17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to-
Thatthe House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30. a.m.
Temporary Employees - Superannuation Board
– I direct attention to the position of temporary public servants, particularly ex-service personnel, in a number of Commonwealth departments that are to cease to function in thenear future. I appreciate the efforts of the Minister for Labour and National Service, in response to representations following a deputation to him, to retain as many of these men as possible in their present positions, or to transfer them to other departments. I understand that many State departments are seriously understaffed, and that the delays in having titles matters dealt with in the offices ofthe Stamp Commissioner and the Registrar-General in Sydney are causing an acute bottleneck in connexion with Commonwealth and State housing programmes. Will the Minister confer with the State authorities, with a view to determining whether some of the officers at present employed temporarily in Commonwealth departments may be transferred to State departments on a temporary or permanent basis?
– I shall certainly do so. The matter of State officers loaned to the Commonwealthwho have decided not to continue as permanent members of the Commonwealth Public Service has been handled by the Public Service Board. Should a State officer seek appointment to a vacant position in the Commonwealth Public Service, he has to stand the test of appeals by colleagueswho are members of thePublic Service Association. Some men who could not be retainedin the Commonwealth Public Service because they were not permanent Commonwealth or State officers had to be dismissed, but I believe that 90 per cent, or more of the total number affected have received appointments. I shall discuss with the State authorities the matter of filling suitable positions that are vacant in the State service.
– In connexion with Public Service superannuation, has the Government given consideration to raising the value of the pension unit of 10s.? If not, will it consider doing so, having special regard - to the’ increased cost of Jiving and tie fact that the value of tlo unit has not been altered since the inception of the fund? When giving consideration to this’ matter, will the Prime Minister also consider the reconstruction of the Public Service Board to provide for the inclusion of a representative elected by the employees themselves >
– Consideration waa given some months ago to the point raised by the honorable member in regard to superannuation payments. Although thu cost of living, has been increased since the inception of the f und, the contributions of employees of the Public Service other than new contracts have remained unaltered.’ . The’ benefit now received is thus in ‘accordance with the payments made, The fund was actuarially based on the assumption that the interest return on investments made by the Superannuation Board would be approximately 4$ per cent. Owing to interest rates Having been steadily pressed down, however, that return is not being achieved, with the result , that the’ Consolidated Revenue Fund is now bearing the greater portion’ of the pension payments. That nas been the experience of other contributory superannuation schemes initiated by the State governments. The Commonwealth superannuation fund is backed by the Government and accordingly thera need be no fear that pensioners, will not continue to receive the payments to which they are entitled. However, I - shall again look into the matter and see whether anything can be done. When the possibility of increasing the nuit value was considered- some <imo- ago- no change was made because the f ac’-ors I have men- .tioned and ‘others made it impracticable to do so.
– I nsk the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture what considerations prompted his refusal to receive a deputation from the Australian Primary Producers Union, to discuss the Meat Export Control Bill 3.84(1, iii view, of the fact that there are members . of . that .’organization in. four States and they are vitally interested in the measure. Will the. honorable gentle man, even at this late- ‘stage, reconsider his decision and receive representatives of this organization, which controls probably ‘ the. largest number of meat producers in the. Commonwealth?
– At a conference ‘with a federal organization in Sydney, I stated that I would receive, representatives of only federal bodies in connexion with the Meat Export Control Bill 1940. Those are the Australian .”Wheat Growers Federation, the . Austraiian Woolgrowers Federation, and the - Graziers Federation of Australia. When I was about to receive representatives of those organizations in fulfilment of my promise, I received an application from . the Primary Producers Union in Victoria, ami I ‘ replied that I had received many applications ficm other State organization; but was treating > the matter on a federal ‘basis. What has happened since, I do not know, but T have ‘arranged to meet representatives of the union referred to, when I next Visit Melbourne. I have always kept my promise in matters pf’ this kind.. At the time- .referred to by- tho honorable member, .1 had applications from various sectional representatives,’ and it would have been impossible to meet thom .in the circumstances. ‘
Occupation Force in Japan - -ReleaseKei Personnel. 3Ir. CHAMBERS;- As General MacArthur has made it clear that the wives of the Australian troops who form a portion of the occupation force in Japan, will be permitted to join their husbands, in that country, can the Minister for theArmy indicate to the House- how soon arrangements can. bc completed to enablethem to do so ? if:-. FORDE. - This matter was recently considered by LieutenantGeneva] Northcott Commander-in-Chief of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan, who, ob hia return to Australia conferred with the Chief of the General Staff in Melbourne: The ^practicability of sending the wives of the Australian, troops to Japan. is now being investigated, bavins’ regard to problems - of transport and accommodation, and a report will be made to me on the matter within the next few days. We have the fullest sympathy with the troops who desire their wives to join them in Japan, but many factors have to be taken into consideration before a decision can be made.
– Has the Minister for the Army read a report in this morning’s Sydney Daily Telegraph that men classified by the Army as key personnel were picking up papers, stoking fires and doing menial jobs at the 2nd/110 General Transport Company, Kensington? Is he also aware that although men with 105 points were being discharged last week, 220out of the 345 men in the Kensington camp have more than 112 points and should have been discharged by the end of June, and that 167 men with points over 124 should have been discharged by May last? In view of the Minister’s recent statement that89,000 men are still in theArmy in Australia, apart from servicemeninthe islands, the Pacific and Japan,will he correct these discharge anomalies and ensure thatmen will be discharged at their due date andthus be madeavailable to meet the urgent demand for man-power in rural and secondary industries?
– I have not yet had time to read this morning’s Daily Telegraph, but I shall read thereportto which the honorable member refers.I am not conversant with details as tohow many men at the various military establishments have 105 points to their credit under the discharge system. However, the Govern ment has set up a specialcommittee consistingofthe Secretary ofthe Department of the Army as chairman, the AdjutantGeneral, Major-General Milford, Lieutenant-General Savige and Mr. Norman Watt, a representative of the Treasury, in order to screen all dis- charges from war establishments to ensure that everything possible shall be done to speed up demobilization so that men will not be kept unnecessarily in these military establishments.
– Is the Minister satisfied that these key men are genuine key men?
– If the honorable gentleman will give me further details I shall have the cases investigated. Key men should only be held to do key jobs. Time will not permitme to give my interpretation of what constitutes key jobs,but, briefly, they are jobs for which men have been specially trained. I am most anxious that demobilization be speeded upas much as possible.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been directed to an article in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph,in which LieutenantGeneral Robertson, CommanderinChief of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, emphasized the depressing conditions under which Australian troops were living in Japan? He stated that troops, who are working in trying heat under poor conditions, must have civilian amenities if they are to remain normal. He pointed out also that Australian troops draw their pay in yen, which are useless for purchasingfood on the open market. If the right honorablegentlemanhas readthose statements what action doeshe propose to take to improve thoseconditions?
– My attentionhasbeen drawn to the article. Lieutenant-General Northcott, who wasformerlytheCom- mander-in-ChiefoftheBritishCommon- wealthOccupationForce,wasaskedto report to theGovernmentonwhataddi- tionalamenitieswererequiredforthe troopsinJapan.HeconferredwithMr. McKerihan, andthe Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant-General Sturdee,and provided air transportto enable Mr. McKerihan to proceed to Japan for the purpose of examining the conditions personally. He hassince returned,and consultations havetaken place between the Army authorities and the chairman of the Australian ComfortsFund with a view to additional sums of moneybeing made available for amenities. An urgent signal was despatched somedays agoto Lieuten ant-General Robertson asking what additional amenities arerequired. I have already made a . statementon this matter. The policy of the Commonwealth Government is that everything possible be done to make the Australian forces in Japan as comfortableaspossible. I assure thehonorable member that this matter is being followed up, and that I am anxious that whatever additional amenities may he required shall be made available as soon as possible. Lieutenant-General Northcott has submitted a report. I understand that it has been published in the newspapers; therefore, I shall not weary honorable members by reading it to-day.
Land Settlement of EX-SERVICEMEN
– In view of the announcement from New Zealand that already £20,000,000 has been expended in that country in the settlement of exservicemen on the land, and that arrangements have been made for advances to each applicant up to a maximum amount of £6,250, and in view of the progress made in these matters in the small country of New Zealand, can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction explain to the House why no progress whatever has been made in Australia in actually placing ex-servicemen on the land? When does he expect that some ex-members of the forces will be settled in rural areas?
– All of the information that the honorable member has cited regarding the rehabilitation of ex- service personnel in New Zealand comes from reports which have appeared in the daily press. Through my department I have made certain investigations as to the progress made in respect of rehabilitation generally in New Zealand, and I am assured that in Australia we have made just as much progress as in the sister Dominion. As to land settlement, New Zealand has a unified system of go- vernment and no constitutional problems such as those which arise in Australia. The government of that Dominion can undertake land settlement schemes upon its own .responsibility, whilst in Australia., unfortunately, the Commonwealth Government has no constitutional power to .institute such schemes other than by agreement with the governments of the States. I can assure the honorable member that, consistent with all the difficulties involved, and all the problems relating to the constitutional matters which I have mentioned, the progress made in this country with regard to the settlement of ex-service personnel on the land is reasonably good.
– Has the Minister, representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping received any complaints that when the Army Disposals Depot in Victoria advertised for sale 1,500 horse and cow rugs at 123. 6d. each, no orders by telephone or mail to be accepted, farmers travelled 100 and 200 miles to Melbourne to obtain them, only to find that all hadbeen sold to one person ? Will the Minister ascertain whether the rugs were sold to a Jewish refugee who, two hours later, offered to re-sell them at an increase of more than 100 per cent. ? In view of the necessity for farmers to be able to buy commodities such as these in lots to meet their requirements, will the Minister have the complaint investigated immediately, and . take steps to ensure that in future disposals shall not be made in bulk ?
– I have received no” complaints regarding the matter mentioned by the honorable member, but I shall refer it to my colleague the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and ask him to supply the information required as soon as possible.
American Comic Strips
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs tell the House, in view of statements made by him that Australian comic strips are being circulated in Great Britain and the United States of America, how many Australian comic strips have been syndicated, and are being published in those countries? In view of the present crime wave in Australian capital cities, is it considered desirable that American comic strips, that lay undue emphasis on crime, should be circulated free of charge among Australian children at their most impressionable age? Is it a fact that the Australian Journalists Association, the Fellowship of Australian Writers, Parents and Citizens Associations, and other bodies are gravely concerned at this free circulation of American comic strips, and that strong protests were made on the. subject at the recent Tariff Board inquiry? Is it a fact that the use of this foreign - material hampers the development of Australian creative art, nullifies to a hig extent Government policy for the training in art of ex-servicemen, and closes avenues of employment for Australian creative artists?
– I believe that the answer to the third and fourth part of the honorable member’s question is “yes”. Regarding the first and second part I shall confer with my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, in an endeavour to obtain the informa-tion which the honorable member seeks, and it will be made available to him as soon as possible.
Broadcasting of Proceedings
– I desire to ask you a question, Mr. Speaker, or perhaps it may turn out to he a suggestion, about the broadcasting of the proceedings of this House at question time. It must be very difficult for listeners to identify the questioner or the Minister who replies. When a questioner is called the name of his electorate is. mentioned by you in accordance with the Standing Orders. I suggest that, in addition, the name of the member called be mentioned by you, Mr. Speaker, when giving the call to him.
– The name is given by the announcer.
– I am aware of that, but frequently his announcement clashes with the beginning of the question and prevents listeners from hearing the opening words. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that, when giving the call to an honorable member, you say, “Mr. So-and-so, the honorable member for such-and-such a district “. If that were done, the identification of the member who had received “ the call would be complete, and the listening audience could -follow the proceedings more clearly. I know that under Standing Order 273 no member may refer to another honorable member by name, but I am also aware that in at least one other House of Parliament which has a similar standing order - I refer to the Parliament of Victoria - it has long been the practice to call a member by name. As the broadcasting of ‘the proceedings of the Parliament . has introduced a new element, I suggest that a modification of the Standing Order be considered. If the proceedings are to be broadcast, listeners should be able promptly to identify the questioner and the person who supplies the answer.
– It would be well also to give the name of the party to which the questioner belongs, as that would enable listeners to keep pace with the frequent changes of the name of the party kd by the right honorable gentleman.
– There is something in the suggestion that the name of the party to which the questioner belongs should be given.
-(Hon. J S. Rosevear). -This is a matter to which I have already given considerable attention. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, there is a standing order which requires an honorable member to refer to another member by the name of his electorate. I have studied the origin of this practice, and from what I can discover from May’s Parliamentary Practice, it was adopted as a means of maintaining decorum in parliamentary proceedings. It was thought that if members were addressed by their names the practice could easily degenerate into the use of nick-names. At the moment, the announcers are acquainting “themselves with the names of members and their electorates, so that they may be able to give the name of the member called as soon as he has received the call. Considerable improvements in that direction have already been made.
– In the British House of Commons, members are always called by name.
– I think that the honorable member is under a misapprehension. I heard that that practice was in operation there, and I made inquiries. From my study of the Hansard reports of the House of Commons debates, I am convinced that honorable members are not addressed by their names, but by the names of their constituencies. There is some force in the suggestion of the right honorable gentleman, but I think that with a little more
-Will the Minister
– The Question should
– The Ministerhas
– The subject has been
– I am not aware that
Statement by Mr. Herbert Taylor.
– Last week, following a
Mr.Herbert Taylor, issued a special statement of unusual gravity and significance. The statement is lengthy, and I shall read only the first sentence to indicateits tone. The president stated-
Our Australian economy is dangerously low, and growing discontent is permeating the whole community.
Has the Prime Minister read thatstate- ment and considered it, and does he propose tocomment upon the constructive ideas advancedby the president as to how our difficulties couldbe met?
– I have not read the statement purported tobe made by Mr. Taylor, but if its tone is as has been indicated by the honorable member for Fawkner, it is merely an alarmist utterance, because it is not true. Business men who have returned to Australia after visiting other countries have frequently expressed the opinion that Australia has preserved a stable economy in the interests of everybody in the community, equal to, or better than, that of any other country.
– What about coal production?
– More coalis being produced to-daythan in pre-war years, but, due to the expansion of the Australian economy, production is not equal to demand. However, I do not propose to engage in a, discussion with Mr Taylor about the Australian economy. There is ample opportunity for honorable members to debate that matter in this chamber. I am prepared to give more credence to the opinion of business men who have visited other countries and have expressed their views about the economy ofthis country, not only to me personally, - but also in’ wireless broadcasts.
– In view of the importance to Australia’s” future security of thedeliberations at the Peace Conference, does not the Prime Minister consider’ that our delegation should consist mainly of Australians with war service to their’ ‘ credit ? ‘ Will . he say whether Dr. Evatt, Mr. Beasley, Senator Grant, Mr.’Dunk, Mr. Stirling, Mr. Hood, Dr. Walker. Dr. ‘ Burton,and Mr. Whitlam . who are members of ‘ the delegation,have . had any war ‘service.?
-.- I am; unable “to say who has had war service ‘ and “whohas not, but I do know that most of the representatives mentioned by the honorable member are members of the Public Service of this country and were members of it long before Labour took office. They have been selected as the men most capable owing ‘to their training in the . Public Service ‘. of dealing with or advising on the problems affecting Australia that will arise at the Peace Conference. I shall obtain the information the honorable gentleman requires if it is necessary to do so, but I . do. not think it has any bearing on the qualifications of the men who will represent Australia at the conference.
Royalties of Australian Authors.,
– Will the Treasurer give consideration to applying in Australia the English practice under which the earnings of an author ‘in one ‘year from a book that took two. or three years to write are for taxation purposes: spread over the years in which the book ‘ was being written instead of being taxed as income earned in the twelve months . in which the book was published?
– I assume ‘thehonorable member refers’. ‘ toAustralian1 author’s earnings in Australia-, apart from royalties that might bereceived by authors in other countries. That matter has been examined from time totime. It was discussed during the negotiations between Australia and Great Britain on- double . taxation. I am prepared ‘to have the. matter re-examined as suggested by the honorable member. “
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether in view of the shipping difficulties experienced during the war on. the . Australiancoast, including Tasmania, and the complaints of shipping shortage’s, he will ‘ undertaketo have an’ analysis- made -of the tonnage’ available to “lift the increased production from Tasmanianports during the past fiveyears,?
– I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether he will make the investigation requested by the honorable member.
– Has the Department of External Territories considered the establishment of rubber plantations in the tropical parts of Australia or in the Mandated Territories? If not, will the Minister, in view of the great importance of rubber in pur national economy, request the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to investigate the possibility of growing rubber in Northern Australia or the adjacent territories?
Mr.WARD.- The Department of External Territories is responsible for determining what shall be done only in the external territories of the Commonwealth. Any investigation of the possibility of growing rubber in parts of Australia is a matter for the Department of the Interior, and I shall refer that part of the honorable member’s question to the appropriate Minister. In the territories themselves, my department is concentrating at the moment on rehabilitating the plantations, that have already been established, but land settlement generally in those areas is also under consideration. As soon as possible I shall obtain for the honorable member further information.
Supplies for Launceston
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs aware ^that because of adverse weather conditions, large quantities of sugar which reached Launceston yesterday were, ruined in transit by sea-water? Will the right honorable gentleman ensure that another shipment of sugar shall besent to Launceston in order to avoid a shortage of that commodity as so frequently occurs’ in Tasmania?
– I was not aware of what the honorable member has -stated, but I shall confer with the Minister for Trade and Customs with a view to having further shipments to that port in order to replace the sugar that was spoilt. I shall endeavour to obtain further information for the honorable member in the next few days.
National Airlines Commission
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation inform me when the Australian National Air-lines Commission will commence operations? Have any pilots yet began their crew training? Have pilots outside the Stale of Victoria yet received replies to their applications for positions?
– The date on which the Australian National Airlines Commission will commence operations has notyet been determined. The pilots are. already in training, and it is expected that they will complete their course within a reasonable time from now. I was not aware that replies had not been furnished to persons outside Victoria who desired to be trained as civil air-line pilots, and I shall see that their applications are acknowledged promptly.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave he given . to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-1945.
Bill presented, and read a first- time.
, - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I need not detain the House long with an explanation of this bill. Its purpose is to provide for a change in name of war savings certificates and war savings stamps. Owing to the termination of the war those designations are inappropriate, and it has been decided that future issues will be known as savings certificates and savings certificate stamps. This requises legislative authority, and. the bill is to provide the necessary amendment to the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act. The terms of sale and redemption of the savings certificates and savings certificate stamps will be exactly the same as those of the war savings certificates and war savings stamps which they replace.
– I was at first disposed to pursue the normal practice and ask for the adjournment of the debate, but, having glanced at the bill and listened to the remarks of the Prime Minister, the matter does not appear to me to. be highly arguable. Therefore 1 propose to offer no opposition to the bill.
.- Having listened to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, I say that the Australian Country party has no objection to the passage of this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That Government business^ shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide means for securing’ and maintaining adequate supplies of coal throughout Australia and for providing for the regulation and improvement of the coal industry in the State of-New South Wales, and for other -purposes.
Debate resumed from the 3rd July (vide page 2105), on motion by Mr. Scully -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is a. bill to amend the Meat Export Control Act 1935. It is well that I should make a few remarks on the original Meat Export Control Bill, in order that this measure may be debated in true perspective. In 1935, the right honorable member for. Cowper (Sir Earle Page), as Minister for Commerce in the Lyons Government, introduced the original measure. Its objective was to regulate the exports of meat from Australia. It proposed the constitution of a board to make recommendations to the Government as to how the sales of Australian meat might be promoted and for” other purposes. That board was set up in circumstances rather different from those that ‘have attended the establishment of . other boards for the regulation of the exports of primary products. For example, there had not been wide representations to the Minister of the day as to the necessity for a meat export control board, although many of the meat producers believed that a body to regulate the export trade and to supervise the grades , and standards of meat exported should be established. Honorable members may recall that the action then taken arose out of the circumstances that existed subsequent to the making of the Ottawa Agreement.
It may be well to consider the state of the meat market in Britain prior to that . agreement. At that time , the British market, being the only free market in the world, was used by all countries as a dumping ground for their. meatexports, with the result that ‘ priceswerereduced to very low levels. At’the’ ‘Ottawa conference, imports- of meatby Great Britain from foreign countries were restricted, and the Dominions were given an expanding share of,, the : British market. However, the exports of. meat from the Dominions to ‘Great Britain increased so greatly that they quickly overtook the deficiency caused by the limitation of supplies from foreign countries, and the British producer was placed in an unfortunate position. In 1933, Great Britain seriously considered limiting its imports of meat. . Commonwealth Ministers went, hot-foot to London to prevent that at all costs, and they succeeded in preventing, not only the limitation of imports, but also any restriction on the absorption by the British market of chilled meats, in which trade Australia was just beginning to engage.
During., the . discussions -.in Great: . Britain, very, many, conflicting views were expressed by Dominion representatives. The ‘ British Government concluded that . it would be wise to establish an Empire Meat Council, so that there would always be a body representative of the Dominions which could take into consideration changes on the British market, and the regulation of Supplies to that market, as well as discuss any variations . arising out of the practical experience that had been gained. :.It was further stated that the council would also discuss matters relating to meat imports by Great Britain with bodies set up’’ by foreign countries which at that time were regulating their exports to the United Kingdom. Arising out of the suggestions of the British Government, the Australian Minister for Commerce decided to constitute on a permanent basis !a’ body representing all phases of the meat industry, which could advise the Government on’ matters relating to meat exports, and could consult boards set up by other dominions and foreign countries. “The board appointed under the Meat (Export Control . Act was rather large numerically, being’ representative of practically every organization of ., producers in -Australia. All the States ‘were given ‘ representation on it, and the Riverina district of ‘.New South Wales, as a , regional area, was granted representation..’ The main- function of the board, . however, was to make recommendations, to the government of the day as- to the steps. that should be taken to regulate the exports of meat from this country, and the qualities and grades that should be observed in connexion therewith. It was ‘ also given definite powers in’ relation to the measures “that should be ..taken in connexion with, scientific research in the industry, and the pro- motion of sales of meat overseas. It is important to mention that the original legislation was different from that now introduced, in that it provided that the chairman of the board’ should be elected by the members of it, despite the fact that the Government was represented on it and the chairman had1 a casting as well as a deliberative vote.- The first point that I make is that the original board has never been abolished and is still in existence.
The question might- well be asked: Why is a new board to be ‘ constituted ? Did the old Board, which . functioned for a con- siderable time, fail . in any respect to perform the tasks allotted to it ? Probably the’ Minister (Mr. Scully), when replying to the debate, will enlighten us on that matter. The Government may consider it to be necessary to appoint a new board. On the other hand, there may have been dissatisfaction with the old board. If there was, we shall be interested to hear from what source it arose. The board continued to exercise its functions in relation to the Australian meat industry until April, 1943. Then, the Curtin Government, under National Security Regulations, set up what is known to-day as Meat Control. Because of the powers vested in Meat Control . under the regulations, the powers of the Australian Meat Board became negligible; in fact, it really did not exercise “any power at all. Complete despotic power was given under the 1943 regulations. A meat controller was appointed at Canberra, with deputy controllers in the various States. The controller at. Canberra came from the Department of . Commerce, and he ‘ was advised by a committee on -which were four producer members; two were from the exporting companies, one was an employees’ representative, and- there were also representatives of the Prices and Rationing- Branches) and for a time a representative of the Department of War Organization of Industry. In accordance with the practice of this Government in finding a job, as far as possible, for every one of its supporters, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) was . a government representative on the board, although his knowledge of the meat industry was negligible. In the States, the deputy controllers had’ the assistance of several committees representing various producer interests. In the majority of cases those committees met separately, but on some occasions, when matters of general interest were under discussion, they . met together.
The position therefore, was that the board constituted under the 1935 act ceased to have practical value, and full power became vested in public servants, namely, the controllers and. deputy controllers in the various. States. Therefore, the. industry came directly under, the control of the Government of the day through the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. For the disturbances, that have arisen in the meat market since 1943, the present Government has been responsible. A typical- example was afforded some months ago at Newmarket, Victoria, which has the largest; stockmarket in the . Southern Hemisphere. Operations there came to .a standstill because of government bungling. The whole of the responsibility for that fiasco rests upon the present Ministry. At this stage I should refer to the difference between meat marketing in Australia now, as .compared with the condition’s prevailing in the prewar period. At that time private enterprise operated. Meat was sold to private exporters who either froze or chilled it, and sent it mainly to Great Britain, but, during the war and since, meat has been sold by the Commonwealth Government to the Government of Great Britain under terms of contract, . ‘and this arrangement will continue until 1948: .
This bill, as I have said, provides for the establishment,’ of a- new and -smaller meat board. The - smaller board commends itself to me.: If such boards are kept as small as. .possible, the members can be quickly brought together, and decisions can be.. reached without unduly prolonged discussion: ‘ The proposed board will represent all phases qf the meat- industry in Australia. There will be seven producer representatives and five other representatives. Of the latter, one member will represent the publicly owned abattoirs and freezing works, one the employees engaged in the slaughter and preparation qf meat, and two the meat exporting companies of Australia. The fifth member will represent the Commonwealth Government. The producer members are to be three members representing the lamb producers of Australia, one representing the mutton producers, two the beef producers, and one . the pig producers. If a producer chairman is to be appointed to the board, it can’ be said that there will be eight members with a knowledge of the industry from the producer point of view.
Of the three members to be selected to represent the lamb producers, Victoria is entitled to at least one member because it is by far the most important lamb exporting’ State in the Commonwealth. In 1943-44, lamb exports from this country totalled 141,559,299 lb.,, out of which Victoria supplied 82,627,738 lb. In 1944-45, out of a total export of 108,772,494 lb., Victoria supplied 62,345,457 lb. In 1945-46 - and these figures indicate the severity of the drought as it affected lamb production - the exports fell io 39,052,518 lb., out of which Victoria supplied 18,560,104. lb. Those figures show that Victoria certainly deserves representation on the board from the point of view of lamb production. As to the composition of the board from the producer point of view, the bill provides that the members of the board shall be drawn from certain . organizations. I believe that, the majority of the producer representatives, apart from the representative’ of the pig producers, should be selected from the Graziers’ Federal Council’ of Australia.
Members of the Graziers’ Federal Council pay membership dues, in proportion to the number of stock they own. Therefore, when’ this organization says to the Government that it represents about 50,000,000 ‘ sheep and 5,000,000 cattle, it is speaking with authority because, the figures can be checked against members’ dues.’ Moreover, the organization extends throughout the entire Commonwealth. It represents practically all the beef-producers of northern Queensland “and the Northern Territory, as well as those in the far north of Western Australia, and it is in those areas that the great bulk of Australia’s beef is grown. Having regard to the federal character of the organization, and to the number of sheep and cattled owned by its members, it has a right to greater representation . and . the board than any other organization. I do not want to exclude other organizations from representation, particularly those which are expanding. I have in mind the Australian Primary Producers Union, which is not mentioned in the bill and which may not be given an opportunity to submit, a panel of names for appointment to the board. The union has members in four States, and its membership is growing rapidly, particularly in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, and represents a large number of primary producers. It has received scant consideration from the . Go. .vernment. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that he would interview representatives of the union, but that will be in his own good time, and after this bill has been passed. I direct attention to clause 4 of the bill, which provides that the board shall represent various producers’ organizations, and “ any other body approved by the Minister “. I do not know just what is meant by the phrase “ any other body “. It. is wide enough to include, the Druids organization or the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. No doubt, it was intended to mean “ any other body of primary producers “, but that is not stated. .
It has been claimed by at least one primary producers’ organization that the board should be elected by a vote of producers as, I understand, is done in New Zealand.. In that country, there is an arrangement for the election of the hoard not unlike that which exists in the United States of America for the election of a President. The dominion is divided into regions in each of which the producers elect members of an electoral committee which, in turn, elects their representatives to the board. This committee corresponds to the American Electoral College-, which, elects the President. In the final analysis, the representatives on the board would probably be the men recommended by the producers’ organizations. In any case, conditions are very different in New Zealand and Australia. New Zealand is, after all, a small country, and a system which is workable there would be costly and cumbersome if attempted in a country the size of Australia. I have no fault to find with the method proposed in the bill under which the primary producers’ organizations submit a panel . of names from which are chosen -their representatives on the board. I have sufficient confidence in the producers’ organizations, to believe that they will nominate men who are able to take a national view of the problems under discussion.
I welcome the proposal to appoint representatives of the employees to the board, because this is in line with liberal thought on this side of the House which “favours a new deal in industry. It is very important that employers and employees should be brought into closer contact. This close contact already exists in small industries, where there is not nearly so much industrial trouble as in the large ones. In the small industries, the boss and the employees know one another, they are familiar with one another’s problems, and they attempt to solve them together. In the large industries, there are, I believe, persons who have a vested interest in creating’ disturbances. A feeling grows up between the workers and the management which is contrary to the best interests of the industry and of the nation. Anything which tends to bring together employers and employees must be beneficial. At the present time, employees in an industry often have no knowledge whatever of the main problems of management and finance. It will be an education to them to have representatives on a board where such , matters are discussed, and it will be an advantage also to the -‘employers to learn the point of view of their employees.
Some primary producers have stated that the board should not represent the meat exporting interests, but with that I do not agree. Production and marketing are two distinct sides of the industry, and no board could function satisfactorily unless it represented both sides. Perhaps I shall be permitted to draw on an experience of some years ago in illustration of this point. When the Ottawa Agreement was being framed, and it was proposed to place a limitation upon the export of beef from Argentina, no limitation was placed on offals. It was pointed out by the adviser to the Australian Government, Sir William Angliss, that there was a. need to define “ offals “. Representatives of producers ‘did not take the suggestion seriously. Offals could mean nothing but offals. Experience proved that the advice given by Sir “William Angliss was sound, because no sooner had the agreement come into, operation and supplies from Argentina were curtailed than that country adopted the practice of cutting beef into portions -and sending it to Great Britain as offals. Action had to be taken to rectify the trade. I therefore am of the opinion that if marketing aspects have to be considered, marketing interests should be represented on the board. Otherwise that body will not truly reflect the whole of the industry.
