18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Eon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Some weeks ago I asked the Minister for Immigration what provision had been made for the wives of Indonesians who had been deported. I now ask the honorable gentleman whether he has been able to obtain from the Department of Social Services information as to whether social service benefits have been extended to such wives as are left without means of subsistence?
– I recollect that the honorable member asked me a question about this matter after which I consulted with the Minister for Social Services in regard to it. The Indonesian husbands were repatriated in common with other Indonesians. We do not want the Australian wives of deported Indonesian husbands to be placed at any financial disadvantage, and so they have been made eligible for sickness, unemployment and special benefits. Under the special benefits section of the act, the Department of Social Services may pay a weekly sum to such wives. I am not sure whether it amounts to the same sum as the widows’ pension; but I have no reason to believe that the wives are dissatisfied with the treatment which the Department of Social Services has Accorded to them.
– Will the Prime Minister cause investigations to be made of statements by the secretary of the Service Stations Association, Mr. 0. A. Gregory, that he believed that black marketing of petrol resulted largely from a serious leakage of petrol coupons from post offices and other issuing points? Mr. Gregory went on to say that service station owners said motorists have informed them that “ black “ coupons, which could be bought for 3d. or 6d. each three months ago, were now back to their war-time price of 2s. 6d. and 3s. each. He also said that in the past there bad been no check of the number of petrol coupons issued in bulk to issuing points, and the number of coupons issued to licence holders, and that the theft of sheets of coupons in bulk from issuing points have kept the petrol black market going. If these charges are ascertained to bc correct, will the Government take appropriate action to put down this racket in petrol coupons and ensure that honest motorists will be able to obtain necessary petrol supplies? These investigations may require something more than a mere departmental investigation. Will the right honorable gentleman endeavour to obtain the necessary evidence from Mr. Gregory so that he may consider the advisability of establishing either a commission or a parliamentary committee to investigate these allegations ?
– The leakage of petrol coupons is already under investigation. I am sure that there has been some general leakage, either from the point at which the coupons are printed or at issuing points. An investigation is being made to ascertain where the leakage is occurring. About two weeks ago, I asked the Minister acting for the Attorney-General to examine the methods by which tickets are issued from the point of origin at the Note Issue Department to the point where they reach consumers. I have also arranged for the Commonwealth Investigation Service to inquire whether coupons are being sold on the black market. I have received preliminary reports on both matters, but the inquiries have not been completed. I have also reason to believe that a leakage occurs between the depots and the garages where the petrol is delivered to motorists. I propose to discuss that aspect of the matter with the oil companies to-morrow.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to - That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a report that the Australian Commissioner at Singapore, Mr. Massey, has cabled the Australian Government, after receiving protest from the Malayan authorities, against the deportation from Australia of fourteen Malayan seamen, and suggesting that the deportation be deferred? If it is true that such a communication has been received from Mr. Massey, what action does the Government propose to take?
– I do not remember any message being received from Mr. Massey asking that the departure of the Malayan seamen bo deferred. Communications have .been received indicating that there is some feeling about the matter. The subject wa,s covered very fully by tho Minister for Immigration. These Malayan seamen were brought to Australia during the war. They are not being deported ; they arc being repatriated. They received shelter here on a distinct . understanding that they were later to return to Malaya. This is the same policy which has been adopted in regard to Indonesian seamen, and others - they are being repatriated. The policy of the Government m regard to such people is that they are to be repatriated, and I see no reason for reviewing the decision made by the Minister in accordance with Government policy.
– Last Friday, I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service what action he was taking in regard to the proposed strike of members of the Clerks Union against wool firmsin New South “Wales. The Minister said, that I should have known that it was a. matter for the conciliation commissionersto deal with. I accepted the rebuke in silence. I now ask the Minister whether he saw the statement in the Sydney Morning Herald, of the 25th November, that Mr. Hughes, secretary of the Clerks Union, is reported to have said that the federal conciliation commissioner had examined the dispute last week, and said that he had no power to deal with it? If the Minister has seen the statement,, will he state why he said on Friday last that the commissioner had power to deal with it? Has the Minister seen the statement in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald that the clerks have struck, and that all trans-shipment of wool in Sydney ‘and Newcastle hasceased, and that the wool sales will stop, although some ships are already berthed, and others are arriving, to load thousands of bales? Can the Minister say what action, if any, the Government proposes to take?
– I recall that the honorable member asked this question last week, but I do not remember my administering a rebuke to him.
– Well, it was a rebuke.
– I said on that occasion that it was the. policy of both parties to refer the dispute to the conciliation commissioner, Mr. Wallace, who handles this particular industry. Since then in accordance with my promise, I made further inquiries. On Sunday evening I had a telephone conversation with the conciliation commissioner, and he told me that bc would proceed to Sydney for the purpose of meeting the representatives of both parties, and ascertaining what he could do about the matter. The dispute is now in his hands, and I believe that I am correct in saying-
– Does the Minister say that Mr. Hughes lied?
-No; I have not read Mr. Hughes’s statement. However, T inform the honorable member that the conciliation commissioner has the matter in hand.
queensland control– victorian Supplies.
– Has the Prime Minister read in the press a report that the miners’ federation will support the request of the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, to the Australian Government for the establishment of a joint coal board in Queensland, on which the State will have majority representation? Has the Prime Minister been advised officially of the decision of the miners’ federation, or has he received any advice from the Premier of Queensland which would indicate that that gentleman has changed his views regarding the composition of a joint coal board for Queensland? If Mr. Hanlon’s attitude has not changed, will the Prime Minister indicate whether the Australian Government will meet him half-way by agreeing to the establishment of a joint coal board on which the Australian and Queensland Governments shall have equal representation under an independent chairman? As the deadlock on this issue is likely to precipitate a major industrial stoppage, does not the Prime Minister consider that he should accept the compromise which I have suggested, or Mr. Hanlon’s original proposition?
– I have already replied to this question on three occasions, and I hope that I made my position perfectly clear. The Australian Government is not attempting to coerce the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, into entering into any Commonwealth-State agreement in regard to coal. The coal resources of Queensland are under the jurisdiction of the State Government. If Mr. Hanlon and his Government desire to enter into an agreement of the kind which the Commonwealth entered into with the Government of New South Wales, the Australian Government will be glad to consider the matter in the national interest. I have no recollection of receiving a communication from the miners’ federation indicating that it has adopted Mr. Hanlon’s views on this subject. Yesterday morning I received a telegram proposing a conference between the Australian Government, the Queensland Government, or its representative, and the miners’ federation. When the establishment of the J oint Coal Board to control the coal mining industry in New South Wales was under consideration the conferences were held between the Australian Government and the State Government, and I propose to preserve that basis for similar discussions in future. I did receive a message - I do not know whether it was official - that the Premier of Queensland did, at a later stage, propose to discuss the matter. More than that, I cannot tell the honorable member.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement of the chairman of the Victorian State Coal Committee that severe rationing of coal on an allStates basis is the only means of resolving Victoria’s coal difficulties and averting curtailed train services, travel uncertainty and gas rationing, and that New South Wales is getting all the coal it needed whileall except the higher priority industries in Victoria had had their allocation of coal heavily cut? Will he place that point of view before the JointCoal Board with a view to alleviating the position in Victoria and fairly distributing coal between all the States?
