18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Proposed Irrigation Project
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction seen the statement that was made last week by the Premier of Queensland, relating to the building of a dam on the Burdekin river? Can he indicate the extent to which the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will participate in the investigations that will be made in connexion with that project ?
-I have seen the statement of the Premier of Queensland, to which the honorable member has referred. Preliminary surveys of the resources of the Burdekin Valley by the Queensland Bureau of Investigation have indicated that an irrigationproject of very considerable magnitude may be developed in that valley. A dam site has been located at a point 99 miles up stream. This dam, at a wall height of 100 feet, will impound 2,500,000 acre feet of water, and at 126 feet 5,000,000 acre feet of water. An area of 400,000 acres of good land is potentially commanded by irrigation water. A further area of from 250,000 to 300,000 acres is subject to periodic floods, the effects of which could bo mitigated by flood control works. The Council for Scientific and IndustrialResearch has been requested by the Queensland Government to co-operate with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock in an effort to determine the agricultural possibilities of the irrigable lands of the Burdekin Valley. Officers of the Division of Plant Industry visited the area in question, and reported that a large expansion of either sugar cane or tropical fruits does not appear desirable; but it is considered that there are definite possibilities for tobacco production in the Ayr district. It is also considered that, with irrigation, the Burdekin Valley is likely to become a major beef cattle fattening area, and as the region is practically frost-free, tropical pasture plants can be expected to make vigorous growth under irrigation for a high proportion of the year. I have approved that the Division of Plant Industry shall proceed to undertake investigations on irrigated pasture and fodder crop production on the Ayr farm, recently acquired from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock, in co-operation with that department.
– I rise to order. I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the Minister is making ,a statement in answer to a question.
– A prepared statement.
– A prepared statement. I ask whether this is designed to cut across the rules of the House, under which a Minister must obtain the approval of the House before making such a statement. If that practice is to be allowed to become associated with the answering of questions, I suggest that you, sir, should take some steps to limit such obviously prepared answers.
– There is nothing in the Standing Orders to prevent a Minister from making a statement when answering a question. I have always held that many questions and answers are too long, but there is nothing in the Standing Orders to limit them.
– The initial investigations will include research as to the value of certain selected grasses, and legumes under grazing conditions; a study of fodder crops, both grasses and legumes; and a determination of the value in grazing trials of grass-legume mixtures as irrigated pastures. It is proposed that the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock shall provide the laud and the basic facilities for the investigation and also meet the cost of acquisition, clearing and management of the Ayr farm and of all other areas required. The Council for Scientific and
Industrial Research will be responsible for meeting the cost of equipment and materials required for the conduct of the work. For the first year it is estimated that £5,383 will be provided by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and £5,142 by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock. The greater part of the cost will be in respect of equipment and fencing, and the annual commitment of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for the subsequent four years is estimated at approximately £2,000. Should the investigational work indicate the feasibility of producing irrigated pastures and fodder crops for the fattening of beef cattle, or the production of dairy produce, the way would be open for an economic development of great magnitude which would directly and beneficially affect the beef cattle industry of Northern Australia.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s statement in this House last week that neither he nor the AttorneyGeneral had any idea that Judge Sugerman intended to resign from the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration until the week-end before he tendered his resignation, and also that at the time when Judge Kirby was conducting an inquiry into land sales control and while he was preparing his report there was no indication that Judge Sugerman would resign, I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether he is aware that Judge Sugerman’s resignation from, and Judge Kirby’s appointment to, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court were announced in the press on the 28th August, 1947. Further, is he aware that Judge Kirby’s report as a royal commissioner is signed “ R. C. Kirby, Judges Chambers, Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, Sydney”, and is dated the 15th September, 1947?
– I did say the other day that, so far as I was aware, the first indication I had of the possibility of Judge Sugerman resigning was one weekend when he was in Canberra. I myself was away from Canberra at the time. I was informed by the Minister acting for the Attorney-General that Judge Sugerman intended to resign - that he had, in fact, tendered his resignation that week-end. Up to that time, no discussion had taken place regarding the appointment of his successor, because, until then, the need for another judge had not arisen. There may be some factors of which I had no personal knowledge, but the honorable member for Reid may rest assured that I will examine .all phases of the matter. It is only fair to say that I had heard six or seven months ago that Judge Sugerman was not happy in his work in the Arbitration Court because it required him to live in Melbourne. I had not regarded the Melbourne climate as possessing sufficient disadvantages to justify a man’s resignation from his position, and therefore I did not take the report very seriously. I heard no more about it until I was informed that Judge Sugerman had been here at the week-end. There had been no talk of the appointment of Judge Kirby until then. As I have said, I shall examine the points raised by the honorable member. It may be that some of the dates associated with the affair did not come readily to my mind. I will give the honorable member a full reply later.
– hy leave - Some little time ago, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), made a series of allegations of .a most particular kind against Senator Amour regarding his conduct when abroad representing this country. They were allegations of a very grave kind, and they have subsequently been the subject of a statement by the honorable senator in the Senate. Naturally, I have no need to say that I know nothing of these matters myself, but I have been very concerned as, I think, many honorable members have been, at the existence of these ‘allegations, uninvestigated and undetermined. It is a matter in which the Parliament has a great interest. It is a matter which, I suggest, cannot be allowed to rest where it is. If the allegations made in the House against the honorable senator are in substance untrue, a very grievous injustice has been done to him, and a very grave injustice done to Australia, because the remarks of the honorable member for New England have been published. If, on the other hand, the allegations are true in substance, a great injustice has been done to Australia by the honorable senator’s appointment, and by his conduct. I desire to say not one word that would prejudice a decision on the matter. I have only a nodding acquaintance with Senator Amour, and I have no personal feeling in the matter. The Parliament as a whole is affected by allegations of this kind being in circulation. I put it to the Prime Minister that it is a matter upon which further information can, undoubtedly, readily be. got. It is said, I do not know whether rightly or not, that there was on this aeroplane at this time a senior civil servant, a man of repute. It is said that a report was prepared on this incident which, undoubtedly, the Prime Minister can obtain. I suggest that this matter ought not, in the interests of everybody, be allowed to rest where it is. It should be cleared up so that if an injustice has been done it can be put right, and if the charges are well founded consequential action can be taken by the Government.
– hy leave - The matter mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was, deplorably, raised and given publicity by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) on the basis of newspaper statements. I believe that it is a very bad principle for an honorable member to join with certain newspapers which very often exaggerate such matters. That is the business of journalists, to put at least some colour into what they write. That is part of their profession, to make statements of that character without offering any proof except the mere publication of the report itself. The right honorable gentleman seems to suggest that there should be some sort of inquiry. I am not now concerned with the merits, or demerits, of the matter. Senator Amour has made a clear statement in the Senate, which, I believe, must be accepted by those with whom he is associated as against statements that might be made by some pressman, or other person, who, perhaps, has no sense of responsibility in the matter. The honorable senator’s statement has been accepted by the Government. Those who care to make such statements as have been made should be prepared to make them on the street corner.
– That has been done; in the Library there is a copy of the statement published by Frank Browne.
– I have seen some statements. I suggest that the right honorable gentleman make some inquiries to ascertain the accuracy, or otherwise, of the statements alleged to have been made by a person who travelled on the aeroplane. However, I have not found one who has confirmed the allegations made against Senator Amour. The Government has accepted his explanation of the incident. I am not able to find anything in any of the statements made except that there was some disputation between Senator Amour and certain officers associated with the aeroplane.
– Does the right honorable gentleman question the pilot’s word?
– What is the suggestion - that we set up a royal commission of inquiry in the United States of America ?
– Hold an inquiry here.
– By whom?
– A parliamentary committee.
– Order ! When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking he was not interrupted at all. The Prime Minister must be heard in silence.
– What I put to the Leader of the Opposition is this: Just how could an inquiry be conducted? Should we set up an inquiry in the United States of America and ask the airline authority and the crew of the aeroplane to attend a special inquiry in that country? The whole thing is ridiculous. Undue importance has been given to whatever incident, or disputation, occurred. The Government has accepted the statement made by Senator Amour as a fair outline of what happened. There was some difference of opinion as to what did occur. The Government does not intend to enter upon any inquiry in the United States of America.
– Mr. Speaker-
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order !
- Mr. Speaker-
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) to resume his seat. The honorable member for New England desires to make a personal explanation. From what does his personal explanation arise?
– From a statement of the Prime Minister. I took down what the right honorable gentleman said in regard to an incident which happened on the return flight of Senator Amour to Australia which I referred to in the House recently. The right honorable gentleman said, “ The matter was deplorably raised by the honorable member for New England on newspaper statements “. I want to tell the right honorable gentleman
Government members interjecting,
– Order !
– The Leader of the Opposition was given a silent hearing and I ask that the same courtesy be extended to me.
– Order ! The Chair will set to that.
– I am sure it will. I point out that my statement in the House was not raised as the result of a newspaper story. It was based on statements made by gentlemen who travelled on the aeroplane from which Senator Amour was ejected.
– Name them !
-I shall read the statements furnished by them. If the Prime Minister is willing to appoint a parliamentary committee or a royal commission to investigate this matter they are prepared to come forward to give evidence on oath before the investigating body.
– Who are they ?
– I ask for the courtesy of a fair hearing. This matter falls into two parts, firstly, incidents that occurred at the aerodrome at San Francisco, and, secondly, incidents that happened on the aeroplane prior to the ejection of Senator Amour. I desire to quote the words of a witness in relation to the incident that occurred at the aerodrome. At the aerodrome at San Francisco there is a bar and a coffee room-
– I rise to order. I point out, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member is not proceeding with his personal explanation but is endeavouring to use the opportunity given to him to make a personal explanation further to defame a member of this Parliament.
– Order ! The honorable member for New England has complained of certain words used by the Prime Minister. I think the words complained of were that the matter was deplorably raised and given publicity on the basis of newspaper statements. The honorable member for New England is now covering ground not covered by the newspaper statements.
– The witness to whom I referred went with some friends to the bar at the airport at San Francisco for a drink before eating their evening meal. The witness states that Senator Amour was in the bar talking to two or three American aerodrome personnel in overalls. The witness states that Senator Amour was drinking double whiskies, that he was ordering them two at a time, drinking one and pouring the other one into a coca cola bottle, which the witness believes was empty.
– I rise to order. I contend that the honorable member for New England has exceeded what is necessary to make a personal explanation in order to demonstrate that his previous statements were not based on newspaper reports. If the honorable member desires to make a personal explanation and claims that what he previously said was not based on newspaper statements he should inform the House of the source of his information and not add to the offence he previously committed of maligning a member of this Parliament.
– Order ! .So far, the honorable member for New England has not transgressed the ruling of the Chair.
Honorable members of this House must, however, accept the fullest responsibility for what they say in this chamber. I ask the honorable member for New England to continue.
– The witness went on to say that Senator Amour’s conversation got louder and that he told the Americans that American working men were fools because they were not properly organized as they were in Australia where they had successfully “ ou tec “ the capitalists. Senator Amour then pointed out that he had joined the Army in World War I. when sixteen, and after a few months’ service was wounded and thrown out of the army with a miserable pension. In this war, with a Labour government, the returned men, he said, had been treated very much better.
Government MEMBERS - Hear, hear!
– I am attempting to be perfectly fair to the honorable senator by giving the whole of the conversation as the witness heard it. Senator Amour also talked about the Royal Family and said that Australians had no time for royalty. One of the Americans said “ What about Mountbatten ? “, to which he replied that Australians would not have Mountbatten. He discussed with the Americans the advantages of living in Australia. ‘ In reply to a question by one of the Americans, he said that there were plenty of houses for migrants.
– I rise to order. I should like to know whether a member of this chamber is entitled to defame another member of the Parliament by placing on record irrevocable statements based on the uncorroborated testimony of an unnamed person. This raises an important issue, and 1 submit that the forms of the House should not be used for this purpose.
– The House is master of its own business. The honorable member for New England has a right to make a personal explanation. It is within the authority of the House to determine whether or not it will hear the honorable member further.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) negatived -
That the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) lie not further heard.
– In reply to a question by one of the Americans, Senator Amour stated that there were plenty of houses for migrants in this country, and that an American motor truck cost less in Australia than in the United States of America. The gentleman who has given me this information says that one member of the party was so disgusted with Senator Amour that he frowned at him.
– I rise to order. I contend that an honorable member is not entitled to read from a letter from a person whose name has not been disclosed to the House. Further, I submit that any honorable member who uses the forms of the House to malign another member of Parliament is not entitled to sit in this chamber, and should be expelled from it.
– There is no point of order involved. The honorable member for New England may just as well read the statements that he is quoting as repeat them.
– The gentleman who had frowned at Senator Amour states that he was called over by the honorable senator, who asked why he had looked at him like that. The gentleman, while very polite, said that he thought it was about time that he got out of the bar. Senator Amour’s answer was, “ You are a bloody ‘pommy’, not an Australian, and we don’t want people like you in the country “. The gentleman repeated his suggestion to the senator but he took no notice. Senator Amour asked the Americans to have a drink with him, but they refused. Senator Amour then put his hand in his pocket and threw a lot of dollars on the table saying - “ Look ! We’ve got plenty of money “. This gentleman informs me that Senator Amour then produced a kind of document with .a large red seal on it. He began waving the document about and said - “Look at my paper, signed by my old friend Ben Chifley “. The gentleman then left and went into a coffee shop. Senator Amour went in and had a cup of coffee and a “ swig “ out of a coca cola bottle into which he had previously been pouring whisky. He then disappeared. The gentleman did not see him again until he got on the aeroplane. As he took his seat, Senator Amour was going out of the aeroplane followed by the captain.
– I rise to order. Standing Order 272 states -
No member shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any member thereof, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on members shall be considered highly disorderly.
That is my point of order.
– There is no point of order involved.
– To, continue with the story, the captain followed Senator Aim our down the steps from the aeroplane where a United States police officer was standing. The captain turned to return to the aeroplane. Senator Amour was at the bottom of the steps with the policeman. As the captain turned to go up the steps Amour took a step forward with his arm raised, hut the policeman hooked his arm with his own. The captain returned to the aeroplane. The door was closed and the aeroplane went off, leaving Senator Amour with the policeman.
Those are incidents reported to me as having taken place on the aerodrome at San Francisco. I now give honorable members a short resume of incidents that took place in the aeroplane according to one witness.
Senator Amour, he states, had a window seat in the aeroplane. He states that the honorable senator was “ roaringly drunk “. In the aeroplane he was asking various passengers for matches to light a cigarette, although the warning lights against smoking were showing prior to the start. The passengers would not give him any. He then found a book of matches and was going to light a cigarette. In spite of the warnings of the hostess, he disregarded her and insisted on a “ d’raw “. One of the passengers is said to have protested to him about lighting a cigarette. He was then said to have attempted to strike this passenger a blow. The passenger is said to have pushed Senator Amour back into his seat. The second time Senator Amour got up, he is said to have knocked his head on the rack and fallen back in his seat. I am told that he then lay hack in his seat and- kicked the passenger in the stomach. The commander is then said to have intervened. Senator Amour was induced to go! out of the aeroplane on to the steps. He is alleged to have aimed a blow at the commander. The door was- shut and the aeroplane flown off. I have seen all these gentlemen.
Another passenger informs me that Senator Amour was very drunk at San Francisco. He punched a passenger and made a swipe at the commander. He says the hostess got him off the aeroplane and that his luggage was put off with him. As soon as he was off, the door was shut and the engine started and the aeroplane went off. In my personal explanation I desire to say that these allegations have never been published in any newspaper in this country.
– They would not be game to publish them.
– Honorable members opposite cannot take it. They show they are lacking in courage, if they will not allow me to express the truth to the people of this nation. These gentlemen were on the aeroplane and they are reputable citizens. If the Prime Minister-
– I rise to order. The honorable member for New England was granted leave to make a personal explanation, not to indulge in personal abuse of a member of this Parliament. He has made certain charges. I too could read from a piece of paper as the honorable member is doing and say that some one had made certain statements. I contend that the honorable member is entitled to make a personal explanation, but not to indulge in personal abuse of the lowest character.
– The honorable member for New England claimed the right to make a personal explanation based on a statement by the Prime Minister that he had deplorably raised and given publicity to certain statements.
– Based on a newspaper statement.
– I understand that he is endeavouring to show that his statements were not based on newspaper reports. The House has the matter in its own hands. The Chair is not going to limit the rights of honorable -members in making personal explanations:
– I say to the Prime Minister that there must be a report by the captain of the- aircraft, which was an Australian aircraft. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say that he would have to send to America for information. There must be a report in the log of the captain, ,and it is the duty of the Prime Minister to produce it to honorable members so that they shall know whether my allegations are false or true. There were many passengers for Australia on the aeroplane. I have seen several of them.. Others are undoubtedly available. A committee should be set up to take evidence on oath. There was a senior civil servant on board the aeroplane, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, and no doubt the Prime Minister knows who he was. I do not intend to mention that officer in this House except to say that I have neither seen him or spoken to him since his return to Australia or for many months before he left Australia. I do not want any action to be taken in vengeance or spite against this Commonwealth public servant in the belief that he gave me the information.
-Order! The honorable member is on the wrong track now.
– It is completely misleading for the Prime Minister to say that my allegations are not true and cannot be proved in Australia. In his remarks in the Senate, Senator Amour said that I had not the slightest basis for my statements and that they were untrue. If they are untrue, if what I have said cannot be proved before a parliamentary committee, and if I have lied to this House, let us have an open and full inquiry. If I have lied, expel mc from the Parliament. If Senator Amour has done the things that he has denied having done, remove him from the chairmanship of the Broadcasting Committee and put him out of the Parliament.
Reconstruction Training Scheme
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction seen the statement made by the federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, Mr. Eric Millhouse, that the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme has broken down badly in all States and that evidence of the drift is irrefutable but that the league is putting forward certain proposals? Has he also seen the statement by Mr. W. A. Mathieson, Victorian president of the Australian Legion of Ex-service Men and Women, that a. drastic cut in rehabilitation training would be a gross betrayal of ex-servicemen? Mr. Millhouse and others have said that many exservicemen will be denied training because of the shortage of building materials and the restricted attitude of some unions to the reconstruction train.ing courses. Have any unions restricted the entry of ex-servicemen into their organizations? If so, which unions have done so? Are they connected with the building trades? What action has been taken by the Minister to prevent this domination of the Government by unions? Does the Government intend to carry out the obligations imposed upon it by the Re-establishment and Employment Act? If not, are ex-servicemen to remain untrained when houses are so badly needed and ‘become mere hewers of wood and drawers of water?
– I have seen the statement made hy the federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and I am gravely disturbed about it. It is not true to say that the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme has broken down. It is true that certain difficulties have become apparent. First of all, I point out that the total number of ex-service men and women who have been accepted for training is over 300,000 and that the task of training such a very large proportion of the population at one time is very difficult
– My questions referred to the trade training side of the scheme.
– I know that. I am giving the total number of men who had been accepted for training in order that the House may realize the colossal nature of the task which confronted the
Government when it undertook to provide training for them. The training scheme was intended to ensure a regular outflow of trainees into the community. That outflow has to be related to the availability of raw materials It is true that, because of the general shortage of manpower and materials, the materials that would be needed by trainees upon the completion of their various trade courses are in short supply. For that reason, the outflow of men, if we had continued the training scheme at the rate at which we had originally conceived it, would have been greater than the numbers who could have been absorbed into industry. We are not trying to deny training to any one, but we must regulate the intake of trainees so that the outflow shall be at a rate which, industry can absorb. The whole matter resolves itself into this : The difficulties will not he overcome until greater production is assured of the raw materials necessary for those trainees in their respective trades. Therefore, I emphasize the importance of producing those raw materials in greater and greater quantities.
– What is the attitude of the trade unions?
– The unions do not decide how many individuals shall be trained in particular callings. That decision is made by a reconstruction training authority on which the unions, employers, and ex-servicemen’s organizations are represented. I assure the honorable member that in spite of the difficulties that confront us at the moment, there is no question of denying to any exserviceman the training to which he is entitled. The training might have to ‘be delayed to some degree, but it is far better to regulate the intake of trainees than to have an excessive outflow of trainees who, after all, are only trained to 40 per cent, efficiency when they go out into industry. If they are only partly trained, their skill can stagnate and become static more easily than that of fully trained individuals. The wisest course is to regulate the intake so that the outflow shall be at the rate that industry can absorb. That is what the reconstruction training authorities are doing at present. I conclude by emphasizing once again the importance of increasing the production of the necessary raw materialsif this difficulty is to be overcome, as I sincerely trust it will.
– Did the Minister for the Army read a report attributed to a Mr. Aboud, a member of a trade delegation to Japan, who recently returned to Australia? In this statement, Mr. Aboud suggested that members of the Royal Australian Air Force and Australian Imperial Force at Morotai have been without beer, tobacco and cigarettes for five months. As statements of this character anight create fears in the minds of the people regarding the welfare and care of our troops overseas, I ask the Minister whether the allegations are fact or fiction?
– Certainly a portion of the report is fiction. To begin with, no members of the Australian Imperial Force are stationed at Morotai, and, therefore, that part of the statement must be inaccurate. I read the report, including the allegation that members of the Royal Australian Air Force stationed at Morotai had been without certain amenities for five months because the Australian Government could not send a ship there. Evidently Mr. Aboud did not know that a courier service passes through Morotai each way three times a week. When I was at Morotai early this year and was quartered with Royal Australian Air Force personnel, I heard no complaints about their conditions. In fact, Australians stationed there painted glowing pictures of the amenities which were provided by the courier service. In the circumstances, it is safe to say that the statement was completely inaccurate.
Flights by Aircraft A65/123 - Cambridge Aerodrome.
-I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether it is a fact that aircraft A65/123 was flown from Laverton to Canberra on a recent Wednesday? If so, will be inform the House of the names of the persons who travelled in the aircraft, what was the justification for the trip, and, in view of the severe rationing of industry and private motorists, what was the quantity of petrol used on the flight?
– If the honorable member will supply the exact date, I shall obtain the full particulars for him. The honorable member referred, in his question, to a flight “ on a recent Wednesday”. Aircraft A65/123 has flown on many days. In fact, it is in constant use for a similar purpose to that for which aeroplanes are provided for the honorable member and others to travel between Canberra and Melbourne for their convenience and to enable them to attend important meetings. The aircraft has been used for these purposes for the last two years without comment.
– During this year I have asked questions on three occasions regarding the installation of obstruction lights within the circuit area of Cambridge aerodrome in Tasmania. On the 1st July last the Minister for Civil Aviation informed me that an immediate requisition would be issued for the work to be put in hand, but so far work has not commenced. Can the Minister inform me when the work will be started ?
– I accept the honorable member’s statement that I informed him that a requisition would be issued for commencement of the work, but I think that I also told him that the date of commencement of the work would be a matter for determination by the Civil Aviation authorities. I agree that wherever lights can be provided to increase the safety of air travel they should be installed. However, it is not possible to provide these facilities immediately at all the places where they are needed because there is insufficient skilled labour available and materials are also scarce. I shall make inquiries to ascertain whether it is intended to proceed with the work, and inform the honorable member.
– With regard to the reduction of the quantity of petrol now allowed to the owners of motor vehicles, can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping undertake to give further consideration to its distribution?
Because of the approach of the Christmas season many people who are endeavouring to conserve petrol for holiday motoring, are requesting garage proprietors to hold in their tanks the petrol which they purchase at garages. Garage proprietors, however, are insisting that customers shall take delivery of petrol when it is purchased. This will probably lead to the storage of large quantities of petrol in backyards, wash-houses, sheds and other unsuitable places, with consequent danger of fire, particularly in crowded areas. Will the Minister also give consideration to extending the currency of ration tickets from one or two months to three months as from the 1st November next?
– The honorable member’s question involves a number of matters for consideration by the Minister for Supply and Shipping. However storage of petrol under dangerous conditions, particularly in crowded localities, is a matter for municipal authorities, who are quite competent to deal with it. Any extension of the period of currency of petrol ration tickets would undoubtedly result in increased consumption of petrol, and, as the honorable member knows, the whole purpose of issuing ration tickets and of limiting their currency is to conserve dollars, which are so scarce at present. However, I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Supply and Shipping and obtain an answer.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
Additions, New “Works, Buildings, Etc.
InCommittee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 21st October (vide page 1028).
Part I. - Departments and Services - Other than Business Undertakings and Territories of the commonwealth.
Proposed vote, £19,297,000.
– I refer to the item under Division 10, Department of the Interior, “ Commonwealth Offices and other Buildings -
Acquisition of Sites and Buildings”, for which the proposed vote is£952,000. This is a matter in which I am particularly interested, seeing that some nine months ago I submitted to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) a proposal in respect of it. Rockhampton is one of the largest cities in Queensland. Furthermore, its location is such that it has developed as the capital of central Queensland, and on that account must become more and more a centre in which a considerable volume of Commonwealth business has to be transacted. Yet at the present time the housing provided for Commonwealth departments in that city can only be described as “ rotten “. Therefore, it is highly desirable that at some time in the future, as shortly as possible, decent accommodation should be provided for the housing of those departments. However, because of the development that has taken place in the centre of the city, big building sites in that area are few and far between. But a site is available which is suitable as to size and location, and it was in regard to its acquisition that I made certain recommendations to the Minister nine months ago. The honorable gentleman studied my recommendations with interest, and has been moving in the matter. I understand that it is still under consideration. My point in referring to the item, which seems to provide means for acquiring the site referred to, is that the site is so suitable that it is not likely to continue to be available for any considerable time. At present I am referring only to acquisition, realizing that, because of the position in relation to building generally, it is quite likely that the erection of a building on the site would be deferred for some time. In order to ensure that the site will be available to the Government when it decides to proceed with the building, I strongly urge an early decision to acquire it.
I confess to a feeling of disappointment at my inability to find anywhere in these Estimates provision for proceeding with the erection of the promised wool-selling centre in Rockhampton. As honorable members know, the decision to proceed with that building was made some time ago, before I became the representative of the area. Certain moves have been made from time to time towards implementing that decision. In consequence of a position that is said to have arisen in regard to timber supplies, however, the building of the centre has been delayed. This was recently the subject of a deputation to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who received it favorably and promised to refer the matter for further discussion. I had hoped that provision would be made in these Estimates for proceeding with the building, thus indicating that the Government intended to go ahead with the project during the current financial year. The only item that I can see which might have some connexion with it is at page 401, under the Department of Commerce and Agriculture - “ Buildings, Works, Fittings and Furniture “, the proposed vote for which is £100,000. That sum suggests to me very definitely that provision has not been included in it for the erection of the building to which I am referring. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) to give some indication of what is the present intention in regard to the building.
I pass on to an item in Division No. 15, under Department of Munitions - “ Ships - -Construction “, the proposed vote for which is £2,400,000. I request an indication by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), who represents the Minister for Munitions in this chamber, as to whether that refers to a Government programme for the building of ships for trading on the coast. I assume that it does. If so, I agree that it is very necessary expenditure. I am not generally in favour of the Government engaging in such undertakings, but in view of the grave shortage of shipping, to which I have referred in this chamber on several occasions, the onus is on the Government to do all that it can to relieve the position by utilizing the facilities at its disposal with a view to increasing the number of ships available and expanding their operations. But the ultimate value of that expenditure will depend largely upon the type of vessel it is proposed to build, and in this connexion also I should like some indication from the Minister as to the Government’s policy. It will be remembered that I have referred on several occasions to the need for the provision of shipping to service the smaller coastal ports. Therefore, this programme must include provision for the building of ships which will be capable of performing that service. I ask the Minister to say what is the policy of the Government in that regard.
In Division No. 16, under the Department of Civil Aviation, there is the item “ Buildings and Works - Including grants to councils towards cost of establishment and improvement of country aerodromes “, for which the proposed vote is £50,000. Particularly after listening last night to the statements of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford), and others, and hearing sums amounting to millions of pounds being bandied around the chamber, I consider that this provision for the development of country aerodromes is entirely insufficient for that purpose which is vitally important if country areas are to have the development in aviation matters to which they are entitled. The position in this regard, as I view it, is that, u.p to two or three years ago, there had been established an efficient service along the coastal fringe of the continent from Perth round to Cairns. At the outbreak of the last war, an efficient aerial service had been established under private enterprise and was giving satisfaction, but there had not been very much development in country areas. Certainly, feeder lines were being pushed out into those areas, but not very much progress had been made. Naturally with war conditions operating, country services were the first to suffer and to be withdrawn. The Government, instead of turning its attention to the development of country services immediately the cessation of the war permitted it to do so, in view of the fact that the services on the coastal fringe were still operating, embarked on a programme involving a considerable expenditure, which merely resulted in the already efficient coastal service having superimposed on it another service, at very considerable cost to the taxpayers. The Minister for Civil Aviation, speaking last night, stated that a capital expenditure of £3,750,000 had already been incurred on TransAustralia Airlines. Recently the statement was published in the press, almost, it seemed to me from the wording of it, with a touch of pride, that the loss on the operations of Trans-Australia Airlines for the first twelve months had been less than £500,000. I invite honorable members to note the expression “ less than”. The Minister also said that £500,000 had been expended in the acquisition of shares in Qantas Empire Airways Limited, and £1,000,000 in the purchase of Constellation aircraft, whilst a further £1,000,000 had been expended in the purchase of Convair aircraft. It would appeal” that nearly £7,000,000 has been expended in superimposing a governmental service on already existing services which were efficiently conducted - The Minister also claimed that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) based his objection to TransAustralia Airlines on his disapproval of government interference with private enterprise. In my opinion, that is a sound basis for objection, but it is not the only one. One of the strongest grounds for objection to such expenditure by the Government is the fact that the money is being used not in the development of the country but in supplementing services already in existence. In the event of an augmented service being necessary, there is no doubt that the private companies which had developed these services would have met the situation. That is my main criticism of the Government’s air policy. I have travelled in Trans-Australia Airlines aircraft and I agree with the Minister that efficient service is being rendered to the travelling public. If the organization did not give efficient service when it has merely to call on the Government for whatever capital expenditure it requires, it would be open to grave criticism. I make these points because I believe that the Government’s policy in .respect of aerodromes in country districts is not adequate, particularly when I recall that only £50,000 is to be voted under these Estimates for such services in comparison with the millions of pounds being expended in other directions.