A vital principle is embodied in clause 14 which deals with the powers of the board. The powers which will be vested in the board under the bill differ considerably from those which the old board could exercise. That board was really little more than an advisory body, but the new board is to undertake the basic functions of meat control. I believe that the. bill is designed to make the new board a completely despotic body. The powers of the board, as expressed in clause 14, are additional to those authorized under the original act. Clause 14 provides that the board will be empowered, on behalf of the Commonwealth and subject to any directions of the Minister-
to purchase any meat, meat product or edible offal;
Under that provision, the board will be empowered to do almost anything with meat. Moreover, as there is no time limit to the exercise of those powers, the Government could continue to trade in meat and meat products indefinitely. The position would be similar to that which obtains in connexion with Government competition in air transport. The clause practically authorizes the socialization of the meat industry.
– It is framed for that purpose.
– Clearly, the clause contemplates Government intrusion into, the field of private enterprise, possibly leading to the socialization of the meat industry. At the. present time powers of this kind may be required because of the United KingdomAustralia meat agreement which extends to 1948, but in committee I shall move that such powers shall, be limited to three years. At the expiration of that period the matter could be reconsidered by the Parliament.
I shall now deal with the provisions of the bill relating to the chairman of the board. Under the original act, he is to have a deliberative vote as well as a casting vote. If at any time the chairman, or the person presiding at a meeting of the board, dissents from a majority decision of the board, he shall have” the right to approach the Minister, who may overrule the decision of the majority and make such variations of that decision as he thinks fit. That means that the board becomes merely an advisory body in the event of the ‘ chairman disagreeing with the decision of a majority of its members.
– It means that the chairman can veto any decision of the board.
– That is so. This power has been included in; the bill because the Commonwealth Government . is actively trading with the United ‘Kingdom Government in meat. Between £20,000,000 and . £25,000,000 of- public moneys is involved in this trading practice. I agree that the responsibility for the expenditure of public moneys must rest with the Minister who,’ in turn, is responsible to the Parliament. Were it otherwise, an independent board couldseriously influence a Government’s budget. There are, however, some peculiar aspects of this matter. In my opinion, any decision of any board handling public moneys should be subject to the approval of the Minister. That principle has been accepted for many years. In other words, moneys raised from the public and expended by a board should be subjected to ministerial approval, because, ultimately, that means- that they must be approved by the Parliament, because the Minister. is responsible to the Parliament. This bill differs from the usual practice in- that only in cases in which the chairman dissents from the view of a majority of the board does the matter come before the Minister. If the chairman is strong and incorruptible, the matter’ will be brought to the notice of the Minister; if the chairin an is weak or open to corruption, the matter may never reach the Minister.
Under the original act the board Was empowered, to’ administer a fund derived from a levy on the industry. In other words- the levy was made on exports. ‘ Proceeds of the levy were placed into the fund from which the board obtained the requisite finance to carry out its activities, to appoint a London representative, to take steps to promote, the sale of Australian meat overseas, and to indulge in any branch of scientific research it deemed necessary for the promotion of the meat industry. The board had complete control of the fund. A majority decision was sufficient authority for it to act. Under the decision now before us, however, not only public moneys but moneys standing in the fund may not be expended on a majority decision of the board ; also such expenditure is subject to veto by the chairman. If the chairman dissents from a majority decision of the members of the board, reference is made to the Minister who may himself determine how the moneys shall be expended. The Minister may give a direction without attending a full- meeting of the board ; therefore the case for the majority decision may not be put fully “ before him. He may act without even calling for a written statement of the matters upon which a majority decision was based. He may simply accept the view of the chairman and base his decision upon that. We know that, it is the rule rather than . the exception that people , put . a . particular case in which ‘they “ are’ interested in the manner “ that best ‘ suits their purposes. The Minister may dissent from a majority decision of .the. board in respect of not only public . moneys used for the improvement of the’ industry,, but also moneys “levied’ upon the industry itself. I agree that- the Minister “should have an overriding authority in connexion with the expenditure of public moneys, but I do hot agree :that that authority should extend to such moneys as come from the industry itself. The board should have the right by a majority decision to determine in what way the latter should be expended, and to deal’ with practical matters affecting the industry of which the Minister of the day in most instances would not know anything. I commend these suggestions to the earnest consideration of the Minister. At a later stage ari opportunity will be afforded to test the opinion of the House in regard to them.
I .come now to the last phase of the bill which I wish to discuss, namely the establishment o’f State Meat Advisory Committees. We know from practical experience that these committees will play a very important part in the determina-ti on of matters relating to the industry. In many instances they will constitute the real determining body, although their recommendations will necessarily have to be passed on to the board for consideration. Clause 9 provides that the members of the State Meat Advisory Committees shall be appointed by the Minister and shall, comprise representatives of such sections of the meat industry in . each State as, in the opinion of the Minister, will constitute a committee adequately representative of the industry. In other words they, are to- be persons who, -in the opinion, of the Minister, will be capable of representing in the deliberations of the committees a fair consensus of opinion of those engaged .in the industry in their own State. That, is far from satisfactory. The Meat Advisory Committees will play an . important part in the successful continuance of the industry, and consequently I. believe that their members should.be drawn from organizations representing ‘ producers and exporters. If the Minister merely appoints representatives whom he-‘ thinks are suitable for appointment there will be anabsence of harmony and possibly suspicions amongst producers as to these State committees. … The Minister may even appoint t “ stooges “ whose opinions - are”’ ; rin ‘ “line with his own and not necessarily representative of “those of the organizations of- primary producers and exporters. The committees should consist of representatives of the producing and exporting interests who should be chosen from a panel of names submitted by the organizations. If that were done there would be’ likely to be a great deal more harmony in the industry than can be anticipated if the measure remains unaltered. I trust that the points I have raised, which will be amplified by other honorable members on this side of the House, will be given most serious consideration by the Government, and that . the Government will not be guilty of the stupid and foolish assumption it has adopted in respect of other measures which have come before us that nothing good can emerge from the Opposition.
– The honorable member may not refer to the actions of the Government in respect of other measures.
– Honorable members on this side of the House have carefully studied the bill and have sought the advice of organizations of producers in relation to the proposals contained in it, and accordingly, their representations should be accorded the fullest consideration. I have endeavoured to approach the bill from a non-party angle ; although I have mentioned instances of the mess and muddle that has occurred in the industry in the last few years as the result of mismanagement, I have not made any definite party attack. Accordingly I trust that when amendments are moved by honorable members on this side of the House they will be accepted in the spirit in which they are submitted and be given the consideration they, deserve, . .
Mr.BREEN (Calare) [12.7] . -During the last six years those whose duty it’ has been to co-ordinate our war requirements, particularly in the matter of food production, have had to face ‘ many changing circumstances. Under the National Security Regulations they were clothed with authority to’ take immediate action without reference to the Parliament ‘ as to’ the ‘ wisdom or otherwise of’ their’ actions.” I pay a tribute* to the^’ manner “ in” ‘which they’ have discharged their duties. This “bill’ represents an attempt ‘ to incorporate in a new measure the, experiences of the war period and to devise a code that will, lead to organization and peace in the meat industry, and a greater benefit from our export trade than was possible in the past; As the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) has pointed out there has been some dislocation of our export trade due to our inability to compete with’ other countries principally with Argentina, in . the United’ Kingdom market. Due- mainly to Argentina’s better knowledge : of the affairs of trade, meat exporters of that country have been able to outwit us despite the preference given to the Dominions under the Ottawa Agreement.’ The principal criticism levelled at the bill by the honorable member was that it did not provide for fair representation, on the Australian Meat Board and the State Meat Advisory Committees of the various components that make up the meat industry, and that the Minister was being given autocratic powers to override decisions arrived at by those bodies. Meat producers are of the opinion that during the regime of anti-Labour administrations’, merchants were able to obtain an unfair share of the profits of the meat industry. There may be some truth in that contention. Certainly, under Labour governments meat producers have had greater representation on various boards. However, the task of organizing the meat industry is not one solely for meat producers or meat exporters. It is the business of the community at large. The old days when business interests could carry on in their own sweet way, regardless of -the interests of the community, have gone. In the national interest food must be produced and distributed in sufficient quantities to safeguard the welfare of the nation. It is also the duty of the nation to ensure that producers of food shall be adequately protected from, exploitation. To this end it is essential that the Minister within whose jurisdiction the production of food lies, should -be able to initiate in this Parliament a discussion of any action, provided for in this measure, that the boardmay take, and also should be able to veto immediately any move which he considered to be not _ in the national interest. ‘ A board composed entirely of representatives of producers and consumers, in the absence of any overriding authority on the part of the Parliament, might be tempted to do things that might produce satisfactory results so far as they themselves were concerned, but which would not be in the best interests of the nation. “We have had experience of that in the coal-mining industry. Experienced coal-miners and mine-owners have agreed on certain action without regard to the repercussions of the action upon the status of the industry, and upon the community at large. We cannot afford to permit that. That is why there is incorporated in this measure a clause giving overriding power to the Minister. Whilst complete producer control of the distribution and sale of a commodity may be desirable in theory, it is more of a political abstraction than an objective capable of immediate realization. The ideal of course is a co-operative organization representing producers, distributors and consumers, all working in the interests of society generally, and without thought of personal gain-; but we must deal with practical things, and it is the job of the Parliament to “ talk turkey “. During a previous debate in this chamber one honorable member opposite mentioned the lack of organization amongst food producers generally. He was quite right. Organization amongst primary producers has not reached the stage of development, that it has reached amongst other groups in the community. Consequently, it is impossible to set up an authority that is thoroughly representative of foodproducers of whom probably only 20 per cent, are organized. That is another reason why it is the duty of the” Parliament during the transition from the present inadequate social system to a. more idealistic system, to keep continuous watch over the production, distribution, and exchange of such a vital commodity as food. The bill is an attempt to incorporate all that is practical in meat control, and to eliminate some of the features which, no matter how desirable, in theory, have proved impracticable.
I wish to deal now with three phases of. our meat exporting industry. First, there is the export of lambs which is a major part of our export trade because of Australia’s great sheep population, we are able to export large quantities of lamb. Also, as most of this country enjoys a mild climate, it is possible for graziers to change over in a few years from wool production to meat production or vice versa should the international situation demand such a move. Because of that flexibility, we have been able to meet changed circumstances so far as lamb export is concerned, without causing any vital upset. However, because of the ease with which sheep-raising can be carried on in this country, we have been, prone to neglect certain phases of the industry, the development of which would have meant greater efficiency in lamb production, and therefore, a greater income from that activity than we have had in the past. It is well known that if lambs which at present are killed when sixteen to twenty weeks old were allowed to reach the mutton stage, we would not be able to export them because of the high incidence of lymphatic gland trouble. This ailment, which does not become manifest until the later stages of development, excludes almost 7 per cent, of our fullygrown sheep from the export trade. The result is that even at present” when we have substantial supplies of mutton in cold storage, and Great Britain is in need of meat, this mutton is not being shipped. We may not be able , to market so many of our lambs in the United Kingdom if transport between the Americas and Europe improves to such a degree as to outweigh our present advantage of being. able to offer cheap meat. Then we shall have to limit lamb production and improve the quality of our mutton, or look for another market. It may be wise to explore the possibilities of the market in the “East. The international meat trade has a strong grip on the European market, but the Eastern market has been largely neglected possibly because of the limited individual purchasing power of the peoples in the Eastern countries, but, in the aggregate, there ought to be a tremendous amount of money available for the .purchase of meat at prices at which meat cannot be grown on the American pastures. That is a phase that the experts whose appointment is provided for in this legislation could investigate on the production and the merchandising sides.
Mention Has been made by the Opposition of the intrusion of politics into what ought to be exclusively business organization, namely, the Australian Meat Board. One honorable member went to great pains to protest that he intended to debate the bill on’ a plane far above that of politics, and that he intended to deal entirely with the economics of the meat industry. But every member of the Australian Meat Board has strong ‘political affiliations with the anti-Labour forces of this country. So critical were the producers of the big business interests in the . metropolis, in whose hands their destiny lies, that they established the Australian Country party, thinking that that would mend matters and end their sense of frustration. No other justification could exist for the party’s existence, but that the experiment failed will be proved when one counts the heads of the members who claim to represent country . interests on the other side of the. House after the general elections. I will not canvass that aspect any further, but I do point out that New South Wales has had unfortunate experiences with the autonomous boards that have been set up in the State. Owing to the preponderance of politicians of the kind that have lost public confidence in the Legislative Council, legislation sent to the council from the Legislative Assembly designed to end independence of the Meat Commission and other similar bodies has been so amended as to frustrate the intentions of the- popularly elected Lower House. The Meat Commission was set up as an independent authority to control the Homebush abattoirs prior to the advent of the Labour Government. Since then every effort made by the Government to bring it within the control of the State Parliament has been fruitless. The economy of New South Wales, in (particular, and Australia, as a whole, has been damaged by the fact that the Meat Commission has been independent of the State Parliament. In view of the experience, of the State Government, this Government is not inclined to set up a board that is completely independent of the Parliament. It is the Parliament’s job to keep control of the economy of the country. No parliament can function as it should without the power, once having created something, to change it if need be.
Reverting to the meat export trade, and having dealt with the lamb .export section, I point out now that there is room for great improvement in the mutton export trade. A board on which all sections of the meat’ trade are repre- , sented and “without the antagonisms and other weaknesses of the Meat Commission of New South Wales will be able to recommend legislation to control the industry in such a way as, among other things,’ to bring about that improvement. Meat producers who have paid a lot of money for sires on their properties tell me that Australian beef is a very bad second compared -with beef from Argentina when the two are in competition on a fair basis. I do not know -how that can be overcome. Hitherto beef has been raised in the Northern Territory and drafted south to’ mature and fatten on Victorian pastures before being slaughtered for the export trade. That is a haphazard practice.
– That is a figment of the honorable member’s imagination.
– If the honorable member learned about the meat industry through actual experience instead of by reading the Melbourne newspapers he would know that big drafts of cattle come from the Northern Territory for fattening and slaughter in the south, and that the journey lasts perhaps a number of . years.
– That is a dream.
– A few years ago when I was in northern Queensland and in the Northern Territory, Vesteys Limited operated meatworks at Darwin, but, for some reason or other, it decided that it was not economic to continue operations. At the same time the opportunity developed of exporting live-stock from Darwin to the Netherlands East Indies.. It seems that it is more profitable to export livestock to the Netherlands East Indies for .slaughter there, than to process the stock in Australia for export as frozen or chilled meat. It may be that, with more development of the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth will be able to develop a trade with the Eastern countries in processed meat or livestock. Malaya, Indo-China and other countries to our north may be a profitable market for the meat-producers. I think it would be. much better to slaughter stock raised i.n the Northern Territory in that area than to send” it on the long trek through, western Queensland down to New South Wales. It appears that, despite the desire of the meat-export industry in the south for the continuance of the ‘shifting of cattle from the Northern Territory and northern Queensland to southern Australia for slaughter and export, the Government of Queensland will not “ play ball “ with the Commonwealth transport department in the matter of picking up the cattle at the western terminals of the railways that link the Queensland coast with western Queensland.
– The honorable member should bring that up in caucus.
– Perhaps, I have already done so. At all events,- I shall continue to advocate that .proposal. The railways in Queensland have been routed to tap the sheep and cattle-raising country in the far western portions of that State. Although some companies have established meat works in proximity to those districts, most of the works are established on the coast principally at Townsville, Gladstone, Rockhampton and Brisbane. Considerable sums have been expended on the establishment of those works, but if it is clear that we cannot continue to run them economically, having regard to their great distance from the sources of supplies, we should not hesitate, particularly in. view of the intensive .drive being made for trade by all countries, to link the western terminals of those railway lines. Consideration should be given to that problem immediately. I understand that the Government of Queensland has agreed in principle to the routing of stock in a direct line south through Cunnamulla and Barringun to Bourke and other meatworks centres in the west of New South Wales. . In anticipation of this development three big companies have established meat works at points in western New South Wales in order to tap the flow of cattle through to Victoria. Swift Australian Company (Proprietary) Limited has established works at Blayney, Angliss- Vestey’s at Forbes and Rogers at Orange. It is proposed to process the meat at these centres and to rail it to Sydney for export. However, as it will be many years before the western railway terminals in Queensland are linked up, the Government should take immediate action to develop the great stock? raising areas in the Northern Territory) with a view to processing the meat at Darwin and building up an export trade with the Far East. Under the measure, the producers as well as the meat processors will be represented on the proposed advisory committees. An examination of the various interests which will be represented on the committees shows that the Government is well aware of the need to safeguard the interests of the producers by making adequate provision in respect of all phases of the industry from the production to the export stage. It is the duty of the Parliament to concern itself with production. The food producer must be secured in his farming pursuits not only from the point of view of remuneration, but also by making con- .ditions for him and his family more attractive, particularly in sparsely settled areas, so that the younger generation of farmers will not be inclined to drift to the cities in order to find more congenial employment. In order to achieve this objective the. Government, no doubt, will find it necessary from time to time to assist the meat industry financially and to place at the disposal of producers scientific advisers thus giving them access to the very latest information regarding developments in the meat industry particularly in other countries which supply large quantities of meat to ‘the United Kingdom market. I refer to the United States of America and South American countries which, in the past, have enjoyed a considerable advantage over meat producers in Australia, because they have been able to finance the importation of high priced stud stock from England which is the home of the stud stock industry. Our primary producers have not been able to compete for such stud stock. Consequently, they have laboured under a great handicap. The Government of New South Wales has, within the limitations of its powers, been very helpful in this respect. Recently, it sent delegations overseas to purchase stud sheep and cattle in England, particularly beef cattle. -The Commonwealth could profitably co-ordinate theefforts of the various States in that direction with a view to obtaining for Australia’high priced; stock from- England for the purpose of improving our strains.
It would thus lay the foundation . of a sound export trade in beef cattle. We have done very well in an ancillary branch of the meat industry as the result of adopting that policy. I refer to the mutton industry as a phase of the woolgrowing industry. Up to date, however, we. have not made any progress in the direction of the encouragement of the beef cattle industry, mainly because we lacked stud stock comparable with that obtained by producers in the United States of America and South American countries. English press reports reveal that frequently prices of from £10,000 to £20,000 are paid- for stud bulls. Very few Australian producers could afford to pay those prices, although some patrioticallyminded men engaged in the livestock industry and several commercial interests have spent large sums of money on’ imported stud stock. However, for want of encouragement, and having regard to the limited results which would accrue to the industry generally from individual efforts, even ‘ these interests appear to have become discouraged; Recently some stud stock was imported into New South Wales from the United States of America, and the interests responsible are doing excellent work. I suggest that the proposed committee should direct their attention to this phase of the industry, because, I repeat, that that is the only way to lay a solid foundation for a prosperous live-stock industry capable of building up a sound export trade.
Sitting suspended from 12.40 to 2.15 p.m.
– The principal purpose of the Meat Export Control Bill is to control the sale of meat in bulk to Great Britain until the end of 1948. One provision abolishes the original Australian Meat Board, and the Minister did not explain the reason for that proposal. Naturally, the Commonwealth requires some control over a transaction involving finance to the amount of £20,000,000 a year. But the proceeds from the large sale to the United Kingdom will be the property of Australian, meat producers, and, consequently, they have a definite interest in the- bill. This, transaction is further evi-: dence . of the great value of the British market to the primary producers of Australia’. The purchase price is- satisfactory to Great Britain and to Australian meat producers. Under . the agreement, the Commonwealth Government will act as agent for the British Government, and, therefore, must exercise in some respects a guiding hand in the fulfilment of the agreement.
Whilst the Government should possess a measure of control, it should not have complete authority, as the bill envisages. Proposed new section 5 provides that the composition of the Australian Meat Board shall be as follows : - >
The Minister will select from a panel of names submitted to him by the producers in various sections of the meat industry the three members to represent the lamb . producers, the member to represent the mutton producers, the- two members to represent the beef producers and the member to represent the pig producers. Why should not the meat producers themselves have the right actually to select their own representatives? Why should the Minister possess that power? The honorable gentleman failed to explain that. One member of the board will represent the publicly-owned abattoirs and freezing works. I do not object to that proposal. Finally, one member will represent the Commonwealth Government, and he will be the chairman of the board. Whilst I agree that the Commonwealth should be represented on the- Australian Meat Board; I contend that the chairman, who will be the Government’s nominee, should’ not have the right to veto the desires and decisions of the board.
– That is not right. He will not have that power.
– I shall prove that my statement is correct. Seven of the twelve members of the board will represent various sections of meatproducers, and the chairman will be the nominee of the Minister. I direct attention to proposed new sub-section 5a of section 10 of the principal act -
If the person presiding at a meeting of the Board dissents from any decision of the Board, signifies at the meeting to the other members present in person his intention to bring his dissent to the notice of the Minister and, within twenty-four hours after the close of the meeting,” transmits to the Minister notice of his dissent together with full particulars of the decision, effect shall not be given to the decision unless . the Minister approves of the decision (whether with or without variation) and, . if the Minister approves of the decision subject to a variation, the decision so approved shall be deemed to be the decision of the Board.
Therefore, what purport to be the decisions of the board may be the decisions of the Minister. Obviously if the chairman and the Minister disagree with the view of a majority of members of the board, they may override it.
– The veto will be exercised, not by the chairman, but by the Minister.
– That makes the position even worse than I suspected. The Chairman will report his objection to the Minister, who will operate the veto. The meat producers consider that the chairman of the board should be a meat producer. The control of a trade union is not vested in a Minister’s representative, a person who, not being a worker, is foisted upon the organization. If a decision of the union so constituted did not meet with the approval of the chairman, he could approach the Minister who might not necessarily be in sympathy with the aims of the organization, and request him to veto it. The Minister’s decision would be final. No industrial organization would accept that control and I fail to understand why this power is being granted to the chairman of the Australian Meat Board. The power of veto is an idea of the Soviet, which is using it extensively against the interests of other members of the United Nations, perhaps with the exception of Poland and a few other satellites of Russia. Now, the Government is introducing, the veto principle into Commonwealth legislation. I oppose it, because it is too drastic and unfair. What purpose is served by giving to meat producers a majority of the representatives of this board, if the chairman has the right to veto its decision and the Minister may proclaim some other decision which shall be deemed to be the decision of the board ? Such a position would be most undesirable.
The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) claimed that this legislation will be in the best interests of themeatproducers. He said that it provided for the organization of the meat industry and for industrial peace. No such provisions are included in this bill or in the principal act. The main feature of the bill is the alteration of the constitution of the board in such , a way as to remove its power. The remainder of the bill deals with the sale of meat to Great Britain until 1948. It has no more relation to peace in the meat industry than it has to peace in the coal-mining industry, although we have recently seen in country districts, particularly those which have been stricken by drought, examples of the dire distress caused amongst growers of beef, mutton and lamb by strikes in meat-works. The honorable member for Calare said that the bill would give to the Minister the right to bring before this House from time to time, for the purpose of review, any decisions of the board which might react against the best interests of the nation’.. There is no provision in the bill requiring parliamentary approval of the Minister’s veto of any decisions made by the board. The Minister will have authority to act. ‘ without reference to the Parliament. He Will be able to make decisions, with the assistance of public servants in his department, and put them into effect; immediately. The producers, who will be represented by a: majority of members of the board, would never want to do anything that would react against the interests of the nation. The prosperity of every primary industry is closely linked with our national welfare. No section of the community is more seised of the importance of promoting the interests of the nation than that section which grows primary products for export. If we seek those who are likely to injure the interests of the nation, we will find them in the secondary industries, amongst the meat workers and the- waterside workers, who have done so much to retard production. The honorable member for Calare admitted that the Minister will have power to control the industry under this bill. The primary producer and the Parliament will have no such power. Therefore this measure is a .step towards socializing the industry. Although the producers will be able to make, through the board, suggestions for the benefit of the industry, the Minister, having the right of veto, will be able to implement only such suggestions as he considers to he of advantage from a socialistic point of view. The destiny of the industry will thus be subject to the political opinions of the Minister. The honorable member for Calare also said that the bill would give to the Minister power over the production and distribution of meat. In fact, the bill does not refer to any such power. It refers to production and distribution only in relation to the contract with Great Britain. The honorable member claimed that Australian meat came a “ very had second “ in the world’s markets. Presumably he referred to its quality. He mentioned the Northern Territory, but I point out that half of Australia’s beef is produced in Queensland and that Northern Terri-‘ tory producers have little to do with direct export trade. The Northern Territory’s chief role is that of a producer of store stock. The honorable member spoke of the need for providing scientific assistance for the industry and of the importance of killing cattle in the Northern Territory, instead of driving stock long distances to Queensland killing centres, and even to New South Wales, thus causing deterioration of the quality of the beef. The producers are not to blame for the fact that meat cannot be processed at Vestey’s works in the Northern Territory. The works had to be closed because of continued industrial trouble and losses. The Government should make the unions obey industrial law, so that
Vestey’s works may be re-opened, enabling meat to be processed there and shipped to the world’s markets, in good condition. The honorable member for Calare also said that Queensland was not “ playing ball “ with the Commonwealth because it was not prepared to do its part in completing the railway link between western Queensland and the rail head at Bourke to enable cattle to reach the market in better condition than at present. The provision of means for getting cattle from the Northern Territory to New South Wales is not within the province of the Government of Queensland. The holders of large areas devoted to cattle raising in the Northern Territory have extendi ve holding and fattening country throughout Queensland. The Commonwealth should improve the water facilities for travelling stock, in order that they may arrive at their destination in the best possible condition. That applies particularly to the dry areas of the back country
– The watering of stock is not relevant to the bill.
– I was connecting my remarks with the statement of the honorable member for Calare. The marketing of stock- in the best possible condition has considerable bearing on the bill.
– Order ! The Chair has ruled otherwise.
– The Minister’s reference to the appointment of State committees would lead one to believe that an extra facility is being provided for the benefit of the States. He has specified the nature of certain control that is to be exercised. Honorable members from Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania will probably contend that there are interests in their States which ought to be given representation. The provision in the bill is permissive, not mandatory.’ . The Minister will not be bound in any way, but will have full control. Clause 9 proposes to repeal section 12 of the principal act, and to insert in its stead this section -
Tn order to assist the board in carrying out its functions under this act, the Minister may appoint for each State a meat advisory committee.
The members of- the’ Meat Advisory , Committee’ for a ‘ State shall be appointed by the Minister and shall comprise representatives of such sections of- the meat industry in ‘the States as, in the . opinion of the Minister, will constitute a committee adequately representative of that industry.
No attempt has been made to provide for representation that will be adequate to the needs of the meat producers. The members of these committees are to hold office during the pleasure of the Minister. So longas they do what the Minister suggests, and their ideas are in conformity’ with his, they may continue in office’-; otherwise, he may dismiss “them. There is no provision for the appointment of chairmen of these State committees. The chairman of the Australian Meat Board is to be the member appointed to represent the Commonwealth Government. He need not necessarily be a meat producer. The discharge of the duties of his office will occupy the whole of his time. He will give effect to the desires of the Minister, and advise that honorable gentleman when the hoard makes a decision that may be displeasing to him; so that it may be vetoed. In the absence of provision to the contrary, this . gentleman may also be the chairman of the different State committees. The meat producer should be given the right to control the export of his commodity, particularly as the total amount involved is £20,000,000. There will be no provision for controlled sales of meat . by Australia to Great Britain after 1948, and the industry may then be compelled to revert to the conditions that have characterized sales in the past. I believe that I am correct in saying that no section of the community is more desirous of pleasing the British people and Government with the meat supplied than are the producers. It would be advantageous if an interest in the control that’ is to be exercised were retained by those who in the future will be responsible for sales of meat under private contract in Great Britain or any other part of the world. The honorable member for Calare has stated that Australia has not been improving the quality of it’s beef by- the importation’ of stud stock from foreign countries. I claim that Australia is well ahead of other countries in . “its efforts ‘to improve the qualityof its beef. -This has : been proved- by the exhibition of stud stock of all breeds in Sydney a few monthsago, as well” as by. the stock produced, annually at the Brisbane exhibition. -.Every opportunity is afforded to those who wish tosecure the best stud stock in the world in order to improve the standard of their herds. What has . been done in that regard by private enterprise is highly creditable. If the- Government wishes to assist” in that direction, it should ; follow the example of Canada, by bringing to this countrythe best stock procurable overseas. ‘ Naturally, I do not- oppose- the bill in principle. It -is essential. The Government must have a voice in the disbursement of the £20,000,000 paid by the British Government, even though it is . the property of those who sold, ‘the beef. ‘ But it has no right to attempt to socialize the handling of beef, or to exclude the beef-grower from exercising some control over it.’
– I ask leave to make a personal explanation.
– Has the. honorable member been misrepresented ? ;
– Yes. The honour and dignity of this House is in your keeping; Mr. Speaker, and’ this is a task which I know at all times imposes a continuous test on your common sense, your sense of humour; and your ‘ impartiality. In seventeen years in this Parliament, during which six Speakers have held the high’, office which you now occupy, I have ‘never, as Hansard will attest, been accused of unparliamentary language or conduct. I have always advocated vigorously the polices in which I believed, and I have just as fearlessly resisted those to which I am opposed. So, in my opinion, the two occasions during the last year when I incurred your displeasure had to do with my advocacy of the democratic rights of the individual’ in Parliament. ‘
– Order ! I am ‘sure that the honorable member has no intention of making a personal explanation.
– Yes, I have. - r . .
– Well the honorable member is ruled out of order.’ I thought, that the . difficulty ‘ existing between : the honorable memberforBalaclava and.the
– Thank you, Mr,Speaker; Iwas coming tothat. Mr. SPEAKER.Order ! The honorable member will withdraw and apologize.
Mr.White.-I should haveasked to be allowed to speak on a question of privilege.
