authority to guard the destiny of the country by planning water supply schemes ambitious enough to cater for present needs, and also make the country ready to hold the population which it is destined to have. If we concentrated more- on this important objective, we should not waste so much of our time on minor issues and petty political strife as we do at the present time. There lies ahead of this country a degree of prosperity which cannot yet be fully appreciated. But this prosperity depends upon water supplies. The importance of water conservation has been proved in other countries, particularly in America. The United States has a population of 130,000,000, whereas Australia has only 7,500,000 people, most of whom live in the cities, and OU] rural population is continually decreasing. Australia’s area of nearly 3,000,000 square miles, is almost equal to that of the United States of America. Yet, in the last few years, that country has increased its population by 10,000,000 whilst Australia’s population has increased by only 250,000. Australia is one of the .world’s most richly endowed continents, but we are unable to develop itbecause of the lack of water. We cannot decentralize our great secondary industries and we are unable to compete with other countries in the world’s markets because of the lack of water aud cheap power. If we could develop the nation’s . latent wealth, we could profitably absorb millions of new citizens. Under presentconditions, we are unable to provide security for our primary producers. Because of recurring droughts, we cannot be assured of good crops from year to year. In one drought alone we lost assets worth £100,000,000. Droughts are ruin-‘ ing not only the farmers, but also the people in our towns and cities, but while this goes on, rainwater and artesian water continues to flow into the sea. Unharnessed flood waters scour our best agricultural lands, and six months later drought ravages them. In some cases, these wind-swept fields become a total loss to production. This tragedy will continue until the mind of man comes to the rescue. Because of the effects of drought, many inland agricultural properties can-not be worked profitably except as large’ holdings. Even the farmers settled on our choicest coastal land are liable to ruin and defeat by drought. Yet people ask why the rural population is moving to the cities. Country children are often disillusioned before they grow to manhood and womanhood. They share the disappointments of their parents; they see crops fail and stock die, while debts accumulate about their homes. Stark ruin in the country turns young Australians to the cities. “We continue from year to year, in one part of Australia or another, granting drought relief which the drought-stricken are expected to repay with interest. We shall do so until water conservation is made a national obligation. Primary producers deserve first consideration in’ all schemes of water conservation. When rain falls the seasons are bountiful, and no man can say that Australia is not then the greatest country in the world. But we immediately disregard our past experience, and again permit billions of gallons of water to run into the sea. I have depicted, in short and in the main, what in much of Queensland to-day is plain for the eye to see and the mind to grasp. Experts should be employed at once to suggest means whereby those who are in trouble may be assisted. From the weirs on Lockyer Creek, water is pumped for a distance of 50 miles. There are small schemes, such as that on the Inkerman River, the water being pumped from the sand which lies under fertile lands. At Theodore, an earth and timber weir across the Dawson River has a capacity of 5,000 acre feet. At Bingera, private enterprise floods cane lands from a hole in the Burnett River. At “Fairymead, water is pumped from shallow wells. While awaiting national schemes of water conservation, the farmers have to struggle along with the meagre facilities of which they can avail themselves for the irrigation of their lands. The construction of the expensive Stanley dam, for the protection of the Brisbane River against flooding, has been almost completed. Queensland, with an area of 670,500 square miles, the second largest State in Australia, with irrigation could carry the whole of the present-day population of Australia and look for more. It has no water conservation schemes comparable with those of other States. Its opportunities are boundless. A scheme on the Gregory River, which was mapped out approximately 40 years ago, has not yet been begun. The Bradfield scheme, estimated to cost between £34,000,000 and £40,000,000, is well worth investigation, because by its means damaging torrents would be diverted into the dry interior of the continent. Any man who would condemn it should suggest a better one. The Government should take a lead in the matter, and not claim that the prerogative rests with some other authority. It should realize the responsibility that it owes to the nation. I hope that the. motion will be carried, and that this Parliament will do its duty to this young country by providing what is most needed in our national economy - water, and more water. We have not great waterways such as are in the United States of America, but we may be better circumstanced in tEat our numerous rivers and creeks, with their tributaries, are well spaced throughout Australia. This would prove an advantage in the distribution of water and the generation of power. There is sufficient work to last for 50 years or longer, employing engineers, large staffs of trained technicians and other experts, steel and concrete workers, surveyors and their staffs, estimators, iron workers and coal-miners, and hydro-electric plant manufacturers. There is wide scope for the use of giant earthmoving machinery, which can be purchased overseas if it is not available in this country. Each undertaking would increase industrial development and transport over a wide area. Fresh timber mills would be opened, mining ventures would be initiated, and our latent wealth would be tapped. On the coast, and throughout the water-starved areas of our vast interior, water conservation schemes would develop Australia, bringing to it wealth and prosperity, increasing its population, and ensuring the winning of crops which had been sown and the marketing of stock which to-day is lost, in one drought alone, to the value of £100,000,000. There is no “ argument against the production ‘ of wealth by the conservation of water. I cannot recite all the possibilities, but I can mention some of our accomplishments. Victoria, . with an area of ‘87,884 square miles, is the smallest and most densely populated and yet . the most water-conservation minded of all the States. It is an example of the wealth that can be gained by means of irrigation. It has the Mildura, the Goulburn River, the Murray River, and many more schemes, which to-day make prosperous those who live in the districts in which irrigation is available. For an expenditure of £15,000,000, the production of the last three or four years has been £12,000,000 a year. Realizing that the farmers should not be required to bear the whole of the burden of the cost of construction, especially of the headworks of such undertakings, the State wiped off £12,500,000 of the total expenditure. In the areas of- Victoria served ‘by irrigation projects, there is no loss from drought and only gain results from the labours of the primary producer. An area of 100 acres of irrigated land carries a dairy herd of 70 milch cows and their offspring, which do not fail to produce year in and year out. While droughts beset the greater part of Queensland and Western Australia, the irrigated parts of Victoria produce to the maximum degree, their production comparing favorably with that of any other part of the world. The primary producers in those parts have security. During the last drought, 1,000,000 sheep were saved in a small area between Shepparton and Kerang, measuring 110 miles by 40 miles, not all of which is irrigated. The settlers in .that district are also engaged in fruit-growing, dairying and lamb-raising. No other country in the world could compete with Queensland, with its warmer climate and longer seasons, the growing period in some parts of it extending throughout the year, if it were irrigated. It is the only country in the world in which white men produce tropical fruits such as pineapples, bananas and paw-paws, and grow sugar-cane and cotton, as well as contributing to the general requirements of commerce. In Victoria, the Goulburn Valley scheme is being enlarged. The- capacity of the Eildon Weir will be’ increased to provide for nearly seven times greater production and wealth than at present. Blueprints are being prepared by no less an authority than Mr. Jack Savage, the engineer from the United States of America who was called to this country to report on the damage that had occurred to the Burrinjuck Dam in New South Wales. He is the expert who planned the Boulder Dam on the Colorado River to benefit 5,000,000 people. This is the. world’s biggest structure of the kind, having a present hydroelectric capacity of 2,500,000 kilowatts. He also designed the Shasta Dam in the United States of America, which is the world’s second largest dam. But these are babies compared with a huge dam on the Yangtze ‘River, of which’ Mr. Savage has prepared, blueprints, and which is destined to supply the water required by 144,000,000 people in China, and to put an end to the misery and poverty of 450,000,000 people. This scheme will impound the water of that great river for a distance of 250 miles, and yield 10,500,000 kilowatts, being ten times greater than the Boulder Dam. The manufacture of the electrical equipment required’ for this undertaking will keep the largest factories ‘of the United’ States of America occupied for 24 years. ^Extension of time granted.] Mr. Savage, who was secured on loan from the United States of America, for service in Australia, similarly served the governments of India and Afghanistan while World War II. was raging.
In New South “Wales, plans are being prepared for a further expenditure of £30,000,000 on water storage, apart from the scheme on the Clarence River suggested by the right . honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). The needs of Queensland and of Australia generally call for the services of an authority like Mr. Savage, or Mr. Sloan, who is working on the great Missouri Valley scheme, which is to provide 90 dams at a cost of $1,257,000,000 with seventeen hydro-elec- “ trie plants generating 4,000,000 kilowatts for farms and factories. This dam will provide . irrigation for an additional 4,760,000 acres of farm land and 538,000. acres now occupied by struggling people. Other great schemes for water conservation could be mentioned. The fact that rivers occur in Australia for the most part throughout the continent is of advantage, and no scheme should be regarded as too small. In the “Wide Bay and Burnett areas, there arc requests and plans for water storage on the Mary River and its tributaries. In some cases the tributaries are always running, and a valuable opportunity is afforded for the storage of much-needed supplies. There are great catchment areas, particularly in the hills. Similar opportunities for conservation occur along the Burnett River and its tributaries, including the Barambah. River, which passes through fertile farm lands. Some use is now made of this water, and there are good opportunities for large storages between this area and the junction of the Barambah with the Burnett. The Barambah, for part of its course, runs constantly through a rugged gorge which would provide facilities, such as an engineer might dream about, for. the establishment of hydro-electric plants. Transmission lines could be fed with electricity for hundreds of miles, and water could be made available for use both above and below the dam. The Burnett proposal was reported on 40 years ago. I urge the appointment’ of- an expert authority to report further on this scheme, with a view to a great increase in water conservation in that part of Queensland, with the consequent development of latent wealth. This would put an end to the privations of the men and women on the land in those areas to-day.
– An examination of a text of the motion would lead me to believe that the action of thehonorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) is either the result of a desire on his part to delay the consideration of more important matters which are engaging the attention of the House, or an attempt to provide evidence for his constituents that he occasionally speaks in this chamber. He has raised this matter as one of great urgency. It is true that the effects of drought are devastating to the economy of this country, and that, as the result of it, many people from time to time suffer extreme hardships. But in countries located in latitudes similar to those of Australia, droughts have been experienced from the beginning of time, and have occurred at intervals of about seven years. The honorable member has occupied a seat in ‘ this chamber for eighteen years’, during eleven of which he supported governments of a political colour from that different of the Government now in power; but during those eleven years he did not rais’e the matter which he now says is of great urgency.
– That is untrue. The Minister was not in this country at that time.
– I have been in the country longer than the honorable member has been in this Parliament. Not only is’ that the case, but during the eleven years when the honorable member kept silent about the matter, plenty of resources were available for the very purposes to which he now refers. During the late “twenties,” and also in the “thirties” there were in this country, and army of unemployed and unused resources of different kinds which could have been profitably availed of for the purposes mentioned by the honorable member. But during all those years he remained silent.’ The honorable member requests that an expert Commonwealth authority be set up, and I presume he means an authority which would be expert in technical matters relating to. the investigation of the schemes to which he has referred. He ought to know that the Government has not at its disposal the trained personnel which would be required to undertake such an investigation. As a matter of fact, at a conference held only the other day on the subject of the diversion of the Snowy River, when it was decided that the Commonwealth should undertake certain investigations, I had to make it a condition that the State governments of New South Wales and Victoria should provide trained men for the work. By using the word “authority” in the phrase “expert Commonwealth authority “ the honorable member sought to convey the impression that the Commonwealth Parliament had power to legislate in regard to these matters.
Mr.Fadden. - What about the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research?
– The honorable member speaks with his tongue in his cheek. He knows very well that this is a matter for State governments, not for the Commonwealth Government. He must have been asleep during the last two or three years, or he would know that the Commonwealth Government did, in fact, set up a body to make investigations of a general character into the very problem to which he has referred.
– The Minister said that the Commonwealth Government had no power to do that.
– I say now that the Commonwealth Government set up an, authority to make an investigation of a general character. It did not set up an expert body, but it appointed the Rural Reconstruction Commission, which dealt exhaustively with the very matters to which the honorable member for Wide Bay referred. This commission submitted a report to the Commonwealth Government, and it is now before the various State governments. It is probable that certain action will be taken along the very lines which the honorable member advocated. It is clear, therefore, that much of what the honorable member suggested has already been put in hand by this Government, as he would know if he were as assiduous in acquiring information about what the Government is doing, as he is in trying to hinder it from achieving even more. I quote from the recommendations of the Rural Industries Commission, paragraph 1736 -
In view of the vital importance of irrigation in the future of Australia’s rural development, the commission recommends -
that the maximum economic development of irrigation should be regarded as a national objective:
that the survey of river catchments and the recording of river gaugings should be encouraged so as to supply the indamental data on which future satisfactory irrigation schemes may he based:
that in the interests of developing irrigation on sound lines the Commonwealth should endeavour to promote interstate co-operation and coordinated development in all irrigation matters;
that where interstate agreements are necessary for any desirable irrigation development and such agreements are not forthcoming, and where the Commonwealth Government has satisfied itself that the proposal is clearly in the interest of sane and desirable national development, then the said Government should prepare a clear.
That relates to propositions of an interstate character, such as the Snowy River diversion scheme. The House has already been informed of what has been done about the diversion of the Snowy River. The honorable member proposes that an authority should be set up which will report to this Parliament. I have already said that the Government has not enough trained men to undertake inquiries of the kind which the honorable member suggests, but much of the work mentioned by him has already been undertaken by State Governments. In Victoria, the State Government has made an intensive investigation of what happens to the total quantity of rain that falls in’ that State, and. it is taking steps to ensure that all of the water shall be used for the benefit of the nation. In New South Wales, the Government has prepared plans for the diversion of . the Snowy River, for various water conservation projects, and for hydroelectric developments on the Tumut, Clyde, Shoalhaven and Clarence Rivers. I have no doubt that its plans embrace other rivers, also, which I have forgotten for the moment. In Western Australia the State .Government has prepared plans for. water conservation schemes throughout the whole of the south-west of the State, and they are now being discussed by representatives of the State and of the Commonwealth. In Queensland, also,an intensive investigation has been made, and . plans have been prepared by the Queensland Government. It is not the function of the Commonwealth Government’ to make surveys in the various States, and to prepare plans of the kind. I have mentioned. The proper procedure has been laid down at Premiers conferences, and it has been followed through at meetings. of the National Works Council, which was inaugurated as far back as 1943. The understanding between the Commonwealth and the States is that major projects will be brought forward through’ the Co-ordinator-General of Works to the National Works Council for examination. I have before me a document which is confidential because it was sent in the first place to the National Works Council. . It shows’ clearly that the Government of Queensland has submitted a number of detailed proposals to the National Works Council for consideration. It must have done this a considerable time ago, because the note which I have on the proposals indicates that they could not be proceeded with at the time because we were then still at war,, and there were more urgent works to which available supplies of labour and material had to be directed”. I cannot enter into details of how far the .plans have progressed, or what final decisions have been made by the Queensland Government on matters of priority, but the plans include the damming of the Mingoola-Dumaresq, Severn, Burnett, Dawson, Fitzroy and Burdekin Rivers. It is clear, therefore, that the Government of Queensland, the State which the honorable member assists to represent, has prepared all the detailed plans for which he has asked. The honorable member offered no suggestion as to how these works should be financed. Here, again, the procedure to be followed is clearly laid down; money for these works must be obtained through the Loan Council. Some of the projects which the honorable member suggested should be investigated have already been examined by State governments and discussed by the Loan Council. I suggest that when the honorable member moved his motion he was not aware of all that has been done.
– Will the Minister name one project that has been discussed by the Loan Council?
– I am not a member of that body, but I know what projects have been discussed by it because of my association with the National Works Council. Many of the projects in Queensland to which the honorable member referred this morning have already been discussed. The plans of the State governments in. co-operation with the Commonwealth Government cover adequately all that the honorable member wants done. As I have said, the Commonwealth Government has already done what he suggests should be done.
– The Minister said that the Commonwealth Government had not the power to do these things.
– I said, that, insofar ais the Commonwealth Government has authority to do these things, it had done a great deal in co-operation with the States. The major portion of the work has been performed by the States, but their efforts have been retarded by reason of the fact that many of their trained men were absent with the fighting services. Many investigations have been carried out by the State Governments, and the plans have reached the stage that if considerable unemployment threatened in the near future it would be possible to proceed with some of these schemes fairly quickly. They are, in -fact, a part of the Government’s plan to provide full employment. I wish to make it clear that the Government has the utmost sympathy with those who- have suffered from droughts. I believe that the action taken by the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the State governments, to grant financial relief to those who have suffered from droughts during the last three or four years -is thoroughly appreciated by the primary producers of this country. Insofar as that aspect of the motion is concerned, I point out that recommendations have been made to the Government, that drought relief should be placed on a better basis. than has existed in the . past.
That, how.ever, is an entirely different matter. The Government is in complete sympathy with any effort that may be made to provide water conservation schemes, and hydro-electric schemes to supply more power for secondary industries and- continuous supplies of water for areas which periodically suffer from droughts. Many of the things that the honorable member suggested should be done by the Commonwealth Government, through the expert authority that he proposed should be set up, have already been done in a large measure by the State governments, and have ‘been considered by the National Works Council and the Loan Council. The Commonwealth Government will do what no other government has ever done, namely, ensure that nc vast ‘schemes of development will be held up through failure to use the resources that are available.
– I support the motion of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) because I believe that it is necessary, that an expert Commonwealth authority should be set up to investigate and report to . this Parliament and the States on extensive and minor water conservation schemes. I was pleased to hear the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman.) say that drought relief was likely to be placed on a different basis. I take it that the- Minister was referring to a question which I asked this! morning regarding relief to the growers of cereals in 1945 who, because they did not sow any wheat in 1944, were debarred from participation in the relief that was made available. If the Minister’s statement is a forecast of the removal of that anomaly it will be pleasing to many ‘.wheat-growers in Victoria. As things, now stand, wheat-growers who, through no fault of their own, were prevented from sowing wheat in 1944 are not entitled tq participate in drought relief in respect of the 1945-46 crop. If I have interpreted the Minister’s statement aright, I am sure that the .Government of Victoria will co-operate wholeheartedly with the Commonwealth. .
There is general agreement throughout the community that water conservation is a vital necessity in this country. People in. all walks of life agree . that much of the water which now flows to the sea should be conserved and used to increase the productivity of this greatprimary producing country. The war is over, and we must now set our minds to peace-time problems, one of which is mi increase of production. A few days ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in a speech dealing with the finances of this country emphasized that greatly increased production is the key to further relief from taxes. Only, by conservinj more water can we increase production, thereby making Australia once again a land of opportunity. I believe that the proposed authority should be given wide powers. At a conference held in Canberra recently several plans for the’ utilization of the waters . of the Snowy River were discussed. Whatever decision is finally reached, it must, I submit, be based on a careful consideration of all factors brought to light as the result of a complete survey of the whole area affected. Regard must be had to the head-waters of the Murray River and to the necessity for more reservoirs for the storage of water. Speaking at Warracknabeal recently, the Minister for Water Supply in Victoria said that of the water conserved for the benefit of wheat-growers in the Wimmera district in some instances , only about 3 per cent, reached the consumers. In order to overcome the loss of water that now takes place a pipe line has been suggested. As Australia is subject to recurring periods’ of good rainfall and devastating droughts; ‘ a sound policy of water conservation should be followed. Some honorable members opposite have . said that this is a matter for the State Governments. I do not believe that responsibility should rest solely upon the States. Surely this is a problem that can be solved only by the utmost co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) who represents the electorate of Kalgoorlie would, I am sure, agree with rae that the pipe line is the most satisfactory and economical method of carrying water from one place to another. The man who first suggested carrying water from Perth to Kalgoorlie . by pipe line was- ridiculed by the opponents of the scheme, who said that it would be impossible of achievement. But that did not prevent the attempt being made. Unfortunately, however, before the scheme was completed its propounder was so depressed by the hostile” criticism levelled against it that he committed suicide. The completion of the pipe line changed the history of Kalgoorlie arid district, converting it from a mining town into a position of pre-eminence in Western Australia. When Sir John Forrest turned the tap in the pipe line that brought water to Kalgoorlie the miners threw their hats in the air in delight, regarding the water as “more valuable than the gold in the earth below. The construction of a pipe line to irrigate the Mallee and the Wimmera is not beyond the bounds of possibility. It would increase the fertility of our marginal areas a hundredfold and would ensure at all times ample food for stock. And it would be a great aid to decentralization, an objective so eagerly sought after. The scheme I have propounded would so increase the productivity of the soil as to enable the ;great unused port of Portland to be developed as the outlet for the products of the south-east of South Australia and the fertile areas in the Wimmera and Wannon electorates; We should also do everything possible to develop the Murray Valley. It would be far better first to develop and increase the productivity of areas already under cultivation than to endeavour to hew a heritage out of drought-stricken and distant areas. By the development of the pipe-line system from decentralized water storage and the exploitation of the Murray Valley we shall enter a new era of progress. Such a scheme can be implemented only if the Commonwealth and the State undertake the task jointly. There should be established a Murray Valley authority constituted on much the same lines and having the same powers as the famous Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States of America. The whole of the Murray basin should be developed on a regional basis having in view national needs irrespective of State boundaries. As has often been said, the history of civilization is largely the history pf the use or misuse of water.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Matters pertaining to drought relief or assistance to primary producers to offset the effects of bad seasons come within the province of the State governments, which, through their representatives on the Loan Council and the National Works Council, may make such representations to the Commonwealth Government for assistance as they may deem desirable. Works of the kind envisaged by the move] of the motion may only be carried out by the States and if any assistance’ is sought, from the Commonwealth in their implementation the proper avenue of approach is through the Loan Council or- the National Works Council. As the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has already fully stated the attitude of the Government on the matters raised during the debate I am not prepared to allow it to proceed further and I accordingly move -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the. purposes of a bill for an act to amend theRaw Cotton Bounty Act 1940-41.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Forde and Mr. Scully do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Forde, and read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to authorize an extension of the bounty on Australian production of raw cotton for five years from the 31st December, 1946, in an amount sufficient to guarantee growers an average net return of15d. per lb. of raw cotton, above the grade known as “ strict good ordinary “ produced from the 1947 crop and thereafter until the 31st December, 1951. This net return will include any net return to growers from sales of by-products of raw cotton such as linters, cotton seed oil, and cotton seed meal. The total amount of bounty payable under the existing Raw Cotton Bounty Act in any oneyear is limited to £170,000, and any portion thereof unspent in any year is available for bounty payments in later years in addition to the £170,000 provided for each of such years. The existing raw cotton bounty legislation providing a guarantee of 15d. per lb. for this highgrade raw cotton will expire on the 31st December, 1946. Early adoption by the Parliament of the presentbill is necessary to encourage re-establishment of the cotton-growing industry in Australia on a sound economic basis.
In its report of the 15th October, 1945, at the conclusion of a public inquiry, the Tariff Board made the following principal recommendation : -
During the ten-year period, 1935-44, production of raw cotton in Queensland has declined from an annual average of 10,127 bales, each of 500 lb., to 1,305 bales for the 1945 cotton season. Such retrogression is due mainly to the extreme shortage of man-power and a changeover urged by the Commonwealth Government from cotton to food production. An incentive to the change-over was the high prices guaranteed for dairy and other food products. During the tenyear period mentioned,consumption of cotton in Australia by spinners increased from about 15,000 bales each 500 lb. in 1935, to a peak of 64,348 bales in 1943, falling to 54,751 bales in 1945. Consumption by industries other than spinning mills, for example, manufacturers of bedding, upholstery, paddings, wadding, absorbent cotton wool, and other products, now represents about 5,000 bales annually, mainly low grade, very short staple cotton not suitable for general spinning requirements. It is esimated that about 60,000bales of raw cotton will he consumed by local spinners during 1946. “while about 5,000 bales will be required for the other industrial purposes.
Apart from certain comparatively minor modifications, the basic rate of bounty recommended by the Tariff Board, that Ls, 3Jd. per lb. of high-grade rawcotton, is the same as that originally recommended by the board in. November, 1933, and subsequently confirmed on several occasions. This was regarded by the Government as too low to be of any real assistance to the cotton-growing industry, and therefore has never been accepted by the Parliament. If the Tariff Board’s recommendation were adopted, the result would probably be that most growers would abandon the industry as, in the event of any considerable decrease of overseas cotton prices, the returns to growers from sales of raw cotton in competition with imported cotton would be ‘insufficient to enable them to carry on. Abandonment of the industry would involve the closing of ginneries and a cotton seed oil mill on which £160,575 has been invested. This plant is owned by the Queensland Cotton Board, which is a co-operative growers’ organization. The organization has given splendid service to the Queensland cot; ton-growers. The general manager is Mr. J. D. Young, a very capable gentleman,, who succeeded Mr. R. J. “Webster when, he left to take the position of managing director pf the Bradford Cotton Mills. Mr. Young has made a close study of the cotton-growing industry and he and the. members of the board, which consist? .of cotton-growers, have devoted themselves to the interests of the industry in collaboration with the Minister for Agriculture in Queensland, the Queensland Government, the Commonwealth Minister for Trade and .Customs and representatives of cotton-growing districts regardless of the political party to which they may belong. Therefore, it is gratifying to me, as representative of a district where 85 per cent, of the cotton grown in Australia is produced, to find that this bill has been approved by the Government of . which I am a member and will . be approved, 1 believe, by the Parliament. The by-products ‘ of raw cotton are of great economic value. A crop of 15,000 bales of raw cotton would result in the production of the following principal by-products: -820 tons of edible cotton seed oil largely used in the production of bakers’ shortening fats; and 3,000 tons of high protein cotton seed meal for stock feeding, particularly dairy cattle during periods of drought.
Honorable members may recall that the 1940 raw cotton bounty legislation was associated with undertakings given by the Queensland Government that steps would be taken to improve efficiency by
Since initiation of the cotton stimulation programme in 1939-40, the Queensland Government has spent the following sums up to the 30th June, 1945 : £291,000 on investigations and research directly related to cotton production, assistance to growers and provision of irrigation facilities, including pumping plants; £49,000 on water conservation and irrigation projects ; £17,000 on investigations on general’ irrigation and construction programme carried out mainly in the cotton-growing areas; a total of £357,000. Proposed irrigation works comprising 30 weirs, to be built during the immediate post-war period, are estimated to cost a further £296,000. Full implementation of the undertakings was prevented by war conditions beyond the control of the Queensland Government. The causes were mainly shortages of labour and materials.