– I have not seen the statement. I have been informed by the Minister for Supply and Shipping and the Chairman of the Joint Coal Board that all essential needs in New South Wales and other States are now being met and that, if the present rate of production continues, it will be possible to supply essential requirements over the Christmas holiday period without rationing supplies. I shall direct the honorable member’s question to the attention of the Minister for Supply and Shipping and ascertain whether there is any substance in what he has said.
Reconstruction Training Scheme : Hairdressing ; Building Trades
– An exserviceman has written to me that although his application for training as a men’s hairdresser was approved on the 9th April, 1946, he has been told that he must wait another twelve months to begin his training. I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction the reason for the delay in training in hairdressing and other vocations a.nd what is being done to overcome the hold-up? What provision is being made meanwhile for ex-service men and, possibly women, who missed their training because of the war and are unfitted for skilled occupations?
– If the honorable member supplies me with the name of the person she referred to, I will ascertain whether he can begin his training sooner than is expected. The delay in (.mining largely results from lack of materials in industries on which to’ absorb trainees. Men who went to training schools for a limited course are being kept there until work offers for them. I tlo not know that ex-servicemen are without work, but possibly some who seek training in a skilled trade have to take other jobs until room can be found for them in training schools.
– Has the Minister acting for the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction seen a complaint that exservicemen undergoing rehabilitation training in the building industry - painters, carpenters and the like - were not permitted to accept building work except on jobs specifically allotted to them, and that some of them have been waiting for at least a month for allotment to such jobs, when they could have accepted highly paid jobs on buildings which are urgently needed? Will the Minister investigate these complaints ? If he desires the names of some of the men concerned, [ can supply them.
– I have not seen any such statement, and I do not think that it can be correct. However, I shall make inquiries if the honorable member will supply me with the necessary data.
Visit wy MINISTER FOR External Territories.
– I have received a letter from an ex-serviceman in New Guinea saying that the Minister for External Territories is to visit Rabaul on the 9th January for only two days and requesting that the Minister make available details of his itinerary so that residents, who desire to interview him. shall be able to arrange to do so. I am asked to request the Minister to arrange to visit Kavieng and to include in his party a member of the federal executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia because of the many hundreds of ex-servicemen in the territory. It does not seem that the Minister will include an Opposition member in his party.
– There is no basis for the report that I shall be in Rabaul by the 9th January. I will visit the territories as early as possible in the new year, but the time has not been determined. Accordingly, my itinerary has not been arranged ; but I intend to visit as many parts of the territories as I can. I will make my proposed movements known as soon as possible in order that people there who wish to interview me may be able to arrange to do so. I regret that I cannot view favorably the proposal that I should be accompanied by a member of the Opposition, because I think instead of helping, he would cause discontent and trouble in the territory. If the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia asks that its representative accompany me, I will consider the request. Meanwhile, I do not regard that proposal a.? having been officially made, since it comes from the honorable gentleman.
– I ask the Prime Minister when the report of the interdepartmental committee appointed by him to make recommendations in relation to the production of oil from coal will be presented to the Government? Is it a fact that very marked progress has been made in the United States of America with alternative methods of producing liquid fuels from gases and solid hydro-carbons, such as coal, as the result of information which has been secured from Germany since its occupation by the Allied forces? Was any of this information made available to Australia? It was mentioned in my report on coal-mining in Great Britain and on the Continent and could be secured from blue prints available in Germany. Could a plant for the production of oil from from coal be obtained from Germany as reparations?
– An interdepartmental committee is continually examining the possibilities of developing the production of oil from coal.
– We have to get the coal first.
– The honorable member does not know much about this subject. There are various ways of obtaining oil from coal apart from just digging coal out of the mines. Following upon the report on coal-mining by the honorable member for Hunter, the Government is having this matter closely investigated by its officers in Germany. Arrangements have been made to bring certain German scientists to Australia to assist in this work. I shall try to supply a detailed statement of the position to the honorable member at a later date.
Stabilization Scheme - Cornsacks - Australian Wheat Board: Em- ployees’ Pay - New Zealand Prices.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture arising from the circumstances in which the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act cannot be brought into full effect because it is now quite clear that certain State parliaments do not intend to pass the necessary complementary legislation. Does the Minister intend during this sessional period to make the statement on the Government’s wheat policy which he promised to make in the first week of the present sittings?
– In the first place, it is not “quite clear” that the wheat industry stabilization scheme cannot be be put into operation because State parliaments are not prepared to pass complementary legislation. I remindthe honorable gentleman that the Premiers met in Canberra in August last and passed a resolution approving of the Australian Government continuing its wheat acquisition scheme under wartime powers and also agreeing that a conference of State Ministers of Agri- ture and the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce and Agriculture should be held as soon as possible in an endeavour to hammer out a stabilization scheme acceptable to all parties.
– That is a new one.
– It indicates that the State Premiers have not abandoned all idea of a stabilization scheme. As promised earlier in this sessional period, I shall, before the present sittings conclude, make a statement about wheat.
– A very well known wheat-grower in my electorate, whose word may be accepted as reliable, has written me a letter in which he says -
Cornsacks can be bought on the black market, but the price is 35s. a dozen, and although I have never had anything to do with black marketing, I will have to protect my income whatever the cost.
The writer was referring to the shortage of cornsacks for the coming season. Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware of the existence of this black market? If not, will he investigate the matter in order to ascertain why persons are able to sell cornsacks at 35s. a dozen when the legitimate price is already high enough ?
– I understand that a formal motion for the adjournment of the House is to be moved later to-day in connexion with the cornsack problem. I shall deal with the general problem then. I suggest to the honorable member that the only means of overcoming the black market situation would be to carry out a purge of those dishonest people, both purchasers and sellers, who are engaged in black-marketing activities. In order to carry out a purge of that character, however, the Government would need to have power to exercise more controls than it has at present, a matter against which the honorable member is always railing, and, to use a term popular with him, many more “ bureaucrats “, about whom he is always passing derogatory remarks.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware of the circumstances in which the employees of the head office of the Australian Wheat Board at Adelaide were called together on the 10th November and informed by the secretary of the board that unless they were either exservicemen or members of a trade union an increase of 25 per cent, in salary would not be payable to them ? Is such a policy carried out with the Minister’s knowledge and consent? If so, what is the justification for it?
– I have some slight knowledge of the circumstances, although I did not know that the employees of the board had been called together for the purpose mentioned by the honorable member. I have reason to believe that the terms of certain awards are such as to make them .applicable only to exservicemen or members of trade unions.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a statement made by the general secretary of the Farmers and Settlers Association, Mr. McDougall, in which he estimated that the wheat agreement with New Zealand had already cost the Australian taxpayers £2,000,000, and that the additional cost during the current financial year will be £3,000,000? Is the NewZealand Government paying wheatgrowers in that dominion a guaranteed price of 8s. a bushel for wheat produced in the 1947-48 and 1948-49 seasons? What amount is the Australian grower receiving on a bulk basis from the Australian Government for wheat used for local consumption?