-Noquestion of privilege is involved. ;
– As a representative of the people, I do not intend–
-Order”! The Chair
– I shall put it in my own way: .
– The honorable member will withdraw and apologize, or else Ishall name him again.
– I intended to remark that if anything I have said in Parliament can be construed as a reflectionon the Chair, I do withdraw and apologize:
– Thank you. The incident is closed.
taken, those difficulties would have been smoothed out.
As to the composition of. the board, no provision is found in the bill to limit the tenure of office of the members. The measure states that they shall be appointed by the Governor-General, in accordance with the provisions of proposed new section 5. It is entirely wrong to appoint members of a board without giving the people whose, interests they represent the right to express their views concerning the representation. I fail to realize why the Government maintains opposition to the election of representa*tives. Surely thi3 is a democracy’ in which the will of the people should be expressed from time to time. If board members are to be appointed merely at the pleasure of the Governor-General, which means at the will of - the government of the day, they may become completely out of touch with the interests which they are supposed to represent, and become mere automatons of the Government. For that reason, I believe it to be wrong that members should be appointed and . hold office at the pleasure of the Governor-General.
– What would the honorable member suggest as a reasonable term?
– I suggest three years. One year is too short, but every three years members should come up for election by the bodies which originally ‘ nominated them.
– Perhaps five years would not be too long?
– Perhaps not, but the members of this House are elected for three years, and that term” ought to be long enough for the proposed board. The bill provides that each member of the board shall be appointed from representatives nominated by the Graziers Federal Council of Australia or the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, or any other body approved by the Minister. I agree that the two bodies specifically named represent most of the meat producers of Australia, and there is nothing to stop those who are not already members from joining one or the other of them.
– I suggested that any producers now outside those organizations should affiliate with one of them.
– That is a very sound suggestion.. One of those bodies may represent certain interests, while the other represents certain other interests,, but between them they represent all the producers. However, I do not like the words “‘or any other body approved by the Minister “.
– They were put in to meet a possible emergency, or to enable us to remedy an injustice.
– I. do not for a moment believe that the present Minister would use this provision improperly, but it is possible- that some future Minister, of whatever political colour, might even arrange for the creation of bogus bodies of producers, or for the representation of a body, the membership of which was confined .to one State, and thereby perpetrate an injustice against the producers of other States. The bill provides that the board shall have on it seven producer representatives, and if some future Minister were to give representation to a body with members in one State only it would be prejudicial to the interests of producers in other States. I suggest, therefore, that the Minister might accept an amendment which would make the provision, read “ or any other body of producers federally constituted “. I recognize that the machinery for the constitution of the board must be flexible. If the representatives of the producers get out of touch” with the industry it should be possible for some other body to be constituted and obtain representation, but it should be a federal body. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, conceded this principle, because he said that the persons nominated for appointment tq the board must be nominated by the producers’ organizations constituted oh a Commonwealth basis. This stipulation, however, is not made in the bill itself. Clause 9 of the bill is as follows : -
Section twelve of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “12. - (1.) In order to assist the Board in carrying out its functions under this’ Act; theMinister may appoint for each State a Meat. Advisory Committee. (2.) The members- of the Meat Advisory Committee for a State shall be appointed by the Minister and shall comprise representatives of such sections of the meat industry in’ the State as, in the opinion of the Minister, will constitute a Committee adequately representative of that industry. (3.)The members of any such Committee shall hold office during the pleasure of the Minister and shall be paid fees and allowances at such rates as the Minister determines.”.
I suggest that it would have been better if the constitution of the State committees had been more clearly defined. I believe that on. them, as on the federal body, there should be a majority of producers. I do not know whether that is what the Minister intends.
– It is.
– Then I suggest that the producer-members of the State committees should be elected by the State bodies affiliated to the federal primary producers organizations, and provision for this should be made in the bill,
Reverting to the constitution of the Australian Meat Board, I point out that the bill provides that one member shall represent the Commonwealth Government, and I maintain that he should be a producer-member. The ideal man would be one who had been actively engaged in primary production, or one who is still so engaged, and who, during the war, served as a temporary officer with the Department of Commerce or some other Government department. Thus, he would have gained administrative experience, and would yet have a practical knowledge of . the meat industry. Such a combination would be ideal, and would be helpful both to the Government and to the producers.
I turn now to the very contentious clause 7, paragraph . c, which provides that’ section 10 of the principal act shall be amended -
This is the provision which arms the chairman of the board with the power of veto. I know that the Minister claims that the Commonwealth is so deeply in-‘ volved in this scheme, being liable for the expenditure annually of an amount of £20,000,000, that it must reserve this right of veto on a point of principle, or upon any matter having a bearing upon financial losses or gains. I do not know exactly what the Minister meant by a point of principle; he did not elaborate it. I can understand “his fear that the board might involve the Government, as the agent of the British Government in the purchase of this enormous quantity of meat, in financial commitments which he did not believe to be warranted and which accordingly the Government considers it should have the right to veto. What is particularly worrying the producers’ representatives is the final line in the clause, which reads -
The decision so approved shall be deemed to be the decision of the board.
– I believe that I made that reasonably clear in the subsequent discussions I have had with representatives of the Graziers Council and others. I then agreed that the clause might be amended in such a way as to make it clear that when a Minister exercises his power of veto to interfere with a decision of the board, whilst such decision would remain in essence a decision of the board, it would beclearly understood that the onus of responsibility was entirely uponthe Minister. The language in which the clause is at present expressed is the usual technical language used in measures of this kind. In no circumstances would a decision so arrived at be considered as a definite decision of the board itself.
– If that were made perfectly clear many of the objections of producers to the wording of the clause as it stands at present would be overcome.
– I shall ascertain whether it is possible to amend the clause in such a way as to coincide with the wishes of the honorable member and of the representatives of the Graziers Association in that respect.
– A difficulty may arise in that, for legal purposes, such a decision may have to be regarded as a decision of the board. However, I see no insuperable difficulty in so rewording the clause as to make it clear that in such cases the Minister, and not the board, is clearly responsible. The representatives of the producers on the board hold office at the will of the Governor-General who, in turn, is guided by the recommendation of the Minister of. the day, and thus they have no security of tenure, even for three years.- They should be appointed for at least three years and have the right to nominate for re-election. If these two important matters were cleared up most of the objections that the producers have to this measure would be overcome. Wide powers are proposed, to be given to the board under clause 14, and I am in entire agreement with the amendment which was forecast, by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson). The clause provides -
Section., sixteen of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after paragraph , (d) the following’word and paragraph: - “ ; and (e) on behalf of the Commonwealth - and subject to any directions of the Minister -
to purchase any meat, meat product or edible offal ;
No limitation whatever is imposed by that., clause. It . may be still in operation long after the expiration of the contract for the sale of meat to the United . Kingdom Government, unless, provision be made for a definite date of expiry of this legislation or the clause be redrafted in accordance with the amendment, sought by the honorable member, for Deakin. If that amendment is subsequently accepted, producers’ interests will be safeguarded, because the legislation’ will operate “only- for a period of three years. This clause enables the Minister ‘ to override completely the members of the board. ‘ Whether they be representatives of producers, exporters, abattoirs, or employees, theymay have to accept direction’s . from the’ Minister without protest or objection. I do” “riot suggest that the Minister is likely, to use unwisely these dictatorial powers,- but they will enable him, if he so desires, to maintain a facade of democracy by retaining a semblance of producer-control when, in fact, at his very whim, ; the members of the board might have to act like marionettes responsive to his pulling of the strings. I trust that the Minister will accept the amendment that the honorable member for Deakin will move so that after the expiration of three years, say in June, 1949, this legislation will expire. When it is then being reconsidered, . an opportunity will be afforded to amendthe clause if necessary. Arid the people will consider it necessary because,- as democrats, they will object to the continuance of anything that smacks of dictatorship”.
Another matter which reaches the very crux of the . bill is the block . sale of . meat exported from1 Australia during” the next three years: The total . amount of beef, mutton’ andlamb that will be exported willrun into many millionsof pounds1. The agreement under which these “exports are ; to be sold to the United Kingdom Government is to operate for three years. What is worryingme about . it is whether”, during the operation of the agreement sufficient opportunities will be taken to explore the- possibilities of obtaining other markets for our meat. I found when the American troops came into this country, early, in 1942, their dietary scale Was vastly different from bur own. We were told by responsible American Army officers’ that , the American people would riot live on the kind of foods to which we had become accustomed. They were pigfood eaters and, to ‘a lesser degree, beef eaters. However, we. found that subsequently,. whilst none of them would; eat mutton, many of them acquired a liking for Australian lamb. The taste for Australian lamb grew upon them so rapidly that many.preferred lamb to the “pig products to which they . had formerly been accustomed.. ‘ This raises the possibility thatthere exists in the United States of America and in Canada a big potential market- for Australian lamb. One can almost envisage a possible opening of a market in South American republics, as the standard of living in those countries is raised. . And thus some useful work, may be found for our representatives in those countries who are now merely disporting themselves there at the Government’s expense. I have not the faith some people have in the Government’s ability to open up new avenues for the sale of our surplus meat, or in civil servants having the necessary initiative or specialized knowledge that private enterprise has to find new markets for our exportable surplus. Despite the three-year agreement with Great Britain, without doubt a fight will develop’ for markets, and at the conclusion of the agreement Great Britain may not be able to renew it because of its commitment, as the result of its loan from the United States of America, to increase its exports by 75 per cent, above the prewar level. Consequently, Great Britain may be compelled to divert its import trade from this country to countries that will freely accept its exports. I therefore hope that, Australia will develop new markets; overseas. The honorable member for Calare(Mr. Breen) referred to the possibilities of the market in the East. I realize that the purchasing power of the Eastern, races is small at present, but during the war India became a great creditor country, and, with an improvement.of the living, standards of its people, there ought to be a possibility of our developing -a market in India for our meat, despite the prejudices of the Indian peoples . against food not killed arid prepared by people of their religions. I agree that, this bill is necessary to carry out the terms of the agreement,but certain’ of its provisions are anathema to the meat producers, and I feel sure that the ‘Minister for. Commerce and Agriculture, after having given further consideration; to them, will accept the amendments that, have been foreshadowed on this side.
.- I should not have spoken on this bill but for the fact, that, the proposed constitution of the Australian Meat Board is a live question in Tasmania. The Tasmanian meat producers are not at all satisfied with it, because representation on the board is not to be on a State basis. Some” years ago, the Tasmanian Parliament and primary producers expended a large amount of money on the development.of the fertile lands in the northern part of the- State ; and concentrated, on producing lambs for export. The lambs have no superior in Australia, but only a small quantity is exported. The exporters are fearful that the smallness of the Tasmanian trade in comparison with that of other States may result in their escaping the attention of the board and that their “ industry may easily be jeopardized, unless they have representation on the board. The proposed board will consist of twelve members, most of whom will be representatives of the producers, but the representation is not to be on a State basis. Proposed new section 12 shows that the Ministery is “aware that State interests must be met, because it provides -
In order to assist the board in carrying out its functions under this act, the Minister may appoint for each State a Meat Advisory Committee.-
By the use of that word “ may “, the clause provides that it is not incumbent on the Minister to appoint State committees, but it would be interesting to know why that clause is in the bill, unless he intends to consider the interests of the States. I should like the Minister, in his speech in reply, to indicate the broad principles that guide’ him in the appointment of boards to foster the marketing of Australian commodities overseas, because it appearsthat, in this “ Stateridden country of ours, the States with the greater producing power are apt to receive such consideration that the interests of the other’ States may be jeopardized. I entertain that fear in regard to Tasmania. I should like - to know why that State is denied representation on the Meat Board but is granted representation on other marketing boards.’ Other aspects of this legislation have been sufficiently canvassed by other honorable gentlemen, and all that concerns me is the fear that, unless Tasmania has. direct representation on the Meat Board, the interests of the fat-lamb raisers in . Tasmania will: be prejudiced. . ,
.- The purpose of the: Meat Export Control Bill is to reconstitute the ‘ Australian Meat Board with greater powers than’ it possesses under the principal act. Indeed, its powers will be so great that it will almost entirely control the’ meat industry of Australia. My remarks will be directed to the constitution and powers of the board and the power of veto reposed in the chairman, which will probably be exercised in collaboration with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I agree that the existing board, with its 21 members, may be somewhat unwieldy, but, as the law stands, each State is represented on it. The principal act provides that the board shall consist of one member in respect of each State to represent the stock producers of the State. Several other interests are represented. The size of that board may not be conducive to good business, but I do not agree that the proposed board should be composed on a production basis. In the production of lambs and cattle each State has its own problems and should have direct representation on the board. If that representation were granted it would not be necessary to enlarge the board. The Minister should divide the representation of the various sections of the meat industry between the representatives of the States. I have yet to learn of a board on which State representation has not been entirely satisfactory. The present proposal would allow the larger States to dominate the position, and that would lead to the development of a completely unsatisfactory and unjustifiable state of affairs. Tasmania does not produce so many lambs as some of the other States do, but it certainly produces lambs of high quality. It has been saidby those qualified to express an opinion that some of the best lambs grown . in Australia are grown in Tasmania..I am glad that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) endorses that statement with his “ Hear, hears “. The Tasmanian lamb is said to equal the famous Canterbury lamb of New Zealand.-
– I consider that it is better.
– In Tasmania, there is ample opportunity to expand this vast industry. I believe that the production of fat lambs will increase considerably. Sooner or later, export quotas will be imposed. At the moment, that is not likely, but- I remind the House that in 1939, the United Kingdom was about to advise that only a prescribed quantity of lamb could be accepted. Only the outbreak of war saved the industry from a’ severe setback. If, at some future date, export quotas be imposed, the less populous States will be at the mercy of the more populous States. The producers of the smaller States with ‘their own peculiar problems, will be compelled to take the crumbs that fall from the table of the large producers in the larger States, who will dominate the position. I regret that the Government, in this bill, is pandering to the more populous States, which have the largest number of voters. At the appropriate time, I shall submit an amendment providing for the continuance of State representation, as on the original Australian Meat Board. In my opinion, that will not necessarily increase the personnel of the new board.
The bill provides that the . Australian Meat Board shall have power, on behalf of the Commonwealth and subject to any directions of the Minister-
The House will agree that thosepowers are very extensive, especially when the board does not represent meat producers throughout the Commonwealth. - This is evidence of socialist control. The- chairman of the board will have almost dictatorial powers. I warn the Minister that the power of veto has caused many international headaches recently, and that the power of veto which will be vested in the chairman of the Australian Meat Board ‘ will cause many headaches in the meat industry. That the chairman of the board will possess dictatorial powers is proved by proposed new sub-section 5a of section 10 of the principal act -
If the person presiding at a meeting of the Board dissents from any decision of the Board, signifies at the meeting to the other members present in person his intention to bring his dissent to the notice of the Minister and,within twenty-four hours after the close of the meeting, transmits to the Minister notice of his dissent together with full particulars of the decision, effect shall not he given to the decision unless the Minister approves of the decision (whether with or without variation) and, if the Minister approves of the decision subject to a variation, the decision so approved shall be deemed to be the decision of the Board.’
Therefore, what purports to be the decision of the board may, in reality, be the decision of the Minister. I believe in producer control, but this bill does not provide for it.
– The bill provides for government control through the Minister.
– Yes. Seven of the twelve members of the board will represent various sections of the meat industry, but I remind honorable members that the board will really be only an advisory body. The chairman will be the lord high executioner. He will be able to veto any decision of the board with which he disagrees. If a decision of the board is not acceptable, the Minister may, through the chairman, or the chairman may, in collaboration with the Minister, veto it. The situation reminds me of a conversation between a young ‘ man and woman who were to be married. The young man said: “Before we go any farther, let us have an agreement so that there shall be no misunderstanding after we are married. When we agree on any matter in future, you shall have your way; but when we disagree, I shall have my way. That is only fair “. That proposal was just as fair as is this provision in the bill. I am glad to have the Minister’s assurance that he will endeavour suitably to amend this obnoxious provision. I appreciate his desire to review any decision of the board involving government finance, because, after all, the Parliament is the supreme authority and controls’ the public purse. However, I hope that he will be able to . prepare an acceptable amendment so that the board shall not be subservient to the dictatorial powers of a chairman.
.- I am glad that the debate on this bill enables me to .pay a well-deserved tribute to the wonderfully efficient work that has been done by the Australian Meat Board over a period of years, especially by the Controller of Meat Supplies, Mr. Tonkin, during the last four years, and of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, Messrs. Murphy and McCarthy, who assisted to inaugurate this policy many years ago. Australia is indebted to those gentlemen, as I shall later show. No -industry has been more difficult to administer during the war period than the meat industry, and in those years Mr. Tonkin displayed extraordinary tact and courage in performing his duties. He was always ready to obtain the benefit of the advice and experience of those? capable of assisting him; Under most difficult conditions, he succeeded in doing a very good job, hampered as he. was by other circumstances entirely beyond his control. Those other circumstances include the recent strike of meat employees in Queensland, which caused the loss of many thousands of tons of export beef for Great Britain, and the refusal of slaughtermen at various times to kill sheep and cattle. As the result of their attitude, the stock often died of starvation after having been sent to the abattoirs. Those factors were outside Mr. Tonkin’s control.* In my opinion, the rationing of meat in Australia should have been placed under the authority of the Controller of Meat Supplies. Prom Dr. Clements, chairman of the Nutrition Committee, which the Government appointed in 1945 to examine the position, we learn that, despite rationing, and probably because of the existence of black markets,, the quantity of meat and other commodities consumed in Australia, with the sole exception of butter, has -actually increased since the introduction of rationing. That had a detrimental effect on the quantity of meat that we in Australia were able to export to our starving kinsmen in Great Britain, and to other countries. As the Controller and the existing Meat Board have done such . a good job, one would have thought that the Minister would have given strong reasons for proposing the changes that are now being suggested, but no adequate reasons have been given for the new policy. Instead of receiving a pat on the back, the Controller of Meat Supplies and his Board are getting a kick. I am reminded of the treatment meted out to the Commonwealth Bank Board which, after having performed fine work, was summarily dismissed.
I wish to say a few words about the contention that producer control will be expanded under .;the . new board, and, in that connexion,I shall relate the history of the meat, export control . business to show the necessity for proceeding with the greatest caution, in order to make certain that we shall ‘ do nothing that will interfere with our market in Great Britain, for it must be understood that that is our sole market at present, and in order to ensure, also,- that we shall be in a position to take immediate advantage of - any other markets’ that may open ‘for Australian meat products as. world conditions return tonormal.
The Australian Meat Board which was. appointed in 1935 consisted of sixteen representatives of whom’ nine were producers. They included one member to represent the stock breeders of each State, a member as the special representative of the Riverina; a representative ofthe stock breeders of the Northern Territory, and a -representative -of the pig breeders, The honorable member for Wilmot . (Mr. Guy) will realize ‘that the constitution of that board met his complaint’ in that it provided -for- the direct represen tation of Tasmania.The_ board also included a representative of- the exporting interests,- a representative of the co-operative organizations which export mutton and ‘ lamb, ‘ and four representatives of publicly-owned abattoirs and freezing works which, at that time, were operating in Australia. Most of those governmental organizations have since disappeared -and ; their representatives automatically retired from the board. The proposed, new board will consist of twelve representatives of whom seven will represent producers, and five non-producers, one of whom will be a government member and chairman of the board. I have seen a suggestion, though I do not know whether it had official basis, that there may be two more government appointees who will act in a ‘temporary capacity, one to represent the Prices Commission, and the other the rationing authority. I would not mind this, if it were not for the fact that the final control will rest with the chairman of the board. I am favorable to the ultimate control of these industries resting with a Minister who is responsible to Parliament, but ‘ in my opinion it is a long step backward for the government member not -onlyto be made chairman but also to have’- a’ right of veto. The other eleven ‘ member’s ‘ of the board may be against the chairman and. they may be more experienced in the details of the industry than he; yet. he is to have the right of veto.
It will pay us to examine… for a few moments the record of the : Australian Meat Control Board in order to remind ourselves of what it has been, able to do. This should be done before we approve of radical changes. I am not strongly opposed to the changes that have ; been suggested, with the exception that I entirely disagree , with the placing of the . power of. veto in the hands of the chairman. We should take all . possible care to satisfy., ourselves that we. do not agree to anythingthat will interferewith the- proper working of the board or the expansion of the Australian meat industry. ‘The Australian Meat- Board has always worked in . the closest association, with the Department of Commerce and Agriculture ‘of . which it- is an integral part, and it has secured some splendid results for the- Australian meat industry. With the whole-hearted’ support of the ‘government of -the day it was able, -.-in 1936, to secure a substantial restriction of imports of meat from Argentina ‘ under.’ the Anglo-Argentine Agreement. Argentina was our principal competitor- on the British market. The board secured in 1937 a reduction of the 1935 Argentina quota of chilled beef by 138,700 cwt., representing 2 per cent. ; it also secured a reduction of the 1937 quota by an additional 138,700- cwt’. In 1939 it secured the same concession, provided that the total for that year should not be less than 6,595,000 cwt., which was the 1935 total, less 5 per cent. At the time that this substantial cut was _ made in imports of chilled ‘ beef from Argentina it was necessary to do everything possible to. encourage imports of chilled beef from Australia to Great Britain, scientific improvements having been made which rendered it possible for us to export our product in a competitive condition. It is true that our meat could not reach the British market with quite the same bloom that could be retained ori the more quickly transported chilled meat from Argentina,but the point is that we were able, . to secure the business. The Government and : the. board . was also -able to obtain ‘ a’duty of three farthings per lb. ‘ on chilled’ beef from -Argentina, which’, previously, had been admitted duty., free. Later I shall give figures which will indicate a steady growth of exports of Australian meat to Great Britain,’ which enabled us to take such a substantial part in providing meat for the people of Great Britain during the first two or ‘three years of the war, when the U-boat menace was at its height and the difficulties in securing shipping space for exports to Britain seemed to be -almost insuperable.’ In addition the board secured the following restrictions of imports from Argentina : -
Frozen beef, 124,000 cwt., and a duty ofd. ( two-thirds of a penny ) per lb., . plus 20 per cent, ad valorem.
Frozen beef offal’s, not less than 5.6 per cent, of the total current imports- of chilled and frozen, plus 20 per cent, ad . valorem.
Canned beef, 605,600 cwt., a slight reduction on” the 1935 figures, plus 20’ per. cent, ad valorem.
Frozen mutton and lamb, 1937-886,000 cwt. (no reduction) free; 1938 - 797;400 cwt., 10 per cent, reduction,’ free:’
Frozen pork,- 186,800 cwt., same’ as 1935 total, free.
When I was in England in . 1938 I was able to make contracts on behalf of the Australian Government for the supply to . Great Britain in war-time of 240,000 tons of meat per annum, which is roughly the average quantity that we had been exporting for the- last four or five years. Because of the good season, and the economies it was possible to make, we were able to send to England during the first year of the war not only the 240,000 tons we had contracted to supply but also an additional 50,000 tons, which proved of great value. The shipments consisted of beef, mutton, lamb and pork. Then, difficulties arose in the provision of the necessary shipping, with the result that we were unable to despatch all that the British people desired us to send. Thus, the Meat Export Control Board and the Government were confronted with the necessity to reorganize meat processing in Australia. The first step was to extend the cold storage facilities in this country. During 1940 and . 1941, the cold storage space provided for all purposes was. increased , by 500,000 tons, and a considerable portion . of it was devoted to the storage of meat. That enabled us to hold a tremendous quantity of meat in. this country until refrigerated shipping space became available, as it -fortunately did late in 1941. Simultaneously, the production of canned meats was increased, from 15,000 tons in 1940 to. a maximum of 90,000 tons in 1945. That was one of our great achievements during the war period. The advantage of canned meat, compared with frozen or chilled meat, was that it did not require insulated shipping space, and could be carried in ordinary cargo vessels. It was revealed during the war that vessels with insulated space were equipped with engines that gave them a speed of 20 or 21 knots an hour. When the Navy and Army authorities had compared this speed with that of ordinary liners, they commandeered most of these vessels for the transport of troops, and thus correspondingly reduced the tonnage of cold storage space available for the shipment of perishable food, which then had to be transported ‘ in ordinary merchantmen. The Meat Export Control Board did good work during that . period in effecting reorganization. It also attempted dehydration. . The experiments begun while I was Minister for Commerce were continued by the . present Minister. I regret that they werenot wholly successful. Although dehydrated foods were produced, they were not very palatable. As only the poorer stock was used, the loss was not great. Theeffort was well worth while,however, because it ensured to the people of Great Britain an increase of the number of calories they consumed, and thus assisted them to resist the advancing foe. . A plan for dealing with pig-meats also was introduced, and proved of very great value to Australia. In the first and second years of the war, the British Government could not decide exactly what pork or bacon it desired, and repeatedly varied the weight from high to low and vice versa. The increase of weight from 120 to 180 lb. was an easy matter, but the reverse was the case when a reduction in the weight of carcasses was soughtby Great Britain. The subject was canvassed at some length and final agreement “ on standard weight was reached. It was essential that a plan should be produced which would permit Australia to make continuous progress in the pig industry under stabilized conditions. I trust” that the . industry has now reached a stage of efficiency from which it will not be allowed to deteriorate. I fear, however, that if the dairying industry cannot attain to its rightful place, the pig industry cannot be maintained because the skimmed milk feeds so many pigs. Bacon is easily transported ; consequently, our aim should be to produce it. Figures given by the Minister reveal that the number of dairy cows has decreased in the last six years by 250,000, and the number of dairy calves under one year old by 120,000, compared with the previous year. He has said that at least five years will be needed to restore production to the pre-war level. This emphasizes the necessity for fixing the prices of butter and other commodities produced on dairy farms at such a figure that there will be an incentive to increase production. The previous meat organization differed from that now proposed, in that it was based on a State instead of an industry conception. It will be interesting to see whether the present proposal will prove more satisfactory. I am prepared to support any plan that is properly based, but am most strongly opposed to the proposal in regard to a veto.
I wish to deal at some length with the consumption of meat in Australia. It seems a strange anomaly that whilst the people of Britain have to be content with half a pound of meat a week, Australians are permitted to eat 3J lb. or 4 lb. The effect of rationing has been rather to make people coupon-conscious. Having coupons, they consider that they must use them. They regard them as more difficult to obtain than the money that is needed to purchase meat. The Nutrition Committee set up by the Government to examine a cross-section of 3,000 families in Australia, found that their consumption of meat in November, 1945, was substantially greater than it had been in November, 1938, despite the fact that our compatriots overseas had been practically starving. The Government should examine, this matter closely
Sir Earle Page.
Probably the Australian Meat Board, consisting of men with a practical knowledge of production-, and wholesale and retail aspects of the meat industry, might be able to propound a scheme whereby extra meat could be sent to Great Britain, not in the dim, distant future, but immediately. That would establish widespread goodwill in Great Britain which would be of very great service to us for many years. We should do this in the interest of our future trade with the United Kingdom, quite apart from humanitarian considerations, or the duty that we owe to. Great Britain, which stood solidly against every shock administered to it during the war, hardpressed though it was.
A problem that will, worry the Australian meat producer is the market he will have for the disposal of his lamb and mutton. Under ‘ the contract, the prices are: lamb 7 1/2d. per lb., mutton 4£d. per lb., and beef 41s. 8d. per 100 lb. It is obvious that the value of lamb, is two-thirds greater than .that of either mutton or beef. Therefore, we should endeavour to grow and sell as much lamb as possible, and- thus obtain much more money for equal weight. It has been evident for many years that only in the two great English-speaking countries, Great Britain and the United States of America, can the people afford to purchase lamb at that price. South Africa raises many sheep, and is an active competitor of Australia in the production of wool. Canada is practically self-contained. But in the United States of America there could be a very big lamb market, which we could secure if we took proper steps to that end. I join with the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) in the hope that the new board will concern itself not only with the fulfilment of the contract with Great Britain, but also in taking advantage of any opportunity that may be presented to supply the United Kingdom market, alternatively with lower grades of meat and to secure entry to the American market. In conjunction with. Great ‘ Britain, we should press for the reduction of the duty on lamb entering the United States of America, in order to ensure that what we send to that market will be sold at a reasonable pa-ice. In addition, the Aust tralian Meat Board should closely examine the whole of our international trade relations, with a view to diverting considerable quantities of Argentina meat to European, countries,which need is so greatly. The Argentina has admirable conditions for de-pasturing cattle. Its land is of high quality. Its immense rivers, such as the Rio de la Plata and the Parana, can take boats of deep draught, and this enables it to transport stock by water for hundreds of miles, lt is in comparatively close proximity to Europe. All of these factors enable it to market its beef in Europe at a much lower cost than ours. Therefore, I urge the Government to ask the board to bear this matter in mind.
I wish to deal with the damage that is clone to our meat export trade by the lack of continuity of supplies. The recent strike in Queensland caused us to lose the sale of 40,000 or 50,000 tons of meat to the United Kingdom. This meat was urgently required by the people of Great Britain. Cattle which should have been slaughtered were returned to the proporties from which they had been brought, causing those properties to be overstocked. But those are not all the disadvantages that were caused. In addition, there is the lack of confidence in a continuity of supplies of Australian meat to our regular market in Britain. In Australia, the beef season lasts from February to April or May, and the lamb season from September onwards. This makes it difficult to maintain a continuous supply to the British market, and we found that it was necessary sometimes to sell our meat as Empire meat rather than as Australian, and to get other dominion countries, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand, to fill in the seasonal gaps so that we might keep the customers that we had gained by advertising. The dislocation of the meat industry by strikes not only causes immediate discomfort to the public here, but it also may result in a permanent loss of customers abroad. I regret that the Government has not seen fit during the recent strike-
– This bill has nothing to do with industrial disputes.
– No, but industrial disputes reduce supplies, and make it impossible to load ships to capacity.
– Order !