People in many country areas had been awaiting an announcement of Government policy in this connexion. The Minister, who is most co-operative and willing to reply to questions addressed to him, had told us that a committee had been investigating the development of country aerodromes and that the announcement of government policy would soon be made. Recently, an announcement was made which caused bitter disappointment to many country people because it was far below their expectations. According to the statement of the Minister, the present Government’s policy is that aerodrome sites in country areas must be considerably developed by local authorities before the Government will expend money on them. In my opinion, that aspect of the Government’s policy is wrong, in that it takes iia account of the many problems which local governing bodies must face in. establishing aerodromes in country areas,, particularly where the terrain presentsconsiderable difficulties. In some -places it is relatively easy to establish aerodromes, but in other places local governing bodies find it almost impossible to provide the finance necessary in the early stages of development. Nowhere is this disability more evident than in certain areas in my electorate. Foi instance, the residents of Gladstone have been moving towards the development of a local airport for several years. It is true that the Department of Civil Aviation has given them considerable assistance, particularly in providing reports by engineers on various sites for aerodromes, but those reports show that the development of an airport suitable for the district will he particularly expensive. Therefore, if the early work is to be left to the local authorities, a heavy burden will be thrown on the local people. Why should the residents in such an area be deprived of a proper air service when people in other districts, particularly in the coastal areas, have services provided at no cost to themselves except the indirect cost to them as taxpayers? Another Queensland town facing similar difficulties is Emerald, which is situated on the main air route from western Queensland to Rockhampton. Should the local authorities be required to expend the sums necessary to provide a suitable airport out of their own funds, or even with a little assistance from the Government, the burden on the local ratepayers will be heavier than they can bear. That is unfair, when we remember that other areas mo: e favorably situated are provided with air services practically at no cost to the local residents. I submit that, had a greater proportion of the expenditure on air services conducted by the Government been diverted to assist local governing authorities, many country areas would now have the benefit of feeder services which as yet do not exist. Many ex-servicemen are desirous of supplying these feeder services. All that they need is permission to do so, and the provision of adequate ground facilities.
Last night, the Minister also referred to an agreement recently entered into between the Australian and Queensland Governments concerning the establishment of further government services in Queensland. It may be that under that agreement some of the matters which had been causing concern to local authorities will be cleared up, but I confess that until recently I had thought that there was not sufficient co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State authorities in Queensland in the development of civil aviation. However, according to the Minister’s statement, the agreement will ensure an expansion of air services in that State. I should like him to supply further information as to the terms of the agreement. I understand that there is reference to it in this morning’s Brisbane press, but I have not been able to ascertain what is intended. In the absence of further information, I greatly fear that all that is intended is that governmental services shall be superimposed on feeder lines which already exist in Queensland, and that there will be little relief to areas which are totally without air communications. I understood the Minister to say - and I hope that I heard him correctly - that the Commonwealth would agree to the conditions laid down in the Queensland Transport Act, which empowers the State to levy a fee not exceeding Id. for each passenger for every mile travelled and 2d. a ton for each mile that cargo is carried. I can understand the Commonwealth agreeing to that condition, but if the agreement means that the Commonwealth and the State are to cooperate in the establishment of the ser- vice under which those fees will be chargeable, in addition to the heavy charges already imposed by the civil aviation authorities, and will operate in opposition to private companies, there is little likelihood of these country services being developed to any degree. The outcome of the agreement could be that private enterprise in civil aviation will merely be struck another heavy blow. I hope the Minister will indicate his attitude towards the development of country aerodromes, and give some thought to increasing the amount set aside for this purpose. Obviously, £50,000 is a mere fleabite when we consider the amount of work that has to be done all over Australia. I should also like the Minister to give some information as to the Government’s proposals for air services in Queensland.
– I should not have spoken but for the answer given by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) last night to criticism by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). The Minister was evidently speaking from a brief in defence of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mi-. Drakeford), whom I congratulate upon having such an excellent backstop. Unfortunately the Minister was not armed with the right information. The criticism .of the honorable member for Fawkner was directed against the extraordinary increase of expenditure on the Department of Civil Aviation as compared with last year, an increase of £5,500,000, and he deplored the fact that the taxpayers should be required to find so much more money. The honorable member pointed out that, for the most part, this increased expenditure was for buildings, a fact which must have an important bearing upon the general housing programme. The Minister for Works and Housing, defending the Government’s proposals, said that the proposed expenditure was mostly for the establishment of new runways, and he passed lightly over the suggestion that some of the expenditure might be devoted to the acquisition of buildings and building sites. His statement moved me to examine the details more closely, and I now place on record a refutation of what he said. At page 399 of the Estimates, under the general heading of Department of Civil Aviation - Internal Services - there appears this item -
Buildings and works - including grants to capital councils towards costs of establishment and improvement of country aerodromes - £50,000.
I suggest that this is the item which sidetracked the Minister, and induced him to say that the money was being expended on the construction of runways. However, if we turn to page 400, we find that there is an item - Acquisition of sites and buildings, £3,000,000- while a total of £2,400,000 is listed for expenditure by the Department of Works and Housing for the Department of Civil Aviation, under Division No. 16.
– What works are contemplated?
– That is what I should like to know. We know that it is proposed to expend £3,000,000 upon the acquisition of sites and buildings. That amount, at any rate, does not cover works. We now come to proposed expenditure on proposed flying boat bases, and we find that for buildings, works. shore bases and marine facilities, fittings and furniture, it is proposed, to expend £15,000, while for the same items in connexion with thetransTasman section it is proposed to expend £10,000. Therefore, it is evident that the bulk of the expenditure is not to be devoted to the construction of runways, but to the acquisition of buildings, sites. &c. Evidently, the Minister for Works and Housing endeavoured to gloss over the matter in the hope that nothing further would be said about this proposed expenditure. As a matter of fact, the Estimates provide for the expenditure of colossal amounts of money, expenditure that cannot be justified by any department or any government.
T do not wish to comment upon the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava about the acquisition of shares in Qantas. We know, and the country knows, that the Government is hell-bent for socialization. If it cannot acquire shares by any other means, it will hold out all sorts of baits, including remissions of tax, to induce people to part with their shares.
– The honorable member is out of order in discussing that matter.
– The Estimates provide for the voting of an amount of money to take over shares in Qantas.
– Will the honorable member point out the item to which he refers?
– At page 400, under the heading “ Flying Boat Bases “, an amount is set aside for buildings and works for the trans-Tasman service.
– The honorable member may discuss the proposed expenditure on buildings and works, but no more.
– The expenditure on buildings and works on this service is the outcome of the Government’s decision to nationalize the service.
– Qantas is mentioned at page 393.
– Yes, at that page of the Estimates provision is made for the acquisition of shares in Qantas.
– That item is not before the committee.
– But under this item provision is made for works and sendees, and the acquisition of sites and buildings for the conduct of a nationalized air service. I congratulate the honorable member for Balaclava upon having made out such an excellent case. I now pass on to the summary of annual votes, at page 395. For the Department of Works and Housing the estimated increase of expenditure over last year is £5,081,830. The estimate for this year is £7,334,000, while expenditure for last year was £2,252.170. The increase is extraordinary when we remember that the Department of Works and Housing is really only a directing centre situated in Canberra. It was only the other day that the Parliament voted £13,000,000 for expenditure by the States on their housing programmes. The Minister for Works and Housing has handed over almost complete responsibility for housing construction to the State governments. Yet the Government now seeks £5,0S1,000 to meet proposed expenditure by the Department of Works and Housing in the current financial year. The Minister should explain to the committee why this sum is required for what is virtually only a directive department. I have no means of dissecting the proposed expenditure.
The Department of Munitions was brought into existence during the war, but its proposed vote for this year represents an increase of expenditure of £1,114,000 over that incurred last year. Obviously, this department is not being dampened down. On the contrary, it is being inflated; and, naturally, one wants to know why, in the light of the evidence brought forward by honorable members on this side of the chamber, a department of this kind is being continued. It is not being continued to produce munitions, unless percussion caps for toy pistols can be classified as munitions. Last night 1;he honorable member for Balaclava produced a letter which he had received from the department stating what there was a good export market for percussion caps for toy pistols, and, therefore, the department proposed to undertake that class of manufacture. If the department were producing pistols of use to the defence forces, I should support the increase of expenditure proposed. What is the reason for the proposed increase of” over £1,000,000? I know also that the department is rapidly producing lipstick containers. What a great department of munitions! It is producing percussion caps for toy pistols and lipstick containers! The Government is now calling upon the taxpayers of this country to provide an additional £1,114,000 to produce percussion caps for boy gangsters and containers for lipstick to give to the women of the country an opportunity to repair the devastation caused to their looks as the result of beholding the horror of their sons playing with pistols.
– The honorable member must confine himself to the Estimates before the Chair. These Estimates deal only with additions, new works and buildings.
– I draw attention, generally, to the summary of the proposed votes. No less a sum than £19,297,000 is to be made available this year for additions, new works and buildings after de ducting £2,553,000 provided for surplusbuildings, sites and equipment taken over from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. The Minister for Civil Aviation in an effort to justify the proposed expenditure on his department, referred last night to certain buildings taken over by his department from the commission. But the cost of such buildings is not included in that expenditure. I point out that over £12,750,000 additional expenditure is to be incurred this year on additions, new works and buildings for a number of departments of which at least six should now be abolished, because they were established solely for war purposes. They have ceased to be of use unless it he the Government’s intention to use them to maintain its present inflated bureaucracy and thus help to justify its claim that it is providing full employment. These bureaucrats should be engaged in productive employment.
.- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has made great play in respect of items under the Department of Civil Aviation which cover sites, buildings and equipment. He stated that that expenditure would involve competition for labour and materials urgently needed for the housing programmes now being undertaken by the States. Last night, when dealing with that argument, I pointed out that the new works to be undertaken for the Department of Civil Aviation are, in the main, earthworks. The honorable member is leaving the chamber ; that is n pity, because he has not even read the Estimates intelligently. At page 400 he will find a footnote explaining that of the sum of £3,000,000 for the acquisition of sites and buildings for the Department of Civil Aviation, an amount of £2,500,000 is for the purchase of buildings and sites from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. Yet, the honorable member declared that these millions were to be expended on a works programme which would compete with the housing programme. In fact, the buildings and materials covered by that item have already been purchased from the commission, and the money is now sought in order to pay the commission. That is a complete answer to the honorable member’s ‘charge that the work covered by that item will compete with the housing programme.
The honorable member is Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Occupying such a responsible position, he should at least inform himself of what the functions of the Department of Works and Housing are. He asked the reason for the increase of the proposed rote for the department; and declared that such increase was not justified because the department was merely a directive organization. The fact is that the works section of the department, in Canberra, is one of the smallest sections of its kind controlled by the department throughout Australia and the territories. Far from being merely a directive organization, the department is, in fact, carrying out an extensive works programme on behalf of other departments. For the Department of the Navy it is constructing buildings at Neutral Bay, and other works include the installation of oil storage tanks, certain work at the Garden Island graving dock and at South Head and other centres; For the Department of Civil Aviation, it is carrying out work at Broken Hill and at flying boat bases. Many of these works are being done under the day-labour system. For the Postmaster-General’s Department, it is constructing telephone exchanges at many centres, including Glen Innes, Dee Why, Bondi, Hunter’s Hill-, Cremorne, Broken Hill, Vaucluse and East .Sydney, and also the cable tunnel in Sydney. The department is also Carrying out extensive works for other departments in every State and in the territories of Papua and New Guinea.
If time permitted I should enumerate the works being carried out by the department foi- the Repatriation Commission, (he Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the Departments of Aircraft- Production, Munitions and the Interior; iti fact, tha list of works being carried out for all the departments in the Commonwealth embraces five closely typed pages. The honorable member is surely award that the whole of the physical Work associated with the development of Mascot into one of the finest airports of the world is being carried out by my department. The construction of the guided weapons testing range in Central Australia is also being carried out by my department on a day labour basis. The undertaking of these many and varied projects has been made possible through the foresight of the Government in obtaining from the United States of America the most modern plant and equipment. The whole of the plant has been repaired and is now in service throughout the country. It was largely to finance its purchase and repair that the Estimates of my department were increased for the current financial year.
.- In Victoria, which particularly interests me, far too little direction appears to be exercised by the Victorian Housing Commission in the allocation of . such houses as are constructed. That matter concerns the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), to the degree that he exercises some influence over State Ministers by virtue of the controls administered by the Commonwealth, and therefore he cannot escape responsibility foi- their actions. Some time ago I wrote to the Victorian Minister for Housing concerning the provision of a house for an exserviceman who, with his wife and six children, was living in one room in a residence at Carlton) which had been condemned by the Melbourne City Council as unfit for human habitation. The man concerned had every reason to expect that he would be given priority in the allocation of a new house; he had already applied for a war service home and for the allotment of one of the houses constructed by the Victorian Housing Commission. In his reply, the Minister, after stating that there were a great many unsatisfied applicants, ended his letter with the words, “ It is not possible to give this application special consideration until the general position has improved “. That attitude is completely wrong. A degree of preference should be extended according to need and merit. As a result of being compelled to live in one room in a condemned house, two of the children died within the last year. The terrible state of affairs revealed by this case demands that the whole system of priority in the allocation of houses be further examined.
In Victoria alone there are 23,000 unsatisfied applications for homes constructed by the Housing Commission, and 15,000 unsatisfied applications from exservicemen. I do not think the Minister will challenge those figures; they were supplied by the Victorian Minister for Housing.
The rate at which the shortage of housing is being overcome is extremely unsatisfactory. In Victoria, only 6,900 homes were constructed last year, compared with 10,000 in 1939, when a great number of offices, bridges, factories, and other buildings were also constructed. The Government’s record in its attempt to overcome the arrears of homo building during last year is therefore a poor one. Recently, I attended a meeting of the Master Builders Association of Victoria and learned that, given adequate materials, the members of the association have sufficient labour and facilities available to undertake the construction of four or five times as many houses as they are now erecting. The reason for the present deplorably low rate of replacement is the shortage of materials. I draw the attention of the committee to the position in relation to the production of some of the basic requirements for home construction. An examination of the production of bricks reveals a very sad and startling story. The production of brickmakers has declined steadily with the result that the cost of house construction has greatly increased. In 1939. 10,000 people were employed in making bricks; to-day the number is 7.000. In 1939, the 10.000 brickmakers produced ‘ 720,000,000 bricks; but to-day the output of the 7.000 brickmakers has fallen to less than half that number, being approximately :?00,000.000 bricks a year. The average daily output of each employee is now 200 bricks whereas formerly it was 300 bricks. That inevitably means rising costs. Instead of the Minister establishing boards throughout tho country to control the allotment of bricks, timber, wire and steel, he should consider the means whereby the overall production of these commodities may be increased. We know that the employees in the brickmaking industry are capable of producing a greater output of bricks, but they lack the incentive to do so. One of the first things that should be done is to encourage increased output by making provision for incentive payments and profit sharing.
In nearly every commodity required for house construction production is declining. Let us take at random three important items, namely, baths, basins and sinks. The production figures for the months of July and October, 1946, and May, 1947, show a progressive decline in the output of these essential items. What is the use of talking about increased housing construction when the Government permits the production of essential requirements to decline in that way? Another factor militating against the successful operations of enterprising private builders is the constant interference in their activities by the Prices Branch. I propose to cite certain examples to indicate how inept and foolish is this control. Take, for illustration, one scandalous example. The price of sawn hardwood, 3 inches by 2 inches, is 31s. 5d. and of sawn hardwood, 6 by 2, 37s. a 100 super, feet. At present it is impossible tq obtain 3 by 2 hardwood with the result that builders are forced to take 6 by 2 planks and have them milled down to the smaller size, which means that they have to pay an additional 5s. 7d. a 100 super, feet for it. That is absolutely ridiculous, and is one of the irritations that mitigate against home-building in Victoria. Also, kilndried timber in that State costs 10s. less after it has been moulded than before. How on earth could any responsible body arrive at a decision like that?
Another matter to which I wish to draw attention is the growing arrogance of the prices authorities in Victoria. As honorable members are aware, the Prices Commission has absolutely the last word in estimating the cost of a home. It has power to fix the cost of a house, regardless of any evidence that may be offered, and there is no appeal from its decision. I draw the attention nf the Minister to a case that was brought to my notice recently : A contractor carried out a repair job on a home for a certain price. He submitted his figures to the Prices Commission which reduced them by £9, and directed him to pay that sum back to his client. That decision may have been right or wrong, but the basis upon which the action was taken was very wrong indeed. In a letter to the builder, who appealed against the finding, the prices authorities stated -
In this regard, you are informed that it is not the practice of this office to disclose the basis of arriving at decisions.
That is a very high-handed action, and is a wrong principle for any governmental or quasi-legal authority to adopt as the basis for a decision. In a letter to me, the Builders and Allied Trades Association points out, quite rightly, that it is impossible for any one viewing a painting and repair job after its completion to visualize the state of the item repaired before the work was commenced. In the case to which I have referred, certain preparatory work had to be completed. The letter concludes -
We were under the impression that British justice required that a British subject be advised for what he was being punished, not only for his own information, but so that he would he aware of his obligations for the future. Under our new bureaucratic “law by regulation”, our masters (who were once considered to be our servants) apparently have not the obligation to advise us wherein we have offended against the law.
I put that to the Minister for his consideration. I wish to speak also of one or two other vital commodities that are in short supply. Take for instance cement: We all know that there is an acute shortage of this commodity, yet there is plenty of the raw material required for its manufacture. Kilns are available, and man-power can be procured to do the work. At Tynesford in Victoria where there arc five kilns, only one is in production. Some action should be taken to ensure that production of this commodity shall bo increased.
Provision is made in these Estimates for the construction of Beaufort homes. I do not propose to ‘ dwell upon the suitability or otherwise of this type of house, but I do say that at a time when there is such an acute shortage of steel, the proposal to erect steel houses is particularly ill-timed. Steel, of course, is difficult to obtain for the manufacture of almost any commodity. Steel is also a money producing commodity. It goes into engines, machinery, and factories, all of which make wealth and create employment. I say, therefore, that the proposal to produce 5,500 “ biscuit tins “ - they are not much more - is particularly unsuitable at present.
I have some criticism to offer of the Housing Commission in Victoria. Following the usual practice of government departments which, whenever there is a threatened shortage of a commodity, grab all available supplies, and dole out a little at a time, the Victorian Housing Commission has taken up much of the available home-building land in that State. It now has enough to meet its requirements for 30 years at the present rate of building. This is quite ridiculous. It means that people who want homes are forced, whether they like it or not, to become tenants of government premises, whereas many of them would prefer to buy their own land and build their own homes. It might suit the Minister, and be in accordance with government policy, to proceed with this rather socialistic scheme, but it will not produce any more houses, and I submit that it is wrong in principle.
One other matter relating to the building industry that calls for criticism is the unsuitability of certain types of houses that are being built even by government instrumentalities. Only a mile or two from this building, the Government is erecting homes that are nothing more than rural slums. We hear a lot of talk about the necessity for more population in this country, and the desirability of bigger families, but in these “ dog-boxes “ that are being erected near the railway station in this city - they are typical of many others throughout the Common.wealth - it would not be possible for a man and wife to raise a family in any degree of comfort. It is utter humbug and nonsense to talk of increasing the population, and of migration, when no effort is being made to increase the production of houses, and residences of a quite unsuitable type are being erected by government instrumentalities.
.- I should like some information in regard to one item of these Estimates. Under Division 11, the proposed vote for “ Commonwealth offices and other buildings - works, fittings and furniture “ is £290,000. The vote for 1946-47 was £124,000 of which only £30,212 was expended. In view of this disparity, I should like the Minister to inform the committee where, and on what, the £30,212 was expended last year and. also where, and on what, the’ £290,000 to be voted this year will be expended. This increase of more than £250,000 seems to warrant some explanation.
.- I am unable to give the exact details of last year’s expenditure, although I can mention some of the items. I shall have a detailed statement prepared containing the information that the honorable member seeks. Portion of the money voted last year was expended on hostels to house the labour forces required to carry out the Government’s works programme. Some of such hostels were erected in Canberra, where, in the last year, our force of manual workers has increased from 1,000 to 1,700 or 1,S00. Quarters, all of which are owned by the Department of Works and Housing, had to be erected for them. I shall have a. detailed statement prepared showing what we hope to do this year. One reason for the increase is that in the last six months the Department of Works and Housing has taken over from the Department of External Territories for possibly five years what was the civil construction authority in Papua, New Guinea and New Britain. The Department of Works and Housing has the skilled technicians and engineers to do the job. It will be necessary for us to provide office accommodation for the administrative staff, possibly at Port Moresby.
– I have nothing but good to say about the work done by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research at its research station at Cunnamulla, called Gilruth Plains, where research regarding sheep breeding and grasses grown in the heart of the sheep country is being conducted, but, at the other end of my electorate, there is another Council for Scientific and Industrial Research “to tion in the deciduous fruit district, and, doubtless, money will be spent on new works at such stations as that. One is impelled to ask questions about it when one hears the fruit-growers asking what the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research officers are in the locality for, because the extent of their work is to advise the growers when the apples are fit to pick. Practical men with years of experience of orcharding know more about that than so-called experts. Those experts are taking no steps to defeat the codlin moth, or to .assist the practical orchardists who are doing their best to contend with the pest, even though their neighbours may be so careless as to let it breed undisturbed. So I should like the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) to tell me whether money to be expended on the research stations for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will be unwisely used, as it appears to have been in the deciduous fruit-growing- district, or wisely as it has been at Cunnamulla, where the council is doing u commendable job.
Earlier, the Minister for Works and Housing said that it was possible that more than 100 different designs of war service homes would soon be available, from which ex-servicemen might choose homes of the type they want without having to go to the expense of engaging a private architect to design homes according to their specifications. I should like to know what progress has been made. Can we expect the plans to be available soon ?
The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has expressed optimism in having £500,000 set aside this year for standardization of railway gauges. Last year the vote amounted to £746,000, of which only £46.765 was expended. I hope this vote only expresses the Minister’s optimism, because standardization of the railway gauges is not urgent or warranted. The Government has no right to absorb in that unnecessary work labour urgently required in primary and secondary industries. That standardization is not now of the strategic value that it would have been in the recent war, and now I see no reason why the standardization of the gauges should proceed when all sections of industry, both primary and secondary, are crying out for more hands. Irrigation is a much more important project than the standardization of railway gauges.
I preface some criticism that I have to offer of the Department of Civil Aviation by commending the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) for his fine exposition of the need for the development of air routes in country districts. The Minister far Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) said last night that Trans-Australia Airlines was brought into being because Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was developing into a monopoly. As I listened to him, I thought that at least one Minister was against the establishment of a banking monopoly and that we could rely on his support; but, as he went on, he showed himself as determined to establish monopolies of every sort, if they are government monopolies. The Government’s intention to establish a monopoly in air transport in Australia was frustrated by the High Court, but there is no need foi- me to labour that point, because it was effectively dealt with in the debate last night. All that I need to direct my attention to is that if Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was developing a monopoly - I am against monopolies - it was forced to do so by the Minister and his department because of the department’s continual refusal to grant licences or permits to other companies to establish air services. Hundreds of applications were refused. I agree that licences to conduct air services cannot be granted ad lib to people not capable of carrying out a service, but licences were refused to people well able to operate and desirous of operating country air services. Like the honorable member for Capricornia, I have been disappointed by the limited number of permits granted for the establishment of air services in Queensland. I believe that only six permits have been distributed amongst hundreds of applicants. When one examines requirements for air services in the remote areas of that State, one wonders why, for instance, a permit was granted for a service from Bourke to Thargomindah without inserting a condition that the route should be extended to Quilpie, Charleville, and Cunnamulla, and thence back to Bourke. Such a route would provide a badly needed service for the south-western area of Queensland. Residents of Quilpie have long sought an air service, and Qantas Empire Airways Limited, before the company was taken over by the Government, assured me that it was willing to establish a service over the route I have mentioned. I hope that the Minister for Civil Aviation, now that he is responsible for the air services provided by the company, will take action to have that assurance fulfilled. If the committee which advises the Minister had recommended such a service then it would have given practical help to the inland-
– Order ! The honorable member is entitled to deal with the proposed advance to the Australian National Airlines Commission, but he is not otherwise entitled to discuss air services.
– There are four items relating to air services in Division 16. One of these deals with the establishment and improvement of country aerodromes, and therefore I take the opportunity to deal with the subjects discussed by the Minister for Civil Aviation in his speech.
– I rise to order. In Division 16, at page 399 of the Estimates,, there is provision for an advance of £1,500,000 to the Australian National Airlines Commission to enable it to operate its air services, which the Minister said last night would be extended within the State of Queensland. Thisaffects the air services that the honorable member for Maranoa, was speaking about,, because it will lead to their extension. I submit that he should be permitted to speak on that subject.
– The honorable member is entitled to discuss the activities of the Australian National Airlines Commission, but not the proposed air servicesof private companies or their applications for permission to conduct air services.
– I must accept your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I agree with what the honorable member forCapricornia has said about the allocation of funds for the construction of aerodromes in country districts. An anomaly lies in the fact that the Minister’s policy is that no financial assistance shall be given to local governing authorities for the construction of aerodromes until air services are established to the districts where the aerodromes are planned. Country districts cannot secure air services until they are provided with aerodromes which satisfy the requirements of engineers of the Department of Civil Aviation. This fact forces local governing authorities to expend their own resources on the construction of aerodromes so that air services may be extended to their districts, and then to apply to the department for financial aid. The Minister’s policy, which has been plainly stated, is that in these circumstances the department will give only technical advice to the local governing bodies. Of course, they do not ignore such advice because the department’s experts are competent men. However, immediate financial assistance ought to be granted for the construction of aerodromes, which, in the present state of development of civil aviation, should be capable of meeting the needs of fairly large aircraft. The Minister’s policy is topsy-turvy. The needs of country districts for air services were discussed when the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act was under consideration in this chamber. The measure made an allocation of funds to the States for the purposes of aerodrome maintenance and construction. We were informed then that the States would be entitled to allocate money to local governing authorities for such work. But what chance have local governing bodies of obtaining money from the State governments when the total allocation for aerodromes under the act for the whole of Australia was only £500,000 ? The States, naturally, are safeguarding their own interests. The Minister ought to reverse his policy when, in the opinion of his advisory committee, the establishment of an aerodrome is essential for the welfare of a country district. This would serve to decrease the isolation of country towns and would encourage people to remain in the country. In such circumstances, the Department of Civil Aviation should give financial assistance in the first instance so that satisfactory services can be established.
– I wish to reply to some of the statements made by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr.
Adermann). I cannot be held responsible for the policy of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The honorable member asked what the council intended to do. I believe that it will continue with the valuable field work which it has carried on in the past. It has purchased a number of properties, including one in Western Australia, for the purpose of studying serious sheep diseases in clover country. As the honorable member knows, field work of this sort requires also a considerable amount of laboratory experimentation. The Department of Works and Housing is endeavouring to build four or five structures for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research so that it may obtain the best results from its field work. Such building work was completely stopped during the war, and we are now endeavouring to catch up with the lag by undertaking construction work in various States. I told the honorable member previously what I intended to do regarding the production of plans for war service homes. Architects and draftsmen have been engaged on this work, and some standard plans are already available in one State. They should be available in all States within the next four or five weeks. Then the scheme will be broadened and more sets of plans will be produced so that applicants for war service home3 may have a fairly wide choice. The honorable member also referred to the considerable sum allotted to the Department of Transport for the standardization of railway gauges. I disagree with his statement that this is a useless project, but I shall not argue the case. That sum, £425,000 of which i* being used for the purchase from the Disposals Commission of equipment such as bulldozers, graders and ballasting machinery, is not lying idle. The Minister for Transport has already made some of the machinery available to the Department of Works and Housing, and it is in use in all parts of Australia. It is being used on the Mascot Aerodrome and on two aerodromes in Tasmania. The amount does not represent new capital.
– I strongly support the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) regarding the need for the development of country aerodromes. There can be no doubt that the future of any decentralization plan in Australia must depend largely upon the proper development of aerial transport services to country centres. Both honorable members have directed attention to instances in their own electorates of the obvious necessity for those services. There is in my electorate at least one similar case with which the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) is familiar. In a question which I asked a few days ago, I spoke of the contention that the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines would permit of pioneering work in this field, and the opening up of areas which would not be acceptable to the operators of private air lines. Here, I should like to pay a. tribute to the Minister for Civil Aviation, because on all occasions he has met in a most friendly spirit, my representations to him regarding aerodromes and the like in Tasmania. The Minister is familiar wilh Smithton aerodrome, which the local authority has developed to a fairly high degree of efficiency and which, in the past, did operate a service with smaller aircraft than those which are at present being used for transport services throughout ihe Commonwealth. In his reply, the Minister referred to the fact nhat one transport company had resisted efforts to open a certain service in Tasmania, and that he had been instrumental in inducing it to begin the work. While that is perfectly true, and I pay .a tribute to the Minister for his efforts in that matter, I remind him that the contention that the aerodrome was not safe was advanced, not only by the airline company, but also by members of the Department of Civil Aviation. I understand that, at present, a request for a permit to operate a service from Smithton was submitted to the department, which refused to grant the application on the ground that the aerodrome was not safe. Par be it from me to suggest to the Minister that the aerodrome is safe when officials of his department say that it is not, but I suggest that we should be well advised to examine the. matter carefully in view of the history of the other aerodrome.
It so happens, as :he Minister knows, that the particular line of which he spoke, and to which I now refer, was opened Ur largely on his recommendation by the company concerned, and has, I believe, developed into the best paying line in the whole of Australia; so much so that Trans-Australia Airlines is now about to duplicate that service. However, criticism is being voiced in parts of Tasmania, though naturally not in that area, but in other districts surrounding Smithton, that it cannot be called a pioneering service. In my opinion, that is a logical argument. The other point which I make is that since the policy was laid down that local committees must first develop their own aerodromes before the department will assist them, a new factor has arisen, namely, that charges shall be made for the use of aerodromes, so that whatever money is expended now upon an aerodrome which has anything like a regular service must, in some degree at any rate, be repaid to the department. I suggest to the Minister that in the light of that new development, he should re-examine the matter of the development of aerodromes. Regarding Smithton, I repeat to him now what I said to him earlier in connexion with Wynyard, which is now operating and has proved to be so eminently successful. A. service from that airfield, not to any other point in Tasmania, but to Melbourne, which may be called the commercial capital of the north of Tasmania, would in my opinion, be most lucrative. li would be to the advantage of the department to extend its policy of providing assistance to local committers to enable them to construct aerodromes, and to concentrate on the opening up of the service from Smithton to Melbourne. The Minister is well aware of the special circumstances which prevail in that, part of Tasmania. The transportation of its products would make the development of a daily service a practical and lucrative proposition. The population of Tasmania has been demonstrated, on figures, to be the most air-minded in the whole world. Tasmania’s own peculiar position in this regard is brought, about by the rather turbulent waters of Bass Strait. Wherever practicable, most travellers are inclined to avoid the sea passage. For that reason, air transport between Tasmania and the mainland has developed amazingly in the last few years, and must develop still further in the near future.