– I understand from press reports that the New Zealand Government has already guaranteed to growers a price of 8s. a bushel for wheat produced in that dominion. The fact that the New Zealand Government has given this guarantee only indicates that it is always wise for the Australian Government to endeavour to hold the New Zealand wheat market as an export market. Mr. McDougall, is reported as having stated that in this financial year, the cost to the Australian Government on account of wheat delivered to New Zealand will be £3,000,000. Neither Mr. McDougall, the Government, nor anybody else will know what, the cost to the Australian Government will be until the financial transactions for the year have been examined, and audited by the Auditor-
General. In respect of sales of wheat within Australia, the return to the grower is at the rate of 5s. a bushel bulk, compared with ls. lOd. net return to the grower which was paid when a Government supported by the honorable member was in office.
– In view of the statement .made in the House yesterday by the Minister for Works and Housing concerning the building of luxury houses and villas in New South Wales, I ask the honorable gentleman whether his attention has been drawn to an illustrated story which appears in a Sydney newspaper that Mr. Malcolm Ritchie, ex-president of the Liberal party in New South Wales, has built a £20,000 luxury bungalow at Bong Bong, in New South Wales. In view of the urgency of the housing situation, will the Minister confer with the Minister for Housing in New South Wales with the object of causing an investigation to be made of luxury building to see what can be done about it ?
– I shall confer on the subject immediately with Mr. Matthews, the New South Wales Minister who administers the measures for the control of building materials.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Housing to lay on the table a statement showing the amounts that have been allocated from Commonwealth funds to each .State under the Commonwealth and State housing agreement. Will the Minister also obtain from the State authorities information showing how the money has been expended in the respective States?
– I will.
BRISBANE City Council.
– The Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Chandler, is reported to have told the Brisbane City Council that the Australian Government should assume responsibility for the outstanding American loan liabilities of the council. Will the Prime Minister agree to do this in view of the fact that his action, as chairman of the Loan
Council, in preventing the Brisbane City Council from operating on the Hew York loan market when it desired to do so, has cost the council many thousands of pounds and has interfered with its developmental plans?
– The honorable member has asked a number of questions regarding statements made by Alderman Chandler, the Lord Mayor of Brisbane. I have answered them and have supplied the information sought. The honorable member now’ asks whether the Government proposes to assume responsibility for loans of the Brisbane City Council that are outstanding in America.
– Responsibility for losses occasioned as the result of the Loan Council preventing the Brisbane City Council from operating on the American loan market.
– I am not aware that any such losses have been incurred. If losses have been incurred as the result of floating conversion loans, the Australian Government will certainly not accept responsibility for them.
– During the war many thousands of Australians were tortured and many were put to death by the Japanese. The War Crimes Tribunal in Japan has been presided over for the last eighteen months or thereabouts by Justice Sir William Webb who, according to his own statement to the press, has been recalled to Australia at the request of the Prime Minister and consequently no longer presides over the tribunal. In view of the fact that the principal Japanese war criminal, Tojo, is still unconvicted and is still enjoying the amenities of life, what steps does the Prime Minister intend to take to ensure that Justice Sir William Webb resumes his duties as chairman of the War Crimes Tribunal as speedily as possible?
– The arrangements for Justice Sir William Webb to return to Australia were made ‘after discussions with the authorities in Japan. Suitable arrangements have been made during the absence of Justice .Sir William Webb to carry on his work on the tribunal. I have no reason to believe that suitable judgments will not be passed on war criminals who have still to be tried in Japan. I shall make inquiries and advise the honorable member in regard to the matter.
” Wyatt Earp “ Expedition.
– I refer to the interunion dispute that may delay the Antarctic expedition. Is it a fact that the expedition is held up because eight shipwrights refuse to work with dilutee shipwrights? Are these dilutee shipwrights ex-servicemen or munitions workers? Is it a fact that although they are members of the union they are denied a vote in union affairs? As this is a Commonwealth matter and concerns the success of the Antarctic expedition, will the Minister for Labour and National Service confer with the Minister for the Navy with a view to ascertaining whether or not naval deckhands may be transferred to the work so that it may be completed in time for Wyatt Earp to leave at the scheduled date?
– It is true that there was a dispute in connexion with the repair of the ship Wyatt Earp. The dispute arose over carpenters who were dilutees entering the shipwrights trade and refusing to pay the contributions to the union which they paid during the war for the right to engage in that trade. The dispute resulted in the ship being held up for some time but it has now been settled. Additional men have been engaged on the work in order to ensure that the time-table arranged for the departure of the vessel may be adhered to.
Aerodrome at Warracknabeal.
– Has the Prime Minister been informed that officials of the Civil Aviation Department are to visit Warracknabeal on Thursday to inspect an area of land upon which it is suggested that an aerodrome should be constructed? This is part of the land on which the power alcohol distillery stands. If the land is declared to be suitable, will it be made available?
– When I discussed this matter some time ago the honorable member for Wimmera asked me, I understand, if part of the land upon which the distillery stands could be made available for sale. I took up the matter and later is was stated that the land could be sold. Then, the local governing body asked permission to buy part of the land, and there were discussions about the price. Speaking from memory, I believe that the area involved is about 210 acres. The question arose whether this land would be suitable for an aerodrome, and it was thought that officials of the Department of Civil Aviation should inspect it. I shall see that the inspection is expedited, in view of the representations of the honorable member, and a decision given.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether Mr. Hamilton Knight, after the announcement of his appointment as a conciliation commissioner, addressed several election meetings in Victoria in support of Labour candidates ? Is it also true that, towards the end of last week, lie participated in a pre-selection ballot for the choice of a candidate to contest, the seat which he formerly held? If these are facts, does the Prime Minister approve of conciliation commissioners playing a role in party politics after their appointment to responsible and quasi- judicial positions? If he does not approve, does he propose to advise commissioners regarding the course of conduct which they should follow, and the impartiality which is expected of them?
– Mr. Hamilton Knight was electioneering in Victoria at the time the Government appointed him as a conciliation commissioner; but I understand that he returned to Sydney after that, and took no further part in the campaign.
– He appeared after the announcement was made.
– He was in Victoria at the time. The announcement was made one evening after a Cabinet meeting, and I do not think that Mr. Knight knew anything about it then.
– My information is that he appeared the following day.
– I have been informed that he returned to Sydney, and was later sworn in; but that he took no par.t in political activities after he returned. It is also true that he attended several Labour functions of a valedictory nature in his electorate to say good-bye to former associates. It was stated in the press that Mr. Knight had voted in a pre-selection ballot as a member of a union. If he held a ticket of membership, he may have exercised his right to vote. I always understood that honorable members opposite were rather keen aboutpreserving persona] freedom.
– There is such a thing as judicial impartiality.
– It would not have occurred to me that the casting of a vote in a ballot would affect a man’s impartiality.