I note from consultations with the Premier of Queensland”, Mr. Hanlon, the Treasurer of Queensland, Mr. Larcombe, who represents Rockhampton, and the Minister for Lands, Mr. A. Jones, M.L.A., that they are all cognizant and appreciative of the great importance of going right ahead with water conservation and irrigation ‘schemes in order to make it possible for agriculturists in Queensland to step up production of raw cotton very substantially and, in addition, to carry on, of course, with the benefit of irriga- tion, other agricultural pursuits, and for dairy-farmers to go in for fodder conservation in good seasons to tide them over droughts like that through which they are unfortunately passing in the Queensland coastal dairying districts. I am pleased to note that the Queensland Government has already prepared tentative water conservation and irrigation schemes; They have been surveyed by the Bureau of Investigation over the last three years. They may have to give way for the time being to works of greater economic value; but I give full credit to the Queensland Government for the keen interest it has taken in the matter of water conservation and irrigation. Now that the war is over they are pressing ahead with the, projects which, after proper investigation, Will be put to the Loan Council in August. I believe that approval will be given to the projects. .1 know that as the result of water conservation and irrigation we shall find that the production of raw cotton .will be more than trebled in many of the present cotton-growing districts and other districts that have not been exploited to the’ full ; utilization of the water of the Dumaresque River will, I believe, benefit not only border districts of Queensland, but also New South Wales, and will make it possible for a big expansion of cotton-growing. In addition, in the electorate I represent, in the North Burnett district from Mundubbera to Monto up to the Dawes Range and in the Boyne,. Dawson and Callide Valleys many water conservation and irrigation projects can bc developed under the scheme proposed by the Queensland Government. That Government and the cotton-growers can rest assured of the fullest co-operation on the part of the Commonwealth in the implementation of those projects, which I have no doubt will enable the industry to increase the production substantially.
– How many cottongrowers reside in the Minister’s electorate ?
– This is a great national question, which transcends consideration of any benefit which is likely to be gained by any electorate represented by any individual member of Parliament. I notice the chairman of the Queensland Cotton Board, “Mr. E. J. Basson, in the gallery, and I am sure that he realizes the national importance of the industry. Whilst Australian manufacturers require 65,000 bales of cotton, our production last year was only 1,300 bales.. Provided water-conservation and irrigation schemes be undertaken, the industry is capable of tremendous expansion. Any one who has been associated with closer settlement in Queensland can ‘ recall the days when pioneers in the Upper Burnett and Callide and Daw-son Valleys, after clearing their land, planted cotton among the charred stumps, and obtained an early and ready return for their labour. They were thus enabled to ‘purchase stock and engage in the dairying and pig-raising industries. Cottongrowing is essentially a small man’s industry. Farmers in those- districts -will ‘not need in the future to put all their eggs in one basket, but will be enabled to engage in a diversity of production . by the rotation of crops.
Prior to 1941, the bounty on raw cotton was on a gradually reducing scale related to a Liverpool spot price of 6d. sterling per lb. and fluctuating conversely in accordance with changes in that price. This arrangement was not regarded by growers as offering any real sense of security, whereas the provision of .a bounty in an amount sufficient to provide a guaranteed net return for high grade raw cotton, tends towards achieving stability and’ gives, some encouragement to farmers to incur capital expenditure on irrigation plants and other equipment necessary for improved methods of cultivation. Farmers in the areas I have mentioned, more than trebled their production of seed cotton as the result of water conservation and, irrigation. Recently, when I visited Bingerra in the Bundaberg area, I had an opportunity- to see what had been accomplished by Messrs. Gibson and
Howes, by damming the Burnett River and utilizing 10,000,000 gallons of water a day on the firm’s plantation and on adjoining farms. They increased . the yield on their sugar plantations to 100 tons an acre in some parts, whilst the average over the whole of the plantations was 39 tons of cane an acre, compared with an average of- 22 tons an acre for all sugar areas in Queensland. I can see no reason why, with the aid of irrigation our cotton production could not be stepped up to a corresponding degree.
The Liverpool cotton exchange closed on the 21st March, 1941, and is not likely to re-open during the life of the present United Kingdom Government, which has u further four years’ tenure of office. The “New York cotton exchange quotations are not now regarded as suitable as a ha.se for bounty linkage because export -sales are mainly effected in the United States of America on the average prices of the ten southern cotton markets, less an export subsidy of approximately four scents per lb. The resultant export prices ^therefore differ from New York quotations. Under existing conditions, with selling prices of . Australian-grown raw cotton at 18d. per lb. basis c.i.f. spinners’ ports, as fixed by the Prices Commissioner, a crop of 3,000 bales or higher would reduce overhead expenses associated with- ginning, classifying and handling, to such an extent that the net return to growers would most likely be 15d. or more per- lb., thus relieving the Government of the payment of a bounty. It may be possible to obtain within the next few years an annual production . of 20,000 bales of raw cotton, thereby reducing further the costs of production with corresponding increases in the net returns to growers.
With the stability that will be given to the industry by the payment of this bounty and the stimulus to production resulting from the provision of waterconservation and irrigation schemes, together with an incentive price in respect of the whole of the crop on the basis of the price of imported cotton, I have no. doubt that the production of raw cotton in Australia will be substantially increased. The Commonwealth will do everything it can to help the industry produce the whole of Australia’s require- ments. This achievement would help us in many ways, particularly by easing our position in respect of dollar exchange and transport difficulties. . We are .experiencing’ considerable difficulty in obtaining supplies of raw cotton from other countries. India is averse to shipping cotton to Australia, whilst we find it very difficult to obtain supplies from the United States of America. In these circumstances we shall be compelled next year to purchase most of our cotton from Brazil.
The Australian price , of overseas raw cotton comparable with that produced in Queensland, is now somewhat higher than the price at which the Prices Commissioner has authorized purchase of the Queensland crop, namely, 18d. per lb. basis c.i.f. spinners’ ports. Raw cotton is admitted free of duty. In accordance with the existing prices stabilization scheme, both the Australian and the imported raw cotton are supplied . to spinners for making yarns for hosiery, for weaving, and for certain high quality cordage, also for manufacture of combed yarns, at 14£d. per lb. There is therefore good reason for the continuance of bounty assistance . on raw cotton produced in Australia at the existing level as now proposed. The possibility of any considerable decrease in the price of imported raw cotton appears to be remote for three or four years at least. There is at present a world shortage of desirable types of raw cotton suitable for general spinning requirements with resultant high prices, and the Government of India, which is the second largest cotton producing country in the world, has prohibited .the export of raw cotton of 13/ic-in. staple or longer. The extension of the period of the operation of the bounty, as now proposed, should” be recognized by growers and the appropriate State authorities as affording an excellent opportunity for the further development of plans with the express object of increasing efficiency aud reducing production costs. In this connexion, overseas experience proves clearly that production costs can be substantially reduced by producing raw cotton under irrigation. In the United States of America, Egypt, the Sudan, and several other countries, the yield per acre under irrigation has always been at least three times as high as the yield under dry-farming conditions. Similar results have been consistently achieved in the comparatively small irrigated area in Queensland. Experience over many years in the cotton-growing districts of Queensland has proved that rainfall and other important climatic conditions are too variable and unreliable for the consistent economic production of raw cotton under dry-farming” conditions, except in a comparatively few small areas. The Queensland Government fully realizes this fact, and it is hoped that the next year or two will witness a very marked advance in irrigation developments.
Picking or harvesting costs in Australia are high, representing about 1.64d. per lb. of seed cotton, equivalent to approximately 4.7d. per lb. of raw cotton. The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock and the Queensland Cotton Board have each purchased from the United States of America a mechanical cotton-picking machine. A light picker of another make recently developed in that country has been- ordered by the Cotton Board. The latter unit, which is designed for independent operation by means of a tractor, is expected to arrive in Australia within the next few months. Picking machines offer the prospect of reducing picking costs, which are at present, the highest of the costs involved in the production of seed cotton. The machines have given most promising results in trials, and will bc of particular value in harvesting irrigated crops, where the yield exceeds 300 lb. of seed cotton, per acre. The greater concentration of the farms under irrigation will’ tend to facilitate mechanical harvesting. One of the principal reasons for the decline of production during World War II. was the labour problem. This is a seasonal occupation, and the conditions of employment in it, because of living conditions on scattered farms were not attractive. Furthermore, nearly all the workers were employed in the production of materials for the conduct of the war, and could not be diverted to the cotton industry. Members of the Australian Women’s Land Army rendered splendid service within the limits of their ability, but their labour did not prove to- be. very satisfactory under which many of these farmers, unfortunately, are obliged to live at present.
The cotton-growing industry is worthy ‘ of all the encouragement that this National Parliament can give to it. Its potential value to the Commonwealth is considerable. This industry will assist the States’ schemes for the land settlement of ex-servicemen. The Queensland Cotton Board, I understand, now has a representative on the staff of the Gatton Agricultural College. He possesses a sound knowledge of the cotton industry,, and is giving instruction to the young men who are being trained in agriculture, and to others who attend for short “ refresher “ courses. This instruction . will make a greater number of agriculturists in Queensland cotton-minded. Sufficient encouragement should be given to the industry to enable the possibilities of production under irrigation to be thoroughly explored and demonstrated.
– Will the Minister inform me whether it is a fact’ that cotton: growers in the electorate of Capricornia will receive about £140,000 out of the total amount of £170,000?
– I urge the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) to deal with this industry as a part of a broad national plan. Cotton is grown not only in the electorate of Capricornia, but also in the electorates of Wide Bay, Moreton and Maranoa. There is no reason why cotton should not be grown in many other districts. When the proposed irrigation schemes sire undertaken, cotton will be produced in south-western Queensland and in northern New South Wales. I commend this bill to the House as one which merits favorable consideration because it will assist a great national industry which will be invaluable to Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Adermann) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 1S.J/.7 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr. Frost, and read a first time.
– by leave - I ‘ move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, is for the purpose of applying to service pensions under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act the modifications of the means test which is under consideration in respect of pensions under the Invalid and’ Old-age Pensions Act. Service pensions are equivalent to invalid and old-age pensions for ex-members of the forces, as distinct from general war pensions. In certain respects the provisions are more liberal than those of the scheme for the general communityFor example, if granted on the grounds of age, the member is admitted at the age of 60 years, or in the case of a woman member, at the age of 55 years - in each case five years earlier than is the case with ordinary old-age pensions. . If the member is eligible on the grounds of invalidity, his wife and children, up to four in number, may be granted service pensions also. There are other advantages in favour of service pensioners, but the general character of the provisions is similar to that pf ordinary invalid or old-age pensions. Consequently, if certain material principles of the latter are altered, the alteration must be reflected in the service pensions scheme. The Minister for Labour and National Service in his speech on the second reading of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill 1946, explained that the three main features were, first, the raising from 12s. 6d. a week to£l a week of the amount of income which an invalid or old-age pensioner may have without lus pension being affected; secondly, the raising of the property bar from £400 to £650; and, third, the elimination of certain items of property from considera- tion in the assessment of the rate of pension. The income and property provisions are common to both schemes, and therefore the three provisions to which [- have referred must apply in respect of service pensions. The first provision, namely, the raising of permissible other income from 12s. 6d to £1 a week, requires no amendment of the Repatriation Act, as section 87 of the act is so con structed that it takes care of this- point’ whatever alteration may be made from, time to time. The other two provisions which relate to property necessitate amendment of the Repatriation Act.. It is proposed to amend section 89 to raise the amount of £400 specified therein to £650, and to provide that deductions in respect of each’ £10 of property shall be on the same lines as the amendment to section 24 “of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, that is, a certain rate of deduction for property over £50 but not over £400, and a higher rate of deduction for the portion of property in excess of £400. The only difference is that, as service pension provisions are expressed in’ fortnightly amounts, as against annual amounts in the invalid and old-age pensions legislation, the deductions are expressed as so much a fortnight. The effect, however, is almost exactly the same with both schemes. The elimination of certain items of property involves an amendment of section 90, and the amendment provided in the bill is identical with the corresponding provision in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill 1946. At the 30th June, 1946, the numbers of service pensions in force wore: members, 9,052; wives and children of incapacitated members, 2,645; widows and children of deceased members, 1,335 ; total, 13,032. The annual liability was £846,833. It is estimated that the modifications to the means test will increase the annual liability in respect of service pensions by approximately £55,000. The proposed amendments to the act are a logical corollary to the widening of the invalid and oldage pensions legislation, and I am confident that the bill will have general support . from honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. HARRISON adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 17th July (vide page 2667),^
Proposed new clause 2 -
The several sections of this act shall commence on such dates as are respectively fixed by Proclamation;
Upon which Mr. Archie Cameron had moved by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the proposed new clause:-“, but not earlier than the first day of October, One thousand nine hundred and forty-six “.
Amendment negatived. .
New clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4- (1. ) For the purposes of this Act there shall be an Australian Wheat Board. (2.) The Board shall consist of -
) two members elected to represent the wheat -growers in the State of New South Wales, two members elected to represent the wheat-growers in the State of Victoria, one member elected to represent the wheatgrowers in the State of Queensland one member elected to represent the wheat-growers in the Stateof South Australia and one member elected to represent the wheatgrowers in the State of Western Australia.
. -Will the Minister state how the growers’ representatives are to be elected.? I presume that he will follow the usual procedure and have them elected by the growers. I suggest that the clause be amended by including a provision similar to that embodied in the Meat Industry Control Bill 1946, which will be presented shortly. This stipulates a definite term of office for board members. A term of three years should be fixed. As the bill stands, the Minister will have power to dispense with the services of board members as and when he considers fit. He may leave them in, office for only twelve months, or for five or six years. I hope that the honorable gentleman will agree to amend the bill as I have suggested, and also to insert machinery clauses similar to those in the meat industry legislation, providing for the filling of vacancies which may occur.
. Paragraph (b) of sub-clause 2 provides for. the election of representatives of the growers to the board, but no provision is made fixing the period during which those members shall hold office. I presume that the expression “ conditions “ in subclause 3 can be so construed asto cover the period during which they shall’ hold office.If that be not correct, there -is no provision prescribing the duration of their office: consequently, the decision would be left to the Government. The chairman of the board, and the representative of flour-mill owners are definitely to hold office during the pleasure of the Minister. It seems to me that avoidance of the repetition of those words suggests that the representatives of the growers also are to hold office during the pleasure of the Minister, although the Minister may prescribe that they shall hold office for a year, two years, or whatever other term he may fix. The bill having gone so far as to provide that the growers shall have an opportunity to elect representatives to. the board, it ought to further specify the period for which they shall hold office. In order to place the matter beyond doubt, I move -
That, in sub-clause (2.), paragraph (b), after the words “Western Australia” the following words be inserted: - “who shallhold office for three years from the dates of their appointments “.
That addition would provide for a definite term of office for the representatives of the growers. Surely the matter is not controversial! I am confident that the Government, upon consideration, will agree to incorporate in the bill a definite tenure of office for representatives of the growers. I am willing to listen to suggestions as to what the period ought to be. I consider that three years would be reasonable. Is the Minister prepared to accept the amendment?
. -I am not prepared to accept the amendment. Sub-clause 3 provides -
The qualifications for and the method of, election asa representative of the wheatgrowers of any State and the conditions upon which such members shall hold office, shallbe as prescribed.
I agree with the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) that three years seems a reasonable period. The term of office will be fixed after further consultation with the States, which are to be partly responsible for the control of the board. The Ministers of Agriculture agreed to the principle contained in the bill at the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. I should have no objection to the term being three years, but I do not want it to be stated specifically”. The clauses of the hill were considered seriatim by the Australian Agricultural Council) and were agreed to. I am sure that in no circumstances would a Minister exercising control over the Austraiian Wheat Board do anything diametrically opposed to the wishes of the wheat industry. So difficulty has been “experienced in connexion with the present Australian Wheat Board, which was constituted on similar lines, the legislative provision being “ the members of the board shall be elected by a ballot of registered growers of the Commonwealth “. That is a definite safeguard. There is no necessity to specify a period of office. The bill as drafted will leave a certain degree of discretion with the Ministers of Agriculture of the States and the Commonwealth.
Mr. ABBOTT (New England) [2.31 J. - Whatever may be the mode of election, even if it be carried out by State bodies, it must be uniform throughout the Commonwealth. ‘ There should not be one method in one State and a different method in another State.
– There will be uniformity; the bill so provides.
– The Minister must know the terms and conditions upon which representatives of growers will be elected to. the board. Is -it a fact that no arrangement has been made as to the term during which those men shall hold office? Are they to hold office during the Minister’s pleasure, or for a specified term, or for life? The Minister should state what he has in mind as to what the regulations shall contain in regard to the term of office of these men.
– I have already stated that.
– The Minister has not said whether the term is to be for. three years or for life.
– I specifically mentioned three years as a reasonable term.
– That is only the Minister’s personal opinion. A term has not been fixed, nor is one envisaged, by the bill.. The matter is vital. The Minister should be prepared to “say now whether, at the next meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, or in consultation with the States, he will ensure that the regulations shall provide that these gentlemen shall hold office for three years.
.- The amendment of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was submitted in a comparatively reasonable manner. The honorable member said that the clause does not specify the term of office of representatives of the growers on the Australian Wheat Board. He also said that the chairman and the representative of the flouiMmi.il owners are to hold office during the pleasure of the Minister. He did not take exception to that provision, but appeared to be in doubt as to the wisdom of allowing the Minister to be the judge of what should be the term of office of the representatives of the growers. According to my interpretation of the clause, the Minister will decide the term, of office of the representatives of the growers, as well as of the chairman of the board and the representative of the flour-mill owners. I .am glad that the honorable member foi’ Indi agrees with une.
– I do not, and . I shall give reasons for my disagreement.
– The honorable member concedes that the Minister will have the power to decide the term of office of the representatives of the growers.
– That is so; but I am opposed to his having that power.
– The honorable member did not object to the term of office of the chairman of the hoard and the representative of the Hour-mill owners being at the pleasure of the Minister. He has proposed that the representatives of the growers shall hold office for three years, apparently, he is willing that the matter should . hi; left open in regard to the chairman of the board and the representative of the flour-mill owners. The matter may -safely’ be left to the Minister, as the clause provides. Procedure which was regarded as good by the Government that introduced statutory, rules with respect to the appointment oi’ the first Australian “Wheat Board, under the Wheat Acquisition Act 1939, should be equally good in the present instance.
– At that time, everything necessarily had to be done by regulation.
– Regulation 3 of the statutory rule under the Wheat Acquisition Act 1939 provides -
For the purpose of these regulations, there shall be an Australian Wheat Board,which shall consist of one person representing the Commonwealth Government, two persons representing the wheat-growers of Australia, two persons representing the wheat marketing pools, three persons representing wheat merchants, and one person representing bulk handling, who shall be appointed by the Minister by notice published in the Gazette, and who shall hold office during the pleasure of the Minister.
The honorable member for Indi and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) would have been logical had they proposed that not only the chairman of the board and the representative of the flour-mill owners, but also the representatives of the growers, shall hold office during the pleasure of the Minister. The Minister is satisfied that he will have the power to provide that the representatives of the growers shall hold office during his pleasure. It would be unwise to limit the term of office of the representatives of the growers, as the honorable member for Indi has proposed. We all hope that for the first two years, and perhaps also in the third year, they will have a comparatively easy passage to. negotiate. By the fourth year, or the fifth year, they may find themselves in a difficult position, with the export price of wheat far below what it is to-day. They might find . the problems of the industry becoming more intricate and involved. Some change might occur in Australia’s internal economy, with resulting difficulties. The honorable member has proposed that the term of office of growers’ representatives shall cease at the expiration of three years, but has not suggested that the Minister should have the power to re-appoint them.
– Representatives of the growers should be elected, not appointed, to the board.
– Having gained considerable experience during a period of three years, it would be exceedingly unwise to require them to submit themselves to another ballot of the growers. The provisions of the bill are satisfactory. The honorable memberfor New England has said that these men might even hold office for life. The honorable gentleman knows that under the Wheat Export Charge Bill, which is complementary to this measure, tax will be collectedfor five years, and no member of any government would allow the members of the board to hold office at a time when this legislation was no longer required.
– I wish to know whether a decision on the amendment moved by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) would prevent me from moving three amendments which I have in mind. I desire to move that, in sub-clause 2, paragraph b, the word “ two “, first occurring, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ three “ ;that the word “ one “, second occurring, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ two “ ; and that the word “ one “, third occurring, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ two “.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).It will be necessary for the amendment of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) to be withdrawn temporarily, and the amendments forecast by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will have to be moved separately.
Amendment - by leave - temporarily withdrawn.
– I move-
That, in sub-clause (2.), paragraph (b) the word “ two “, first occurring, be left out, with a’ view to insert in lieu thereof the word “three”.
The representation proposed to be accorded to the growers under this clause is hopelessly out of tune with realities andI am amazed that the Government should submit a proposal which, on its own face, carries condemnation from the growers’ point of view. From the Commonwealth Year-Book, No. 35, at page 778, I have extracted figures which, show the’ average acreage and wheat yield of the various States for the ten-year period ended the 30th June, J943. These ‘ together with the representation proposed under the bill’ as compared with the proposal of the Opposition are contained in the following table : -
The representation proposed in the bill is unthinkable. New South Wales has about ‘ 33 per cent, of the total yield and acreage, and under my proposal it would get ‘ 30 per cent, of the representation, whilst Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia would each have 20 per cent, of the representation, which would be in keeping with their respective yields and acreages. This would necessitate three extra representatives of the growers on the board. South Australia and Western Australia are much more dependent on the wheat export industry than is either New South Wales or Victoria, because of the larger proportion of their total production which is surplus to home requirements. The Minister surprises me if he . says that the representatives of the wheatgrowers in South Australia and Western Australia -consider that the bill will give them fair representation on the board, and I shall be greatly surprised if the New South Wales growers are prepared to accept the representation that the bill offers.
.- The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) desires to increase the personnel of the board from 9 to 12 members. Governments generally, arid everybody who has had experience of board work, believe that satisfactory results cannot be obtained from a board which has a large number of members. The purpose of the clause is not to provide State representation on the board; it merely provides a method, though perhaps an imperfect one, of ensuring that the personnel of the board shall be representative of fairly widespread areas of Australia. The interests of the wheatgrowers are wrapped up with the nationwide importance of the industry. It does not matter much whether a wheatgrower lives to the north or to the south of the river Murray, and therefore the personnel of the board is not of great consequence. Two growers representing New South Wales would be just as interested as three in having the greatest possible amount distributed among the growers. Similarly one representative from each of the States of Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia could safeguard the interests of growers in those States. After all, this is only a rough and ready i method to ensure that there shall be adequate and geographically wide representation of the growers on the board.
– It is interesting to have the admission from the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) that this is a rough and ready method of constituting the board. The object of the amendment is to make the method less rough and more ready, and I cannot see why the representation’ advocated in the amendment should hot be accepted. To say that seven representatives of the .growers “are just sufficient and that ten representatives of growers would make the board unwieldy, is too ridiculous for words. As the volume of production in Western Australia and South Australia is almost equal to that in Victoria, surely those States are entitled to similar representation. In New South Wales the production is considerably higher - than in any other States. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment because- if would improve the bill.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) on a State basis, why are States mentioned at all? If the object is not to give representation in accordance with the importance “of the’ industry in each State, . why is it proposed to give any State more than one representative? I have never heard the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) advance a more illogical . argument ‘ than in . his opposition to the amendment.
– The . honorable member’s amendment would give three additional members.
– I ‘ suggested three members from ‘New South “Wales, two each from Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia and one from Queensland. Even if the bill has been submitted to the grower’s organizations and has run the gauntlet of caucus and Cabinet we should not accept what is described as a rough and- ready method. The honorable gentleman said, he did not like big boards. Perhaps better results are obtained from small boards, but why give more representation to one State than to another, why should New South Wales and Victoria which have the greater number of representatives in this House have the. greater number of representatives on the Board?
– I cannot accept the amendment. This matter was threshed out at the last meeting of the Agricultural Council. The State Ministers for Agriculture asked leave of me, as chairman, to discuss it among themselves and with their officers. On the following day they informed me that the representation proposed was satisfactory to them. At that meeting it was agreed, that in each State, there should be formed a State Advisory Committee for the express purpose of advising the Australian Wheat Board on matters pertaining to marketing. The Minister for Agriculture in the Queensland Government, and his officers, were concerned because, in that State, there was a most efficient State Wheat Board, and I gave an assurance that in no pir,cumstances would we interfere with the constitution of that body. I believe that it will be a most valuable adjunct to the Australian Wheat Board in market ing- arrangements. Honorable members will realize from my explanation that I am justified in refusing to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Barker.
.- The attitude of the Minister is inconsistent. First, he said that the representation from the various States had been determined by the representatives of the growers, and now he says that the numbers cannot be altered because they were agreed to in consultation with the State Ministers of Agriculture. He added that the latter had -asked for time to consult their officials and advisers, after which they had agreed to the representation in the - clause- -In effect, he tells us that the . representation was decided, not by himself, but by the State ‘ Ministers for Agriculture, and as he did not object” to their proposal, he accepted it. He seeks to fortify his arguments by telling us that there is also to be appointed an Advisory Committee in each State, that it will be appointed by the State authorities, and that he has given an assurance that the: Commonwealth will not seek to interfere in any way.’ The Minister cannot have’ it both ways. If the State committees are to be free from Commonwealth intervention - and I agree that they should - then the Minister cannot justify the representation proposed in the clause for the federal body on the ground that it was agreed to by State representatives.
– The whole plan was agreed to by the States.
– That is so, but the States were not in a position to evolve a plan for themselves. The real core of the plan must have been Commonwealth finance, and the plan must continue to be a Commonwealth responsibility. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie ‘ Cameron), by citing figures about the number of growers and the acreage normally sown to wheat in Western Australia and South Australia, proved that those States were entitled to more representation on the board. Actually, the acreage under wheat in South- Australia and Western Australia is normally greater than in Victoria, and the total yield from those States is very nearly as much as that from Victoria. Therefore, if arithmetic is to be our guide, there appears to be ample justification for granting “Western Australia and South Australia- increased representation. We have frequently heard of the disabilities of the more distant States. Here is’ one way in which we can help- to improve their lot. I am astounded that this debate should have progressed so far without any Government supporters from constituencies in South Australia or Western Australia rising to. speak in favour of the amendment. How they will explain their attitude to the wheat-growers whom they claim to represent I do- not know. However, that is their affair, not mine. I regard the amendment as a very fair one, and I .ask the Minister to reconsider his attitude to it.