– I have been discussing the shipment of supplies of meat to Great Britain. If it becomes neces-. sary to pay higher shipping freights because strikes have made it impossible to fill the refrigerated space on the ships trading between Australia and Great Britain, the cost of marketing will be increased, and the effect of the proposed levy will be nullified.
I come now to the power of veto, which it is proposed to bestow upon the chairman of the, board, and I confess that I can see no reason for it. The money which the board is to handle will be the property of -the persons who produce the meat. It will represent the purchase price of the meat which they sell overseas, and surely they are entitled to an effective say in its disposal. The Government will incur liability only if, for instance, it enters into a contract to supply meat for, say, two years at a certain price, and is then unable; because of scarcity or of industrial dislocation, to obtain supplies at a price that would enable it to fulfil its contract without loss. However, it is provided that there shall be three Government representatives on the board who may be expected to watch the Government’s interests, and the continuity of the board’s marketing policy should be such as to reduce losses to a minimum. It seems absurd to claim virtue for appointing a board which will have on it a majority of producers’ representatives, and then to insert in the bill a provision that one man out of the twelve on the board may override the wishes of the other eleven. I hope’ that in the committee stage, the Government will agree to limit this power of veto to certain specific matters relating to the financial responsibility pf the Commonwealth, a responsibility which can never be important in relation to the total operations of the board.
.- This hill proposes to carry into peace-time the general functions and organization of the meat control authority which operated during the war, and it proposes to clothe the new authority with greater powers. During the last few years, we have had considerable experience of meat control in Australia. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) paid a tribute to the good work of the officials associated with meat control, and particularly to Mr. Tonkin, of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I agree with him as to the capacity and ability of those officials, but it would be a wild exaggeration to say that, so far as. Victoria is concerned, meat control has, during the last two years, given any satisfaction at all. In fact, I may say that the meat producers of Victoria have been extremely unhappy under the control system, and have been seeking to change it. Honorable members will recall the dispute which took place in the early part of this year, and the difficulties that arose regarding the supply of meat in Victoria. The Government and its supporters at one time blamed the producers, and at another time blamed the stock agents. Indeed, they sought to cast the blame everywhere except where it should rightly rest, namely,’ with the Government. I have said’ before, and I will go on saying it until I can convince the Government, that the trouble in Victoria over the supply of meat was principally due to the failure of the Government to enforce its authority during the early period. From this failure there grew up a tendency to disregard the law.
I also believe that the advisers of the Government were not happily chosen. They certainly did not represent the interests that ought to be represented, and they sometimes gave bad advice. I suggest that the lessons which may be learned from the experience of the war years should be incorporated in this bill. We have an opportunity to do this now, and the opportunity may not occur again. Therefore, I hope that before the hill becomes law the Government will accept from this side of the House amendments designed to improve the measure.
I believe that if it .becomes necessary at any time to organize the marketing of primary products, control should be in the hands of the producers themselves. After all, it is their produce which is being sold. They are the persons mainly concerned, and they should have complete control. This bill provides for a method of appointing the Australian Meat Export Board which is an improvement upon the method previously in operation in that there are tobe seven . producer-m embers out of a total of twelve. If the board were to have any real control that method would be very satisfactory, but the bill provides that the chairman, who is to be appointed by the Government, shall have power to dissent from any decision of the’ board, and his dissent may be upheld by the Minister, or amended in any way that the Minister directs. I cannot .understand the reason for this.. Time and time again we have heard Government supporters affirm the principle of producer-control of marketing boards; yet now the Government proposes toinaugurate a system which ostensibly gives “control to the producers, while in fact keeping all effective control firmly in its own hands, thus making the wholething a mockery. Are we to have producercontrol or not ? If not, the Government should say so, and we would know where we stand. I am unconvinced by the excuse of the Minister that it is necessary that the Government should retain thepower of veto because it will incur somefinancial responsibility. Surely the responsibility of the producers’, whosemeat is being disposed of, will be far greater than that of the Government.. Therefore, I can see no reason why effective control should be ta’ken out of thehands of the producers themselves. I was not present when the Wheat Stabilization: Bill was being debated, but that bill also provided for the setting up of a producers’ board, and then nullified the effectiveness of the provision by leaving all ultimate power in the hands of theMinister.
– I am merely showing; the similarity of what the Government did about the wheat board and what it proposes in relation to the meat board’. We believe that the producers should have control of their own industry, and this principle should be clearly stated in the bill itself. The bill provides that theproducers shall have a majority of seven to five on the board. The seven producermembers are to represent various sections of the meat trade in Australia, and there will be two representatives of the exporters, one representative of public abattoirs, . one of the employees, and one member appointed by the Government. Why are there to be two representatives of the exporters? As far as I am aware no other boards established by the Government include in their membership representatives of exporters. That is also the case in New Zealand, where the meat board is representative of producrs alone. Why should it be necessary to include in the ‘ Australian Meat Board two representatives of the big exporting firms? If the advice of these firms be required the board may ask for it. There seems to be no reason why they should be able to influence the decisions of the board. The inclusion of representatives of the exporting firms seems to be clearly out of keeping with the whole proposal of producer control. ..The New Zealand Meat Board consists of six representatives of the producers, one of whom represents dairy-farmers; two government nominees, . both, of whom are producers; and one- stock and station agent, who is naturally very much concerned with the purchase of stock. Clause 4 of the bill prescribes that the member appointed to represent the mutton producers shall, be selected from persons nominated by two. large organizations, namely, the Graziers- Federal Council of Australia or the; Australian Wool, and Meat Producers Federation, or any other body approved . by . the. Minister. Whilst I thoroughly agree that those two great organizations should be entitled to nominate persons to represent their interests on the board, there are, however, other organizations which have an equal if not a greater claim, to representation. I instance the Australian Primary Producers Union, a body which represents, I believe, a far greater number ofthe meat producers of Australia than either of the two organizations mentioned in the clause. This union has branches in four States of the Commonwealth and- in Victoria alone’ has 150 branches and a membership of 10,000. Yet its claims have been completely, ignored. Recently the union “asked ; the Minister to receive a deputation to discuss the whole subject of meat control in Australia ; but the Minister refused to do so. I have been at a loss to understand the reasons for his refusal and I trust that during the course of his reply to this debate he will make them clear. The Minister apparently does not realize the importance of that body which I should have thought would have been one of the first to be consulted when a bill of this kind was being framed. Representations have been made on numerous occasions that the union should be consulted, but the Minister’s reply has always been in the negative.
– All of the representations of that body have been adequately answered;
– But the answer has- invariably been in the negative.
– An explanation was always given.
– I have not yet heard a satisfactory explanation. I trust that the Minister will deal “with this matter before the debate is concluded. ., “ .
– I have already done . so on many occasions..
-I have never been able to understand the honorable gentleman’s explanation.. ‘”
– The reason for the honorable member’s inability to understand my explanation would not be difficult to conceive.
– The Minister’s explanations are invariably extremely hard to understand because he does not always express his convictions. I impress upon him the fact that the. two organizations mentioned in the clause cannot nominate persons adequately representative of the industry. The Minister should use his discretionary’ power to accept nominations from the Australian Primary Producers Union. If he will not agree to do that, from what body is he prepared to accept nominations? -
– From the Trades and Labour Council. . “
– I have studied the New Zealand scheme, which I believe to be far better than the proposal contained in this bill, first, because it is more democratic, and, secondly, because it gives complete control to the meat board, which is truly representative of the primary producers of that dominion. Under the New Zealand scheme the dominion is divided up into ten districts in each of which the farmers themselves return one, two or three representatives to an electoral council which in turn elects representatives to the meat board. Every farmer with 100 or more sheep has to vote by post in the election of the electoral council. In my electorate ‘ the New Zealand scheme is very strongly supported. The meat producers of Victoria have already subdivided the State into thirteen regions each of which- has elected two delegates. The 26 delegates assembled in Melbourne in January last and formed a provisional meat council which in turn selected a central executive of thirteen members. Thus we have an organization already established which the Minister might call upon if he desires to institute a system along the lines of that in operation in New Zealand. However, although the organization is now complete it has received no recognition by the Government. I commend the Government to give the most earnest consideration even at this late hour to the adoption of the New Zealand scheme. The proposed method of selection of representatives of the . board is entirely an arbitrary one. The bill proposes that the Minister may make a selection from a panel of names submitted to him; but provision is also made that onehalf of the members of the board may be selected by the Minister himself without reference to the panel of names submitted to him. Is the chairman of the board, the most important office-holder in the organization, and to whom the Government proposes to give very wide powers, including the power of veto, to be a producer? If the Minister will give the House an assurance that the chairman will be a producer the doubts and anxieties of many producers will be soothed.
As far as I can gather, the bill makes no provision for State representation on the board. If regional organizations were established on the New Zealand pattern the whole of Australia would be divided into zones from which representatives would be elected, and thus the state aspect would be covered, the principal producing States perhaps having the larger representation. The claims of Victoria as a very prominent meat. exporting State, to adequate representation should receive special consideration. In its issue of the 16th February, 1946, the Pastoral Review cited figures which showed that out of. 3,336,766 carcasses of lamb exported in 1944-45, more than one-half, or 1,862,586 came from Victoria. As regards mutton, of 450,218 carcasses, Victoria shipped 178,365. During the preceding year Victoria exported’ 2,306,392 lambs of a total of 4,013,027 exported, and 264.930 carcasses of mutton of a total Australian export of 519,920. In other words, in those two years Victoria exported more than one-half of the total sheep carcasses shipped from this country.
– Those figures would include sheep trucked into Victoria from southern Riverina.
– Some of the sheep would have’ come from that area. It cannot be denied however, that the largest proportion of the lamb exported from Australia came from Victoria. Even if the lambs were not wholly raised in Victoria they were fattened there. Thus that State has a special claim for additional representation on the board. If the clause is redrafted it may be possible also to provide for representation of the Riverina district or. for an additional representative- for New South Wales.
Price Ls perhaps the most important factor in the success of our export meat trade, and in the determination of the price of carcasses sent abroad there are many other subsidiary factors such as the value of fats and wools. An extraordinary anomaly exists in’ connexion with the price of tallow. I am informed on good authority that the present price of good colour inedible tallow in Argentina is approximately £120 a ton. In Australia the price up to six months ago was about £27 10s. a ton; it has since been increased to £37 6s. a ton. I cannot see why we should sell our tallow at a price substantially below world parity price, thus involving the producers of Australia in heavy losses. If they were able to secure for themselves the difference between the Australian price and the world parity price they could reduce the price of meat and at the same time enjoy a better all-round return for their labours. It has been estimated that if producers received world parity price for their tallow there would be an additional return to the grower of between ls. and ls 6d. in respect of each sheep sold. The extra return from cattle would be from 12s. to 25s. a head. .That would be an appreciable gain to the producer which would enable reduction of meat- prices. The Government ought to give serious consideration to. that.
I believe that a more liberal issue of export licences would be of material assistance to the meat trade. The number of licences issued are extremely small. They are held mainly by the three big meat exporting firms whose names are so well known to honorable members that I need not repeat them. I do not know why the licences should be concentrated in the hands of the larger firms to the exclusion qf the smaller butchers. I hope that the Government will give consideration to that.
As the Minister knows, Australia, as compared - with, for instance, New Zealand, is extremely short of refrigeration space. The space available is again mainly in the hands of the large meat exporters, and the small butcher cannot obtain any in which to’ store meat. I think I talk on lines that will be appreciated by the Minister when I suggest that the Government itself should provide refrigeration space.
– The honorable member believes in socialism?
– I do to a considerable degree in some matters. I see no reason why the Government should not establish refrigeration space if no one else is willing to do so. That has been done by the Government of New Zealand, and refrigeration space has been provided by the Government in Australia for food and other commodities.
– Would the honorable member like to see that principle extended to overseas transport?
– There aTe limits. Except for a few points that I intend to raise in committee, I have said what I rose to’ say. For the benefit of the Government, I conclude by summarizing my main points : I object to the provision for the vetoing pf decisions of the Meat Board, which I regard as absolutely wrong and undemocratic and as something that the Government ought to delete from the hill. The Government has taken an extraordinary stand, in the matter of representation on ‘ the board, in ignoring the important Primary Producers Union. I still await an understandable explanation from the Minister of why the Government has adopted the proposed method of appointment of members of the board instead of the democratic and sound method of election by the growers adopted by the Government of New Zealand in establishing a similar body in that dominion.
Meat Export Control Bill deals with oneof - the most important industries of Australia. Probably the annual value of the production of the .Australian meat indus try is .greater than that of any other Australian primary industry. I have, not been able to ascertain from the Commonwealth Year-book the total annual value of. meat production - the only figures given by it relate to the value of meat exports - but I do not think there is much doubt that the value of .meat produced in Australia exceeds that of any other primary’ product. Therefore, farreaching legislation affecting the meat industry must be recognized as being of supreme importance. The industry rs not only of great magnitude but it also presents most extraordinary difficulties in the production, handling and marketing of its products. The pastoral industry is not only subject to all the vicissitudes of adverse and changing seasonal conditions, but it also possesses great difficulties, some of which are peculiar to Australia. For instance, most of the sheep in Australia are bred for the primary purpose of producing wool, not meat, and the carcasses are not of high quality for butchering’ purposes. Many of our cattle are bred for dairy purposes and the carcasses are also not very suitable for meat. Those difficulties are .greater in Australia than in any other meat-producing country. Then, of course, there are disabilities in the marketing of the meat and in ensuring that it shall be marketed on a fair competitive basis. The Australian meat industry has developed the system of’ auctioning the live beast. Determination of the value of the animal at the point when its ownership passes from the producer- or fattener to- the butcher is made on the -judgment of some person. It’ is a simple matter to determine the value of meat, because it is a standard product. The formerly fairly complicated determination of wool values has been simplified by the adoption of a. table of limits. Similarly fruit and almost every other primary product present few difficulties in the determination of prices. But the value of meat on’ the hoof is determined at auction on the judgment of men who areobliged to form a quick opinion of various factors that will determine the return that will be got from a carcass. A buyer has to be able to gauge not only the live weight of the beast, but also the carcass weight, what the beast will weigh when’ it is slaughtered and hung. He also has to estimate the quality’ of the carcass when it is hung. Superimposed on those two difficulties are factors which are unpredictable. The carcass value of a sheep may be; reduced by bruising or by its having been bitten by a dog or prodded with a’ stick on its way to market, but that damage may not be apparent to the purchaser when he is estimating its carcass value. Some carcasses that at auction appear to be suitable . for human consumption, are found, on slaughter, to be suffering disease that requires that they be condemned. A glandular condition in ewe mutton makes it. unsuitable for export to Great Britain because of British food standards, although carcasses so affected are accepted for local consumption. All those difficulties confront the butchers competing for stock at auction. On top of that there is the possibility of restricted bidding,
I offer no solutions of these problems; they are inherent in the industry. I merely mention them in passing to (show that the industry is beset with great difficulties. This is -a measure to amend the Meat Export Con trol Act, whichwasenacted in 1935 and amended in 1938 at the instance of a government with’ which I was associated. That1 act ‘- “established the Australian Meat Board;’” on “which the producers’ representatives’ are a substantial majority.’ The board : has limited authority, but it performs an important function in advising the’ Government and in exercising some control on the export meat trade. It has nothing’ to do with the . local’, trade. This’ measure is also called a Meat Export Control Bill, but it contains nothing to’ reveal that the activities ‘ of ‘the Australian Meat Board are to be confined to export meat. On the contrary,- , it appearstome, as a layman, quite clear that the legislation will give the board unqualified authority “to deal with any meat. The export side is by far the smaller part of the. meat trade.. If my memory is . correct, before the war’ 83 per cent, of the meat produced in Australia was consumed locally, and 17 per cent., was exported. I believe; . that’ during the war the quantity ofmeat exported fell to about 10 per cent, of that produced. So the home trade is overwhelmingly the more important. Yet this measure, which sets up a board to control the export of meat, vests the board with power, which, unless the English language does not mean what I think it means, will enable it to deal with all or any meat produced in Australia. That brings me to the point that I am obliged to make. I regret that the Minister’s second-reading speech was not more explanatory of this most important measure. I have carefully studied the speech several times with the knowledge of a person whose livelihood is the meat industry, but I say frankly that I have been unable to get a picture of the intended functions of the board. This Parliament should not be required to legislate on this most important subject without a complete knowledge of the purposes for which the bill has been introduced. The Minister stated that the Australian Meat Board will have authority to expend large sums of money, but failed to explain to the House the intended functions of the body. I hope that he will repair that omission when he replies to the. objections which honorable members on this side of the chamber have raised. It has become quite evident on this bill, as on the Wheat Export Charge Bill, that Government supporters do not propose to speak. Some of them represent rural constituencies, hut they have refrained from taking part in ‘this debate just as they remained silent during the’ debate on the Wheat Export Charge Bill.
– Order I I ask (he honorable member to direct his remarks to this bill.
– When the Minister replies to the second-reading debate, he should explain to the House what the functions of the Australian Meat Board will really be. He will not satisfy us by telling us how the Government intends the board to function. The real point at issue is the authority that will he vestedin the board by this legislation. In the absence to date of an adequate explanation by the Minister, I am obliged to read the bill and interpret its provisions to the best of my ability.
Ever since I have been an adult, the export value of meat has been lower than the home consumption value. Yet the export value has determined the over-all value of meat. It has not been uncommon during the last few years for deliveries of meat to the markets in Melbourne and Sydney, to exceed by 20 per cent, to 25 per cent, the local demand. Yet the effect of the surplus, no matter how small, has been to depress the whole market to the level of the export prices. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald), who knows this business very well, will endorse my statement. The Government would be taking a tremendous step forward if it intended, by legislative action,, to separate the values for export meat from the prevailing higher level of values ruling for meat intended for home consumption. However, the Minister did not mention this important matter which .so materially affects the prospects of the live-stock industry. Before we agree to the motion for the second reading, T should like to know whether the Government recognizes that- as one of the problems of the industry, and proposes to deal with it under the authority which it seeks in this bill.All I am able ;to deduce -from my study of this legislation is that the real, intention is not to- perpetuate the functioning of the meat export control authority, but to continue the autocratic control that has been exercised under National Security Regulations. Of course, that intention is in accord with the policy of the Australian Labour party, which is to take control of a product, although it has been produced by individuals on their own initiative, with their own capital and at their own risk, and dispose of it in accordance with Labours political and economic policies. It seems clear, from the proposal to transfer to the new board all the authority which was- exercised by the meat’ controller under the National SecurityRegulations that that is the intentions, of the Government. Having substantial majorities in the Senate and the Houseof Representatives, the Government is at liberty, once such a decision has been approved . by caucus, to introduce the necessary legislation and put it on the statute-book. But the Government acts unfairly when, having that intention, it does not inform the Parliament and the meat producers of- the fate which awaits the industry. If the Minister proposes only to .transfer the form of the meat control under National Security Regulations to the Australian Meat Board, let him say so in plain language, and we shall know where we stand. What will be- even better, the electors will know what attitude they should adopt when, at an early date, they, are given an opportunity to voice their opinion on these matters. - The original board, which this bill purports to reconstitute,1 functioned in an advisory capacity. It had a great .preponderance of producerrepresentatives. On the proposed new and smaller board, the producers will have a small majority. The original board, which the Lyons Government established, had complete authority within the ambit of the Meat Export Control Act. The Minister informed meat producers that the reconstituted board is a present from Santa Claus, and ‘will enable them to realize one of their earliest aspirations, namely, to have a board with producercontrol. The proposed board is a sham, a farce and a trick. Incorporated in the bill by subtle wording are provisions which will make it completely subservient to the Minister. Its powers will be subject to the directions of the Minister, and its decisions may be vetoed by the chairman, who will be the Minister’s nominee.
– The Minister’s decision will become the board’s decision.
– Exactly. The Minister’s decision will be publicized- as the board’s decision,’ although. on occasions the decision will be the reverse of that which the producer-majority on the board desire. Therefore, let us be sure that the meat producers understand what they will get from the Minister’s Christmas stocking. The board will not have any authority, and behind this screen the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, will sit, not readily visible to the producers, but with his hands on the levers controlling the meat and wheat industries. I have never known of legislation which went further to socialize great Australian industries. I listened to lengthy debates in this House about the socialization of interstate airlines and the nationalization of banking but the effect of those bills was trifling compared with the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill and the Meat Export Control Bill. Section 16 of the Meat Export Control Act, as amended, will provide -
The board shall have power on behalf of the Commonwealth and . subject to any direction of the Minister . . ..
That excludes the’ board, and establishes the authority of the Minister -
What words could we select from a dictionary which would make it’ more clear that the Minister would be placed in complete control of this industry and decide the fate of all the meat producers’? Doubtless, we shall be told that the Minister is a benevolent gentleman, for he ordered that wheat should be provided for the manufacture of dog biscuits at a time when children- -
– Order ! That has nothing to do with meat.
– I was about to express the hope that, as many people in other countries urgently require meat, no ministerial direction will be issued under amended section 16 of the act that meat fit for human consumption shall be diverted to dogs. That comment is very pertinent, having regard to certain- historical events with which we all are familiar. If the Meat Board, with its producer-majority, reaches a decision contrary to the policy of the Labour party,^ the Minister’s nominee on the board will have the right immediately to veto it. This policy, I remind the House, is contrary to the doctrine propounded by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) so eloquently and continually in regard to the power of veto.
– I am wondering whether the honorable, member has forgotten that he is debating the Meat Export Control Bill.
– I was about to point out that for many years the Australian Country party has expounded the policy of. the organized marketing of primary products. In the course of the years the logic of that policy has been so effectively demonstrated as to impose upon the Labour party the ‘ necessity to place it on its political platform. The people of Australia are to be asked, shortly, to vote for an alteration of the Constitution in relation to the organized marketing of primary products.
– Order ! That isnot related to this bill.
– I was about to say, Mr. Speaker, that that is shown by the attitude of the Government which is seeking to make powers which’ it possessed Under National Security Regulations ‘in relation to prices control and rationing integral to this measure. We are thus able to form a judgment of the kind of marketing intervention which the Ministry appears to regard as covered by the expression “ the organized marketing of primary -products”. During the last two or three months, as the honorable . member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) has reminded us, producers in Victoria and in parts of New South Wales, who customarily sent their stock to the Newmarket saleyards in Melbourne, which may be described as the greatest stockyards in’ the Southern Hemisphere-
– The greatest in the world.
– Well, that is the. opinion of the honorable member for Wimmera, and who am I to contradict him?
– Order ! Local sales of beef have nothing to do with the composition of the Meat Board.
– But the board will have power under this legislation to buy any meat, therefore, it will have to buy in local saleyards. I consider that my remarks are relevant to the bill. Producers felt impelled to- cease completely sending their stock forward forsale to those yards for a period of some weeks.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman knows where his remarks are leading. I do not wish to ask him to resume his seat, but he must not trifle with the Chair.
– I would not do that; but I am obliged to point out that if this board is to exercise the authority proposed to be vested in it to purchase any meat the most probable place where its authority will be exercised will be in the stockyards. In the absence of any explanation by the Minister as to the course which the board will follow in “the purchase of meat, we must be guided by the conduct of thehonorable gentleman and his departmental officers in the past.
– Older! The honorable gentleman’s remarks have no relation to meat export control.
– They have every relation to it.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) must keep such remarks to himself, or he will be in trouble.
– I can have my own opinion.
– I do not wish to cross the Chair. I put it, however that in order to discuss this meat export control measure I must be able to discuss also the . practice in connexion with markets, and -purchases at auction, by meatexporting firms.
– I am disposed to give the honorable member for Indi a last chance. He knows as well as does the Chair that the purpose of this bill is to establish an authority to control meat exports. It has no relation to certain views which the honorable member is endeavouring to express. I shall not call him to order again ; if it is necessary to do so, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
Mr.McEWEN. - I direct my attention, Mr. Speaker, to clause 14 of the bill which reads -
Section sixteen of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after paragraph (d) the following word and paragraph: - “ ; and (e) on behalf of the Commonwealth and subject to any directions of the Minister -
to purchase any meat, meat product or edible offal;
to sell any meat, meat, product or edible offal; or
to manage and control all matters connected with the handling, storage, protection, treatment, transfer and shipment of any meat, meat product or edible offal purchased by the Commonwealth,”.
If the board is to be authorized to perform the functions indicated in that clause, I cannot, for the life of me, imagine where it is to do so except where there is meat. I ask the Minister whether the board is to become an operator itself, in the purchase, processing and exporting of meat. It seems to me. that. the board is. clearly to be authorized to become an operator. If the Minister will assure the . House that that’ is not intended, and . that the board . is “’ not on any occasion to he an operator, although the. legislation is so worded as to authorize, it to become - an operator, that will dispel my doubt concerning the. intention of the Government to empower the board to appear in the auction markets as a bidder. As the Minister remains silent, and will not indicate whether it is the intention of the Government that the board shall operate in the meat markets, I can only assume that that. is to be the case. Of course. this legislation will be in line, in that respect, with . other legislation under which the Government intends to establish authorities to operate on a competitive basis against private enterprise. Honorable members, and also meat producers throughout Australia, are entitled to be informed whether the meat board will enter into active competition with existing meat processors.
– What is the honorable member’s view on that?
– I am not obliged to express an opinion on that subject at the moment. The honorable- member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) has had opportunities during many hours to-day to express his view on the subject, and he has not done so.
-I stand by the bill.
– If another measure ancillary to this bill could have been debated concurrently with it, the scope of the debate would have been widened and the -necessity, for another debate “would have been obviated. I find myself obliged . by the . directions of the Chair, which I do not criticize, to refrain from saying certain things in this debate, but Ishall find it necessary to say them in the second-reading debate on the ancillary, bill.
– I hope that the honorable ‘ member is not seeking to reflect on the Chair?
– I have said that I do not criticize the ruling of the Chair. Like other honorable members on this side of the chamber, I find myself in doubt about the meaning of this measure. I know where I stand. I favour the establishment of a proper authority to “control the export of meat. ‘ Some honorable members now sitting on this side of the chamber were supporters of the Government which introduced the first measure designed to control the export of meat. Westill adhere to the principles that were expressed in that measure. As the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has pointed out, the parent measure on this subject, which he had the honor to introduce, provided for a greater proportion of . producer . representation than is provided in this bill.
– That is absolutely in correct, and the honorable member knows it.
– The Minister says that my statement is incorrect. He cannot have read the original measure.
– The honorable member cannot have read this bill.
– If we had been told by the Minister in his second-reading speech just how far the Government plans to go in the exercise of the arbitrary authority which this measure provides for the export control of meat we should be in a position to judge whether it would improve the conditions of the meat producers, or whether we must interpret it as a legislative device to furtherthe socialistic projects of the Labour party.
Sitting suspended from 5.12 to 8p.m.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Barnard) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 12th July (vide page 2456),. on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the . following. : paper be printed : -
Financial Statement by the Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.P., Treasurer.
.- On the 12th July,- the Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) delivered to this House a financial statement in lieu of a budget, explaining. “ it would not be practicable to prepare and bring down a budget with detailed estimates and papers before the end of August “. I there quote his actual words. It is not clear, that this House could not have waited until the end of August for this information. However, apparently the House will not be sitting at the end of August. Therefore, the Prime Minister has presented to us a document which, whilst containing a good deal of information, does not by any means contain all the information which honorable members would like to have before them when ‘ considering the financial circumstances of the country, and the financial problems that this Parliament has to consider. In an election campaign, the people would have been much better informed as to the Government’s control of the finances if all the documents had been before the Parliament; because, as honorable members know, on the presentation of a budget there are budget papers and estimates, and therefore, in discussing the finances, honorable members have some opportunity of directing their minds clearly and precisely not only to the anticipations of revenue but also to the nature and details of expenditure. The absence of a budget at this stage means two things. It means, first, that we cannot get any clear idea of the expenditure, or of its justification in individual instances. In the second place, it means that we cannot really test the financial outlook for the current year, because that financial outlook cannot properly be evaluated unless we have before us some account of expenditure, as well as some broad estimates of revenue. Of course, it is true that that puts the Government in a position of singular advantage, a matter of which the Government is no doubt not altogether unconscious; but it is >a position which a government about to go to the people should not occupy. After all, almost every problem of government in this country at this time is a problem which has affected or in its turn affects the finances of the people as well as of the Government, and if- the people are to judge of the financial position of the country, as handled by the Government, then they should have before them at the relevant time all the information which will enable a wise and balanced judgment to be made. However, as I have said, the right honorable gentleman has exercised his rights in this matter, by presenting to us an abbreviated financial statement. Its main feature is this - and I quote the words - ‘
The Government proposes to make a second substantial cut in direct taxation by reducing the income tax, including the social services contribution, at a cost of £17,500,000.