– I have received from the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The failure of the Government to make provision for the handling and transport of the wheat harvest.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– During the last few days, I have made an extensive tour of my electorate, which is one of the largest wheat-growing areas in New South Wales. My purpose was to find out from the farmers, who ought to know, and who do in fact know, what was the most urgent problem” confronting them in connexion with the wheat harvest, and how best to surmount the difficulties associated with the harvesting and transport of this season’s record crop. I met representatives of the farmers, and many of the farmers themselves. They were so concerned over the position that, in spite of the short notice they had received, they came in large numbers to meet me, and we discussed the matter frankly. There is no doubt that there will be a record harvest. It is no longer a matter of idle gossip, or of reports picked up by newspaper correspondents. Indeed, the fact that the harvest will be a record one must have been known to agricultural experts months ago. In many centres stripping has already begun, and farmers are seriously concerned over the difficulty of getting bags. This is the crux of the situation. Until recently, farmers were repeatedly assured that there would be enough bags. Questions were being asked in this House and by farmers organizations outside about the prospect of getting enough bags, and assurances were given by Government spokesmen that there was no cause for alarm. Thus was the clamour of the farmers stilled. I have had a question on the notice-paper for several weeks. It is comprehensive in its nature, and I recognize that it will probably take some time to obtain the information required. I asked how many bags will be available, what arrangements have been made for transport, and for the provision of bulk heads. Now, quite suddenly, the Government has announced that the position in regard to bags is not satisfactory. Indeed, it would appear that the position has become worse over night, and we are now informed that silo areas are to receive a distribution on the basis of one bag an acre, and non-silo areas four bags an acre. Such a distribution is totally inadequate, having regard to the size of the crop. Some districts, notably Cowra and Grenfell, have received no allocation of bags at all, and there is no indication when the bags will come. Farmers will begin harvesting operations within the next few days. The were silos never meant to cope with the entire wheat harvest. When we have a record harvest, we must have an adequate supply of bags for storage. Now, we have a record wheat yield, but insufficient bags. We are not able to use the available bags for storage purposes because they are required to transport the wheat from the farms to the silos.
The Government must have had advance information about this record harvest. It has not occurred, as it were, overnight. The Government’s competent agricultural experts would have advised it of the prospects of the season. From my own knowledge, these experts have a sound grasp of the conditions. However, I understand that one bag merchant in Sydney offered to sell to the Australian Wheat Board 1,800,000 second-hand bags which had been used only once. The board refused the offer, and the merchant shipped 1,200,000 bags to South Africa, and 600,000 to the islands in the Pacific.
– Shame! When did this occur ?
– Not so long ago. In the circumstances, the Australian Wheat Board either must have considered that it had an adequate supply of bags, as it has assured us, or is determined not to use second-hand bags. According to the Land newspaper of the 21st November last, large supplies of bags will come forward next February. But the wheatgrower is harvesting his crop now. In some areas, the crop is early. The farmers cannot tell the wheat to stop growing, or stop rotting in the fields, until sufficient bags arrive. Wheat is not so obliging as that, and if the Government does not move now, large quantities of wheat will rot in the paddocks.
I cite a typical example. At Tullamore, the expected yield, on a conservative basis, is 1,000,000 bushels. The silo capacity is 90,000 , bushels. If the farmers receive their allocation of bags, they will be able to store, after using the bags for transport, 125,000 bushels. In other words, their total storage capacity is 215,000 bushels. But the wheat harvest will be approximately 1,000,000 bushels. Before they can convert their grain shed, they must obtain the necessary materials. They have ordered these materials, but have not received them. However, the grain shed, when converted, will store an additional 130,000 bushels. If all goes well, and the materials and bags arrive, the farmers will be able to store 345,000 bushels. Prom those figures honorable members will see that the farmers will be able to handle only 40 per cent, of the expected yield.
This is not an isolated instance. Every centre which I visited is in a similar position. The farmers will not be able to handle 60 per cent, of the crop. Even if the materials were released now, the farmers cannot leave their harvesting operations at this stage in order to build bulkheads. In any event, the building of bulkheads, or storage on the farms is uneconomical, and requires double handling. Even if the materials were available now, and there is no sign that they are, the farmers would be compelled to suspend harvesting operation and build the bulkheads. At Trundle, the expected yield is 1,000,000 bushels. One farmer alone could fill a bulkhead of 100,000 bushels, and three farmers in the district could fill the silo. Those figures reflect the ‘ tremendous wheat yield in those areas.
The critical period, when the farmers will have harvested. their crop and used all the storage capacity, will occur between the first week in December and Christmas. That leaves the Government a very short time in which to take action for the purpose of alleviating this position. The situation is urgent. Ex-service men, who have settled on the land, require special consideration. During the last two years, they encountered a drought, and this season, they looked forward, quite justifiably, to a splendid harvest which would put them on their feet. They have not had an opportunity to accumulate even a few second-hand bags, so they will not be able to store any portion of their crop. The House should insist upon the appointment of a firstclass committee, on the spot, to cope with these difficulties as they arise from day to day. Remote control is useless. The committee should be empowered to appoint a first-class manager in Sydney - an experienced man with a sound knowledge of the situation - and give him power to act. In this emergency, farmers in New South Wales have the disadvantage of remote control by the Australian Wheat Board in Melbourne, which cannot deal with local situations as they arise. At present, the Australian Wheat Board is a headless organization because it has no chairman. How can a board function effectively if it has been decapitated ? The manager, Mr. Perritt, is a most competent official, against whom I make no allegations whatsoever, but he has practically no consultant to help him, except Mr. James Gatehouse, who is a representative of the millers. Mr. Perritt has been left alone, like a shag on a rock. New South Wales is placed at a great disadvantage regarding members on the Australian Wheat Board, because the vacancy caused by the death of Mr. Field some months ago has never been filled.
Several weeks ago, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) for information as to the number of cornsacks in Australia, the number in transit between India, and Australia and the approximate dates of delivery, and the number ordered in India, and the dates of shipment, and approximate dates of arrival here. We are still waiting for that information, but what is more important, the farmers are living in a complete whirl of bewilderment, puzzlement and frustration. They do not know whether they will be able to got any cornsacks, or when deliveries will be made. We cannot blame Providence because Australia, and particularly New South Wales, are experiencing a record harvest. Following years of disappointment, frustration and drought, the wheat-growers now have an opportunity to gather this tremendous harvest. Having spoken with many of them, I am convinced that they desire to export the wheat for the purpose of feeding the hungry people of many countries. If we allow large quantities of our wheat to rot because of a shortage of bags it would be a national calamity, and Australia will have a lot to answer for. The matter is extremely urgent. The Government must take every possible step to provide an adequate supply of bags, rush into the wheat areas materials for bulkheads, and supply labour to erect them; and ensure that the farmer shall be able to harvest his wheat and export it.