Sitting suspended from 12-45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- It seems to me that some reply should have been made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to the remarks made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) last night. However, since no reply has been forthcoming I direct the attention of the committee to page 393 of the Estimates, where it will be seen that the cost of additions, new works, buildings. &c, for the financial year 1947-48 is estimated at £19,297,000.’ That is not a small sum ; indeed, it is approximately one-fifth of the highest pre-war budget, namely, that of 1939. The second column shows that approximately £13,000,000 was voted for the financial year 1946-47, but that less than half that amount was expended during that financial year. The sum of £19.297,000 is proposed to be voted for all departments, although last year they expended only approximately £6,400,000. I have felt for a long time tha.t there is no control whatever by the Government over the expenditure of public money, and a perusal of the Estimates for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, fortifies me in that conclusion. I draw attention to two or three departments merely by way of example. The sum of approximately £1,600,000 was voted for the Department of the Interior last year, but of this sum it spent only approximately £3.1.8,000. Notwithstanding that fact’ £1,554,500 is being voted for that department in this year’s Estimates. The Department of Works and Housing, which last year spent £2,252,170, now seeks a vote of £7,334,000, an increase of approximately £5,000,000. Similar animadversions can be made in respect of other departments, as for example, the Department of Civil Aviation. That department, which spent only approximately £2,300,000 last year, is now seeking a vote of £7,835,000. I should like to know what investigations were made by the Government before including these amounts in the Estimates. There is, as we all know, a Public Works Committee, but no matter how conscientiously that committee discharges its functions, the projects which it examines comprise only a fraction of the expenditure covered by additions, new works, buildings, &c. Unless some new method has been devised by the Government to check such grossly increased expenditure it seems to me that there is no machinery to assess the necessity for the construction of new works.
The matter may be summed up in a few words. The Government seeks to obtain the committee’s consent to the appropriation of £19,297,000, although the expenditure on similar projects last year amounted only to approximately £6,000,000. If it were really necessary to undertake the construction of works costing £19,297,000 during this financial year, no member of the committee would criticize the expenditure. But that is the whole point: Is the carrying out of the proposed works essential? A large part of the community is now anxiously seeking to erect homes but is unable to obtain materials. I am not speaking now of the wealthy classes, but of poor people who want to build modest homes for a small outlay, of whom there are many in my electorate. Those people are unable to obtain materials or the services of builders unless they go on to the black market, and we all know that a huge number of transactions of that kind take place. To the extent to which the Government engages in a vast building programme, which makes demands on labour and material,- it is depriving people of the ability to construct homes for themselves. That is the gist of my comment upon this matter. Something not dissimilar has taken place in England, and I simply mention it in passing so that the lesson may be- applied here. One of the chief reasons why production has fallen below its target in Great Britain in that much of the vast sum which the British Government has expended has borne no relation whatever to production. Unless each of the items listed in these divisions can be substantiated up to the hilt - as it ought to be, because those items are making demands on labour and materials in short supply - then the Government should withdraw these Estimates and present fresh ones, including provision only for works which are absolutely essential.
Another matter which is of some though much lesser importance is referred to on the page of the Estimates T have indicated, and is included in the total sum proposed to be voted of £19,297,000. I refer to Divisions 36-37, Department of Labour and National Service, which proposes to- spend £37,000- during the current financial year. The greater portion of that amount relates to the acquisition of sites and buildings, estimated to cost £22,000. The sum of £7,126 was spent for this purpose last year. I believe that this department is guilty of gross extravagance. It operates throughout Australia and employs a large number of people who have little to do, and I have received complaints from many sources regarding the money which it wastes. I cannot understand why the department’s existence is being continued in the way proposed, and I can only surmise that it is the natural consequence of establishing a government -department. Once established, a department seeks to perpetuate itself, which, in the case of bureaucracies, is just as natural as it is for a fish to swim. Accordingly, we find that this department, which is the direct successor of the man-power department, is now absorbing a vast amount of public money at a time when there is no need for a Department of Labour in the sense that a Commonwealth department is required at all to place people in employment. Any man who desires a job can get a job for himself to-day, and I wish to know why this department’s existence is being continued, and what justification exists for providing such a large sum of money for expenditure by it this year. The amount proposed to be voted is approximately five times the amount it spent last year.
However, I do not wish to sidetrack myself. Can the Government give an assurance to this committee in precise terms that an accurate survey has been made as to the necessity for carrying out works which are estimated to cost approximating £20,000,000, so that the people can be satisfied that those works should be carried out during the current financial year ? I shall be very happy to know that that has been done, but I shall not be satisfied by a mere general statement, more so when one recollects that £13,000,000 was much more than sufficient to cover similar expenditure last year. It is in this way that either money becomes extravagantly expended or the budget reflects an artificial expenditure, which, in turn, prevents a reduction of taxation.
Those remarks apply only to the sum of £19,207,000. I have not dealt with the rest of the Estimates because I am not permitted to do so> hut I have a shrewd suspicion that the extent to which control is exercised in connexion with what I have been speaking about will be found to be reflected in every other department of government. There is only one observation that I wish to make in continuation of that. If one looks at page 394. one finds that the total of the proposed votes for additions, new works, buildings, &c, is nearly £30,000,000. A portion of that amount - £8,442,000 - is for business undertakings, and another portion - £2,228,000- is for territories of the Commonwealth. If I found that a larger proportion of this vast sum was to be expended upon business undertakings and territories of the Commonwealth, I should have more sympathy with the expenditure, but two-thirds of the total amount relates to various departments of State, and before being approved by the committee it ought to be justified up to the hilt by the Government.
The second subject to which I desire to direct the attention of the committee is to be found in the item, “Aluminium Industry (Act No. 44 of 1944) “ on page 393.
– Order 1 That matter is not before the committee for discussion. It is the subject of a special appropriation, which is covered by an act of Parliament.
– May I ask why it is not a matter for discussion, seeing that it appears in the Estimates for additions, nev.- works, buildings, &c. ?
– The item “ Special Appropriations “ is covered specially by statute, and cannot be debated during the discussion of the Estimates for additions, new works, buildings, &c.
– I bow to your ruling. May I make this observation in passing, in support of my contention that this committee is not given any information upon which it can determine whether or not these large sums should be appropriated for the purposes stated, namely, that a sum is sought to be appropriated for the aluminium industry, and that, although a second report has been made by the Aluminium Commission, that report is not before this chamber?
– Order! The honorable gentleman is not entitled to proceed further along those lines.
– I bow to your ruling. I regret very much that I am prevented from making some observations as 10 how this committee is being denied essential information. [ draw attention .to another matter, which will give me an opportunity of making a somewhat similar point. It seems to me that I am clearly entitled to refer to it, because it’ appears under the estimates of the Department of the Treasury on page 397, the total of the proposed votes for which is £51,300. Particulars are given, showing how that £51,300 is made up. It is shown that, in the year 1946-47, the sum of £100,000 was expended on the item “ Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited - Acquisition of major interest “. Apparently, that is not a matter for a special appropriation. For some time, I have wondered whether the Government has obtained any legal advice, and if so when, as to its right to take up shares in industrial concerns. I have always taken the view, and I believe it to be supported by the decision of the High Court in the Pharmaceutical Benefits case, that the Commonwealth has no power to appropriate money except for Commonwealth purposes, and Commonwealth purposes a re only purposes in respect of which this Parliament has power to make laws or the Executive has power to act, and they must be found within the Constitution. There is no power in the Constitution which will enable the Government to carry on industrial affairs or activities, and the only way in which its action can be supported is speaking in general terms by reference to the defence power. The point that I want to have answered is this: Under what authority was this sum of £100,000 expended on theacquisition of shares in Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited ? What isthe nature of the company? What are its objectives, and its proposed developments? I ask that, because I have in mind - if 1 may again make a passingreference - that, in respect of thealuminium industry, the attainment of an economically efficient production presupposes an ingot output of 10,000 tonsa year, and it is obvious from the report that has been tabled in the Senate, not here, that there is in contemplation inthe minds of some members of the commission an extension of its activity intofabrication. This is important in my mind, because I have noticed, and I am sure that other members of the committee also have noticed only too often, that the Government is not concerned very much with the spirit of the Constitution; if it can find a way round the Constitution so as to defeat its spirit and expand a programme of socialization, it proposes to doso. One warning which I sound, and which ought to be examined very closely by the committee, is that, by means of powers which are being exercised by the Government - for example, the power given to the Commonwealth Bank, under the Commonwealth Bank Act of 1945, to take up shares in industrial concerns - methods are being exploited by the Government for by-passing the Constitution and enabling it to engage in activities which it has no legislative war-rant for engaging in. It is important that this trend should be arrested, because I know that if and when a matter finally comes up for determination the High Court, in determining whether or not power is or is not existent, must in some sense take into consideration existing economic conditions in the country. So I want to know, on this particular matter, whether any legal advice has been obtained at any time as to the extent to which the Government is entitled to invest its money in industrial organizations, and if so, whether there is any reason why that legal advice should not be made known to the members of this committee, so that they in turn may, armed with it. be able to keep watch over expenditure, so as to ensure that it shall be incurred within the limits of the legal advice that has been given ; and in particular, what legislative warrant there was for the expenditure of £100,000 last year upon an investment in Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited.
Especially, I want to have an answer from the Minister on the point that I have made in respect of the total of the proposed votes for additions, new works, buildings, &c, because I am sure that he will agree with me, and that no member of the committee will dispute, that, to the extent to which there is unnecessary competition between the Commonwealth and private citizens for goods and services which are in short supply, that it could not be justified. Competition on the part of the Government can be justified only if there be an overriding necessity for it to make a prior claim upon the goods and services that are available in the community. I fear that the expenditure of the large sum of money contemplated for the current financial year will mean that claims will be made on materials and labour which are in short supply, and that the result will be a hardship to many people who wish to build their own homes.
– The honorable member for Warringah. (Mr. Spender) referred to the Commonwealth Employment Service. On other occasions I have answered questions relating to this activity and I have made some public statements regarding it. Nevertheless, it was quite proper for the honorable member to bring the matter before the committee, and I shall reply by drawing attention to some features with which, perhaps, he is not familiar. [ know that the honorable member does not criticize the expenditure involved in the re-establishment of ex-service men and women or other persons who had to be transferred from war work to peace work. That work has been carried out successfully, although at considerable cost, hut I do not think that any honorable member will criticize what has been done. The honorable member for Warringah then drew attention to the fact that something like’ normal conditions had returned, and he contended that as the bulk of the demobilized ex-service men and women had been placed in employment, the cost of the Commonwealth Employment Service in respect of those now seeking jobs is too great. In different circumstances, that would be fair criticism. Indeed, it is an aspect of government activity which has caused a great deal of concern. However, the Public Service Board is gradually, but surely, getting matters placed on a permanent basis, and many persons who had been only temporarily employed have been placed in other jobs. Some of the criticism of honorable members opposite has been unfair; they have divided the aggregate cost by the number of persons placed in employment, and have reached the conclusion that it cost £3 a head to find jobs for demobilized men and women. The total sum shown in the Estimates was not expended in placing men and women in employment, as the staff did many other things besides that. That kind of criticism is unfair. I do not suggest that the honorable member for Warringah has been unfair.
– I want to know why it is necessary to expend £37,000 this year when most of the problems of reemployment ought to have been solved.
– It may not be necessary to expend all that amount this year, but it is thought wise to provide sufficient, to meet all possible contingencies.
The honorable member referred to matters associated with a company which had been formed to take over an engineering establishment formerly conducted by Waddingtons Proprietary Limited. During the war that company carried out some most important work for the Government, but when those who previously stood behind it financially withdrew their support, the firm got into difficulties. Recognizing the importance of the work which the company had undertaken, the Government came to its rescue and provided sufficient finance to keep the business functioning so that work would not be held up. So successful was the result that the ‘Government recently decided to enter into an agreement to acquire a major interest in the concern. The advice received by the Government was that its action was according to the law; but, of course, that point could be contested at any time.
– That is a matter which cannot be tested.
– The honorable member for Warringah knows more of the legal aspect of the matter than I do. I can say, however, that, as a result of the Government’s assistance, the company has performed excellent work.
– I do not dispute that.
– What was an insolvent organization is now being controlled by the Government at a handsome profit.
, - The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) claims that the vote of £29,967,000 for additions, new works, buildings, &c, will result in active competition with the housing programme throughout Australia. I endeavoured to answer that point last night, but this afternoon the honorable member raised a new point when he made special reference to the considerable vote for the Department of Works and Housing. In order to clear up whatever doubts may still exist in his mind, I shall explain how most of the money will be expended. The honorable member said that he had no strong objection to money being expended on business undertakings such as the construction of post offices, and so I point out that over £8,000,000 will be used for the rehabilitation of post offices. The sum of £2,280,000 will be expended in the various territories of the Commonwealth. I shall give details of that amount later. The honorable member claims that most of the £19,297,000 for “ Part I. - Departments and Services, other than business undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth “, will compete with the housing programme, and, therefore, I draw his special attention to Divisions 12 to 14, Department of Works and Housing, as shown on page 395 of the Estimates. It is true that those figures represent a considerable in-, crease on last year’s expenditure, but the money will, in fact, be used to construct houses. Last year expenditure on war service homes was shown as a separate item, but, as legislation passed by the Parliament brought such homes under the direction of the Department of Works and Housing, figures relating to them must now be included in the vote for that department. Of the total vote, £7,144,000 has been specially set aside for housing. In addition, £1,768,000, which is part of the £19,297,000, represents the estimated expenditure for housing in the territories of the Commonwealth. That sum will be included in the vote for the Department of the Interior because that department controls buildings in the Australian Capital Territory. Much of theremaining expenditure will be for the purpose of completing undertakingsalready in hand. If, in the current financial year, we finish all the works already begun we shall have done all that we hope to do. It is also proposed to set aside £2,400,000 for the Munitions Department to be expended on shipbuilding, and very little of this work will compete with the housing programme. An amount of £700,000 is to be voted for capital works and the purchase of capital goods, machine tools, &c, for the manufacture of Beaufort homes, expenditure which is complementary to, rather than competitive with, the general housing programme. Of the amount of £7,S35,000 to be appropriated for the Civil Aviation Department, the greater part will be spent on earthworks and the preparation of aerodromes. I have already discussed that matter. There is an item of £606,000 for the Repatriation Department, to be expended on finishing hospitals already begun. An amount of approximately £8,000,000 is to be appropriated directly for housing, for expenditure on war service homes and house construction on the Territories of the Commonwealth, this being a Commonwealth responsibility. Any major undertaking, which might be regarded as having a direct bearing on the housing programme, is to be referred to the Public Works Committee consisting of honorable members of all parties in the Parliament.
– Only a fragmentary portion of the total expenditure on public works is ever considered by the Public Works Committee. That was my experience when I was Treasurer.
– I do not know what the exact position was then. At that time, the works organization was under the Department of«the Interior, and did not perform the physical work to anything like the same degree as does the Department of “Works and Housing now. When the Allied Works Council went out of existence, and the Department of Works and Housing was set up, a Cabinet direction was given that any work for other departments, which the Department of Works and Housing undertook to do, should be examined by me, and 1 have laid it down that all major works which require materials in competition with housing must be examined by the Public Works Committee. Five proposals, which will be brought before the Parliament within the next fortnight, will eventually be referred to the Public Works Committee. I do not refer to the committee proposals for aerodrome construction, even though the cost may be considerable, because the technical draughting work is done by officials of the Department of Civil Aviation, working in collaboration with engineers of my department. In any case, such works do not compete to any great degree for materials with the housing programme, and I generally pass the proposals myself. It was natural that when the housing problem was not so acute as it is now, the government of the day did not consider it necessary to refer many undertakings to the Public Works Committee, but under present conditions it is desirable that proposals should be examined by an outside body - that is, a body outside the department. I know that it is very easy for executives to develop a departmental complex.
.- I thank the Minister (Mr. Lemmon) for replying to my observations. It is obvious, from the remark of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), that, in some instances, money is to be appropriated, not because it is really needed, but because the Government thinks it might have to spend the money.
Mi-. BARNARD. - Did not the honorable member do the same when he was Treasurer ?
– The most futile observations ever made in this House are such remarks as, “ What did you do last year, or even 50 years ago? “. I am concerned with what is happening now. If we were wrong, let us correct it. Before the war, the total estimated expenditure for a year used to be less than £100,000,000, but now we are budgeting for an expenditure four or five times that amount. The Estimates are the basis upon which taxation is determined, and upon which taxation concessions depend. Therefore, it is important that the Estimates should represent a fair judgment of what is likely to be expended - not of what the Government might like to have in hand in case it wants to spend more. The important conclusion is that there is no over-all economic survey of the demands which the Government is justified in making upon the resources of the community. The actual figures are not important except insofar as they reflect the effect of a survey of economic resources. The ability of a country to finance public undertakings depends on the materials and labour available, and on a marriage between those materials and labour. It is proposed to appropriate the huge total of £19,297,000 for new works, apart from business undertakings and territories of the Commonwealth, but, as I have pointed out, these figures do not in every instance present a fair estimate of what will be expended this year. If any evidence were required beyond the admission of the Minister for Labour and National Service it is to be found by examining what took place last year. At page 395 of the Estimates it is set out that the total vote under this heading was £12,992,000, whereas the amount actually expended was only £6,436,844. I should have thought that it would have been as plain as a pikestaff that the same thing will take place this year. The first observation I make is that it is not sufficient to refer, as the Minister did, to the work done by the Public Works Committee. I do not criticize the ‘work which the committee does; I merely say that however important and valuable its services may be it is quite impossible for it to make a survey of all that is involved in all public works in terms of man-power and material. If one looks at any particular project from the angle as to whether or not it is one in which the Government should engage, unless one is able to evaluate the demands of the project in terms of material and Labour in relation to the requirements of other works, any judgment formed would be judgment in the abstract. At a time when the community is subject to heavy shortages the essential need is to have a picture of the total works and of the demands they are likely to make on materials and labour which are in short supply. Then only are we in a position to determine whether the total withdrawal of materials and man-power for governmental purposes is justified. No honorable member on this side of the chamber disputes the provision of approximately £7,000,000 for the construction of war service homes. Whilst [ accept the explanation of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) in relation to his own department, on the assumption that, within reasonable limits, the money to be provided is likely to be expended for that purpose, I do not agree with his defence of other departments, such as the Department of the Interior. Under Division 10, item 1, £952,000 has been provided for Commonwealth offices and other buildings - acquisition of sites and buildings. Last year the vote for that item was £1,169,000, but only £206,924 was expended. One has only to look at these figures to realize that this is not the way for us as a committee to determine how the moneys voted for the Government are to be expended or, what is more fundamentally important, to what extent their expenditure draws upon the resources of the community. I urge the Government to establish some organization to keep a close survey of the estimates of the departments so that two things will result, firstly, when the estimates are brought in they will be substantially equivalent to what will actually be expended in the year, and second, the estimates will present to the committee data which will show the extent to which governmental expenditure is expected to draw upon resources in short supply. Only lien will the committee be in a position to advise the Government as to whether or not a particular project or projects should or should not be undertaken. Approximately £8,000,000 of the total provision for additions, new works and buildings is to be devoted to home building. In other words, the total amount tobe expended on housing represents less than one-third of the total votes for additions, new works and buildings. Having regard to what is taking place in the community, with the large number of people struggling their hardest to get homes but being unable to obtain materials and certain requirements essential to the equipment of homes, there is a prime obligation on the Government to ensure that its demands on the limited resources of the country are only commensurate with its actual needs.
– I am afraid that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has taken up the attitude of a professional debator and has erected a straw man for the sole purpose of knocking him down again. Some of his debating points are, to say the least, contradictory. In the first place, the honorable gentleman said that the amount of money provided in these Estimates - whether it be £20,000,000 or £50,000,000- does not matter, that what was of importance was the drain on materials, labour and services represented by the expenditure of the money. He then proceeded to say that the Government should not provide money on the Estimates and then not expend it.
– I said that the committee can deal with these proposals only on the basis of what is provided in the Estimates.
– The honorable member complained that the Government placed too much money on the Estimates and that it expended too little. The answer to that criticism has already been furnished by the honorable gentleman himself. In many instances the amounts provided last year were not expended because of the shortage of materials and labour. The Government has no alternative but to place on the Estimates sufficient money for the purposes it has in mind. If insufficient moneys are provided, the Government may find itself unable to proceed with its plans during the ensuing twelve months. Why not place the whole of the money expected to be required on the Estimates and proceed on the assumption that the expenditure will be possible? Surely it is better to make provision for the amount estimated to be required than to provide some smaller amount because of a fear that the expenditure of the larger sum may not be possible.
– If the Government provides £30,000,000 as the amount which it hopes to expend, and proceeds on that basis, it might as well provide £100,000,000.
– I am unable to follow the honorable gentleman’s reasoning. What harm can result to the community from the method now adopted?
– If the Minister does not understand-
– I do understand. I agree with the honorable member to the extent that materials, labour and services are the real things that count and not the estimated cost of a project expressed in terms of money. The honorable gentleman criticized the estimates of my own department for last year, seeking to convey the implication that the estimates should have been more closely related to the expenditure. Let me give the honorable member an illustration of how difficult it is to foresee what expenditures are likely to be encountered. I was under the impression that the Government’s scheme for the training of ex-service men and women in professions, businesses, trades and callings would gradually peter out. I warned my colleagues in the Ministry not to overdo the provision for that purpose. I thought that this year would see a very great diminution of the number of applications for training courses; but I was wrong. We find now that hundredsof thousands of pounds will be required, both this year and next year, for the continuation of the scheme. Rather than be short of money for that purpose, full provision has been made. Surely it is not bad government to have too much money to meet legitimate requirements instead of too little, as was too often the case in the past.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - ‘Part II. - Business Undertakings, £8,442,000; Part ILL-
Territories of the Commonwealth, £2,228,000- agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Lemmon) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majesty for the service of the year 1947-48, for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, a sum not exceeding £29,967,000.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Lemmon) proposed -
That, towards making good the supply granted to His Majesty for Additions, NewWorks, Buildings, &c, for the year 1947-48, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £29,967,000.
.- I oppose the motion, because it seems to me that there is no information before us upon which we can say whether this appropriation should or should not be granted. I want to make one observation with respect to the remarks of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway). The Minister said that there is an inconsistency between saying that the real test is the economic resources of the country and finance. Government finance, after all, is represented by the figures submitted by the Executive, which are supposed to represent the demand which it proposes to make upon our resources of labour and materials. It seems to me that if a provision is simply made in the Estimates on the hypothesis that we should expend the money if we can, without any real indication being given as to the need to expend it in the financial year, having regard to the competing claims of the community, the utmost encouragement is given to the department concerned to expend as much of the money as it possibly can. In other words, there is a complete lack of control of expenditure. This raises a matter of fundamental importance. For a long time past it has been obvious to most honorable members that finance has slipped from the control of the Government to the control of the departments which prepare the Estimates. But here we have an outstanding admission in, “ What is wrong with putting into the Estimates a sum of money on the offchance that we shall be able to expend it ? “ No greater condemnation of that method of finance could be uttered than that contained in the Minister’s statement. I oppose the resolution and am glad that I have had the opportunity of saying so.
.- The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said that no explanation had been given of the proposed expenditure on works, but I claim that there has been. He said, that I had explained only £10,000,000 of the £29,967,000 proposed to be expended. That is not true. I pointed out that £9,000,000 was for technical equipment and other works for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and that £10,000,000 was for housing. That amounts to £19,000,000. Then I indicated the work that the Department of Works and Housing was doing for the Repatriation Commission, and that it was proposed to spend £7,000,000 on behalf of the Department of Civil Aviation. I cannot remember the other two items, but they with the balance practically made up the whole of the money proposed to be expended. Before any item was placed on the Estimates it had to run the gauntlet of, first, an inter-departmental committee presided over by the Director-General of Works and Housing, myself and, finally, a. sub-committee of Cabinet. The admission of any item was governed by the availability of labour and materials. What the honorable gentleman suggested is practically in operation to-day, for the first time, I think.
– Could we have at some future time a summary of how the money is to be expended.
– Certainly. I believe, as Minister responsible for carrying out the works, that it is physically possible to finish the jobs we hav:: in hand with the money proposed to bc voted leaving a. balance at the end of the financial year to enable works to continue until the next budget. We have not exaggerated our needs to carry out the works provided for. When the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) says, “ It is hoped that we shall be able to carry out this work “, he is speaking truthfully. Some proposed items of expenditure were vetoed. We allowed pro vision to be made for only those works considered absolutely essential and possible of achievement within the next twelve months.
– Honorable members sought information about the provision of facilities for the Department of Civil Aviation in various parts of Australia. One of the matters which have been stressed, and stressed fairly by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson), the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), was that insufficient provision has been made for facilities and landing grounds in country centres.
– I also referred to this matter.
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) raised the matter earlier, when we discussed the general Estimates. However, those doubts have no foundation, and I have taken the opportunity to obtain some of the details showing where the money will be expended and what kind of facilities will be provided.
The policy of the Government wasenunciated some time ago by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), and I do not see any reason for deviating from it. No matter what political party was in office, it should not provide landing grounds at places which are so close to one another as to take away from a community centre the traffic which would ordinarily come to it, and endeavour to divide it. We had this experience with our railway systems. As a former railwayman, I know of it. Large sums of money were expended on constructing railway stations so close to one another that after a period of years some of them had to be closed or became woman-in-charge or no-one-in-charge stations. That happened because of the foolish policy of yielding to political pressure to provide railway stations at any point that was sought. I hope that we shall never return to that condition of affairs, because civil aviation, like the railways, would be overcapitalized and it would be difficult tomeet interest charges. Such an undertaking would have around its neck a load of debt which would make it an unpayable proposition. Any government with vision must try to avoid that.
Any suggestion that the Government is neglecting the interests of country centres is wrong. I shall repeat, very briefly, the policy which the Government has adopted. It provides that the Commonwealth shall accept responsibility for the provision of airfield and airways facilities, at centres which are approved, as regular stopping places on an approved air service. The provision of such facilities at centres approved as optional stopping places, or at places not served by a regular air service, must remain the responsibility of the local authorities concerned. On the basis of that policy, we are not able to accede to requests for the construction of aerodromes here and there, unless sound reasons can be advanced for the expenditure. If honorable members opposite are sincere in their claim that the Government should reduce taxes to the lowest level possible, they will not advocate wasteful expenditure on providing facilities in excess- of those really required for the benefit of the community. As Minister for Civil Aviation, I personally am opposed to doing that, although I desire to see civil aviation in Australia developed to the greatest possible degree with the means at our command. The number of landing grounds outside capital cities, which will be improved or extended during the current financial year, exceeds 70. The cost of this work, according to the Estimates, will exceed £1.900,000 and the greatest expenditure on any one ground will be £60,000.
– What provision is made for Coolangatta ?
– I shall come to the details of the expenditure in a few moments, but I do not want the honorable member for Moreton, to be too parochially minded about a particular town in his electorate. The expenditure would be greater if sufficient plant, materials and labour were available. During World War II. civil aviation was starved. Many men, such as technicians, surveyors, engineers and radio experts, who were required for its development, were on active service.
When they were demobilized, they became available to the department, and, necessarily, expenditure on civil aviation hasgreatly increased this year, compared with last year. I hope that there will be a. greater increase next year, because that would indicate a development of civil aviation which would he of benefit to the people of Australia.
The funds authorized or to be authorized for maintenance alone amount to- £275,000. As soon as practicable, the Department of Civil Aviation will take over all essential grounds on scheduled air routes and bring them to a condition to meet the full requirements of the aircraft which use them. This number of landing grounds will exceed 100. The department is particularly concerned regarding the necessity to provide passenger facilities at all grounds under its control. For example, plans are being prepared for buildings suitable to cope with the traffic at each aerodrome. These buildings will include waiting lounges, toilet facilities, offices, and, where needed, places for technical equipment. The building of these units will proceed in order of priority as materials become available. A few days ago, an air terminal building, not completely new and not permanent, was opened at Mascot so as to provide greater conveniences for the handling of the growing number of passengers from overseas. In my opinion, the facilities at the Canberra aerodrome are not adequate to meet the volume of traffic to-day, and we hope to extend them. However, many other places have little or no provision of this kind, and they are included in the list. With the concurrence of the committee I shall incorporate the information in Hansard rather than inflict on them the reading of a long list of figures. However, if any honorable member so desires, I shall read the details to the. committee. I have read here details of the estimated expenditure at a number of landing grounds in each State outside the capital cities. Dealing first with Queensland-
– Is any provision made for the electorate of Capricornia?
– Provision is made for expenditure on landing grounds at Cammoweal, which is in the electorate of Kennedy, and Longreach, which is in the electorate of Moreton. Other towns in Queensland where money will be expended on landing grounds are Cairns, Maryborough, Charters Towers, Mackay and Oakey. The (total expenditure in Queensland will be £236,000, in New South Wales £46,000, in South Australia £40,000, in Tasmania £30,000- this relates only to Wynyard - in Western Australia £87,000, and in the Northern Territory £55,000, a total of £494,000. The details of this estimated expenditure on landing grounds in each State outside the capital cities are as follows: -
– Is not any provision made for expenditure on landing grounds in Victoria?
– I regret to inform the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) that Victoria is not included. I come now to details of expenditure for the provision of buildings for aeradio control and passenger facilities, workshops, equipment shops, staff residences, &c, in each State outside the capital cities. I emphasize that this expenditure will be incurred outside the capital cities. That completely answers the suggestion made by some honorable members that the country areas are being neglected in this respect. The honorable member for Gippsland will be interested to hear that . the expenditure in Victoria will be £19,000. Expenditure in the other States will be - Queensland, £39,000; Tasmania, £8,000; South Australia. £25,000; Western Australia, £45,000: New South Wales, £55,000; Northern Territory, £19,000; a total of £210,000. The details are as follows : -
In addition, the following amounts have been provided for the development of licensed aerodromes other than those con tained in the lists which I have submitted to the committee. The details of expenditure are - Victoria, £85,000; New SouthWales, £80,000; Queensland, £93,000;Western Australia, £80,000; Northern Territory, £55,000; South Australia, £40,000; Tasmania, £58,000; total, £431,000. I am dealing in fairly large sums. This money will be expended on new runways where they are required, or on the extension of existing runways to make them more suitable for the bigger types of aircraft now being used, or on the provision of radio facilities, which are absolutely essential for first-class services.
– What proportion of the expenditure represents true development, and what proportion represents an expansion of existing facilities?
– That is largely a matter of interpretation. If the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) will study the details that are being incorporated in Hansard he will be able to form his own judgment on the subject.