I quote that because, as it seems to me from the public point of view, that is the central feature of the statement to which we have listened. The true significance of that cut in taxation can be determined only by comparing the estimates of last year’s budget with the actual results that are now disclosed; and that comparison,’ which I have made as best I oan, produces some very astonishing results of which the people should be aware: In the last budget, a copy of which I have again examined for this purpose, the Treasurer disclosed an actual revenue from the various direct and indirect taxes for 1944-45 - that is, last financial year- of £345,661,000. At the same time, he announced a cut in the income tax rates, and estimated that the revenue from direct and indirect taxes for 1945-46 would be £343,000,000, or a reduction of £2,661,000. In other words, the Treasurer at that time, in announcing his cuts, one of them in income tax and some of them in sales tax, estimated that there would be some buoyancy of revenue during the year with which he was dealing. He must have had in his mind, as I am sure he will agree, that although there were cuts which, on the face of them, would involve a certain loss of revenue, the general increase of the national income, and therefore the general increase of revenues, would absorb some of those cuts. The Opposition has consistently maintained that the stimulating effect of reduced taxes is. something of which the Government has not really been aware, .and that that .stimulating effect would inevitably be shown in Commonwealth revenue. In- brief, we have said that real .concessions in taxation at this time would give a real stimulus to production, would consequently cause a real increase of the national earnings, and would therefore cost the Treasury, in fact, very little if anything at all. That contention -of -the Opposition is proved by the figures that are now produced; because those figures show this: From the direct and indirect taxes which were estimated, only in the last budget, to produce £343,000,000 for the year, the actual receipts were a little over £360,000,000. In other words, the actual receipts from those, .two sources - direct and indirect taxes - were £17,000,000 more than the estimate made by the Treasurer ; and that, of course, was after the cuts had been made. It follows that when the Treasurer ‘announces, as he has in this statement’, that I am debating, that he is preparing ‘to give away, by a further reduction, the sum of £17,500,000, in reality he is only giving away the surplus above his estimated revenue for the last financial year. Let me recapitulate that, because this is a matter which ought to be made abundantly clear. In the last ‘ financial year, a cut was made in income tax, and cute were made ‘in sales tax. It was estimated by the Treasurer that they would cost the Government, on net balance, between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000. But although those cuts were made, the revenues from the -sources affected - ‘direct and indirect taxes - rose by £17,000,000, which is the very amount now to be given away by the proposed tax reductions. Let me emphasize the same proposition by a particular reference to income tax on individuals and companies; because so far I, have taken the total figure for all direct and indirect taxes. The actual revenue for 1944-45 was approximately £215,500,000. The estimated revenue in the last budget, after the making of the tax cut for 1945-46 and including the social services contribution, was” £211,000,000. So even the Treasurer at that time, though he was announcing what was described as a 12^ per cent, cut in income tax rates and certain other concessions, estimated that his revenue would be £211,000,000. But the actual revenue is now disclosed at something over £214,500,000. It is therefore clear that the previous income tax cut costs the Commonwealth Government practically nothing, and that for the re3t of this financial’ year the proposed new cut will do no more than reduce the Government’s revenue from that source to the amount that was originally estimated before the cut was made. All through the piece, the Government has failed to realize the significance to the revenue of the restoration of hundreds of thousands of citizens, who have come out of the services, to productive, civil taxable earning. Let me take the case of sales tax to illustrate that; and it is a very interesting illustration. In respect of sales tax, the actual revenue for 1944-45 was £29,671,000. In his last budget, the Treasurer announced -certain sales tax concessions. Honorable members will remember that he estimated, as the Treasurer commonly does in such circumstances, the loss to the revenue that would accrue as the result of those concessions. -Making that estimate, and apparently making some allowance for buoyancy of revenue, he said that the total yield for 1945-46 would be reduced to £28,000,000; that is to say, reduced from £29,671,000 to £28,000,000. But, as honorable members will see if they look at the figures in the present statement, the actual revenue received from sales tax for 1945-46 was £33,600,000. So that, notwithstanding the cut and the concessions that were made - which, we were told, would be somewhat expensive to the country- the actual revenue from that source was £4,000,000 greater in the year than the amount received before the concessions were made. I do not propose to go through in detail all the figures in this financial statement. But. I have taken these, because they are , illustrations which very closely touch and concern the ordinary citizen. They establish the truth of the belief that increased production, and with it increased national income, and therefore taxable, income, will be tremendously stimulated’ by a reduction of tax rates. In this matter, any government oan afford to apply a bold policy. It is not to the point to say, as the Government has said, that its total of tax concessions amounts to so many million pounds, because the brief examination which I have made of the figures shows that, notwithstanding the taxation cuts, revenue has increased. All that has happened is that the Government, in a somewhat tentative and hesitating fashion, has proved what we on this side of the House .have been expounding for the last twelve months, namely, that at a time when the nation is moving towards peace-time conditions, and industry is expanding, tax reductions will stimulate production, and the Government’s apparent generosity may cost it very little, if anything at all. The stimulating effect of a bold policy of tax reduction will be really dramatic, and of first-class value to the people of Australia. I know that the figures will be much more closely analysed in future speeches. My colleague, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), will, I hope, once more give to the House -the benefit of a close and expert examination of the figures. For my part, I am merely illustrating what I believe to be some of the highlights of the Treasurer’s statement.
I turn now to another aspect of the statement, namely, the settlement on balance of lend-lease and reciprocal lendlease. The Treasurer said that the final settlement represented a most advantageous arrangement for Australia, and manifested a generous attitude on the part of the negotiators for the United States of America. I approach this problem with some diffidence. There is not one member of this House who did not feel thrilled when the original conception of lend-lease was put into operation-. Everybody felt, at the beginning of 1941, that the President of the United States of America, exercising his -unrivalled authority in his own country, had devised a method of giving help to those people who were .fighting the Axis powers, and were hard-pressed by their foes, and that he had done it on generous terms. Everybody, believes, as I do, that we are much indebted to the United States of America for the great help which it thereby rendered to itself and to u3 in the prosecution of the war. Everybody will feel, as I do, that the future of the world, and the future peace of the world, are very closely associated with what I may describe in broad terms as AngloAmerican co-operation.
– The right honorable gentleman had better come over to this side of the House.
– I said that long before the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) was heard of as a Minister. I am now merely saying something which I thought was a healthy, commonplace in Australia. However, I, for one, see -no reason why, when we sit down to discuss actual mathematics, we should persuade ourselves that the facts are’ other than they are. In the absence of any details - and I am hoping that at some stage details will be placed before us - a statement that an Australian payment of £8,400,000 on balance represents a good let-out for Australia seems to me to be very much open to question. Let us go back for a moment to the origin of lendlease. The lend-lease act passed through the Congress of the United States of
America in 1941 contained a variety of provisions, one of which was this -
The terms and conditions upon which any such foreign government receives any aid shall be those which the President deems satisfactory, -and the benefit to the United States of America may be payment or repayment in kind or property or in other direct or indirect benefit which the President deems satisfactory.
I must confess that I was under the impression - and I think that impression was shared by others - that one of the purposes of lend-lease was to escape from the problem of war debts, a problem with which the United States of America had some familiarity. We know that the matter of war debts between the United States of America and the United Kingdom had, at various times,*threatened the good relations between the two countries in the period between the two war5. It was my impression that the lend-lease arrangement was not designed to produce a set of bookkeeping figures which would represent the indebtedness in money of one country to another. After the passing of the lend-lease legislation, a lend-lease agreement was entered into, arid 1 propose to quote the terms of the agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States of America, because I understand that the agreement between Australia and America was upon the same pattern; that, in effect, Australia took up that agreement -by reference. The. Prime Minister’s nod indicates that that is broadly correct. The lend-lease agreement contains the following provision : -
First, that the Government of the United Kingdom will return to the United States of America at the end of the war such defence articles transferred under the act as snail not have been destroyed, lost or consumed, and as shall be determined by the President to be of use to the United States of America.
Second, that in the final determination of the benefits to be provided to the United States of. America »by the United Kingdom in return for lend-lease aid, the terms and conditions shall be such as not to burden commerce between the two countries but to promote mutually advantageous economic relations between us and the betterment of world-wide economic relations.
To that end they shall include provision for agreed action by the United States of America and the United Kingdom, open to participation by all other countries of like mind, directed to the expansion of appropriate international -and domestic measures of production, employment and the exchange and consumption of goods which are the material foundations of the liberty and welfare of all peoples; to the elimination of all forms of discriminatory treatment in international commerce, and to the reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers; and’, in general, to the attainment )f all the economic objectives set forth in the Joint Declaration made on 12th August, 1941, by the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Honorable members will see that the parties to the agreement contemplated that if any adjustment were to be made it should be made in general economic terms. Indeed, I was under the impression that a good deal of the discussion which has taken place during the last twelve months about what has been claimed by some countries to be discriminatory action - I refer to Empire preference - was founded on the supposed implications of the lend-lease agreement.
As the war went on, Australia became actively concerned in providing goods for the United States of America on reciprocal lend-lease, and apparently accounts have been kept on both sides, one side keeping’ accounts of- lend-lease and the other of reciprocal lend-lease. We now learn that discussions, have taken place on the subject, and we know that the Prime Minister was in the United States of America during the latter part of them, A balance was struck, and on that balance Australia is to pay £8,400,000. Now it is notorious - and I say this with profound respect to the United States of America and its negotiators - that the level of costs of production in the United States of America for relevant goods was much higher, than the cost of production in Australia for relevant goods supplied by this country. The Prime Minister has very properly said that one thing ofwhich we all can be reasonably proud is that we did maintain throughout the war a stable economy.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member may be surprised to know’ that for the first two years of the war I had a great deal to do with the maintenance of our economy. If he is under the illusion that it was only the present Labour Government which had anything to do with it, I shall disabuse his mind. Australia provided .many, goo.ds for use by the forces of the- United States of America at prices much lower than those at which similar goods could be provided by the United States of America itself.
– Blankets, for instance.
– That is a notorious example, because we are able to compare like with like. Apparently a balance has been struck on a purely book-keeping basis, no endeavour being made to estimate what was provided on each side in actual physical terms.
– That would be difficultto do.
– Yes, and I should have thought that the right way to deal with the matter would have been to say that we had been engaged in a joint enterprise, and to thank God that enterprise was successful. Perhaps the Commonwealth Government did contend that the right way to deal with the matter was to wash out the indebtedness on both sides. However, in the absence of detailed information, I remain sceptical as to whether the bargain ultimately struck was as good as the Treasurer . seems to think. I have thrown a bone of contention into the ring, but there is no reason why we should not have our own views on such a matter, even if it does concern a very great and friendly neighbour.
I now turn to the subject pf production and price control. The statement of the Prime Minister contained one-piece of information which, though very long delayed, was none the less welcome on that account. It was to this effect -
Greater all-round production of essential goods must be the central aim of economic policy now and for n long time to come. The war years have left’ their toll in shortages, some of which will take years to remedy. We cannot get back, in a day all those standards of living and enjoyment which the .war compelled U3 to forego. Yet we can win them back and much more with them if we will make an effort.
Those words of the Prime Minister sum up in admirable terms what has been the constant theme of members of the Opposition for many months past. It is the central truth which makes unnecessary industrial stoppages a wanton injury, to the nation, which -renders the provisions of real incentive by tax reduction both vital and urgent, and makes it so deplorable that our opportunities for markets in what for us is the Near East have been’ frustrated by, the activity of an uncontrolled Communist minority. In short, what the right honorable gentleman has said - and it is obvious that some of his supporters do not agree with him - is that the greatest problem we have before us is one of increased production of essential goods. This was one of the first times that it was mentioned by a member off this Government.
– That is not so.
– The Minister for the Army intervenes. I am bound to say in his favour that, having had the supreme fortune to follow him a few weeks ago into Western Australia, I found that he had said something the same there; but I venture to say that that was the first time he . had said it. Honorable members on this side of the House had been hammering at that vital problem for months before anybody on the Government side ever dreamt of admitting its existence.
– Rubbish !
– The honorable member describes what I am saying as rubbish. Somebody else has said that it is sheer “ hocus-pocus “. As I came to the House to-night my eye lit on a gentleman I know, the Premier of Tasmania. Have I the approval of the honorable member for Griffith to refer to Mr.- Cosgrove with impunity ?
– -Coming events cast their shadows before them. The right honorable gentleman may well kiss himself goodbye.
– As. his former colleagues will remember, when the Premier of Tasmania, a few. months ago, made a statement on the same lines as that of the Prime Minister which I have quoted, and it appeared in the press, he was carpeted within 24 hours by the Hobart, Trades and Labour. Council for having said something that was completely inconsistent with Labour’s policy.
– What nonsense!
– I admire the facility with which honorable members opposite are able to follow one doctrine to-day hud another to-morrow. Only two month- ago we heard not a murmur from them about production; but now, because the Prime Minister, in, clear ‘ and sensible terms, has stated something about it which we have been saying for months they come to the conclusion that it must be pretty good. . The Prime Minister’s statement continued -
Control of - prices in Australia has been a triumph of war-time administration.
On balance I agree with that statement. Price control was introduced by the Government of which I was Prime Minister within a few days of the outbreak of war, and the authority of the Prices Commissioner was at all times rigorously upheld.. All Australian governments maintained that system during the course of the war. Not only did we have price control ; we. also had investment control, increasing rates of . taxation, and a big volume of public borrowing. All of these economic controls were never during the war brought within the real area of dispute. All Australian governments during the war can therefore, in their own fashion, share in the credit for what has been a fine achievement in relation to price control, an achievement which, I would like to say in passing, has been largely rendered possible by some very competent administrators. The Prime Minister further stated -
We shall not gain the full value of this achievement unless it can be carried on into the peace years when the balance of production and demand can be trusted to look after price levels.
That pronouncement deserves some analysis. It means in the first, place that price control cannot terminate abruptly. Having regard to some serious representations that have been’ made from time to time by the ‘ supporters of the Government as to the termination of price control, I should like to’ say at once that I entirely agree with that. Price control came into existence in order to meet an emergency, and it cannot now be terminated abruptly without causing some-, thing like chaos. [Extension of time granted]. In the second place, it means that price control should not continue indefinitely, but only until the production of goods has been so restored that it can cope with the. demand created by increased, .purchasing -.power. The third implication is that price control is not some artifice which of its own force can operate permanently, but is something which is designed merely to hold the pass while the forces of production move up. [ make that brief analysis of the right honorable gentleman’s statement not to establish some disagreement with it, but ro point out my agreement with the implications’ contained in it. Some people talk about price control as a panacea, as if for the next 20 or 30 years we could play ducks and drakes with our economy and still rely upon price -control as something that would save us from disaster. The right honorable gentleman has made it clear that the function of price control is to hold things together until production itself achieves such volume as to destroy the real danger of inflation of currency by an increase of price levels. I have indicated that there has been some propaganda on this matter, suggesting that we on this side of the House are ad voca’, ing something different from that. On the contrary, these propositions to which I have referred I venture to describe as good Liberal doctrine.
– But not in every State of the Commonwealth.
– What is good Liberal doctrine here is good Liberal doctrine all over the Commonwealth, as the honorable gentleman will discover when he .goes “to meet his masters in the near future. Those who established during the war, not only price control, but also other economic controls are’ not so foolish as to imagine that their function should expire just because the fighting has ceased. As I b:ivf said these controls were brought into existence in order to cope with an emergency, and as long as the emergency continues they are needed. The problem is not one of sudden termination but of tapering off as natural factors are restored.
Mr. Lazzarini interjecting.
– The Minister for
Works and Housing - if he be still in charge of housing - mutters something about the referendum. He seems to have entirely forgotten that in thi.= House in 1944, on behalf of the Opposition, I moved an amendment which offered to support the Government in seeking a variety of powers, including the power to exercise such controls as were needed for the transition from war to peace. It is. not my fault that the Government was so purblind is not to accept that offer.
– The. right honorable gentleman was not sincere then, and is not sincere now. ‘
-Order! Honorable members must cease interjecting.
– I am able to tolerate these interruptions, Mr. Speaker, because the House has been generous enough to grant me an extension of time. The present grave shortage of civil production was primarily caused by the diversion of a high percentage of our man effort to war service and war production. Until civil production “becomes abundant - it must become substantially higher than it was before the war - with the complete re-establishment of our people in civil occupations and with the general acceptance of the supreme importance of production, some controls will continue to be necessary. The great danger is that governments and officials become so accustomed to exercising controls that they come to love them for their own sake. They become so accustomed, for example, to price control that they are disposed to concentrate their minds on the mechanism of control and overlook the infinitely more important mechanism of restored production. It must be realized that when a country is at peace the willingness of democratic people to submit to controls diminishes, and that the temptation to evade them by all sorts of indirect and nefarious practices increases. That makes it necessary as time passes - and this perhaps is the whole burden of my theme on this matter - that the accent should be thrown more and more on higher production, which is the natural antidote to inflation, and less and Ieas upon mere restrictions, which should be regarded, to use a figurative expression, merely as a temporary treeguard surrounding the growing tree of production. So I venture to say that this financial statement contains two things that are broadly of immense importance to the people of Australia. The fir.?t is that it corroborates most strongly the view that a bold policy of tax reduction will .not really involve ,the
Government in financial difficulties, but will be an enormous stimulus to production. The second is that, however we may discuss this or that mechanical problem, the central theme to which governments must devote themselves in Australia in the next few years is the problem of so increasing civil production and civil services in Australia that the danger of inflation will disappear, that money will become worth real things, that increased wages will really mean an increased standard of living, and that all the other things we may talk about for the future will be translated into real terms.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) opened his attack on the Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) by complaining that the budget was not being introduced before the general elections. The right honorable gentleman displays considerable temerity or has a conveniently short memory. My recollection goes back over many budgets and many governments, and I can recall only one budget that was delivered before the elections in the election year, and I think that was in 1934.
– And in 1929.
– And in 1929, too, but that was an extraordinary election.
– The right honorable gentleman ought to remember that. It was the year when he beat us.
– Yes, I do remember it, and the budget had to be considerably altered after I became Prime Minister, because it was very much astray. With regard to the actual receipts being different from the estimates, I confess that I have never known of a government whose estimates proved to be absolutely correct when the balance took place. In nearly every case governments have underestimated their revenue. That is usually done by cautious treasurers. So .there is nothing new in that practice to warrant criticism. It was done by the right honorable member for Kooyong and his own government. Then the right honorable gentleman laid great stress upon the fact that the taxation revenue was £17,000.000 more than the estimate. Well, £11,000,000 of that came from indirect taxes. So it does.not prove that we shall get very much more income tax, when the rates are reduced. The right honorable gentleman also complained that the financial statement contained very little information. The Treasurer frankly said that the figures contained in the financial statement were not final. They are more or less relative but are a frank and honest display of the financial position to-day; they are not meagre or sketchy, but are very full. The only difference between these figures and those that will be contained in the budget will be perhaps a few slight alterations involving no large amounts, but of course the budget-papers will contain the details of each department. I concede that such information is important, but I do not. think that it will affect the general picture very much. If the right honorable gentleman will examine the estimates and the actual receipts and expenditure for last year, he will see that “they are remarkably close, considering that they cover the transition from war to peace, an abnormal year. Yet, even in normal years, every government’s estimates have been proved to be incorrect when the final balance has taken place and the budget has been brought down. So that criticism is trifling. A review of the whole of the war years and of the colossal expenditure during those years, in my opinion, shows remarkable achievements . by 7,000,000 people, achievments. of which Australia should be proud. Of the £2,490,000,000 expended in that period, 38 per cent., that is £950,000,000, came from revenue. What human suffering and sacrifices are represented in those cold figures! Whilst they were achievements of the people of Australia, of the soldiers who went to fight and the workers in the factories who kept up the flow of armaments and tools to them, I remind the House that those people were led for five years by a Labour Government. Not a word of commendation is uttered by the right honorable gentleman for the remarkable control exercised by the Treasurer. The other side of the picture ought to be, and will be, told. Some of the facts that I shall give will reveal a part of it: We fought a war and we have to pay for it. There are people today who say - and some in different walks of life have said it to me - “ I am afraid we did too much j we did more than our share ‘’. When the Japanese were hammering at our back door there was not one man in this House or in the whole of Australia who would have dared . to say, “ We are doing too much “.
– Who said that?
– It was said to me.
– By whom?
– By a leading business man in Melbourne.
– I cannot imagine it.
– He was a member of the honorable gentleman’s party, too. The war has been fought and it has to be paid for. There is no good in moaning about the fact that we have to pay for it. The facts are there. We are not going to repudiate. We are going to meet the costs. Some main items of expenditure show what colossal costs we have to meet, compared with the pre-war expenditure. War -pensions, reconstruction, and interest and sinking fund payments on “the debt in respect of the World War. II. are set down at £80,000,000. War pensions, repatriation, and interest and sinking fund pay-, ments on war debts of the first world war will cost £20,000,000 this year. Listening to Borne people and reading the newspaper, one would imagine that when the war ended eleven months ago all war expenditure -ceased. The first world war itself will cost us £20,000,000 this year and it ended ‘28 years ago. Subsidies, payments towards the United Nations Relief Fund, payments due to the United Kingdom, payments to the States and social services, added to the £80,000,000 and £20,000,000 that I have mentioned, represent an expenditure of £280,000,000, every item of which is inescapable. Will honorable gentlemen opposite say that expenditure must be cut down?
– No one has said that yet and no one is likely to say it.
– No, . but .. what honorable gentlemen opposite do say is “ You have to get rid of the bureaucrats . who are piling up this huge expenditure “. I have something to say about the alleged. bureaucrats. Besides the heads of departments, large numbers of people outside the departments were brought in to assist in the abnormal activity of wartime. The Leader of the Opposition has claimed credit for having appointed a large number of those men and. has said that they were good men. So they were, and they gave of their best to Australia at a critical time. Some were men drawn from private enterprise, if honorable gentlemen opposite like that. Some were lent to the Government and others were engaged by it. There was quite an army of them, because there was great activity. Now the reward that these men get for six long wearying years of service to this country is to be sneered at as bureaucrats. But let us examine the accounts. Leaving out business undertakings like the post office, railways and similar enterprises, the administrative “costs of the Public Service amount to £8,000,000, about half of which is represented by the salaries of administrative officers, and that represents li per cent, of our total income. Where is there great extravagance in that? Where can great savings be effected?
The Leader of the Opposition rightly said that the important issue in this financial discussion is taxation. I agree that taxes are heavy. I have found them irksome. So has everybody else. But we all realize ;that, having fought a war, we must pay for it. I have read newspaper criticism that taxation this year is to be three times what it was before the war. So it will be, but our inescapable expenditure is four .times what it was before the war. The Leader of the Opposition laid great stress on the statement of the Treasurer about the importance of production, as if he had never said it before and had only awakened and realized the importance of production, whereas the Opposition had been hammering at it as its constant theme. The Treasurer, according to [the Leader of the Opposition, is a babe in the woods. The Leader of the Opposition flatters himself if he thinks that his constant, theme and the constant theme of honorable gentlemen opposite generally have taught the Treasurer anything about the importance of production. Actions speak louder than words. The Treasurer. has not, proclaimed his achievements to the country. I recall V-P Day, the 15th August, 1945. I heard the Prime Minister announce that Japan had surrendered. Only two hours after his words had floated over the air he was conferring with Treasury officials, taxation officials and other advisers and observers. The people throughout Australia were cheering in the streets, bands were playing, the offices emptied, and the occasion was a public holiday for every one except this little band of Ministers and “ bureaucrats “ who ar.e shaping a new budget in the light pf a return to peace-time conditions.
– We did not see any sign of it.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) is so seldom in hid place that doubtless he did not notice any sign’ of it. I shall show him the signs. On V-P Day the Prime Minister summoned his service Ministers, and issued to them instructions, which they, in turn, issued to their departments. The instructions were, “ demobilize as rapidly as possible “. Demobilization meant the restoration of our economy to normal production. Anticipating the effect of demobilization, the Treasurer then .issued instructions for an amendment of the income tax law.
– We have not yet had the’ benefit of any reduction.
– Every one knows that the tax payable on incomes was reduced by 124 per cent, per annum.
– The reduction was per cent.
– The reduction was 12^ per cent, per annum, but applied to only the second half of the financial year. That variation was effected iri September, 1945. It required two. months to prepare, print and distribute the revised schedules.’ The Treasurer did an extraordinary thing. . He applied the reduction of income tax from the 1st January, instead of the 1st July, following. Now the Treasurer’ proposes a further reduction. In this financial year, the over-all reduction will be 22 per cent.
– But Australia is still the most heavily taxed country in the world. “Mr. SCULLIN.- Undoubtedly Australia is a heavily taxed country, but, if the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) will study the figures honestly and fairly, he will find that Australia is not the most heavily taxed country in the world. I have compared the income tax tables cited by honorable members opposite as applicable to Australia with those applicable to the United Kingdom. Honorable members opposite include in the Australian income tax figures our social service contributions, but omit from the British tables the contributions payable under the social service scheme in the United Kingdom.
If the Treasurer had not been satisfied that production would increase, would he have agreed to a reduction of income tax ? The right honorable gentleman’ is a very sound Treasurer. He .borrowed £150,000,000 last year. This year, he will have to continue the policy of borrowing, but in spite of that, he has agreed to a further reduction. of income tax, believing that it will stimulate production. If the right honorable gentleman had not been convinced that the reduction would provide that stimulus, he would never have reduced taxes, whilst at the same time continuing to borrow. That is not sound finance, but it may be sound economics. I believe that it is. The Leader of the Opposition’ referred to’ .the increase of revenue from indirect taxation. I propose to indicate one factor which increased revenue. The service Ministers and their officers in 1945 planned to demobilize 400;000 men. The task appeared to be colossal,’ but they accelerated demobilization to such a degree that the actual number of personnel discharged from the forces was 450,000. The additional 50,000 men engaging in production and returning to civil occupations substantially increased receipts from direct and indirect taxation. For the first time, most of them began to pay income tax. Their purchases in Australia with money earned in this country were reflected in increased returns from sales tax and excise on luxury lines. I am rather astonished that, those additional 50,000 men returning to production and civil occupations did not produce an even greater increase of revenue from indirect taxation. The Treasurer would be severely criticized if he had made what the Leader of the Opposition described as a “ bold reduction of taxes “. Incidently, the Leader of the Opposition himself was so bold that he visualized, if he were returned to office, a reduction of 40 per cent, over a three-year period. Although t-he war ended only eleven months ago, this Government has already granted a reduction of 22 per cent. The Treasurer is a’ steadfast man. He does not yield to public clamour. He agrees to reduce taxes only when he believes tha.t it will stimulate production and assist in the transition from war-time to peace-time conditions. I have known him to resist many demands for an increase of expenditure. Those people who talk most about the necessity for reducing the income tax are the most clamant in demanding increases of expenditure. Nearly every honorable member in this House has either asked for, or supported others in asking for an increase of expenditure on one thing or another for one section of the community or’ another. If the Treasurer considers that the proposition is sound, he may adopt it, but he always steadfastly refuses to ‘yield control of the Treasury funds. If he has not reduced income tax so substantially as honorable members desire, that does not mean that the collections from income tax are being wasted. The money still belongs to the people. The Leader of the Opposition declared that the reduction will cost the Government nothing. I submit that it did cost the Government something. If the reduction of income tax last year deprived the Government of £20,000,000 and that loss of revenue was made up by additional receipts from indirect taxes and income tax because of the demobilization of an additional 50,000 men, the Treasurer is still £20,000,000 worse off because he could have had the extra sum in lieu of more borrowing. So what is the use of saying that the Government has not lost anything? Are we never going to see an end to borrowing and piling up the interest bill ? We shall have a burden of taxation for many years at a higher rate than ever we knew it before the war. But that does not mean that we shall not contemplate further reductions of taxation. I, hope that we shall, and I am sure that the Treasurer will reduce income tax as soon as he is able to do so. But listening to the criticism outside and inside this Parliament one could be excused for thinking, that the Treasurer had not done anything.. I meet important visitors from overseas and important Australian businessmen, every one of whom has said to me, “ Chifley has done a great job “. I agree with them. He has controlled, not for the sake of control, but for the sake of Australia, the banks, the stock exchange, interest rates, sales of property and prices. I do not deny the Leader of the Opposition the credit to which his Government is entitled for having laid down the foundations of price control in the first week of the war. That was a good start. But I point out that during the first four years of the war, the cost of living index figures rose by 23 per cent., whilst in the last two and a half years they rose by only 1 per cent, after the Treasurer had adopted his stabilization and subsidy .plans. Those figures are outstanding.
I turn now to another criticism which the Leader of the Opposition directed at the financial statement. He referred at considerable length to the termination of lend-lease dealings. It is true that he prefaced his remarks with a tribute to the United States of America, and I endorse every word that he uttered. We would not be here to-day if it had not been for the assistance that we received from America. As long as we live our hearts will be filled with gratitude for that aid. The Leader of the Opposition said that he would have expected that two nations which made great efforts in war-time with lend-lease and reciprocal lend-lease would have “washed out” any balance outstanding after the termination of the war. That is precisely what occurred when the ‘Treasurer discussed this matter with the representatives of the United States of America. The amount of £8,000,000, which Australia will pay to America, is for the purchase at current, values of the capital equipment, including tools, that the Americans owned in Australia after. the war. The “washing out “ took .place, and I consider, after having examined the figures in broad outline, that the Treasurer made a jolly good bargain.
Another feature to which I should like to draw attention is the position of om- overseas funds and debts. I speak with an inside knowledge of this subject, because I became Prime Minister at a time when our overseas debt was just a nightmare and brought Australia to the very verge of bankruptcy, so much so that drastic measures were necessary to correct the trade balance and the overseas fund position. I shall not go into details of the wild borrowing policy which was in operation before the Scullin Government assumed office, but it ruined the credit of Australia. When a country gets into that position its very soul is affected. One thing is undeniable - no country can call itself financially sound while it is in a perilous position in respect of its overseas funds- The overseas position has been most carefully watched by the present Treasurer. In outlining the present position of our London debts the right honorable gentleman told us that our total overseas indebtedness had been reduced by £72,000,000 by transfers to Australia, or by repayments. On the transferred loan the interest rate had been reduced from 5 per cent, to 3^ per cent. The success of the Treasurer in this respect has been so remarkable that honorable gentlemen opposite do not like to hear the story of it repeated. The amount of interest saved to Australia in respect of these transactions is £5,600,000 per annum. Whatever party political bias may be felt against the Treasurer, no reasonable person should deny him credit for having done a fine work in this connexion during the last five years. I would have expected a word of recognition of this great fact from any one who loved Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition stated in press comments which he made about a fortnight ago that “the tax reductions proposed by the Treasurer were not equitably spread. He said that there should nave- been all-round reductions. I agree that the percentage reductions are very much more substantial on the lower than on the higher incomes. For instance’, a man in receipt of £125 a year will receive a reduction of 39 per cent., a man with £400 a year, 16 per cent.; a man with £1,000 a year, 12 per cent; and a man with £3.000 a year, 8 per cent. I agree also that as taxes were increased on an all-round basis, theoretically they prob ably should be reduced in that way, but all the honorable members will surely admit that the heavy burdens of taxation which fell on everybody during the war years were felt most keenly by men in . the low income ranges. After all, those who are receiving £1,000 a year, as we do, may have to pay a heavy tax, but they also have a -fair amount left to live on and can live comfortably, if not luxuriously. That cannot be said of men in receipt of £2 10s., £3, £4, or £5 a week, who had to pay heavy taxes ali through the war years, week in, week out. I should like to see a greater measure of relief given to such taxpayers, but I ask the Leader of the Opposition to bear in mind the amount of tax relief which will be received “by people in the various income ranges that- 1 have mentioned. A man in receipt of £125 a year will benefit by £2 2s. ; a man on £400, by £13 6s.; the man on £1,000, by £38’; and the man on £3,000 by £130. I therefore join issue with the right honorable gentleman when he’ advocates an allround percentage reduction.
