18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. George Lawson made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the electoral Division of Brisbane.
Acknowledgment by His Majesty The King.
– I desire to inform the House that, after the adjournment of the House on the 6th December last, I received from His Royal Highness the Governor-General the following communication in connexion with the AddressinReply : -
I desire to acquaint you that the AddressinReply at the opening of the Eighteenth Parliament was duly laid before His Majesty the King, and I am commanded to convey to you and to honorable members His Majesty’s sincere thanks for the loyal message to which your address gives expression.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1946-47.
Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) 1946.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill (No. 2) 1946.
Customs Tariff (Special War Duty) Validation Bill 1946.
Excise Tariff Validation Bill (No. 2) 1946.
States Grants (Drought Belief) Bill 1946.
Wheat Industry Assistance Bill 1946.
States Grants Bill . 1946.
Ministers of State Bill 1946.
Census and Statistics Bill 1946.
Qantas Empire Airways Agreement Bill 1946.
Loan (Housing) Bill 1946.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill 1946.
Wheat Tax Bill 1946.
Wheat Export Charge Bill (No. 2) 1946.
Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill (No. 2) 1946.
Constitution Alteration (Social Services) Bill 1946.
– Because of the acute shortage of wire netting in country areas, which makes it impossible for landowners to cope with the rabbit pest and to comply with the demands of the Pastures Protection Board for the destruction of rabbits, as well as the many prosecutions that have been instituted recently on account of failure in that respect, will the Minister for Works and Housing ask the State authorities to do all that they can to speed up deliveries of wire netting in country areas ?
– The manufacture of wire and wire netting is still suffering from the effects of the war. Whereas in pre-war years about 12,000 tons of wire was produced annually, of which a fair proportion was exported, at present only about 7,8.00 tons is being produced each year. In the circumstances, the Government has prohibited the export of wire and wire netting. About twelve months ago my department took over the control of the manufacture and distribution of wire used in making wire netting with the result that the production has practically doubled. The Government is encouraging the manufacture of wire for essential purposes and has received assurances that additional factories for the manufacture of this commodity will be established. One new factory is expected to commence production by the end of this year, and it is hoped that Australia will soon again enter the export market for this commodity.
– Oan the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that the Government has altered the wage-pegging regulations to provide that employees who claim that the nature of their work has been altered, or that additional duties have been imposed on them, may receive added emoluments? Is he also aware that effect has been given to the altered regulations by many shire and municipal councils? If so, what action does the Government propose to take in connexion with Commonwealth Public Service employees?
– It is a fact that the wage-pegging regulations have been altered, but at this stage I do not propose to go into details, except to say that the alterations permit any industrial tribunal to make marginal increases within the limits prescribed by the formula.
– And also local governing bodies ?
– I am not aware of the matters to which the honorable mem ber has referred. All industrial tribunals have that power. So far as I know, practically all shire and municipal councils in New South Wales are working under State awards. Commonwealth Public Service employees are in precisely the same position; the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator can, on application by the unions covering such employees, increase within the limits of the formula, the marginal payments to such employees. The unions covering Commonwealth Government employees number 22, and they have presented a claim to the Public Service Commissioner, but not to the Public Service Arbitrator. It was realized that that number of unions could not be heard separately, and so the High Council of the Public Service unions - a body representing 22 unions of Commonwealth Government employees - requested that five representatives of the High Council should meet the Public Service Commissioner, and myself if necessary, to discuss their claim. It was pointed out that postal employees were not affiliated with the High Council, and . it was decided to ask their representative, Mr. Dwyer, the federal secretary, to join with the representatives of the High Council in discussing the matter with the Public Service Board, and with me, as the Minister administering the Public Service. The discussions began on the 14th February, and ‘ have continued. The representatives of the unions again met the Public Service Commissioner last week. Certain offers were made regarding adjustments, and I understand that they have referred the matter to their unions. So far, no claim has been submitted to the Public Service Arbitrator, who is the person to determine the matter, but I understand that a move will be made very shortly. I cannot give the honorable member any further information at this stage.
Automatic Exchange for Toowong
– Can the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral state when the automatic telephone exchange at Toowong will be completed? “Will the Minister see that instructions are issued to responsible officers that sufficient equipment is installed in the exchange to enable all residents of the Toowong district to have the benefit of the automatic service at the same time as this convenience is long overdue?