Mr. HAMILTON (Swan) [3.30 J.- I thought the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) would rise to reply to the case made out by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) ; but he seems inclined to let matters slide, apparently not being aware of the chaos in the wheat industry, particularly in New South Wales. I am aware of it and I am not prepared to let matters slide. I have much pleasure in supporting what has been said by the honorable member for Calare about “ the failure of the Government to make provision for the handling and transport of the wheat harvest “. The Government in general and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in particular have been asked for weeks what has been and is being done to ensure the sUpply of adequate cornsacks to wheat-farmers, particularly those in New South Wales who are assured of a record harvest, but all we have been told is that this or that has been done and that the farmers need have no worries about cornsacks, as they would have sufficient in ample time. Yet the situation is as has been shown by the honorable member for Calare. I do not say that the Minister has not done anything, but he ought to have multiplied his activities a dozen times. His inaction is a disgrace. Silos in New South Wales are, as it were, the agent between the farms and the ports. Their capacity is small, and, as fast as wheat is poured into them from the farms, it should be drawn out and railed to the seaboard. Otherwise pandemonium rules. Recently, I asked about the diversion of cornsacks consigned to West Australian barley and potato growers to the eastern States. I said then that we were not complaining against the diversion so long as we were assured that sacks would be available when the West Australian barley crop and potato crop were ready to be harvested. We were prepared to assist the wheat-farmers of New South Wales. Other States have assisted them by relinquishing their quotas of galvanized iron for the erection of bulkheads for the storage of the excess wheat against the time when it can be handled by the railways. Doubtless, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will say that handling of the wheat crop in New South Wales is the responsibility of the Government of that State, but I remind him that the Australian Government takes full control over the wheat crop and is not in n hurry to pay the wheat-farmers for it. For six months, the Australian Wheat Board has not had a chairman, and members of the board have taken turn in presiding over its deliberations. The position of chairman of the Australian Wheat Board is akin to that of general manager of the Australian wheat industry. Owing to the swift changes of control, it is difficult to know who holds the reins. If the Government could not arrange for the supply of sufficient cornsacks to cope with the record harvest; it could have co-operated with the Government of New South Wales in providing bulkheads, but I do not think the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture fully understood the position. He failed to have the industry thoroughly canvassed and he relied too much on the State authority when it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth, not of the States, to ensure that Australia shall send as much food as it can to the starving millions overseas. When the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) sought on behalf of grain sorghum-growers licences to export their product, the Minister said that its export would not be permitted because the Government desired that as much wheat as possible should be exported. But how can the Government export wheat unless it arranges for its harvesting and transport to the seaboard? The Minister must take full blame for the maladministration of the wheat industry, because all the power rests with him now that he has stripped the feathers from the Australian Wheat Board. It is perhaps not strange that the Government, having stripped other authorities of power, hastens to blame them when trouble occurs. With a record wheat harvest, we have the opportunity of earning great wealth from sales overseas at the prevailing high prices, but we must export our wheat if we are to sell it. Every bushel wasted will be so much wealth lost to Australia. The farmers have not the time to provide their own storage facilities, regardless of what the Minister may say to the contrary. Wheat can he stored on farms by the use of hay bales with bricks and iron rings at the foot to keep out mice, but farmers cannot leave harvesting in order to do that work. Once farmers begin harvesting they must go on until they finish. That they did not prepare storage facilities -before harvesting started is not their fault, because they were promised sufficient cornsacks. I understand that cornsacks available are only sufficient to cope with a crop of 12 bushels to the acre, whereas we learned weeks ago that the crop would attain the record yield of 30 to 40 bushels to the acre. In the Tamworth district farmers are stripping crops yielding 42 bushels to the acre. So the whole blame must fall on the Minister’s shoulders. He cannot take refuge in saying that he was not properly advised. He was told long ago what the position would be if insufficient cornsacks were provided. It was his responsibility, not the State’s, to ensure the provision of storage for wheat at sidings, so that it should not be allowed to rot on the stalk, as may easily happen. It is a crying shame that with the people of Britain and elsewhere so much in need of food the Australian Government should be prepared to drift along and lose a large part of the wheat crop. I do not know whether the Minister intends to try to justify what he and hia Government have or have not done, but I have much pleasure in supporting what has been said by the honorable member for Calare in the hope that even now the Government will do something quickly to prevent the waste of a large part of the New South Wales crop because of the lack of cornsacks and other means of storage.
.- It is a remarkable experience to sit in this House and listen to the “tripe” uttered by the two honorable members opposite who have sponsored the motion. One would think, after listening to them, that this Government had done nothing in the interests of the farmers.
– Be fair.
-Order ! The House will have noted that the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) and the honor able member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) were heard in complete silence. I shall insist on having complete silence while other honorable members speak.
– After listening to the two previous speakers, one would imagine that this Government had not done anything to obtain jute in order to provide bags for the wheat harvest. Many months ago we were assured by the Government that a representative had been, sent on a special errand to India to secure .wheat sacks irrespective of price. Could any Government do more than that? That representative was the chairman of the Australian Barley Board, Mr. Tomlinson. I do not believe that anybody would deny his ability to represent Australia in the interests of the wheat-growers. I have had many interviews with the State Superintendent for New South Wales of the Australian Wheat Board, Colonel Holborow, who knows more about wheat than all honorable members opposite put together. He has made a special study of the situation and has assured me that everything possible has been done to obtain supplies of sacks for the coming wheat harvest. We all know that estimates of the. crop have increased month by month. This is due in part to the fact that the season is favorable. However, there is an additional reason. There has been no restriction upon the sowing of wheat this year and many farmers have increased their acreages. Only within the last fortnight or three weeks, many of them have realized that they cannot secure permits to buy wheat sacks for areas on which they were not previously licensed to grow wheat. Those who blame this Government, or any individual members of the Government, for the present situation and who accuse it of disregarding the interests of the farmers are deliberately misstating facts. As I have said, the Government sent a man to India for the special purpose of purchasing sacks. If sacks were not available in India, who could get them? Of course, sufficient supplies of sacks could not be obtained! The shortage in India is the reason for the shortage in Australia. In any case, I shall be greatly surprised if the wheat crop is as large as has been estimated.
I have had considerable experience of wheat-growing, and I disagree with the optimistic forecasts which have been made. I have a fairly good crop this year, but to say that the 5,000,000 acres of land under wheat production in New South Wales will return an average of 21 or 22 bushels to the acre would be a very high estimate. An average of 21 or 22 bushels to the acre from a paddock of 5,000 acres would be an exceptionally good crop. Such an estimate for a total area of 5,000,000 acres is over-estimated. The Government of New South Wales has been criticized because it is unable to provide sufficient rolling stock to handle the wheat harvest. Such criticism is not justified. What is the reason for the shortage? The Australian Government and the New South Wales Government have had to cope with the accumulated problems arising from six years of depression and six years of war. When the Labour party came into power it had to attempt to make up the lag from the days when anti-Labour governments declared that there was not sufficient money to provide for the purchase of railway rolling-stock. It is reasonable to expect some congestion in these circumstances. My memory goes back 30 years to the time when I had a load of chaff at a country railway station waiting for a truck for a fortnight. This is not the first time that farmers have suffered because of the shortage of railway trucks for chaff or wheat. In any case, very little chaff will be cut this year because of the high price for wheat. For honorable members opposite- to place responsibility for the shortage of wheat sacks upon this Government is deliberately misleading. The Government has done everything possible to obtain sacks. We should have every reason to be pleased that there is congestion, because it is due largely to the remarkably good yield, which gives cause for satisfaction at a time when the world is hungry. The New South Wales superintendent of the Australian Wheat Board has assured me that the members of .the board have done everything within their power during the last three months to make arrangements for the expeditious handling of the harvest. We are assured of having five ships each fortnight to load our wheat, and therefore I do not believe that the shortage of sacks will be as acute as honorable members opposite have said. In any case, we have handled such problems before. Under the administration of an anti-Labour government, we had a shortage of wheat sacks at a time when there was jute to burn in India. During World War L, we had to pay exorbitant prices for wheat sacks when there was little bulk storage capacity in the country. The arguments of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) were definitely misleading. The fact is that the Government has done everything possible to secure bags for the coming harvest. I do not know whether there will be sufficient railway rolling-stock to handle the crop, but I believe that there will be. I expect the harvest to be handled much more quickly and efficiently than the newspapers have suggested in the last three weeks. According to the Sydney Morning Herald last Monday, farmers in the Riverina lost £1,000,000 worth of wheat owing to storm damage. I was in the heart of the Riverina and I saw no evidence of such extensive damage as was reported to have occurred at Binya, Barellan and other places. Yesterday I made further inquiries and the information supplied to me contradicted the report in the Sydney Morning Herald. Every wheatfarmer knows that in good seasons, when crops grow to a height of 5 or 6 feet, the wind will force the wheat to lean over, with the result that harvesting may take longer than usual. That is what has happened in the Riverina area. It is misleading to declare that £1,000,000 worth of wheat has ‘been lost to the farmers. All of the reports that we have seen in the newspapers have been written for propaganda purposes in an endeavour to belittle this Government in the eyes of the wheat-growers. I remember the days when the farmers had plenty of wheat and plenty of sacks, but could not obtain a profitable return for their crop because of the neglect of anti-Labour governments, which did not care whether the farmers went “ broke “ or not. It was left to this Government to solve the problems of the men on the land. I am pleased to know that farmers are now in a very favourable position as the result of the sincere and sympathetic administration of this Government. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has done everything possible during the last three or four months to assist the growers, and I hope that the shortage of sacks will not be so severe as honorable members opposite have predicted.