I come now to the provision of staff accommodation. An amount of £150,000 is being provided for this purpose for expenditure in Queensland. It is essential that living conditions shall be improved, particularly for married people who are required to reside at outlying posts. It is better for us to provide reasonable facilities at such places in order that married men may be stationed there and be willing to remain there for fair periods than to provide accommodation for only single men who, immediately they wish to marry, will apply for transfers to more convenient localities. The following table sets. out in detail the amounts being provided in the several States and the Northern Territory for staff accommodation, facilities at licensed aerodromes, and miscellaneous provision -
I trust that honorable members will take the time to analyse the figuresin these several tables, for they detail amounts totalling £1,600,000 out of a total amount of £1,900,000 expended in country districts. That, surely, disposes of the contention that city areas are being favoured to the disadvantage of the country. The honorable member for Capricornia asked that additional facilities should be provided for coastal areas, yet he also desires that an aerodrome shall be provided at Gladstone. I do not know in which class he puts Gladstone, but I understand that it is about 60 miles by air from Rockhampton and about 150 miles from Maryborough, which places already enjoy services. I sympathize with the honorable gentleman’s desire that Gladstone should be included in any programme for aviation facilities, for it is a town with a fair population; but I am informed that it would be most expensive to construct an aerodrome there. Gladstone was a stopping place at one time for the flying boats, but now that it is not a stopping place for that service the circumstances in relation to it have altered. Representations have been made for some years for better facilities at Gladstone. I have obtained technical advice on the subject from time to time, and I have been informed that the only place suitable for an aerodrome is close to the beach, and that a considerable expenditure would be needed to make it usable. The Department of Civil Aviation will not be able to provide an aerodrome there, in the near future at any rate. If approval were given to all the proposals of the honorable member for Capricornia, it would bc necessary to expend £250,000 on coastal areas. Requests made by the honorable member in this respect are similar to requests that have been made by other honorable gentlemen whose electorates include both coastal and inland areas. I sympathize with the honorable gentlemen who make these submissions, but I regret that it is not practicable to accede to them. The suggestion that the Government is juggling with millions of pounds, to the disadvantage of country districts, is, however, quite unjustified.
The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) has asked that an aerodrome should be provided at Smithton. I visited Tasmania, and discussed this subject with a local deputation. However, it has been decided to establish an aerodrome at Pardo, which, although not actually in the honorable member’s electorate, is very close to its border. In the circumstances, it will not be possible to construct an aerodrome at Smithton.
I have already pointed out that an amount of more than £30,000 is to be spent at Wynyard. If an aerodrome were ako established at Smithton it would inevitably mean that the facilities to be provided at Wynyard would not be so fully used. I can appreciate the desire of the honorable member that an aerodrome should be constructed at Smithton, and I realize that Smithton is in a very good district, but, as the result of most careful investigations, it has been decided that Pardo shall be the location of an aerodrome for that district. If an aerodrome were established at Smithton also, the volume of passenger and goods traffic from Wynyard would obviously be curtailed.
– There would be enough business for two services.
– That may be so, but considerable additional expenditure would be involved which, under present conditions, the Government does not consider to be justified. There is not much hope of anything being done at Smithton in the near future. I regret the decision, but cannot escape it.
The’ honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) referred to the circumstances existing in his electorate and was quite justified in presenting his case as he did. The Government, however, has to take a. comprehensive view of this subject, and it must keep future prospects in mind. In this connexion, the interdepartmental committee has recommended in relation to Queensland - though I am not saying that all its recommendations will be adopted - that the services be established from Brisbane to Oakey, Roma and Mitchell and from Brisbane to Tenterfield and Glen Innes. The next is Rockhampton-Longreach. Another, in which the honorable member for Herbert will be interested, is Townsville-Charters Towers-Julia Creek-Cloncurry. One in which the honorable member for Moreton will be interested is BrisbaneCoolangattaCasino. The last is CairnsGeorgetownCroydon. Those are services which the inter-departmental committee recommended that the Government should operate. I point out, however, that under existing constitutional powers the Government cannot provide those services because, with the exception of that from
Brisbane to Tenterfield and Glen Innes in New South Wales, they are purely intra-state services.
– From Brisbane to Casino would be interstate.
– The probability is that we should be able to conduct a service from Brisbane to Casino if it were agreed that Trans-Australia Airlines could pick up traffic that was incidental to an interstate service. Calling at Coolangatta might be regarded as outside its jurisdiction. The States generally have not been co-operative. One can110t expect companies such as Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and they will not be induced, to operate developmental services which will not return a profit to their shareholders, unless the Government gives them a sufficient amount, by means of either a direct subsidy or a high payment for the carriage of airmails, to enable them to obtain approximately 5 per cent, or 6 per cent, on their capital outlay. It is true that some people who, so far, have not had operating experience, are prepared to undertake a service without a subsidy. But if the Government took them at their word, it would be found that when their aircraft or equipment had to be renewed, or there had been some change of circumstances not originally contemplated and involving them in more expense, they would immediately say, “We cannot carry on without a subsidy “. An honorable member would then come to this Parliament and say that his electorate must have this service, and the only alternative to allowing it to cease to operate would be to pay it a subsidy. That has been the experience in the past, and we do not want it to happen again. Trans-Australia Airlines can operate on a developmental basis. To-day, in the centre of Australia, a very good service is being operated by a man named Conellan, who has 39 stopping places on the round trip that he makes once a fortnight, and probably has a few incidental services. I pay tribute to that young man, who has done a very good job indeed.
– Where does the Government get power to conduct intra-state services ?
– I am endeavouring to explain that it is because we have not the necessary power that we cannot do what honorable members want us to do. There is no doubt that they want us to conduct intra-state services. Our difficulty at present is that, according to the legal advice that has been tendered to us, we can operate only where traffic incidental to an interstate service can be picked up.
– I believe that the Minister is straying from the proposed vote.
– I am sorry if I have been led off the path by interjections. I desire, and have endeavoured, to give as much detailed information as is available to me. I hope that I have answered most of the points that have been raised during the debate. I conclude by saying that there is no justification whatever for suggesting that country interests are being neglected in favour of city interests. It is well for honorable members to remember that practically all services eventually come into the city, from whatever point they may begin to operate. Hardly any of the airlines operating anywhere in Australia to-day are merely from one country centre to another. Those that come into the cities have to be equipped with radio apparatus, which is fairly expensive. We have no desire to shut out the enterprising young man who wants to establish a service such as that which is operating in Central Australia and is receiving a subsidy of £10,500 per annum, which is gladly provided by three departments. A government, if it is to operate on sound lines, must be sure that the money which it puts into civil aviation will not be wasted, but will return the utmost value and provide the best service. ‘ I do not consider that obtaining a return on the money expended is the paramount consideration as far as country interests are concerned. I should like the outback areas to be given a service which will enable people who are suffering disadvantages and are not receiving sufficient amenities under present conditions to have further amenities provided for them through the development of TransAustralia Airlines, which is prepared to give that kind of service.
.- We Lave had the usual reply from the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford). Last night, he read an eight-page statement, in the course of which he tried to explain why the Australian National Airlines Commission had wasted millions of pounds. Now, he has tried to baffle the committee by referring to towns in which, according to him, aerodromes are being built, although some of them have had aerodromes for the last twenty years. He has brushed aside the proposal of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) that Gladstone, an isolated town in Queensland, could well do with an aerodrome so as to bring it into closer contact with the larger centres in that State, by saying that it is not possible to find a site for an aerodrome.
– I did not say that. What I said was that there is only one site.
– Whatever the honorable gentleman said, that was the idea which he intended to convey. He is the greatest excuse-finder there has ever been in connexion with the development of civil aviation. The outback services provided by Conellan and others that he has paid tribute to were founded before the advent of the Labour Government. The Minister and his kind are putting them out of business with the nationalistic, monopolistic scheme that is being put into operation. Last night, I quoted figures showing that Trans-Australia Airlines had had £4,500,000 advanced to it, not for the development of civil aviation, but so that it might endeavour to put out of business the other civil airlines that are operating on the main air routes. The existing private companies, with a few more aircraft, would have done the job much better than all the Coles, Taylors and other non-flying men who have been given political appointments and are being paid huge salaries by the Government to run the National Airlines Commission. The outback is being neglected by the Government. The Minister has endeavoured to show that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has become a monopoly because it has been able to resist the Government’s efforts to sabotage it. That company, and the other private aviation companies in Australia, sprang from very small beginnings. They have done the pioneering work, and the Government is now “ cashing in “ on their success. I offer no criticism of the service which Trans-Australia Airlines is providing. Its aircraft are flown by young men who were members of the Royal Australian Air Force and were well trained. But there is a definite waste of the taxpayers’ money on top-heavy overhead expenditure, which is subject to no accounting, no balance-sheet, and no profit and loss account. The Minister has endeavoured to make a show by mentioning a few figures, and talking about radio appliances at this and that aerodrome, new buildings for the staff, and aerodrome development, his pretence being that the Government is doing something for the advancement of civil aviation. Nothing of the kind. The Government, as the honorable gentleman and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) have admitted, are seeking from the Government of Queensland supplementary powers which will enable TransAustralia Airlines to become common air carriers within that State. If that is done, it will be “ good-bye “ to the small companies which have struggled for so long - men who served in World War I. and have applied their war gratuity and pay to the purchase of aircraft, which they have operated successfully although they have been subjected to great hardship. This government monopoly line will operate over the same routes, and put them out of business. That was admitted this week in reply to a question which I asked as to whether the Government was taking over the charter of New Guinea Airways, a company which pioneered the development of New Guinea and made it possible for Australia to hold that territory, because the pilots who flew its machines were more or less the pathfinders for those who later took to the air during the war. The reply that I received was that the act gave the Government power to put that company out of business as soon as Trans-Australia Airlines found it possible to operate in that territory, even though it had never flown a single aircraft between Adelaide and Darwin. When it does so, it will “ cut the throat “ of this company, which developed the gold-fields of New Guinea and the North-South Australia route. What is going to happen to the small operators such as Adair, Conellan, Butler and many others, men whom I know, who started from small beginnings and needed a government subsidy at the outset? Of course, those who operate small services in the outback need subsidies !
– Not so large as TransAustralia Airlines needs.
– Exactly. The reason the people of Australia are taxed so severely is that millions of pounds are being provided for this concern, which ultimately will liquidate private airline operators as effectively as the Government expects to liquidate the private banks. The Minister has tried to excuse what is being done by saying, “ I am a railway man. I know that, in the past, many railways have been built to distant areas, and eventually only derelict stations have been left”. That shows how out of date the honorable gentleman is. He regards airlines through railway spectacles. We might as well get the last survivor of Cobb and Company to take over the administration of the railways. Airlines can be immediately switched from place to place, and can be developed. Aerodromes at all times, if near settlements, can be of use. We should not listen to such excuses. It is high time there was a royal commission to inquire into the whole of the administration of the Department of Civil Aviation. The Minister has admitted that something like £11,500,000 is to be expended. I do not know whether that relates to this financial year. Certainly, £4,500,000 is to go this year to one concern. Unless there is a royal commission, private airlines, from the smallest to the greatest, will not be allowed to continue to operate.
.- The time has long since passed when this Government, and for that matter all governments, should begin to give some consideration to the people in country areas. I suppose that the committee should be thankful to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) for the long explanation that he gave in con nexion with the activities of the Department of Civil Aviation. But I, for one, cannot agree with him. He has said that one reason why aerodromes cannot be provided in country centres is that the Government has to be absolutely certain that it is not engaging in what will not be a profitable undertaking. The only way to justify the statement that country services would not pay would be to prove that there would not be enough passengers travelling from those places at which country members are asking that aerodromes be built. I do not know how it was decided that a town with a population of 15,000 people could not support an air service, when every day of every week the people of such towns travel by train to the nearest point where they may board aeroplanes. I am not referring only to places in the Herbert electorate. I know many other places with populations ranging from 4,000 to 10,000 which are without air services of any kind, and I should like to know how long this state of affairs is to continue. A substantial part of the money which is to be appropriated is to be used to extend existing aerodromes. People living in the big centres of population have always had an advantage over those living in the country. For the city people, the expenditure of this money will mean that instead of getting a service three or four times a day they will be able to have one five or six times a day, and the runways will be so improved that larger and more modern aircraft can be used. That is all very well for people in the cities, but the situation has not improved at all for people in the country. I have not been stampeded into adopting this attitude. I held these opinions long before it was my good fortune, or my misfortune, to become a member of this Parliament. I see no reason why air services should not be provided for places like Proserpine, with a population of nearly 6,000, and for centres in the Burdekin, Herbert River and Innisfail districts, with a total population of between 20,000 and 25,000 people.
– The honorable member is on the wrong side of the House.
– No, I am on the right side, but the advisers of the Government have been on the wrong track.
Recently, tie honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) said that more consideration should be given to the country because the best people live there. I agree with him up to a point, and merely point out that as my wife and I live in the city some exceptions must be allowed. However, this is not a matter to be treated lightly. The Minister merely assumes that air services to some country centres would not pay. No proof has been offered. I do not ask for the same sort of service as is given to the cities. That would be ridiculous, because the great centres of population need more extensive services, but if a service of only one or two trips a week were provided it would be of great benefit to people in country centres. Failing that, some kind of feeder service should be provided from country towns to places where passengers may board the big aeroplanes. As things are, the country people are not in the race. I suppose the Minister has made up his mind, and as the Estimates are already prepared, it is probably somewhat late for me to go on arguing. I wish to make it clear, however, that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) are not the only ones who have protested against the neglect of country towns. I ask that my representations be given speedy and sympathetic consideration.
.- At page 397 of the Estimates there appears an item of £100,000 for the acquisition of a major interest in the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited. This deal was not made the subject of an act of this Parliament, and no money was previously appropriated for the purpose. Moreover, when the committee votes this amount of £100^000, there appears to be no way by which the matter will ever again come before the Parliament for consideration. The item will not come under the heading of revenue and expenditure, nor is it a business undertaking. Therefore, under’ what heading . can it appear before the Parliament again ? The acquisition of airlines and similar undertakings has been the subject of special acts of parliament, and money for the purpose has been appropriated in the terms of those acts. That does not apply in this case, however. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr.. Holloway) had something to say on the matter, and expressed the opinion that the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited had done excellent work during the war. He added that it had got into serious financial difficulties, and that the Government had come to its aid by taking over a majority of the shares at a cost of £100,000. I also understood the Minister to say that, after this amount of £100,000 had been expended, the company had to come to the Government for further assistance. He did not say how much more money had been provided, but he finished by saying that, due to the assistance rendered by the Government, the company had been turned into’ a very profitable undertaking. That is all very well, but the committee is entitled to more information. I ask specifically that all the relevant papers associated with the transaction be laid on the table where they may be perused by honorable members.
.- I note that the Estimates provide for the expenditure of an amount of £10,500 for equipment and office furniture for the use of Australia’s High Commissioner in Eire. That is in addition to an amount of £4,091 expended last year. In these Estimates, under the same heading, £6,500- is provided for expenditure in New Zealand, £3.300 in India and £4,700 in South Africa. All of those countries are more important, so far as we are concerned, than Eire, and some of them have larger populations. Therefore, I should like to know why it is proposed to spend £10,500’ on furniture and office equipment in Eire.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mv. Lemmon and Mr. Scully do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Lemmon, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 24th September (vide page 143), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the bill he now read a second time.
intends to reduce the membership from seventeen to twelve. On the .present board there are four direct representatives of the dairyfarmers, but it is proposed that they shall have only two representatives on the new board. The complaints, one hears all round the country in that respect are completely justified. The dairy-farmers arc responsible for the production of an urgently needed product. Its production entails tremendous work. Yet the dairyfarmers’ representatives are to be reduced to almost the minimum on the board that is to be set up for the express purpose of marketing their produce. As a believer in orderly marketing, I consider that the Australian Government could very well copy State legislation under which marketing boards have been set up. Members of such boards are elected at polls of the people engaged in the industries with which they are associated. That is the democratic way, but this legislation provides for election of members in only a few instances. Proposed now section 4 (4) provides -
Each member appointed to represent the dairy farmers of Australia shall be a person nominated by the Minister from a panel of names submitted to him by the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation.
The dairy-farmers generally are clamouring for direct representation on the board by persons elected by themselves, and I submit to the Minister that that is a fair proposition that he might well consider. The representatives of the co-operative, proprietary, and privately-owned butter and cheese factories of Australia are to be persons elected in such manner as is prescribed, but the dairy-farmers, the people most vitally concerned, are denied the right of elected representatives, and must accept representatives chosen from a panel of names submitted on their behalf. I believe, too, that the dairyfarmers have a real grievance in respect of the chairman. I understand that when the board was set up first the chairman was elected by the members of the board, but it is proposed in this legislation that he shall be the nominee of the Minister. In other words, he is to be a hand-picked chairman. He occupies an important position on the board. The bill .provides that-
If the Chairman or other person presiding at any meeting of the Board dissents from any decision of ‘the Board at that meeting and signifies at that 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, the decision shall have no effect 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 varied decision as so approved shall be deemed to be the decision of the Board.
That makes the board of no effect. It can be unanimous, with the exception of the chairman, on the course that should be pursued, and, if the chairman disagrees and reports his disagreement to the Minister, it is possible for the Minister to upset the considered opinion of the people who are supposed to represent the producers’ interests. It places in the hands of the Minister the powers of a virtual dictator. A later provision is -
The National Security (Dairy Produce Acquisition) Regulations as in force under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act 104(1 arc repealed.
At first sight that seems all right, but not when one reads the next provision - (2.) Notwithstanding the repeal effected by this section, the Board shall have and may exercise, in relation to any dairy produce acquired or purchased by the Commonwealth or hy the Dairy Produce Control Committee on behalf of the Commonwealth under the repealed Regulations, all the powers, authorities and functions which, immediately prior to the commencement of this section, were vested in or conferred on that Committee by those Regulations.
On the one hand, the National Security (Dairy Produce Acquisition) Regulations are repealed, but, on the other, the Minister is vested with all the power and authority that the Dairy Produce Control Committee had during the war. It seems that the proposed board will be only a snare and a delusion as far as’ the primary producers, the people whose interests are at stake, are concerned. If the board recommends that a certain policy be applied and the Minister says, “No; that does not agree with the Government’s policy, and I am not in favour of it “, and sets out the line that must be followed, the board automatically, under this legislation, is compelled to agree. I remind honorable members that we have had experience in the past of that sort of thing and are afraid that we may have similar experiences in the future. For instance, the wheat agreement with New Zealand was made by the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. Scully, without, I understand, the knowledge of the Australian Wheat Board. I acquit the present Minister of responsibility for that contract. It was left to him as a legacy by his predecessor. I am afraid, however, that this legislation may be another part of the legacy, and I view with grave concern the placing of such tremendous power in the hands of the Minister in dealing with produce of the greatest value to the country. There is no trouble in marketing dairy produce. Our problem is not the sale of dairy produce but increased production, and I believe that the Government cannot be held blameless for the way in which production has declined in the last few years. The figures are illuminating. In 193S-39 Australia produced 217,000,000 lb. of butter compared with only 116,000,000 lb. in 1946-47. It may be urged that the decline in 1946-47 was caused partially by severe droughts, which I admit is correct, but, at the same time, the Government failed to take action to make conditions as favorable for the butter producers as for other primary producers. Many people were able by closing their dairy operations to make more money by fattening stock and breeding store stock for sale. Is it any wonder they went out of dairying to the detriment of the industry and to the benefit of their own pockets?
– If the honorable member cannot connect his remarks with the appointment of an Australian Dairy Produce Board, he is wide of the provisions of the bill.
– I do not think it will be difficult to connect my remarks with the bill, because a few moments ago I said increased production was more necessary than a board to control the sale of dairy produce.
– The bill does not deal with a decrease or increase of production. It deals with the appointment of a board to carry out specific duties. I do not want to embarrass the honorable member, because he has done very well so far.
– I have no desire to embarrass you, Mr. Speaker, and bow to your ruling by refraining from further reference to that subject. When the board was first established legislation was passed through the State parliaments and the Australian Parliament which allowed dairy produce to be marketed in perhaps the most orderly fashion of any primary produce in Australia. It operated to the entire satisfaction of the industry. I remind the House that the board was not subject to any of the severe restrictions that will be placed on it by this legislation. That board was allowed, in effect, a free hand. It was composed of men with long experience of not only production but also marketing of dairy produce, and they did a job that met with the approval of the majority of dairyfarmers in Australia. My interpretation of the bill is that the board will be shorn of the powers reposed in the previous board. So I do not wonder at the complaints against the severe restrictions placed on the dairy-farmers in this legislation. We have heard a great deal about the power of veto in recent years, but it appears fashionable to expect that Ministers of the Crown shall be clothed with that power. It will be detrimental to the industry that a single person at a moment’s notice, will be able to upset the considered policy laid down by the board for the well-being and prosperity of the dairying industry. My second complaint is against the minority representation of the dairy-farmers, working seven days a week and 365 days a year to make production possible. They are entitled to a great deal more consideration than they receive in the bill. A much fairer way of ensuring the dairy farmers of adequate representation on the board would be an election of their representatives by them as the people concerned. Recently the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in reply to a “ Dorothy Dix “ question, gave an assurance that he had made up his mind that the chairman whom he would appoint would be a primary producer. That is all very well, but the fact remains that he will be hand-picked by the Minister. I believe that the old system of electing a chairman is much more satisfactory and much more likely to inspire and retain the confidence of the dairy-farmers. I do not desire to talk at ‘length on the bill, because I know that many other honorable members are interested in it and will place their views before the Minister, but I recommend to him that he re-consider the advisability of larger representation of the dairy-farmers on the board, reexamine the extensive powers that he is taking unto himself, agree that they are rather too sweeping and admit the right of the dairy-farmers to elect their own representatives instead of having them appointed by him.
.- The amendment of the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924-1942 proposed by the Government in the measure now before us will, in my opinion, destroy the constructive work of those associated with the uplifting of the industry during the last 30 years. This bill seeks to eliminate control of the dairying industry by the dairymen themselves and to substitute for that control complete ministerial and political domination. The existing act safeguards the right of individuals engaged in the industry to elect their own representatives to the Australian Dairy Produce Control Board. At present the producers directly elect four representatives to the board, and indirectly, through the butter factories, elect an additional nine representatives. Thus, out of a board consisting of seventeen members, the producers directly and indirectly elect thirteen members. Provision has also been made in the act for election of a representative by the Institute of Australian Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries. For some extraordinary reason the representative of the institute has been completely dropped in the proposal now before us. From my experience of the operations of the board in the past I am well aware of the useful function performed by the institute’s representative. Accordingly, I am amazed that no provision for the continuance of that representation has been made in the bill before us. The measure provides for the selection of two representatives of producers who are to be nominated by the Minister from a panel of names submitted to him by the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation. If the Minister does not indicate how many names shall be included on the panel he may have 100 persons to choose from, and gradually whittle the number down until he reaches two that are most acceptable to him. The selection of producers’ representatives is a matter upon which the producers themselves should have the final and sole decision. The unions, too, are no longer to have the privilege of electing their own representative. He, too, is to be nominated by the Minister after consultation with the unions. “When the Dairy Produce Control Board was first established in 1924 the Bruce-Page Government insisted that the dairymen should determine who should be appointed to the board. That principle was adhered to in the subsequent amendment of the act in 1935. Provision was also made for the board to control its own affairs, to appoint its own chairman and to decide its own policy, control by the Minister being limited to the normal supervisory control exercised by Ministers in charge of Commonwealth departments. Under the bill now before us, however, the chairman is to be a nominee of the Government. Should he dissent from the opinions of all other members of the board and register his dissent with the Minister within 24 hours, the Minister may veto or vary the decision of the board, and any variation so made is to be deemed to be a decision of the board notwithstanding that it may have been dissented from by eleven of the twelve members of the board. Clause 4 (9) provides -
The member appointed to represent the Commonwealth Government shall be chairman of the board and shall hold office for such period as the Governor-General directs.
Clause S reads -
Section 1 0 of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting, after sub-section (5), the following sub-section : - “ (5a.) If the chairman or other person presiding at any meeting of the board dissents from any decision of the board at that meeting and signifies at that 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, transmits to the Minister notice of his dissent together with full particulars of the decision, the decision shall have no effect 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 varied decision as so approved shall be deemed to be the decision of the board.”
If that be democratic control by the .producers then it is the queerest sort of democratic control I have ever heard of. What is proposed is just as autocratic, Mr. Speaker, as your own control of this House, which quite rightly gives you the last say in connexion with all matters arising from the interpretation of the Standing Orders governing our debates. Surely no one would suggest that that form of control should be exercised by the Government in respect of an important primary industry. Control of the dairying industry should be left in the hands of those who produce and market our dairy products.
– This proposal is pure fascism.
– It is as close to totalitarian control as one could possibly go. Let us examine the record of the Dairy Produce Control Board. Since its establishment in 1924’ the board has carried out its duties in a manner which has won for it the enthusiastic support of the producers. Evidence of that is provided by the fact that year after year, Mr. T. E. Plunkett of Queensland, who was elected as one of the representatives of the co operative butter factories when the board was established in 1924, and was then chosen as its chairman, has been unanimously elected to that office ever since. Mr. Plunkett has carried out his duties in a most efficient and successful manner continuously for 23 years. Other members of the board have held office for very long periods. Their reputation for good service to the industry is demonstrated by their re-election to the board from time to time. Before any alteration of the present constitution of the board is countenanced there should be a clear analysis of the record of the members of the existing board in order to ascertain whether they should be permitted to continue in office or whether the introduction of a new system of control is justified. What is proposed by the Government in this measure constitutes the most retrograde step ever made in Australia in connexion with a primary industry. As the result of the efforts of the existing board the industry has made great progress. The board successfully guided the dairy farmers through the financial and economic depression of the ‘thirties and through the difficult days of World War II. Its splendid achievements have been made possible because it has been constituted of practical men appointed by those engaged in the industry. The board was originally established to counteract the ill effects on the industry of the tremendously oppressive legislation imposed on primary industries generally in order to meet the exigencies of World War I. by Labour governments. At the outbreak of that war there was a mad rush to prevent a rise of prices of primary products in Australia. Control measures were adopted irrespective of the damage inflicted not only on our primary industries but also on the nation. The measures restricting production had a. very detrimental effect upon our primary industries generally. For instance, the reduction of the price of sugar by the Labour Government to £15 a ton had the result of forcing many men out of the sugar industry. In New South Wales, the Necessary Commodities Committee fixed the price of butter at ls. 3d. per lb. at a time when droughts in New South Wales and Queensland had forced up the price of fodder from £6 or £7 a ton to £20 a ton, with the result that thousands of cows were slaughtered for meat and the dairying industry suffered almost irreparable damage. Their tribulations, however, had the effect of awakening the dairy-farmers to the necessity for organizing their industry and they promptly set to work to bring about desirable reforms. Up to that time they had received for their product the price it brought overseas, less the cost of freight; those who bought it refusing to give them a higher price knowing that in the last resort the A airyffarmers would have to submit Therefore they set to work to secure, first, a higher export price than they were able to obtain under ordinary conditions, and, secondly, a homeconsumption price which would he in conformity with the conditions under which they had to live and work.
-Order! How does the right honorable gentleman connect those statements with the appointment of the board ?
– I shall point out that the board was able to achieve certain results, because it represented the interests of the dairy-farmers. The board was able to secure complete co-operation in order to effect certain reforms which, 1 am satisfied, could not have been achieved if members of the board had not been the chosen representatives of the dairy-farmers.
– Order ! The question before the House is the appointment of the board, its authority and duties. The right honorable gentleman will not bc in order in tracing the history of the butter industry.
– That is so, but I may mention one or two acts of the board in the interests of the dairyfarmers. The immediate effect of the constitution of the board was that, for the first time in. the history of Australia, there was an Australia-wide conception of the problems of the industry. Before immense confusion resulted. DairyProduce Board in 1924, the industry had always been dealt with in State compartments, as it were; that is to say, each State regarded the dairying industry within its boundaries as its own special problem, and paid no consideration to conditions in other States. The result was that if conditions in New South Wales were slightly better than in Victoria, dairy-farmers in Victoria sent their butter to New South Wales. That lead to the destruction of the good market in New South Wales, and immense confusion resulted. Dairyfarmers of Queensland, who exported SO per cent, of their butter, could do immeasurable damage to the dairying industry of the other States. As theresult of the establishment of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, we wereable, for the first time, to get an Australian outlook on these problems, and unified ideas regarding the manner 10 which the industry should be conducted. The activities of the board resulted in the adoption of certain definite reforms, which immediately increased the returns to dairy-farmers. Before that time, it had been possible—
– Order ! I shall not permit the right honorable gentleman to frustrate my ruling. He will not be in order in tracing the history of the prices of dairy produce. The House is considering the appointment of the board, and its powers.
– But the powers of the board are in relation to the handling, marketing and storage of dairy produce.
– Order ! I confined the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) to the substance of my ruling, and the right honorable member for Cowper is in the same position.
– Then what could I speak about?
– Order ! The Chair is not here to guide the right honorable member.
– If I am not permitted to talk about the functions of the board as set down in the legislation, what can I talk about?
– The right honorable gentleman has traced the history of the butter industry from start to finish. The
Chair does not propose to allow him to proceed in that direction.
– If you, Mr. Speaker, will examine the bill, you will see that my remarks are relevant.
– Order ! The Chair thinks otherwise.
– I direct your attention, Mr. . Speaker, to clause 12 of the bill which states -
Section 20 of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting after paragraph (e) of that sub-section the following word and paragraph : - “ ; and (f) The purchase and sale for the purpose of export, on behalf of the Commonwealth, of dairy produce and the management and control of all matters connected with the handling, storage, protection, treatment, transfer and shipment of the dairy produce so purchased or sold by the Commonwealth.”.
– If the right honorable gentleman believes that the board should have that . power, he is entitled to argue it. If he considers that the board should not have the power, he is also entitled to argue it. But those arguments do not relate to the price of butter, and other matters which the right honorable gentleman has discussed.
– I point out that the board has been able to secure the adoption of one brand for all Australian butter.
-Order! What has that to do with the bill?
– The board was able to secure the adoption of one brand of butter.
– If the right honorable gentleman does not confine his remarks to the bill, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– To which clause of the bill will you, Mr. Speaker, permit me to address my remarks?
-The right honorable gentleman may address his remarks to ali the clauses of the bill. Up to the present, he has not spoken about any of them.
– I have. Eirst, I dealt with the composition of the board., I stated that the action, of the Government in nominating members of the board completely destroyed any sense of responsibility of the board to the industry. Surely that must be an arguable point?
– That is so.