.- It is not possible to accept the amendment because of the arrangement which has been made with the States. However, I suggest to the Minister that, should this matter at any time come up for review by the Agricultural Council, . an attempt should be made to reduce the total number of representatives on that board. I do not think that it is necessary to have two representatives from Victoria and two from New South Wales.
– Then why is the honorable member -supporting the clause ?
– I -support it because it is based on an agreement between the States and the Commonwealth, and until the parties agree to reduce the number of representatives on the board I shall continue to support the present proposal. The purpose of having State representatives on the board is that they may bring to its deliberations their particular knowledge of the industry in various parts of Australia. For this purpose^ one representative from each State would be sufficient.
.- We have listened to two extraordinary speeches from honorable members on the Government side - one from the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) and the other from the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon). In reply to the clear and forceful argument of the honor able member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), in which he showed, by citing figures about acreages and yields, what the representation of each State should be . on the board, the . honorable ( member for Forrest said that the amendment could not be accepted because the present ratio of representation had been agreed to before the bill was introduced to Parliament. If an arrangement of that kind is to be meekly accepted, what is the use of bringing the bill before Parliament at all ? Apparently, a decision was reached in the first place between the Minister and certain selected wheat-growers. I say selected because all the growers do not belong to the wheat-growers’ organizations. The proposal was accepted by the Minister, and then placed before the State Ministers for Agriculture, who concurred. Then it was placed before caucus, and, having received the stamp of approval from all these authorities, it was tossed on the table of this House, and we are expected to go through the farce of debating it. Are we to accept the humiliating position, as suggested by the honorable member for Forrest - who represents a Western Australian constituency, and is a -supporter of the Government - that Parliament cannot amend the clause because it was agreed to in principle by various authorities outside Parliament? If that is the spirit in which legislation is presented to Parliament, it ls high time that those responsible altered their attitude.
The honorable member for Ballarat said that he did not favour the proposal that #ie term of office of members of the wheat board should be fixed at two or at three years. He believes that they should continue in office- at the pleasure of the Minister because, he said, after a few years they might have gained such valuable experience that their services should not be dispensed with. He put that forward as a reason for taking from the growers their right to remove from the board undesirable members. All those selected to fill such positions do not remain in them for life, as members of this Parliament know only too well. They do not always continue to enjoy the approval of. those whom they are supposed to represent, a fact which, I have no doubt, will he made very clear before long to some honorable members opposite who may have thought that they were here for life.
The amendment of the honorable member for. Barker is a perfectly reasonable one, assuming that we accept the principle that certain States should be specifically represented on the board. I agree that big boards are unwieldy, as I know from experience. However, if certain States are granted representation out of proportion to their merits we shall strike trouble, and it was with the. idea of obviating trouble that the honorable member moved his amendment. I am sure that if the Minister agreed to restrict the membership of the board to six representatives without regard to State rights, the honorable1 member for Barker would agree because he would regard a smaller board as likely to be more efficient. It is obvious that provision has been made for larger representation of New South Wales interests because that State is the most populous and because of its importance, not as a wheat-growing, but as an industrial area. In other words, New South Wales is to have this dominance in the affairs of the board because it contains within its borders approximately’ 40 per cent, of the Australian population. In constituting the board we should entirely disregard the numerical strength of the States, except insofar as it relates to the wheat industry itself.
.- Although I listened carefully to the speech of the honorable1 member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), I do not know whether or not he supported the amendment. He commenced his speech on one note and ended it on an entirely different one. Going back over the history of the Australian Wheat Board we find, that under Statutory Rule No. 49 of 1916, the board was originally composed of one representative of the Commonwealth Government. 1 two representatives of the wheat-growers, two representatives of marketing pools, three representatives of merchants and one representative of the bulk handling authorities. The two representatives of wheat-growers were not selected from any particular State. I agree with the honor- 1 able member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) that the number of representatives on the board might very well be reduced. I agree with the honorable member for Richmond that a smaller board. is likely to be more efficient on the basis that the less talk there is the more work is likely to be done.
– Have honorable members opposite experienced that in the Labour caucus?
– The Australian Country party has but a small caucus and the honorable member is very much afraid that it will become very much smaller in the not distant future. I suggest that in his later discussions with State Ministers the Minister might suggest that the representation of New South Wales and Victoria be reduced to one in each case. The honorable member for Richmond has said, in effect, that if this Parliament is merely to rubber stamp legislation passed by the States, its continuance is not worth while. The honorable member knows very well that the party to which he belongs has done everything in its power to prevent the Commonwealth Parliament from obtaining complete powers to deal with these matters in its own. right. If this Parliament is to be truly national it must have complete national powers. Measures designed for the improvement of our primary industries could be brought before this Parliament, in the first instance instead of only after protracted negotiations with the States. It is significant that the present Government is the first to have given a great deal of attention to. the desirability of consulting wheat-growers as to the re-organization of their industry.
– That is not so. The Lyons Government established the Australian Agricultural Council for that very purpose.
– But it never consulted the wheat-growers in relation to their problems-. I support the clause as it stands. .
– If the logical and unanswerable case submitted by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has made no impression on the Minister, surely he cannot fail to be moved by the appeals made by members of his own party. The honorable member for
Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) admitted that the method adopted by the Government in determining the representation on the Australian Wheat Board was at best a rough and ready one.
– Does the honorable member advocate the reduction of the number of representatives of Victoria?
– No; strangely enough, two of the supporters of the Government suggested that. I believe that equal representation should be extended to all States. The representation on the board has already been decided after consultation with State Ministers. If, however, in. the dim and shadowy future, the Minister in his wisdom is inclined to reduce the representation of Victoria and New South Wales to one, we shall be entirely satisfied. I appeal to the Minister to’ reconsider his attitude towards the proposal of the honorable -member for Barker and to provide such representation on the board as will do justice to the . wheat-growers. The point must not be overlooked that it is the individual wheat-grower whose money will be controlled by this board. -For that reason I believe that Western Australia and South Australia should be given the same representation as Victoria.
’.- If debates on measures brought before this chamber are reduced, to a farce because of pre-commitments, responsibility for that rests not on the Labour party, which has always advocated additional powers for the National Parliament, but upon its political ‘opponents, who have invariably opposed the granting of them. While the state of affairs continues under which the Commonwealth Parliament has not complete domain, and arrangements and agreements have to be made with the States in order to make Commonwealth legislation effective, it is ridiculous for people to criticize the action of the Minister in making such arrangements or agreements with the States before bringing the appropriate measures before the Parliament. If such legislation were placed upon the statute-book without the prior consent of the States, it would become null and void. All that is contemplated in the measure now before us has already been tried out during the war period. That was the great testing time for much of the legislation we are enacting now for peace-time. Some of the legislation must necessarily impinge on the province of the States and but for their co-operation would be unworkable. The Minister . accordingly must ‘ take into consideration all the factors that may make this scheme’ workable, and he would be foolish if he did not take advantage of the lessons learned during the war while the National Security Regulations were in. operation. After all, this bill merely proposes to carry into an era of peace a scheme that has proved workable during the war and will possibly prove 80 per cent, workable under peace-time1 -conditions. If this Parliament had’ complete authority to legislate without taking into’ consideration the wishes of the States we’ would bo in a vastly different position. However.’ it is a matter of give and take. If, because of ‘our unwillingness to agree to the wishes ‘of the .’States, two of the most important wheat-growing States withdrew from the -scheme, the whole plan would become unworkable.
Amendment (by Mr. Archie Cameron) negatived -
That, in sub-clause (2.), paragraph (6) the word “ one “, second occurring, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “two”.
. –I move-.
That, in sub-clause (2.), paragraph (6): the word “ one “, third occurring, be left out with a view to’ insert in lieu thereof the word “ two “.
It is only right that the wheat-growers should know where honorable members stand on these matters. It has been argued that because certain things were done under the National Security Regulations they may still be continued. The National Security Regulations were drawn up in time of war to meet ‘theexigencies of war; but this measure- is designed to operate in time of peace. The argument that enactments found to be necessary in time of war should be per:petuated in time of peace is, to say the least of it, rather thin. It is importantthat the growers who are to pay ‘2s. 2d. a bushel into the stabilization’ fund’ should ; have adequate representation on -‘the execu-tire body which will determine how ‘that money will be expended. I go farther than that, and say that the growers’ representation should be fixed in proportion to the amount contributed in each State. I have never before heard the suggestion that, even in a family company, control should be disproportionate’ to the individual capital investments of its shareholders. “We have been told that the Australian Agricultural Council has agreed to this clause. That body has an official’ character, but has no executive authority whatever. Until the recommendations of the council find expression in an act of Parliament they are riot the ‘ law of the country; It is the obligation of this Parliament to make the laws and riot to put its hoof mark’ or thumb print on anything of =a .plastic nature .that the Agricultural Council likes to send here. That argument is one o’f the weakest I have heard, and I am astounded that it should come from some of my. friends opposite.
.- “I second the amendment moved by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). Its purpose is to give to Western Australia two representatives on the Australian Wheat Board instead of one. A division will be called for on the amendment in order that we may see where honorable members stand. As Western Australia has no representation In the Opposition at the moment, it devolves upon some of us who .are from other States to speak on its behalf. The men sent here to speak for “Western Australia are strangely silent and supine. The force, of the argument in favour of the amendment is that Victoria has 24.4 per cent, of the wheat acreage of the Commonwealth and is to have two. representatives on the board, whereas Western Australia with 21. G per cent, of the wheat acreage is to have only one. Is that equitable?- The board is to deal substantially with wheat ex- ports, and Western Australia is the principal wheat-exporting State. Therefore, the necessity for Western Australia to have more representation on it than even New - South Wales ought to have, for that matter, is manifest to all. I cannot, for the life of me, understand, why -a’:-State ‘with 2.1.6 per cent, of the acreage -should- have only ohe representa1 tive when a State with 20 per cent, has two.
– Tell us the number of growers ? “ Mr. ANTHONY.- I answer the honorable member for Ballarat by giving him the yields. The yield in Victoria is 23.17 per cent, of the total yield of the Commonwealth and the yield of Western Australia is 19.32, just a little less. That in itself is a reason why the Western Australian’ growers need more representation on the board. They farm as great an area for a less return. Their problems must be much more intricate because of climatic and other conditions, than those which confront growers in the more fertile States on the eastern seaboard. There is no justification for refusing to accept the amendment. All that the Government can advance against it is the old plea that the basis of representation was decided before the bill was introduced. Like the honorable, member for Barker, I have presided over meetings of the Agricultural Council and I know that agreements made thereat are not so rigid that they cannot be altered. To say otherwise stretches credulity to breaking point.
– This agreement is not going to be altered.
– I realize that the Minister has the numbers behind him and that certain honorable members who are supposed to represent the wheat districts will vote as they are told to vote, not as they believe they should vote, because their speeches clearly indicate what is in their minds.
.- It is rather strange that both the mover and the seconder of the amendment are not wheat-growers and do not represent great wheat-growing areas. Who is to pay for the extra representatives whom they want to have placed on the Australian Wheat Board? They want to overload it and create more jobs. The people who will have to pay will be men like me, the men who grow the wheat. Early in the war when honorable gentlemen opposite were in power, they appointed to the ‘ board as representatives of Western Australia not the representatives of the . wheat-growers but the representatives’ of other sections of industry who cost us more than £2,000 a year. I do not want a continuance of that policy. If we are to make this compulsory wheat pool a success we shall do so by cutting costs, and the best way in which to cut down costs is by starting at the top.
, - If the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) intends to cut costs, he should start by giving the States equal representation. That is the answer to the honorable gentleman. He emphasized that he is a representative of a wheat-growing district. I probably have much more wheat in my electorate than he has in his. My electorate runs from the Murray to the sea and from the Victorian border to the west end of Kangaroo Island, and all through it wheat is grown.’ I also speak with twenty years’ experience of wheatgrowing, in the Loxton district, and I do not think that the honorable member can approach that.
– I fall short by only two years.
– The honorable member referred to war-time appointments to the wheat, board. No man in the wheat industry will ever challenge the appointment of Mr. Teasdale or the appointment of Mr. Thompson as manager. Both are Western Australians and are particularly good men.
– They are not the men to whom I referred.
– To whom did the honorable member refer?
– I referred to Driver. Thompson was manager.
– And Thompson was worth his money. The money” will be got out of the. export of wheat, and my State and Western Australia, are the States that will put the money into the fund, and when it is disbursed, the money will be disbursed equally amongst all the wheat-growers of Australia. Therefore, whatever the New South Wales and Victorian wheatgrowers are to get out of this scheme in the end, it will be provided from the wheat sent overseas by Western Australia and South Australia. The Government can argue whichever way it likes but equity; justice and common sense combine to ‘say that the amendment ought to be agreed to.
.- The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) objects to his State having more representation on the Australian Wheat Board on the grounds of economy. That is the most incredible statement I have ever heard. The board will deal not only with the destiny of 60,000 or 70,000 farmers but also with a wheat crop valued at not less than £50,000,000 this year. The representatives of the growers have customarily been paid, I think, £500 a year, plus travelling expenses.
– Travelling expenses amount to £1,000 a year each.
– Whatever the expenses amount to, I think the pay is £500 a year. The board has to deal with, a crop worth £50,000,000. Yet the argument is advanced that the country cannot aff ord -one more board member because he would cost an additional £500 a year. No more amazing objection could ever bc raised to such a reasonable proposal as is contained in the amendment. Coming from a Western Australian” it is even more, astounding, because if there is one State that needs development and expansion it is Western Australia, and to the wheat industry it must look for that development and expansion. Yet, when confronted with a proposal by the .Government that Western Australia, which grows about one-fifth of the total Australian wheat production, is to have no more representation than .Queensland, which grows about one two-hundredth, the honorable member for Forrest protests against more representation for his State on the paltry ground of economy. All I can say is that the honorable gentleman Ls desperate for excuses when he has to fall back on that one.
– Wait till I tell my fellow farmers about’ it. I shall be back here with a bigger majority than before.
– Let the honorable gentleman tell them the best he can. I tell him and his farmer constituents that the destiny of the Western Australian wheat industry is involved in this bill which is brought before the Parliament in an absolutely purposeless manner, because it has been already decided, as . the Minister has said, not -by the elected representatives of the Australian people o.r the wheatgrowers, but by a political body, the Australian Agricultural Council, which, by process of bargaining, has decided on a certain draft bill. That bill is accepted by the Minister and is taken to the Labour caucus, and it, acting blindly and bound as it is always bound, says, “Eight, we take the bill, the whole bill, and nothing but the bill “. The result is that the wheat-growers of Australia are to be shackled for not less than five years to a measure of which apparently not one comma can be altered. If ever a reasonable proposal was made it is the proposal, on which we are about to vote, that the representation of the “Western Australian wheat-growers shall be increased by one in order to give them the same representation as is to be given to the Victorian wheat-growers, and thus possibly lessen the disadvantages that they suffer in the disparity of distance from the centre of government and in the management of their affairs. I regret that the Minister is adamant in his refusal to accept the amendment, and that the representatives of the wheat-growers are so blind in their obedience.
– Members of the Opposition are deliberately stone-walling this bill. First, th© honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) moved that the representation of South Australia on the Australian Wheat Board should be increased from one to two members. When that amendment was defeated, the honorable gentleman moved that the representation of Western Australia on the board be increased from one. to two members.
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to inform the Minister that you instructed me, against my wishes, to submit my amendments seriatim ‘ instead of in one motion. I resent the suggestion that, in obeying the direction of the Chair, I am stonewalling this clause
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).That is not a point of order. It is true the the honorable member for - Barker desired to submit his three amendments in one motion, but the Chair, in accord ance with the practice of this chamber, . requested him to submit them seriatim.
– The Minister should apologize.
– I am in no doubt regarding the intentions of honorable members opposite. The Opposition is definitely stone-walling this bill, and indulging in political sharp-shooting. Ithopes to trap the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) into voting against the clause in its present form. The first amendment which the honorable member for Barker proposed, was defeated on the voices. Evidently he did not consider that the amendment was of sufficient importance to warrant his calling for a division. The arguments which the Opposition has advanced against - this clause are mere “ moonshine””, and honorable members opposite know it. Their attitude toward the Australian Wheat Board has always been hypocritical. When they were in office and appointed the members of the original board, they overlooked entirely the representation of the wheat-growers, but they did not forget to give to their masters, the vested interests of Australia, a majority of members on the board.. So” much for the sincerity of the Australian Country party! Now, honorable members opposite are attempting to bluff the honorable member for Forrest and the honorable member for Swan into voting for the amendment. Long ago, wheatgrowers expressed their contempt for the Australian Country party by defeating its candidates in wheat-growing constituencies and. for the Senate. After the last elections’ the Australian ‘Country party did not retain one seat in Western Australia. That is an indication of the contempt in which it is held by the wheatgrowers in that State.
– I deeply resent the statement of the Minister (Mr. Scully) that the Opposition is stone-walling this bill. Every honorable member is entitled to express his opinion on this clause, provided he is not bound by some .party obligation which prevents him from uttering his true thoughts. The Minister probably found it necessary to speak as he did in order to stiffen the attitude of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy), who know that the clause, as drafted, is inimical to the best interests of Western Australia. The Minister’s reflection upon the sincerity of members of the Opposition by accusing them of stone-walling the bill, which deal? with £50,000,000 worth of produce, is too silly for words. The honorable gentleman recalled what was done in war-time to market the wheat harvest. But never before has a government told the wheat-growers: “ We shall retain almost one-half of the overseas price at which your wheat was sold “. When the Government acts in that” manner, the grower is entitled to effective representation on the Australian Wheat Board. The Minister has already heard the views of the honorable member for Forrest and the honorable member for Swan, namely, that, the composition of the board could be improved. They did not believe that New South Wales and Victoria- should have a greater numerical representation on the board than South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland have. Whilst they were prepared to reduce the representation of New South Wales and Victoria, they were not willing to increase the representation of South Australia and Western Australia. I do ‘not want to explain away the position for them. ‘ They will have enough to do to explain it away themselves, but I voice my resentment at the Minister’s accusation that the Opposition is stone-walling the bill.. .
.- The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) would go well on the auction block.
– The honorable member for Swan would go well on the. chopping block.
– I shall disappoint the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), because I shall be re-elected. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) are astute politicians. The honorable member for Barker is endeavouring to get “ on side “ with the wheat-growers in his electorate and to put the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) and myself “ off side “ with our constituents. If the honorable gentleman thinks that it required the speech of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) to stiffen our attitude, or that he cam cause a split among honorable memberson this side of the chamber, he should think again. We recognize that the amendment has been moved for political purposes. When the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who represents the banana-growers, considers that the wheat-growing State of Western Australia should be given another representative on the Australian Wheat Board, I immediately become suspicious of the whole proposal. The representation of New South Wales and Victoria might be reduced. It is- true that in the export season when the price of wheat is high,, the exporting States of South Australia and Western Australia will contribute to> the. stabilization fund; but when pricesdecline, the wheat-consuming States of New South Wales and Victoria will contribute a greater amount to the fund.
– That is not correct.
– It is. On present indications, the home consumption price of 5s. 2d. a bushel will be very valuable to wheat-growers in future. Honorable members on this side of the chamber will not “ fall “ for this obvious, political propaganda of the Opposition. We are convinced that the bill is sound, although it may be improved at a later date in. agreement with the States. Perhaps the time will come -when the people of Australia will realize that if the National Parliament is to pass national legislation,, it must be granted full sovereign- powers.
, - The attitude adopted by the honorable member for Forrest and the honorable member for Swan to the proposal of the honorable member for Barker that Western Australia should be granted’ an additional representative on the Australian Wheat Board is most extraordinary. For years, we have heard” about the disabilities which Western Australia suffers. Fifteen years ago thosedisabilities were regarded so seriously by- “Western Australians that a strong movement developed to secede from the Commonwealth. It is extraordinary that the two representatives of Western Australian wheat-growers should vote contrary to the best interests of their State. Their wheatgrower constituents are “ sweating blood “ in an almost superhuman effort to produce this vital staple commodity, wheat; but honorable members opposite deny to them the right to have an additional representative on the Australian Wheat Board. The disabilities of Western Australia will be further emphasized as the result of this opposition by those Judases who have turned down their farmer constituents.
Government members interjecting,
– I have always found that when people behave in a shocking manner and betray the interests that they are supposed to represent, they act like the squid, and create an inky screen to conceal their actions. Honorable members opposite are trying to shout me down. The Minister had no right to say that honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber were attempting to stone-wall the bill. Actually, we are looking after the interests of the wheat-growers of Western Australia, who were betrayed so badly this afternoon by their representatives, the honorable member for Forrest and the honorable member for Swan. I hope that the people of Western Australia, willrealize that, because of the steamrollercaucus method, their cause has to be pleaded here by members of the Opposition.
.- Before I left the Hotel Kurrajong this morning, I was informed that the “ works would be turned on “ to-day. Members of the Opposition have “ turned on the works “ for political purposes. They have brought a political football into this contest this afternoon. If I were their captain, I would sack them on the spot. They are dressing their political window, but it is a very shoddy window. At the. forthcoming elections they will get the sack even more decisively than they received it in 1943. I have no hesitation in saying that when honorable members opposite are called upon to give, an account of their stewardship in this chamber the wheat-growers will deal with them most effectively.
– I strongly resent the statement of the Minister (Mr. Scully) that members of the Opposition are stonewalling this measure and attempting to trap certain honorable gentlemen opposite who represent Western Australian constituencies.
– That is what is being done, and the honorable member knows it.
– I have listened to the honorable gentlemen who have spoken on the amendment, and it is quite untrue that they were stonewalling. But, without any coaxing, I intend to stand up for distant Western Australia, which, in some respects at least, has an affinity with Queensland. We intend to do our best to see that the wheat-growers of Western Australia are . treated fairly. The wheat industry of that State is one of its most important activities; it certainly involves more hard work than any other. The members of the Australian Country party believe that the wheat-farmers of Western Australia should have equal representation on the Australian Wheat Board with the farmers of the eastern States in which approximately the same quantity of wheat is grown each season. If this subject be considered calmly it will be realized that the Government’s proposal is iniquitous. The Minister has said that the constitution of the Australian Wheat Board’ was agreed toby the States. That is not so. It was agreed to at a conference of Ministers of Agriculture who were advised by under secretaries or other officers of State Departments of Agriculture. To my mind that is not fair. The farmers of Western Australia should not be deprived of fair representation because of the decision of such a conference. No agreement has been made by the various State governments on this matter. The most that can be said is that the Ministers for Agriculture, acting on the advice of public servants, reached an agreement. Such agreements should not be binding on this Parliament. If they are to be binding, they should not be made. The Minister has stated that he will not agree to the amendment and that the agreement reached at the conference of Ministers of Agriculture must be embodied in the bill. In other words, the honorable gentleman has a throat-hold on the members of his party and, in particular, on the representatives of two wheat:growing constituencies in “Western Australia. Any one can see with half an eye that those honorable gentlemen are in an unfortunate position. However, the Opposition is prepared to help them in this matter.
.- The people of Western Australia, who are suddenly receiving some consideration from members of the Opposition, are wise in their political - judgment, and they will clearly understand that the foolish purpose of honorable gentlement’ opposite is to embarrass the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon). The Australian Country party has maintained a consistent opposition to this bill for the stabilization of the wheat industry. I have ho doubt that the two .honorable gentlemen , to whom I have referred wish that Western Australia could be given more representation on. the Australian Wheat Board, but they also are well aware that the wheat-growers of that State are so insistent in their demand for a~ wheat stabilization scheme that they would strongly resent any delay in giving effect to this plan. Members of the Australian Country party hope that by the adoption of these delaying tactics they -may he able to prevent the passage of the bill until after the elections. They also hope for a change of government and then, probably, stabilization would be forgotten. The wheat-growers of Australia have little to hove for from members pf the Australian Country party who, through the years, have failed to fulfil their promises to stabilize the wheat industry or to justify the allegiance of farmers to the Australian Country party. In consequence, its’ representatives have been scourged from the wheat-growing electorates. It cannot be denied that any delay in the “ passage ‘ of this bill will be detrimental to the wheat-growing industry. The farmers, therefore, will prefer a speedy passage for the measure. They realize that they will be able . subsequently to take any action they think necessary to review its provisions. The honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Forrest will not be embarrassed in their electorates by the tactics of the Australian Country party. I am’ sure that the passage of the bill will confer substantial .benefits on the wheat industry.
.- I take strong exception to the statement of the Minister that the members of the Australian Country party are stonewalling the bill. You, Mr. Chairman, must be well aware that the call has been given during this discussion to Opposition and Government supporters in strict rotation, which indicates clearly that we have not been stone-walling. We are concerned about this measure because of its grave implications in relation to the wheat industry.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause.
– I am replying to the statements of the Minister, who said that the amendment of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) to increase the representation of Western Australia on the Australian Wheat Board from one to two members had been moved to embarrass the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy). That is not the position. We consider that Western Australia is entitled to equal representation with New South Wales and Victoria. In any case, what is to prevent the honorable gentlemen to whom I have referred from voting in favour of the amendment if they are free men, as they should be in this Parliament ? The Minister knows, however, that they are bound by the iron rules of the party to which they belong.. Every member of the Labour party is required to vote according to caucus instructions. If the -honorable gentlemen believe that Western Australia should have two representatives on the board they should assert their freedom and vote for the amendment, but the Minister has said that they will vote against it. He has said in effect that they will be compelled to vote against it.
– I made no such statement. Why does not the honorable gentleman keep to the truth?
– I desire to be fair to the Minister, and if I have misrepresented him I am prepared to make amends. I understood, the honorable gentleman to say that the amendment had been moved in order to place the honorable member for Forrest and the honorable member for Swan in an embarrassing position.
– I said that honorable gentlemen opposite were trying to do this.
-It is only necessary to look at the faces of the two honorable members to judge whether they are embarrassed or not. I do not believe that the honorable members will be “ game “ to cross the floor and vote for the amendment, but I challenge them to do so. That will be a test of their sincerity. A greater acreage of wheat is sown usually in Western Australia than in Victoria, and the wheat industry is of primary importance to the economy of Western Australia. I consider, therefore, that the State should have greater representation. The vote that will be taken in a few minutes will demonstrate whether Labour representatives of country constituencies can exercise freedom of conscience, or whether they must vote according to the decision of their party.