– I shall be happy to ask the Postmaster-General to provide answers to the questions asked by the honorable member for Brisbane, whom everybody is delighted to see back in his place.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that when he promised to consider the claim of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions that taxation should be reduced as a step towards relieving industrial tension, he submitted impressive Treasury figures to support his argument in opposition to any tax reduction at this stage? If so, will he inform the House of the nature of the figures, and will he make the same figures and data available to me?
– About twelve months ago, when discussions were held with union representatives, I did circulate some figures relating specifically to taxation, but I presume that the right honorable gentleman is referring to something that took place in recent months.
– In recent weeks.
– I can give the right honorable gentleman an assurance that T. have not submitted in writing any figures at all. It is true that on one occasion, when representatives of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions were in Canberra, they raised the subject of taxation, but I cannot remember whether it related specifically to taxation of incomes under £300 a year. I do not think it did. As I remember it, the president of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions asked me for information about any proposed tax reductions, and it is true that I made some remarks on the subject, but I did not submit any figures. I may have mentioned some amount in what was a very short talk, lasting five minutes perhaps. The Minister for Health (Senator
McKenna) addressed a union conference in Melbourne, and I think he discussed taxation, and submitted some figures, but no proposals regarding taxation were made by Senator McKenna or by me. As for the second part of the right honorable gentleman’s question, I am always delighted to give him all the information I possibly can.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping state how many motor cars from the Army, Navy and Air Force released through the Commonwealth Disposals Commission have been allocated to South Australia? Will he supply the names of the firms in the trade that have handled these vehicles; and will he also state the order of priorities for the supply of the vehicles?
– As the honorable member advised me that he would be seeking information on these matters, I took the opportunity of ascertaining the exact position from the Minister for Supply and Shipping. The answers supplied to me by the Minister are as follow : -
For the honorable gentleman’s information, the cars declared would not exceed 2 per cent, of total motor transport vehicles made available to the Commission. A check is being made of total declarations in all States. The releases in Victoria are 14,870 trucks and 288 cars. Many of the cars declared are wrecks which can be used only for recovery of components.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House of the Government’3 intention in regard to the disposal of potatoes grown on acreages allotted under the 1947 scheme, but for the disposal of which no contracts were signed?
– The great majority of Australian potato-growers have signed contracts with the Australian Potato Committee. A small number of growers in Tasmania, however, have refused to sign such contracts. Under the regulations applying to the marketing of potatoes those growers will be required to market their crops at ruling prices fixed by the Prices Commissioner.
– In view of the deplorable condition and the urgent need for the construction or reconstruction of many country roads, will the Government give consideration to the need for increasing the amount of money paid by the Commonwealth to the States under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement?
– As the honorable member knows, the Federal Aid Roads Agreement terminates on the 30th June next. The Minister for Transport and a sub-committee of Cabinet have been examining the agreement in order to ascertain whether it should be continued, and if so, in what form, and what amount should be paid to the States under it. An opportunity has been taken to hear the views of the various authorities associated with road transport, and the Minister for Transport has discussed the matter with the State Transport Advisory Council, and with representatives of those shires and municipalities which are’ making claims for some share of the moneys set aside for road construction and maintenance. Representations have also been made in the matter by other bodies, including the Royal Automobile Club. I hope that within the next week the Government will be able to announce its decision in regard to the allocation of moneys for this purpose.
– Has the Minister for Externa] Affairs received a request from representatives of ex-service men and women who were prisoners of Avar in the hands of the Japanese that he demand reparations on their behalf from Japan? Has any action been taken in this direction; if not, what does the right honorable gentlemen propose to do in the matter ?
– The claims that have been made will be considered at the appropriate time, when peace negotiations in relation to Japan are being conducted. The matter will be taken up first with the Government of the United Kingdom and other British governments, and then with governments of the Allied Nations. I shall keep the honorable member and the House informed of what is being done in this matter. It must be quite obvious that when claims of this nature are pursued we must act jointly with other allied countries concerned.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that the Central Council of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees’ Federation has indicated to the Government the likelihood of a general stoppage in the coal-mining industry on the 28th of this month unless the Joint Coal Board, for which provision was made in recent legislation, starts to function? Is it a fact that, the personnel of this board has to be endorsed by the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales? If so, will the right honorable gentleman endeavour to expedite the matter in order to obviate the industrial troubles which I believe could be eliminated by the new body?