– The powers of the board are also important. I again direct attention to clause 12 -
Section 20 of the Principal Act is amended - (a.) by inserting in sub-section (1), after the word “ shall “, the words “ , subject to any direction of the Minister
In order that honorable members may realize the significance of the proposed amendment, I direct attention to section 20 of the principal act, which provides -
I ask honorable members to take notice of these words- to make such arrangements and give such directions as it thinks fit for the following matters: -
These are set out, and the first of them is -
The amendment will add to that paragraph the words- subject to any direction by the Minister.
In the past, the board has been able to do certain things regarding the handling, marketing and storage of dairy produce, as it thought fit. In future, if the bill becomes law, all its action will be subject to any direction by the Minister. That is a fundamental change which might destroy the ability of the board to act in the future as it has acted in the past. I shall cite an example of the manner in which the activities of the board might be circumscribed. The board was able to secure the collaboration of other boards controlling the export of primary products for the purpose of obtaining the lowest possible insurance and freight rates for the butter industry. The result was that the board saved for the butter industry £100,000 a year in insurance rates by concentrating the whole of the insurance activities in one channel. By co-operation with various other boards controlling the export of primary products like meat and canned fruits, the board was also able to secure from overseas shipping companies a concession of £2,000,000 a year in freights. That saving really represented an increased return to the dairy farmers of Australia, and thereby enhanced the value not merely of their own product but also, to that degree, of export parity, because export parity was really the price received overseas less the cost of shipment. The board was also able to insist upon the adoption of the equalization and stabilization scheme. This permitted in Australia a home-consumption price which, during the financial and economic depression of the ‘thirties, was no less than 56s. a cwt. higher than the external price. That was instrumental in enabling thousands of dairy farmers to remain on their farms. If honorable members will examine the figures relating to the industry, they will find that when the board came into existence, 60,000 dairy farmers were engaged in the industry. At the outbreak of World War II. in’ 1939, there were 125,000 dairy farmers. That increase was attributable to the individual benefits which this collective organization had been able to obtain for dairy farmers.
The operations of the board were so successful because it had full authority to deal as it thought fit with the handling, marketing and storage of dairy produce. Consequently, the board was able to make substantial gains for dairy farmers and improve their whole position. One achievement of the board, which was of extraordinary value at the outbreak of World War II., was to make a contract with the Government of the United Kingdom for the sale of Australian dairy produce, and thus was able to ensure an almost imperceptible transition of the dairying industry from peace-time to wartime conditions. That imperceptible transition contrasted with the difficulties which many other industries encountered, resulting in some instances, in a complete hiatus in their arrangements. As honorable members will recall many industries were seriously dislocated at the outbreak of World War II. as the result of the sudden change which occurred in their normal activities. However, dairy men were able to continue with the production of their commodities with the certainty that they had an assured market. That was of great importance in war-time, and will be important in any arrangements which Australia might make in future with the Government of the United Kingdom for a long-term contract for the sale of our dairy produce. Furthermore, it is of great importance in regard to any gain which might accrue to Australia as the result of an arrangement permitting us to sell our produce to the United States of America. It would be in the highest degree impolitic for us to have a series of competitive arrangements for sending produce to the American market and cutting one anothers throats. Why, the first action of the board on taking office in 1924 was to license the exporters and sellers of butter and wipe out the f.o.b. sellers of butter who had been raking the market in Australia and interfering with the best prices in London. The board delicensed those men, and ensured that the whole of the Australian sales passed through one channel. When the Government decided to pay a subsidy, the board which was asked to distribute the money was the equalization organization that had been brought into existence through the influence of the Australian Dairy Produce Board. Consequently, I contend that the activities which the board has been undertaking for a number of years should, if possible, be left untrammelled. The authority to deal with the dairying industry should be an industry-authority, and not a political or governmental authority. That is the aim of Australian dairy farmers.
In committee, I shall test the feeling of honorable members as to whether the Government’s proposal to appoint two representatives of the producers to the board is reasonable. In my opinion, it is not. When I introduced amending legislation in 1935, I made provision for the appointment to the board of four representatives of producers. One was to be elected by the producers of New South Wales, one by the producers of Victoria, one by the producers of Queensland, and the fourth by the combined vote of the producers of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. It is a matter for argument whether the progress of the dairying industry in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania during the last twelve years does not entitle them togreater representation on the board. The proposed reduction of the number of board members to twelve is of much less importance than the assuring to producers and others concerned of equitable representation of all interests. It would be better to have sixteen or seventeen members on the board and to have all sections of the industry satisfied than to reduce the board membership and have some section dissatisfied,
I refer in passing to the provision for the payment of salaries. In the past a number of members of the board have been members of the Commonwealth or State parliaments who have not been entitled to fees. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) pointed out recently “that the acceptance of fees by members of (Parliament would contravene the Constitution. I am quite satisfied that there is not much reason for undue concern on this score. The men who have been chosen hitherto to serve on the board have done yeoman service and the cost of ensuring adequate representation to all Sections of the industry would not be very great. The producers, of course, should Have a full say in all matters to be dealt with by the board.
Under the new provisions proposed to be incorporated in the legislation, the chairman of the board will be able to over-ride the decisions of all his colleagues. For many years I administered this legislation and I have been in close contact with other honorable gentlemen who, since that time, have administered it. I cannot remember a single instance when during the 23 years that the board has been in operation it was necessary for a Minister to intervene. The reason for this satisfactory state of affairs is that men of the right calibre have been appointed to the board. In these circumstances I can see no reason why the present Minister should seek to interfere with an arrangement that had proved so Satisfactory.
– The right honorable gentleman is admitting that even under the legislation that he administered the
Minister had power to intervene if he thought fit.
– I have already said that conditions existed in regard to this board and other boards of the kind which gave to Ministers a power of control similar to that which they exercised over their own departments. That power, however, is different from the power that the Minister is now seeking to obtain. It is proposed in this amending legislation that if the chairman alone should dissent from a decision of all the other members of the board the Minister may intervene. That, to my mind, is a very unsatisfactory proposal. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is utterly stupid. Such a provision would seriously limit the value of the board. It would be silly to incorporate such a provision in the act. Under such an arrangement the Minister would, in effect, be subservient to the chairman, for apparently he would not be able to intervene unless the chairman dissented from a decision of the board. In other words, the chairman would become a kind of glorified potentate with a halo on his head, and the Minister might be no more than a pawn in the game. In my experience of the administration of boards of this character I have proved that it is wise to allow board members to straighten out their own difficulties. They get along much better under that arrangement than under any other. Incidentally, I hope that provision will be made for a representative of factory managers and secretaries to be appointed to the board.
I always welcome constructive reforms and when an amending bill was before the Parliament in 1935 the Government with which I was connected accepted certain amendments because it believed that they would improve the measure. Whatever may be the predelictions of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in regard to this bill, I urge him to give careful consideration to the suggestions that I have made. There should be more direct representation of producers and those elected should serve for a term of five years instead of three. The personnel of this board has changed very little for many years. Mr. Dunlop has been a member for a long while, and Mr. Gibson and Mr. Howie have also served foi- a considerable number of years. I urge the Government to withdraw the proposal far chairman control. That arrangement would prove unsatisfactory in operation. Finally, I urge that the men who are elected to the board should be trusted to do the work that they are elected to do. It has been suggested that the Government will have a considerable amount of money at stake in connexion with the operations of the board, but it will have very little compared with the amount which the persons actually engaged in dairying will have, and those persons are entitled, I submit, to have the final ,-ay in the disposal of their products.
.- I am distinctly disappointed with this bill ; for if it is enacted in its present form it will destroy the good work that has been done during the last 23 years. The Australian Dairy Produce Board was first constituted in October, 1924. and I cannot understand what reasons could have inspired the present Minister for Commerce aud Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) to propose an altered constitution for a body which has given such complete satisfaction to the industry over the years. That the board has had the confidence of the industry has been shown by the reelection of the representatives at the succeeding triennial elections. Mr. T. F. Plunkett, M.L.A., of Queensland, who has been chairman of the board since its inception, has been re-elected time after time, as have other gentlemen whom I could name. Obviously, therefore, the board has given satisfaction. The Government is not involved in any substantial monetary obligations in regard to the board, which hitherto has been fully responsible to the industry itself. I emphasize that throughout its existence the board has enjoyed the fullest co-operation of the departments of agriculture of the various States, and of the industry itself. In these circumstances it is extraordinary that the Government should seek to restrict the board’s usefulness, yet that is what it is proposing to do. The original board consisted of thirteen members. This Government subsequently increased the number to seventeen, and it is now proposed to reduce the membership to twelve. Although the bill purports to reconstitute the board as a statutory authority so that it may advise and assist those engaged in the overseas marketing of dairy products, that contention, in view of the provisions of the bill, is nothing more or less tha.n a smoke screen, and a very poor one. The bill does not give the producers control over their operations. In fact, the measure will have the reverse effect. The original measure gave the producers control of the export of their products, but that will be taken away if this bill becomes law in its present form, for the measure, in effect, removes power from the producers and centralizes all authority in the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The measure strips the board of every vestige of authority over the operations of the dairying and cheese industries, and places control in the hands of the Minister, who will undoubtedly become a dictator. The chairman of the board, who will be the government nominee, will have the right to veto any decision of the board and the Minister will be able to negative any proposed action of the board and issue to it any direction that he pleases. The honorable gentleman, therefore, will have control not only of the ultimate destiny of every producer, but also of his day-to-day activities and his year-to-year financial returns. Lest any detail should escape his supervision, the Treasurer will also throw his net over the whole industry. As we all know, that right honor.able gentleman is to-day exercising arbitrary control over the sale of all farms and pastoral properties and over capital issues. This is all to be capped by the nationalization of banking in Australia.
– Order ! That has nothing to do with this bill.
– I submit, Mr. Speaker, that it will have a very serious effect upon this industry and the country.
– The honorable member may not proceed along those lines, because that subject has nothing to do with the matters referred to in this bill.
– I point out that Mr. A. G. Muller, who was a member of the board and is a prominent dairy producer, as well as vice-chairman of the Queensland Farmers Co-operative Dairy Company, one of the largest dairying organizations in the Commonwealth and many other dairy organizations, recently made these observations concerning the bill -
This bill, which proposes to reconstitute the Australian Dairy Produce Board, is a treacherous move to socialize the marketing of butter as opposed to a co-operative system.
That is a true summary of the objects of the measure. This Government and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture are fast becoming “ power drunk “. They intend to control or socialize every activity that they can get their hands on.
I support the policy of organized marketing of primary products under producer control, but I am opposed to this measure, the purpose of which 13 undoubtedly to destroy producer control. This measure is, in effect, an attempt to socialize marketing and that was not the purpose of the original measure passed in 1924. One of the most important provisions of the hill appears in paragraph b of the proposed new section 4, which seeks to enact -
That the Board shall consist of -
One member from each of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, to represent the co-operative butter and cheese factories in those States.
– Under the measure passed by tho Government which the honorable gentleman supported, Tasmania, was disfranchised.
– T disagree, with the Minister on that point. I object to the proposal of the hill to which I have referred on the ground that the dairy producers of Queensland and Victoria provide roughly 90 per cent, of the dairy products we have available for export. That being so, how does the Minister imagine that equitable representation will be provided under the terms of the paragraph that I hare just quoted?
– The honorable gentleman overlooks that under the legislation passed by a government that he supported there was only one representative of the producers of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
– This bill deals with the export of dairy produce from Australia. Although Victoria and Queensland are responsible for the production of 90 per cent, of the total exports, their representation on the board which is to market the production overseas, is to be reduced. That is what I want the Minister to explain to this House and to the dairy-farmers of those States. No dairy-farmer in either of those States is satisfied with the bill, and certainly not with that provision in it. Under the original legislation, passed in 1924, the dairy-farmers elected their representatives to the board. Under sub-clause 4 of clause 4 of this extraordinary measure -
Each member appointed to represent the dairy farmers of Australia shall be a person nominated by the Minister from a panel of names submitted to him by the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation.
Excellent results have been achieved under the original legislation. I am not able to recite all the good work that was done by the Australian Dairy Produce Board that was constituted under that act, or the enormous advantage which it conferred on the producers because of the limited time at my disposal. The Minister no longer has faith in the producers, who have proved during the last 23 years that they were capable of electing to the board men who would help the industry and work harmoniously together. He intends to demand that they shall submit to him a panel of names from which he will nominate their representatives on the board. I hope that they will follow the example of the Government by submitting only one name, as was done in ; r,1111 l’J- lon with the appointment of the G ovc rn oorGenera1 .
I object that the Government has not seen fit to provide for the appointment of a representative of the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries. The men associated with that body have most to do with the manufacture of butter, and with making certain that what is produced will be of such a standard that it will command flip host market prices. The proposal to appoint to the board a trade union representative is designed merely to please the Australian Council of Trades Unions. Of what use will such a man be on the Australian Dairy Produce Board? Yet he is to be appointed to it, to the exclusion of a representative of the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries, the members of which body are men who have learned all the technicalities of butter production.
– Is the honorable gentleman averse to the workers being represented on the board ?
– I am opposed to the exclusion of a representative of the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries, and the substitution of a representative of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. I want the board to function effectively. If jit any time our butter did not arrive overseas in such a condition as to command the best market price, who could better help the board than a representative of the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries? Why does the Minister propose to exclude the technical knowledge of men who have done excellent work throughout the years? Sub-clause 9 of clause 4 is most dangerous. It provides -
Tlie member appointed to represent the Commonwealth Government shall be chairman of the board, and shall hold office for such period as the Governor-General directs:
Provided that the Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the Minister, remove the chairman from his office, for incapacity, incompetence, or misbehaviour.
For the information of the Minister, I quote section 9 of the Dairy Produce Export Control Act, No. 38 of 1924-
At the first meeting of the Board which shall be held at a time and place notified in the Gazette by the Minister the board shall appoint one of its members to be the chairman of the board.
That board, which has been functioning for the last 23 years, has had only one chairman, who has been re-elected every year. This has resulted in continuity of policy in the work of the board. I object that the board to be appointed under this legislation is not to be allowed by the Minister to elect its chairman. The honorable gentleman is to insist upon the appointment of a “ yes “ man, who will do what he tells him to do. The proposed new sub-section 5a, which clause S proposes shall be inserted in section 10 of the principal act, provides -
If the chairman or other person presiding at any meeting of the board, dissents from any decision of the board at that meeting, and signifies at that 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 closing of the meeting, transmits to the Minister notice of his dissent, together with full particulars of his decision, the decision shall have no effect 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 varied decision as so approved shall be deemed to be the decision of the Board.
That will render the board ineffective. If the chairman dissents from any decision of the majority of the members of the board, he will notify the Minister of his dissent, that gentleman will get in step with him, and the whole of the efforts of the board will be nullified. It will be absolutely futile to bring together men from all over Australia to constitute the board, because the Government will control the export of our dairy products. Accordingly, I forecast that in committee I shall move this amendment -
That sub-clause (9.), clause 4, he left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sub-clause: - “ (9.) At the first meeting of the Board which shall be held at a time and place notified in the Gazette by the Minister, the Board shall appoint one of its members to be the Chairman of the Board.”.
I hope that, upon reconsideration, the Minister will accept that amendment, in the interests of the dairying industry. The dictatorial power which he proposes to take is an example of pure fascism, or, as the right honorable member for Cowper declared, a totalitarian application of the worst totalitarian principles. I want, this industry to prosper and develop. There is no chance of the dairy farmers of Australia being satisfied with this legislation.
I ask the Minister also to reconsider ‘his decision that there shall not be on the board a representative of the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries, who would1 possess all the technical knowledge needed in connexion with the’ manufacture of butter, and to give preference to a trade union representative. How can he justify such a proposal ?
I direct attention also to sub-clause 10 of clause 4, under which the chairman of the board, the appointee of the Minister, may remain on it indefinitely, whereas the other members of the board will be appointed for only three years, although they will represent the dairy-farmers of this country. How can that be justified? 1 urge that the chairman shall be appointed for not more than three years, and that he shall be elected by the representatives of the producers on the board. In order to test the feeling of honorable members, I shall move in committee for the deletion of sub-clause 2 of clause 4. and the insertion of a new sub-clause providing for the constitution of the board in much the same way as it was formerly composed, including a representative of the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries.
I hope ti at the Minister will agree to amend the measure along the lines T have indicated, because I am at a loss to understand why he hopes to destroy an organization that has done so much for the dairying industry of Australia over the last 23 years. It has built up markets overseas, has saved the Australian dairyfanners millions of pounds in shipping freights, insurance charges and the like, has established a uniform selling brand for butter overseas, and in 101 ways has dine a good job for the industry.
No matter how many times one may read the Minister’s short speech, one can find no justification for the amazing decision to socialize this industry. Not one ward has been said in justification of his proposal to change the method of electing members to the board, to refuse to allow the board to elect its chairman, to exclude from it a representative of the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries’, and to have his own nominee as chairman of it. This legislation is unacceptable to the dairying industry. I ask the Minister to explain the reason for his attempt to destroy a board that has done such great service foi- this country, and to say in effect to the men who have served the dairying’ industry so effectively and well, that they are to be “ thrown to the wolves “.
– When introducing this bill the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) said that it was for the purpose of reconstituting the Australian Dairy Produce Board, and regulating and controlling the export of butter and cheese from Australia. Listening to that statement, one might be pardoned for assuming that hitherto the export of butter and cheese from Australia had not been regulated and controlled, but the fact is that it has been so regulated and controlled bv a board which has been functioning for the last twenty-odd years. Therefore, if that is the. only purpose of the bill, there was no need for it to be introduced. No one can claim that the operations of the board have been unsuccessful. it appears that one purpose of the bill is to remove from the producers themselves the control of their own industry, and this belief is strengthened by consideration of the new method which is to be introduced to appoint members to the board. It is also proposed to reduce the number of those who constitute the board. I would not greatly object to the reduction of numbers, because a board can become cumbersome if there are too many members. We have in Queensland a very efficient board, consisting only of three persons, which handles the Queenland sugar crop. However, if a reduction of numbers in this instance results in destroying the proper representation of the dairy-farmers it is te be deplored, and a. study of the bill reveals that that will be the principal effect. The number of farmers’ representatives is to be reduced from four to two, so that their representation will be equal only to that of the privately owned factories. I use the word “ farmers “ as distinct from “ producers “ because I wish to differentiate between dairy-farmers as such and directors of co-operative factories. I maintain that there should be on the board one representative of the dairyfarmers from each State. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) pointed out that Queensland and New South Wales were responsible for the production of most of the butter and cheese exported. That is correct, but I do not regard that as any justification for denying representation to other States, partly because, as the board will continue to operate for a number of years, provision should be made for dealing with increased exports from the other State?, and also because production methods vary greatly from State to State. There is a wide difference in methods between Queensland, on the one hand, and Tasmania, on the other. In the same way, I have no doubt that there is a wide difference between methods of production in Victoria and Western Australia. It would be advisable, therefore, that the board should have on it a representative’ from each State.
A comparison of this bill with the provisions under which the existing board is elected show that the representation of dairy-farmers has been reduced by 50 per cent., and the representation of cooperatively owned and controlled butter anil cheese factories by 33-?, per cent., while the representation of privately controlled factories has not been reduced at all. While I recognize the need for proper representation of factories, I should prefer that factory representation should bc reduced rather than that the representation of the dairy-farmers should be reduced. I will not recognize as an answer to my contentions the argument that, the representatives of the cooperatively owned factories are, in fact, representatives of the farmers. Undoubtedly, the representatives on the board will be drawn from the directors of co-operative factories, but I have had much experience in this matter, and I know that the directors of co-operative factories cannot always be relied upon to put the interests of the dairy-farmers first. Inevitably, some point of difference will arise between the farmers and the factory directors, even though the factory be co-opera ti rely owned. Therefore, the representatives of the farmers should be drawn directly from the ranks of the farmers themselves, and not from among those in the dual roles of farmers and factory directors. For that reason, I am not impressed by the fact that there are to be six representatives of co-operative factories on the board. T do not admit that these six representatives, with the two direct representatives of the farmers, constitute eight farmers’ representatives.
I also object to the proposed method of appointing representatives. It has for long been a recognized principle that the representatives of primary producers should be appointed by the producers themselves. Long before I entered this Parliament I recognized that principle, but the present bill cuts right across it. Previously, the representatives on the board were appointed directly by the farmers, and I cannot see the slightest justification for altering that system. It is now proposed that the Minister shall control the appointment of producers’’ representatives. In all States there are dairy-farmers’ organizations which could very well perform this office. In Queensland, for instance, there is the Queensland Dairymen’s Organization, which is well qualified to recommend competent representatives for appointment to theboard. This organization is constituted under a State act, and is recognized as the mouth-piece of the dairy-farmers.. It has branches all over the State, and any man recommended by it for appointment to a responsible position must hold the good opinion of the dairy-farmers. I cannot see how a. Minister, sitting in Canberra, and knowing nothing of thepersonal qualifications of nominees, except from what he hears of them, can be justified in taking upon himself the task of choosing representatives.
Clause 4 of the bill provides that any member of the board may be removed from office upon a recommendation by theboar.d, and this is another blow at effective producer representation. If a representative refuses to accept the direction of the Minister, or of those whom the Minister has appointed, he may be removed from office by a majority vote of the members of the board. It is also provided that the chairman shall be appointed by the Minister. All these provisions taken together will have the effect of depriving the producers of control of their own industry. We now come to an amazing provision in the bill. It was referred’ to by the honorable member for Moreton and the right honorablemember for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), but, I cannot allow it to pass without. further comment. Paragraph b of clause 8 reads as follows : -
That provision reduces the board to impotence. Under it, the chairman, who will be the nominee of the Minister, and therefore, it may be assumed, the mouthpiece of his opinions, may, if he finds himself in disagreement with other members of the board, report his dissent to the Minister, and thereby have the opinion of all the other members of the board disregarded.
– In other words the chairman is to be given a right of veto.
– That is so. We have railed against the exercise of such a right in other spheres, but here it is to be introduced into the control of an important primary industry. I regard this bill as a retrograde step, in common with other socialistic and dictatorial legislation which has recently been introduced into this Parliament.
.- The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) said that this was another example of socialistic legislation. That, of course, is the usual cry of members of the Opposition when any piece of legislation is brought down by the Government. The charge is not true, however, because the legislation for which this Government has been responsible has been of benefit to the country’s industries, and particularly to the primary industries. The present bill represents- an effective effort at co-operation between the primary producers and the Government. We know, of course, that honorable members opposite are always anxious to escape their obligations to the people. They are content to let matters slide, and to leave the conduct of the country’s economic affairs to the middlemen. This bill does not disfranchise the dairy-farmers, as honorable members opposite have claimed. The honorable member for Capricornia stated that the representation of the dairy-farmers had been reduced from four to two, but that is not so. The fact is that the bill provides for the appointment of six representatives of the co-operative butter and cheese factories to the board. These representatives will be chosen from among directors of the companies, and those directors have in their turn been elected to their positions by the dairy-farmers themselves.
The Minister (Mr. Pollard), in his second-reading speech, painted out that the new board would be entirely different from the old Australian Dairy Produce Control Board, and he added -
The Commonwealth Government has entered into a long-term purchase arrangement with the Government of the United Kingdom covering the export of Australian butter a.nd cheese up to the 30th June, 1948, and an extension of this, arrangement has been sought to the 30th June, 1950. That has caused a complete change in the methods covering the export of butter and cheese from Australia, and in view of the period of the arrangement, it is essential that control of the industry be transferred from the war-time authority to a statutory board. The terms of the purchase arrangement with the United Kingdom Government make it necessary for the Commonwealth Government to empower the board to carry out certain of the functions of the war-time authority, and to enable it, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, to buy and sell butter and cheese intended for export. For this purpose provision is made in the bill for the board to obtain advances from the Commonwealth Bank.
In providing that the chairman of the board shall be appointed by the Minister, the Government has acted wisely. . Since £15,000,000 is involved, it is necessary that the Government, as the representative of the people, shall have the final say in the expenditure of their money. I do not think any fair-minded man, even within the dairying industry, would object to that provision. I do not think that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) would allow his Scotch instincts to be so far forgotten as to induce him to give a blank cheque even to me. He would rightly demand the last say in the expenditure of any money that he disbursed. The private bankers, about whose interests he and his colleagues express great concern, will not lend money without collateral security. The Government equally must assure itself that its interests, which are the interests of the people, are secured in the expenditure of its funds. So it is logical that the Ministry, through the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, should decide who shall preside over the deliberations of the board. When the parties opposite were in power, they took care to ensure that the appropriate Minister should have the last say in the expenditure of public money by boards set up by them. As a matter of curiosity I referred to the Apple and Pear Organization Act 193S, which provides that the Australian Apple and Pear Board “ may make recommendations to the Minister in relation to the making of regulations for the purpose of regulating the export of apples and pears from Australia “. That measure was passed during ‘ the Lyons regime. I stress the provision that the board was entitled to make only a recommendation to the Minister. In effect, that means a recommendation to the Parliament. If anything goes wrong the Minister is held responsible by the people. That fundamental principle was observed in legislation dealing with the marketing of primary products passed by the Lyons Government. The Labour Government has given to the primary producers control of their own industries. The argument that we have disfranchized them is utterly incorrect,
.- By implication the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) has discredited the present Australian Dairy Produce Board as irresponsible and not to be trusted to handle money on behalf of . others. He implied that there must be complete and strict control over the new board lest its members should “bolt off” with the £15,000,000 that they will be handling. The Australian Dairy Produce Board has had a high reputation for many years. The problems that the new boa.rd will face are important. That body will be marketing our butter overseas and it must be wellbalanced, efficient, trustworthy and, above all, free to exercise its judgment. I concede that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) must have a certain amount of control over the board. Naturally, he will need to consult its members ; but his control should not be completely restrictive, because it is essential that the members of the board should feel free to exercise their own judgment in matters that concern the dairying industry. It is equally essential that their judgment should be heeded. The Minister claims that on the board there will be eight representatives of the dairyfarmers and six representing the cooperative butter and cheese factories. That is true, but the representatives of the dairy-farmers will be chosen from a panel of names submitted to the Minister, and that deprives the dairy-farmers of the right to elect their own representatives, whereas they should be elected by them. The bill proposes to reduce the membership of the Australian Dairy Produce Board from seventeen to twelve. I do not know whether the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture had the “ twelve apostles “ in mind when he chose that number. I suggest to him that he might well consider the addition of a thirteenth member. We live in a technical age and rely more and more on technical men in industry. The thirteenth member of the board could be well chosen from the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I believe that Dr. Wiley has done good work, on the dairying side of agricultural science. The thirteenth member could also be obtained from the Australian Society of Dairy Technology, which consists of chemists, scientists, engineers and technical officers from every department of agriculture in Australia. Its object is to apply modern technique to the handling, manufacture and testing of dairy products. A member chosen from that society would be a useful member of the board. The Minister is to nominate the chairman of the board, but a chairman nominated by somebody outside will give the board a feeling of frustration and, perhaps, destroy the harmonious relations that must exist if its work is to succeed. It is essential for the board’s smooth functioning that its members should have an idea of who their chairman is supposed to be. But the Minister proposes to take complete power over not only the choice of chairman but also decisions of the board. It is essential that not only should members of the board be freely elected by those whom they are intended to represent but also that the members shall themselves decide who shall be their chairman, if the dairying industry, which claims to be Australia’s Cinderella industry, is to have confidence in the board. Clause S shows that the chairman will be under ministerial control. If he should be at all weak-kneed, the board will become the mere mouthpiece of the Minister, and, should another Minister succeed the present Minister, we might not have such a benign and friendly one. For instance, if the Minister appointed in London a representative with whom the board did not agree, perhaps one without any factory experience or knowledge of marketing, or perhaps one deficient of all the qualities essential for an efficient trade representative, as some of our trade representatives have been, the dairying industry would be in a serious plight. I think the provision giving the Minister more or less absolute power over the board is a weakness. Two things are necessary. The first is that the board should be completely and democratically representative, and the second is that the chairman should be freely elected by members of the board if they are to back him up and work harmoniously with him. Direct ministerial control should be removed so that the board shall not be frustrated and become a body that merely makes a few recommendations that will be “ knocked back “ by the Minister. The co-operation of the producers is essential to the success of the scheme. The proper way in which to ensure that co-operation is to give them the effective representation that they desire to choose for themselves.
.- The principal act, which this bill is intended to amend, has been in operation since 1924, I think to the entire satisfaction of every one concerned, including the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard). Yet this bill is introduced to give further expression to the principle expressed in all measures dealing with primary products passed in the last twelve or eighteen months. This measure is based on the principles of and contains the defects of the legislation dealing with the wheat industry, the meat industry and the apple and pear industry. I confess my inability to understand the Minister when he time after time talks about his concern for the primary producers and his desire that they should control their own industries. It is clear that under this bill the dairy-farmers will not have control. The dairy-farmers will not even elect their own representatives to the Australian Dairy Produce Board. From time to time, the Minister has paid lip service to the principle of producer-control and properly elected boards, but the fact remains that all the hoards concerned with primary products far from control the industries that they are supposed to control. In drafting legislation setting up boards of this sort, the Government spends most of its time in ensuring that more power shall be placed in the hands of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The Ministers are determined to make themselves a coterie of dictators. That cannot be denied. “We see the. principle in this bill and we see it in the bill under which the Government proposes to nationalize banking. The principle is avowed in every piece of legislation of major importance brought down by the Government. The most remarkable feature of this legislation is the provision that the co-operative butter and cheese factories shall have six representatives on the board compared with the dairy-farmers’ two. I agree that the dairy-farmers are closely concerned with the co-operative factories and that the representatives of those factories will be people elected to the management of the factories by the farmers. I point out, however, that the interests of the representatives of the cooperative factories are not entirely those of the farmers. In fact, they have no responsibility to the farmers. That should be taken into consideration in deciding how the board should be constituted. The other relates to the appointment- to the board of a representative of one of the unions to represent certain employees. I have no objection to that in principle, but I fail to see why provision is made in the bill for the appointment of that representative, while representation of the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries provided for in the existing legislation has been omitted. I see no logical reason for that omission; presumably there must be some reason for it, as otherwise it would not have been made. If one is appointed to the board surely the other should also be included.
I come now to one of the most important parts of the proposal, namely, that relating to the selection, powers and responsibilities of the chairman of the board. On every board constituted by primary producers there has been an insistence on the appointment of a producer as chairman. There is not the slightest indication that that is likely to happen in this instance. The second matter upon which primary producers insist is that the chairman should be elected by the members of the board. In the proposal now before us the chairman will not only not necessarily be a producer but he is also to be appointed at the whim of the Minister. The board will have no real powers of control. At the discretion of its chairman, its decisions may be referred to the Minister for his approval or amendment. The chairman, who will be the alter ego of the Minister, will no doubt receive full instructions from the Minister as to what he should or should not do. Of his own volition he may hold up the decisions of the board for subsequent amendment or veto by the Minister. How, in these circumstances, the board can possibly be described as a producers’ board I cannot understand. I should like the Minister to explain why this principle has been adopted by the Government, not only in the bill now before us, but also in other legislation designed to control primary producing industries. As I mentioned rather briefly earlier, the Minister regards himself as a somewhat modified version of a dictator, whether of the type of Hitler or Goebbels I do not know
– He regards himself as a little Caesar.