.- There are no wheat-growers in my electorate; but there are wheat-eaters who are interested in the organized marketing of wheat and the general prosperity of farmers. Certain members of the Opposition have talked about the embarrassment of certain Labour representatives of country constituencies in Western Australia. The gravamen of their charge against the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) is that he is not providing adequate representation of Western Australia on the Australian Wheat Board. I ask those honorable gentlemen whether they desire representation for bags of wheat, broad acres, or human beings in the persons of wheatfarmers.
– If that is so the amendment must be described as being totally unfair. I put my question very clearly. I asked whether the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) desired representation of bags of wheat, broad acres, or human beings in the persons of farmers, and these honorable gentlemen who are attempting to make such political capital out of this subject, immediately fell into the trap and assured me that they desired representation for the farmers. That being so, the amendment is, in. my opinion, totally dishonest and improper. In New South Wales, 19,000 growers are to have two representatives, in Victoria 14,000 growers are to have two representatives, and in Western Australia8,000 growers are to have one representative. If the representation of Western Australia were doubled that would be totally unfair to the growers in those other two States. Do honorable members opposite want to conserve the interests of the wheat-growers, of bags of wheat, or of broad acres? Do they want to revert to the conservatism of Old England’s electoral boundaries, under which there were rotten boroughs, and members of Parliament represented piles of rocks? We are living in a modern age, and in what is allegedly a democracy. Honorable members opposite claim that the representation of 8,000 growers in Western Australia should be equal to that of 19,000 growers in New South Wales.
– How many growers are there in Queensland?
– Four thousand.
– How many are there in South Australia?
-Twelve thousand. Does the honorable member for Corangamite object to Queensland having a representative ?
– Very well, then; 4,000 growers in Queensland are to have one representative. On a truly propor-, tional basis, Western Australia would have two representatives, South Australia three representatives,. Victoria three and a half representatives, and New South Wales four and four-fifths representatives. The board would then be not only unweildy, but also more unbalanced than under the proposal of the Government. If honorable members opposite claim that 4,000 growers in Queensland are entitled to one representative, they must also admit that, as a human being cannot be reduced to fractions, the growers of New South Wales should have five representatives. On the basis of growers, not the number of bags or the acreage, the amendment proposes a totally unfairrepresentation, because it would give to Western Australia, with 8,000 growers, the same representation as it would give to New South Wales with 19,000 growers, and to Victoria with 14,000 growers.
– Under the amendment, New South Wales would have an additional member.
– It is all very well to chide the honorable members for Swan and Forrest because they avoided falling into thetrap that was set for them. They have plainly told the committee that they represent growers, not bags of wheat. The farmers of their State, as human units in the industry, will be treated equitably, compared with the representation laid down in the bill for the farmers in other States. Those who want to provide representation for broad acres and bags of wheat will vote for the amendment.
. -My reason for rising is to answer the specious argument of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). If he is correct, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) is incorrect. The Minister stated in his second-reading speech that there are between 60,000and 70,000 wheat-growers in the Australian wheat industry. The honorable member for Dalley based his argument on a total of 57,000 growers- 19,000 in New South Wales, 14,000 in Victoria, 12,000 in South Australia,8,000 in Western Australia and 4,000 in Queensland - and stated that the representation was two representatives each for New South Wales and Victoria and’ one representative each for South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland. On the illogical basis of his argument, South Australia is being very badly treated compared with Western Australia. He, and those who are trying to extricate themselves from the very difficult position in which they have been placed by the amendment, have overlooked one point. It must be appreciated that this wheat stabilization scheme will be dependent entirely on the exports of wheat from Australia. The stabilization fund is to be built up by having paid into it one-half of the difference between the fixedhome consumption price of 5s. 2d. a bushel and whateverpricemay be received for wheat exported. It cannot be denied that Western Australia and South Australia are responsible for the bulk of our exports.
– That is not correct.
– In order to determine what is proper and just representation, we must ascertain how many of the 57,000 growers mentioned by the honorable member for Dalley are exporters. The amendment was framed, and has been presented, on that basis. The statistics given by the honorable member for ‘ Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) are indisputable. Western Australia has the largest proportion of the growers who, as exporters of wheat, will be directly responsible for the stabilization fund. The amendment is designed to give representation to those who rightly deserve it. Honorable members from Western Australia have to decide whether they will support those growers.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Archie Cameron’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr. W. J. F. . RlORDAN.)
Majority . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I now move the amendment that was temporarily withdrawn earlier this afternoon -
That, in sub-clause (2.), paragraph (i), after the words “ Western Australia “, the following words be inserted: - “who shall hold office for three years from the date of their . appointment “.
The purpose of the amendment is to provide in the legislation itself that the representatives of the growers shall sit for a known period of time. I wish to make” effective the principle of growerrepresentation. The essential feature of representation, whether it .he of the wheatgrowers on a’ board, or of the public in Parliament, is that those who do the choosing’ shall have an opportunity at stated intervals to indicate whether they are satisfied with their chosen representatives, “-‘ or ‘.whether they wish to change them. This bill does not give to the growers1 recurring opportunities to express their- opinion of their representatives; . ‘T accept the interpretation of the Minister, that, sub-clause 3’ could be construed to permit of the promulgation of regulations’ ito -fix the conditions of election and; T think the Minister said, the period- for- “which representatives would be elected.. That is satisfactory up to a point. It is unsatisfactory only in that it does not ensure that the representatives of the growers shall hold’ office for a specified time only. In short, it will still rest with the Minister of the day to give tq the growers a short period of representation or a long one.
– The period could be prescribed in the regulations, and be indicated at the time of the election.
– That is true, but by the same token, at any time during that period another regulation could be promulgated to alter it. The growers should not be in any sense dependent upon the goodwill of the Minister, so far as their representation is concerned. The elected representatives can function effectively only if they are dependent for their positions entirely upon those who . elected them, but that principle is denied in the bill. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) has already spoken on this sub-clause. We know that he has for some time acted as an assistant to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Indeed, he has many times been referred in the press as the Assistant Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– And he has done a good job, too.
– I have no doubt that he has virtually acted as assistant to the Minister, and, in the Minister’s opinion has done a good job. The honorablemember for Ballarat said that paragraph a of sub-clause 2 provided for the appointment of a chairman and a member to represent the flour millers, and that they would be appointed by, and hold office during the pleasure of, the Minister. He said that that was a good arrangement, so why should it hot apply to the representative of the growers, also? That t opinion should be considered in conjunction with the honorable member’s known association with the genesis of. ‘the bill, because at the time he was acting virtually as., Assistant Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. If the opinion which he has expressed is to be regarded as the official opinion of the Government, I cannot disagree with it too strongly.
– It is exactly the same principle as- the honorable member, and governments of which he was a member, adhered to.
– The honorable member is not wholly correct in that statement. The first wheat board was appointed by a government with which I . was not connected, but it is true that I was connected with other governments which continued the appointment. However, I am not now discussing my previous actions, the support which I gave to this government or that,1 or my sins of omission of years ago. I am prepared to argue all those matters, but this is neither the place nor the time. I am concerned now with the future of the wheat industry, and no interjection is going to divert me from discussing it. Positions on the wheat board are positions of pay and privilege which are quite understandably sought after. They. are worth up to £500 a year, and carry with them comfortable allowances in addition. Experience has shown that the interests of the wheat-growers, or their idea of where their interests lie, are not always identical with the wishes of the govern-‘ ment of the day, whatever it may be. If the representatives of the growers are to hold office at ‘ the will of the Minister, if they know that the first time they seriously disagree with him they will lose their jobs, then they cease to be representatives of the growers and become representatives of the Minister. All that need not have been said if the honor.able member for Ballarat had not spoken. He is a more forthright man than some politicians, and he, with his association with the origins of the bill, has said in his direct style what he believes in. A few months hence - though God forbid - he may be Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Then we shall .have a Minister who has already proclaimed himself to be in favour of the principle that the representatives of the growers , should hold office only as long as they do not offend the Minister of the day. That is entirely opposed to my idea of what should be the position of men supposed to represent primary producers on board’s which handle their affairs. Since this issue has been confused by statements of conflicting opinion as between the Minister and his assistant, there is only one way in which to resolve it - namely, to write. into the bill my amendment which will put beyond doubt that the growers’ representatives have been elected to hold office for a definite period. Then, if they feel it to be their duty in the interest “of those who elected them, they will be able to express disagreement with the Minister of the day without fearing the consequences of his displeasure. ‘ I said previously that I thought three years was a fair period for representatives to hold office, but on that I am prepared to compromise with the Minister. He regarded three years as a reasonable period. On that issue we do not seem to be in disagreement. I see no reason why this amendment should not be accepted. On the contrary there is every justification why it should be embodied in the clause.
. -I support the amendment. It is only just that the representatives on the board should be appointed for a definite term and that they should have an opportunity at its expiration to demonstrate that they have acted iri the interests of those whom they represent. If members of the board are to hold office at the pleasure of the Minister the board will do nothing more than rubber stamp the Minister’s decisions on. matters of vital concern. Such a proposal corresponds admirably to the socialistic and Communist conception of the State being everything and the individual nothing, and is opposed to the basic principles of the freedom we enjoy and about which we boast so much. The representatives of the producers should act in the best interests of the producers and if necessary should oppose any interference on the part of the Minister. The Minister should not be able to exercise dictatorial powers in that way, and accordingly I support the amendment.
– The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) stated that if a representative were appointed to the board for a period of three years he might at the expiration of his appointment merely have learned a job only to find himself replaced by some one else at a time when events of the highest importance to the industry were pending. All members of the board, including the chairman, should be appointed for a definite term and not merely hold office at the pleasure of the Minister. They could then be called upon to give an account of their stewardship at the expiration of their terms of office. For that reason I support the amendment.
Amendment negatived. , Mr. McEWEN (Indi) [4.43].- I move -
That, at the end of the clause, the following sub-clause be added:- “ (f>. ) The representatives of the wheatgrowers shall- be entitled to make reasonable reports to wheat-growers relative to the progress of marketing operations.”.
The right of the growers’ representatives to report on the progress of marketing operations has on several occasions been questioned. As the growers’ representatives on the board will be dealing with the realization of a commodity owned by those who elected them, surely they should be entitled to report from time to time the progress achieved by the board when growers’ representatives have commented on the prospects of the realization of wheat pools, or on current marketing operations, they have been charged with breaking faith. Surely the custodians of the property of their fellow wheat-growers, worth many millions of pounds, should not have to regard themselves as members of a secret society. They cannot usefully perform the functions of their office if they are bound to secrecy. I can see no provision in the bill which binds them to secrecy, and I do not expect the Minis- ter to say that they are so bound; but I should like to put the matter beyond doubt.
– I regret that I am unable to accept the amendment. The decision as to what publicity should be given to the operations of the board should be left to -the discretion of the board, and reports should be issued through the chairman. If the amendment were carried there would be a danger that a board member might intentionally or unintentionally disclose confidential information and so confer a great’ advantage ‘on wheat merchants or speculators, not only in Australia, but also in other part? of the world where we were seeking markets for. our wheat. From time to time the board should determine what information should be made public and that information might then be published, or otherwise conveyed to the wheat-growers.
– I appreciate the reasons advanced by the Minister (Mr. Scully) against the amendment; but- there is also another viewpoint, namely, that growers should receive reasonable reports from time to time in order that their confidence might be retained. It is the practice of the Peanut Board, with which I am associated, to convene at least two meetings a year at which the whole position of the industry is frankly discussed with the growers. ‘ Certain, grower-controlled organizations in Queensland admit the press to their meetings, and there is a good deal of opposition if a board member opposes the issue of an invitation to the press to be present. I do not suggest that the press should be invited to meetings of the Australian Wheat Board, because, after all, the board is engaged in a confidential business, the details of which it may be unwise to publicize. I suggest that the wording of the amendment might be varied slightly to provide that reasonable information may be passed on to growers by their representatives.
– Does not the honorable member believe that it would be better for such information to be passed on by the chairman at the discretion of the board? I am sure that the Peanut Board operates in that way. The honorable member would bo loath to agree that every member of the Peanut Board should be free to hand out information, the publication of which might prejudice the successful operation of the industry.
– Grower members of the Peanut Board are elected from three districts, and each of them gives a resume. to the growers in his district. I trust the Minister does not imply that a member of the Australian Wheat Board should not give to the growers in his own State at least a general outline of the position of the industry?
– He should do it only with the approval of the board.
– He should have the right to give anything but confidential information to those whose interests he represents.
.- I admit the force of some of the arguments advanced against the .amendment by the Minister. My sole desire was that the representatives of the growers should be able to function most effectively in the interests of the growers themselves, and to be entitled to indicate from time to time the progress made in the realization of the pools. It is true that a member of the board may, through inexperience, unwittingly reveal some information which might prejudice the board in its competitive marketing operations vis-a-vis some foreign country. I am accordingly willing to alter the wording of my amendment to provide that the board shall make reasonable -reports to wheat-growers relative to the progress of marketing operations. That would remove responsibility from the individual board member and place it upon the board as a whole. The suggestion of the Minister that discretion in this matter should be left to the chairman violates the principle of grower representation. It is futile to have what purports to be a grower-controlled board if in the charter of that body there are incorporated conditions which preventthe board from functioning properly, either in its corporate entity or through its individual members. Behind the facade of a grower-controlled board is the provision that the Minister, or his spokesman,’ the chairman of the board, who shall be appointed by and. shall hold office during the pleasure of the Minister, shall be the authority on every issue of any consequence, because the suggestion of the Minister is that only he or the chairman shall release information about the realizations of various pools. That principle is applied throughout the bill. That makes the board a hollow sham. The phrase “ grower-controlled “ rolls easily off the tongue of honorable gentlemen opposite; but how can the board be grower-controlled- w”hen its operations are subject to ministerial direction. The existing board has not, and the proposed board will not have, power over two matters of the greatest consequence to the growers, namely, the price of their grain and their entitlement to grow wheat. The Minister, as the representative of the Government, will determine both the price of wheat and the number of acres that may be sown by individual growers. The alleged grower-controlled board will have no say on either matter.
– The non-Labour Government did not give the growers control ‘ of the board that it set up.
– Neither did we have this autocratic background which con verts the board into nothing but a pa’per sham. I do not .want to become heated.
– The honorable member is heated when he makes statements that are not correct. He knows quite well that the background of the proposed board is no’ different from that of the board which was constituted by the Government qf which he was a member. To imply that it is different is merely propaganda!
– The comparison that the Minister seeks to make is not valid because the Australian Wheat .Board that was set up by the Government with which I was associated dealt with’, the. marketing pf wheat for which there was no prospect of shipping and’ for the sale and financing of which the Treasury accepted 100 per cent, responsibility. That is the kind of board that was first set up, as the Minister well knows. That board rightly acted in an. advisory capacity. In the then circumstances no treasury could dissociate itself from control of the board’s affairs. Now the circumstances are completely different. I do not want the growers’ to be’ led into thinking that they can compare the circumstances of those days with those not only of to-day but also of the next five years, the minimum period in which this legislation is to .operate. The Commonwealth Treasury- will incur no financial liability in respect of the wheat, the sale of which will be managed by the Australian Wheat Board under this legislation. The new board is to handle the property of free men. The majority of its members are to be elected by free men. All I ask in the amendment is that their representatives shall be free individually to report to them. The
Minister has said that one of them might, through inexperience or inadvertence, make a mistake and release information that he should not release. I accept that as a possibility. So I meet the Minister by saying that the board itself in its corporate discretion shall be free to report to the wheat-growers on the progress of marketing operations. If the Minister will accept that I shall ask leave to withdraw the amendment and substitute in favour one that had that as its purpose.
– I am prepared to accept neither the amendment nor the qualification of it suggested by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), but I am prepared to have regulations drafted to give the board discretion to disseminate any news it thinks fit to the growers’ organizations.
– That substantially meets my point.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (State Committees).
.- In my speech on the second reading I asked that the growers-controlled Queensland Wheat Board be the State committee under this legislation. I understood the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) to say on clause 4 that it would be. If that is so, I shall be happy, because the Queensland board has a splendid record of service in stabilizing the marketing of the wheat crop in Queensland. In the nineteen years in which it has operated it has returned to the growers an average of 4s. 5d. a bushel, notwithstanding gluts’ and the depression, when Queensland was flooded with wheat imported from the southern States. I should like the Minister to confirm that he intends to recognize its work by appointing it as the State committee.
– At the last meeting of the Agricultural Council the assurance was given to the Queensland Minister for Agriculture and to the representatives of the Queensland wheat- growers that the Queensland board would not be interfered with. It will be the State Committee in Queensland assisting the federal body. I agree with everything the honorable gentleman has said about it. It has rendered a useful service during the war.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.
Clause10- (1.) The Board may, for the purposes of the export of wheat and wheat products, the interstate marketing of wheat and the marketing of wheat in the Territories of the Commonwealth - (2.) The Board shall have and perforin all the duties, and shall have and may exercise, in relation to the wheat harvested in any wheat season up to and including the 1945-46 season, all the powers, authorities and functions, of the Australian Wheat Board established by the National Security (Wheat Acquisition ) Regulations, and for that purpose -
Board so established shall, by force of this Act, be vested in the Board;
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), after the word “may” the following words be inserted: - “ subject. to any directions of the Minister”.
The amendment provides for power of direction by the Minister. The principle involved is one which is well recognized ; but it may be desirable now to explain the reasons for it briefly, because they are often not understood. First, we are dealing with a foodstuff of primary importance. It is important from the viewpoint of local supply, of our export trade, and of the world’s needs. In dealing with wheat the Minister concerned must be directly responsible to the Parliament. The second point arises from the present world food crisis, and the action necessary by governments to meet it. Foodstuffs must be so allocated as to give the greatest possible measure of relief. The action to be taken involves high policy and direct negotiations between governments. The Cabinet must take the responsibility for that policy. It is one in which ordinary commercial considerations are fitted into a wider field, and here again the Government must be directly responsible to the Parliament. The third point arises because of our Federal Constitution. This is a joint Commonwealth and State plan, and the wheat concerned is grown within the borders of the States, and marketed under State law. Matters of policy involving Commonwealth arid State Governments will need decision from time to time, and those matters must be settled by the governments. On these matters the responsible Ministers must assume responsibility before their parliaments.
This bill deliberately sets up a monopoly in wheat marketing. The reasons, for doing so are sound, but they do carry an obligation that it will not be an uncontrolled monopoly. The responsible Minister must answer to the Parliament for the actions of the board, and must have the right to ensure that its operations shall be conducted in the interests of both the wheat-grower, who is to benefit directly, and the public, who must be assured of fair treatment at all times. Finally, it will be noted that there are included powers of the board in regard to cornsacks and a very wide range of other matters. Some of these are subject to Commonwealth policy from year to year, and that policy may change. They are mattersof convenience, not of- principle, and so must be subject to variations if any variation does become desirable.
Those briefly are the principles involved. The war-time procedure is being followed and it has proved sound in its operation. The effect is that the board will perform its legitimate function, but the responsibility rests squarely on the Minister who has to answer to the Parliament.
– The Minister’s amendment adds great force to the criticism of former clauses by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), because, under the amendment, the Minister, not the board, is to be the real authority. As things stood, without the amendment, the board was to have been empowered to do some extraordinary things. Now the board is to be able to do these extraordinary things subject to the direction of the Minister. Let us examine some of the extraordinary things that the Minister may order the board to do. If” amended as proposed, sub-clause 1 of clause 10 will read -
The Board may, subject to any directions of the Minister, for the purposes of the export of wheat and wheat products, the interstate marketing of wheat and the marketing of wheat territories of the Commonwealth -
Why the distinction between the export of wheat and wheat products in the one case, and the interstate marketing of wheat and the marketing of wheat in. the Territories of the Commonwealth in the other? Is it not just . as necessary to empower the board to control the ‘ interstate marketing of wheat and the marketing of wheat in the Territories of the Commonwealth “, as it is to give to it that authority in the export field? That matter requires clarification. Paragraph ft of sub-clause 1 contains an extraordinary statement. The board may - purchase or otherwise acquire any wheat, wheat products, corn sacks, jute or jute products.
I should like to know what the difference is between “ purchase “ and “ acquisition “. If you purchase an article, that is one method of obtaining it. If the Government acquires it, then, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, it must pay a just price for it, and, in. addition, the acquisition must be for a Commonwealth purpose. But this bill does not suggest that the acquisition of wheat, wheat products, cornsacks, jute or jute products will be for Commonwealth purposes. Those purposes can only be to the extent that it is necessary to enable the board to perform certain functions. The matter of jute products requires serious consideration. If the board is empowered to purchase not only cornsacks but also jute and jute products, it will be able to purchase every wool bale and every sack needed for sugar, potatoes, bran or chaff. . The power is entirely disproportionate to the requirements of the board, and should not be granted. “ “Wheat products ;; must include flour, bran and pollard. I ask the Minister whether the Government proposes that the Australian “Wheat Board shall be the sole authority to trade in wheat, flour, bran and pollard overseas. If the answer lie in the affirmative, why is the distinction made between overseas and interstate marketing and marketing within the Territories of the Commonwealth? I refer again to the distinction between “’ purchase “ and “ acquire “. Does “ acquire “ mean that you trade in some way, work an exchange or effect a “ swop “ of a certain quantity of wheat for a certain number of cornsacks? Does it mean that, in order to acquire certain cornsacks for the use of the wheat trade, the board may offer thousands of bushels of Australian wheat in Calcutta?
Paragraph c of sub-clause 1 provides that the board may - grist or arrange for the gristing of any wheat and sell or otherwise dispose of the products of the gristing;
I should like to know whether this power means that the board shall have authority to acquire by purchase, lease, rent, or some other means, flour-mills for the the gristing of wheat. Paragraph d provides that the board may - manage and control all matters connected with the handling, storage, protection, treatment, transfer or shipment of any wheat or wheat products purchased or acquired by the board or of any wheat or wheat products sold or disposed of by the Board.
Finally, paragraph e states that the board may - do all matters which it is required by this Act to do or which are necessary or convenient to be done by the Board for giving effect to this Act.
These matters, which are of considerable importance, require explanation before we agree to the clause in its present form.
– Does not the honorable member understand the distinction between “ purchase “ and “ acquire “ ?
– I do not know the reason for the use of the two words when only one is intended.
– If you acquire something, you obtain it at a just price. If you purchase it you might be robbed.
– I direct the attention of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) to the clause which provides that the farmers shall contribute to the stabilization fund, when prices are high, not more than 50 per cent, of the amount by which the export price exceeds the guaranteed minimum price. If you acquire wheat on just terms you must give to the grower the full realization price of his product.
– Does the honorable member realize that this clause is almost’ exactly the same as the provision- contained in the present National Security Regulations? ‘
– The honorable member for Dalley does not offer a satisfactory explanation when he says that the clause is almost the same as the provision in the National Security Regulations. I have examined those regulations one by one. I remind the honorable member that the National Security Regulations were framed for the purposes of war, and those purposes should not be continued in peace-time: Since the honorable member has raised this matter, I point out that the National Security Regulations are promulgated under the National Security Act. When that act expires the National Security Regulations will automatically cease to operate. It is a ‘very slipshod method of drafting legislation to insert in a bill a provision that certain National Security Regulations, without stipulating what they are, shall be the law of the land. I am sure that the very acute and astute mind of the honorable member for Dalley must have noticed the difference between the two methods employed. Clause 11 simply states that the National Security (Wheat Acquisition) Regulations in force to-day shall be the law of the land, but clause 10 follows a different procedure. As the honorable member for Dalley showed, the Government has made certain distinctions and alterations. I should like to know, for my own information, what explanation the Minister can offer.
.- It seems incredible to me that the Minister (Mr; Scully) should submit this amendment almost as an afterthought, because it is the. fundamental feature of the whole bill. I can only assume that the words contained in the amendment were omitted by a- typographical error or by some curious oversight. The amendment cannot be explained as an afterthought resulting from a change of policy. Clause 10 is the operative clause of this bill. It sets out the powers of the board. All the other clauses are machinery. But clause 10 provides for the establishment of the Australian Wheat Board to act for the wheat-growers in the realization of their product. In. this country, we have been accustomed to a way of life under which, within the law, a man can offer his services or engage in production and be free to sell his product or services. For reasons with which we all are familiar, we know that general conditions require that those engaged in certain industries shall be bound together collectively to dispose of their product, as men bind themselves together in unions for the purpose of disposing of their labour. The bill proposes that wheat-growers shall be bound together to dispose of the product of their labour. The essence of the whole arrangement is that the man’s own labour, whether it be eight hours’ work a day or be converted into bushels of wheat, is his to dispose of as he chooses. It is merely a matter of economic necessity that all political parties in this Parliament have agreed that, the time has come to regulate and organize the disposal of wheat. The amendment which the Minister has moved is designed to provide that the product of the wheat-growers shall be in every respect subject to the direction of the Minister of the day. In short, it represents a complete form of socialization of industry. The effect of the amendment will be that when a wheat-grower produces his grain, it shall immediately become the property of a government authority; and as soon as it becomes the property of that government authority, the wheat may not be sold, disposed of or handled in any way except with the approval of the Minister. In Soviet Russia, there is nothing more authoritarian than that. I am completely averse to the principle inherent in the amendment, and the condition of affairs that it is designed to establish. I point out to the House, the wheat-growers and the even-wider audience that is interested, that this proposal reveals the basic political attitude of the Government towards the property of individuals. This approach is completely revolutionary. When men have their labour to sell, the law permits them to bind themselves together in their trade unions and even wider associations, but at least it does provide that an impartial tribunal - the
Conciliation and Arbitration Court - shall adjudicate on the terms and conditions upon which their product shall be sold. In this instance, the Minister will be the only adjudicator. Stalin thought of nothing more autocratic than that.
When we compare the proposal with the publically propounded policy of the Labour party, we find either the essence of contradiction or the essence of hypocrisy. The Labour party propounded the principle of marketing boards upon which there should be a majority of producers. Very well! The Australian Wheat Board will have a majority of producers. In its written and spoken policy, the Labour party always advocates grower-controlled boards, but the amendment is a complete abrogation of that policy. This is a proposal to establish a sham board behind which tha Minister will exercise al) authority over the wheat-growing industry and the wheat which is the property of the growers. Is a man to be free to grow wheat ? No ! He must apply to the stabilization board for a licence. Are there any grower representatives on the stabilization board ? There are not. The members of the stabilization board will be appointed by the Minister. He may dismiss them, so they will give effect to his will. No person may grow wheat unless he has the permission of the Minister. Having grown the wheat, is it his property the moment it is placed in a bag or a bin ? It is not ! It is only his property so long as he intends to use it on his own farm. That quantity represents only a minute portion of his crop. The moment it has been converted into merchandise and an edible product it i-= to pass from his ownership into the ownership of the Australian Wheat Board - this glorious board, with a majority of growers who will have no authority whatever if the amendment be agreed to, but who, in every respect, as the clause carefully provides at great length, are to be subject to the Minister, even in regard to the purchase of cornsacks.