– It is true that the personnel of the Joint Coal Board has to be approved by the Premier of New South Wales and myself as also has the person selected to act as a Coal Industry Tribunal, which is the industrial authority under the relevant legislation. Great difficulty has been experienced by the Premier of New South Wales and myself in getting suitable men to occupy the positions. Apparently there was a general fear that the task of maintaining peace in this troublous industry would be very difficult. Ultimately, three men were selected and their names announced, and nearly every part of the act has been proclaimed. There has been a little delay in the gazettal of the names of the members of the Joint Coal Board due to some legal difficulty in regard to the terms of the agreement with these particular individuals, but the chairman actually commenced his preparatory work on the 1st January, and, I understand, the other members, although their names have not yet been gazetted, are engaged in surveying the position. I am hopeful that these names will be gazetted within the next week. Some difficulty has been experienced also in connexion with the appointment of a Coal Industry Tribunal. The appointment is for seven years, and as certain legal qualifications are necessary, an endeavour has been made to secure the services of a member of the legal profession, acceptable to both the Premier of New South Wales and myself. I hope to be able to make an announcement in regard to the tribunal to-morrow night. It is true that I have received information about the possibility of a general strike in the industry. It is not the first intimation of that character that I have received.
– In view of the acute food crisis in Great Britain and of the good example set by the people of Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and Argentina, who have sent gifts of food to that country, will the Prime Minister see whether a better governmental effort to help the British people is not possible? Will he consider setting up an all-party parliamentary committee to inquire into ways and means of increasing food shipments?
– Answering questions of a similar character previously I intimated, I think, that all the food that could possibly be spared was being sent to Britain. It is true that at one particular period the British Government was not able to provide shipping for additional sugar that was offered.
– That was three years ago.
– That, was when the late Mr. Curtin was Prime Minister. It is also true that there has been a back log in regard to the shipping of sugar. In some cases the British Government has arranged to divert sugar and obtain supplies from the West Indies. Every possible effort is being made to provide Britain with all the food that can be sent.
– What about New Zealand ?
– Rationing in Australia in order to provide food for Britain is as severe as it is in Canada and probably more severe than in New Zealand. I will consider the honorable member’s suggestion that a. parliamentary committee be set up.
.- On the 8th November, 1946, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked the Prime Minister questions relating to published allegations that the electoral rolls used in the Ashfield by-election held on the 9th November, 1946, contained the names of more than 1,000 persons who did not live in the electorate. The Prime Minister instructed me as the Minister responsible for the administration of the Commonwealth Electoral Act to have an investigation made with the object of ascertaining whether there was any truth in the allegations. Accordingly, the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth was directed to undertake a searching inquiry.
I lay on the table the following paper, which shows the result of the investigations of the Chief Electoral Officer : -
Electoral Rolls for certain sub-divisions of Martin and Parkes - Alleged irregularities - Report by Chief Electoral Officer, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
– In view of the grave shortage of linseed supplies in Australia, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture make representations to the State Departments of Agriculture through the appropriate Ministers to increase production of linseed throughout Australia ?
– I shall be glad to make the necessary representations to the State Departments of Agriculture. I understand that Meggitts Limited, of Sydney, is already taking some steps by which it is supplying seed to certain people from whom in turn it will buy the linseed. I believe that the State Departments of Agriculture and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will give every possible assistance. The Commonwealth Department of Commerce and Agriculture will cooperate.
Preference in Employment - Rural Training .of ex-Servicemen.
– Certain sections of. the Re-establishment and Employment Act provide for the granting of preference in employment to persons who were not members of the fighting forces. Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction inform me how many persons who were not members of the services have been granted preference in employment to date? Will he lay on the table of the House all the relevant papers in connexion with their applications for and the granting of preference?
– I shall obtain for the honorable member as speedily as possible the information that he requires. At the moment, I understand, the number of individuals to whom preference has been granted and who are not ex-service personnel, is extremely small.
– Ex-servicemen who are undergoing rural training will shortly complete their training, but many of the farms that are being prepared for them will not be in production for from twelve months to two years. During this interim period, hardship will be caused to many of the trainees, especially married mcn, who may not be able to obtain employment on farms. Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction state whether the Government has any plans to assist such men, either financially or in any other way, during that waiting period?