– The subject raised by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) is undoubtedly of considerable public interest in Australia, but when that honorable gentleman, and also the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton), indict the Australian Government as responsible for the shortage of cornsacks they speak without a knowledge of the facts. Fortunately for Australia, an all-time record wheat harvest is expected in this country. All-time record harvests cannot be forecast twelve months before the garnering of the crop.
– The crop is not even planted then.
– E know that, you “ m ug “.
– Order !
– If the honorable member for Swan wishes to “ mix it I am prepared to “ mix it “ with him. Even as late as August of this year, experts in New South Wales, though not the experts of the Australian Wheat Board, estimated that 80,000,000 bushels of wheat would be cropped in that State. Fortunately, nature has been kind, and it is possible that 120,000,000 bushels of wheat will be reaped in New South Wales. Had not nature been so kind, and had the crop been only 80,000,000 bushels, the supply of cornsacks would have been tight, although it might possibly have been adequate.
But additional factors had to be taken into consideration in dealing with this subject. One is that Australia does not grow jute and another is that the Australian Government has no power to compel or to coerce jute producers. In fact it has only a slight influence upon the main jute-producing countries. I refer, in particular, to India. Conditions in India also have to be considered. In the stresses and strains of the aftermath of war, the Indian people have been faced with famine and internal disorders and problems of great complexity and magnitude. Millions of Indians have been on the verge of starvation owing to the dislocation that has occurred following upon the endeavours to convert India to dominion status. The problems that have had to be faced in the country, indeed, have been colossal. Moreover owing to drought conditions and poor crops the jute harvest has been of such a nature that the Indian Government has been faced with the necessity of imposing a quota system on prospective purchasers of the jute available. Actually the Indian Government fixed Australia’s quota of jute long before it was known that a record harvest was expected in this country, and the Australian Government could do nothing whatever to alter that quota, except to make efforts to arrange mutual trading concessions and to approach the Indian authorities through diplomatic channels. In order to ensure that - our requests for additional jute should be made to the Indian Government in the most effective way, we sent to India one of the most competent men in Australia to inform the Indian Government of the insufficiency of the jute quota owing to the magnitude of the crop we expected to reap. I notice that an honorable -member opposite seems to be waiting tq “ throw something in “. He can do it at this stage if he likes.
– Order ! I hope there will be neither throwing in nor throwing out.
– Some months ago the Australian Government appointed Mr. Tomlinson, manager of the Australian Barley Board, to visit India to make personal representations to the Indian authorities. During his mission, he had the assistance of Sir Iven Mackay. The result was that the transport of jute supplies to Australia was accelerated and this country was able to obtain a somewhat larger quota than was originally fixed. “It was our good fortune that at that period Australia was being visited by Mr. Panjabi, Secretary for Food in the Indian Government. He came here in search of additional supplies of wheat. His visit to Australia and Mr. Tomlinson’s visit to India synchronized, and consequently sympathetic and simultaneous personal approaches were practicable in both countries. The result was that the Australian Government intimated that it was prepared to take a certain amount of additional risk in allowing further supplies of Australian wheat to be sent to India from our reserve stocks, for the new season wheat was not then available, and the Indian Government was prepared to expand our jute quota to some degree. In the normal way we should not have considered it. wise to break into our carry-over stocks, but, in all, four or five extra ship-loads of Australian wheat were made available no India at that juncture. The Australian Wheat Board concurred in these arrangements.
The honorable member for Calare said that the Government was determined that second-hand cornsacks should not be used. We have frequently heard in this House of late that this Government is bureaucratic and dictatorial, and is always seeking to override the authority of instrumentalities which are authorized to handle primary products. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) have said “Hear, hear! “, and I also detect some murmurings from members of the Australian Country party. The plain fact is that, although the Australian Wheat Board is charged with the responsibility of marketing our wheat crop and of endeavouring to obtain an adequate supply of cornsacks for that proportion of the crop which will need to be marketed in bags, a residual power is necessarily vested in the Government and in the Minister. In one of the few instances in which I have intervened in the management of the Australian Wheat Board, I did so to issue a. direction that the board should allow second-hand bags of approved quality to be used in order to assist in handling the harvest. So far that instruction is being applied only in New South Wales. The Australian Wheat Board accepted the instruction in the spirit in which it was given.
– What about the 2,000,000 that have been exported.
– I do not accept the allegation that cornsacks suitable for use for the Australian wheat harvest have been exported. I know that since the question has arisen whether we have an adequate supply of cornsacks in Australia a quantity of cornsacks of fourbushel capacity of a certain quality has been offered to the Australian Wheat Board at 5s. a bag or £3 a dozen. But every well-informed iverson is well aware that it would be extremely doubtful whether the wheat lumpers ov wharf labourers, or, in fact, some of the farmers themselves, would be willing to handle four-bushel bags. A four-bushel bag means 240 lb. of wheat in each bag - a relic of the bad old days. Some of the bags which it is alleged have been exported may have been of that kind. In all the circumstances the Australian Wheat Board and the Jute Controller, with the assistance of the Government through its various diplomatic channels and the missions it has sent abroad, have dene all that it was possible to do to meet the situation.
Bulk-handling and transport are embraced by the subject on which the motion is based. Everybody knows that transport arrangements are the responsibility of those who control the State railways. The experience of the Australian Wheat Board in New South Wales has been that the New South Wales railways have shifted most expeditiously the flow of wheat into that State. We hope that that rapid handling will continue. That, in itself, should diminish some of the complaints that inevitably have to be faced by any government, or instrumentality responsible for the handling of the wheat crop. In respect of silo shortage, the bulk-handling authorities in New South Wales and other States will give of their best and will co-operate to the utmost with the Australian Wheat Board in the task that confronts it. The very nature of the constitutional set up of Australia results in responsibility for handling, transport, storage and shipping of wheat being split up between the Australian Government and the governments of the States. It is of no use for the honorable member for
Swan to say that responsibility for the wheat harvest is entirely a matter for the Australian Government. Would the honorable member say that the Australian Government should intrude into the transport system of New South Wales, and control it under National Security Regulations? Would he suggest that under National Security Regulations or the war powers still available to it the Australian Government should take over the co-operative bulk-handling scheme in Western Australia and direct and control the handling of this season’s harvest ?