– The phrase, “ in every respect” is not- used. The honorable gentleman does not seem to understand English.
– The board is to be subject to any direction of the Minister.
– It is provided that the board “ may “ do certain things.
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) is an astute parliamentarian. He says that the clause provides that the board “ may ‘” do certain things. The board “ may “ sell wheat, but no other authority may sell it.
– Then the board must sell Wheat. But is the board to be free to sell wheat? No; it may sell wheat only subject to any direction given to it by the Minister. The principle which the Government desires to embody in this legislation is in its essence the most revolutionary that I have known to be proposed in this Parliament. If it were applied to the products of every other Australian citizen, whether labour or commodities, it would write “ finis “ to our free Australia, for we should have introduced the complete socialist state. I know what the result of the vote will be, because honorable gentlemen opposite are controlled by the iron-bound caucus. Every one of them is pledged, before even he goes before the electors as a candidate, to abide by the decision of his party in respect of matters that will come before the Parliament. He signs that pledge when he signs his’ nomination form. It seems inevitable that this principle will be written into this legislation. I can only hope that the revulsion of the Australian people to the menace that is inherent in this measure will have such repercussions at the forthcoming elections as will cause a change of government.
.- The speech of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) gives force to the. statement I made in my second-reading speech that, except for the fact that a Labour Government is in office, the stabilization of the wheat industry and the continuance of co-operative marketing would have gone the same way after this war as it went after the last war, when a tory government was in office. The speech of the honorable member indicates quite clearly that he is suffering from election “ jitters “. His mouthings of the word “ socialization “ indicate that very clearly. But, if this bill is a socialistic measure so, likewise, were the stabilization enactments of the government that was in office in 1940, in which the honorable member held a portfolio. If this Government is socialistic in its outlook in this regard so, likewise, was that government, which indicates that it was prepared to be socialistic when it happened to suit the purses of the people it pretended to represent but so sadly misrepresented. There is not one provision in this measure, except price provision, which is not on all-fours with the stabilization enactment introduced by the anti-Labour government ot 1940. No form of organized marketing is possible in this country that is not, in some respects,- dependent finally upon ministerial control. This Government is just a3 conscious of that fact as was the government of 1940. The plain fact is that if this enactment interferes with the freedom of the subject in this country, the power to do so has been in the Constitution from the inception of Federation. All Commonwealth governments have had authority to take control, and to determine the price, of that portion of the product of the people which is exported for sale overseas. The power is as old as the Constitution, and it has been operated in regard to exports by every Commonwealth government, irrespective of its political complexion, since the beginning of federation. If those governments were socialistic in these matters, they also acted in a commonsense fashion, and conferred substantial benefits thereby on all the people of this Commonwealth.
Let us examine the basic principles of this measure. The bill provides, on the one hand, that when the export price of the wheat exceeds 5s. 2d. a bushel the wheat-growers shall make substantial contributions from export receipts in excess of that, amount to the stabilization fund. On the other hand, if after this fund is established the price of export wheat should fall below 5s. 2d. a bushel, and the fund should become .unstable, the tax-payers of this country will be required to make contributions to keep it solvent. This is a two-way contract involving the wheat-growers on the one part and the taxpayers on the other part. It is true that the contract will operate for a number of years. It is also true that it will ensure a guaranteed price to the wheat-grower. When necessary, the Government will take some contribution from the moneys which the wheat consumers of this country contribute to Consolidated Revenue in order to ensure a. minimum price of 5s. 2d. a bushel to the farmers. In these circumstances, it is essential that the Government shall have final control of the scheme. It is arrant electioneering humbug for the honorable member for Indi to talk about the. scheme depriving citizens of their freedom and their rights. Throughout his membership of this Parliament, including in particular his term as Minister, he has been responsible for the inclusion of this principle in legislation that has come before the Parliament.
– The honorable member knows that that is not true.
– The honorable member for Indi is the biggest party hack in the Parliament.
– That is true. We should be honest in .these matters. It is a principle of democracy that when a government accepts financial responsibility in connexion with legislation, a Minister of the Crown shall be the final arbiter in administering the measures involved. That is true in regard to industrial legislation, and to all descriptions of legislation for the organized or - collective marketing of products. There can be no collective marketing in any substantial way without ministerial responsibility. A Minister must be answerable finally both to the primary producers and to the consumers, who, after all, are the people affected by guaranteed prices. The type of propaganda which is being pumped into this chamber at present by the windbags of the Australian Country party is neither more nor less than an exhibition of election “jitters” and of the artful methods in which honorable members of the Australian Country party are so practised. I hope that the committee will accept the amendment.
– It is somewhat surprising that the apparently simple amendment of the Minister (Mr. Scully) should have excited such a discussion, but the amendment goes to the root of the measure. It might appear that the amendment was introduced as an afterthought, but that cannot have been the case. The principle involved is too important, and it has been embodied in several other recently introduced measures. The principle is, in fact, supervision by the Minister. In Russia, where a totalitarian system is in operation, when one person is named as the head of an industry, and he tells everybody else what to do and how to do it, he is known as a commissar. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is asserting a similar authority iri Australia, for this amendment is a blatant attempt to fasten the commissar system upon the Australian producers. Yet it is being suggested that the producers are to be in charge of their own marketing organization ! The Minister has travelled up and down the countryside talking about grower-control organizations and the like ; but the moving of this amendment exposes the hollowness of the assertions of the honorable gentlemen that he believes in grower-control. I make no apology for opposing this amendment, although I am not a wheat-grower and represent very few wheat-growers. If the principle of this amendment can be fastened on the wheat industry it will undoubtedly be extended . shortly to other primary industries. If the wishes of the Government are acceded to, the Australian Wheat Board will not be able to do anything in regard to the sale of wheat or . wheat products, or the purchase of cornsacks, jute or jute products, or any one of numerous other activities usually associated with the wheat industry, without first obtaining a direction from the Minister. In fact, all its actions will be subject to ministerial directions. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has eloquently brought this fact to light. If a principle of this description be embodied in the bill it will not matter whether there were ten, twenty, or even 50, growers on the board, for in the final analysis, the board can act only by direction of the Minister. That is not grower-control.
– Tt is a travesty on grower-control.
– I agree with the honorable gentleman. The Government is introducing political control of a kind that we would expect to find only in a totalitarian state. Oan ministerial supporters deny that this is a socialistic means of controlling industry? How can the Government socialize an industry more easily than by this method? I am not suggesting that the .Minister has in mind an ulterior purpose ; but I do claim that there are influences which desire that all boards of this character shall be so controlled that they will be able to assume command of the whole economy of Australia whenever they consider that the time to do so is opportune. “We know that the Communist party has infiltrated the unions.
– Order ! The honorable member is getting wide of the mark.
– I am drawing an analogy, and I am not wide of the mark. Just as the Communist party has secured key positions in the unions and has thus become enabled to dictate the whole policy of powerful industrial elements in the community, so will it also be able to put its policy into operation without effort whenever it chooses, if it can obtain control of what ought to be grower-controlled organizations. That may seem to be farfetched and a figment of the imagination, but it is not. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has demonstrated what- tremendous influence this party wields in industrial matters. If the Minister wants the growers to have control of this board, he should not persist with the amendment. He will be able to exercise control by reason of the power to be vested in him to nominate the chairman of the board. In my view, the elected representatives on the board should have the right to choose who shall be the chairman of it. The Minister wants to make doubly sure of having control of the board. He may be unconvinced that the chairman will become solely his instrument; consequently, he now proposes to take to himself power to direct the activities of the board. .If that is not the power that is to be conferred on him, let him make a denial of my submission, by withdrawing the amendment. I know that the amendment will be carried, because the Government has the numerical strength to ensure its acceptance. “Every ministerial supporter, whether he believes in the amendment or not, will vote with the Minister. The honorable gentleman has exploded the claim that the policy of the Government is to enable the growers to control their own organization.
.- Members of the Australian Country party have indulged in a good deal of “ piffle “ in regard to this clause. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) worked himself into quite a frenzy in his attempt to make out a case in opposition to it. It is time that its actual intention was realized. The simple purpose of it is to extend certain powers to the board, subject to the direction of the Minister. The objection to the amendment is that it proposes to set up a dictatorial authority or to take power from the Parliament and the people. Even the Russian practice ha3 been mentioned.
– The omission of the words I am moving to insert was a typographical error when the clause was drafted.
– The Government is not prepared to hand over the power of the Parliament to any board or other outside authority. The purpose of the amendment is merely to enable the Minister and the Parliament to retain the power to deal with the matters mentioned in the clause. The Minister will always be subject to the direction and control of the Parliament. The board will not be subject to such direction, except through the Minister.
– The public purse is involved.
– That is so. It is a general principle of government, and the policy of the ministerial party, that the whole of the administration of this country shall be under’ the control of the Parliament through responsible Ministers. That is not a departure from established practice. The Minister would be lacking in his duty if he did not ensure to the Parliament the power to control activities for which the Parliament is responsible. The clause provides that the board may engage in a variety of activities. It may sell or otherwise acquire any wheat, wheat products, corn sacks, jute or jute .products. It may sell or dispose of any of those products. It may grist or arrange for the gristing of any wheat, and sell or otherwise dispose of the products of the gristing. It may carry out certain functions at some times and not at other times. It will merely discharge such functions, as the Minister may, from time to time, direct. We offer no apology for the retention by the Minister of the power to deal with such matters, because by that means the Parliament will retain control and it will not be given to any board which may become a dictatorial authority.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) has asked the committee to consider the intention of the amendment. That is exactly what we want to do. We desire to have a more satisfactory reason for it than has already been given to us. The amendment would bestow enormous power on the Minister, because it provides that the board may do certain things “ subject to any direction of the Minister “. That power is wide enough to enable the Government to implement the policy of the Labour party for the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. In order to understand the reason for this amendment it is necessary to delve into history. I direct the attention of honorable members to the debate which took place on the Government’s referendum proposals, with particular reference to the proposal for orderly marketing. When the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) tried to insert a safeguard to ensure that the proposed new power would not be used to socialize the means of production, his amendment was defeated on a party vote. Now, a further opportunity has been created by the Government to place wide powers in the hands of the Minister so that he may do practically anything, including the taking over of flour, mills, the gristing of wheat and the sale of the proceeds of gristing. This proposed power is too wide and dangerous for any vigilant opposition to allow to pass unchallenged. It amounts, in effect, to a power of veto, and it is ironical that the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) should be overseas protesting against the power of veto in the United Nations while action is being taken here to place that very power in the hands of a Minister of the Crown. I draw attention to the excuse made by some Government supporters for the placing of this power in the hands of a Minister. They have claimed that the plan will involve Treasury responsibility, and that it is, therefore, only right that the Treasury should have a representative on the board in order to protect Treasury interests. This practice has been followed in the case of other boards, and it is a reasonable proposition, but it is not necessary in this instance, because no financial . obligation will devolve upon the Commonwealth - immediately, at any rate. The scheme is to be financed with the wheatgrowers’ money, 50 per cent, of the difference between 5s. 2d. and the export parity price being paid into a fund. At some time in the future, the Treasury may be called upon to make a contribution, but that is not likely to happen for many years to come. If it does, it will then be time enough for the Government to provide for Treasury representation on the board. Even if the Treasury were immediately involved, and there was justification for bestowing certain powers upon the Minister, they should not be so extensive as is proposed in the amendment.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
.- Clause 10 deals with the powers of purchase and acquisition, to be vested in the Australian Wheat Board. I have noted on- investigation that its verbiage is almost precisely the same as Statutory Rule 96, which was promulgated on the 21st September, 1939, under the sponsorship of Senator McLeay who is now the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate; it was issued under the authority of the Menzies Government, in which the. Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) was PostmasterGeneral and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), Assistant Minister. Of that Ministry the honorable members for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and
Indi (Mr. McEwen) were more or less pliant supporters, and as far as I am aware, they suffered at that time, no physical disabilities that prevented them from protesting against that enactment as they have protested to-day against this clause. Apparently the proposal was acceptable then, and it becomes anathema now only because it emanates from this Government. That is the real kernel of their opposition. I have said that the verbiage used in both instances was almost identical. The Argus-eyed honorable .member for Barker detected a difference and went to great pains to extract from the Minister information as to why there appeared in the clause the words, “ purchase or otherwise acquire”. The honorable gentleman realizes that this hoard is the only authority that may acquire wheat, and that consequently, the insertion of the additional words are necessary to prevent farmers from’ trying to extract from the Government different prices in respect ^ of wheat delivered. Power to acquire is necessary when the government is the only buyer and this power may have to be exercised in respect of cornsacks, jute, and jute products, without which the board could not function. It is important that power should be vested in the board to avoid exploitation by those who may ‘control supplies of cornsacks and other jute goods. If the board were merely given power to purchase, it would be left to the tender mercy of exploiters who, realizing that it was the largest purchaser of the materials they had for sale, might seek to take advantage of it. The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. McEwen) who faced the committee with the air of a political neophyte and called to high heaven to witness his just wrath and indignation at this proposal, by some mysterious reasoning has discovered to-day that there is a vast difference between a proposition which emanates from the present Government, which he bitterly opposes, and the same proposition when it was made by a government which he slavishly followed. He now says that the amendment proposed by the Minister will mean ministerial dictatorship. The clause as proposed to be amended provides that the board may, subject to any direction from the Minister, do certain things. The regulation, which he accepted without question when an earlier government was in office, provided that, “ on behalf of the Commonwealth and subject to any direction of the Minister “ the board could do exactly the same thing. Yet he works himself up to passionate wrath, because, he says, this now means another step towards socialism. Did the same provision in the regulation not mean another step towards socialism?
– No; it was connected with the conduct of the war.
– The honorable gentleman says the producer owns the wheat and the Minister dictates what shall be done with it. Did not the producer produce the wheat’ in 1939, and did not the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Menzies’ Government dictate to the board what should be done with the wheat? The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party cannot get the Communist bug out of his hair, so he says it is because the Government is subject to communistic control that this step towards socialism has been taken. Would he say that the Menzies Government was subject to Communist control when it promulgated the regulation which was phrased in almost precisely the same language as this clause? He said that the proposal now before us means socialism. Did it’ mean socialism when it was made by the Menzies Government? One of the principal objections of the honorable gentleman was that, having appointed a board, the Minister would dictate what it should do. In 1938 when the Wheat Industry Assistance Act was passed, the Lyons Government was in office and the Minister for the Interior was the now indignant honorable member for Indi (Mr. ‘McEwen), the Minister without portfolio was the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture- was no less a person than the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). Looking at the provisions covering the appointment of committees under that legislation; I discover that the GovernorGeneral appointed all the members of those bodies - and the Governor-General makes appointments of that kind only on the recommendation of the Minister. The Lyons Government was determined not to lose its majority on the committee which dealt with assistance for the wheat industry, and therefore inserted a provision in the legislation giving power to the Governor-General to appoint deputies to take the place of committee members who might be absent from any meeting. So the Minister not only appointed the committee but also took care that in the absence of a regular member an appropriate substitute would be provided. Yet the honorable member for Indi protests about ministerial control. In the legislation to which I have referred provision was also made under which the Minister was given power to ^decide which States should receive assistance and the ‘amounts which should be paid to each of the States. Not only did the- Minister “rig” the committees, but Ke also reserved to himself the right to determine to which State assistance -should be granted and how’ much should be paid “<to ‘each State. ..”Mr. McEwen- Under . the Wheat Industry Assistance Act,’ treasury money was being. expended. In this case it is the (growers’ own wheat with, which we are dealing. ! Mr. ROSEVEAR^- Whether the’ wheat “industry is assisted by subsidy or- by the evolution of a stabilization plan which guarantees a fixed price matters nothing,- because, in the last analysis, if there be a shortage the Government has to make it good. The argument advanced by the honorable member for Indi therefore falls to the ground. Let us return again to the statutory rule in regard to which, as I have said, the honorable members for Indi and Barker were strangely silent. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has said that the difference between the present and the earlier proposals is that in the case of the latter treasury money was being expended. How can the right honorable gentleman know that before the end of the five years during which the plan is to operate, treasury money will -not again be needed ? Does he think that because the world is starving now and must have wheat a’t any price, five years bence it will be able to pay the same price for our wheat ?
– Is there not treasury responsibility in respect of the . first advance ?
– Yes; I am dealing, however, with the overall effect of the proposal. The right honorable gentleman said that there is no risk of financial responsibility being imposed upon the Treasury. It. is true that at present onehalf of the world is starving for wheat and is prepared to pay “ fancy “ prices for it; but is he a seer or a prophet who can look five years into the future and say that the starving world will then .be able to pay the prices which it is obliged tb pay to-day? To-day’s high prices are made possible only because so many people are hungry for this staple product; but there is no guarantee that the same condition of affairs will exist five years hence and that by that time, no responsibility will, devolve upon the Treasury.
The honorable gentleman talked about socialism. I remind him that every bounty given to private industry is an instalment of socialism-a recognition that private industry, in certain circumstances, cannot exist in the’ anarchy of the present-day capitalist society without government assistance. The fact that we are dealing with this matter now proves that private industry, as represented by the wheat-farmers, cannot market its own products and guarantee a stable price. Because of that, it is looking for government aid. Without this measure, there can be no stabilization of the wheat industry. When the wheat board was established by a government supported by honorable members opposite, two representatives of the producers were, appointed out of a total of nine “members. Now, the whole board will consist of the representatives of the primary producers. The Government believes in grower-control, but not in grower-dictation. Why should we pass legislation giving to a board all these wide powers, and legislative sanction to do as it desires in respect of the wheat industry, and then relinquish what obviously is a government responsibility by saying, “ Now that we have given to you these powers - this legislative sanction - we shall wipe our hands of all responsibility”? Such a set-up could become a menace to the community. An organization controlled by the growers, holding the only wheat available in Australia and able to dictate prices to the rest of the community would be intolerable. It would be one of the worst combines imaginable.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired. ‘
.- I suppose I should feel complimented that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has descended from the Olympian heights to join in this debate and attempt to put . me in my place. If he had made any substantial references to the points that I made when I spoke earlier on this clause and had substantiated his own points, I should have been grateful for “his intervention. But this skilled debater entered the lists with the one purpose of endeavouring to save the Government by diverting the debate from the issues that I raised to a cockshy of his own. The issue is clear. The bill is designed to establish a board to organize the marketing of a commodity grown in this free land by free men a product that until now had been regarded as the private, property of the grower. The Labour party claims that organized marketing of primary products is its policy. Soon it will be going on the hustings to proclaim that policy. How the Government will reconcile an appeal to the- people for power to organize the marketing of primary products with this bill, which, by the time the referendum takes place, will have become an Act of Parliament, under which it will be organizing the marketing of wheat, 3 do not know. T should not like to try to reconcile the two, but no doubt the Government will attempt to do so. The bill purports to deal with the organized marketing of the wheat-growers’ own wheat. What I object to is the lastminute afterthought of the Government. It intends to insert in the operative clause that sets out the powers of this vaunted growers’ board a few words that mean that the board shall do nothing except with the consent of the Minister,
– The same provision was made in the wheat regulations made by the Menzies Government.
– So everything that I have said in describing this as a completely, authoritarian set-up is to be destroyed by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) and the speech of the honorable member for Dalley, both of whom claim that this legislation is substantially the same as the national security regulations that were introduced by the Government of which I was a member.
– It is the same.
– Well, substantially the same. We will not argue about, fine distinctions. The circumstances ins which this legislation is to operate and! the occasion on which it is initiated are not the same as when our regulations were made. The honorable member for Dalley read the regulations that Were made by the Menzies Government on the 9th September, 1939. On that date .the most terrific world-shaking war in history had just broken out. Honorable members opposite did not know that the war was on, because, within a few days, their then leader, the late Mr. Curtin, submitted a motion which can never be expunged from the records of the Parliament, that no Australians should participate in the war outside Australia. It is very unpleasant for honorable members opposite to be reminded of that. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) muttered something about New Guinea. I remind him that his party moved against the inclusion of New Guinea in the scope of the Defence Act.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to deal with the clause and the amendment.
– If honorable gentlemen opposite interject they will be repaid with interest.
– I ask the honorable member to deal with the clause and the amendment, and other honorable gentlemen to cease interjecting.
– Thank you, Mr. Chairman ; but I get a good deal of pleasure from dealing with honorable members opposite. On the 9th September, 1939, a terrific war had just broken out. We knew that all the shipping that could possibly be available for the transport of Australian wheat had come under governmental control, that no wheat could be moved other than by the consent of the controlling governments, that all free trading in wheat had ceased, and that if the wheat-growers were to be able to meet -.their .commitments and arrange for future operations, the Commonwealth Government had to take the wheat over and pay for it.
– Yes, and payments from the first pool were “ two bob “ a bushel.
– Every interjection helps me. The Minister said that the growers received only “ two bob “ a bushel from the first pool. True! The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon), in his second-reading speech oh this bill, said that at the time wheat was being sold for ls. a bushel.
– That is true. “ Mr. McEWEN. - So the Government paid twice what the wheat was worth on the open market. Has the present Government ever done that ? No prospect existed- at that time of any free trading in “wheat. There was no prospect of this’ great industry continuing to live unless the Government took over and paid for all existing wheat and all future production. That was done. The Minister did- not arbitrarily and autocratically set himself up as the sole authority. Instead a.’ wheat board, with fair representation of the growers, was established. It is true that the growers were not in a majority.
– There were seven merchants and two growers on it.
– That, of course, is untrue. That board was set up to advise the Ministry because it had assumed complete financial responsibility for all wheat in existence or in* prospect, and it would have been stupid for the then Minister or anyone else in a responsible position to say that in circumstances like that the entire control of the wheat should be handed over !o someone outside the Government, when no one but the Government could pay for it and ship it. So the circumstances then are not comparable with those to-day.
Not even a skilled debater like ti j honorable member for Dalley can trick us by pointing out that certain words in the National Security Regulations are the same as those contained in this bill, because this bill is intended to embody conditions which will decide the fate of the wheat industry for the nexfive years, and the Labour party, which has made a million speeches vaunting the policy of grower-control, has the incredible temerity to come into this chamber with a bill which stipulates that the board to be established shall be mainly composed of growers, and then seeks to slip into it a provision that completely abrogates the authority of the board and leaves it as nothing but a facade behind which the Minister will exercise complete control. What kind of directions will he give? History aids our imagination. In the course of a few weeks we have seen the Minister sell from the same silo wheat for bread at 5s. 2d. a bushel, wheat f or a power alcohol distillery at 8s. lid. a bushel, wheat for export to the United Kingdom or to some port east of Suez at 5s. 6d. a bushel, wheat to go to a gin distiller at 3s. 11¼d. a bushel, and wheat for a pig farmer at 3s. lOd. a bushel. That indicates the kind of directions that a Minister in the present Government will give. What more than that do we need to aid our imagination? I received in answer to a question a table setting out that wheat owned by the wheat-growers had been sold from the one silo at prices ranging from 3s. lOd. to over 7s. a bushel at the Minister’sdirection. All the sales took place at practically the same time at prices which I declared in this chamber would involve the growers in the loss of £10,000,000. The Minister laughed in scorn. But later, under the pressure of public opinion and. owing to the indisputable correctness of my charge the Government was compelled to pay more than £9,000,000 in partial compensation:
– That is ‘ absolutely incorrect.
– That is the kind of loss that can be imposed upon the wheatgrowers by a ministerial direction. Honorable members on this side and the people outside will not have their attention distracted from this provision that the Minister is endeavouring to sneak into the bill, by a comparison between it and the regulations that were issued under the National Security Act to control the wheat industry in time of war. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and if the Government argues that a regulation applied to wheat in 1939, in time of war, is a good regulation to apply to wheat in time of peace, it must stomach the proposition that the regulations that were applied to labour in time of war ought to be applied to labour in time of peace, and the controls over prices for war-time purposes ought to be perpetuated in peace-time. They would be bold men who would stand in their places and attempt to justify that. No ! I gather that it is sufficient for the party opposite to take charge of wheat. Its attitude is, “ Never mind anything else ! “ because it is not a wheat-grower’s government, but a consumers’ government.
– Order ! The honorable .member’s time has expired.
.- In this discussion we have had the spectacle of honorable members opposite vociferously protesting against the absolute right of this Government to legislate for the wheat industry. The origin of the bill was explained by the’ Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), but honorable gentlemen opposite have tried to befog the issue, with the object of- making political party capital. In order to bring this plan into being, agreement between the six States and the Commonwealth had to be arrived at and complementary legislation must be passed through all parliaments if the plan is to be complete and workable. During this discussion, honorable members protested that this Parliament should not go on its knees to any outside organization in the preparation of this legislation. But this evening, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) protested against the incorporation of the same principle iri the bill,- namely, that the Parliament, through ‘the Minister, shall have absolute control of the industry, because it must support the industry with legislation and finance. The honorable member said that only the wheat-growers’ money was involved in the stabilization scheme. If that were true, no necessity would arise for this legislation. What has been the story of the wheat industry since 1930? Nearly every year, legislation has been passed granting assistance to it. In 1931, the Parliament passed the Wheat Advances Act; in 1932, the Wheat Bounty Claims Act; in 1933, the Wheatgrowers’ Relief Act; in 1934, the Wheatgrowers’ Relief Act; in 1935, the Wheat-growers’ Relief Act; in 1936, the Wheat-growers Relief Act; and- in 1937- 3S, the Wheat Industry Assistance Act. Honorable members opposite pretend that because of the inflationary conditions, prevailing overseas, the wheat industry will not require assistance from the Commonwealth during the next five years. If they were honest in their protestations, why did they ask for a scheme extending over ten years? They must realize that the wheat industry will require assistance. In this matter, the interests not only of the wheat-growers but also of the consumers in the Commonwealth- are involved. The Minister is simply correcting a typographical error - an omission not by the Parliamentary draftsman but by the printer. The people of Australia must ensure that they, have control of this vital industry. The honorable member for Indi, who is leading all the “ ballyhoo-“ of the Opposition, referred to the seizure of wheat, and spoke of the right of free men in this country to control their own products. The Wheat Acquisition Act of 1938- before the outbreak of World War II. - provided for the acquisition of wheat. If an acquisition scheme were not an instance of socialism or communism in those days, the present proposal is not” a crime committed against our social structure. The Minister is quite entitled to ensure that he shall have power to safeguard the affairs of all the people of Australia, and not just one section.