– The point raised by the honorable member arises in regard to the training of all classes of exservicemen. I have previously explained to the House that it is the intention and the objective of those who are in charge of the training scheme to have a flow of trainees coming out into the community at a rate at which they can be absorbed. It is not always possible to ensure that the number of trainees being released for any particular industry will coincide exactly with the number that can be absorbed in that industry. Perhaps the trouble is more acute in respect of agriculture than it is in respect of other industries. One reason why it is impossible to ensure that all the trainees will be placed in industry or, in connexion with agriculture, will be placed on farms, is that the necessary accommodation, and the training staffs needed for their training, are not available except in so far as they can be obtained from State governments. Consequently, we have to ensure that the existing training facilities in the States shall be used continuously. This means that ex-servicemen must enter those training institutions in batches. Sometimes, when a number of men have completed their training it is not possible to absorb all of them immediately or, in respect of men proposing to go on the land, it is not possible to place them on farms immediately. The Government has considered that those individuals who cannot be placed in appropriate industries immediately their training has been completed ought to take every opportunity to find employment for themselves. They are encouraged to do so. At the present time, of course, more jobs are available in the community than there are men to fill them. Perhaps it is rather hard to expect individuals who have been trained for settlement on the land to take a job of some other kind. I shall examine that point, with a view to determining whether special’ consideration can be given to trainees in that class. I point out, however, that in the last resort, since there are plenty of jobs available in the community, no absolute hardship is caused, because those men can obtain employment of some kind to bridge the gap between the completion of their training and the availability of their farms for settlement by them.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that State governments have discontinued concessional fares on trams and trains, which had been granted to members of the fighting services? As service personnel receive only a small sum after the deduction of the allotment made to their dependants, will the honorable gentleman consider the advisability of granting a travelling allowance to members of the forces, in addition to their service pay?
– It is a fact that the various State governments have withdrawn the concession fares on trams and trains which, after the outbreak of World War II., they had granted to service personnel. This action was brought to my notice recently, and I have made representations to the State governments with a view to having the concessions reintroduced. I hope to be able, at a later date, to inform the honorable member that the States have complied with my request.
– Is the Prime Minis ter aware that because of the shortage of refined sugar, some fruit canneries in Victoria are obliged to refuse to accept pears for canning at the present time? At the moment, this statement applies, not to every cannery but to several important ones, and it is expected that within several days, every cannery in
Victoria will be compelled to cease the canning of pears and peaches. Is the Prime Minister aware that if this shortage of refined sugar is not overcome, thousands of tons of peaches and pears, which are valuable items of food, will be lost to the Australian public and the people of the United Kingdom ? Does the right honorable gentleman know that this position arises as the result of 21 maintenance engineers in the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited in Melbourne ceasing work? They acted upon the direction of their union, not because of any specific dispute that they have with the company which employs them, but because of the extension of a dispute with other employers. Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government has taken any action to expedite the return to work of these men in order to avoid monetary loss to fruit-growers, the loss of employment to orchard and cannery workers, and the loss of valuable food ? In addition, has the Prime Minister done anything, as an emergency step, to make good this shortage of sugar by arranging for the transport of supplies from other States?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service will answer the question.
– The Prime Minister and the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Cain, have been and still are negotiating for the purpose of obtaining refined sugar from other States. I understand that some thousands of tons have been guaranteed, if not already delivered. The honorable member asked whether anything has been done to get the maintenance engineers back to work, as their absence from employment is the real cause of the shortage of refined sugar in Victoria. Before I answer that, I suggest that the honorable member does not know all the facts, and should not have introduced that matter into a question. I do not desire to enter into a discussion of that phase of it. He had no reason to do so. ‘ If we investigated that phase of the matter, I should have to inform the honorable member that the company was a party to a lock-out.
– Not the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited.
– Yes, it was. However, that is not the answer to the question; the honorable member introduced that point.
– That is the “ red herring”.