– God help the farmer if it did that !
– Thus, the charge made by the honorable member that full responsibility for these matters rests upon the Australian Government and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture falls to the ground. I am not endeavouring to pass the buck to the Australian Wheat Board when I refer so frequently to that body. It is the expert authority in these matters. Some months ago, the board discussed with the New South Wales bulk-handling authorities the wisdom and desirability of providing additional emergency bulk storages in New South Wales. The New South Wales bulk-handling authorities did not at that time regard, such a .course of action as likely to be necessary. However, they agreed to take some steps in the matter and, as the result, materials were provided and arrangements were made for the erection of twenty-one emergency bulk storages to assist in coping with the expected colossal harvest. The crop looked so good, however, that it was feared that that number of emergency bulk storages would not .meet the situation. Accordingly, the board arranged for the erection in New South Wales of a total of 60 emergency bulk storages. Thanks to the co-operation of the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture, to the Commonwealth authorities which have agreed to release supplies of galvanized iron, to the initiative of the Australian Wheat Board and its officers in transferring from Victoria and other States such materials as were likely to be surplus to requirements, the construction of these additional emergency bulk storages has been made possible. I believe that the wheat-growers, the Australian Wheat Board, the silo handling authorities, the railway departments of the various States, and the workers and farmers will respond magnificently to the task that confronts them, and that not one grain of this year’s magnificentcrop will be lost to the wheat producers and to the people of this country.
I have for too long been a farmer to lack knowledge of the complaints which farmers make. One does not have to go far back into the war period to recall that complaints were made in this House by some honorable members that the potato crop would rot because of the labour shortage. There always seemed to be those who predicted disaster because of this, that or ‘the other problem which was confronting our primary producers. However, the Australian farmer is a man of great initiative, ability, and tenacity of purpose, and is always ready to grapple with the difficulties that beset him, and he has invariably given the lie to the jeremiahs. Because of the generosity of nature there is to-day a shortage of cornsacks. While this state of affairs is causing some perturbation, I am satisfied that the wheat-grower will cope with that problem and not one grain of wheat will the lost. Bef ore the wheat is ready to be moved sufficient cornsacks will be available for that portion of the crop which needs bagging.
– By that time the mice will have been at it.
– The mice have been at the honorable member for a long time. That is what is wrong with him. This problem will be met by the wheat-growers with the same success as have others in the past. There will undoubtedly be some frustration and annoyance, but at least the prospect that faces the wheat-growers to-day is very much better than that with which they have had to contend in years gone by, years of drought and unfortunately years of plenty when yields were high, but when governments of different political complexion from that which now controls the destiny of this country had power in their hands to make adequate provision in respect of the wheat-growers, but failed to do so. These temporary problems are inclined to make some people pessimistic. Perhaps honorable members would like to know the statistical position in regard to the supply of cornsacks as reported to me this week.
– Only a little while ago we proved that the statistics quoted by the Minister were inaccurate to the extent of 50 per cent. How can he expect us to accept his figures now?
– The statistics I then quoted were not my own. They were the estimates of the New South Wales authorities. The honorable member must not attempt to put words into my mouth which I did not use.
– Were these statistics which the honorable member proposes to quote compiled by the Minister ?
– They were compiled by a gentleman whom the Government has seen fit to appoint to assist the Australian Wheat Board in co-ordinating the efforts of all those associated with the handling of this year’s crop, including the Australian Wheat Board, the State railways, and the State Ministers for Agriculture. His services were made available to the Australian Government at my request. He is an eminent authority on the handling of wheat. I am sure that honorable members opposite, who have great admiration for private enterprise, will approve of his appointment. He is Mr. Tink, of the firm of Bunge (Australia) Proprietary Limited, notable authorities in wheat-handling. In his report which was dated the 24th November, 1947, Mr. Tink states-
The Australian Wheat Board has this morning altered its basis of distribution, and, whereas previously it was -
Silo stations - One bag per acre, non-silo stations - Four bags per acre; at nonsilo stations the following new bases will apply: -
1 ) An increase of two bags, making a total of six bags per acre.
Except where bulkheads are being erected, the basis remains at four bags per acre.
Where, in special cases, an allotment of five bags per acre has already been made there will be an increase to six bags.
Where, in the case of premium wheat districts, there has already been a special distribution of seven bags, no additional allocation is being made.
Actually the new basis of distribution does not mean an overall increase in the cornsacks available, but merely further allocation of known quantities.
For your guidance the position of supplies as at 20th instant is as under: -
Total receipts for distribution, 1947 -48 -
In addition it is expected that arrivals during January and February next will amount to 8,000 and 10,000 bales respectively. [Extension of time granted.’]
In an earlier report, dated the 20th November, 1947, Mr. Tink gave the following overall picture of the cornsack position : -
At the moment I have not any actual figures in detail regarding the distribution to growers, but it is expected that 36,000 bales will be available for almost immediate distribution in New South Wales, and that various shipments will arrive during December, January and February to bring the total to 60-65,000 bales.
Having regard to the deliveries of wheat in hulk and in bags, 36,000 bales (equal to 321/2 million bushels at one filling) appears inadequate for comfortable working, and this position is being given the utmost consideration. Definite figures regarding this aspect should be available from the Wheat Boardbefore the week-end.
Silos. - The total capacity of the New South Wales Government grain elevator atonefilling is 323/4 million bushels. Although there is some conflict of opinion as to the turnover through the elevators for this crop, much depends upon rail transport to keep wheat moving out of country plants to the seaboard andelsewhere.It can confidently be expected, however, that say 48 million bushels will be handled through the elevator system. This means, in effect, that the country plants will bo filled twice during the delivery period, or to state it another way. that the country plants need be emptied only once during the harvest and delivery period.
Bulkheads - Silo Stations. - I understand the Government grain elevators have erected or in course of erection, 21 bulkheads, each of 100,000 bushels capacity, and are giving consideration to other stations with a view to deciding on additional construction.
The number of bulkheads, as I have indicated, is to be increased to 60 -
On the anticipation that materials will be available for this purpose it can be estimated that bulkheads at silo stations may take up to5 million bushels.
Bulkheads -Non-silo Stations. - Consideration is now being given to the erection of bulkheads at several suitable stations and licensed receivers are being consulted in regard to detail. If, as is anticipated, say ten bulkheads are erected, their capacity will total one million bushels.
Bagged. - The deliveries of wheat in bags depend, of course, on the number of bags available after, mainly the growers have completed their deliveries to the silos and to the temporary storage in bulk on their properties. Obviously a lot of the bags sent out as new will be entirely unserviceable for bagged wheat after being used, as is expected, many times for silo deliveries. As an estimate of the 36,000 bales to be distributed immediately probably only 30,000 bales will ultimately be delivered as bagged, representing about 27,000,000 bushels.
Since the Wheat Board has permitted, subject to certain safeguards, the use of secondhand sacks in the delivery of wheat in bags, it could be estimated that about 5,000,000 to 6,000,000 bushels will be received. ‘ Therefore, the estimate for total receipt in bags during the delivery period amounts to. say. 3,500,000 bushels.
Mills. - Country mills, as authorized receivers of wheat from growers, can be expected to receive up to say 8,000,000 bushels.