– Whenever the Government gets into a spot of bother, -the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) comes to its assistance. As a debater in committee, he is the best that I have ever heard.
– That cock will not fight.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to discuss the clause or the amendment.
– The honorable member for Dalley may be out of practice, but I compliment him on his ability to decend from Mr. Speaker’s chair to the back benches and to suddenly, accommodate himself to the new conditions. Probably he is getting a little practice for the forthcoming election campaign.
– I ask the honorable member to discuss the clause or the amendment, and not deal with the honorable member for Dalley.
– The honorable member for Dalley dealt with the Opposition.
– Order ! The Chair is telling the honorable member what to do.
– I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to inform me whether members of the Labour party have a perfect right to make any statement that they like about the Opposition:
– Order !
– I am attempting to obtain a ruling from the’ Chair. Am I entitled to ask for a ruling ?
– I ask the honorable member to discuss the clause or th<2 amendment.
– Am 1 not entitled to get a ruling from tha Chair?
– The honorable member is entitled to ask for a ruling.
– I should like to know whether the Chair rules that supporters of the Government have a perfect right to criticize the Opposition as a body and individually, but the mem’ bers of the Opposition have no right to reply to those criticisms.
– Order ! The honorable member is completely wrong. I ask him to discuss the clause or the, amendment.
– Now w,. understand the position. It is a strange thing that the honorable member for Dalley should refer to the National Security Regulations of 1939. Anticipating, that they would bc quoted, I brough a copy of them into the chamber. When listening to the honorable member for Dalley, one might be excused for believing that there was a fault in the regulations which the Opposition should have discovered. The volume containing the regulations states that they were still in force on the 1st August, 1944. If the regulations were at fault, as one would understand from comments made during this discussion, surely to heaven the Government had plenty of time to correct it ‘
– j did not say that anything was wrong with the regulations. It is the Opposition that is finding fault.
– I am referring to the amendment which the. Minister has moved. All the strawsplitting and silken thread splitting which that most capable of debaters, the honorable member for Dalley is capable of, cannot alter the salient initial ‘statement that he made, namely, that the clause is almost the same as that contained in the regulations. Unfortunately for the honorable member, the clause is not exactly the same as the regulations. I invite the honorable member to compare paragraph a of sub-clause 1 of clause 1.0 with the corresponding paragraph in the regulations, and he will find that there is a salient omission. He will also discover other important omissions that are vital to this discussion. The. honorable gentleman. will also. understand, unless he has ceased to understand, that the National Security Regulations of 1939 were promulgated for war purposes and for nothing else. But this bill will deal with a situation in peace-time. Under those regulations, the Government took control, not only of primary produce including wheat, but also of houses, factories, transport and labour. Would the honorable member for Dalley contend that because the Labour Government conscripted labour in war-time, it should continue to do so in peace-time? Already, the Labour Government and the Labour party have decided that conscription for military service shall .not operate in peace-time. It operated in war-time, and one of the most “delicious” debates that I have over participated in was on that very- subject. The honorable member said that be would agree to grower-control but not to grower-dictation.
– Hear, hear!
– Would the honorable member agree to dictatorship by the. unions, or must the unions be placed in a different category from primary producers?
– There is no dictation in the Arbitration Court.
– There is in the unions. As the honorable member for Indi pointed out, this bill is designed to control the sale of wheat in peace-time. I do not know what the sequelto it was, but I remember a controversy which was started by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) regarding the alleged sale of wheat at 4s.11d. a bushel for the manufacture of dog biscuits.
– That was ordered by the Minister.
– If we agree to this amendment, sales of that description may take place. On two occasions recently, the honorable member for Indi has asked for information about certain alleged sales of wheat by the Government to the Dominion of New Zealand at concession prices. I should like to know whether those sales have taken place, and whether the allegations made by the honorable member for Indi are correct or false. If they are not wholly correct, will the Minister inform me in what respects they are incorrect? If this amendment be incorporated in the clause, the Minister will have power to dictate the policy of the Australian Wheat Board, and grower-control will be only a mirage. Under this clause, the Minister will be able to give directions for the purchase or acquisition of any wheat or wheat products, cornsacks, or jute or jute products. “ Jute or jute products “ is not limited to cornsacks for the wheat industry. The expression includes all the sacks which will be needed for the sugar industry, oats, barley, maize, potatoes, onions, bran and wool.
– There would not be much wrong with that, if it were a fact.
– That is not the point. If the honorable member for
Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) contends that the position should be as stated, let the Government say so, and we shall know where we stand. But if that is not the intention of the Government, why does the Minister seek to incorporate this blanket power in the bill? Paragraph c of sub-clause 1 provides that the board may - grist or arrange for the gristing of any wheat and sell or otherwise dispose of the products of the gristing.
If the Minister decides to exercise that power, he may direct the Australian Wheat Board to take over the gristing of all flour for human consumption in Australia, and for overseassale. If that be the intention of the Government, let the Minister say so, and we shall fight this proposal as a matter of policy. Too much power is placed in the Minister’s hands. Growercontrol is one thing, but when growercontrol is subject to the dictation of the Minister, it is another matter. It is all very well for honorable gentlemen opposite to wax eloquent and declare that the Minister is responsible to the Parliament. During thelast threeyears we have had some excellent examples of the kind of responsibility that we may expect. The decision will be made, not by the. Parliament,. butby the Parliamentary Labour party. Under the wheat assistance measures of 1936 the taxpayers were required to pay a particularly high price for flour in order that money could be provided to assist the wheat industry; but in this instance, the wheat-growers themselves are to be taxed as much as 2s. 2d. a bushel on export wheat in order to accumulate a fund to be used at some future timeand under entirely different conditions. In the first case the wheatgrowers were receiving some benefit from the taxpayers, but in this case the taxpayers are the wheat-growers. This fund will be accumulated, but it will remain in control of the government. When the time comes for the distribution of this money many wheat-growers who contributed to the fund may have ceased active connexion with the industry, and the distribution will be determined by a wheat board which will be subject to dictation by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I consider that the proposal of the Minister is dangerous. If it is not dangerous, why was it omitted from, the original draft? As the provision appeared in the National Security Regulations, we are entitled to he given the reasons which prompted, the Parliamentary draftsman to leave it out of the clause of the bill, and also the reasons which subsequently caused him to change his mind.
.- 1 am enjoying myself immensely in spite of the suggestion of some honorable gentlemen opposite that I am losing my form. I have noticed that both the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) -and the honorable member, for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) have been squirming. They spoke most confidently the first time they addressed the committee on this subject, but they have now apologized for almost everything that they said on the second-reading, simply because I was able to point out that. the governments of which they were members placed the same safeguard in the regulations which they issued as this Government, is seeking to place in this clause. These safeguards were considered to be necessary for the implementation of government policy in those days.
– That was in war-time.
– The honorable member for Indi said that we were free men) dealing with free farmers, living in a free land. He also said that the farmers owned their wheat. For how long have the farmers been free men and when have they owned their own wheat? As the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) pointed out, if it had not been for legislation introduced from time to time during the last fifteen years for the assistance of the wheat industry, very few wheat-farmers would be left on the land to-day. But for such legislation, and government assistance in one way and another, the great majority of the farmers would have been forced into the bankruptcy courts.
– That is good sob-stuff.
– How much land is free, and how many farmers are. free of debt? Yet the honorable gentleman talks about free men, free land and farmers who own their own products. He knows that the great majority of the farmers have had to mortgage their crops practically as soon as the seed was sown. To a very large degree the wheat-farmers have been in bondage to the exploiters, the wheat merchants, and the shipping companies for so many years that they are to-day unanimously clamouring for the stabilization of the industry as the only solution of their troubles. They want a” guaranteed price for their wheat.
The honorable member for Indi has said that not a single act can be performed by the board unless with the permission of the Minister.
– That statement is absolutely incorrect.-
– It is also a distortion of what I said.
– The honorable member may misconstrue the clause, buthe cannot hope to misconstrue plain English and get away with it. I took a note of his words. He said that no single act could be performed by the board unless with the permission of the Minister. What are the facts? The clause provides that the board “ may “ - not “shall” or “must”, but “may”- do certain things subject to direction from the Minister. There is nothing in the clause, as alleged by the honorable member, to indicate that board members must obtain the permission of the Minister before they may take a breath. A reserve of power is left in the hands of the Minister. If the board does not act in the true interests of the wheat-growers, or if it does not interpret the legislation correctly, or if it does anything which the Minister believes to be inimical to “the industry, he may issue a direction which the board must follow. It is of no use for honorable members opposite to split straws. The regulation that was issued in 193S, when the honorable member for Barker and the honorable member for Indi were pliant supporters of the Government, contained these words - on behalf of the Commonwealth, and subject to any direction of the Minister, the Board may - do certain things. The provision which the Government desires to insert in the bill is in almost precisely the same terms, and it contains the same provision for ministerial direction. If this is socialism and Communist dictatorship, it must have been been socialism and Communist dictatorship when the Menzies Government and the Lyons Government were in office, for, as I have pointed out, exactly the same provisions were enacted by the Menzies Government in regulations and by the Lyons Government in legislation. The honorable member for Indi and the honorable member for Barker were silent on the subject of socialism and Communist dictatorship in those days. This provision was good when those governments were in office, but it is said to be bad now that a Labour Government is in office. The honorable gentlemen have declared that members of the Labour party are bound by caucus decisions and dare not criticize the actions of the Government. They continually twitted Government supporters on that subject this afternoon. Yet they slavishly followed government policy in 1938 and 1940, when precisely the same thing was done.
The honorable member for Barker complained that the board was to be given power to acquire cornsacks and other jute products and said that under this power it could buy sacks for potatoes and all sorts of other primary products. He draws upon his vivid imagination in suggesting that the wheat board will bother about acquiring sacks or jute for bagging primary products other than wheat and wheat products. If the board is to he the sole authority in the Commonwealth for acquiring sacks, it is important that it should have the power to acquire at a fair price sufficient sacks to bag all the wheat harvested. If it could not acquire sacks at a reasonable price it might be forced to pay an extortionate price fixed by exploiters. Obviously, it is necessary that the board should have the power to acquire sacks at a just price. Would the honorable member for Barker suggest that the board should not be empowered to acquire sacks at a just price? Would he suggest that the exploiters should be left to fix their own prices for sacks? If they could do that, they could bleed, the wheat-growers. If they could impose their ‘ own prices on the Wheat Board it is obvious that in the end, either the farmers or the taxpayers would have to meet their extortionate charges. The honorable member has been playing the old game of drawing a red herring across the trail.
We have heard a great deal of talk from Opposition members about the merits of grower control. The strange thing is that the only wheat board appointed by a government supported by honorable gentlemen opposite included only two representatives of the grower* out of a total membership of nine. The board which this Government will appoint will include seven representatives of growers, . elected by the growers, one representative of the millers, and a chairman nominated by the Government. Can it be imagined that the growers will not take care to appoint reliable men to the board? Their own elected representatives will constitute an overwhelming majority of board members. The honorable member for Barker waxed indignant because provision was being made for ministerial direction to be issued to the board in certain circumstances. Let me remind the committee of a remark made by him soon after he resigned from the Country party to join the United Australia party. Speaking in this House on the 11th December, 1940, he said -
It is a pretty piece of impudence on the part of the representatives of the growers to contend that the farmers should direct the operations of the scheme.
– Read the full statement of the honorable gentleman.
– I shall not weary the committee with a long extract from his diatribe. The extract that I have quoted is sufficient for my purpose. This honorable gentleman now protests against some measure of ministerial control, in spite of the fact that the growers will have seven representatives on a board of nine members. The honorable member should read that speech again.
– I do not need to; I remember it very well.
– It is strange that in the face of such a remark th.e honorable gentleman can now protest against even a measure of ministerial control. The extract I have read will take some explaining by the champions of the wheat-growers who sit opposite. The honorable member for Barker will not be able to explain it, because in 1940 his frame of mind was precisely the same as mine is to-night, but he has since drifted. I still contend that the board should consist of and be elected by growers, for the simple reason that nobody knows more than they do about the growing of wheat. The bill makes provision for such a board. No body which did not have the wisdom and knowledge of practical farmers would be a competent one. The Government is giving phenomenal powers to the board ; in fact, the’ whole of the responsibility which normally would be exercised by the Minister will be exercised by the board. But the Government must not shed. itself of all responsibility in the operation of such schemes. It must not allow the board, however it may be constituted, to have a monopolistic grip which will enable it, having the sanction and authority of the law, to operate to the detriment of the community generally.
.- It has become apparent, from the bouquets that have been thrown by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), and from his harking back 30’ or 40 years in the history of the wheat industry, that the wheat-grower has again become a chopping block. The issues in this matter appear to have become somewhat confused. Before the amendment was submitted, the clause plainly stated that, for the purposes’ of the “ export of wheat and wheat products, the interstate marketing of wheat and the ‘marketing of wheat in the territories of the Com- monwealth, the board might perform the functions set out in paragraphs a to e. At this late stage, the Minister has proposed that the board shall perform those functions only according to his directions. When the bill was introduced, the main principle which it enunciated was that the stabilization scheme was to be producer-controlled. All the .newspapers blazoned that. They stated that the majority of the members of the board were to be representatives of the producers, nominated by organizations of producers, arid that the board was to be constituted on a Commonwealth basis, its members being bona fide producers.
The present proposal is. that, although the board is to be composed of producers, it is not to have control- but is to be subject to the directions- of the Minister. That honorable gentleman has stated that conferences which he attended in Sydney had approved of the bill. Did he tell them that he intended to insert in it this latest provision? Had he done so, would they have approved of it? Every wheatgrower throughout the country knows that they would not. Why it has been submitted at this late stage, mystifies everybody. I should think that the sole reason “for it is that the Minister ‘decided lie would not have enough control, and -is determined to make himself a .dictator. The honorable member for Dalley has said that the board should have the power to ensure a sufficient supply of cornsacks. Certainly it should. But even without this amendment it would have that power, because the clause provides that the board may purchase or otherwise acquire any wheat, wheat products, cornsacks, jute or jute products. The honorable member for Dalley has tried -to confuse the issue by contending that the board would not have the power to purchase such things without a direction from the Minister. The honorable member must underestimate the intelligence of the representatives of the producers if he considers that they will, need to be directed by the Minister. Those men. have been brought up on “the land, and have a wide knowledge of agriculture and of primary production generally. Surely they can market the product that they grow! It is. obvious that the Government will not have to finance this scheme to any degree. The scheme is to operate for only five years, and it seems as though the fund will have a surplus. From what has been happening in this Parliament, one can readily realize what will happen when the Minister can dictate to the Australian Wheat Board. All the wheat-growers know that long before this bill was introduced the Minister had declared that he would see that it went through.
– The Australian. Country party is trying to prevent it from going through.
– The Minister has never spoken truer words in his life. He wants to have complete control of this organization of growers. That will be absolutely unjust. He always adopts a dictatorial attitude, because he is assured of sufficient support in this chamber to out-vote the Opposition, and to ignore the wishes of the wheat-growers throughout Australia. We recently had a clear example of this dictatorial attitude. It is said that “.might is right”. The Government has “might”, hut not “ right Long before the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting bill, was debated, microphones had been installed in this chamber. No matter what had been revealed in debate, the Government was determined to proceed with its proposal. The Minister now considers that, in order to be consistent, he must adhere to some point he has made, no matter what is revealed. Consistency is revealed, not in stubbornness, but in being willing to change one’s mind when there is reason for doing so. I am sure that the Minister has found reason for changing his mind many times since the bill was introduced ; yet, because he has made a certain statement, he wants to pose as a little dictator and put the bill through at all costs. When I say “ at all costs “, I mean it. I believe that the future of the wheat industry, which is Australia’s No. 2 asset, is being jeopardized by the dictatorial amendment that we are now considering. It will prevent Australia from providing the wheat that is so necessary for the making of the bread that is needed by the people in the Old Country. On behalf of the wheat-growers of Australia, I protest against the incorporation of the amendment in the bill. The producer owns the wheat that he grows, yet the Government assumes control of it and sells it at any price it deems fit, paying to the producers whatever portion of the proceeds the Minister decides shall be paid. When it was said that there was to be producer-control, wheat-growers all over the country naturally thought that that was the truth. Nothing could.be further from the truth. It is no matter for wonder that the honorable members for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) and Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) are not anxious to have the representation of their State on the hoard increased. This afternoon, when the honorable member for. Barker (Mr. Archie
Cameron) proposed that Western Australia should have two representatives, they voted against his amendment, being content with only one member. Time reveals many things. It has been revealed to-day that those two members were aware of the amendment that was to be submitted by the Minister and realized that the additional representation proposed by the honorable member for Barker would not benefit their State, because there would not be producercontrol when the Minister became a dictator. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) has asked, “What is the story of the wheat industry ? “ He made a long review of its history, dating back to 1930. Ever since I became a member of this Parliament, I have endeavoured to prevail upon members on both sides of the chamber to view matters in the light of existing circumstances, and not to delve into the past. If the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), the honorable member for Barker, or any other honorable member, did something in 1930 which was not in the best interests of the wheat-growers - which is problematical - how could that be a reason for not dealing justly with the primary producers to-day?
– Did the honorable member say that he was here to destroy the bill?
– No. I will not have words put into my mouth by the honorable member. I said that I was here to hamper the bill as much as possible and to improve it; I did not say I was here to destroy it. This bill has been referred to as a political football, and an observer might be pardoned for believing that a football match was in progress now. However,” I suggest that when the ball goes out of bounds, as it does, in effect, when I am interrupted by interjections, time should be taken off. I have always supported orderly marketing, and have voted for it. I am also in favour of the stabilization scheme.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have listened with close attention during this debate to what has been said by honorable members on both sides of the House. There are no wheat-growers in my electorate, but there are many consumers, and I cannot see any reason for the hostile reception’ which this amendment, has received. Under the amendment the Minister would still be responsible to -Parliament, which in turn is responsible to the people. Honorable members opposite have often complained that we are seeking to take away the power of Parliament and to hand it to outside bodies, but to-night they are complaining of the opposite. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) become all hot and bothered in trying to explain what he had said. I wrote down his exact words. He said,. “ I don’t want this bill to go through “. Later, he said, I am not here to destroy the bill “. I do not know any more effective way pf destroying a bill than to prevent it from being passed. Honorable members have complained that the Minister is a dictator who will use the Government’s majority to force the bill through. Honorable members seem to forget, however, that the Government enjoys its majority because the people, during the darkest hours of the country’s history, gave it a mandate to govern. I have on a previous occasion explained where the election funds for the party opposite come from. The Labour party has been accused of being under the domination of Communists, but I remind honorable members opposite, -that on the day that war broke out the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) issued an invitation to the Communist party to broadcast over the national stations. This clause- provides that the board shall consist of seven representatives of the growers, elected by them, a miller and a chairman nominated by the Government. If that does not provide for democratic control, I do not know what the term means. Evidently, the honorable member for Wimmera does not want the bill to be passed, because it would give the control of the industry to the growers. He wants the industry to be controlled by the interests for which he works.
.- I stand for grower-control of the marketing of primary products. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr.
Scully) has given an assurance that a majority of the members of the board will be growers directly interested in the industry. Let us compare this proposal with the marketing legislation in force in Queensland. There, the growers have the right by vote to establish an organization for the marketing of their products. That is very different from the proposal in this bill under which the real power will rest with the Minister, not ‘with the elected representatives of the growers. In Queensland, there is no ministerial control over the marketing boards. The Minister has power to approve or otherwise of the payment of fees and expenses to members, and there is no objection to that. In every instance, the’ boards in Queensland function as business authorities, making decisions for which they are responsible, and putting those .decisions into effect. There is a government representative on each board, who -is an employee of the Department of Agriculture. - Because of his association with other boards, he brings with him knowledge that is of use. Sometimes, the Government representative is instructed by the Minister how to vote, and he votes according to his instructions. His vote may not be in conformity with the vote of the. majority, and the will of the majority prevails. I oppose the amendment because it means that if members of the board are not good boys they will have to take orders from the Minister. We remember that the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture overrode the decision of the Australian Wheat Board to send all surplus wheat to Britain and other countries in need of it and ordered that 50,000 bushels be used for making biscuits to feed racing dogs.
Speaking on the stabilization proposal for 1938, the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that he had yet to see successful business administration by any organization under government control. The difference between the Queensland marketing system and that proposed in this bill is the difference, between grower control. and government, control. I am against ministerial domination in matters of policy. I believe that the elected representatives of the growers will have enough ability and sense of responsibility to administer the scheme properly. I do not oppose the powers which it is proposed to grant the board under clause 10. The board must have wide powers. The elected representatives of the wheat-growers should administer the affairs of the board without let or hindrance. The regulations governing the wheat industry issued by the Minister in the past have operated very unfairly against growers in Queensland who have been unanimous in their opposition to them. As the result of the restrictive policy of the Government, one-half” of the wheat consumed in Queensland was brought into that State from the southern States at a minimum price of 5s. 7d. a bushel, and as local growers could have supplied the local market at as low a price as 4s. Id. a bushel, the Queensland wheat industry suffered losses amounting to millions of pounds. The board should be composed of representatives of the growers who have had practical experience in the industry and have the interests of the growers at heart. They should have unfettered control. I oppose the amendment.
.- The opposition to this clause voiced by honorable members opposite proves clearly that they wish to destroy the wheat stabilization plan as a whole. The amendment merely seeks to embody in the bill a fundamental principle of parliamentary democracy. Honorable members opposite cannot explain away their change of attitude in this matter merely by saying that a’ similar provision was inserted in Statutory Rule 96 of 1939 to cover special war-time conditions. As a matter of fact that enactment was brought into operation before the outbreak of war. Do honorable members opposite fear that the Minister will abuse the powers proposed to be vested in him ? To quote an extreme case, the members of the board may decide to export so much wheat from this country as to leave the population short of this staple food. Would not the Minister then be justified in exercising his power of direction? Too frequently honorable members opposite complain about the vesting of too much authority in boards and commissions established by the Government.
Do they now believe that the board controlling this great commodity should be unfettered and that Parliament should be ignored? That the. object of honorable members opposite is to destroy the planwas freely admitted to-night by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull). I advise the leader of his party to have a quiet talk with him so that he may restrain- himself from making such frank statements in the future. Honorable members opposite have clearly demonstrated that they are opposed to the continuance of democratic control and parliamentary responsibility.
– The amendment moved by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) strikes across the very principles of this bill. The public should realize that the wheat-growers of Australia who produce the wheat and own it are to be called upon to place vast sums of money into a trust fund which is to be established in accordance with the provisions of this measure. The bait held out by the Government to coerce the’ wheatgrowers into acceptance of this plan is that provision will be made for producer control of the Australian Wheat Board. In his second-reading speech on the bill the Minister said -
A wheat board will be set up to handle and sell the crops. Here we have the benefits of our war-time experience, and of an efficient organization which has met all war-time difficulties. It is established, its working is familiar, and wheat-growers want to keep it.
That is true. The wheat-growers want to keep the board, on which they hope to occupy a powerful position, and through the agency of which they will be able to control their commodity and the funds which will be paid into the trust account. The Minister also said -
When prices are high, growers will contribute up to 50 per cent, of the excess above the guaranteed price of export wheat. The money so subscribed will go into a stabilization fund, and will be used to meet the guarantee when prices fall. The fund will be a trust fund.
Who are to be the trustees of the fund? Who but the growers- themselves have a legitimate right to be appointed trustees of the vast sums of money which, will be poured into the fund? And provision has been made for the growers to have predominant representation on the board. The board, however, cannot function unless it is given adequate power, and ample power is already provided in the clause as it is printed. However, at the last’ moment the Minister seeks to nullify the whole of those powers by providing that the board shall exercise its powers only subject to his direction. It is extraordinary that neither in his secondreading speech on this bill nor on legislation covering the meat industry in which a similar provision occurs did the Minister mention that the powers of the respective boards could be exercised only subject to his direction. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr.McLeod) claims that it is undemocratic for growers to have sole control of their own product through their elected representatives on the Wheat Board. The honorable member believes that the Minister should be given the powers of a dictator so that he may nullify the decisions of the board when it suits him to do so. I advise the honorable member to purchase a dictionary and see for himself what the word “democracy” means. It is well known that in all countries which have suffered from the rule of a dictator - and some are still so suffering - the shams of democracy have been preserved, and that behind those shams lies a power such as that sought by the Minister in the amendment now before us. The first to describe this power was Machiavelli, in his book The Prince, in which he pointed out that a dictator must preserve the forms of democracy if he desires to retain control of the people. If one reads the history of Soviet Russia to-day one finds that provisionis made for the holding of elections and that numerous candidates submit themselves for election. Theonly difference between the system in Russia to-day and that prevailing in the democracies is that in Russia all candidates are of the same political colour. If the Minister is permitted to have his way with this amendment we shall shortly find - the Government seeking to insert a similar amendment in the Electoral Act to provide that elections may be held subject to the direction of a Minister. Let us consider how some of these powers have been exercised in the past. Some time ago, I mentioned in this chamber - and the mat ter is so apt as to justify my mentioning it again - that on the 11th February, 1946, the State Superintendent of the Wheat Board in New South Wales, Mr. G. A. H. Holborow, issued a circular, M466, to millers and wheat distributors, in which he said -
For gome months past, acting on the advice of the Wheat Allocation Committee, representative of Federal and State Departments of Agriculture, instructions have been clearly given to all concerned that Wheat and Wheat products (other than bran and pollard manufactured from the gristing of Wheat into Flour) may only be supplied to the priority of livestock, pigs and laying hens and pullet chicks.
The fact that these instructions must be taken literally and that Flour or Wheat and Wheatmeals must not be supplied for feeding any stock other than that specified and underlined above, has been emphasized on all occasions, but nevertheless reports have reached the Board that some Millers and others have been supplying Wheat products for other stock including the manufacture of dog biscuits.
This advice is therefore given to all concerned that a serious view will be taken of any future departure from the instructions in this regard and that offenders will be liable to have supplies of Wheat discontinued.