– The honorable member dragged in the “ red herring “, and I could not let his reference pass without comment. The honorable member asked whether the Government had taken any steps to get the maintenance engineers back to work. The answer is that the Government has taken action. The matter has been referred to the court, as the honorable member probably knows, and Judge Sugerman - an appropriate name in this dispute - has referred it to Commissioner Mooney. The Commissioner called the parties together on Monday and told them that he had been requested to hear their claims and make a decision. He said that he would do so and commenced the hearing. Then - and this answers the honorable gentleman’s question - Commissioner Mooney suggested that the hearing be suspended temporarily to ascertain whether an arrangement could be made for the men to resume work at the sugar refinery immediately. He suggested that the parties work out a formula which would enable the 30 men concerned - not 21 as stated by the honorable member - to go back to the refinery so as to relieve the situation, which is as urgent as the honorable member has said. The parties then met in an attempt to evolve a means of getting the men back to work on a “ blank cheque “ basis before the commissioner came to a decision. The parties had three difficulties to overcome. The first was whether the men would be paid, according to the final decision made by the commissioner, retrospectively to the day when they returned to the refinery. The second related to annual leave payments for the men, who wished to ensure that the break would not interfere with their rights. The third related to payments from the provident fund to which all employees at the refinery contribute. The men wished to have their rights in that regard safeguarded also. They have not been able to secure a satisfactory settlement on these three points, on which agreement ought to ‘be reached. In nine out of ten instances in disputes of this nature, such difficulties are ironed out, usually without any trou’ble. Until 1.30 p.m. to-day, the parties had not found a solution of the problems raised, but they will be called together again by the commissioner to-morrow and I believe and hope that he will help to work out a’ formula which will enable the men to go back to work.
– The Minister suggests that the whole responsibility rests with the company.
– Not the whole responsibility.
– That is the way the honorable gentleman is framing his answer.
– No. The men have been asked to go back to work before a decision is made in connexion with the general engineers’ dispute. They may or may not get a satisfactory award. They have been asked to do so on account of the urgency of the sugar position. This would amount to them returning to work on a “ blank cheque “ basis. I consider that they were justified in asking that their leave payments and provident fund contributions should be safeguarded, and that the retrospective payment of any increase should be promised to them before they agreed to return to work. That was a. fair request.
– They are breaking the law.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited broke the law when it locked them out. The position now is that the parties to the dispute will go before Commissioner Mooney again to-morrow, and I believe that he will find a formula where others have failed.
– I understand that the passenger and cargo vessel Ormiston, which operates between the mainland and Hobart, is to be taken off that run after its next trip. The service which it provides is necessary to Tasmania’s sea-borne passenger and cargo trade. If it be the intention of the Minister for Supply and Shipping to remove that ship from the
Tasmanian service, will he ensure that a vessel of equivalent value in terms of both passenger and cargo carrying capacity shall replace it forthwith?
– I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to do what he can to comply with the honorable member’s request.
Basic Wage and Salaries Agitation Committee
– I ask the Prime Minister whether a large delegation from the New South Wales, Queensland and Victorian branches of the Commonwealth Public Service Basic Wage and Salaries Agitation Committee has been in Canberra yesterday and to-day in regard to an increase of the wages and salaries of Commonwealth public servants, and that he has refused to grant an interview to its members. If there grave discontent among them? Do they complain of great delay having occurred in the hearing of a claim by the Public Service Arbitrator? Will the Prime Minister appoint a delegate of the Public Service Arbitrator to hear immediately the case of the officers represented by the delegation, and issue to him instructions to bring down an interim flat-rate award and then to proceed to the making of a final award and a re-classification of the Commonwealth Public Service?
– Apparently the honorable gentleman was not present when I made a statement on this matter in reply to a previous question ; or, if he were present, he did not listen to what I said.
– It did not apply to what I am now asking.
– In reply to the honorable member for Wentworth, I pointed out that, following upon the relaxation of the wage-pegging regulations, approximately 22 unions representing the Public Service presented claims to the Public Service Commissioner. Repeating what I said earlier, they realized that it was not possible for 22 separate unions to be consulted.
– What about the rank and filers?
– If the honorable gentleman expects me to answer his ques tion, he should listen to what I have to say. The High Council represents 22 unions in the Public Service, and I assume that quite a number of rank and filers are members of those unions. It has been pointed out that the postal workers are not affiliated with that body. The High Council appointed five representatives, and the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union appointed one representative. Those representatives of Public Service unions have had numerous consultations with the Public Service Commissioner. I have always been available to meet them, if necessary, and discussed the matter with them at an earlier stage. A further final consultation was held last week, when certain suggestions were placed before the representatives of the unions. There is not, as yet, any claim before the Public Service Arbitrator, but I understand that one will be lodged very shortly - I do not know the exact date - by all the unions. Those unions that have made representations are the official representatives of all the Public Service bodies.
– Did the Prime Minister, when announcing Australia’s representation at the second meeting of the Preparatory Committee of the World Trade and Employment Conference, say that there would be three representatives of primary industries? If so, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House of the manner in which those three representatives will be appointed, and is he in a position to state the names of the three men concerned?