– At least he is one of the many honorable members opposite who like power and sees that he is given it. If there were in office a Minister like his predecessor, now Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), who has more democratic views than the present occupant of the office, I would not, object so strenuously to such a proposal which constitutes an abuse of democratic power. The administrative set-up of the proposed new board is very much what one would expect to find in a totalitarian country, bo it Russia, Germany or Italy. I trust that before the bill is disposed of an explanation as to why this principle has been introduced will be forthcoming from the honorable gentleman.
.- In order to apply myself to the bill before the House, which is described as an act to amend the Dairy Produce Export Control Act of 1924-1942, I first scanned the second-reading speech made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) in introducing it. I did more than that; I studied the speech very closely and I propose to quote some of the honorable gentleman’s words and to reply to them item by item as I proceed. In his second-reading speech the Minister said -
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924-1942 to provide for the reconstitution of the Australian Dairy Produce Board as established under that act for the purpose of regulating and controlling the export of butter and cheese from the Commonwealth of Australia.
I have before me a copy of the report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board for 1945-46, together with a statement by the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. Scully, regarding the operation of the Dairy Produce Export Control Act of 1924-1942. The report gives details regarding the butter position, in particular the export position, and also touches on certain aspects of the home-consumption price. I ask you to rule, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, whether I shall be in order in quoting passages from these documents.
– I do not think it is necessary for the Chairman of Committees to interject.
– The honorable member is asking for a ruling of the Chair. He must address the Chair.
– The interjection of the honorable member for .Darling (Mr. Clark) was distinctly disorderly.
-Order! The Chair will attend to that.
– “Well, he-
– The honorable member is not in charge of the House. If he wishes a ruling from the Chair he must direct his remarks to the Chair.
– I seek the ruling of the Chair as to whether I shall be permitted to base some of my remarks on the report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board and to discuss the board’s report. The report is a printed document.
– The discussion must be strictly confined to the bill now before the House, the purpose of which is to amend the Dairy Produce Export Control Act.
– In his secondreading speech, the Minister said that the purpose of the bill is to regulate and control the export of butter and cheese from Australia. I assume that I shall be in order in discussing the regulation and control of the production of these commodities.
– The honorable member will be in order in discussing the amendment of the principal act proposed by the bill now before the House.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The purpose of this submitted to the Parliament by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). The original act was amended in 1.935, and now the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) bill is to reconstitute the Australian Dairy Produce Board. This organization was created in 1924 under legislation proposes to reconstitute the board in the light of new world conditions. When I use the words “to reconstitute the board in the light of new world conditions,” it appears to me that there is some significance in the nature of the proposed reconstruction, because it is so much in line with the policy of the government to have every organization and individual under its direct control. As I proceed, I shall show how an independent organization such as the dairymen’s organization is, will -be reduced to a mere shell of its old democratic self, and will become a plastic instrument of the Minister of the day. Certain comparisons must be made. First, I shall examine how the present board is constituted. The original act, as amended by the act of 1935, which was introduced by the Country party section of the government of the day, provided for representatives of the producers to be elected on the following basis : - one from New South Wales, one from Victoria, one from Queensland, and one by the combined votes of Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania. The bill provides for the appointment to the board of two members to represent the dairy farmers of Australia. How will the two individuals, who are supposed to be the freely chosen instruments of the dairymen, be appointed? The bill provides -
Each member appointed to represent the dairy-farmers of Australia shall be a person nominated by the Minister from a panel of names submitted to him by the Australian Dai ry -farmers Federation .
The result of the provision will be that, in future, dairy-farmers will not be able to exercise a free choice in the selection of their representatives. The Minister will call for a list of names. If he is not able to see on the list the names of persons who will be pliant to his will he will continue to call for lists until he sees the names for which he is searching. No other construction can be placed on this provision. Why are the producers not given the same right to elect their representatives to the board as any member of the Labour party would expect an industrial organization to be given iu similar circumstances? If the Australian Dairy Produce Board is to be a free organization, the only really democratic principle is that of the exercise of a free vote by the persons who will be represented on the body.
The original act of 1924 provided that the chairman should be appointed in the following manner : -
At the first meeting of the Board, which shall be held at a time and place notified in the Gazette by the Minister, the Board shall appoint one of its members to be the Chairman of the Board.
That is the ‘usual procedure in any organization of free men. When they meet they choose one of their number to be their chairman, and, henceforth, he is their elected head. What alteration does the bill propose? Is it a democratic arrangement or something which has been adopted directly from the Politburo of Moscow? I shall describe to honorable members how the chairman will be appointed under the provisions of this bill, which has been thrown before the House. I use the word “ thrown “ deliberately, because it is a disgrace to place this bill before a democratic assembly. Sub-section 9 of proposed new section 4 provides -
The member appointed to represent the Commonwealth Government shall be Chairman of the Board and shall hold office for such period um the Governor-General directs:
Provided that the Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the Minister, remove the Chairman from his office for incapacity, incompetence or misbehaviour.
So, in the first place, the chairman will not he elected by his fellow members. He will be selected by the Minister. If, at any time, the Minister desires to say that he considers the chairman to be incompetent, he may change the chairman. By those words, the chairman will become the creature of the Minister. As I proceed I shall show that the Minister, under this bill, which advance publicity declared would establish a producers’ board, will have the chairman completely in his grasp. The representatives of the producers will not be the representatives of the producers in the sense of freely elected representatives. They will be the nominees of the Minister, and will be selected from a panel of names which he will demand from the dairy-farmers’ organizations. The Minister himself will select the producers’ representatives. He will also select the representative of the employees, because the bill provides -
The member appointed to represent employees of butter and cheese factories shall be a person nominated by the Minister after consulting, wherever practicable, with representatives of the appropriate union or unions.
Thus the Minister will select the chairman, the producers’ representatives, and the employees’ representative on the board. The only representatives whom he will not choose will be the six representatives of butter factories. Now, one might be tempted, at first glance^ to assume that six of the eight producers’ representatives are the representatives of the co-operative butter factories, thai they at least can be said to be elected by the directors of those factories, and that they can form a majority of members of the board. Therefore, from the point of view of the producers, everything should be well. Before we leap to that conclusion, let us further examine the bill for the purpose of ascertaining how effective will be the majority of producers in determining the policy of the board. Just in case the chairman of the board goes astray and the Minister cannot command a majority, clause 8 has been inserted. I have never known a more deadly and socialist piece of legislation presented to this Parliament. Clause 8 of the bill provides -
Section ten of the Principal Act is amended.
by inserting, after sub-section (5.), the following sub-section : - “ (5a). If the chairman or other person presiding at any meeting of the board dissents from any decision of the board at that meeting and signifies at that meeting to the other members present in person his intention to bring his dissent to the notice of the Minister-
He will carry the story to the Minister - and, within twenty-four hours after the close of the meeting, transmit to the Minister-
The chairman will be the Minister’s office boy throughout - notice of his dissent together with full particulars of the decision, the decision shall have no effect 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 varied decision as so approved shall be deemed to be the decision of the board.
What more totalitarian provision could be inserted in any bill? Here we have allegedly eight producers’ representatives, an employees’ representative, and the Government’s nominee. Many of them will be appointed directly by the Minister, hut in case a majority of the members of the hoard make a decision with which the chairman disagrees, the bill provides that the Minister may vary it, and the decision, in its altered form, shall be the decision of the board. That is totalitarian control. “Where is the freedom of these men? Where is their right to decide anything of any material value when such a provision is included in the bill? It would be more fitting if such a provision were included in legislation which the dictator, Peron, presents to the Parliament of Argentina. It might even suit Dimitrov in Bulgaria, or the Communists in Roumania, or some of the Soviet republics, but this is the first time that such a provision has been inserted in a bill presented to any parliament in Australia. It is therefore a foretaste of things to come.
The Minister, having tied up everything in that clause, made the chairman his creature, and arranged to veto any decisions of - the board, has included another provision in order to make assurance doubly sure. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) laughs. I am sure that he would resent the inclusion of such a provision in legislation relating to a trade union, as being an unwarranted interference with the personal rights and liberty of the organization to conduct its own affairs. Do not let, us pretend that the board will be a producers’ organization. That would bc a. sham. The principal act of 1924 conferred on the board certain powers an-! responsibilities. Section 20 provided -
The board shall, with respect to any dairy produce placed under its control, have full authority to make such arrangements, and to give such directions as it thinks fit for the following matters: -
Those matters included the handling, marketing, storage, shipment, sale and disposal of dairy produce. For a producers’ organization, those powers were fair and reasonable. The board had ample scope to carry out its functions. The bill, however, provides that the board shall be subject to the direction of the Minister. I had some trouble in making that discovery, and only when. I read the act in conjunction with the amending legislation did I realize the Minister’s intentions. In future the board shall, subject to any direction of the Minister, have full authority to make arrangements for the handling and marketing of dairy produce. The Minister has given himself three lines of approach. First, he will have an approach through the creature whom he chooses to be chairman of the board. I have no doubt that the chairman will be an individual who has been “ hanging round “ the Minister for a long time. He will be an alleged producer, probably an officer of one of theorganizations who has never lifted his voice on any vital matter in the interests of the members of his organization. This individual, having kept his mouth shut when the welfare of his associates was involved, will no doubt be rewarded by theMinister for having kept quiet. I could probably name the individual for the
– Do it now.
– I shall do it in good time. When we reach the committee stage of the bill we shall doubtless have a few interesting observations to make.
– The trouble with the honorable member is that he has a filthy mind.
– The Minister will then take steps to ensure that the alleged producers’ representatives who are appointed will not be really representatives of the producers, but individuals selected by himself. That will be the position also with regard to the alleged representative of the employees. The third protection the Minister has provided for himself is the power of veto. Any decision of the board may be overruled by the chairman, but a dissent by the chairman must be notified to the Minister within 24 hours. The Minister no doubt will take every care to ensure that the person behind whom he intends to shelter has ready access to the back door of his office. He will be one of the honorable gentleman’s own proteges who have been helpful to him and who will act as a. kind of commissar to the dairying industry. I do not believe that any self-respecting board, would submit to such treatment. The board’s members would undoubtedly resign if they were placed in that position. I do not think that bona fide producer representatives will be likely to accept positions on the board in these circumstances. In any case the Minister has had. to face the possibility that the chairman whom he appoints may be “ talked over “ by his fellow board members, so the honorable gentleman has thoughtfully provided for a ministerial power of veto. That power is vital to an individual with such totalitarian ideas as the Minister seems to harbor. It is in order to protect himself against the possibility of the chairman of the board “ ratting “ that this power of veto has been included in the bill. Such action might have been expected when we recall the kind of political company that the Minister keeps. In order to provide that he shall not be “ double crossed “ by the chairman, he is including a power of veto which will prevent the board from doing its work freely in the way that this work has been done hitherto.
I cannot too strongly emphasize my objection to the whole proposal. Quite recently the Minister was asked by an honorable gentleman on the Government side of the House to indicate the class of person who would be appointed as chairman of the proposed Australian Dairy Produce Board. It was, of course, an inspired question, and it gave the Minister an opportunity to say, in his most sanctimonious manner, that the appointee would be a producer representative, and, in fact, a producer. But of what use would a producer be on a board, the main function of which would be ultimately exercised by the Minister himself? A board which was so limited, in its power would not be able to discharge its duties effectively and patriotically. One of the main purposes of this body should be to take all steps necessary to increase our exports of dairy produce to the United Kingdom in particular. That will be its main responsibility. Our exports of dairy produce declined seriously during the war years. They are now only about one-third in quantity of the exports in 1939-40. Obviously, therefore, the board should be constituted in such a way as to enable it to do its utmost to lift our exports to the figures of former years. Probably more than 90 per cent, of the dairy products that we export goes to the United Kingdom. Before the last war the United
Kingdom imported 480,000 tons of butter per annum, the greater proportion of which came from Australia, New Zealand and the Scandinavian countries. In 1946 the United Kingdom imported only 190,000 tons of butter, or little more than one-third of the pre-war total. It is not surprising, therefore, that the people of Great Britain are sorely in need of dairy products, fats and the like. Therefore, the board that we are proposing to re-establish should be so constituted as to enable it to act with the utmost freedom in increasing our exports. Insofar as price is concerned, it would have wonderful opportunities.
– Order ! The bill does not deal with the price of butter.
– The Minister, in his second-reading speech, referred to prices. The honorable gentleman said -
The board will, during such period as the long-term purchase arrangement for the sale of Australia’s exportable butter and cheese continues, handle annually Commonwealth Government finance to the amount of more than £15,000,000, and in these circumstances it is the view of the Government that it should have the right to appoint the chairman of the board.
– That quotation does not introduce any question of the price of butter; but deals only with the financial responsibility of the Government.
– I submit that I am entitled to show that the price of butter will be such as to involve considerably more than £15,000,000 per annum.
– The Chair rules otherwise.
– I consider that 1 am entitled to answer the argument of the Minister in this connexion, but I will confine my attention to the amount of £15,000,000 mentioned by the Minister. An amount of considerably more than £15.000,000 will be involved. The Minister’s statement does not justify the appointment of a creature of his own choosing to be chairman of this board. In any case, the commodities to be handled will belong to the producers and not to the board, or to the Government, and not, one penny of Government money will actually be involved. The price of dairy products overseas in the next year or two will be such as should yield a great deal more than £15,000,000 a year to the Australian dairying industry. It is well known that world parity price of butter is more than 4s. per lb. In the United States of America the price of butter is 5s. per lb. and even in Denmark it is 4s. per lb. The Minister’s estimate of £15,000,000 has been based, according to my calculation, on a price of less than 2s. per lb. for butter. That shows clearly chat the purpose of this bill is to prevent Australian dairy-farmers from reaping the advantage of the present high export price of butter. This is also indicated unmistakably by a new provision which is to be inserted. Under clause 12 of this measure section 20 of the principle act is being amended to provide that subject to any direction of the Minister the board shall be responsible for - (/) Tlie purchase and sale for the purpose of export, on behalf of the Commonwealth, of dairy produce and the management and control of all matters connected with the handling, storage, protection, treatment, transfer and shipment of the dairy produce so purchased or sold by the Commonwealth.
In other words, any individual will be prevented from exporting even 1 lb. of butter or any quantity of dairy produce whatsoever except through the board. The board will be able, through the Minister, to prevent anything of that kind being done, although under the principal act as it now stands private operators could export dairy produce if they desired to do so. The intention of this legislation is, in fact, to vest such powers in the Minister as will prevent dairyfarmers from receiving full world parity price for the products they export. It will be possible if this bill becomes law for certain organizations to bring pressure to bear upon the Government to compel it to do whatever such organizations may demand, and, in particular, to keep the domestic price of dairy products in Australia at a figure favorable to members of certain organizations.
– I thought the honorable gentleman wished to assist the people of Great Britain?
– That is true. The purpose of this legislation, however, is to vest such powers in the Minister as will enable him to prevent exports to theUnited Kingdom in certain circumstances. The board will not be free to do as it desires. Under the existing law, private operators could export dairy produce if they wished to do so; but under this measure the chairman of the board, who as I have said will be a nominee of the Government and have access to the Minister’s back door, will be able to prevent the board from acting freely. The Minister himself will have the power of veto. I am astonished that a Government of which the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) is a member, should includesuch a power in any legislation for which it is responsible, for we all know the attitude of the Minister for External Affairs to the veto power. If this bill is agreed to in its present form the dairyfarmers will be ground down and be compelled to submit to the will of individuals with a certain political outlook. The bill contains provisions which constitute a complete denial of the rights of one section of the community in the interests of other sections. If the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture desires to apply an equalization scheme as between dairy products for home consumption on the one hand and for export on the other, he should do it by means of subsidies, a course which the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has approved in other connexions. This bill totally abrogates every principle of democracy.
.- I realize that many other honorable members of tlie House are better equipped to participate in a debate on matters affecting primary production than I am, but this bill involves important principles which should be brought to the notice of the House, and in respect of which the Government should be required to justify itself. I have taken the trouble to reread the second-reading speech of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) on this bill, and I make two observations. The first is that the Minister, or whoever prepared the speech for him if he did not prepare it himself, revealed political immorality in that the speech did not disclose one of the vital features of the measure. Secondly, the Government is adopting a technique that is very well known in these days, namely, that of presenting the facade of democracy in order to cover up totalitarian tendencies. I make those observations because -I believe that my propositions can be established. Dealing with my first point: It must be recognized that it is the prime duty of a government, no matter who may be the Minister who presents a bill to the House, to indicate the real changes that are being made in the law. I venture to affirm that even a cursory examination of the bill will reveal that everything important has been concealed. The best approach to this problem can be determined by looking at the Dairy Produce Export Control Act of 1924, with a view to studying the constitution of the board that was established under it, the manner in which it was elected, its authorities, and the extent to which it has been changed by the bill that is now before the House. The act of 1924 left to the board established under it the right to determine who should be its chairman. That seems to me to be a very democratic thing to do. If one were choosing a board to control an industry in reality, then its internal functions should be just as much its own affair as the internal functions of this House are its affair. So we must start off with this incontrovertible fact, that a board representing varying interests, under the act of 1924, was allowed to determine who should be its chairman. Normally, the chairman of the board would be the man who occupies a position similar to that occupied by Mr. Speaker in this House, the one who would preside over its deliberations.
The important provision to be considered in connexion with the authority of that board is that which is contained in section 20 of the principal act. It is well that I should read the whole of that section, because only then will the point that I am making become clear. It provides -
The board shall- words of obligation - with respect to any dairy produce placed under its control, have full authority to make such arrangements and to give such’ directions as it thinks fit for the following matters: -
I stop there for a moment, before proceeding to the particularity of the subjectmatter of the authority conferred upon the board. It will be observed that, in the opening words, the most complete authority was given to the board to deal with the subject-matters which I shall enumerate shortly, in any way the board thought fit, and, in addition, placed upon the board the obligation so to do. The section went on to provide that the following matters should come within the board’s complete and unfettered authority : -
I believe that every member of the House will agree with me that no more plenary authority could be vested in any board than was conferred by that act upon the board then constituted, in respect of the large volume of subject-matter committed to its care. That is the law as it exists ; it has not been repealed. During the war, certain war regulations were introduced, the merit or demerit of which I do not propose to debate.
I now proceed to the first point that I have sought to make, namely, that in a political, and not in any personal, sense - because I find that some members of the Government are very sensitive in that respect - the Government has been dishonest, because it has sought to convey, by the second-reading speech of one of its Ministers, that its purpose was to reconstitute, under a democratic means of government and of organization, the Australian Dairy Produce Board as it existed under the act of 1924, whereas a most cursory examination of the bill will show that nothing of the sort has resulted. The opening words of the second-reading speech, which are important, when not only the members of this House but also the people of Australia are being spoken to, are those -
The purpose of the bill is to amend the Dairy Produce Export Control Act to provide for the reconstitution of the Australian Dairy Produce Board as established under the act, for the purpose of regulating and controlling the export of butter and cheese from the Commonwealth of Australia.
I omit the second paragraph. The Minister will correct me, I am sure, if I omit anything that is relevant. I do not want to read words which do not hear upon my argument.
– I shall correct the honorable gentleman when I reply to the debate on the second-reading.
– I am sure that the honorable gentleman will speak against me, but I am equally sure that he will not correct me. The third paragraph reads -
The Government now proposes to reinstate the Australian Dairy Produce Board so that a statutory authority shall be available to advise and assist in dealing with the impartant industry problems likely to arise within the industry with the gradual rehabilitation of overseas markets.
I omit the fourth paragraph. The fifth paragraph reads -
It is the view of the Government that more effective administration would be achieved by a smaller body.
It goes on to give reasons why the body proposed under this bill should be fewer in number than the body constituted under the act of 1924. I read now from the eighth paragraph, which says -
It is essential that control of the “ industry
Note those words, “ control of the industry “- he transferred from the war-time authority to a statutory board.
We shall see to what extent, if at al there is to be any transfer of real control to the statutory board. The speech then says -
The board will, during siu li period as the long-term purchase arrangement for the sale of Australia’s exportable butter and cheese continues, handle annually Commonwealth Government finance to the amount of more than £15,000,000, and in those circumstances it is the view of the Government that it should have the right to appoint the chairman of the board.
That may be an argument so far as the right to appoint the chairman is concerned. It will be noted that there is not one word in the second-reading speech, of the Minister about the fact that the appointment of a chairman in the terms of the bill, will give complete power to the Minister to control this industry. Not only was that a serious omission; it was also not a correct presentation, in a second-reading speech, of the purposes and results of this legislation, and again I say that it was politically dishonest. I do not seek to use extravagant language. But I say to any honorable member, that if a bill is brought before this chamber, which either we on this side of the House or memebers on the Government side are to understand, the prime function of the Government must be to reveal clearly the purpose and intent of the bill, and the effect of its operation. None of those things has been done in this instance.
I direct myself to the first proposition that I made, namely, that the intent of the bill has been concealed. I have drawn attention to what the act of 1924 provided. It is quite clear that under that act the control of this industry was vested in a board. The Minister had no power whatever to override it, and no one member of the board had any power to override it.
– That is incorrect.
– With great respect, T say that it is not incorrect.
– Have a look at section 13 of the act of 1924.
– Certainly I shall. It provides -
The Board may appoint such officers as are necessary to assist the Board in carrying out its functions under this Act.
– I am referring to section 13a. The act from which the honorable gentleman is reading is completely out of date. The honorable gentleman is only here on two days a week while the House is sitting.
– The Minister should try to refute my argument, not abuse me. As I have pointed out, the powers of the board are contained in. section 20 of the act of 1924. That section is subsequent to section 13 and deals with a specific field. Therefore, according to the cardinal rules of legal interpretation, its provisions override those of any preceding section which are inconsistent with them. There is no amendment of those provisions in the copy of the act that I have.
– Look at section 15 of the principal act.
– At the moment, 1 am talking about section 20. It provides - The board shall-
Those are words of specific obligation. Again the Minister may, if he wants to do so, consult his legal advisers on that point. The section provides that thu board shall give such directions as it thinks fit with respect to certain wide subject-matters. If I may deal with that point now, as the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who preceded rae, did : By this bill, there will be inserted in the act a few words which will rid it of its whole value. Those words are “subject to any direction of the Minister “. Of course, it does not seem to matter very much when this Parliament is given the “ go by “, and the forms of democracy are used in order to destroy democracy. It matters little to the Minister, whose sole objection to my argument is that I am here on only two days a week. That statement of the Minister is incorrect, but assuming it were correct, in those two days I give greater service to this country than he gives during a longer attendance.
– The honorable gentleman’s attendance in this House is “ putrid “.
-Order ! There must be no personalities.
– The honorable gentleman is “ a.w.l.” half the time.
– The Minister should stand up to this bill. I was seeking to argue upon firm principles. He was the first to introduce personalities. I invite him to justify, not in a personal but in an administrative sense, the bill that he has placed before this House. No personal abuse will prevent me from putting my argument. I ask the Minister to explain why he omitted to draw the attention of the people and the Parliament of Australia to the fact that these simple words emasculated the system of control. The words to which I refer are, “ Subject to any direction of the Minister “. If words mean anything, these words can only mean, that in respect of observation of the Australian Dairy
Produce Board, the Minister can say, “Do this”, or “Do that”, and what he says becomes law. In the circumstance, of what use is this bill at all? Why not introduce a simple measure providing that the Australian Dairy Produce Board, elected as prescribed, shall do such things as the Minister directs. In the final analysis, the present bill means nothing more than that.
– And nothing less.
– It could not possibly mean much less. It may be that the Minister did not prepare the secondreading speech which he delivered. I am the last person who would wish to make any unjust accusations against him. Either he prepared the speech, and can answer for himself, or he did not prepare it, and he can confess that he is merely the mouthpiece of his department. If he prepared the speech, he can tell us what the bill really means.
Clause 4 of the bill sets out what the board shall consist of. I am sure that the members of the board will draw their fees and offer advice, but I am equally certain that they will have no authority whatever. The board is to consist of twelve members. Now let us see how they are to be elected. Two members are to represent the dairy-farmers of Australia, and it is prescribed that they shall be persons nominated by the Minister from a panel of names submitted to him by the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation. This method bears a strange similarity to the method of election in Soviet Russia. A panel of names is to be submitted ; but the people concerned are not to be given an opportunity to say who shall represent them. If the first panel of names does not suit the Minister he can ask that another panel be submitted. There is nothing in the bill to say that he shall not do so. There is nothing to say that the Minister must choose the producers’ representatives from the first panel of names submitted. It merely says “ from a panel “, and that means that the selection must ultimately be made from a panel of names submitted by the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation. That is the only obligation imposed upon the Minister. Thus, the Minister has the final choice as to who shall represent the dairy-farmers, and ho may choose those whom he thinks will best represent his own views and those of the Government. The Minister may be the wisest of all Ministers, which I take leave to doubt, but even so, the proposed system of appointment is fundamentally undemocratic. It is well known that those who have power and are able to exercise it, do in fact exercise it. There is nothing which so corrupts a man, in a political sense, as power itself. The act further provides that there shall be on the board one member from each of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania to represent the co-operative butter and cheese factories in each of those States. These members are, I understand, to be elected in a manner to be prescribed. The same applies to members who are to represent the proprietary butter and cheese factories. They, also, are to be chosen in a manner to be prescribed. Of course, we are not told what that manner shall be.
– Would it interest the honorable member to know that, in this respect, the bill reproduces exactly the provision of the 1924 act which he praised so loudly?
– I was not in the Parliament in 1924, and I resist as strongly as I can any attempt to drag me back to the 1932 depression, or to associate me with something that was done in 1924. I am concerned with what this bill provides. To ask us to agree to a proposal that the members of the board shall be appointed in the manner prescribed is too fantastic for words. However, a most significant part of the bill is that which provides for the appointment of a member to represent employees of butter and cheese factories. It is provided that the member appointed for this purpose shall be nominated by the Minister “ after consulting, wherever practicable, with representatives of the appropriate union or unions “. It is now generally recognized that, so far as this Government is concerned, it is a matter of spoils to the victor. Thus, the person to represent the employees of the butter and cheese factories will be nominated by the Minister, and I am sure that he is not likely to hold political views different from those of the present Government.
We now come to the member that is to represent the Australian Government, and he will hold the key to the situation. He is to be chairman of the board, and he shall hold office for such period as the Governor-General directs. Let us see what he is to do, because he will be, in effect, the whole “box and dice”. Our representatives overseas have had much to say about the exercise of the veto as opposed to democratic processes; yet, in almost every measure which the Government introduces to this chamber it makes provision for the exercise of the very power which it opposes outside Australia. Clause 8 provides for the amendment of section 10 of the principal act, and section 10 provides for the holding of meetings of the board. This is a somewhat strange place for the insertion of a vital amendment, the purpose of which is to emasculate the entire bill. Section 10 is as follows : -
This means that the chairman shall have an ordinary deliberative vote and also a casting vote when there is an equal division of opinion among members. Clause 8 of the bill provides that section 10 of the principal act shall be amended by inserting after sub-section 5, the following sub-section : - “ (5a.) If the Chairman or other person presiding at any meeting of the Board dissents from any decision of the board at that meeting and signifies at that 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, transmits to the Min is tel notice of his dissent together with full particulars of the decision, the decision shall have no effect unless the Minister approves of the decision (whether with or without variation) and, if tlie Minister approves of the decision subject to a variation, the varied decision as so approved shall be deemed to he the decision of the Board”.
There are to be twelve members on the board, but one of them, the chairman, is to be, in effect, a commissar. That is the direction in which the Government is drifting, whether it knows it or not. All this legal jargon means nothing more than that the Minister, through his nominee, is to be supreme on the board. No matter what the other members may say, no decision of the board can become effective unless the Minister agrees. This is very similar to the operation of the veto at meetings of the United Nations. Policy is to be determined through the exercise by the Minister of his power of veto. The Minister is to take to himself complete and arbitrary control of the industry. The board will be merely a sham and a delusion. I rose in my place to speak on this bill, not because, as I have conceded, I pretend to know anything about the dairying industry, but primarily because in its presentation of this bill the Government has departed from a fundamental obligation fairly and correctly to present the real effect and purposes of any legislation brought before us, and, secondly, because the bill represents a further contribution to the drift away from democracy towards totalitarian and socialistic controls which t prefer to express as collectivism in this country when the individual counts for naught and the State counts for everything,
.- In these very enligtened days it is not so much a matter for wonder that the Government should propose to eliminate an institution which has rendered good and faithful service to the community and to establish something else in its stead. Tn defending the one, or in criticizing the other, I appreciate that the ruling of the Chair confining the debate within certain limits must be observed, although I admit it is something of a handicap.
– Order! The Chair has restricted the debate to the terms of the bill.
– If the Australian Dairy Produce Board is to accomplish anything to advantage the industry it should be free and unfettered to create the necessary incentive to stem the very disturbing downward trend in the volume of the goods it has to export. In 1939-40, the board which is to be eliminated as a result of the bill now before us had the privilege of exporting over 100,000 tons of butter out of the total Australian production of 203,686 tons. In 1947, the board will be able to export only a percentage of our total production of 138,000 tons. If that downward trend continues we shall not need a board to control exports at all because there will be nothing to export. The protests being made against this bill are not directed towards the proposed new board as such, but rather to the method by which it is to bo constituted. In common with many other honorable members I have received letters from people expressing indignation at the bill and stating that unless the producers are given freedom to select and elect their own representatives they will not in fact be represented at all. I agree with that. They say, too, that if the chairman is not the elect of the board they are again not represented. I also agree with that view. The Minister is to be vested with power to veto majority decisions of the board. That is an absolute farce, as I shall attempt to show.
– Like the Legislative Council in Victoria.