There has been a regular spate of criticism in the press of the Government’s proposals to reduce taxation. I shall select only one statement from among the many that have been made. I select this one because it came from the financial editor of one of the leading newspapers in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald. He wrote, “ A single man fares better than a family man “. . He gave as an illustration a single man on an income of £400 who would benefit by £13 6s. a year, and a married man with a wife and two children would benefit by only £6 9s. a year, or less than half the amount of benefit enjoyed by the single man. But there is a simple explanation of that. The single man paid a tax of £81 which will now be reduced to £68, whereas the married man with a wife and two children paid a tax of £39, which will be now reduced, in round figures, to £33. Both of them, however, will receive a reduction of 16 per cent. The writer could have made what would have appeared an even stronger indictment if he had compared a single man with an income of £250, which is about the basic wage rate, and a married man with a wife and three children on the same income. With the two cuts in taxation that have been made since the end of the war, the single man would get a reduction of £10, whilst the family man with three children will get nothing. Of course, the reason is that the man with a wife, and three- chidren pays no income tax. I am aware that demands have been made by . . some organizations for complete exemption from taxation of all incomes of £300. That would means-, a loss to the revenue of £40,000,000. An amount of £34,000,000 of that £40,000,000 would have relation to income of persons without dependants, a further £5,000,000 of it would .have relation to income of married people, and only £1,000,000 of it would have relation to the incomes of the average family man to whom I have referred. I stress the important point that the average family man, that is a man with a wife and two children, with an income of £300 does not pay income tax as such ; he pays a social services contribution of £12. a year.
– Is that not a “tax?
– It is a social services contribution. Does the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) agree that the contribution that would be required from people under the contributory insurance scheme advocated by the parties opposite would also be a tax? That fact cannot be camouflaged. It has been urged that greater tax reductions and more liberal rebates should be made in respect of the average family man with a wife and two children and an income of £300 who is exempt from income tax, and who pays the social services contribution of £12, but I consider that such an individual can be afforded greater relief by means of improved social services than by income tax reductions. [.Extent sion of time granted.]
I say emphatically that the average family man on an income of £300 who pays a social services contribution of £12 is much better off than he would be if he were granted only a straight-out tax reduction. The wife of such a man receives child endowment of £19 10s. a year for one child, and let me remind the House, in passing, that child endowment has been increased 50 per cent, since this Government has been in office, the ..amount having been raised from 5s. to 7s. 6d. a week, which involved an increase of the total expenditure from £12,000,000 to £18,000,000/ The wife would also receive increasedmaternity allowance, such payments haying been increased substantially recently. No- means test is applied- to these payments. In addition, hospital benefit of £2 2s. a week is available for the family, unit. Those benefits represent many times as much as the benefits received by singlemen. Moreover, dental and medical benefits’ will be available after the referendum’ in regard. to social services has been carried. These are illustrations of the benefits of the social services to the family man, and they are available with-‘ out a. means test. An increase has been made also in the pensions rate. The in-‘ formation given by the Treasurer in the financial statement, as a matter of fact,’ indicates clearly that a big forward step has been taken towards the elimination of the means test.
I thank honorable members for having granted me an extension of time. I shall say no . more, although a great more could and no doubt will be said before the debate concludes. My final word is a suggestion that, in accordance with the splendid spirit . of Australia during the war: there should be no more, moaning about taxation.. When we think, of- the blitz that Britain suffered, and of the thousands of people in Britain whoare still homeless, still paying high taxation, and still rationed severely even in. respect of bread, the’ staff of life, let us not moan. When we remember the devastation there is in- Europe, where, people are dying of hunger, and where little children are suffering from malnutrition, the results of which will pursue them to the end of their days, let us,, who are privileged to live in this, country,, thank God that Australia, was saved’ from similar devastation and suffering.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Spender) adjourned.
Bill presented by . Mr. Dedman, and read a first time.
– by have - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In explaining this bill, I would emphasize that whilst the critical coal position cannot be attributed toany single cause, it is fundamentally the result of the industry’s inability to keep pace with changing needs. This failure has affected every home and almost every industry in Australia in the . war period. During the past , six years of abnormally rapid industrialization in Australia, the consumption of coal has leapt ahead of production in a chronically sick industry. Between the years 1942 and1945, for instance, permitted consumption exceeded production by 1,700,000 tons, and coal stocks have progressively decreased as a result. After one experience of this kind, the Government is. determined that never again must, the industry be permitted to lapse into the position in which we found -it, and from which, while the war continued, there was no chance. of recovery. To-day, in the midst of the transition “from war to civil production, we are confronted with a dangerously low level of coal stocks on the one. hand and an evermounting demand on the other. The latest estimates and figures available to me are -
These figures may be compared with the ‘average annual output of all Australian mines during 1939-44 of less than 13,500,000 tons. The demand on New South Wales black coal for 1946-47 was 11,666,000 tons, and the likely demand on such coal for 1949-50 is 13,500,000 tons. These figures, again, may be compared with the average annual output of all New South Wales coal mines during 1939-44 of only 11,500,000 tons. The estimates for 1949-50 represent an increase of 25 per cent, over the 1941 demands.
During the war years, we had to improvise and . patch as best we could in the circumstances. We deeply appreciate the efforts of the Coal Commission, and of the New South Wales Labour Government in collaboration with us.
To-day, however, we face apeace period in which the Government is determined that we shall proceed vigorously on a programme of basic re-organization. That is why we mark the first year of peace by bringing’ down this legislation to. lay the framework for a new deal for the New South Wales industry, which- produces over80 per cent. of our black coal. It is a problem industry, and, in- order to understand it, we much’ appreciate the essential features of its- history.- At bottom, there was the incapacity of an- individualistic industry to re-organize itself. There was an: unwillingness on the part of. owners to make available or to seek the finance for private re-orgariization, modernization and re-equipment. When, occasionally, a particular ; management showed a willingness to introduce- new methods, it sometimes met- a fearful and negative response from its workers. That response was not uniformly . experienced, but where it did occur it -was at least “understandable. Throughout’ the interwar period, the workers experienced real insecurity in an apparently declining industry, and a lack of continuity of employment. Statistics of employment in the New South Wales coal industry show that this feeling of insecurity was based on a foundation of solid facts. The number of men . employed declined from 22,470 in 1929 to 12,788 in 1935, and since that time has never increased much beyond 16,000. Nor does the actual number employed each year , tell the whole story.- It conceals the human tragedy of discontinuous employment; 250 days a year would represent -50 weeks’ work on the basis of a five-day week. The averagenumber of days worked by miners in 1929 was 223;. and in 1930 “it fell to 119 for those” who remained in the industry. Only in a desperate war year like 1943 did the average again reach the 1929 figure of 223. I remind honorable members that the loss of working days was by . no means due solely to strikes. The break-down of obsolete mining equipment has often been the cause of a temporary closing of mines. Moreover, once stocks of coal above-ground were adequate to meet demands for some time ahead, miners worked under the constant fear of being laid off, because mines on the Australian fields have been frequently closed down to save expenses in such circumstances.
The frequency of accidents in the mines is another cause of economic loss and of bitterness among miners. The average of New South Wales casualties during the sixteen years which ended in- 1944 was more than sixteen killed and 70 injured each year. The number of accidents generally bears a definite relation to the amount of coal hewn each year, where mining equipment is not the best and most up -to -date. Official reports clearly demonstrate that a large proportion of accidents could have been prevented by the adoption by mine managements of adequate safety measures. Accidents are not the only physical danger to the lives, health and employment of coal-miners. Because of the nature of their work, in the absence of the most modern and safety measures a very high proportion of coal-miners contract respiratory and -other diseases. In most instances, the only way of avoiding permanent disability and death is for the affected men to leave the mines for good. But, when other jobs and opportunities around the mining districts are not plentiful, this has often been impossible, and men suffering from disease in mild degrees have been forced by their circumstances to continue working in the very conditions that had caused their disease. When the Commonwealth Government took over the Coalcliff colliery, it experimented with and introduced a method of water injection which has proved highly successful against dust. Mr. Justice Davidson described it in his recent report as the most effective method of controlling dust in pillar workings yet practised. A great deal of expenditure is required to ensure the introduction of similar safeguards for the New South Wales miners.
In these few introductory remarks to thu bill, I have not overdrawn the position in the coal industry. Mining is at best a strenuous, thankless means of earning a livelihood. It is at worst an avenue of fitful employment, constant fear of disease, and ever-present possibility of death or disablement by accident. Men work in the industry under physical and nervous pressure, which is rarely absent; and when they find themselves working under that pressure in an industry suffering from technical obso- lescence and decay, and from insufficiency of capital, it is understandable, if not always wholly excusable, that the industry should be the seat of chronic indus-. trial discontent, inflamed as often as not by irresponsible newspapers and by parliamentary spokesmen for the owners, who are prepared to make political capital out of the position. There is an exasperation and frustration among the miners which only a “ new deal “ for the industry has a hope of expunging. This Government, and the Government of New South Wales, must make a fresh start at resolving the clearly recognizable problems of discontent and underproduction in the industry. Only a wide, systematic and thorough re-organization of the industry will meet the real needs. The bill before the House is at once the earnest of fruitful co-operation between the two governments and the framework through which they will work together.
By geological accident, the main black coal resources of Australia are in the State of New South Wales. But coal is a national problem, and demands a national solution. . Co-operation between the Commonwealth and State Governments is therefore necessary, and the present bill has been drafted only after careful discussion with the New South Wales Premier and other Ministers, and on the definite understanding that a substantially identical bill will be introduced into the New South Wales Parliament. In this way, powers within the legislative competence of each Parliament will be conferred. The function of this bill is to establish a. Joint Coal Board, with all the powers that are necessary to ensure a regular production of coal to meet the needs of the Australian economy. It will consist of three mem- ‘ bers, appointed for seven years by arrangement between the State of New South Wales and the Commonwealth. These members will not represent sectional interests in the industry, but will be selected because of their special qualifications and capacities to carry out the wide functions and the heavy responsibilities of the board. The main duties o.f the board will be, first, to ensure that coal shall be produced in the State in such quantities and with such regularity as will meet requirements throughout Australia and in trade with other countries ; secondly, to ensure that the coal resources of the State shall be conserved, developed, worked and used . to the best advantage in the public interest; thirdly, to ensure that coal produced in the State shall be distributed and ‘ used in such manner, quantities, classes and grades and at such prices as are calculated best to serve the public interest and secure the economical use of coal in the maintenance of essential services and industrial activities; and fourthly, to promote the welfare of workers engaged in the coal industry in the State.
Owing to doubts as to and limitations on the extent of Commonwealth powers under the Constitution, reliance will be placed on State authority for many of the major functions of the board. It is desirable, however, that the Parliament, the industry itself, and the people should be able to get from each bill . a comprehensive picture of what the board has to do, and what powers it will have. For this purpose, this bill has been drafted in rather an unusual form. Clause 12 and the following clauses set out all the powers, functions and” duties of the board, whether the Commonwealth or the State confers them. These clauses are purely declatory in form. The bill must not be read as an attempt by the Commonwealth Parliament to vest in the board all the powers set out. The only powers that the Commonwealth does vest are those that are within its own constitutional authority. For the rest, the board will draw its powers from the State. The same principle is followed in relation to the industrial authorities provided for in Part VI, of the bill.
So that it will be able to carry but these duties promptly and effectively, the Joint Coal Authority will have wide powers and a substantial degree of autonomy. It will be able to take the initiative in dealing with day-to-day problems free from political control. But because of the far-reaching nature of its decisions, it is important that the board should conform to directions on particular matters of policy. The principle of Parliamentary and . ministerial responsibility for policy has been preserved by the ultimate right of the Prime Minister, in agreement with the Premier of New South “Wales, to give policy directions to the hoard. The Prime Minister may also direct the board to furnish reports to himself and to the State Premier; whilst parliamentary appropriation of funds also will ensure ministerial responsibility. There are two further restrictions on the powers of the board. First, it will be noticed that there is to be no form of industrial conscription. Secondly, where the safety of mine workers is involved, there must be a joint inspection by- an officer of the board and an inspector of the New South Wales Mines Department before the board can take action, and any action must not derogate from the New South Wales safety’ code. Within the limits of these restrictions, the board will” have power to deal with every phase of the coal industry. It will have powers over such matters as the opening or closing of coal mines ; methods of working; mechanization; use and distribution of coal ; prices and profits ; the health and safety of workers, and their welfare both in and about the mines and in their communities; employment and training; statistics, and research. Just how drastic and far-reaching the board’s measures will be, will depend solely on what is necessary to get the coal we want and make mining a worthwhile occupation. We hope and believe that, with the co-operation of the industry, much can be achieved by a vigorous programme of technical and financial assistance, backed up by orders and directions to mine owners. Naturally, any extra costs incurred in carrying out the board’s directions will be taken into account in determining price levels. On the other hand, in some instances, cooperation may not be forthcoming from the owners and managers, and the board may need to assume control of or acquire and operate a mine. Finally, the board may suspend or exclude from the industry any superintendent, manager or other person who acts in a way prejudicial to the efficient operation of the industry. Special provision is made to ensure that this power will not be misused. -
Turning now to distribution, I should like to indicate briefly what the Government has in mind. The Joint Coal Board will be responsible for seeing that coal shall be distributed efficiently and that adequate arrangements shall be made for safeguarding essential stocks. In the event of shortage, it will be ‘ responsible for rationing coal. The board may be able to carry out these obligations most effectively by acquiring all the coal produced in New South Wales. But improvement of the actual working and distribution of coal will be of no avail if the miners at the coal-face and in their homes are left, as they have been in the past, to burrow in the darkness of a harsh and insecure livelihood. They must feel that they, too, are participating in the social life and progress of the nation which depends so greatly on their efforts in winning coal. This is partly a matter of working conditions and amenities in -and about the mines, where the board must see that the coal industry shall live up to its responsibilities. This will be done by- vigorous enforcement of health and safety provisions, including measures to remove the spectre of dust and silicosis. Lighting and ventilation must be improved, and adequate pit-head amenities provided. The board will insist that these things shall be done, and it will be’ ready to provide financial assistance to enable them to be done. Moreover, we intend to guarantee a continuing expenditure on amenities, by establishing a coal industry welfare fund. This will be administered by the board,, and con- tributions to’ it will be made by the Commonwealth and State Governments as well as the board itself. In. addition, much must, be done away from the mines to make coal-mining areas of the State the centre of vigorous and happy families and communities. This is some-, thing that can be. achieved only with the co-operation of the mining communities which must take the initiative and seize the opportunities which will be open to them. But the Joint Coal Board will be ready to collaborate with the people themselves and with other authorities in providing health’ and other services for miners and their dependants, in establishing educational, recreational, housing and other facilities’, and in promoting diversification of industry and town and regional planning in coal-mining areas.
It is also essential that the dread fear of unemployment shall be banished from the coal-fields. I have already cited estimates which show that the demand for coal- is such that the’ drift of workers from the industry must be arrested and recruitment vigorously encouraged. It will be the responsibility of the board to take a long-range view of the level of employment in the industry in relation to the production and the demand for coal. The board will be required to develop mechanization and technical efficiency in the mines, and, at the same time, to provide regular workers in the industry with an assurance of stable employment, and a secure and satisfactory livelihood in keeping with the policy of full employment to which the Labour Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales are committed.
In order to achieve its objectives the board will need to undertake and arrange intensive programmes of research -iri connexion with coal resources, techniques of production and use, health problems and other matters. In this field the board will work in close collaboration with the Council for - Scientific and Industrial Research, the Commonwealth Bureau of Geology, Geophysics and Mineral Resources, the public health authorities and other research and scientific agencies.
With, regard to workers compensation, the board will have power to conduct an insurance scheme with which coal-owners would be required to effect their workers’ compensation insurance. At present, employers” conduct their insurance with their own company which is being heavily subsidized by the Government, and a part of this subsidy goes, of course, in maintaining the profits of the company.
Let me now draw your attention to the industrial provisions of the bill. We have provided for the establishment of a coal industry tribunal with - the necessary powers to settle industrial disputes, and to promote industrial peace in the industry. This tribunal will have the qualifications of an Arbitration Court judge, and will be appointed for seven years. It. will deal with matters affecting- the miners’ federation, including interstate disputes, and with any matters referred by the board. So that . disputes can be dealt with quickly, we have given special consideration to the appointment of local authorities. Accordingly; the tribunal will appoint local ‘coal authorities ‘ with powers to determine disputes of purely local significance;, and; to which it - will refer such disputes. It may also appoint at any coal-mine a mine conciliation committee, comprising an equal number of employer and employee representatives, to prevent the development of disputes. Finally, the board itself may appoint reporting officers to keep it informed of the facts on any matter which is, or is likely to be, the cause of an industrial dispute”. As you will see, this new structure for dealing with industrial matters affecting the New South “Wales coal industry replaces the central industrial authority and the local industrial authorities established under war-time legislation. It preserves, however, sufficient of the existing machinery for continuity to be maintained.
The foregoing covers the major provisions of the bill, but honorable members will be interested in a number of important matters not incorporated but on which agreement has been reached with the New South Wales Government. In connexion with finance, large sums are involved by way of capital and current expenditure which this Government is fully prepared to make available for such a vita] public .purpose. The Commonwealth and the. State have agreed to divide financial responsibilities on this basis: The State will contribute half the costs of administration and an amount not exceeding £70,000 per annum to the joint, coal board’s welfare fund - this amount to be contributed on a pound for pound basis with the Commonwealth. In turn, the Commonwealth will contribute the remaining half of the costs _ of administration, a share of the board’s welfare fund not less than that contributed by the State ; all other current expenses including any subsidies and any other expenses arising from the board’s production and trading activities, and all advances and grants for capital purposes such as the capital cost of amenities, other than those covered by the welfare fund, mechanization, acquisition and new development.
The New South Wales Government has agreed to provide by legislation that the chairman of the board should be ex officio chairman’ of the Coal- and Shale Miners Pensions Tribunal.’ ‘ This arrangement will not interfere with ‘ the New’ South
Wales Government’s present contribution of £80,000 a year to the miners’ pension funds.
Agreement has also been reached, that the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments will take no action to amend or repeal the legislation of which this bill is a part without the prior concurrence of the’ other. Further, the New South Wales Government has agreed not to amend the Coal Mines Regulation Act, or other associated legislation without the agreement of the Commonwealth.
In this bill we are not actuated by party political considerations, but have made a genuine attempt to provide a frame-work which will, for the first time, enable the human and economic problems of the industry to be tackled. It will be backed up by a bold and comprehensive programme of re-organization and development. In this spirit I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Debate resumed’ (vide page 2994).
.- It is notable that no one has raised any serious objection to the purposes of this bill. This is due to the fact that, superficially at least, the bill provides for producercontrol of the meat export industry, and if the industry were really to be placed under- the control of the producers its interests would be adequately protected. However, I used the word “ superficially “ because I am convinced that the producers will, in fact, have no effective control at all. Their representatives on the Australian Meat Board are to be chosen by the Minister from a panel of names submitted by organizations approved by him. The Australian Meat Producers Union, ‘ a body with members in four States, is to have no representation on’ the board, and the Minister, for some unexplained reason, refuses to meet the representatives of this organization. It may be news to the Minister to hear that it has more members than any other organization of meat producers in Australia. I do not suggest that the persons nominated by the bodies approved by the Minister will not perform their duties in the best interests of those whom they represent, insofar as they are allowed to do so under the restrictive provisions of this legislation. However, the great majority of meat producers in my district favour a system of selection similar to that, in operation in New Zealand. There the country is divided into regions, which have no geographical significance, but merely represent arbitrary divisions within each of which the meat producers elect a member to an electoral committee which, in turn, elects the producer-representatives who sit on the meat board. That system is favoured by the majority of small producers in this country, yet for some unexplained reason the Minister has refused point-blank to consider it. On behalf of unrepresented organizations, particularly the Australian Primary Producers Union, I protest against the obnoxious provision in clause 7, which proposes that the chairman nominated by the Government shall be vested with power to veto a majority decision- of his own board. This must be the first instalment of the new order about which we have heard so much. Undoubtedly the idea has been borrowed from the United Nations, for I know of no precedent in this country for its adoption. There may have been some merit in allowing the power of veto in the United Nations to what are known as the “ Big Three “, because those nations would have to foot the bill- for arms equipment and men to back up any decision resulting from a majority vote of the minor nations. We know perfectly well, however, that the power of veto, which was intended to be used as a protection, is now used by certain members of the United Nations to further their ‘.own nationalistic aims, with the result that the power of veto, as we know only too well, has been brought into disrepute.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine himself to ihe bill.
– If this measure becomes law the Minister will establish a board which will be presided over by a chairman of his own selection, who will be vested ‘with power to circumvent a majority decision. This, in my opinion, savours of ‘a Russian election in which, a voter has permission to do as he likes as long as he does as he is told. First, the Minister proposes to take to himself responsibility for the selection of the members of the board from nominees of bodies of which he himself has to approve, and then he immediately shows his lack of confidence in them by seeking authority to appoint his own chairman, in whom he proposes “ to vest the power of veto. I am sorry to see such a principle introduced into legislation in this country. I trust that it will not. be repeated in any other measure. I am optimistic enough to hope that the Minister will see the merit of the protests voiced by the Opposition and amend that provision in the bill in accordance with their wishes. The honorable member has had sufficient experience of ministerial office to know that no responsible body of primary producers, whether it be selected by him or by the producers themselves, would take any action, make any motion or reach any resolution which would involve the Commonwealth in heavy expenditure without first obtaining the consent of the Minister or at least submitting the matter to the Treasurer for his views. If that be so, why vest in the chairman the power of veto? The Australian Primary Producers Union, which represents a very large number of small producers, rightly believes that this obnoxious provision should be removed, and I am still optimistic enough to hope that when the bill is in committee the Minister will concede this small point. The primary producers believe that the chairman should be a producer and should have a deliberative and a casting vote but no power to veto the majority decisions of the board. I trust that consideration will be given to this protest, because in other respects the bill has the approval of the primary producers and of honorable members generally.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that it represented an instalment of socialism. . .
– It is necessary to establish boards of this kind in order to control the overseas marketing of our primary products. Whilst we agree with the bill in principle, we regard the proposal to vest in the chairman the power of veto as an affront to our democratic beliefs.
– I cannot allow this bill to become law without making some comment on some strange provisions contained in it. Clause 4 is. in such striking contrast to other measures which we have had before us in the not far distant past that I cannot let it pass without comment. That clause provides for the establishment of- a board of twelve members, consisting of three members to represent the lamb producers of Australia, one to represent the mutton producers, two to represent the beef producers - the bulk of our, beef exports are from Queensland, so that does not present a great deal of difficulty - one to represent pig producers, two to represent meat exporting companies of Australia, one to represent the publicly-owned abattoirs - as these are situated in almost every State there may be some competition in the selection of their representative - and one to represent the employees. I have no doubt that some dispute may occur on both sides of the river Murray, and, perhaps, in the vicinity of “the Brisbane line” as to which trades hall shall have the right to select that representative. Perhaps the dispute may be remitted into the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and be happily resolved. , Then, finally, one member is to represent the Commonwealth Government. That makes a total of twelve, perilously, close to an-, unlucky number. The clause provides that these gentlemen are to be appointed by the Governor-General. Iri ordinary common English, that means that they will be selected by the Minister. I have also noticed that the clause provides that if a’n insufficient number of nominations is received the GovernorGeneral may make such appointments as he thinks fit. These, of course, would be made upon the recommendation of the Minister.
– That is a very good provision.
– This provision is in striking contrast to some other administrative proposals of the Government in the not far distant past. I pass on to the procedure at meetings of the board and the power of veto as proposed in clause 7. In one of my more illuminated moments I marked this clause - as the “ Molotov clause “. Under it anything that may- be agreed upon by the other eleven members of the board as their sincere and honest conviction and ou the basis of their expert knowledge may be vetoed by the chairman. According to the rather striking and forthright language of the clause, if the chairman happens to dissent from the views of “the other eleven members of the board he must signify at the meeting to the other members present in person his intention to bring his dissent to the notice of the Minister and, within 24 hours after the close of the meeting, transmit to the Minister notice of his dissent with,fu particulars of the decision. If the Minister approves of the decision, or varies it - to what extent he may vary it is not stated - the decision so approved is deemed to be a decision of the board. I assume that if the Minister agreed with 10 per cent, of the decision and vetoed 90 per cent., it would still be deemed a decision of the board. How in the name of common sense can such a provision be contained in an act of parliament? Personally, I would not esteem it a great honour to be asked, to become a member of a board which had to function under those conditions. I, and perhaps ten worthy colleagues- -much worthier than myself - might be entirely opposed to 90 per cent, of a certain decision which the Minister, acting upon the advice of the chairman, decided was necessary in the interests of the country, yet we would find that the decision of the Minister would be represented as expressing the views of the board. That, to ‘my mind, rather savours of the old method of attempting to invert the pyramid. I suggest that before this bill becomes law the text of clause 7 might be transmitted overseas for the opinion of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), not only from the legal aspect, but also from the aspect of a practice and procedure with which the right honorable gentleman has been connected in a rather intimate way of late. He might have some interesting and illuminating views to transmit to the Government on this matter and, as the result the Governmentmight change its views. The provisions of clause 14, which relate to section 16of the principal act, are very similar to those which have “appeared in other measures. There- fore I am- obliged, much against my inclinations, to call ‘ attention to the inconsistency of the ‘ Government in matters like this. -However, where the Government is consistent is in a way that I cannot approve. As proposed to be amended, section 16 of the principal act will provide -
The Board shallhave power - and (e) on behalf of the Commonwealth andsubject to any directions of the Minister -
i ) to purchase any meat, meat product or edible offal ;
to sell any meat, meat product or edible offal ; 1 or
iii ) to manage and control all matters connected with the handling, storage, protection, treatment, transfer and shipment of any meat, meat product or edible offal purchased by the Commonwealth;”.
One of the Minister’s colleagues may regret that this bill did not become law a couple of years ago when it might have been very handy in the famous case of the Portland butcher, Mr. Dargan. It would perhaps have saved him and his colleagues in the Ministry a lot of headaches in solving the intricate problem of what to do about the Portland meat supply. Had the hill been law, under this provision, they could have gone to Portland and, on behalf of the Commonwealth, and subject to directions of the Minister, purchased any meat, meat product or edible offal that they liked and, as far as - I can see, there is nothing in the bill that would have prevented them from giving it away. That may be an unfortunate omission, but, in the absence of contrary provision, they could have disposed of the commodity so purchased in any manner that they thought fit. I leave those matters with the Minister because they concern the people who produce meat. Some are big producers, others are very little producers, like me, and others go in for meat production as a pleasant pastime.
The last point that I make is that raised by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) and one or two of his colleagues about the strange attitude of the Minister towards the people who form the “ Australian Primary Producers Union, ‘a’! “‘fairly’ ‘Well known organization. At the request of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) I journeyed with- him to Warrnambool and met some 500 or 600 of them, and they seemed ‘ to be a fine class of people,’ as. I ‘would’ naturally expect, -some of them being my own constituents. I know these people. They are devoted to the ‘ , one objective -of improving the position of ‘Australian primary producers generally. They are interested, not “only in meat, but also in almost everyother kind of “primary product.’ Yet the. Minister has consistently and’ repeatedly refused to meet them. There are certain points that they want to put to him, ‘and I think it is better, in the interests ofthe association, that they should put them to him personally. Not. long ago I asked him whether he was prepared to meet them before this legislation became law, because in my younger days, when I was at school, I read something about the mouse, and the lion, and I know that even small things may be of help to the great and the mighty. I think that the men who represent different kinds of primary production, and are willing to leave their dairy farms, their wheat farms’, their pastures, their potato patches and so forth in order to put their views before the Minister, may have some views that would be useful to the Commonwealth Government in the framing of legislation of this kind. I can only regret that the Minister, in his wisdom,’ decided that he would meet them, to use his own language, I think, in his own good time. The Minister nods his head, so, for once, I seem, to be near the mark. I may be wrong, but I took that to mean that the Minister did not propose to meet them until after this bill had become law. I say with all good feeling towards the Minister, who is one of my political opponents, that in all these matters, whatever he may happen to think personally of an organization, it is a fair thing for the Minister to meet its .representatives in what may be described as their own. good time, in order that anything they might represent as of benefit to the Commonwealth, to industry or even to persons individually, may be submitted to him for - his consideration. I regret that my honorable friend has not seen fit to pursue, that rather well-worn path, but has elected to take the path that he lias taken on this occasion.