– The question will be answered by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction.
– The three representatives of primary producers who will be appointed to the delegation to go to Geneva for consultation and advisory purposes will be selected by a conference of individuals who are representatives of the different primary producing organizations. Those organizations have been asked to get together and to come to an agreement as to the delegates tobe appointed.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question arising out of a statement made by the Minister for Transport in Sydney in December last. Addressing a meeting of his constituents, the Minister for Transport said, “No one is capable of judging whether Australia should be a party to the Bretton Woods Agreement or not unless in possession of the confidential files which were in the hands of the Federal Cabinet “. I now ask the Minister for External Affairs whether caucus was in possession of those confidential files when it decided that Australia should not be a signatory to the Bretton Woods Agreement. Further, can he say when the information contained in the files will be placed before the Parliament so that members also may be aware of the facts?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “ No “, and consequently no answer to the second part of the question is called for.
– Can the Minister for Works and Housing say whether there is in existence any plan by which materials can be obtained for the erection of war service homes ?
– Because of the action of members of the Opposition in persuading the people of Australia to vote against some of the referendum proposals submitted to them last year, great difficulty has been experienced in obtaining material for the construction of war service h orn eg.
– The Minister must not debate who is responsible; he must answer the question, which relates to a plan for getting materials.
– The Government has plans, and is negotiating with the States, which are in control of materials. It hopes to get a reasonable allocation of the materials available. Last week the Government of New South Wales agreed to make available to the Commonwealth a quota of such materials. Negotiations with the ‘other State Governments will continue, and it is hoped that a per centage of the materials available will be allocated to the construction of war service homes. Already over 6,000 houses have been built, and of that number more than 50 per cent, have been allocated to ex-servicemen.
– Can the Minister for Immigration say for what further period it is expected that about 300 Indonesians in the vicinity of Brisbane will be housed and fed by the Com- monwealth Government? Can he say what offences against the Dutch Government have been committed by these foreigners, and why the cost of caring for them is imposed on the Australian taxpayers?
– The persons referred to were military prisoners in the hands of the Dutch authorities because of their refusal to continue to serve in the Dutch army after trouble occurred between the Indonesian and Dutch peoples. They were sentenced to terms of imprisonment; but last year the Dutch Government granted them an amnesty. The Dutch military authorities handed the men over to the Australian Government for repatriation to Indonesia when shipping was available. As in the case of other Indonesians in Australia, these men refused to sail in Dutch ships, and the Commonwealth Government thought that the best and most humane way to deal with the problem was to care for them until such time as British or Australian shipping was available to take them back to Indonesia. Already about 2,200 Indonesians have been repatriated ; Esperance Bay has made one trip and Manoora two trips for the purpose.
– Who paid the cost of returning them?
– The Australian Government did. The men at present in Australia are at the Chernside camp, near Brisbane. They will be transported to Indonesia as soon as shipping is available, which W111 not be for a month or longer. Had a vessel been available before now, they would have been sent home. They will be the last of the Indonesians in Australia to be repatriated.
– Has any claim been made againstthe Indonesian authorities in respect of these men?
– No. The Commonwealth Government is anxious to see the end of this problem, which is one of many which arose out of the war. The maintenance of these Indonesians is costing the people of Australia about £200 a week. There is no cost for guards, because the men in the camp are law-abiding, and are giving the authorities no trouble.
Sale to New Zealand
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether any negotiations have been entered into recently with the Government of New Zealand in relation to future wheat contracts ?
– byleave- The New Zealand Minister, Mr. Sullivan, visited Australia in December, 1945, and asked whether Australia could supply New Zealand with wheat for a period of five years at an agreed uniform price. It was recognized that if such an arrangement were made it would have to be at a price much lower than the rate being obtained for export wheat at the time - 9s. 6d. a bushel f.o.b. - but, on the other hand, it would be much higher than that to which, based on past records, prices might be expected to fall during the period of the agreement. The New Zealand Minister also pointed out that very high import prices would be followed by high prices for the New Zealand crop, and that even though very low prices followed, uneconomic production in New Zealand would be stimulated, and imports reduced in consequence.