The circular stated that for some months past instructions had been given that wheat was not to be used for the manufacture of dog biscuits, that these instructions had been broken, and that wheat was being sold on the “black market” and illegally used for a purpose for which the board said it should not be used. On the 4th March, 1946, three weeks later, the State Superintendent of the Australian Wheat Board of New South Wales issued another circular to millers and wheat distributors, M 846, which reads -
Sydney, 4th March, 1946
With reference to Circular H.4./46 we have now to advise that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has made available 50,000 bushels of wheat for the manufacture of dog biscuits from 1st March to the end of the present ration period.
The price of the wheat will be 4s.11d. per bushel Sydney bulk basis and is not to be confused with the allocations made for feeding priority livestock.
The wheat will be allotted on a percentage basis of the quantity used by millers for dog biscuit-meal between 1st March and 30th November, 1944. If you ‘are interested in this trade, please fill in replies to questions hereunder and return by first mail. As the allocations must be made as quickly as possible replies must reach this office by Friday Sth inst., otherwise they must be excluded.
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) G. A. Holborow,
I ask honorable members and members of the public who happen to be listening to this debate to heed this. On the 27th March, I asked the Minister -
What price or prices are at present being charged by the Australian Wheat Board f.o.b. for wheat for export, or for the manufacture of flour for’ export, bagged basis ?
The reply was - 10s. 4d. per bushel trucks port basis.
According to the circular issued under the instructions of the Minister, wheat was to be sold for the manufacture of dog biscuits at 4s. lid. a bushel. That means a loss to the wheat-growers of 5s. of d. on every bushel sold for the purpose. ‘
– lt was just about that time. That is a perfect example of what ministerial control of the board may lead to. As it is proposed to be amended the clause will read : - “ The board may, subject to any directions of the Minister,” do certain things. What a perfect piece of camouflage that is! The public will not know that it is the Minister who is directing the board. The Minister may be able to make the board pliable by holding over the heads of its member’s the threat of removal from the board. I ask honorable members to note that no provision is made for triennial elections of members. Once elected, members remain on the board, unless it suits the Minister to get rid of a man who is not pliable and replace him with someone more to his liking. The scheme has all the elements of a perfect dictatorship, because the Minister will be able to direct the board to carry .out his own wishes’ notwithstanding that the carrying out of them may result in a dead loss to the producers. When the Minister replied to my charges about the allocation of wheat to manufacturers of dog biscuits he said -
It is not the Australian Wheat Board which determines the allocation of wheat for stock feed or sectional stock feed users. This is done by a committee consisting of representatives of my department, including the DirectorGeneral of Agriculture, the State committees, and the Wheat Board. In New South Wales, the Director of Agriculture, Mr. McDonald, was, during the period mentioned, chairman of the Wheat Allocation Committee; Decisions by this committee are implemented by the Australian Wheat Board.
That is the board that previously said that wheat was not to be allocated for the manufacture of dog biscuits, but the Minister overrode the board and, in his explanation to the House, he misled it as to what had taken place.
– The honorable member is stating an untruth when he says that I misled the House. He is totally ignorant of the facts.
– If the Minister will listen, he will probably find that his memory is astray. The Minister went on to say -
Wheat has been used in Australia for the manufacture of dog biscuits for a great number of years. In view of the urgent demand for wheat for export, a survey was made of all the ways in which wheat was being used, as it was considered that some saving could be made in the amount of wheat being released for various purposes, including the manufacture Of -dog biscuits. This inquiry, which was of a searching character, naturally made dog biscuit manufacturers and dog owners’ organizations nome what apprehensive about future supplies. They called on me, and requested that the matter of supplies be reviewed as speedily as possible.
But what the Minister did not tell the Souse was that earlier instructions had been clearly given by the Australian Wheat Board through the Wheat Allocation Committee that wheat was not to be used for the manufacture of dog biscuits. What the Minister did was to condone the black marketing operations of the dog biscuit manufacturers and mill owners, who were illegally allocating grain for gristing into flour for the manufacture of dog biscuits. Within three weeks the Minister smashed the decision of the Wheat Board and the Wheat Allocation Committee. If those directions represent the kind of directions that he will give to the new board, .the farmers must unanimously protest at the polls in order to ensure that they shall have democratic control of the product of their own industry through their own wheat hoard, which shall not he subject to directions from the Minister.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) put -
That the question he now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Scully’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Evidently the present Wheat Board will not wind up any of the earlier pools or complete any of its function before it is replaced by the new board. I ask the Minister to inform me whether sub-clause 2 indicates the method whereby wheatgrowers may be prevented from taking legal action against the new board for compensation in respect of any pool not wound up before the present board ceases to exist. For a long time, wheat-growers have urged that the earlier pools should be finalized. I should like the Minister to inform me whether this sub-clause will rob them of their legal rights.
.-I move -
That, in sub-clause (2.), paragraph (b) after the words “ in the Board,” the following words be inserted: - “but the value of such assets shall be accounted for and the value paid to the pools operated under the National Security (Wheat Acquisition)Regulations “.
The purpose of paragraph (&) is to transfer the assets of the present Australian Wheat Board to the new board. The assets include sheds, machinery, appurtenances and possibly land connected with the handling of wheat.
– I see no necessity for the amendment. Those assets will be transferred to the new board.
– This is a matter of equity. Many of the assets were purchased out of the proceeds of the sales of wheat in various pools. When those pools are wound up, the contributors to them should enjoy the value of the assets.
– The assets would be very small.
– I believe that a considerable amount is involved. The sole purpose of the amendment is to ensure that wheat-growers who contributed to the early pools, some of which were realized at a very low value, shall be enabled, by this means, to gain the full realization value of their wheat. I urge the Minister to accept the amendment.
, - Earlier in the discussion, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) accused the honorable member for Barker (Mr.- Archie Cameron) of having advocated in 1940 the principle that he is opposing this evening. In support of that contention-
– I rise to order. I submit that the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley were made on an earlier clause, and that the honorable member for Corangamite is not in order in referring to them on this clause.
– The honorable member for Corangamite is quite in order, because he is replying to a portion of the discussion on this clause.
– During his remarks, the honorable member for Dalley read a statement which the honorable member for Barker had made in 1940; but he was so unfair as to omit certain words from a sentence. In order to correct any erroneous impression that may have been created by the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley, I shall read the whole of the statement made by the honorable member for Barker. He said -
If an industry is subject to grower-control, there must also be grower-responsibility. The financial responsibilities under this bill will be borne, not by the wheat-growers, but by Australian taxpayers. While they continue to find the money, it is a pretty piece of impudence on the part of representatives of the growers to contend that the farmers should direct the operation of the scheme.
According to the honorable member for Dalley, the honorable member for Barker said -
It is a pretty piece of impudence on the part of the representatives of. the growers to contend that the farmer should direct the operation of the scheme.
– Only one meaning can be placed on that statement-
– During the six years that I have been a member of this chamber, I have not heard, a more unfair distortion of the words of an honorable member by the resort to a half-truth. Most honorable members expect from the honorable member for Dalley some degree of fairness. Some may consider that his adoption of those tactics to disparage the honorable member for Barker, who is always outspoken and will stand up to the statements that he makes in this House, was clever; but I consider that his action was. contemptible.
.- According to the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald), the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) attempted to mislead the committee.
– There is no doubt about that.
– The facts are that at no time did any government make a payment on wheat out of proportion to its value, or make an advance from the Treasury out of proportion to the value of the grain.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) stated that I said that merchants bought wheat at ls. a bushel and the Government paid to growers 2s. a bushel. That was not true. The Government paid only ls. 4d. a bushel. That is proof of my statement that the payment was in relation to the value of the wheat. There is ample justification for the contention of the honorable member for Dalley that as the Government will be required to provide finance for this scheme, it should be represented on the board. It has been said that the growers are financing this pool. The right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr.Fadden) was particularly insistent on that point. If that were true, and if it were unnecessary for the Government to provide financial backing, there would be no need for this scheme at all. But we know that the Government must support the fund. If this were not so, the wheat-growers could manage their own pool. This, as every informed person is well aware, would be utterly impracticable, for strong government support is essential. If wheat falls below a certain price the Treasury will be called upon to keep the fund stable. The right honorable member for Darling Downs was fair enough to say that if such a time arrived a representative of the Treasury should be appointed to the board. If the price of wheat should fall below 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. at ports, producers engaged in the pig, poultry, dairying and certain other rural industries will be called upon to contribute to the pool, for they will have to pay 5s. 2d. a bushel for the wheat they require. So, logically, they also could request representation. If the world wheat market should decline to it’s 1938 condition, with a similarlow price for wheat, the Treasury and therefore the public of Australia would be required to provide£21,000,000 to keep this fund sufficiently solvent to ensure to the farmers 5s. 2d. a bushel for their wheat f.o.r. at ports.
– My answer to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) is “No”. I cannot accept the amendment of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). I do not consider that there is any necessity for it. The present assets will be transferred to the new board.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 17 agreed to.
Clause18- (2.) In determining the price to be paid by the board to a grower for wheat of any wheat season, the board shall take into account the net proceeds of the whole of the wheat delivered to it in respect of that season, but in any event the price so to be paid for fair average quality bagged wheat shall not be less than five shillings and two pence per bushel free on rail at the port from which it isnormally exported. ( 3. ) From any payment required’ to be made by the Board under this section deductions may be made by the Board on account of any or all of the following matters : -
.-I move -
That, in sub-clause (2.), the word “any”, first occurring, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following word and figures:- “the 1946-47”.
This is one of a series of amendments I intend to move with the object of changing the clause to the pattern approved by the Australian Country party and described in detail by members of that party during the second-reading debate. Our object is to exclude from the stabilization scheme the 1945-46 crop, to provide that the price to be paid for the coming crop shall be 5s. 2d. a bushel bagged at growers’ sidings, and to ensure that the price to be paid for the three subsequent crops which will be included in the stabilization period shall be based on production costs. I hope that even at this late stage the Minister will see the justice of this policy. As the Government has neglected to make provision for an inquiry into present production costs, we are without any data, except that provided by the wheat-growers’ organizations. The Minister has been ready enough to accept the advice of representatives of growers’ organizations in certain respects, and ‘ to regard it as a sufficient justification for doing certain things, so I hope that he will follow the same procedure in this instance. The growers’ organizations have demonstrated beyond doubt that a fair and reasonable price for this year’s crop would be 5s. 2d. a bushel bagged at sidings, as against 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. at ports, which is the price that the Government has adopted. We have enough information also to say with confidence that the Treasury is not likely to be called upon to make any contribution to the stabilization fund if the wheat from the next crop be acquired at 5s. 2d. a bushel bagged at sidings. As to the remaining three years that will be included in the stabilization period, we propose that a competent commission of inquiry should be constituted to take evidence and report on production costs. We are now dealing with one df the vital provisions of the bill. It. is at this point that the Government is farthest astray from the wishes of the wheat-growers of Australia. If it continues with its present policy it will perpetuate “the gravest injustice that has ever been inflicted upon the Australian wheat-growers, in that it will break the spirit, if not the letter, of the law of this country. It has always been regarded as a fundamental principle in compulsory acquisitions’ of any description in this country that the government shall acquire on just terms. We believe that wheat will not be acquired on just terms if the 1945-46 crop be included in the scheme at 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. at ports and if the price for the 1946-47 crop be not varied as 1 have suggested. We shall have other opportunities to discuss the iniquitous proposal to include the 1945-46 crop in the scheme, and we shall take advantage of them. At the moment I am dealing with the 1946-47 harvest. Whatever the Minister may tell the House about the favorable views of hand-picked representatives of growers’ organizations in regard to certain aspects of this scheme, he, as the representative of a wheat- growing constituency, knows very well that the great majority of wheatgrowers in this country are not only opposed to the inclusion of the 1945-46 crop, but are also unshakably convinced that its inclusion would be the gravest possible injustice to the industry. I appeal to the Minister to review his attitude on this subject, and to give effect to the well-established principle that all compulsory acquisitions shall . be made on just terms. The growers are collecting funds with a view to fighting the Government through the courts, in order to establish their rights. That is a sorry state of affairs. The Government ought to realize clearly that, having promulgated a National Security regulation last October, designed compulsorily to acquire wheat in the crop then about to be harvested, it assumed the obligation to pay for that wheat what it was worth. That obligation cannot be satisfied by taking from the proceeds of the crop a total of £7,000,000, and placing it in a fund, the purpose of which is to aid some wheat-growers on a future occasion. Heaven knows, the wheatgrowers need badly enough to-day every penny that they can get. Justice demands that they shall be allowed to enjoy the full realization of that crop at the high level of export parity which prevails to-day, in order that they may mend their broken fortunes so far as they are able to do so. I appeal to the Government to accept my first amendment, thus indicating its willingness to exclude the 1945-46 crop, and subsequently to accept my later amendments, which are designed to alter the guarantee for the next crop from the paltry 5s. 2d. a bushel at ports to the fair price of 5s. 2d. a bushel, bagged basis, at growers’ sidings, which is the only price so far ascertained that can be related to the cost of production.
– I am not prepared to accept the amendment. Argument in connexion with the exclusion from the stabilization scheme of the 1945-46 crop would be merely tedious repetition, the only result of which would be to delay the passage of the bill, and I do not propose to engage in it.
– I cannot allow the occasion to pass without voicing a protest on behalf of the party which I have the honour to lead. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), in the course of a most eloquent speech on the motion for the second reading of the bill, directed attention to what he regards as the constitutional requirements in this matter. He pointed out that this .stabilization scheme is to come into operation subsequent to the acquisition of the 1945-46 crop under the war-time powers conferred on the Government by the Constitution, which provides that property can be acquired only on just terms. That this wheat is the property of the growers cannot be denied. Its inclusion in the stabilization scheme will impose a levy on the growers of approximately 2s. 2d. a bushel. That tax on the proceeds of the crop is to form the . nucleus of the stabilization fund. Quite apart from the legal points that have been raised by the honorable member for Warringah, who is an eminent lawyer, does the Government consider that it is treating the growers equitably? Is it not confiscating this crop? It cannot be argued that equity is being observed. In order to minimize its responsibility, remote though that may be, the Government is acting inequitably, if not illegally. I should like to know whether it has obtained an opinion as to its legal position, having regard to the requirements of section 51 of the Constitution, and with particular reference to the points raised by the honorable member for Warringah. That question has never Been answered. The Minister, in his reply to the secondreading debate, did not refer to the doubts that had been expressed by the honorable member for Warringah. So far, he has evaded the issue. The position should be clarified immediately. Apart altogether from the legal position, equity demands that the 1945-46 crop shall not be included in this stabilization scheme. ‘
– I, too, am of the opinion that the 1945-46 crop should not be included in this stabilization scheme. The Go vernment cannot justify its action in that regard. There is no warrant for inclusion, but countless reasons could be advanced in support of exclusion. Perhaps never before’ has it been so necessary for the wheat-growers to have the extra money which should be available to them from the 1945-46 harvest. Up and down the country, fencing is in a state of disrepair and houses are dilapidated. During years of war and drought, the producers have carried on at a loss in the national interest, and their position is now uneconomic. Last year, there was drought in many places. Nevertheless, some wheat-growers produced crops. Those who did so are justified in asking that what they produced shall be excluded from this scheme. Many wheat-growers entered into financial commitments, believing that they would receive the full value of their crop, and these have to be met. A member of the Government has told me that long before harvesting the wheat-growers knew that the Minister intended that the crop should be included in the stabilization scheme, and they had not then entered into any financial commitments. That Minister represents a wheat-growing constituency in Western Australia. His statement proves how little he knows about the obligations of the wheat-growers. The wheat-grower undertakes financial obligations long before his crop is produced, perhaps before the fallow of the previous year. He has to look ahead. He is a man of foresight and enterprise. The Government is now determined to include his 1945-46 crop in the stabilization scheme, and thus leave him “ high and dry “. Many of the growers will not be able to meet their financial obligation*, which they undertook honestly and fully intended to meet. In a time of desperate need, after a war, any amount, however small, is important to the primary producer. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has said that the aggregate amount will be £9,000,000. Some of the growers may be involved to an amount of £1,000, whilst others may expect to receive only £100. I impress on the Government the necessity for making this money available. If I have to fight the whole scheme on no other ground than the intention to include this harvest in it, I shall fight throughout this sitting.
.- 1 move -
That, in sub-clause (2.), the words “free on rail at the port from which it is normally exported “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “bagged at growers’ sidings “.
I shall leave it to my colleagues to explain the policy of the party, which has prompted this amendment. It is related to two purposes. The first is to endeavour to obtain a guaranteed price which is close to the cost of production, one that would be associated with the only production data which exists to-day, namely, the grower’s data; and the second, to relate the fixed price, whatever it may be, to the growers’ siding rather than to ports. It is our purpose thus to make a step in the direction of decentralization. Australia suffers much from the fact that our sparse population- is clustered along the seaboard, and it is checked by the cost of living from moving inland - the cost of paying freight on what is brought in from the coast, and of bearing freight costs on what is produced inland and sold’ at the coast. The price should not be less than 5s. 2d. a bushel bagged at sidings.
– The amendment cannot be accepted because it would increase the appropriation. After the bill was read a second time, the House resolved itself into a Committee of Ways and Means which agreed to an appropriation, and this was afterwards agreed to by the House. The amendment would increase the appropriation by the difference between the price of bagged wheat at sidings and the price f:o.r. at ports. Therefore, it is not in order.
– I rise to . a point of order. I believe that you have been misinformed, Mr. Chairman. The acceptance of the amendment would not increase the appropriation. As a matter of fact, the message recommending an appropriation included no amount at all. Apart from that, there can be no increase of the appropriation unless there is a variation of the export price of wheat. The amendment could not affect the export trade. The only point involved it where the rail freight is to be imposed - whether on the grower personally, or on the pool. The Government would not be one penny better or worse . V… It is a matter of how the amount of 5s. 2d. a bushel will be divided among the growers. Unless we are able to discuss what the bill shall contain all further argument is futile.
– I have been assured by the officers of the Crown Law Department that the amendment would increase the appropriation by so much a bag. Therefore, it cannot be accepted.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Barker-
– When the Chair has ruled a proposed amendment out of order, is it competent for honorable members to address themselves further to the point?
– Honorable members may not debate the ruling of the Chair. Under Standing Order 228, an honorable member can object to a ruling, and move that it be dissented from. Iri such a case, the standing order provides that the objection shall be stated at once in writing, and shall forthwith be decided by the committee.
– The Chair having ruled that amendment out of order - and I do not dispute the ruling - I want to know whether it is still competent for members of the committee to discuss the price proposed under the Government’s plan - if they may say whether it ought to be higher or lower, and whether it ought to be the price paid at sidings or at ports?
– An honorable member would be in order in discussing the price.
– If we would be in order in discussing the price, how can you rule out of order an amendment the purpose of which is to fix the price at sidings?
– I have ruled that the amendment is out of order.
. -I propose to take advantage of the ruling that we may discuss whether the ‘ price should be at sidings or at ports.
I believe that the price should be paid for the wheat at sidings. This would give the growers a more reasonable return, and would also be a step towards decentralization. Only by achieving decentralization can we maintain our present’ standard of living. The Premier of Victoria, Mr. Cain, said in Melbourne this week -
Melbourne is becoming too unwieldy. There cannot be a balanced economy until the population is more evenly distributed.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said that production was the key to further relief from taxation. Therefore, I believe that it is important that the proposed price of wheat should be paid at sidings, because that would be a step in the direction of decentralization. Why should the growers have to send their wheat to a port in order to get a price? Why should they not be able to deliver it at a railway siding and get a price there? It reads very well in the newspapers that the growers are to receive 5s. 2d. a bushel, but in actual fact they will receive only 4s. 2d. or 4s. 3d. after rail freights have been deducted. Why should farmers have to sell at Melbourne prices and buy at Melbourne prices? Country residents have suffered all the time. If a farmer has to telephone to Melbourne for a duplicate part for his tractor it may. cost him 10s. by the time he has had a couple of extensions. On the other hand, a Melbourne factory owner, who wants a duplicate part for a machine, rings up the manufacturer and places his order at a cost of 2d. or less, and he may talk for as long as he likes. This Government has talked much of promoting decentralization, yet it is not prepared to bring in a plan under which wheat-growers will be paid for their wheat at country sidings. I am not one-sided, and I commend the Government of Victoria for establishing wool stores at Portland, because I cannot see any reason for hauling wool or any other commodity all the way. to the metropolis.
– The Liberal party does not favour putting the stores at Portland.
– I am not committed to the policy of the Liberal party, but to what the Australian Country party stands for. The building of wool stores at Portland is a step towards decentralization, but the payment of growers for their wheat at country sidings would be a much more important step. It is necessary to attract people to the country from the city, and this can be done only by improving living conditions iri the country.
– Does the honorable member favour the selling of superphosphate at country sidings?
– Yes, but I know that it would be impossible to achieve at present. At the present time, the farmers must buy their superphosphate in the capital cities, and sell their wheat there. If they must buy in the city, at least they, should have one side of the deal, and sell their wheat at country, sidings at the stabilized price. That is the principal point in his amendment. It will aid decentralization and put this country on a better footing. The population of Melbourne is at present being retained in that city largely by what we might call the artificial growth of prosperity brought about by the expenditure of vast sums of deferred pay and other allowances by discharged members of the forces and by the wages of government officials em1 ployed in departments which impose restrictions that are hampering production. That artificial prosperity cannot last. Only when the representatives of the people legislate with the knowledge that the land is the true basis of prosperity shall we attain anything approaching security.
.- 1 move -
That in sub-clause (3.), sub-paragraphs (c) and (d) be left out.
The purpose of my amendment is to bring about the fixation of a price for this year only and for the establishment of a cost of production tribunal which will fix the price for succeeding years.
– I have been advised by the Crown Law officers that as the amendment would have the effect of increasing the appropriation it cannotbe accepted.
.- In my struggles to obtain a higher price I do riot seem’ to be enjoying much success; but my failure will not prevent me from trying again. - In view of the rulings which, the Chair has felt obliged to give on the advice of the Crown Law officers, which have prevented me from obtaining a division on the question of whether the price should be 5s. 2d. a growers’ sidings or 5s. 2d. at ports - which as everyone knows would mean a difference to the grower . of about lid. a bushel - I am driven to adopt the only other procedural device I know, which will enable us to discover where the representatives of wheat-grower electorates in this chamber stand on this very controversial but important matter. In order to oblige the representatives of wheat-growing electorates to reveal where they stand I propose to .move that the clause be postponed as an instruction to the Government to recast it in such a way as to provide a price of 5s. 2d. a bushel bagged basis at sidings. That will enable us to discover the attitude not only of the Government - we know that in advance - but also of individual representatives of wheatgrowing constituencies. If the amend-, ment be carried it will have the effect of raising the price of wheat to 5s. 2d. a bushel at growers’ sidings, but even if it is rejected it will at least reveal how representatives of wheat-growing electorates vote on this particularly vital issue. I point out to the Government and to representatives of the wheat-growing electorates that this amendment will not involve the Treasury in the expenditure of one additional penny in respect of the forthcoming crop. The bill will no doubt be passed in such a form as to ensure that every bushel of wheat sold in Australia, for whatever purpose it be used, shall realize 5s. 2d. on a ports basis. We know that on -a rising market for wheat the Australian Wheat Board’s price to-day even to Unrra and the London Food Council is 10s. 4£d. f.o.b. and it is clear that realizations will go higher than 5s. 2d. at sidings, which is the equivalent of 6s. Id. at ports. Honorable members may accordingly rest assured that if they vote for the amendment the Treasury will not be involved in any way. It may however, ;do violence to the* principles of those who slavishly follow the dictates of caucus and of a party which is concerned more about the interests of the consumers than about the dues of the producers, and which obeys the dictates of outside authorities such as the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. In order to ascertain whether these outside authorities are the masters of members or whether members are more concerned with the interests of those who elected them to this chamber, I move -
That the clause be postponed.
.- The rustic Bourbons opposite apparently have learned nothing and have forgotten nothing in the last three years. They forget the Dutch auction of their wheat policy at the last election - and their offer on that occasion was 2s. a bushel more than was provided in the Scully wheat plan yet they were “left with the goods “. The people would have none of their policy. They are now playing their old game, . forgetting the lessons of the past. Exactly the same state of affairs will prevail at the coming elections. This scheme and the whole of the price-fixing structure and the guarantee have been agreed to by farmers’ representatives and by massed meetings of farmers, and the States have made themselves responsible for the implementation of the scheme. Accordingly, the attempts of honorable members to sabotage the plan at this stage will not succeed. We gladly accept their challenge. As the representative of a wheatgrowing constituency with a knowledge of the wishes of -the wheat-growers, I assure honorable members opposite that the growers want security not for to-day or for to-morrow or next year, but for a long period. They know that honorable members opposite who make specious promises had an opportunity to do something for them over the last ten years but failed lamentably to grasp the opportunity. When witnesses are so suspect as are our political opponents, we need have no fear that the farmers will again commission them to look after their interests in this Parliament and will endorse whole-heartedly what is proposed .in this bill.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) supporting this amendment. In my second-reading speech I indicated that I was a member of a’ Government which was instrumental in obtaining the consent of the State Premiers to a sliding price of 3s. 4d. a bushel. It is true that I did not inquire why the government did not go on with the proposal after I had left the Ministry. Possibly, as has been, the case to-night in respect of the amendments moved by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party, the Government, acting on the advice of the Crown Law officers, finally rejected the proposal on the ground that it would increase the appropriation. Close examination of the wheat industry and -in fact of any primary industry forces us to recognize the fact that the circumstances prevailing under the licensed crop system are totally different from those prevailing under an open market system. Under the latter system a grower does what he likes with his land; it is his business to determine what area he will sow, whether he be engaged in the production of wheat, barley or oats. At present, however, he is restricted by other factors. When he is not subject to restriction he may enter other forms of production, hut usually being away from the large centres of population, only in competition with others who may be more favorably situated. The honorable member for Swan referred to the desirability of imposing a flat rail freight on superphosphates. He will find that a uniform rate has been imposed on the transport of superphosphates in New Zealand for many years. In South Australia a somewhat similar arrangement has been made, the difference in freights between haulage over 50 and 100 miles being negligible. The amendment should be accepted by . the Government. Having on one occasion been guilty of influencing a Premiers Conference to agree to such a proposal, I am in the happy position of being able to vote for it to-night. It was at one time the policy of the party with which I was associated, and I trust that before long it will be generally accepted, particularly while restrictions of acreage and control of the wheat industry remain the law of the land.