– It has been said that successful marketing is the satisfactory conclusion of the. work and management of the producer. It might also be said that the work and the management of the producer is necessary if we have anything to market. This bill is entitled, “ A bill for an act to amend the Meat Export Control Act 1935-1938) and for. other purposes “. I suppose that meat is generally considered to be a beast after it has bren slaughtered, but this bill covers a wider field than meat itself. It covers a very wide field, because the policy of the Australian Meat Board, to be set up under this bill, may have. to do with the bleeding of fat stock. New Zealand has developed a fine export trade in fat. stock and Canterbury lamb is known nl] over the world, but Australia has not developed the same standard of efficiency 1J1 marketing as has New Zealand. I take it that I am in order in speaking about the breeding of live stock, because the policy of the board may encompass an incentive for that. It is very necessary that the men appointed to it shall know something about matters other than the export of meat, in order that they may devise a policy that will foster the breeding of the very best stock for the export trade. I therefore, support the contention of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) ought to have given some considera tion to the request, of the Australian Primary Producers Union that he receive a deputation in order that it might nominate for appointment to the Australian Meat Board a producer from its ranks. It must be apparent to all that the organization is not small. The Minister may -know that it claims to be the most properly federated body in Australia because it has a membership in four States of the Commonwealth. If the Minister delays meeting these people till after this bill has been passed they will -be denied the opportunity of having one of their nominees on the board on their behalf. I protest against the Minister’s attitude. I know, many of them; a few of. them are my constituents. Many other members are in southern Victoria, but the membership is representative of four States. The men I know are engaged in raising fat lambs and cattle. They have been breeding stock for generations. It is because of their activities that we have such a well organized meat industry in Australia to-day.
– How many members of that organization are in New South Wales?
– I do not know.
– Perhaps only a couple.
– I think the organization has a membership of about 10,000 and it covers four States of the Commonwealth. Amongst the” members are men of great influence in the meat industry who desire to submit to the Minister names of men whom they would like to be appointed to -the Meat Board! - I do not think that is too much to ask. It is an ordinary proposal. If the Minister did not approve of the men nominated, he could reject them. The organization wants the opportunity to submit a nomination because it represents the leading meat breeders and meat producers in Australia. Why should they -be debarred? The recent conference of the union in Geelong was one of the best conferences of primary producers ever held in Victoria. Even if most of the members come from Victoria, as implied by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), that does not detract from the worth of “their proposition. Of 3,336,766 carcasses of lamb exported in 1944-45, more than half or 1,862,586 came from Victoria. As regards mutton, of 450,218 carcasses, Victoria shipped 178,365. In the previous year, 1943-44, Victoria exported 2,306,392 lambs of a total of 4,013,027 exported from Australia, whilst it “exported 264,930 carcasses of mutton of an Australian total export of 519,920. Victoria by producing more than half of the fat lambs exported by Australia, is in an unassailable position in the Commonwealth fat-lamb trade. The trade must be fostered. It has been pointed out by sheepmen throughout Australia that it is necessary to export as many fat lambs as is possible. It is therefore necessary to breed the right class of lambs for export. We want to have people overseas ask for Australian lamb. The only way to achieve that is by exporting lamb of the right type. The combination of breeders, fatteners and exporters that makes up the membership of the union surely can ‘ produce an expert, who would bo an acquisition to the Meat Board.
– Would there not be experts in the other organizations?
– Certainly, but they can be considered too. The organization merely asked that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture should allow it to submit a nomination to him. The bill provides in several places that the Minister ‘shall have the right to approve of not only nominations but also other aspects of the proposed meat board’s activities. The only way in which they can place before the Minister arguments in favour of the appointment of their nominee is by a personal meeting with him. He has signified that he will meet them in his own good time. I would not object to that but for the fact that this bill is on its way through the Parliament, and, unless the Minister meets them soon, it will be too late for them to do anything to ensure that they shall have a say in the marketing of their products. That is unjust to the fat-lamb raiser, the pig raiser and the fatteners of stock generally, men who have been engaged in the meat industry for many years. I would not stress this matter ‘ so much but for the fact that a lot of honorable members have been thinking about this bill and about the men who should be on the Meat Board. There is a lot of difference about thinking’ and knowing. I know that the organization ought to be represented on the board because I have been associated with the marketing of fat stock ali my life, with the exception of the six years that I was overseas. I have been associated with the meat industry, first as a producer and then as an auctioneer. In those capacities, one gains a valuable knowledge of the men who could best serve . Australia on the meat board. Therefore, I urge the Minister to re-examine this matter, and, if possible, interview in Canberra the representatives of the Primary Producers Union. If he is not impressed with their submissions, he will not accept them. But how can he reject their claims when he has not heard them advanced? That is why I make a plea on behalf of these men, many of whom I have known personally for fifteen or twenty years or even longer. They include the presidents and members of shire councils, and are men of honesty and integrity. Surely they are entitled to a hearing.
The proposed composition of the Australian Meat Board is not so satisfactory as is the composition of the New Zealand Meat Board, which consists of five representatives of the producers, two representatives of the. Government, one representative of the stock and station agents, and one representative of the dairy producers. The bill proposes that the Australian Meat Board shall include three representatives of the lamb producers. In view of the number of fat lambs that we export compared with mutton, that representation is inadequate. We cannot export large quantities of mutton on account of gland trouble, and for economic reasons. The export of fat lambs is most important to Australia. With the top-dressing of pastures in various parts of the country, we shall have more fat lambs for export, and the quantity of mutton exported will be .further reduced. We shall get the best values in the market which seeks lamb instead of mutton. Lamb is always preferred to mutton. Purchasers not only in Australia but also in other countries realize the importance of buying young meat. Whilst I contend that lamb producers should have increased representation on the Australian Meat Board, I agree that we should not deprive the mut-ton producers of the one member which they have been allotted.. The bill provides also that there shall be two members to represent the beef producers. Obviously, that number cannot be reduced. One member will represent the pig producers. I agree with that. But I do not agree with the proposal that two members should represent the meat exporting companies of Australia. Various sections of the meat trade should be allowed to submit to the Minister a panel of names from which their representatives will be selected. The names of the representatives of the meat exporting companies will be submitted by a group known as the “Big Three”. I do not need to mention their names. Evidently, the claims of the small exporters for representation have been overlooked. They are not to have a voice. When I was an auctioneer at the Newmarket saleyards, I watched the market very closely for years. I am not boasting when I say that no other honorable member has had such a close experience of the marketing of stock as I have. For seventeen and a half years, I was a licensed auctioneer and for eight years of that period I sold stock at Newmarket. I missed only three sales.
– Order ! That is a very good record, but it has nothing to do with the bill.
– As the result of attending that great selling centre, I learned that when the big exporters relax’ on prices, the “ mosquito brigade “ consisting of 20 or 25 small ‘exporters immediately came’ into the market and maintained prices at a fair level.- Had it not been for their operations, the bottom would have fallen out of the fat lamb market. Individually, those operators do not export many lambs, but collectively they export large numbers. Why’ should the big companies have the opportunity to submit for appointment to the board the names of two persons, whilst the comparatively large number of small exporters will be debarred from nominating a representative? That proposal is not in the best interests, of marketing in Australia. On many occasions, the Government has declared that it favours the small man. Therefore, the small mas in the meat trade should be given his chance. If he had been debarred from buying lambs for export and other purposes, the price of stock in Australia would not have been so stable as it was in the past. Naturally the large exporters - they can be counted on the fingers of one hand - could agree to let prices fall by three farthings or one penny per lb., perhaps more. But if they know that the moment prices begin to decline the “ mosquito brigade “ will purchase stock, they are not so likely to let the market fall. For those reasons, I am opposed to the big exporting companies having two representatives on the board.
– Who stated that the big companies would have two representatives on the board?
– It is well known that they will. I contend that the small exporters should have the right to nominate a member. I am not opposed to the large exporters having a voice in an advisory capacity. Probably, they could shed light on certain matters which may be of great advantage to the trade. But the proposal to allow the big exporters, who are purchasers, a share of the control over the producers’ stock while denying to the small butchers the same privilege is entirely unjust. The board should be under producercontrol and for that reason, I have emphasized the failure to allow the Primary Producers Union a representative.
I shall not refer at length to the power of veto, because other honorable members have already dealt effectively with that subject. In my opinion, the proposal is unjust. The chairman of the board should not be able to overrule the decision of the majority of members. So far as I am aware, the proposal is unique. Undoubtedly, the chairman should have a deliberative and a casting vote, but he should not be empowered to override the decisions of the board. Australia must make provision for the organized marketing of stock, but this bill will not achieve the best results. As I stated, the New Zealand meat board has definite advantages compared with the proposed Australian meat board. In addition, the New Zealand board has proved itself after years of trial,
– A Labour government established it.
– I do not know whether a Labour government established the New Zealand board, but I shall support any proposal for the establishment of a board which will serve the best interests of the meat- producers of Australia. In entering my protest against certain portions of this bill, I voice the opinion of many primary producers. I consider that the appointment to the board of a man who is a breeder will have great advantages.
– Many members of the board may be breeders.
– I hope that they will. The wider selection will not detract from the excellence of the appointment. Indeed, the wider the selection, the greater will be the chance of obtaining the services of men of outstanding experience in the fat stock trade. Summarizing my views on the bill, I emphasize that I am strongly opposed to the chairman’s power of veto. I contend also that the proposed composition of the board will not be in. the best interests of producers. As I have shown, the New Zealand board includes a’ stock and station agent. A stock and station agent has a wide experience of marketing, and his knowledge would be invaluable to the Australian Meat Board. The honorable member for Indi mentioned that when a buyer attends a stock sale, he must be able to calculate exactly the dead weight of a sheep by looking at it when it is alive. Exporters and butchers who buy at stock auctions naturally endeavour to purchase as cheaply as possible. The person who keeps them “ up to the mark “ is the auctioneer. Auctions are always a fight between the auctioneer and the buyer, the auctioneer endeavouring to obtain the highest possible price and the purchaser endeavouring to buy as cheaply as possible.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in giving adissertation on auctioneering. The House is debating the Meat Export Control Bill.
– if I am not’ in order in describing the methods of exporters in purchasing stock, I shall have to omit certain master which I believe to be of vital interest’ in respect of the measure.
– If the honorable member’ could deal with auctioning methods, he would be in order in discussing even the breeding of stock. .
– I .strongly protest against the veto provision. Such power should not be given to the chairman of the proposed’ board. I believe that producer-control should reign. It is useless to tell the producers that they are to have complete control when the final word rests with the chairman. Much has been said about technical points in this debate ; but I emphasize the practical point of view. The producers are capable of operating the scheme; but if the chairman is to be given power of veto, and to refer his dissent to the Minister, all the talk by honorable members opposite of producercontrol in this instance is . eye-wash. Thu second point I emphasize is that the Australian Primary Producers Union should be enabled at least to meet the Minister, with a view to nominating a representative to the proposed board. I do not believe that the meat exporters should have two representatives on the board. Perhaps, I could agree to their being given one representative. However, representatives of the exporters should be consulted in an advisory capacity only. If the Minister wishes to retain the proposed numerical strength of the board he should give an additional representative to the lamb producers, because the export and marketing of lambs is of paramount importance to the industry. After all, successful marketing crowns the work of the producer. Unless ‘representation on the board be given to the producers of lamb who understand thoroughly their phase of the industry, we shall not utilize fully the means at our disposal to make a success of this scheme in the interests of the nation.
Mr. MCDONALD (Corangamite) Q0.48]. - Listening to the second-reading speech of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), one’s first impression was that primary producers were being given fair repesentation on the proposed control board; but subsequently one learned that all decisions of the board, which is to be composed of representatives nominated by the Minister himself, may- be subject to veto by the chairman, and that the Minister will have the final say.
– It does not necessarily follow that the Minister will uphold the chairman’s decision.
– Proposed new subsection 5a of section 10 of the principal act reads - “ (0a.) If the person presiding at a meeting of the Board dissents from any decision of the Board, signifies at the meeting to the other members present in person his intention to bring his dissent to the notice of the Minister and, within twenty-four hours after the closeof the meeting, transmits to the Minister notice of his dissent together with full particulars of the decision, effect shall not be given to the decision unless the Minister approves of the decision (whether with or without variation) and, if the Minister approves of the decision subject to a variation, the decision so approved shall be deemed to be the decision of the Board.”.
It is farcical to give to the chairman power, to veto any decision of a board composed of representatives of every phase of the industry and selected by the Minister himself for their qualifications to speak on behalf of the industry. I can only conclude that under this measure the producers are being sold a gold brick. At first glance, the basis of the proposal would appear to be producercontrol. However, in the final analysis, the board will simply advise the Minister, whose decision will be final.
– -As £20,000,000 of public money is involved, does not the honorable member think that the Parliament should have the final say in the operation of the scheme ?
– That money is to be made available simply as a temporary loan in the interest of the industry. It is not a subsidy. That money will not remain in the industry, but will be used only between the time when the meat is purchased and when it is sold overseas. The money will be returned to the Government, and, if I am not mistaken, the industry will be charged interest for the use of it. If I am wrong in that respect, I ask the Minister to correct me. If the Government were subsidizing the industry to the amount of £20,000,000 I could understand the Minister insisting upon having the final say in the operation of the scheme. But, in this case, the meat is the property of the producers, although it is being sold under government contract on their account. The whole of the purchase money will belong to the producers, and, under the scheme, the Government will make available the amount mentioned only until the meat is sold.
I strongly support the claim of the Australian Primary Producers Union to be given a representative on the proposed board.
– The union has honorable members opposite” organized pretty well.
– I am a foundation member of that body, and I shall tell the Minister why I strongly support its claims. Its object is to link up all of the smaller producers who are not affiliated with any association. The Government pretends to be the friend of the small producer.
– Is there no other organization which the small producer can join ?
– There may be; but no other organization has deemed the small producer of sufficient importance to induce- it to, go among them, explain it3 objects, and ask them to become members. The Australian Primary Producers Union, which includes producers of every class, appeals to the small man, who up to date has been inarticulate.
– I understand that quite a number of big men are members of that organization.
– A number of men who are members of the other organizations to whose claims the Minister is prepared to listen are also members of the Australian Primary Producers Union; and that fact should, be sufficient to indicate the importance of the latter in the industry.
– Are not members of the Australian Primary Producers Union also members of other organizations?
– Tes; but, apparently, they realize that the Australian Primary Producers Union will accomplish for them more than the other organizations of which they have been members for some years. They may have joined with the idea of helping their weaker colleagues. However, whatever their reasons for joining the Australian Primary Producers Union may be, the fact remains that that organization has the greatest membership of any primary producers organization in the Commonwealth. I am sorry that the Minister was not able to attend the annual conference of the union which was held at Geelong on the 3rd July. The Premier of Victoria attended that conference and eulogized the manner in which delegates discussed their problems, and placed their case before him in respect of the recent hold-np of the sale of meat in Melbourne. He admitted that the representatives of that organization gave him information regarding that dispute which he did not previously possess. Those representatives were prepared to meet the Minister in Canberra, or in Sydney, or amy other centre, which suited the Minister’s convenience ; and . he would have saved himself a tremendous lot of trouble had he taken them into his confidence. To-day, they feel that they are not wanted, that they have been consistently repulsed. They resent such treatment. However, it has been instrumental in building up the union membership which has increased by over 300 per cent, during the last twelve months. The union now claims to have more meat producers among its members than has any other organization in Australia. Even at this late hour, I appeal to the Minister to send a. telegram to the union intimating that he is prepared to discuss this matter with its representatives in Canberra. If the Minister does that, I am certain that those representatives will hurry for Canberra as quickly as they can. Because they have so much faith in their claims, they are prepared to do everything possible to submit them to the Government. The Minister would be well advised at least to listen to their representations. After all, there is nothing to prevent the Minister from rejecting their claims. I hope that I have said sufficient to induce the Minister to arrange for them to interview him in the near future.
– Is the Australian Primary Producers Union an Australiawide organization?
Mr. -Turnbull. - I wish to make a personal explanation. While I am a member of the House I do not wish to make any statement which is not correct. Earlier, I said that I had had more experience as a stock auctioneer than any other honorable member. I believe that the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) has had more experience in that sphere. He is the leading expert in the industry in Australia, and I am happy to run second to him.
– m reply - Generally speaking, honorable members opposite appear to be in agreement with the main principles of the bill, hut are critical of some of its details. Many months ago, I met members of various organizations of primary pro.ducers, and informed them that, before the bill was introduced, I would consult representatives of only federally constituted bodies. . About that time, 1 received correspondence from the Australian Primary Producers Union, which had its origin in Victoria, asking for an interview, in reference to the bill. Several other State sectional organizations also expressed a desire to meet me, with a view to discussing matters appertaining to the bill. In every instance, I said that I would consult only federal organizations. I have kept my word. The organizations I. have met are representative of all sections of the meat producers throughout the Commonwealth: in Queensland, the Settlers and Selectors Association and the Graziers Association; in New South Wales, the Wheat Growers Federation, the Farmers and Settlers Association, and the Graziers Association; .in Victoria, the Wheat Producers Union; and in. Western Australia, another organization of primary producers. I have not one word to say against the members of the Australian Primary Producers Union, which has agitated the minds of honorable members opposite. I know a few of the members individually, and appreciate their worth to the fullest degree. It is extraordinary that this organization should suddenly have become federal in character only after I had replied to it. I congratulate its organizers on its rapid spread, first into South. Australia and then into New South Wales and Tasmania. In a telephone conservation. I informed the president of the organization, who said that either he or a member of. his executive would come to Canberra, that I expected to be in Melbourne shortly and would then discuss with him matters of mutual interest. He thanked me, and I believe that our relations will be cordial. There is no need for members of the Opposition to work themselves into a frenzy. Since I have been Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the door of my department has always been open to the representatives of all sections of primary producers throughout the Commonwealth, and this organization will not be an exception to that rule.
In the constitution of the proposed new Australian Meat Board, the representation will be on an Australiawide basis. The Government is giving effect to its policy that producers shall have a majority of the representatives on the board. To conform with this policy, regard must be had, in the first instance, to the general interest of the industry as a whole, and, secondly, to the volume and value of production within the States. The bill provides that there shall be seven representatives of producers on a board of twelve members, including the chairman. The endeavour is being made to cover production according to the classes and value of meat; consequently, there will be three representatives of lamb producers, two representatives of beef producers, and one representative each of mutton and pig producers. Representation by States, advocated by the honorable members for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and Denison (Dr. Gaha), has not proved satisfactory in the past. The Government has departed from that principle in the constitution of the Australian Wheat Board, the proposed new meat board, the Australian Dairy Board, and several of the committees and boards set up under National Security Regulations. It is considered that the value and volume of production should determine, to some degree, the basis of producer representation. For example, the exports of meat from Tasmania have rarely exceeded in . any year 2,000 tons of a total exportable annual surplus of 260,000 tons. On that ‘ basis, Tasmania would not be entitled to representation on the new board. It has only partial representation on the Australian Dairy Board, because of the relative unimportance of its dairy production, but has a preponderance of representation on the Apple and Pear Board, as it is the largest and most important fruitexporting State of the Commonwealth. This principle is fundamentally sound, and should not be departed from. State interests in the meat industry will be fully safeguarded by the” appointment of the proposed State, committees, which will” act in an advisory capacity to the board on meat industry matters pertaining to the State., This system- of representation has proved very successful in the existing meat control organization; the experience gained during three years of control has proved that conclusively.
Therefore, the Government intends to continue it in future in respect of, not only the .meat industry, hut also other primary industries.
The fight honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) commended the board . that is now operating for the good work it had done over a number of years and deplored the proposal to supersede it by the new board about to be constituted. That board has given general satisfaction, and has worked exclusively on the State committee principle. As the. principle has proved so successful, the Government considers that its continuance will meet the wishes of those who favour representation on a State basis.
One bone of contention has been that the chairman of the board may dissent from decisions arrived at by a majority of its members. This matter was discussed at length with the organizations of primary producers that I met in conference. They, too, are opposed to the proposal, perhaps reasonably. Viewing the matter from the stand-point of the Government and in the light of the responsibility of the Parliament, it is considered that the Minister should have the final voice in matters of serious import. Only in extraordinary circumstances, when the chairman considered that grave concern would be caused to the Commonwealth if a decision of the board from which he had dissented were given effect, and this was the only parliamentary medium through which the interest of those affected could be safeguarded, would a matter be referred to the Minister. There has been grave misunderstanding in connexion with the proposal. I believe that the Growers Council of Australia takes exception to it on the ground that any decision should be that of the board. The minutes of the meetings of the board will contain a complete record of the whole of its proceedings, including dissent by the chairman and the Minister from any decision which the board had reached. All’ and .sundry will know when the Minister overrides’ a decision of the board. Our friends opposite have- made much ado about the power that is to be given to the Minister . and his right to issue directions. I point out that under the operation of the old board a decision by the Minister on main principles has always been paramount. Practically all legislation involving the Government in any degree of financial responsibility contains the provision that any decision of importance shall be subject to confirmation by the Minister. Therefore, this is not a new principle. It was an outstanding feature of the legislation on this subject introduced by the Government composed of and supported by -honorable members opposite. Exception to it cannot reasonably be taken now.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) made certain suggestions in regard to” the term of appointment of members of the board. Obviously he had not read the bill.
– I had overlooked the provision for a term of three years. The Minister. is to have the right to re-appoint retiring members. I desire that the associations shall be entitled to submit fresh names if they so wish.
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) sought information regarding the functions of the board. These are clearly stated in section 16 of the act of 1935, but they are being added to. by clause 14 of the bill which the House is now considering. The new board will carry out all the functions of the old board and in’ addition give effect to the policy of the Government in regard to the purchase and sale of the exportable surplus of meat in accordance with the terms of the long-term purchase arrangement with the Government of the United Kingdom. Had the honorable member examined the bill more minutely he would have noted those provisions. When considering any legislation he invariably imputes sinister motives to the Minister.
The honorable member, for Richmond’ (Mr. Anthony) described me as a “ little czar “ and attributed to me autocratic tendencies that I have not got. To whatever else I may aspire, I do not wish to become a dictator or a “ czar “.
I do not think that I need say more. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) and the honorable member’ for New England have stated their intention to move amendments in committee. I cannot promise to accept any of them. . I consider that, in the circumstances, the bill goes a long way towards meeting the wishes of the meat producers throughout Australia. For the first time in their history they are to have representation upon a board that will do much to promote the future welfare of the meat industry. They will have an absolute majority on the board and will possess powers that were not conferred by the original legislation, which provided for the constitution of a board that was « to be purely advisory in character. The members of the new board are to have executive power and authority and much good will result from their operations in the immediate future. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee. -
Glauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 - . (I.) Section five of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead:- “5. - (1.) For the purposes of this Act, there shall be an Australian Meat Board. (2.) The Board shall consist of -
) one member to represent the Commonwealth Government”. (4.) Bach member appointed to represent the lamb producers, of Australia shall be a lamb producer, and the member appointed to represent the mutton producers of Australia shall be a mutton producer, appointed from persons nominated by the Graziers Federal Council of Australia or the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation or any other body approved by the Minister.
.- I moveThat, at the end of proposed new section five sub-section (2.) the following proviso be added: - “ Provided that on the said board each State shall he represented “.
Acceptance of the amendment would not enlarge the personnel of the board, because it would be easy to apportion the representatives of the various interests named in the bill among the various States. Despite the views expressed by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), there is no reason why the State representation provided in the principal act should not continue. The present act provides that each State shall have at least one representative, and my proposal is that State representation should continue. Unless each State be represented, the more populous States will dominate the meat industry to the disadvantage of the other States. The powers to’ be given to the board are wide and dictatorial. It will have full control of the industry, subject to the veto of the Minister. It will have power to purchase or sell any meat or meat product, and to manage and control all matters connected with the handling, storage, protection, treatment, transfer and shipment of any meat or meat product. This wide power should not be given to -a board whose decisions will affect every State, unless the Statesconcerned are granted representation on the board. It is almost inevitable that sooner or later meat export quotas will be imposed, and one cannot justify arrangements to fix a State quota being left in the hands of a board without the State concerned having representation on it.
– I have already replied to the points raised by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) I cannot accept his amendment.
– I strongly support the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy), and urge the Minister to accept the honorable member’s amendment. He has advanced valid reasons in support of it. I suggest that all States are not in comparable positions, even as regards one industry. In the State which I represent there is a set of circumstances which are unique in the Commonwealth. Tasmania, being an island, has to contend with difficulties with which no other States have to deal. Tasmania’s position is peculiar under this bill, because of its transport ‘ problems. Eat lambs are produced in that State on a smaller scale than in the other States, particularly as compared with Victoria, but the percentage of first-grade fat lambs produced there is the highest in the Commonwealth. I understand that 83.4 per cent,, of the output is of first-grade quality.
– Equal to Canterbury lambs.
– As the honorable member reminded me, they have been pronounced on the Smithfield market to be equal to lambs from Canterbury, in New Zealand. The industry in Tasmania produces these Iambs partly because of the favorable .climatic conditions in that State, but largely, because of the scientific manner in which the industry has been established there. The State Department of Agriculture sent its officers out to instruct .prospective producers of fat lambs as to the’ best means of laying down pastures. The industry was growing rapidly when the war intervened. Had it not been for the war, I believe that the output of the industry would’ have been much greater than it is at present. If the consideration to be given to Tasmania is to be determined by the quantity of meat’ it now produces this measure will be considered on a false basis. Expansion of the industry in Tasmania is inevitable, and because of the high quality of the meat produced it is necessary that special representation of the, State should be provided for under the bill. I cannot accept the view that similar conditions operate throughout the Commonwealth, and that people engaged in the industry in one State fully appreciate the conditions which apply in others.
. - I desire to move -
That, in proposed, new section five, subsection (2i.), paragraph (ft), after the word “ member “, the following words be inserted : - “ who shall be a producer “.
I- referred to this proposed amendment when speaking on the motion for the second reading of the bill this afternoon. It is essential that the representative of the Commonweatlh Government on the board, who will also be its chairman, should be a producer! He would be a link between the producers and the Commonwealth Government.
(Mr.. Barnard). - The honorable member would be out of order in moving such ari amendment because it seeks to amend a part of the clause earlier than the part to which the honorable member for
Wilmot (Mr. Guy) has already moved an amendment.
– But it is to the same clause.
– Yes, but it should have been moved earlier.
– Neither 1 nor any other member of my party knew of the amendment which the honorable member for Wilmot proposed to move.
– The honorable member may not debate the ruling of the Chair.
.-Would I be in order in discussing paragraphs a and b of proposed sub-section 2?
– It is in order to discuss any part of clause 4, but it is not in order to move an amendment to any part of the clause earlier than that part to which the honorable member for Wilmot moved his amendment.
– The clause provides that the board shall consist of three members to represent the lamb producers of Australia, and one member to represent the mutton producers. This might appear all very well on paper, but it is inconceivable that, a person could be a lamb producer and not a mutton producer, and vice versa.
– There are many persons in western New South Wales and Queensland who produce only mutton.
– One can hardly imagine a lamb producer who ‘ does not sometimes sell ewes. In the same way, practically every mutton producer would sometimes have lambs to sell. Therefore, the provision in the bill is superfluous. The draftsman has tried . to particularize too much, and I suggest that the clause be redrawn.
. - I move -
That, in proposed new section five, subsection (2.), paragraph (ft), after the word “ Government “ the following words be inserted - “and such member shall be a producer “.
I believe it to be essential that the chairman of the board should be himself a producer so that he may be a direct link between the producers and the Government. A considerable volume of business will be transacted while the board is not sitting and it is desirable that the chairman should be thoroughly acquainted with the producer’s point of view.
.- I support the amendment because I, too believe that the chairman should be a producer. The bill provides that the nominee of the Government shall be chairman of the board. Thus, he will hold a responsible position, and it is necessary that he should have an- intimate knowledge of the industry. Even if the Minister is not prepared to accept the amendment, I ask him to give an assurance that the person appointed to this position will he, in fact, a producer.
. -I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment. Members of the Opposition are anxious that the board shall enjoy the confidence of the producers, and nothing would tend so much to ensure this as the appointment of a producer as chairman..
– I cannot accept the amendment. ‘ In my opinion, the bill as it now stands is satisfactory. It will be found that when the chairman is appointed he will be a man of whom the producers can approve. ‘ Some organizations of primary producers, especially their executive committees, are willing that the chairman should be the controller of the meat acquisition scheme-. They say that, although he is not a producer, he has given entire satisfaction.
– The Minister’s speech is unsatisfactory to the repesentatives of the producers, and I shall ask the committee to divide on the amendment.
– I understood the Minister to say that he had not definitely rejected the pro- posal contained in the amendment. I b elieve that he desires that the chairman shall be a man who is, or has been, a producer. If he thinks otherwise, I should like him to, say so. It would appear, therefore, that the Minister’s objection is due to obstinacy. I hope that that is not the case, . and I again ask him to accept the amendment.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Abbott’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. Barnard.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Proposed new sub-section 4 reads -
Each member appointed to represent the lamb producers of Australia shall be a lamb, producer, and the member appointed to represent the mutton producers of Australia shall be a mutton .producer, appointed from persona nominated by the Graziers Federal Council of Australia, or the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation or any other body approved by the Minister.
Will the Minister explain how long the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation of Australia has been in existence? I had known for some time of the Wool Growers Association, but not for very long of the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. A federation of growers with common interests in the. production of wool would represent a body concerned with the ownership and husbandry of sheep kept primarily for their fleeces and only as a mere incident in relation to their carcasses. If the introduction of the word “ meat “ in the title of the organization is a late afterthought it would appear that this has been resorted to merely for the purpose of qualifying the association to be named in the bill. If in fact the Wool Growers Association has * recently changed its name to the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation merely for the purpose of qualifying it to be named as one of the bodies to submit to the Minister a list of prospective names, then its concern in the production of meat is clearly a function of its members newly added to those which they originally performed. Many of us who have had close association with primary industries for many years are not familiar with such an organization.
– The Wheat Growers Union in Victoria is affiliated with that organization as are also the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, and the Selectors Association of Queensland.
– The Minister has merely mentioned some, if not all, of the component organizations included in the Australian Wheat Growers Federation.
– The Selectors Association of Queensland is not affiliated with the Australian Wheat Growers Federation.
– That is so, but the other organizations named by the Minister are so affiliated. It is true that some of their members produce lambs but I would not be prepared to hazard a guess as to what proportion do so. However, very many of the members of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation are connected in only a very minor way with meat production. The core of that body is to be found among those who are solely engaged in wheat-growing, though quite a number of them undoubtedly keep sheep as a mere incident. I had no desire to combat the point. I merely seek information upon it.