The Commonwealth Government ultimately decided, however, that it could not sell from the then current crop - 1945- 46 - under the ruling export price and a contract was completed for 4,500,000 bushels to be supplied out of that crop at 9s. 6d. a bushel f.o.b. bulk. The contract contained other details such as the extra price for bagged wheat and shipping arrangements. When this contract was under discussion the question of supplies for the following four years arose, and it was agreed that in due course a further agreement be negotiated. In discussing the price that might be included in a further agreement, we agreed that a fall in export prices was possible and that if prices did fall away in the following twelve months from the then current price, the price for four years would be a matter for discussion. It was agreed, however, that the price would be no higher than 5s. 9d. a bushel. It might be less but it would not be more. No other details were decided upon and no contract was made as in the case of the 1945-46 crop, the understanding being that it would be negotiated later and if it were made the price would be no greater than 5s. 9d.
When Mr. Nash, the New Zealand Minister for Finance, was recently in Australia he had with him the New Zealand Wheat Controller and a contract was then negotiated and approved. Its main clauses are as follows: -
In reviewing the whole of the circumstances, the Commonwealth Government decided that over the four seasons, it would return current prices to the grower, the outcome of the contract with the New Zealand Government being on account of the Commonwealth Government. The Wheat Board will therefore be paid by the Commonwealth Government for each cargo at the export price ruling at the date arrangements are concluded by the Wheat Board for the shipment of the wheat and the Commonwealth Government will be paid by the New Zealand Government at 5s 9d.
– by leave - The statement read by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture reveals for the first time to the wheat-growers and the public the attempt which was apparently made by the Commonwealth Government to sell a product which, in all equity, belonged to the Australian wheat-growers, at a price much less than half of its realizable value on any normal export market. This matter raises the whole question of the propriety of any government in this country arbitrarily taking possession of the products of persons and arbitrarily disposing of them, by virtue of its constitutional power, at prices substantially less than those which could have been realized had ordinary trading been permitted. This matter would never have come to the knowledge of the Australian wheatgrowers
– That is a lie!
– I take no exception to the interjection. We are accustomed to interjections of that kind from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I repeat that this matter would never have come to the knowledge of the Australian wheat-growers had not the New Zealand Minister for Supply fortuitously revealed, to the embarrassment of his Labour colleague in the Australian Government, that an “ undertaking “ - to use his own words - had been given by the Australian Government to supply wheat to New Zealand, for a period of years, at a price less than half the prevailing world parity price. Over a period of months, I asked repeatedly in this Parliament for information about this matter, and the wheatgrowers’ representatives outside Parliament also sought information. We asked whether any negotiations had taken place with a view to disposing of wheat to the Government of New Zealand at the price mentioned. However, we were met by a stone wall of silence, and only now has it been possible for me, and the representatives of the growers associated with me, to force the Government to recant its original intention, and conclude an arrangement which honours the undertaking to sell wheat to New Zealand at a bargain price by placing on the Australian taxpayers the burden of making good to the wheat-growers the money of which they would have been deprived had we not been attentive to their inter ests, and directed public attention in such a way as to compel the granting of this measure of delayed justice to the Australian wheat-grower.
– I give notice that tomorrow I shall move -
That the Government does not possess the confidence of this House.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow at 10.30 a.m.
– In view of the character of the motion of which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has just given notice, I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.9 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The amount of £735,490 covers office accommodation and, in respect of certain departments, such charges as rental of storage space, rifle ranges, airfields, &c., &c.
Parliament (Federal Members’ Rooms), Prime Minister, External Affairs, Treasury, Attorney-General, Interior, Works and Housing, Trade and Customs, Health, Commerce and Agriculture, Social Services, Supply and Shipping, External Territories, Immigration, Labour and National Service, Transport, Information, Post-war Reconstruction, Civil Aviation, Defence, Navy, Army, Air, Munitions, Postmaster-General, Repatriation, Northern Territory Administration.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information: -
(a) 4,549; (6) 206. This number (206) was the lowest working strength on any day. This was Sunday, 3rd November, and not a working day. The lowest number on a recognized working day was 3,310 on Saturday, 9th November.
s asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The following information has been supplied by the Treasury : -
Although sufficient information is not available to enable a full and adequate reply to be given to the honorable member’s question, the following figures have been extracted from such of the published statements of the govern ments concerned as are available to this department at Canberra: -
The Treasury has strongly emphasized that, because of the different methods adopted in the countries concerned in the preparation and presentation of the public accounts, no valid comparison can be made between the figures given above, and, moreover, that the figures are not comparable with the published figures for Australian expenditure on defence and post-war charges.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 February 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470219_reps_18_190/>.