– If the honorable gentleman wants a debate on that subject, I shall “take him on” at any time and in any place. Unless the producers are given free and unfettered right to elect their own representatives on the board they cannot be represented in such a manner as would reflect the importance of the part they play in the industry. They have every right to resent the differentiation between the treatment to be meted out to the producers and that to be extended to every other section to be represented on the new board. The board is to consist of twelve representatives, only two of whom are to be the direct representatives of the dairymen throughout the whole of Australia, and, as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) pointed out, those two are to be selected from a panel to be submitted to the Minister by the Australian Dairy Farmers
Federation. The selection of the producers’ representatives, therefore rests, not with the dairymen, but with the Minister. The dairymen must have nothing to do with the matter; after all, they are only primary producers. I draw attention to the distinction between the proposed method of selecting the two representatives of the producers and that to be used in the selection of other representatives. Clause 4 provides that each member appointed to represent the cooperative butter and cheese factories of Australia, and each member appointed to represent proprietary butter and cheese factories, and privately owned butter and cheese factories, shall be a person elected in such manner as is prescribed. Elected by whom? Obviously the directors of the factories concerned are to have the right to select their own representatives; but the primary producers have to submit a panel of names, through the back door as it -were, from, which the Minister will select two persons whom he thinks will be more amenable to the crack of the whip of the dictatorial chairman who will be appointed by the Minister to preside over the board. It i3 of vital interest to the producers to know what will be the function of a trade union representative on a primary producers’ board, which is to be established for no other purpose than to control the export of a product of dairyfarms. I again draw attention to the distinction between the election of a representative of the people who produce the commodities to be exported and that of a person who has nothing to do with them, namely, the union representative.
– Who makes the butter and the cheese?
– Certainly not the union representative. This is to be an export control board which is interested solely in the export of farm products. The important point is that the member appointed to represent the employees of butter and cheese factories shall be a person nominated by the Minister after consulting, as it was so subtly -put, wherever practicable, with representatives of the appropriate union or unions. Does the Minister have the audacity to say that the unions will not tell him who the representative will be? He will have no right to select the representative of the em ployees; he will accept the man that the union tells him to accept; but the producers of the goods have no rights whatever in the matter. Even after accepting full responsibility for the selection of the members of the board, if the Minister likes to so call it, the honorable gentleman immediately shows his distrust of it by reserving to himself the right to appoint a person to act as chairman, and taking to himself the right to veto the majority decisions of the board”. The Minister knows very well that the primary producers’ representatives appointed to an authority of this description are men of the highest repute and integrity, and with a sense of responsibility, and that they would not be likely to do or say anything which would embarrass the Treasury or the Minister without first consulting the government of the day. Notwithstanding the fact that he has the right to select them he does not trust them. He proposes to appoint a “ Pooh-bah “ to preside over them. That is the most offensive proposal that the Minister has ever been associated with, and the honorable gentleman has been associated with some offensive things during his lifetime. Not only may a majority decision of the board, be vetoed by the Minister, on the recommendation of the chairman or his deputy, but also the board will have to accept full responsibility for the Minister’s decision. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said that any self-respecting board would resign if such conditions were imposed. 1 go further, and say that no selfrespecting man would accept appointment to such a board. No self-respecting person in the community would consent to being a mere cypher, a marionette ready to dance when the Minister or his satellites on the board pull the strings.
I come now to the most obnoxious clause I have ever seen in any bill presented to this House. Because of the limitation of scope of this debate, it is only natural that there must be some repetition of the speeches of honorable members. We cannot escape that. If we speak to the bill at all, we must inevitably repeat what other honorable members have already said. The terms of proposed new subsection 5a embodied in clause 8 have been recited by every honorable member on this side of the House who has spoken on the bill. They are so obnoxious, however, that they cannot be repeated too often. My only regret is that the people cannot listen to them. The proposed new sub-section reads like something lifted from a bill designed to control dairying in Soviet Russia. This is a mere pretence to establish an independent, democratically constituted organization, because every atom of power has been taken away from it. I repeat the words of proposed new sub-section da because repetition may make them more understandable. The proposed new sub-section reads -
If the Chairman or other person presiding at any meeting of the Board dissents from any decision of the Board at that meeting and signifies at that meeting to the other members present in person his intention to bring his dissent to the notice of the Minister-
Because the chairman does not agree with a decision, made possible by eleven of the members of the board, like a child, he will run away saying, “ I shall tell Mum “, or, in other words, 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, the decision shall have no effect 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 varied decision as so approved shall be deemed to bo the decision of the Board.
What body of men would accept responsibility for something to which the majority of them were diametrically opposed? Yet we are asked, in a still democratic Australia, to accept such a proposition. Australia is still democratic, hut I am afraid that democracy in this country is shaking at the moment. If the Minister takes his mind back to the plebiscite in Austria ordered by Hitler -
– The honorable member need not go beyond the actions of the Legislative Council in Victoria.
– I shall go to Austria for my example.
– Get back to the place from which your ramifications are working.
– Order! The honorable member must be heard in silence.
– I am glad you realize that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, even if some honorable members do not. In answer to the further interjection about the Legislative Council of Victoria, that issue is before the masters of the Government in Victoria, and I am not too much afraid about what the decision is going to be either. There is a machine operating in my electorate. It is a power gun that forces liquid cement into a stone wall. I will bring it here to force some sense into the mind of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard), who is interjecting. I return to Austria-
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! There is too much interruption. The honorable member must be heard in silence. I ask him to address himself to the bill ; Austria is too far away.
– The plebiscite that Hitler took to decide the fate of Austria-
-Order! The honorable member is not entitled to discuss such a matter in the debate on this bill.
– But you heard me read, Mr. Deputy Speaker, proposed new sub-section 5a embodying an amendment of section 10 of the principal act. Hitler merely said that all negative votes would be invalid, and therefore assured himself of victory. But the Minister says, in that provision, “ All votes will be invalid unless I choose to agree with them “. Dictators do make decisions themselves. They do not hide behind the camouflage of a democratically-appointed body. The Minister should be satisfied to allow the board that he proposes to appoint under this legislation to make recommendations to him. Should the Treasury be involved, it would be quite correct for the Minister to have the final say. At least the board would have the satisfaction of presenting its case to him. He could then, if need be, ask for modification of the recommendation in this or that direction. But to appoint a man over all the others and to expect them to tolerate it when he said, “ I will not accept your decision and will tell the Minister “, is ridiculous. Let the board deal with its own business and say to the Minister, “ This is what we propose “. It would then remain for the Minister, or the Government, to decide whether to act on the proposal or to remit it to the board for modification in whatever way was desired. That would be perfectly acceptable to the public generally and to the primary producers in particular. The provision in the proposed new sub-section would perpetrate a complete farce. It asks the members of the board to meet, well knowing before they go into the meeting that their determinations will have no effect unless the chairman appointed by the Minister approves. They would he like little boys wondering whether they were doing the right thing. Why not tell them what is wanted? They would then do what they are told to do. Even that would he more satisfactory than the present proposal. If the Minister places a little more trust in the men whom he will take the responsibility for appointing to the board, he will satisfy the dairy-farmers and still give them the feeling that democracy has a bare chance of survival in Australia.
. - We have drifted a long way in this debate, but the fundamental issue is that with the passing of war-time controls we desire to reconstitute the Australian Dairy Produce Board to control the export of dairy produce. I think honorable members opposite agree that there should he a board to control that export. We have not heard any opposition to that. The opposition that we have heard is to the board’s being under the control of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. We desire stabilization of the dairying industry. Yesterday, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the furthering of the interests of that industry, which is the very objective of this bill. It is surprising to hear honorable gentlemen opposite so vehement in their opposition to the Minister’s wanting a certain amount of authority in the decisions of the board, because my experience of Liberal governments in South Australia - I have not experienced a Libera] government as a member of the House of Representatives - is that whatever committee or board was con stituted, even a parliamentary committee, the Premier demanded the right to choose from a panel of names submitted to him by the Labour party the representatives of that party. That matter was the subject of a constant battle between the Government party and the Opposition. Honorable members opposite have claimed that ministerial control of the proposed board would belittle it, but decisions reached by committees or boards set up to administer various phases of governmental activities are nearly always subject to the approval of the appropriate Minister before they can be put into force. I think that is generally accepted. I concede that honorable members opposite are genuinely interested in the welfare of all primary producers, including dairy-farmers; but they have to remember that if a board were created by legislation to control a certain industry, and have the last word on everything done in that industry, its will would be imposed on the primary producers engaged in that industry. In comparatively recent years in South Australia, a board determined that producers could not sell their butter as they desired, but a number of producers objected to that power being used, and demanded the right to sell their butter as they desired. When control of eggs came into operation the same objections were raised. Objection has always been taken to boards with absolute powers. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) referred to the Australian Dairy Produce Board as having the power to direct the sale of butter overseas, and said that any person or group of persons that wanted to sell butter overseas could not do so without the consent of the board, but honorable members opposite should take their minds back to the time when the Dried Fruits Export Control Board, one of the first boards with absolute power, was established. People who processed the fruit for export claimed the right to export their produce however they desired, despite any decision made by the board. They fought the issue of the rights of the individual through the High Court and the Privy Council.
– They did not want to export dried fruits; they wanted to sell in Australia.
– Whatever else they wanted, they wanted to preserve their rights over their own products, notwithstanding any decision of the Dried Fruits Export Control Board. Is this Parliament, in appointing a board representative of the primary producers, to say to them that it will throw all the responsibility on the board and that neither the Parliament nor the Minister will have any responsibility? Much has been made to-night about the rights of the people in a democracy, but any parliament that surrendered the rights of the people to a section of the people would sell democracy. My views may not coincide with those of honorable gentlemen opposite on that matter, but it is definite that in. any legislation that the Parliament enacts, particularly legislation dealing with the control of the product of any section of the community, it is the duty of the Parliament to ensure that it shall, through responsible Ministers, retain control in the interests of the people.
– Why does not the Labour party ensure the maintenance of that principle in the trade unions?
– Honorable gentlemen opposite are not consistent about the trade unions. If they were listening tonight to the speeches delivered in the Victorian electoral campaign, they would hear charges that the Labour party and the trade unions are dominated by the leaders of another party.
– The honorable member is unlucky not to be “ on the air “ to-night.
– I am not worrying about that. We are consistent in applying the principle that when the Parliament enacts legislation under which it takes physical possession of commodities, it will say to the producers of those commodities, “ As custodian of your goods, we will retain the right to ensure that our administrators do not act against your interests “. It has been claimed that the representatives of the dairyfarmers will be selected by the Minister from a panel of names submitted to him by the primary producers. Who are the primary producers that will submit that panel of names? The Minister will not submit a panel of names to himself. The panel will be submitted on behalf of the dairy-farmers by a dairy-farmers’ organization. I assume that the primary producers will evolve a method for the selection of a panel of names for presentation to the Minister; and from my knowledge of Ministers, I believe that if the panel contained the names of persons with suitable qualifications for the position, he would not dare to reject it out of hand, and ask for the submission of another panel.
– If he did not like the panel of names, he could ask for the submission of another panel.
– I admit that he could do so. If he asked for another panel of names, the list would still have to be provided by the primary producers who supplied the original one.
– Should not the primary producers have the right to elect their own representatives?
– This matter has been thrashed out in the States. A Liberal Government in South Australia decided to appoint a board to control the price of food. For that board, a representative of the consumers was required. When the consumers asked the Premier to appoint a particular person, the difficulty arose as to how he could be selected. The bill proposes that the dairy-farmers shall have two representatives on the board. If any other proposal for the selection of those two representatives were adopted, considerable difficulty would be encountered in choosing them. Perhaps they could be selected, by divers means, as the result of the combined vote of dairymen’s organizations. If the bill provided that all dairy-farmers should have the right to exercise a vote for the election of the two representatives, I am afraid that the idea would not be practicable. The panel which will be presented to the Minister will contain names selected by primary producers through some of their organizations. Six members of the board will be appointed, one from each State, by the co-operative butter and cheese factories. I should like honorable members opposite to inform me how will the representative of the co-operative societies in Victoria be chosen? Will the managers, who are the employees of the butter and cheese factories, elect this representative, or will a board, which is elected by members of the co-operative societies, choose him? The bill is not specific on that point. However, six of the twelve members of the board will represent the co-operative societies. Honorable members opposite will claim that the members of the co-operative societies of Victoria are persons engaged in the dairying industry. As two other members of the board will represent the producers, eight members will be drawn from men engaged in the industry. As a balancing factor, the Minister decided that he would have to consider the claims of proprietary and privately-owned butter and cheese factories, and allow them to select two representatives. That accounts for ten members of the board. Government supporters do not say that members of the union shall have a vote in the selection of their representative. If honorable members opposite assert that the Minister will appoint the man whom the unions recommend, I invite them to attend some of the big gatherings of union officials, where they will learn what union representatives sometimes say about men whom Labour Ministers appoint. They consider that they are not given a sufficient voice in these appointments. Therefore, I cannot accept the contention that the Minister will appoint the nominee of the union. In any event, only one member of the board will be the representative of the employees. The remaining member of the board will be appointed by the Minister. In my opinion, it is right and proper that the Minister should appoint his representative on the board. Ultimately, the board must be subject to control by the Parliament.
– This is ministerial control, not parliamentary control.
– The Parliament elects Ministers. The honorable member might say that that statement is not quite correct, and I agree with him, because it is really the people who decide. This position is similar to the appointment of the two representatives of the producers on the board. The organization represents the producers, and, in this instance, the body that represents the electors selects the Minister.
Ultimately, control rests with this Parliament, and I do not accept the statement that this bill is a drift towards Hitlerism. I cannot see that. I do not agree that a board of twelve members, one of whom is nominated by the Minister, one of whom represents- the employees of the butter and cheese factories and the remaining ten of whom are elected by the producers or the butter factories, is a Hitler-like body.
– Then call it a Joe Stalin board.
– I cannot see that it is a Joe Stalin board.
– Would the honorable member call it a Pollard board?
– It might not even be a “ cocky chaff board “. In any event, the board will represent the interests of the dairy-farmers. The arguments which the Opposition has adduced regarding the composition of the board are not fair and reasonable. If necessary, I could cite other boards which the Minster has appointed. The members of those bodies were not elected even to the same degree as members of the Australian Dairy Produce Board will be elected, yet those boards have done a great deal of good work, and the Minister, generally speaking, approves their actions and decisions. I have no fear that suitably qualified men will not be appointed to the Australian Dairy Produce Board. I do not accept that view. Suitably qualified men in the dairying industry, whether they be producers or from the co-operative societies, will, if elected, be prepared to serve on the board. If the board acts detrimentally to the best interests of the dairying industry, or the Minister intervenes to veto a reasonable decision of the board which is not injurious to primary producers, I shall be prepared to consider an alternative suggestion for the composition of this body. Honorable members opposite advocate stabilization. Every dairyfarmer supports it. We can have stabilization only be exercising a definite control over the exportable portion- of the produce of the industry. In order to have that control, we must appoint a board. The board which the Minister has in mind will serve the purpose. Some complaints have been made that the dairying industry will not be able to sell its butter where it pleases. In my opinion, Australia has a responsibility to export every pound of produce that it can in order to meet the needs of the United Kingdom. We must realize that the statement which the Minister made recently that our butter for export-
– Order! The bill does not deal with the export of butter.
– It does, because the bill proposes to reconstitute the Australian Dairy Produce Board, which has power to sell butter overseas. For the next five years, our exports of butter will be shipped to the United Kingdom. Therefore, the board will be closely concerned with the agreement or understanding which Australia has reached with the United Kingdom regarding these exports. However, that is not the real bone of contention. Our difference of opinion is created by the question of whether the Minister shall have the final decision, as the bill provides. In my opinion, the Minister will give honest service, and the board will act in the best interests of the primary produrers.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) has made certain statements, including the assertion that we are selling democracy if we take control away from the Parliament. He referred also to the Dried Fruits Export Control Board and other boards which are responsible for marketing produce, and declared that when a board las absolute control, objections are raised by ^buyers. However, I am not concerned with those who object to or fight against commodity boards, because in the process of developing cooperative marketing and co-operation in general there have been many fights in order to achieve victory for co-operation. The basis of true cooperative marketing is that producercontrol and grower-elected boards shall have the right to market their produce to the best advantage, and, in doing so, have the responsibility for it. The honorable member for Hindmarsh asked : Who is to elect the producers’ representatives to the Australian Dairy Produce Board and similar boards if we apply the principle that we members of the Opposition support? Then every individual concerned shall have the right to exercise a vote for the election of the representatives. The honorable member obviously did not stop to think. Every individual elector in Australia does not have a votein the election of the officers of a particular trade union. Only the members of the organization exercise the vote. Similarly, every person who is interested in a particular business might vote for the appointment of the directors. So it applies to co-operative associations, and so it will apply to the Australian Dairy Produce Board, if our principle of election is applied that those who produce the commodities should have the right to make the decision. When the honorable member for Hindmarsh says that we are selling democracy if control is taken away from the Parliament, I inform him that we sold democracy in Australia long ago.
– Was. the honorable member for Maranoa elected to the board of which he is a member?
– I was elected by the growers of the commodity bandied by the board, and that is the principle for which I stand.
– Was not the honorable member appointed by the Minister?
– I was not appointed by the Minister. That principle does not apply. I shall return to that matter later. Meanwhile, I. desire to revert to the statement of the honorable member for Hindmarsh that we are selling democracy if control is taken away from the Parliament. The fact is that control has been taken away from the Parliament, and we sold democracy long ago. Democracy applied is democracy decentralized. Dictatorship control is not democracy, nor is centralized control democracy. .The system of elections to commodity boards adopted in Queensland has proved eminently successful and it would prove successful in connexion with this board. The Minister asked me, by interjection, whether I was appointed by a State Minister to the board of which I am chairman. I was not so appointed. The only commodity board in Queensland whose chairman was appointed by a Minister is the State Wheat Board and his appointment by that method evoked disgust and protest from, the wheatgrowers. The members of the commodity boards in Queensland must be elected by the persons engaged in the industry concerned, and the boards must accept the responsibility of their decisions. They must also, in effect, act as bankers, for they carry financial as well as moral responsibility. The Australian Dairy Produce Board has done very fine work. Its chairman, Mr. Plunkett, has been chairman since the inception of the board 24 years ago. His activities have been approved by all political parties. Mr. Howie, Mr. Gibson, and Mr. Sheehy and others have also done fine work. I believe that the members of commodity boards would yield their self-respect by consenting to the kind of control that is now being proposed under this bill. They would expect the Minister to honour their decisions. There has been much antagonism to the proposal that the chairman of the Australian Dairy Produce Board should be authorized to dissent from decisions of the board and seek their reversal by the Minister. It may be that, on occasions, apart from the chairman, every member of the board, including the union representative and the representative of the co-operative associations, may favour a certain course, yet because the chairman may not be favorable, he may go “ squealing “ to tlie Minister and have the board’s decision altered. A disgruntled ‘ chairman should not be given that power. The decisions of the bona fide representatives of the dairying industry who doubtless will be appointed to this board should be respected and I protest in the strongest way possible against the proposal that the chairman may register dissent on any matter and take it to the Minister.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh apparently has not read the bill, for the measure distinctly states that a panel of names is to be submitted to the Minister by the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation. A reputable body of that description may be relied upon to submit only worthy names. If the method of election to this board is to be through the dairymen’s and co-operative organizations as hitherto I shall be satisfied. The present method is democratic. The producers are entitled to elect their own representatives. There is, however, one notable omission, from my point of view, from the interests to be represented. No provision is made for a. representative of the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries, and I appeal to the Minister to rectify this omission. I do not consider that, as an advocate of producer control, I am being inconsistent in proposing that a representative of the factory managers and secretaries should be appointed to the board. I put these individuals in the same class as shire clerks stand in relation to local government affairs. I remember the Premier of Queensland saying on one occasion that whilst shire councillors were responsible for policy, shire clerks had to carry out the law. That was, in my opinion, a common-sense view. Shire councillors must be guided as to the law by the experts who have studied the law. The members of the organization mentioned stand in the same relation to the dairying industry as shire clerks stand in relation to local government bodies. These men have practical knowledge of the monthbv.month and year-by-year problems of the industry, and they are often able, through their experience, to resolve difficulties that arise from time to time. I therefore ask the Minister to review his previous decision in this regard, with the object of providing for one representativve of these interests to be appointed to the board. I have no doubt that if the honorable gentleman would speak his mind he would agree with me that the representative of these interests who sat on the present board did excellent work. As the Minister is nodding his assent to my statement, I hope that he will accede to the requestthat I am making. If the chairman of this organization, who is appointed year by year by his associates, were chosen as their representative on the Australian Dairy Produce Board, that would be acceptable to me, and I am sure that it would be acceptable also to the industry in general.
Finally, I wish to say a. few words concerning the proposal to place final power in respect of this board in the hands of the Minister. In my opinion, this procedure illustrates the vital difference between State control, or nationalization, and true producer or co-operative control, which I regard as being really democratic. State control or nationalization means political domination. I am quite sure that the Minister must be well aware that if the members of these commodity boards fail in their duty they are quickly brought to book by the interests they represent, and it is not necessary to await another election. Those engaged in the industry concerned react very quickly to unsatisfactory administration by commodity boards, and they quickly become critical if goods are sold at unfavorable prices or are otherwise unsatisfactorily handled. The dairymen should be permitted to control their own affairs. The commodity boards of Queensland have acted in an eminently satisfactory way to producers, and they include in their number only one government representative in each case. The government representative does not override the will of the majority, even though he may be aware of the views of his Minister and may desire to give effect to them. When a vote is taken it may be four to one or three to two, with the government representative in the minority, but the majority view is always accepted. That is a democratic attitude. I hope that the Government will reconsider its proposals in this regard, with the object of ensuring truly democratic operation by the Australian Dairy Produce Board.
.- This bill indicates that the post-war marketing structure in industry is now taking shape. The passage from war-time to peace-time controls should be accomplished without great difficulty. I am pleased that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) is preserving the measure of producer representation of the Australian Dairy Produce Board. I approve of the .reduction of the total membership of the hoard from seventeen to twelve members, because I believe that the smaller board will be less unwieldy and more mobile than the present board. The important thing, as I have stressed on previous occasions, is that through direct representation, plus the representation of co-operative butter and cheese factories, there will be eight producer representatives on the new board of twelve, which must be a matter of satisfaction to those engaged in the industry. In addition, the Minister has indicated that the Government intends that the chairman of the board, who will be the Government representative, shall be a producer. The dairying industry is undoubtedly unique among our primaryproducing industries in that, through successful co-operative effort among producers, many individuals have received valuable training in marketing and on the technical and commercial sides of the industry. This, no doubt, has enabled the Minister to see his way clear to give what is virtually an undertaking that the chairman of the board, who, no doubt, will be its chief executive officer and the representative of the Government, will be a producer. To me, it will be an ideal appointment. It should give satisfaction, and make for efficiency in the board’s administration. In effect, the Minister is now providing that 75 per cent, of the board shall be producers or their representatives. Before the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) entered this Parliament, he protested vigorously against the discrimination that was practised by the Menzies Government against producers in appointments to marketing boards. I hope that he will now go among the dairy-farmers in his electorate and say that the Labour Government has a more kindly attitude towards producers than his present colleagues had when they were in office. Members of the Australian Country party cannot deny that the producers have been given majority representation on all -the boards that have been appointed by the Labour Government, and that there have never been grounds for the complaint that such representation has not been given. In order to divert attention from that fact, members of that party claim that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will have residual power to veto decisions of the board. If they study the provisions of the Dairy Produce Export Control Act they will find that under it the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture had substantially the same powers as are being vested in him under this bill. That cannot be denied. The Minister has stated that the Government will be liable for the £15,000,000 that will be required by the Australian Dairy Produce Board to finance purchases from the fanners. The Minister will be directly responsible to this Parliament for the administration of that fund. That, to me, is as it should be. Members of the Australian Country party, doubtless, will be the first in the Parliament to attack the Minister and. the Government on the administration of the act, as they have attacked them to-night. As usual, they will launch attacks whether the Government deserves censure or not. They want to hamper the Minister and restrict his power, yet they will require him to accept responsibility. That is. merely a tactical move. Actually, the members of both the Australian Country party and the Liberal party know quite well that no government, not even an anti-Labour government, has ever vested in any body complete and unrestricted power to expend public money or to contract public liabilities. Legislation has always been provided for power to reside with the Crown. The propaganda of honorable members opposite in regard to this measure is so weak as to be an insult to the intelligence of dairy-farmers and factory managers. They know that the Minister will not exercise his power against the best interests of the dairyfarmers, and that that has never been bis practice.
There has been much loose talk by the Opposition on the subject of dairy production in recent years. They have presented a false picture of Australia’s efforts to supply overseas countries, including Britain. They have been mighty close, at times, to accusing the Government of the unfortunate droughts which have visited so many dairying districts in Australia during recent years. It could have been expected that when Queensland and New South Wales, which in dairying are our largest producers, were experiencing drought, honorable members would have recognized that production would fall. Obviously, members of the Australian Country party have not realized that patent fact. No doubt they are consumed by jealousy because this Government has given the dairy-farmers a better deal than they gave to them. Figures do not lie, although liars sometimes try to make them do so. The dairy-farmers are now receiv ing 2s. per lb for commercial butter, compared with from 9d. to1s.1d. per lb. during the regime of the Australian Country party.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Sheehy).- Order! The honorable member may not discuss prices.
– Very well. The Minister has not been forgotten by the dairy-farmers. The price which they are receiving to-day is a strong incentive to production. The Government, by means of this measure, is attempting to establish the marketing of our exportable surplus on a sound and stable basis. Because it will do what is intended, I wholeheartedly support it.
– The bill before the House is of the very greatest importance to the dairying industry of Australia, because it alters machinery dealing with the export of dairy products from this country, which has been in existence for many years.
I draw attention to the definition clause of the bill, which amends section 3 of the principal act. It provides - “ dairy produce “ means butter and cheese and includes such other products derived from milk or the constituent parts of milk (whether or not any other substance is added thereto) as are prescribed;
Therefore, not only butter and cheese, but also dried milk, milk products, and condensed milk are to be included in the dairy products that will have to be handled by the board when they are to be sent overseas.
It is of the greatest importance that this Parliament should examine with the most meticulous care the provisions of this bill, because on it will depend the future of the dairying industry in Australia, as well as, very largely, whether the people of Britain are or are not to obtain from Australia the food covered by the bill. I was interested to hear the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) say that it is the responsibility and duty of this country to send, to Britain every particle of primary produce it can spare. Every one will agree with that. But when one studies Australia’s contributions to the food needs of Britain, and compares them with those of other countries, the first thing that strikes one is the very great paucity of our contributions. I point out that we have contributed 30 per cent, of Britain’s requirements of butter, compared with a contribution of 45 per cent, by New Zealand. That does not do credit to the Government of this country. In respect of cheese, the Australian contribution is utterly deplorable. New Zealand has sent 38 per cent, of Great Britain’s requirements of cheese, whereas Australia has sent only a miserable S per cent. Australia has not sent any condensed milk to Britain. It9 contribution of milk powder has been a paltry 3 per cent,, compared with 40 per cent, by the United States of America and 5 per cent, by New Zealand. These figures were published by the London Economist on the 31st May last, and they are a damning indictment of the exports of dairy products from this country to Great Britain.-
We have heard a good deal to-night about this bill, and the sort of control that it will inflict on the dairying industry in Australia. I strongly support the suggestion of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) that a representative of butter factory managers should be appointed to the board. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) has a fairly good knowledge of butter factories in New South Wales, and in his home town of Tamworth has been intimately connected with one. He knows that the manager of the butter factory is the key person in the production of butter in the district. I was very interested in the illustration of the honorable member for Maranoa
– The- provision in the bill for the representation of co-operative butter factories will cover factory managers.
– It might not. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) said, either in his secondreading speech or by way of interjection, that the representatives of the cooperative butter factories will be elected by the boards of directors of the factories. Consequently, there is no certainty that a butter factory manager will he appointed. A further consideration is that the views of butter factory managers might be very strongly inclined towards an outstanding manager, and the directors of the different butter factories might be equally strongly inclined towards one of their number, with the result that the best man in the industry might not obtain the appointment. The honorable member for Maranoa likened the position of the butter factory manager to that of a shire or town clerk. The Vice-President of the Executive Council will agree that the late town clerk of Tamworth was the most notable example we have ever known in the north of what a really fine town clerk means to the development of a town. A first-class butter factory , manager, if placed on the board, could bring to its deliberations a knowledge, drive, and capacity which might materially benefit not only his own factory, but also the whole of the export industry. If the Minister will agree to the proposal of the honorable member for Maranoa he will render a great service to the industry. Sub-clause 9 of clause 4 states - (!).) The member appointed to represent the Commonwealth Government shall bo Chairman of the Board and shall hold office for such period as the Governor-General directs:
Provided that the Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the Minister, remove the Chairman from his office for incapacity, incompetence or misbehaviour. (10.) Members of the Board, other than the Chairman, shall, subject to this section, hold office for a period of three years, ami shall be eligible for re-appointment
The effect of that is that the chairman of the board will hold office at the pleasure of the Minister. He may be removed at any time for incapacity, incompetence or misbehaviour, and the Minister himself is to be sole judge of the matter. Consequently, the chairman, appointed by the Minister, and having the power of veto in order to enforce the wishes of the Minister, will not be in a position to exercise independent judgment. I trust that the Minister will also consider an amendment to that clause. Sub-clause 11 of clause 4 provides that a member of the board, other than the chairman, may be removed from office by the GovernorGeneral, on the recommendation of the board. However, seeing that the Minister may, through the chairman, veto a decision of the board, it could happen that a decision of the board to remove a member could be negatived by the Minister. “We come now to clause 8 of the bill, the purpose of which is to amend section 30 of the principal act, which reads - (I.) Subject to this Act, meetings of the Board shall be held at such times and places within the Commonwealth as the Board from time to time determines. (2.) The Chairman of the Board, or any three members thereof, may at any time call a special meeting of the Board. (3.) At all meetings of the Board six members shall form a quorum. (4.) At any meeting of the Board the Chairman shall have a deliberative vote, and in the case of an equality of votes shall also have a casting vote. (5.) All questions before the Board shall be decided by a majority of votes. (G. ) The Board shall keep a record of its proceedings.
Rut clause 5 declares that the board shall decide by majority vote, all questions brought before it. Proposed new sub-section 5a, which is the amending sub-section, is as follows : - (5a.) If the Chairman or other person presiding at any meeting of the Board dissents from any decision of the Board at that meeting and signifies at that 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, the decision shall have no effect unless the Minister approves of the decision (whether with or without variation! and. if the Minister approves of the decision subject to a variation, thu varied decision as so approved shall bo deemed to be the decision of the Board.