.- Honorable members opposite are persist ent in their effort to destroy the wheat stabilization plan. The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. McEwen) is of the opinion that the present high wheat prices will continue indefinitely. In an interesting article headed “Doubts of World Wheat Future “, which was published in the Melbourne Herald of to-day’s date, the following pertinent statement appeared : -
Australia House Commerce Department officials are interested in the Ottawa report of Canada and Britain signing a four-year wheat agreement within a fortnight, and the proposed different prices for the first two years and the second two years. According to the Daily Telegraph’s special correspondent in Ottawa, the guaranteed price for the first two years will be £14 9s. a’ ton, and for the second two years a minimum negotiable price of £11 13s. _4d. a ton.
On the price ruling it would be about £18 a ton. The article goes on -
Annual shipments are expected to reach four million tons.
Both the Australian Government and wheat producers - but. to a much lesser extent flour millers- - are pressing for an international wheat agreement, fearing that the present, world shortage will be followed by a glut and a catastrophic drop in wheat prices.
I warn the wheat-growers not to be deluded by the arguments of the Opposition, but to adhere to this scheme as their only hope. The report proceeds -
Australia readily admits the need to ensure wheat imports for the next two years, and if possible, for longer, by separate long range contracts between importers and exporting countries. It feels, however, that the basis for an international wheat agreement should he soundly laid as soon (is possible.
Bountiful harvests in Canada, America. Australia and the Argentine in addition to the recovery in the European wheatlands may easily lead to a situation where the economic effects of lew prices will be just as harmful as the effects of a wheat shortage-
That is very important for the wheatgrowers -
Some Australian wheat experts-
They are possibly the friends of the Opposition, the wheat merchants, who pose as experts - fear a glut within two years unless international action is taken– T
That is happening, too -
Australian wheat at present is pouring into India- .
We know that is true - but future Indian imports will be smaller because of the recovery in the Far-Eastern rice areas.
Countries, which at present are a good market for Australia, may be practically valueless in a few years.
Australia is shipping no wheat to Britain now. but is anxious to resume AngloAustralian trading as soon as possible without prejudicing plans for trading on an international basis and assurances against gluts-
That is very important -
Although the world wheat balance-sheet for 1 945-46 snowed a deficit of six million tons, the total estimated world wheat surplus for 1946-47 is in million tons. As the pre-war average end-of-the-season surplus was 1.1 million tons, elements of a world glut can already be seen within a year.
Australian commerce officials are- greatly pre-occupied over future wheat trading.
T impress upon honorable gentlemen opposite that this plan must be passed, not only by this Parliament but also by the State parliaments, and I urge them to use all their influence on their colleagues in the Legislative Councils in favour of the passage of the complementary State legislation because of the facts that are coming to notice. If honorable gentlemen opposite had their way, there would be no stabilization plan and within twelve or eighteen months of Unrra’s disappearance from the market, the Australian wheat-farmers might have to accept 3s. a bushel for their grain. The Labour Government has guaranteed in that event to make up the difference between the market price and -5s. 2d. a bushel. That may commit it to the expenditure of many millions of pounds. Yet honorable gentlemen opposite are quibbling over the proposal that the Minister shall be entrusted with the final responsibility to Parliament for the direction and management of the plan. I. enjoin the farmers not to listen to their propaganda. I warn them, too, that reports indicate that within five years we may once again have a world wheat glut. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), himself a practical farmer, knows that the wheat industry can go from one extreme to the- other very quickly.
– He said that last night.-
– Yes. I, too, as a farmer know that is so. The last harvest in western Victoria seemed doomed to failure, but rain in October saved the crop and, as the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) knows, the district had a bountiful harvest with so much hay to spare that the farmers have stacks of it standing to-day. The threatened disaster was averted in one month. Instead of opposing this bill all honorable members opposite should be acclaiming it.
– 1 agree with the honorable member foi Wannon (Mr. McLeod) that wheat prices may fall, but let us examine the position from that point of view. World parity for wheat is about 10s. a bushel f.o.r. ports. Now that the 1945-46 harvest is to be- included, the stabilization plan will cover the next four harvests. Suppose that four years hence wheat toboggans to 5s. a bushel. That would mean an average, price over the five harvests of 7s. 6d. a bushel. The wheat-growers are to receive half of the difference between the guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a bushel and the realization, and, taking the realization at an average” of 7s. 6d. a bushel, we have left in the pool ls. 2d. a bushel for every bushel grown in the five years. In order to simplify .the reckoning, I take the difference left in the pool as ls. a bushel, which, for 1,000 bags, amounts to £150 a year, or £750 for five years. That would be the cost of the scheme to a grower who disposed of 1,000 bags a year.
Another reason why I believe that the price should be at sidings, instead of f.o.r. ports, is that the wheat belongs to the growers, and the Victorian growers favour a price at sidings. I have quotedfrom the Warracknabeal Herald before in order to show that the farmers agreed to the proposal made by the Perth conference of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. The newspaper, reporting a meeting of farmers at Warracknabeal, =aid that it decided -
That pending the settling up of the commission of inquiry to ascertain the guaranteed floor price, the 5s. 2d. be accepted as first advance payment only; that any difference between the 5s. 2d. f.o.r. as a first advance payment and the determined guaranteed floor price as found hy the commission be made up by retrospective payments to the guaranteed floor price.
That was what the Perth conference decided, and that is what the meeting at
Warracknabeal enthusiastically agreed to. The Minister has said that the Australian Wheat Growers Federation does not support that, but in order to disprove him I shall read another report, published after the interview that the representatives of the federation had with the Minister in Sydney.
– (Mr. Barnard). - Order! The honorable member is .getting a little wide of the subject. He is entitled to discuss the postponement of the clause and the relation of the clause to the price, but is not entitled to make another second-reading speech.
– I am supporting stabilization because the growers want it. According to the Warracknabeal Herald -
The federation reached its decision on stabilization in Perth last April.
That is what the Warracknabeal people accepted.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable gentleman is not entitled to discuss stabilization on this clause.
– I shall discuss what was said after the meeting with the Minister in Sydney.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN Order! The. honorable member must confine his remarks within the limits already indicated by the Chair.
– The wheat-farmers of .Victoria have not changed. They are in favour of a price at country sidings. They believe that it is only just. Why should a man who grows wheat in a congenial district about 50 miles from Melbourne receive a higher price than that received by men with the initiative and pioneering spirit who have gone into the back country to grow wheat? Why should not the man who grows wheat a long way from the seaboard receive the same price for ‘ his wheat as i3 received by men who grow wheat near the cities? I think no one would be opposed to that. Just think of what the men and women who go into, the outback have to contend with! Are they not entitled to the amenities that are enjoyed by the farmers who live near the cities? flow can they get those amenities if the bread-winners are not able to get for their wheat what is received by farmers near the cities? In my wildest flights of imagination I never imagined that this Government, which claims that it favours decentralization and that it battles for the battlers, would point a loaded gun at men brave enough to select country that was looked upon as wasteland and to grow wheat on it. That it should do so is utterly unjust, and I protest most strongly against it. I favour stabilization’.
– The honorable member said that he was here to-night to wreck the bill.
– I did not. I am pleased that the honorable member for
Hume (Mr. Fuller) interjected.
The. TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN Order! The Chair cannot protect the honorable member if he refers to interjections.
– The honorable member for Hume interjected that I said that I wanted to destroy the bill.
– So the honorable gentleman did.
– The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy), just after I spoke, said that he had carefully taken down what I said; he quoted my words, and his quotation did not contain the word “ destroy “. So either the honorable member for Hume is wrong or the honorable member for Boothby is wrong. I say that _ the honorable member for Boothby is right.
– What did the honorable member for Wimmera say, then?
– I said that I would fight against this scheme.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member has no right to refer to a previous clause.
– I apologize; but I was only answering the interjections of the honorable member for Hume.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Then disregard the interjections and address the Chair.-
– I believe that it would be in the best interests of this great primary producing country if we were to adopt the principle of payment for the wheat at country sidings. It would be an incentive to decentralization of the population.
– The honorable member is again getting wide of the mark.
– In supporting the amendment I say that payment for the wheat at sidings is of paramount impor- . tance to the wheat industry if it is to remain Australia’s second-greatest asset. We shall court disaster unless we foster primary production at all costs. The clipping of the golden fleece and the harvesting of the golden grain-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The Chair will not allow the honorable gentleman to go on an Australiawide search for material for his speech.
– I am endeavouring to support the amendment. If the Minister does not accept this amendment, Australia will be hampered in achieving the glorious future which has been predicted for it.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed (Mr. McEwen’s amendment.)
The commitee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. H.C. Barnard.)
Ayes . . . . . . 15
Noes . - ….36
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Scully) agreed to- .
That, in sub-clause (4.), after the word “ price “ the following words be inserted : - “ free on rail at the port from which it is normally exported,”.
.-I move -
Thatthe following new sub-clause be added : - “ (7.) Thenet return to the Board of all wheat sold in Australia by Government direction at a price less than export parity at the time of sale shall be the export parity price, and the difference (if any) shall be paid by the Government to the Board.”
The purpose of the amendment is to give effect to apart of the policy of the Australian Country party, namely, that wheat sold within Australia for purposes other than human consumption should return to the Australian Wheat Board, and,’ therefore, ultimately to the growers, the prevailing export parity at the time of its sale. I have advocated this policy on so many occasions that it will not be necessaryfor me to repeat my argument tonight. The effect of the amendment will be to ensure that it will be still competent for the government of the day, as a matter of policy, to make wheat available for live stock feed and industrial purposes in Australia at a reasonable price, but the cost will be borne, not by the wheatgrowers, but by the Government. In short, there should not be made permanent what we regard as a pernicious principle, namely, the compulsory acquisition of a product from the wheat indus try and its resale to another industry at a price less than its realizable value. This amendment, if accepted, will protect the wheat-growers against a continuance of that practice.
– Order! As the Government would be required to provide the difference between the net price and parity, the amendment would increase the appropriation. Therefore, the Chair cannot accept the amendment.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 19 agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Today the Sydney Daily Telegraph published an article entitled “ A.B.C. Disclaims Duty to Give Right to Reply”. It refers to a request by Mr. Jeffrey Blaxland to the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Moses, that he be permitted to broadcast a reply to what he described as an attack that I had made upon him in this House. Mr. Blaxland’s request arose out of a question which I directed to the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) on Tuesday regarding the activities in Australia of the advertising firm, J. Walter Thompson and Company. The fact is that I did not refer to Mr. Blaxland, or make any attack upon him. I did mention a plot which was being hatched to betray supporters of the Labour party at the forthcoming elections. Mr. Blaxland is playing a very minor part indeed. I find it peculiar that the press allotted very little space to my questionand the Minister’s answer, but provided a column, with prominent headlines, for Mr. Blaxland’s complaint. J. Walter Thompson and Company, which employs Mr. Blaxland, is a well-known advertising firm - one of the biggest in the world - and has ample opportunity to reply to any of my statements over the commercial broadcasting stations or through sections of the press which it influences from time to time through their advertising columns. As a matter of fact, a campaign has been in progress for some months to build up political opposition to me. and belittle myown candidature, while I have been attending to my parliamentary duties in Canberra. In addition, paid organizers and “whisperers” have been working in my electorate for twelve months in the employ of certain interests to whom I . shall refer later. Smith’s Weekly has published a full-page article - the author, I understand, was employed by Australian Consolidated Industries - and other inspired articles to build up opponents to me and belittle my candidature. I understand that these articles are sponsored by this advertising firm in conjunction with persons associated with the Century newspaper. It is remarkable that this firm is handling the advertising for the Liberal party in Victoria for the forthcoming election campaign, and for the opposition to the referendum on behalf of the Lang party in New South Wales. It also sponsored Lang’s broadcasts over what is known as the “ Freedom Radio “. I understand that in the coming campaign this firm will manage the advertising for the Lang party, which, of course, will oppose the Government. The articles in the Century are being sponsored, and paid for at advertising rates, but are not appearing as advertisements, so the reading public is being seriously misled. I make no attack on Mr. Blaxland, because I believe that he is playing a very small part in the whole unsavoury business. He is probably being used as an innocent tool. But this is a poor way to use the so-called “new blood “ of the Liberal party. If Mr. Blaxland is coming into the fight on a fair basis. I welcome him. I trust that we shall have a clean fight. Smith’s Weekly headed one of its inspired articles “ Gloves are off in the Battle for Votes “, which suggests to me that a rather dirty fight is likely. That article made reference to my own campaign, and referred to the candidature of Mr. Blaxland, who, it was said, would advocate that the second preference of his supporters should be given to the Lang party. To my mind, this is a most unworthy procedure, which will put the “‘new blood” candidates of the Liberal party in a very false light. Apparently, the Liberal party candidates will give their second preferences to the Lang party candidates in certain metropolitan seats in consideration of the Lang party candidates giving their second preferences to the Liberal party candidates or Australian Country party candidates in border line seats. This policy has nauseated the local committee of the Liberal party in my electorate, which objected to Liberal party candidates being required to advocate the giving of second preference to the Lang party candidate. The Lang party, as everybody knows, has done a great deal for many years past to undermine the Labour movement, and it has been associated with tin hares, fruit machines and other undesirable affairs. The bosses of the Liberal party, Mr. Spooner and Mr. Bridges, are apparently forcing this policy on Liberal party candidates in metropolitan seats. The Lang party candidates are engaging in the same sorry practices which they followed when they undermined the Scullin Administration. It is deplorable, in my opinion, that the Liberal party should ‘ engage in this propaganda, which is entirely contrary to the customary practice of the respective political parties. It is, indeed, a peculiar situation. The Liberal party is apparently prepared to sacrifice its so-called “ new blood “ in order to bolster up the . decadent Lang party, and it is more concerned to bring about the possible entry into this Parliament of destructive Lang party candidates, who will set up a disruptive cave in this House. Such tactics ill become those who claim to stand for stable government.
Although I first mentioned this matter in the House only the other day, I learned of the proposal about two years ago. Tn fact, it comes down to us from the last State elections in ‘New South Wales, when certain anti-Labour candidates exchanged preferences with the Lang party. I refer honorable members to the Standard Weekly of the 1st June, 1944A in which they will find reproduced facsimiles of several “ How to vote “ cards under the heading “Lang’s Treachery Proved”. These “How to vote “ cards relate to the Dulwich Hill, North Sydney and .Bondi electorates. I refer particularly to the Bondi situation, in which a person named Hallett, the Lang party candidate, authorized the giving of bis second preference to Frank Browne, the United Australia party candidate. Browne happens to be an employee of the firm of J. Walter Thompson and Company, and so is a fellow-employee of Mr. Blaxland, who is campaigning against me in the Reid elec,torate. It is a serious .commentary on election procedure that, in both New South Wales and Commonwealth election campaigns, Liberal party candidates should be advised to give their second preference to Lang party -candidates. This relates particularly to the metropolitan ‘ constituencies . of Reid, West Sydney, Cook and Dalley. I understand that a man named Harold Coote was selected as the Liberal party candidate for Reid, but when he discovered that he was to be regarded as a “ stooge “ or a “ tool “, and that he would be expected to advocate the giving of his second preferences to the Lang party candidate, he protested, and, under pressure from the Liberal party bosses, withdrew his candidature.
We all. know, of course, of the dieclosure to the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) that, for a consideration of £3,000, an attempt was made to “sell - out “ 200,000 Lang party votes during the last referendum. The negotiations were conducted, I understand, between Mr. Sommerlad, M.L.O., and Mr. A. C. Patterson, of the Century. The money was paid by cheque, and a receipt given by the Century.
– There were four separate cheques, three of £1,000 each and one of £400.
– It was rather unfortunate for the parties concerned that those negotiations came to light. It is a remarkable feature of current party politics also that representatives of the Century newspaper are overseas at present negotiating with certain isolationist interests. It would be against the best interests of this country if such isolationist interests secured a footing in Australia. The advertising firm of J. Walter Thompson and Company already seems to have a “leg-in”. It claims to have power to buy and sell governments. From what I have heard of its activities iri Europe before Hitler marched in there may be something in its claim; but I do not think that it is likely to succeed with its tactics in this country. I have heard that it is going to use its influence in every way possible to bring about my defeat at the next general elections, and will even go so far as to purchase local newspapers in my electorate. In effect, the “ heat “ is going to be turned on me in the coming campaign. It has been said that I should not use my privilege as a member of this House to defend myself against such attacks. Yet, while I am attending to my duties here, articles attacking me are being published, and organizers are going around the electorate attempting to undermine me. In order to show that this matter concerns not merely myself individually, but also the Labour movement as a whole, in the coming general election campaign, I quote the following from Smith’s Weekly. of the 13th July last, from notes appearing under the heading “Political Form Guide”:-
Lang’s prospects are worthy of a little study because the appearance of Lang in Canberra would provide news, entertainment and trouble, and the trouble would be for Chifley.
The writer who, apparently, has inside information, adds -
I am informed that the Liberal candidate, J. F. Blaxland, will invite his supporters to give their preference to Lang and not Morgan.
Although Mr. Blaxland rushes into print to-day there has been no denial of the statement made by this apparently informed writer.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) negatived -
That the honorable member for Reid be granted an extension of time.
– I should not have risen at this late hour had it not been for the remarks of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan). He has sought to defend his action in asking a question in this House which has resulted in the publicity of which he now complains, but which, if he were fair-minded, he would naturally expect. Too often we have heard honorable member’s opposite make statements in this House traducing arid vilifying persons outside who have not the opportunity to defend themselves in any way against such attacks. The honorable member for Reid- said that he did not mention the name of the man who has had his case stated in the press to-day. I agree. All that he said in relation to this matter was -
Is the Minister further aware that this unholy alliance has been conceived in the office of J. Walter Thompson and Company, an overseas big-business advertising firm with international ramifications ?
He was referring to some plot being hatched by some true-blue Labour supporters and blue-blooded Liberals who were going to be sacrificed in order to appease Jack Lang. The honorable member’s question was obviously a “ Dorothy Dix “. It was a question which he drafted in collaboration with the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) because the Minister, in using the name of Blaxland, showed that he knew all about the matter. It was obvious from the Minister’s reply that he knew what the honorable member really wanted. The reply was as follows -
The firm of J. Walter Thompson and Company has been engaged in a . great deal of political activity in this country. An employee of that firm, named Blaxland, has been endorsed as the Liberal candidate in opposition to the honorable member for Reid on the occasion of the next general elections.
It is obvious that the question was prearranged between the Minister and the honorable member for Reid. When the question was asked, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Menzies) took a point of order and drew attention to the fact that it constituted political propaganda of the worst possible kind. The right honorable member drew attention to the fact that the person whose name had been mentioned was not able to answer any accusation made in this House, and had no opportunity to defend himself. We predicted that honorable member’s opposite would indulge in these tactics once debates in this chamber were broadcast, and would take advantage of the air to indulge in political propaganda, and traduce and defame persons outside. Had these attacks been made in the press the victims would have had some redress, because the press would be obliged to make a fair report. However, once such statements are broadcast from this House the victims have no opportunity to use the same medium in order to answer their traducers. The honorable member forReid now aggravates his offence by traducing other members of the Liberal party. He has mentioned the names of Spooner and Bridges. He alleged that an arrangement had been made by those men in regard to the electoral campaign in the division ofReid. The honorable member should make those charges outside the House and give an opportunity to the persons he attacks to defend themselves. He also mentioned the name of another gentleman, a man formerly selected as the Liberal candidate for Reid, and said that because that gentleman refused to lend himself to a suggestion that his preferences be distributed in favour of the Langcandidate he was refused selection by the Liberal party. The honorable member should know different. If that statement is on a par with his other statements, then the latter are sadly lacking in truth. I do not want to go into the reasons why that gentleman was asked to withdraw his name as a Liberal candidate. After all, it is not easy for a political body to ask a selected candidate to stand down. However, it was unfortunate that the honorable member should have used that gentleman’s name in the way he did. I give the assurance that the reason why the man was asked to stand down was not the reason alleged by the honorable member. I shall leave the matter there. The article about which the honorable member has spoken contains protests from very reputable people in the community, including Dr. Duhig, Professor of Pathologyinthe University of Queensland, the Anglican Bishop of Goulburn, Dr.Louat,
Professor Bland, Mrs. Constance Murray and the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr.Fraser), a colleague of the honorable member. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who, I believe, has interpreted the matter correctly, said this -
It is most important that a solution should be found to the problem of a person’s right to reply to attacks made on him in Parliament, and broadcast in parliamentary broadcasts.
A man who is personally attacked should have the right to reply.
Good newspapers which report parliamentary attacks on people give those people the right of reply in their columns.
I do not think it is a solution to the problem involved in parliamentary broadcast attacks to give the person attacked the right to demand time for areply through the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
But a solution may be found by allowing the person attacked to send his reply to the presiding officer of Parliament, or a specially selected committee of members of Parliament. Parliament could empower this officer or committee to decide whether the whole statement or a part of it should be broadcast in reply from the floor of the House.
That is a fail statement. I hope that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has been correctly reported. It seems to me that we have reached the stage when men must demand from some authority the right to answer traducers in this House who cannot be brought to account by any other means. The matter is broadcast throughout the length and breadth of Australia. There is no way by which such calumnies can beevertaken. The only redress is for the man attacked to appeal to a committee of this House,or to the presiding officer - as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has suggested - in order that justice may be done to him. The honorable member forReid has not improved his credit by having made this further attack tonight on the other men whose names he has mentioned. He knows that he cannot be brought to account for what he may say in the exercise of his privileges in this House; but, as a legal man, he must realize the consequences if he is prepared to repeat the statements outside.
. -I have very little to say; but, since my name has been mentioned, I want to make it clear that, whilst what has been read by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), which I have heard to-night for the first time, appears to be a completely accurate report of what I said, it has no relation whatever to the matter raised by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan). My’ comment was in .regard to a matter in which I am, and I imagine every member of this House must be, interested, namely, the opportunity for reply by a ‘citizen whose personal or business reputation may be stake because of an attack made upon him in this House and broadcast by the national stations throughout Australia.
– I do not quarrel with the honorable member in that regard.
– But the honorable member made a mistake when he quoted me as having protested against something that had been said by the honorable member for Reid. I took my stand on a matter of principle alone. That principle is a perfectly good one, and I adhere to it. To my knowledge, no member of this House has more frequently made unwarranted personal attacks than has the honorable member for Wentworth. When I spoke on the principle of giving a means of reply to those who had been unfairly traduced in this House, I had in mind the attacks that were frequently made in this House by the honorable member for Wentworth. My comment was solely on the principle involved, and the solution which 1 suggested is one which I hope will eventually be adopted by this House.
– It is my duty to give publicity to a system that is being operated in this country to-day, for which the Government must accept responsibility. It would be hard to conceive of more degrading tactics being employed. The Rationing Commission is taking action that is designed to make law-breakers of honest and fair-minded business people. In fact, business men may at any time be made the victims of traps that are set and misrepresentations that are uttered by “ urgers “. . Among the employees of the Rationing Commission is a law-breaking woman who visited a butcher shop in
Maryborough, Queensland,’ as did another woman in some Victorian cities not long ago. She pleaded with the shop assistant for some meat. Her appeal was the more pathetic in that it was made on behalf of her husband and child. She said that she had travelled a long way, and had no coupons. The assistant, a man of high repute who has a wife and four children, was prevailed upon to take pity on her and give her 14 oz. of steak. Mocking him, this government employee profusely thanked him. In order to make a further conquest, she then visited another butcher and repeated her appeal to this decent man’s humanitarian instincts. Subsequently she revisited her victims -in the company of a government inspector, and laid charges against them. I am not complaining of inspectors doing their duty ; but I do object to the Govern”ment employing “ stooges “ who adopt the contemptible methods employed by this woman. She later visited in Maryborough a. leading storekeeper, to whom she “appealed for cigarettes, and tobacco for herself and her husband, offering at least £5 for a carton of cigarettes and more foi the tobacco which she.said that she and her husband smoked. She used all her persuasive powers to induce this storekeeper to become a law-breaker, but her efforts failed. She herself was a law-breaker in this instance; and she was employed by the Government for that purpose. If such low tactics are to be used to make law-breakers, the standard of behaviour in this country has degenerated. Some officials will descend to any depth of degradation in order to achieve their ends. If the Government does not countenance such dishonest tactics by its employees, which have been used for many months in different States, and in regard to which complaints have already reached Canberra, what action is it prepared to take to prevent their continuance? The two butchers whom I have mentioned are to appear before the court on the 24th July. I ask that these regrettable ‘cases be immediately expunged from the records. Because of the early hearing of the cases, I have deemed it necessary to hold the attention of the House for these few minutes to-night.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.13 a.ra. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Mr.Forde. - The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
d” asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 4. On the 15th June, 1940, the Communist party of Australia was, by order made under regulation 3 of the National Security (Subversive Associations)Regulations, declared to be prejudicial to the defence of the Commonwealth or the efficient prosecution of the war. On the 18th December, 1942, this order was revoked as the result of certain undertakings given, and the AttorneyGeneral then stated that, if the undertakings were not observed, the Government would re-impose the ban. On the 14th June, 1943, the High Court unanimously held regulation 3 of the National. Security (Subversive
Associations) Regulations to be invalid and accordingly it is not now legally possible to re-impose the ban under that regulation.
Smuggling: Preventive Measures by Customs Officers.
e.- On the 16th July, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) asked a question concerning searches made by Customs officers on the Mariposa and Monterey.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has informed me that these searches were carried out by officers of his department as a matter of routine. Similar searches are being carried out every day without attracting newspaper publicity.
– On the 16th July, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked a question concerning action said to have been taken against certain officers of the Customs Department.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now informed me that no officer of that department has been dismissed recently as a result of any departmental inquiry, but that certain officers have been reduced in status in connexion with charges made against them under the Commonwealth Public Service Act. As other proceedings against other persons are pending, I regret that I cannot give any further information on this subject at present. I may add that the action taken against the officers did not arise out of the searches made on the Monterey and the Mariposa, as seems to have been suggested by the honorable member.
n asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The ‘answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n . asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to tho honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
– 1. £452,095,000.-
The approximate credits were -
Recoverable expenditure incurred during 194S-46 on behalf of Other Administrations was £46,581,000, while amounts recovered from those administrations totalled £42,917,000. It isnot now practicable to segregate credits for sales to the Dutch Government, but they were comparatively small.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 July 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460718_reps_17_187/>.