– Mr. Hitchins is the federal president of the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation.
- Mr. Hitchins has for many years been president of the Wool Growers Association. Real wool-growing sheep are not of the kind that are bred for the purpose of producing fat lambs or mutton carcasses. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) advanced powerful reasons why the Australian Primary Producers Union should be accepted as a body qualified to submit nominations for appointment to the . board. If the title of the Wool Growers Association has been changed merely to qualify it as a. body to be consulted by the Minister there can be no reason why the Australian* Primary Producers Union, which includes in its membership a very large number of primary producers who are genuinely engaged in meat production should- not receive equal recognition.
– The Graziers Federal Council of Australia recognizes the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation as a body entitled to equal representation with it on the board.
– There is in existence an organization known as the Wool and “ Wheat Growers Association and now out of the blue there appears an entirely new organization of which we do not know anything.
– I have already named the organization with which it is affiliated.
– The honorable member is not entitled to proceed on a fact-finding ‘ expedition to discover the history of an organization of primary producers. The Chair has allowed the discussion, to proceed up to the present stage in order that the honorable gentleman may put his case. He has done so- and must now confine his. remarks to the clause.
– I submit that if we are asked to support a clause which recognizes’ as one of two bodies to be consulted by the Minister, the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, at least we should be entitled to ask whether such a federation in fact exists, and, if so, for how long it has existed.
.- In looking for an explanation as to why the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation should be permitted to nominate representatives of lamb and mutton producers, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) is merely beating the air. If he reads the proposed new sub-section again he will see that it contains the additional qualifying words “ or any other body approved by the Minister ‘’. The Minister must have discretionary powers to determine who is a lamb or mutton producer. The constitution of the Wheat Growers Union of New South Wales makes it mandatory that members must be wheat-growers. However, in addition to growing wheat, they may engage in other primary pursuits such as meat production. The union is affiliated with another organization whose members need not necessarily bo. wheat-growers. The provision that each member appointed to represent the la mb producers and mutton producers on the Australian Meat Board shall be appointed from persons nominated by any other body approved by the Minister apart from the Graziers Federal Council of Australia or the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation enables the Minister to break through the hotch-potch constitutions of the primary producers organizations” in order to save them from being deprived of the benefit of representation on the body concerned with their industry.
– I move-
That, in proposed new section five, subsection (4.), after the word “Federation”, the following words be inserted: - “or the Australian Primary Producers’ Union “.
– Why is it necessary to move an amendment for that purpose when it is already provided that the Minister shall have discretion to approve of any body other than those named in the proposed new sub-section as a body to nominate persons for appointment to thi’ board?
Mi-. McDONALD. - I am concerned whether the Minister will use his discretion wisely.
– Additions to the proposed new sub-section would not increase my discretionary power.
– The Australian Primary Producers Union represents more meat producers than either of the organizations named in the proposed new sub-section.
– It must have more than 100,000 members if it has more members than the other two organizations.
– It has a big membership, which is growing every day.
– The two organizations named represent meat producers throughout Australia.
– They may be representatives of the meat producers, but I do not think that they represent them to the same degree as does the Australian Primary Producers Union, because it includes a tremendous number of the smaller producers who, before it was formed, were not affiliated with any organization of primary producers. I think the Minister could do the graceful thing and establish the record of having accepted one amendment from the Opposition. That is a. record that he ought to he anxious to establish.
.” - I support the proposal of the honorable .member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) that the Australian Primary
Producers Union should specifically be given the right to nominate persons for appointment to the Australian Meat Board. It has a strong membership throughout Victoria, which produces about 60 per cent, of the lambs exported. The membership of the union is growing rapidly. In the last twelve months it has increased threefold. It is entitled to consideration in view of the fact that it represents a large section of the lamb producers of Australia. I ask the Minister to accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Corangamite and also that he be sufficiently courteous to meet a deputation from the union on this matter.
.I strongly support the proposal. of the honorable member for Corangamite that the Australian Primary Producers Union bc named as a body that may make nominations of persons for appointment to the Australian Meat Board. I need not repeat what I said about the organization in my second-reading speech, but T do impress upon the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) that it is very strong in Victoria. I have been a member since its inception and have attended meetings of it all over the State. Its membership in Victoria alone is no fewer than 10,000.
– How long has it been in existence?
– Nearly two years. It is not only a State organization. It is practically a federal organization. I understand that the Minister has refused to meet a deputation from it or to. name it in the proposed new sub-section. In the last two hours the Minister has shown sympathy towards the organization. I should like an assurance from him that he will confer with representatives of it at an early date and that it will be one of the organizations that may make nominations in the same way. as the Graziers Federal Council of Australia and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation are entitled to make nominations. Whilst the Graziers Federal Council of Australia is a wellknown body, we have never heard of the mysterious organization named the Australian Wool and Meat Producers
Federation. It is less important than the Australian Primary Producers Union. I urge the Minister to accept the amendment.
– I support the amendment. The Minister appears to be obsessed with the importance of a word. The organizations named in the bill are the Graziers Federal Council of Australia and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. Evidently, the words “Federal” and “ Federation “ are the qualification for inclusion in -the bill. The Australian Primary Producers Union has membership in four States which surely gives* it status as a federal organization. 1 particularly favour its inclusion in this clause because its represents in a very particular way the. small producer. Repeatedly, legislation which is introduced by this Government favours the large producer, the big business man, and large organizations. In Tasmania it is not such a strong organization as it is in other States, but still it represents a large section of producers. Therefore, it should be incorporated- in this provision.
.Honorable members opposite imply that Government supporters are opposed to the inclusion on the Australian Meat Board of a representative of the Australian Primary Producers Union. That is not so. As I pointed out earlier, the provision allows the Minister to give full recognition to the claims of all these organizations. If the Opposition, by its persistence, seeks to have the name of a particular organization inserted in this proposed sub-section, there is no reason why the names of half a dozen other organizations should not also be included. To carry the argument a stage further, we could fill pages of this hill with the names of primary producers organizations that could advance arguments in support of their inclusion.
– They would not be federations.
– To designate an organization a “ federation “ does not distinguish it substantially from other similar organizations. The fact that a union divided itself into five groups in one State, or spreads itself beyond the boundaries of one State and regards itself as a federation or union, does not necessarily increase its importance. Our opposition to this amendment does not mean that we refuse to admit that the Australian Primary Producers Union should be included among the bodies which are entitled to representation on the board, but is dictated by the necessity to preserve brevity in the definition of the organizations.
– To every amendment which the Opposition submits, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) should give a considered reply. The purpose of the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) is to incorporate in proposed sub-section 4 the Australian Primary Producers Union. This organization extends to four States, and represents in some States, at least, if not in the majority of them, the small producers of lamb and mutton. Therefore, this union is entitled to be considered when the Australian Meat Board is being constituted. So far, the Minister has not replied to the proposal. Certainly, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) stated that there was no reason why half a dozen other primary producers’ organizations should not be considered in the same category as the Australian Primary Producers Union. That statement will not bear examination, because the honorable member cannot name any other organization which extends to more than three States and represents so many producers of lamb and mutton. The Australian Primary Producers Union is rapidly extending its influence throughout Australia. Already, it has a very big hold in four States. That should not escape the attention of the Government. If the Minister has any valid reason for. oppos-ing the amendment, I invite him to state it.
– I move -
That, in proposed new section five, subsection (4.), after the word “body”, the following words be inserted : - “ of producers federally constituted “.
Nothing has convinced me of the necessity for this amendment more than the speech of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen). He declared that he could name dozens of primary producers’ organizations and fill pages of the bill with their names. As the proposed new sub-section is now drafted, it means that some day some Minister may name a polo club, croquet club or a dog and cat society-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I remind the honorable member that we are discussing the composition of the Australian Meat Board.
– The Minister might nominate- small State bodies with no federal ramifications. The adoption of my amendment will ensure the exclusion’ of “ tiddly-winking “ organizations of which the honorable member for Calare spoke.
– I now propose to test the Minister’s sincerity, following the rejection of the amendment moved by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). What I suggest is simply a drafting amendment. I am certain that the Minister does not mean any other body, but that what is intended is any other body of primary producers. I want to ascertain whether the Minister will be sensible enough to accept my suggestion, which is designed solely to improve the drafting of the clause.
– I do not think that such an amendment is necessary.
– I strongly support the views expressed by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) . The proposed new sub-section is loosely drafted. “ Any other body “ might embrace, a body of Rechabites or “ soakers “. Will the Minister undertake to have the clause reexamined when the bill is before the Senate ?
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Section ten of the. principal act is amended -
– I move -
That in proposed new sub-section (5a.), after the word “ Board second occurring, the following words be inserted: - “other than a decision with respect to the allocation of moneys forming part of the fund “.
I dealt fully with the reason for my amendment when speaking to the motion for the second reading of the hill. I again remind honorable members that two classes .of moneys are involved; first, moneys which are made available from the public purse, that is “from the taxpayers as a whole, to finance transactions between the Government and the Government of the United Kingdom; and, secondly, moneys which are derived from a levy upon meat exported, that is, a levy upon the industry itself. Under the principal act the board had certain powers which were largely of an advisory character but in some respects those powers were quite definite because they referred -to measures to improve export methods and the promotion of sales of meat in other countries. The money required to finance such activities was raised by an export levy upon the industry. The objections voiced by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) in his second-reading speech to the suggestion made by honorable members on this side of the chamber to delete the veto power of the chairman arose from the fact that certain public moneys were to be made available to the industry under the scheme. I agree with that contention; and I do not propose to repeat my arguments on the point. Parliament, is responsible for the expenditure of public moneys ; but moneys which are derived from a levy upon the industry fall into a different category, and in respect of such moneys I submit that the chairman should not have the power of veto. My amendment, if carried, will merely restore to the board a power which it originally .enjoyed. I ‘submit that, in fairness to the industry which will provide these -moneys, the Minister should accept my amendment.
. –The clause in its present form must stand4 The proposed amendment limiting the power of dissent to the financial activities of the board is not sound. There are policy decisions which ultimately may affect the funds advanced by the Commonwealth Government to the board which may not be acceptable1 to the Commonwealth Government. The power of dissent from such decisions must, therefore, remain with the chairman. I cannot accept the amendment.
– I refer particularly to the activities of the previous board. Under this measure entirely new, and almost despotic, powers over .all phases of the industry are to be given to the board; and these powers involve the expenditure of public moneys. I am not referring to those moneys, but to. moneys used to finance the activities of the board to which I have referred and which are raised by a levy upon the. industry itself. In respect of those moneys, the chairman should have no right of veto at all. The expenditure of such moneys should be a matter for a majority decision of members of the board.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
Section twelve of the principal act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “’ (2.) The members of the Meat Advisory Committee for a State shall be appointed by the Minister and shall comprise representatives of such sections of the meat industry in the State as, in the opinion of the Minister, will constitute a Committee adequately representative of that industry.
– I move -
That in proposed new section twelve, after sub-section (2.), the following new sub-section be inserted: - “ (2a.) A majority of the members of each such committee shall be producers and each member shall be appointed from persons nominated by a State organization of lamb, mutton, beef or pig producers affiliated with a body specified in sub-section (4.) of section five of this Act.”
My object is to bring the State meat advisory committees into line with the Australian Meat Board, in regard . to representation on them, by. providing that the members to be nominated by each producer organization shall be nominated by bodies’ affiliated with the federal organization. I propose that nomination shall be taken out of the hands of. the Minister. I hope that the honorable gentleman will accept the amendment.
– I cannot accept the amendment.I discussed this matter with the organizations of producers at the conference to which I have referred. I then definitely promised that, when appointments were to be made to State Advisory Committees, they would be consulted and would have the right’ to elect the chairman, who would be in direct liaison with the Australian Meat Board. I believe that they were almost prepared to agree to that. It is not intended to go beyond the organizations in the different States.
– And there will be a majority of representatives of producers on the State Advisory Committees? .
. Continually during the debate it has been pointed, out that, unfortunately, organizations of producers have not enrolled’ in their ranks anything like a majority of the men engaged in production. We frequently have the spectacle of two or more rival producer organizations advocating contrary policies. I witnessed such a spectacle in the last couple of days. At least three groups of primary producers have put forward policies, each of which differs in some degree from the others. Each group has asked’ me to’ support its scheme. I have not the wisdom of Solomon, and do not intend to be placed in the position of having to “divide the child”. I put it to the committee that, because of the paucity of organization among the primary producers, the Minister must determine who shall be appointed, without rival organizations pressing for his approval of their representatives, in view of the fact that each man would be instructed to advocate a different policy should he be appointed to the board. Whoever may be appointed cannot, in effect, be in complete accord with the policy of all the producers. The majority of the producers in a particular electorate may be outside any organization. That being the case, the members of this Parliament who represent rural constituencies can more truly speak on behalf of a group of farmers than could even a direct representative of a number of. farmers in an industrial organization. The Minister is wise in refusing to accept the amendment, and in insisting on the passage of the clause as drafted.
– The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) has given specious reasons in support of the rejection of the amendment. The Minister (Mr. Scully) has stated that he agreed that the organizations should be consulted and be allowed to select the chairman of the State Advisory Committees. In other words, he gave me to understand that he endorsed the aim of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) in connexion with the procedure for the election of those committees. If that be so, why not have the matter stated in the bill? I can see no reason why a procedure deemed to be correct should not be stated in black and white in the bill.
– The honorable member for New England trusts me, and accepts my assurance.
– The matter is not one of trusting an individual, who is here to-day and passes on to-morrow. The law is what is printed in an act of Parliament, not the idea of any Minister. A Minister may say, “ I accept your submission, and will do what you suggest”, but that does not appear in black and white in an act and consequently does not become the law of the country. Under the clause as drafted, any Minister of the Crown could appoint any person he chose to an advisory committee. The matter could affect any government, because the law is involved. Consequently, there is the possibility of corruption, and that is something against which every precaution should be taken in an act of Parliament. Therefore, the Minister would be acting fairly by himself, and giving a correct interpretation of the law, if he were to accept the amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 13 agreed to.
Section sixteen of the principal Act is amended by inserting after paragraph (d) the following word and paragraph: - “’ ; and (e) on behalf of the Commonwealth and subject to any directions of the Minister -
to purchase any meat, meat product or edible offal;
to sell any meat, meat product or edible offal ; or
to manage and control all matters connected with the handling, storage, protection, treatment, transfer and shipment of any meat, meat product or edible offal purchased by the Commonwealth.”.
– I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added: - “ (2.) Section sixteen of the principal act is further amended, by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section: - (2.) The powers conferred on the board by paragraph (e) of the last preceeding sub-section shall not be exercised after the Thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and forty-nine.’ “.
This relates to the powers to be conferred on the new board, quite apart from those conferred on the original board. The new powers permit the Commonwealth Government, at the direction of the Minister, to purchase any meat, meat product or edible offal; to sell any meat, meat product or edible offal; or to manage and control all matters connected with the handling, storage, protection, treatment, transfer and shipment of any meat, meat product or edible offal purchased by the Commonwealth. The reason for giving such powers to the board is that to-day we have government purchase. So far as I can see, government purchase will continue until 1948, when the present arrangement between the United Kingdom and Australia will be terminated. A departmental officer is now in Great Britain negotiating as to meat contracts and prices, and I hope that, as a result, meat export prices will be increased.’ Does the Minister intend that the present purchasing arrangement shall continue after 1948? The Government could establish a trade organization, and if that is its intention I should like to know of it. Ministers have a certain political philosophy at the back of their minds, and I. should like to know whether they intend to socialize the meat industry, in whole or in part. If the Government intends merely that -the powers to be conferred under the bill shall continue until 1948 I have no objection to the measure, but why not limit those powers to the period desired? Any form of State enterprise which acts as an assistant to private enterprise will be supported by the Opposition, but any. measure which aims at subjecting the individual to the whims of the State will be strenuously opposed.
.The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) has suggested a plan for putting a floor in the meat market. The difficulty experienced in the past has been to evolve a plan which would be practicable, and at the same time would not leave on the hands of the board a greater supply of meat than could be sold. Certain primary producers have suggested that the Government should fix a floor price for meat on the hoof. That matter has been discussed at meetings of branches of the New South Wales Graziers Association, and has been sent on to the Graziers Federal Council, but no organization has evolved a concrete plan by which the Government could establish a floor price for meat by buying stock.
– Does the honorable member suggest a permanent plan?
– I am confining my remarks to the principles of the plan, and am not referring to one that might be suitable for a limited period. The purpose of the bill is to stabilize the industry, and a plan which might prove to be unworkable in the near future should not be allowed to place the Government in such a position that it would have to standor fall by it. The principle written into this plan will enable the Government to amend it, if necessary. If a great deal of meat came on the market and could not be cleared, the Government might be able to evolve a temporary expedient. I cannot visualize the Government trying to put a floor in the market by buying meat. It might utilize price fixation, but . if buyers did not wish to pay the price fixed, the producers might be left with their stock.
– I support the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson). The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen), who does not lack frankness, gave interesting reasons why the Government has introduced this bill. He said that the purpose of the legislation, was- stabilization, and that a principle is written into the measure for the purpose of putting a floor in the meat market.’ Most people do not object to floors in houses, but some of us object to a government fixing a low ceiling price for meat, so that the producer will not get for his product the price that he deserves. It is interesting to note that the honorable member for Calare advanced an entirely different reason for the introduction of this bill from that given by the Minister (Mr. Scully) in his second-reading speech. The Minister said that the purpose of the measure is to provide for the reconstitution of the Australian Meat Board, and to grant to the board additional powers necessary to enable it to carry out work in relation to the long-term purchase agreement covering meat export entered into between the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. The. Minister did not say anything about the principles referred to by the honorable” member for Calare. Perhaps he spoke on different lines in caucus, and the honorable member for Calare has. been guided by what the Minister said there. That is what is worrying the honorable member for Deakin and other honorable members.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.What has happened in caucus is not under discussion by the committee.
– Is this legislation intended to implement a long-term agreement between the United Kingdom and Australia for three years, or is it intended under the cloak of that agreement to do something entirely different? If so, let the Minister say so ; if not, let him deny it. I suggest that room should be left for the exploitation of markets in places other than the United Kingdom. The greatness of Great Britain and of the United States of America was established upon the principle that the trade followed the flag. In other words, traders found their own markets by their own initiative. There is in the United States of America at the present time a market for our lamb, and that, market should be exploited. However, there will be little, opportunity for this if the export trade is to be “ cribbed, cabined and confined “ by a scheme of indefinite duration.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 15 to 18 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act-
Appointments - Department of External Affairs- L. H.E. Bury, T. A. Pyman.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 120.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Applications for relief dealt with during the year 1945-46.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for-.
Commonwealth purposes - Wyndham, Western Australia.
Postal purposes - Brisbane, Queensland.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice - =
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows :-
asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice-
– The answers to- the honorable member’s questions, are as follows: - ]. Figures relating to numbers of dairy heifers in Australia are not available for years prior to 1943, and the figures for 1946 for all classes of dairy cattle are not yet available. The following table sets out comparative figures as at the beginning of 1940, the 3>lst March, 1043, and 3 1st “March. 1945:-
Commonwealth Bank : Housing and
Industrial Loans. i”
y. - On the 16th July, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) asked a question regarding advances made by the Commonwealth Bank for housing and industrial purposes.
I now inform the honorable member that, during the six months from the inception of housing loans to the 30th June, 1946, 961 Credit Foncier loans to individuals were approved for a total amount of £920,000. In addition^ finance totalling £5,100,000 has been approved for building societies since the end of the war. From the inception of the Industrial Finance Department on the 2nd January, 1946, to the -30th June, 1946, 1,033 advances were approved, totalling £1,571,615.
e. - On’ the 12th July, the right honorable member .for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) on the motion for the adjournment/ complained at some length about the administration of import licensing regulations by the Division of Import Procurement. The honorable member mentioned, in particular, ballbearings for harvested- machines, 1-lb. hammers supplied with certain agricultural implements, and ‘roller-chain for agricultural implements.
It is not possible, from the particulars given, to identify definitely the bam- ‘ bearing transactions, but I have ascertained that an application for the importation of ball-bearings from Sweden was received by the Division of Import Procurement on the 23rd January, 1946, no supporting data being given. ‘ On the 27 th February, the applicant was advised that licence would be granted for 4,544 bearings, but that the balance of 1,900 bearings was available from United Kingdom sources. This advice was based on the best information available to the department. The licence was issued on the 7th March - six weeks after receipt of the application, not three months as charged by the right honorable member. Only in June was the department advised of possible difficulty in obtaining delivery from the United Kingdom and subsequent information from the United Kingdom indicated that at least half of the most important types could be delivered within twelve to fourteen weeks. It is the practice of the department to check applications for import licences for ball-bearings first against surplus stocks held- by the Department of ‘ Munitions and secondly against available supplies from the United Kingdom. However, to avoid the possibility of harmful delays, the Division of Import Procurement some time ago authorized the granting of licences to a total value of £20,000 c.i.f. & e. to S.K.F.- Ball Bearing Company (Australia) Proprietary Limited, without such check. In regard to 1-lb. hammers, the particulars given are insufficient to identify the transaction in the departmental records, but if the right honorable member will supply more details, a further inquiry will be made. Three applications were received (on the 13th, 14th , and 20th May respectively) for licences to import roller-chain. The issue of licences in respect of all three applications was authorized on the 20th June. During the war, stocks of motorvehicle and tractor spare parts were maintained by Government purchase in order to avoid break-downs of essential equipment. The slight delay which occurred was unavoidable, as it was necessary to check the goods shown on the applications against remaining stocks. The right honorable member will realize that the process of checking licence applications against available supplies, first inside Australia and secondly from sterling sources, which is essential if our limited overseas currency resources are to be conserved for essential requirements, inevitably involves a certain amount of delay. The delays encountered are not excessive in view of the great volume of transactions involved.
Empire TRADE Preference.
– On the 19th July, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) asked a question concerning the conditions governing the application of preferential rates of duty on goods produced by Empire countries.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now informed me that duties under the Australian Customs Tariff are payable on goods in the condition in which they are imported, and not on the materials as such which are used in their manufacture. The tariff does not prescribe British Empire Preferential rates of duty. The tariff preferences granted by the Commonwealth are the subjects of separate agreements with the United Kingdom, the Dominion of Canada and the ‘ Dominion of New Zealand. The rates of duty, and therefore the margins of preference, negotiated with these countries vary and, in view of this, variation an Empire qualifying content is not practicable but the value of Australian materials used in making goods for which, on importation, preference is claimed may be included in calculating the qualifying content. The honorable member may be referring to a recent case in which material of United Kingdom origin was used in the manufacture of certain goods in New Zealand. The finished goods were not the produce or manufacture of New Zealand, as prescribed, that is/less than 50 per cent, of their factory cost was represented by New Zealand and Australian labour and material, and duty at the General Tariff rate was correctly leviable. Similar material is made in Australia, and if such material had been used in the manufacture of the goods in New Zealand, the finished goods would have been admitted at the special rate of duty applicable to goods when the produce or manufacture of New Zealand.
This special preferential rate of duty is lower than that applicable to such goods when of United- Kingdom origin. In addition, the finished goods are of a kind made in Australia in substantial” quantities. Any change along the lines suggested by the honorable member would be inimical, to Australian industry.
Mr.Chifley. - On the 19th July, the honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked questions in the following terms : -
The answers’ to the questions, as enumerated above, are as follows: -
Northern Territory: Ambulance at Tennant Creek; Tobacco Supplies.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will he arrange for an ambulance to be provided in conjunction with the public hospital at Tennant Creek?
– An ambulance service which meets present requirements is provided at Tennant Creek by means of a utility car. When new ambulances become available, consideration will be given to stationing one at Tennant Creek.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Custom’s, upon notice -
To whom in the southern States should the people of the Northern Territory apply to secure, through the tobacco manufacturers’ system of rationing, their supplies of tobacco in the Northern Territory?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer : -
As the honorable member is no doubt aware, the Commonwealth Government has had no control of tobacco distribution since the repeal of the National Security (Tobacco Rationing) Regulations last March. I suggest that the honorable member direct his inquiries to the Tobacco Manufacturers Committee, Box 5014, G.P.O., Sydney.
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are , as follows : -
e. - On the 26th June, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) asked the following questions: -
Will the Minister for the Army supply me with the number of persons who applied for exemption from military service during the World War II. on conscientious grounds? How many of those applications were granted?
The information sought by the honorable member is as follows: -
Number of applicants, 2,725; number granted unconditional exemption, 40; number granted exemption but’ required to perform essential non-milita ry employment,973 ; number granted exemption from combatant duties’ but enlisted to perform non-combatant duties only, 1,076; applications rejected, 630; total, 2,725. The above figures relate to the period ended the 31st December, 1943. After that date the intake of personnel into the Army was governed by the number made available by the Man-power Directorate.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
What percentage of (a) commissioned officers and (b) other ranks of the Eighth Division, Australian Imperial Force, lost their lives in Japanese hands after the fall of Singapore?
e. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
e. - The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers: -
Great Britain. America is unable to provide all of its requirements from its own resources and has instituted export restrictions. Demands in devastated Europe are so great that there are as yet no indications of any supplies of timber being available to Australia from the Baltic countries which are the only other large exporters.
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
e. - On the 26th June, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked a question concerning the export of woollen cloth. The honorable member especially referred- to shipments to Russia and asked why such exports were permitted and whether they were to be allowed to continue.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now informed me that the shipment to Russia, which was on account of Unrra, consisted of woollen material of the heavy over-coating and blanketing . types. There have been no exports of worsted cloth to Russia. Exports of worsted cloth, including single- weft material, also of cloth of woollen and worsted mixture, have for some time past been controlled within rigid limits. It has now been decided to suspend, for the time being, the issue of permits to export worsted-content cloth, with the exception of small token shipments already authorized.
Austria: Russian Reparation Claims.
y.- On the 10th July, the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) asked a question regarding the alleged seizure by Russia of industrial plant in Austria on the plea of reparations.
I am now able to supply the following answer : -
The present allied authority in Austria is the Allied Control Council, which consists of representatives of the United Kingdom, United States of America, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and France. Detailed reports of the incident referred to have not been received by the Australian Government but it is in possession of general information regarding differences of interpretation between members of the Allied Control Council concerning German assets in that country .and their allocation as reparations. The matter is being dealt with by the proper authority, viz., the Allied Control Council, with a view to resolving the differences which have arisen. In due course Australia, like other active belligerents, desires to have the opportunity to. participate in any final settlement with Austria.
Suits for ex-Servicemen: Method of Disposal.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
e - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Treasurer.. upon notice -
What has -been the cost to Australia of exchange on government interest payments overseas for the last financial year?
– The total amount of exchange paid on remittances to meet interest payments overseas by the Commonwealth and the State governments during the financial year 1945-46 was approximately £5,048,000.
s asked the Prime Minister,’ upon notice^-
Will he ascertain whether the commission’s recommendations .or any of them could lie implemented in Australia, especially those relating to -
– Advice has been received from the Australian High Commissioner, Ottawa, that the text of the report of the Canadian royal commis– sion investigating . Russian spy and espionage activities has been despatched, by air mail. As soon as the .text of the report has been received and examined, consideration will be given to the request of the honorable member.
Postmaster-General’s Department : Construction Programme; Telephone Services.
l. - Recently the honorable . member for Maranoa . (Mr. Adermann) asked the following question ; -
What amount waa spent by the department on constructional work during the financial year 1D45-4U in: (a) the Commonwealth, (d) each State’, and’(o) the capital city of each State?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer:-
In reply- to. the honorable member’s question concerning ‘ (a) and (</), -information was given in the House .on the 18th July. With regard to item (o). the expenditure figures, are as set out hereunder: .Sydney, £1,255,000; Melbourne, £712.50(1.-. Brisbane. £3()U.(10U; Adelaide, £110.000: Perth, £103,270; Hobart, £29,000; total. f2.51S.77U.
– On the 18th July, the honorable, member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) asked whether, .it would be possible to press on with the extension of telephone services in “country districts, and if consideration could be given to the urgent need to provide trunk line services in outlying centres and to reduce charges to primary producers in . cennexion with the installation of telephones.
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer: -
The need for extending, improving ana cheapening the cost of telephone facilities in country districts is fully appreciated. As a practical step in this direction, the conditions governing the provision of exchange services were overhauled last year, and the maximum amount which the department normally spends on the construction of individual services was increased from £50 to £100. Concurrently, reductions were effected in the rental charges on all services extending more than two mile radially from the connecting exchange, and the subscribers concerned benefited by a reduction in rental-charges to the extent of- approximately £30.000 per annum. The ‘ provision . of additional trunk line circuits in outlying centres’ is proceeding as- rapidly as the circumstances will permit. The- progress made in this respect is dependent on the availability of materials and skilled man-power. In addition, investigations are proceeding with a view to determining the practicability of utilizing radio telephone facilities as an adjunct to the. land-line system in outback areas. The wort of establishing an experimental unit in the Broken Hill district is -well. advanced and it ia hoped that the service which will be opened at an early date will provide valuable data 011 the- usefulness of radio in isolated centres.
l. - On the 3rd July, the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) asked . the ‘ following question : -
In view of the vastly differing amounts of telephonic business transacted, in post office telephone exchanges, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General consider, the possibility of grading telephonists, ae is the practice with nil classes of male postal employees, .to ensure that pir ls called upon to fill, the’ more difficult positions shall be amply compensated for their extra skill?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer: -
The. rates of pay and conditions of employment of telephonists arc fixed in accordance with a determination made by the Common, wealth Public Service Arbitrator, and provision is made for salary advancement from the mini mum to the maximum -by regular annual increments. With regard to mail officers, advancement to the maximum salary scale is dependent on the passing of certain prescribed tests, hut this is not necessary in the case of telephonists who may, however, become eligible for advancement to the lusher positions of monitor or supervisor on passing a qualifying examination consisting of practical and theoretical tests relating to telephone work.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 July 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460724_reps_17_188/>.