That is a perfect concept of the bureaucratic mind, the purpose of which is to make absolutely certain that all power shall be centralized in the Minister, and that the Minister, through the board, shall exercise remote control over the industry. It means, in actual f act, that the bureaucrats working in the background, the men who have been appointed in such numbers by this Government, are to be in a position to destroy the liberties of the people. They will dictate the policy of the board. The wretched chairman, who may be “ sacked “ at the whim of the Minister, will not be able to exercise his opinion. I have no doubt that the
Minister will instruct the chairman regarding the general policy which he is to apply, and will inform him of those things which he must do, and of other things which he must not do. Thus, the Government is erecting the facade of a dairy export control board, but actually there will be no such thing as a control board, because the members of the board will be mere marionettes worked by the strings which the Minister will pull. Clause 8 should be removed from the bill. It is a very bad provision, because it gives unrestrained power to the Minister. The provision is an example of bureaucracy at its worst, and provides a foretaste of the totalitarian state in actual operation. The democratically elected Parliament is being side-stepped. There is no delegation of power by the Parliament, but only a system of ministerial control of the closest and strictest kind over the industry. We should not forget that the dairy-farmers produce the butter and cheese, and are the owners of their own product. Yet the Government proposes to control the industry on socialistic lines, and it will be a bad thing for the dairying industry if it is to be controlled with the same measure of incompetency as has marked other government undertakings in Australia, Under bad management of the kind which is almost certain to be experienced, the farmers, no matter how willing they may be, will be unable to maintain a high level of production. We know that under the control of the bureaucrats in Canberra, the great Australian egg industry is tottering to ruin. The producers are asked to operate under conditions which make it utterly impossible for them to maintain production. The Canadian Government negotiated an agreement with the Government of Great Britain for a price of 3s. Id. sterling a dozen for eggs at Ottawa, but our Government has sold the Australian egg.surplus for 2s. Id. a dozen. Another variation from the 1924 act is that the members of the new hoard, instead of being paid fees, are to be paid salaries, but the Minister has given no indication of what those salaries are to be.
– The honorable member should be more industrious, and read the bill.
– This is an illbegotten and misshapen piece of legislation. I hope that when it is in committee, the Minister will accept amendments designed to improve the hill, and to encourage production in the dairying industry.
– Those honorable members who have so far addressed themselves to the motion for the second reading of this bill have criticized the Government for abandoning principles for the control of the dairying industry which have operated for years. The chairman of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, Mr. “ Tom “ Plunkett, and the other members of the board, have been very successful in organizing the export of dairy products to Great Britain and elsewhere. Some government supporters have claimed that the purpose of the Government is to place the dairying industry in a sound financial position. As a matter of fact, this bill does nothing to achieve that purpose. In any case, it is not true that, because the Government provides the money, it should be given power to control the industry. There can be no greater fallacy than that. As a matter of fact, the money which will be used to pay the dairy-farmers a higher price for their products is being provided by the British consumers. After many protests by dairy men, and after recommendations were made by a committee of practical producers, the Government has decided to increase the price paid to the dairyfarmers but, as I have said, the extra money is being found by the British consumers. We know that, in the trade union movement, all of those associated with an industry are not admitted to the control of the appropriate union, but only the actual members of the union. There would be a terrible outcry if a non-Labour government were to appoint its own chairman to the executive of a trade union, and give him power to veto the decision of the union on such matters as claims for higher pay and better conditions. If the chairman disagreed with the decision of the union and so reported to a non-Labour Minister who had the right to -veto it and proclaim his policy as the policy of the union, we would have a very different state of affairs. Because the primary producers are not so closely associated with the great city interests, because they cannot voice their desires except through their representatives in this Parliament, the export of their product is to be subjected to political control. The export price represents the remuneration which the dairy-farmers receives for his labour. Under present circumstances the Minister may be able to secure higher prices for dairy products by demanding that Great Britain shall pay them. Under the conditions existing before World War II. the British market was cheaper than the home market. To-day prices on the home market are controlled, not by ability of the. people to meet them, but by a control which keeps prices down to a low level for economic reasons. Export butter is subsidized by the imposition of a higher price on butter consumed locally. The expert guidance of the Australian Dairy Produce Board presided over by Mr. Plunkett, M.L.A., has been of great assistance to the dairying industry and the people generally, and no good reason has been advanced why it should be abolished. We should continue to avail ourselves of the expert knowledge of the members of the board as it is at present constituted. In this bill, however, the Government proposes to replace the existing board by another body differently constituted and presided over by a chairman who will be probably the “ stooge. “ of the Minister. The new chairman will undoubtedly carry out the Minister’s instructions. The honorable gentleman, however, is not even content with that; he goes further and seeks to reserve to himself the right to veto majority decisions of the board, notwithstanding that those decisions may be made by practical dairy-farmers and others closely associated with the industry. The representatives of the producers will be elected to the board merely to act in an advisory capacity, and if their advice does not suit the Minister it will not be accepted. For that reason I support the sincere and strong protest against this measure voiced by the honorable members on this side of the chamber. The dairying industry to-day has reached a very low ebb, largely because of the necessity to export stock during the war years. Responsibility for these exports does not rest upon the Australian Dairy Produce Board, but on the governments of the day. I hope that this great industry,which at one time was the second most important Australian industry, and which, prior to the war, employed more people than any other industry in this country, will not be made a shuttlecock in party politics. The producers are entitled to an adequate return for their labours, and until they receive it production will continue to decline to the detriment, not only of the Australian market, but also of our overseas markets. I trust that the Government in its wisdom will agree to amend the bill in such a way as to safeguard this great industry from the dangers which may come from political control, or, alternatively withdraw the measure owing to the objections taken by Opposition members.
, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald), and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann), honorable members opposite have confined their criticism of the measure largely to the allegation that it is designed to establish the Minister for Commerce and. Agriculture as a Hitler or a Mussolini. The whole tenorof the speeches of honorable members opposite indicates that they regard the bill as the very antithesis of democracy. I reply to criticism of that type - and I address myself in some measure to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) - by saying that the bill is in its very essence in conformity with the democratic way of life of the people of Australia. Let us examine the express purposes for which it has been introduced. It is designed solely to establish a desirable form of control over the exports of butter and dairy products from the Commonwealth. Very few honorable members in this chamber know better than does the honorable member for Warringah, that the framers of the Constitution in their day and generation wisely determined that control over the exports of the Commonwealth should be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament, and that that control should be exercised by Ministers responsible to the executive government and in due course to the Parliament.
– The Constitution does not say that at all.
– The honorable member comes into this chamber on about one out of every four sitting, days; for the rest of the time he is engaged for filthy lucre in the courts in Sydney.
– Order ! That has no relation to the bill.
– The honorable member, who . is supposed to represent the people who elected him, comes into this House, picks up a bill knowing little of what it contains, seizes upon one clause in the bill and in his ignorance drifts far from what would be regarded as reasonable and well-measured criticism. T affirm that this measure is designed to ensure the gathering together of the representatives of all sections interested in the dairying industry to control the export of dairy products. Dairying is indeed a great Australian industry. Throughout the length and breadth of Australia every man, woman or child is, directly or indirectly, vitally interested in its welfare. I go further and say that scarcely a man, woman or child in the United Kingdom is not vitally interested in the welfare of this industry. The interest of the people of the United Kingdom lies mostly in the export section of the Australian industry. Most people know that since the termination of World War II. a vast change has come about in the method of trading in dairy products. Trading has shifted from a system involving the private purchaser in Great Britain and private seller in Australia to a system involving the United Kingdom Government as the direct purchaser from the Australian Government as the direct seller. In these circumstances it is essential that the final and residual determination as to what dairy products shall be exported from the Commonwealth should rest on the Government and the Australian Parliament. If our exports are excessive, every man, woman and child in Australia will suffer unduly. If they be made predominantly to a section of the world in which our own kith and kin do not reside the people of the United Kingdom will suffer greatly. The honorable member for Warringah, with his one day a week attendance in this Parliament, has the effrontery to come into the House and say that the proposal to vest in the Government of this country power to determine that our kith and kin in the United Kingdom shall be given a fair deal is undemocratic. If the board by a majority decision decided to send too much butter to countries other than the United Kingdom the chairman in his wisdom would notify the Minister, who is to be given power to veto such an unwise decision. What is wrong with that?
– That is a reflection on the dairying industry.
– Nobody will ever reflect on the honorable member ; he does not count in the scheme of things.
– There is no need for personalities.
– Order !
– I regret that provocative interjections have caused me to digress in this way. The Australian Dairy Products Board was first established by a non-Labour government in 1924, which saw fit to vest in the then Minister for Commerce substantial power or, in the legal jargon of the honorable member for Warringah, total and complete power - to nullify at any tick of thu clock the decisions of the board. Let me confirm that by quoting from sections of the act passed by the BrucePage Government in 1924. We find in section 13a, which the honorable member for Warringah adroitly dodged, this provision -
The Board may - (nl make recommendations to the Minister in relation to the making of regulations for the purpose of controlling the export, and the sale and distribution after export, of Australian dairy produce:
Having a legal mind, the honorable member knows quite well that if the board, in its wisdom, or otherwise, had made a recommendation to the Minister and the Minister had seen fit not to accept it there could not have been any export of dairy produce from Australia in any circumstances, and that the complete operations of the then board would have been, by that very factor, completely nullified. When one hears the “ tripe “ talked about Mussolini and Hitler by honorable members who argue not on logic but on nonsense, one can only express disgust. If the honorable member for Warringah wants another illustration of the ministerial control exercised under the act passed by the Bruce-Page Government in 1924, when, in his more junior years, he would have been an ardent admirer of it, let me draw his attention to section 15 (1)-
Where the Governor-General issues a proclamation in pursuance of the last preceding section, the Minister or any person thereto authorized in writing by the Minister may grant to any person desiring to export dairy produce from the Commonwealth n licence to do so.
What does that mean but that a Minister of the day was an autocrat who exercised residual power under the act? The honorable member for Warringah also criticized the method of election of the board. I found the greatest difficulty, when having this measure drafted, in providing for equitable distribution of representation among the people who, in a large measure, are concerned in the industry.
– You did not give the owners of the product much representation.
– When the control provided in this measure becomes operative the producers will have been paid by the butter factories. They are in a very different situation from the producers of wheat, barley, meat and other commodities, whose products go straight from the farm to the marketing or export control authority. The dairy-farmers’ product does not pass into the hands of the authority, or the Government, until it has been bought and paid for by the butter factories. With the conditions operating under which the United Kingdom is the sole purchaser of Australian dairy products above local requirements, surely it is fair that the major share of representation should be allocated to the butter factories that have paid the dairy-farmers for their commodity and manufactured the finished dairy products. There is another vital difference between conditions to-day and those that operated when the principal act became law. That measure simply provided for the setting up of the Australian Dairy Produce Board to control the export of dairy produce. It laid down conditions of sale and the circumstances in which dairy produce should be exported. The new board will be vested with authority to buy on behalf of the Australian Government the whole of the surplus production of butter and cheese factories. The board is vested with authority to raise funds guaranteed by the Australian Government from the Commonwealth Bank in order to pay to the factories the requisite price under the contract with the Government of the United Kingdom. Where is the responsible member of this Parliament who, in his saner moments - I doubt whether some honorable members have sane moments - would say that an outside body should have total power to ignore the Parliament and the Minister, sell the birthright of the ‘people of Australia and ignore the needs of the people of the United Kingdom. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is a very honest man and, regardless of consequences, from time to time, he expresses his opinions in no uncertain manner. On the 10th December, 1940, he said, in relation to the handing over of the powers of this Parliament -
One truth that honorable members should fix firmly in their minds is that the people who pay the piper will call the tune. If an industry is subject to grower control-
Honorable members can substitute primary producer control “ for “ grower control “ - there must also be grower responsibility. The financial responsibilities under this bill will he borne not by the wheat-growers, but by Australian taxpayers. While, they continue to find the money, it is a pretty piece of impudence on the part of the representatives of the growers to contend that the farmers should direct the operation of the scheme. No honorable member opposite would administer his farm on the same principle.
The honorable member’s words hold good to-d a v with even more force in relation to this measure. I now address myself to criticism of the fact that under this bill there is to be no representation of the Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries. It is true that it will not be represented. I regret it. The institute has rendered great service to the dairying industry. It has been represented for many years on the Australian Dairy Produce Board by Mr. Proud, of the Camperdown butter factory. Although it has not been practicable, with a smaller number of. men on the board, to provide representation for the institute, I believe that, through the representation of co-operative butter and cheese factories, it will be possible for it to have indirect representation. I was confronted with the difficult problem of how best to give representation to the producers of dairy products. 1 knew that the great dairying factory cooperative movement in Australia has been indeed successful and that in con trust with other so-called co-operative organizations it is truly co-operative. T do not think that any honorable member will dispute that. I allocated to each State of the Commonwealth one representative of the co-operative factories. I consider that the representatives of the cooperative factories will also represent the suppliers. I was then faced with the problem of providing more direct representation to the dairy-farmers. I determined that the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, as an organization that . has done a great deal of good work for the dairy-farmers of Australia, should nominate two representatives whom it particularly desires to have on the board. There has been some criticism of the fact that the bill does not provide that the dairy farmers’ representatives shall be elected, but there is no reason in the world why the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation should not take a poll of its members and submit to the Minister of the day the names of the two members who top the poll. I should have no hesitation, if I were satisfied that the two men nominated were of good character and repute, in appointing them to the board. In regard to representation of the trade unions, I point out that the industry has within its ambit thousands of manual workers whose callings are covered by a multitude of trade unions.
To provide for the election of a representative of the trade unions through the multitude of trade unions involved would be utterly impracticable. The alternative is for the Minister to appoint a representative of the employees of butter and cheese factories after consultation with the appropriate unions. That is the only way to deal with that problem and I challenge the legal mind of the honorable member for Warringah to supply me with a practicable alternative. The honorable member awoke to the fact that representatives of the co-operative factories are to be elected “ in such manner as is prescribed “. That means in a manner prescribed in regulations. What the honorable member did not awaken to is the fact that that is the system of electing the representatives of the butter factories laid down by his political associate, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), in the 1924 act. I was staggered when I found that the prescribed method of election of representatives of the co-operative factories under that act was apparently undemocratic. I will carefully examine that provision to determine whether the method should be allowed to continue. I found to my astonishment that the directors of the factories nominated, say, Jones, Brown and Smith as candidates and asked the suppliers and shareholders to vote for them. There is no right of free nomination for the shareholders and the suppliers. There may be an alternative method, but that was the method laid down by the Government of which the honorable member for Warringah was an ardent admirer. That method may require re-examination.
– The producers elect the directors.
– Yes, but they are restricted to two or three candidates nominated by those directors. I am not sure whether the method is democratic. It tickles me to hear honorable members opposite warbling about democracy when they go to Victoria every week-end in an attempt to justify the attitude of the Legislative Council which is elected by one-third of the people of Victoria.
– Order !
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) talked about immoral attitudes, totalitarianism, socialism and everything else but matters appertaining to the bill. Only a person with an infantile mind could see in this measure anything remotely associated with a totalitarian, communistic or socialistic State. The honorable member went so far as to say that this measure was designed to prevent higher prices than export parity being paid to the producers of butter in Australia. The honorable gentleman will admit, if he is honest, that export parity on every pound of butter exported from Australia since this Government took office has been paid to the dairy-farmers. Further, he knows that at the time when the internal price level was lower than export parity, for one of the first times in our history, this Government provided subsidies in order to raise it to a payable level. From the time that the Government introduced its economic controls policy, this subsidy has cost Australian taxpayers £22,000,000. It makes one disgusted to hear the side issues which have been introduced into the debate. I appreciate, however, the fair and reasonable criticism that has been directed at the bill by some honorable members. Some difficulty arises in making this measure all that every one would like it to be, but foremost in the mind of the Government has been the realization of the necessity to draw into council, as it were, on the export and other problems of the dairying industry, a representative gathering of personnel from the industry who know its conditions. In this way, we shall have a more effective method of dealing with the export problem than that which is vested by the Constitution in the Parliament, the Government and the Minister. Until a few years ago, export control was exercised by the Minister. After consultation with his departmental officers, he decided whether butter, cheese and other produce should be exported, and in what quantities, without detrimental effect to the Australian people. Now, a change has come over the scene. This Government may not claim the entire credit for it. As a matter of fact, previous governments took similar action, and now, rather than a Minister acting without advice of experts, he will consult with them on conditions inthe industry. Consequently, substantial educational and economic benefits must accrue to the industry. In commending the bill to the House, I am sure that the dairying industry, as a whole, will appreciate the measure, which the Government has introduced for the purpose of assisting it.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority … 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Some weeks ago, I sent to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) a petition ‘ from the butchers of the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, asking that they be given authority to charge the same prices for lamb and beef in the area as those charged in the metropolitan, Ballarat and Geelong areas. I understand that the present ruling is based upon the idea that the Mornington Peninsula should be regarded as a country area; in other words, it is supposed to be predominantly a country district, where butchers are able to purchase their supplies from local sources without having to go to the metropolitan markets. The differentiation in prices is presumably due to the fact that the cost of buying meat at the Newmarket saleyards is higher than that of buying in country areas. However, the position is that only a small percentage of the meat consumed in the Mornington Peninsula is actually grown and supplied from that area. More than 90 per cent, of the supplies for the Mornington Peninsula are obtained from the Newmarket stockyards. I have here a table which shows the difference between the prices of meat in the metropolitan area and the Mornington Peninsula, respectively. I shall read a few typical examples -
– How much does the honorable member himself pay?
– In normal circumstances I kill my own meat, thank goodness! These prices I submitted to the Minister for Trade and Customs, with a request that he ask the Prices Commissioner to investigate them. In due course, I received from the Minister the following reply :-
The application was referred to the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, who advises that an investigation of the position reveals that ample stock is produced on the Mornington Peninsula to meet the requirements of the area supplied bv the local butchers. This being so, it is considered that these butchers should be able to purchase stock in the district at a price no greater than the price realized in Melbourne less freight and handling charges from the farm or local sale yard to Melbourne.
In view of this, the Commissioner is of the opinion that the margins available to the butcher under the level of retail prices fixed for the country areas of Victoria is ample for butchers in the Mornington district. 1 now propose to offer some comments on this reply. The Minister stated that there is ample stock for the Mornington Peninsula actually raised in the district itself. The fact is that most of the graziers in the peninsula deal with the Melbourne agents, and send all their stock to he killed at Newmarket, The market in the Mornington Peninsula is small, and only thirteen butchers, of whom five come from Frankston, operate there. The point to be noted here is that. Frankston is adjacent to the Mornington Peninsula, where the market is held - it is only 6 miles away - and five of the butchers who come from Frankston arc able to compete with the Mornington Peninsula butchers on more favorable terms, since they receive approximately Id. per lb. more’ for their retail sales of meat. As I said, the market in the Mornington Peninsula is small. It is held only twice a month. I have here a list of stock sold at the market on the 29th September last, and this list is typical. It is as follows: - Tcn fat steers, S fat cows, 12 choppers, :*0 fat wethers, 30 fat ewes, 100 fat lambs, SO spring lambs, 25 store lambs, 30 head mixed cattle, and one Border collie dog. incidentally, I do not think the Border collie dog was sold for food. The population of the Mornington Peninsula is approximately 20,000 persons. Any one who has any idea, of the quantity of meat that 20,000 persons consume knows perfectly well that a market, of that size is completely inadequate to meet their requirements. The result is that these butchers, who have to supply the needs of the residents of the Mornington Peninsula, must buy their meat at Newmarket.
– Many of them buy direct from farmers in that area.
– The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), I know, visits the Mornington Peninsula from time to time, but I believe that I know the conditions there much better than he does, and the fact remains that the vast majority or graziers in that area send their stock to Newmarket, and not to the local butchers. We all know that the Prices Commissioner has to perform a very responsible public duty. He is required to fix prices for a very wide range of commodities throughout the Commonwealth. What he decides vitally affects the livelihood of the whole of the people of this country. Business people are specially affected. An investigation was carried out on the Mornington Peninsula, but my inquiries revealed that it was of a most perfunctory nature. An inspector visited Mornington, where there are three butchers, but no inquiries were made elsewhere and no local grazier was questioned as to what happened to his stock. I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to direct that an additional investigation be made at a very early date. I am sure that inquiries will indicate that the situation is as I have described it. This matter affects not only the 20,000 permanent residents of the peninsula, but also many people who visit that area.
– 1 promise the honorable member that his representations will be considered.
– In that case I shall not delay honorable members any further, but I hope that what is to be done will be done quickly, and that a proper and reasonable answer will be given.
Question resolved in the. affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Civil Aviation - M. J. O’Brien, B. A. J. Scoles.
House adjourned at 11.17 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
Economic Aid for Britain.
Motor Vehicles :” Disposal Procedure ; Motor Vehicles Manufacture Legislation Repeal Act 1945.
Real Estate Transactions : Cremorne Property.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Where property compulsorily acquired for the purpose of prosecuting the war effort becomes surplus to the Government’s needs, and it is decided to dispose of the property by sale, will the former owners from whom the property was acquired be given first option of repurchase?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The disposal of land acquired during the war for defence purposes is dealt with by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, in collaboration with the Department of the Interior. The disposal is effected by negotiation with the former owner if his original claim for compensation has not been finalized, or. as in most cases, by inviting public offers. Each case must bo dealt with on its merits, because in many instances buildings or other improvement* have been placed on the land, and it is necessary, for the protection of the Commonwealth interest therein, to dispose of the property to the best advantages. It is the usual practice, especially with vacant land, to give special consideration to any request for re-transfer to a former owner.
Public Service: Vacancies; Male Clerics; Temporary Employees.
y. - On the 9th October, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) asked a question relating to the publication of advertisements calling for applications for appointments to the Commonwealth Public Service. I am now able to inform the honorable member as follows : -
For public” advertisements, the form of notice referred to by the honorable member lias been found to be the most satisfactory. To show two rates is apt to confuse applicants. Moreover, the rates set out in the advertisement are the rates normally paid in practice, because the great majority of officers satisfy the terms of the advertisement. The scope of the membership of the Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association is wide, and most officers of the Department of External Affairs and of other departments, with qualifications similar to those of the position advertised, are members of the association.
On the Sth October, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked a question in regard to the calling of applications by the Public Service Board for the position of clerk. Tt is presumed that the honorable member referred to the engagement of office assistants by the Taxation Department. The age limit is 51, but for the particular batch of appointments referred to by the honorable member, the department was anxious to obtain the services of younger men. However, no definite age limit -.f 35 has been fixed.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
y. - The information is being obtained, and an answer will be supplied as soon as practicable.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
y. - The question is receiving attention and an answer will be supplied as soon as practicable.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
I and 2. A statement in connexion with the discussions was made by the British Minister of Food. Mr. Strachey, on Friday, the 17th October.
Import Licence: Far Eastern Exchange Proprietary Limited.
y. - On the 26th September, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked the following questions: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
No transfer was made. 6. (a) On the assumption that the honorable member’s questions relate to a licence issued on the 5th May, 1947, to cover the importation from the United States of cotton textiles to the c.i.f. ande. value of £45,260, the holder of the licence was a Mr. S. R. Sammy, of 15 York-street, Sydney. Subsequently, Mr. Sammy, of whose nationality the Department of Trade and Customshas no evidence, left for Malaya and he appointed the Far Eastern Exchange Proprietary Limited his agents with authority to attend to the importation of the goods covered by the licence. Some of the goods had been shipped from the United States by about the middle of August and as Mr. Sammy was absent from Australia he was unable to sign an application for a letter of credit. In the circumstances, the Commonwealth Bank suggested that the licence in favour of Mr. Sammy be cancelled and a fresh licence issued in the name of the Far Eastern Exchange Proprietary Limited. This was clone on the18th August and exchange was made available for the goods in transit. A similar licence would have been issued at the time to any applicant who could have produced evidence of the availability of the goods in the United States for reasonably early shipment. Furthermore, the goods covered by the licence had already been in- cluded by the Rationing Commission in its supply estimates of goods which could reason ably be expected to arrive in Australia by the 1st April, 1948, and which were necessary to maintain the current level of rationing. The licence has been returned to the Department of Trade and Customs for review in respect of the goods not yet shipped thereunder, in accordance with the Government’s announcement of the 21st August that further restrictions were to be applied to the importation of goods from the dollar area because of the dollar exchange position. No further exchange will be made available under the licence unless and until it has been re-validated in respect of the goods outstanding.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
It is not considered desirable that details of the purchases should be furnished, but the cost of the shares purchased amounts to approximately £100,000.
r asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice - ‘
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Berlin. - Mr. G. V. Greenhalgh. Mr. Greenhalgh is a. permanent officer of the Commonwealth Public Service and previously held a senior appointment in the Department of Immigration as Chief Investigation Officer. He is a highly competent officer, well versed in all phases of immigration policy. Mr. Greenhalgh is a Master of Arts, Queensland University, and a chartered accountant. He also was lecturer in English and History at the Canberra University and examiner in English essays for candidates for diplomatic cadetship. Mr. Greenhalgh is acting temporarily in his present position, pending a permanent appointment being made, and is working under the direct supervision of Brigadier T. W. White, Head of the Australian Military Mission in Berlin. He took up duty in Berlin on the 30th September, 1947.
Paris. - Mr. L. H. W. Rice. The position in Paris has been filled by the transfer of Mr.L. H. W. Rice from, the London office of this department. Mr. Rice is a highly competent officer who has had fifteen months’ experience in the Migration Office, London. Prior to his transfer to London he was attached to the Department of Social Services and was selected for the London position because of hia wide experience in Australia, and his knowledge of prevailing social and industrial conditions.
New Delhi. - Mr. S. J. Dempsey. Mr. Dempsey is a permanent officer of the Commonwealth Public Service, and previous to his present appointment, on the 14th July, 1947. was Acting Commonwealth Migration Officer. South Australia. He is a returned soldier, with four years’ service in the Second Australian Imperial ‘ Force. His studies as a student of economics, Sydney University, wereinterrupted owing to his war service, but have now been resumed. He is acting temporarily in his present position pending a permanent appointment being made. Mr. Dempsey is aged 33 years and is a trained immigration officer.
Shanghai. - Mr. L. A. Taylor. Mr. Taylor was appointed temporarily to this position on the 23rd August. Previously he was second in charge of the section in the Department of Immigration handling foreign immigration, in which work he has been specially trained. Mr. Taylor served for five years in the Royal Australian Air Force during the recent war.
San Francisco. - Mr. D. F. B. Sheen. Mr. Sheen, prior to his present appointment was an officer of the Department of Immigration, employed in the Encouraged Migration Division, where he gained an intimate knowledge of the scheme introduced by the Government for the granting of financial assistance to United States ex-servicemen to encourage their migration to Australia. The administration of this scheme will be Mr. Sheen’s main task in San Francisco. Mr. Sheen held the rank of wing commander in the Royal Air Force during the recent war, when ho was a fighter pilot during the Battle of Britain. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar for his exploits, and was the first Australian recommended for this decoration. Mr. Sheen leaves by air to take up his appointment in San Francisco on the 19th October.
New York.- Mr. W. A. F. De Salis. Mr. De Salis is a permanent officer of the Department of Trade and Customs. He is at present on temporary transfer to the Department of Immigration, where he is gaining experience in immigration work. He leaves on the 2nd November.. 1947, by air to take up his appointment in New York. Mr. De Salis is an ex-serviceman with four and a half years’ service in the Royal Australian Air Force. Ho served as captain of a bomber aircraft, and later as second-in-charge of the Armament Instructional Squadron. He is a student at the Canberra University College, where he has resumed studies, commenced prior to his enlistment with the Royal Australian Air Force, for the degree of Batchelor of Commerce.
y. - On the 16th October, the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) asked a question concerning international discussions on the prevention of the crime of genocide. I now inform the honorable member as follows : -
The Australian Government has strongly supported the moves to develop the principles of international law, for it believes that such a development will be a great step towards securing and maintaining world peace. The principles of law contained in the Nuremberg Charter and judgment are a solid base from which this advance may start and closely associated with these principles is the crime of genocide.
The General Assembly of the United Nations, by a resolution of the 11th December, 1946, established a Committee on the Progressive Development of International Law and its Codification. Australia was represented on this committee. The recommendation made by that committee was that an International Law Commission, should be appointed which would have as one of its main tasks the formulation of the principles of the Nuremberg Charter. The Australian representative supported this and further stated that the question of an international convention, a draft of which was prepared by the Secretary-General on the direction of the Economic and Social Council’, on the crime of genocide should also be considered by the International Law Commission, if established. The report of the Committee on International Law and the draft convention of genocide will be discussed at the present session of the General Assembly . and the Australian delegation will continue to give its full support to all those measures which will lead to the development and observance of principles of -international law.
Importation of Japanese Goods.
d. - On the 2nd October, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked the following question concerning the Japanese goods which might be purchased by the 24 Australian business men who have gone to Japan : -
Will the Japanese goods be distributed fairly between the States on arrival in Australia, and then will a fair distribution be made, through ordinary channels, between city and country storekeepers so that the large city emporiums will not be allowed to absorb the bulk of the consignments ?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following information : -
As from the 1st September, 1047, the occupation authorities in Japan permitted the Japanese to resume private international commercial relations and allowed the entry of a limited number of representatives of private trade from overseas countries. Private traders were not, however, permitted to enter into contracts for the purchase of all Japanese goods available for export and a limited range, notably raw silk and cotton piece goods in which Australia is interested, was reserved for purchase through government channels only:
In accordance with these arrangements, the Commonwealth Government authorized the visit of 24 representatives of private trade, but did not empower them to make any purchases on government account. Any goods which these businessmen were able to purchase would bo subject to the control exercised under the Customs (Import Licensing) Regulations, hut their distribution on arrival in Australia would be entirely a matter for the business interests concerned.
The Commonwealth Government has, however, purchased some 12,000,000 yards of cotton piece goods from Japan and the distribution of these goods will be controlled by the Department of Trade and Customs. The basis of distribution of these textiles was established after consultation with representatives of the trade, and I assure the honorable member that arrangements have been made to ensure an equitable allocation to the- various Australian users.
Communism: Mr. N. Sheppard.
n. - On the 15th October, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked a question concerning a Mr. N. Sheppard, employed at the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow. The Minister for Munitions has supplied the following information: -
The peace-time work at the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, consists mainly of commercial orders undertaken at the request of private firms. Of the 1,577 employees, 1,260 are working on commercial orders. This does not afford opportunity for subversive activities nf the type mentioned by the honorable member. The Mr. N. Sheppard referred to is a metallurgist in charge of the heat treatment section and has access only to operations in that section.
n. - On the 17th October, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) asked a question concerning a four-hour stop-work meeting of waterside workers at Mackay, Queensland. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
The stop-work meeting did not arise from any industrial dispute and work has been resumed and continued since the meeting, which was for the purpose of enabling the assistant general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, who was visiting North Queensland, to address the full membership of his branch at Mackay. It is customary for stop-work meetings tobe held on sufficient justification being shown. Stop-work meetings are, in fact, provided for in the waterside workers’ awards given by the Federal Arbitration Court. The circumstances to which the honorable member has invited attention are to be considered by the Stevedoring Industry Commission at its next meeting to be held early in November, when any action necessary to be taken will be determined by the commission.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 October 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19471022_reps_18_194/>.