Since the total crop has been estimated at 120,000,000 million bushels, the above figures indicate that temporary storage on farms by growers will have to be provided for around 20,000,000 bushels. It can be emphasized that this storage need only be of short duration since the additional quantity of cornsacks to be received during December, January and February, which, according to present advices, amounts to, say, 25,000 bales, equals a. capacity of 22,500,000 bushels.
According to advices the New South Wales
Government Railways will, by the end of November, make available 2,000 trucks of an average capacity of 20’ tons each for the carrying of wheat in bulk. If, as I am informed, these trucks will have a turn round of one and a half times per week, the truckings will amount to 60,000 tons each week. If this rate is maintained during the delivery period there seems no doubt of the ability of the silo system to maintain a total of 48,000,000 bushels. The matter of trucking bagged wheat has not yet received attention, but it is stated that adequate supplies of trucks will be available for bagged needs.
Ample space has been allotted for loading for the immediate future, but due to the incidence of weather conditions the movement of the crop is about two weeks late, and a certain amount of congestion may occur at shipping ports during the early stages. This position will be watched very closely.
All country work is carried out in conjunction with the Australian Workers Union and, as customary, it is expected that matters will proceed smoothly.
So far as the waterfront is concerned, owing In the demand on this labour force, it may be found necessary, in order to maintain a quick turn round of ships (thus relieving the country congestion), to make an application to the appropriate authority for temporary priority in the allotment of personnel to wheat ships. This position will be dealt with if it arises.
The within information has been gathered rather hastily in order that a perspective of the position may be obtained. Next weekI shall concentrate on several matters, in conjunction, of course, with the State Superintendent of the Australian Wheat Board, and will report to you further.
Meanwhile, Sir, I should like to place it on record that I have received the utmost courtesy from officials and staff of the Australian Wheat Board, and have offers from them of cooperation in the tasks ahead.
I have given a comprehensive outline of the position as it exists. We in Australia neither grow nor control jute from which cornsacks are made. We ordered all the cornsacks that could he allowed us under the quota imposed by the Indian Government, and we cannot be held responsible for disabilities arising from the fact that there is not a reasonable surplus of sacks in the country to deal with a big crop. I arn. convinced that the farmers will rise to the occasion, and overcome their difficulties, as they have overcome greater difficulties associated with low prices and drought.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) read something to the House which was neither audible nor intelligible. He did say that the Indian Government had imposed a quota on the export of jute, and that Australia could not, therefore, obtain all the cornsacks it needed. He also said that there would be no difficulty in handling this season’s wheat crop. How he reconciles those two statements I do not know. The fact is that no farmer has been able to grow wheat without a licence, although it is true that the Government did not this season limit the acreage. However, seeing that the Government issued licences for the growing of wheat, upon its shoulders alone rested the responsibility to see that enough cornsacks were available. Under the law, no private merchant was permitted to import cornsacks. The Australian Wheat Board enjoyed a monopoly in regard to their manufacture and supply. I have in my room some very interesting correspondence between the board and some growers on this subject, the growers being denied cornsacks until certain requirements of the hoard were satisfied. On every count it must be affirmed that the Government is 100 per cent, responsible for the present shortage. The Minister spoke for almost half an hour, and for once there was no spark of fire in his speech. On previous occasions, I have had occasion to describe him as a “ spitfire “, but his speech to-day was a very tame effort. Twice he referred to the kindness of nature. If nature has been kind, it is obvious that the Government has been blind. The Government knew that there had been a succession of drought years in New South Wales and other States, and it must have known that, after such a succession of years, there is always a bountiful season when a da-ought breaks. That has been the experience in the wheat country of South Australia, as well as in other States. Early in July, the Government knew how much land had been sown to wheat; yet it did nothing until a few weeks ago to obtain enough cornsacks, and then it sent Air. Tomlinson to India to inquire into the position. With great respect to Mr. Tomlinson, I do not think that he had any particular qualification for the job. At the same time, Mr. Panjabi came from India to Australia. Why they should have passed each other in mid-ocean, when both are bound on an errand associated with the same industry, I do not know. The Government did not arrange to obtain cornsacks, it made no provision for temporary storage either at sidings or on farms, and it did nothing to spur the Wheat Board to activity. The Minister has said that only once did he attempt to direct the board, although, under recent legislation, he has full authority to direct it. The Minister nods assent. We have the Minister’s own admission of his authority, and his own admission of his failure to exercise that authority. He spoke of using secondhand cornsacks. In the circumstances, barley-growers would willingly have used four-bushel bags, which would hold only about 200 lb. of barley, just as the standard cornsack holds about 200 lb. of wheat. On an average, a cornsack holds about 160 lb. of oats. It stands to reason, that when the season is good for wheat there will also be good oat and barley crops. The Minister instituted novel conditions in regard to the oat crop. He accepted responsibility for the position in regard to oats and barley, but apparently made no arrangements’ to deal with those crops. He might well have approached the New Zealand Government, and asked it to provide for the supply of cornsacks for the wheat which Australia is selling to that country. That would not have been too much to ask. It must have been obvious during the winter, when we are getting such good rains in July and August, that everything pointed to a first-class season. In other years, when there were good wheat and oat crops, the Government urged farmers to turn as much of their crops into hay as possible, but I have seen no sign that the Government has done anything this season to urge growers to build up the reserves of hay which were depleted during the prolonged drought. Had it done so, there would be less demand for cornsacks now. One honorable member said that he had seen a 40-bushel crop this year. I have seen 45-bushel crops taken off 10-in. rainfall country in the mallee areas in a good season. Reference was made to the great difficulty of taking a 22-bushel crop off an area of 1,000 acres. There must be plenty of 1,000-acre patches carrying 30-bushel crops this year; otherwise the New South Wales crop could not approach the estimate of 100,000,000 bushels.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the questionbe now put.
The House divided. (Mb. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from4.41 to 8 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Debate resumed from the 19th November (vide page 2304), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr.FALKINDER (Franklin) [8.1].- The bill provides for special grants totalling £5,042,000 to three Australian States, including Tasmania. As the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) stated in his secondreading speech, the payment follows recommendations made by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in a recent report tabled in this House. The special grants proposed are : South Australia, £432,000 ; Western Australia, £223,000; and Tasmania, £153,000. The special grants payable in 1947-48 compare with those paid last year, as follows: -
Tasmania is the only State that will suffer a decrease this year as compared with last year. Owing to the time-lag which occurs before up-to-date financial information may be obtained and analysed, the Commonwealth Grants Commission is three years out of date. Recommendations for 1947-48 are based on the amounts which would have been required to give the claimant States a balanced budget in 1945-46. Although an adjustment is made in respect of this time-lag, the adjustment must necessarily be somewhat arbitrary, and often docs not meet the immediate economic requirements of the State concerned. For a part of the year 1945-46 we were in a state of war. In keeping with other States of Australia, Tasmania benefited to a certain extent from war conditions.
However, the extent of that benefit was infinitesimal compared with that of other States, especially those which obtained large revenues from the transport of troops and from the spending of overseas forces billeted for long periods in State areas. Those abnormal conditions enabled those States to “ salt away “ many millions of pounds, and, in fact, to cover the extent of their revenue receipts by the use of special accountancy terms such as “ deferred maintenance “. Tasmania had no such advantages. It is now in its third post-war year, and yet its requirements are, to a large extent, basedby the Commonwealth Grants Commission on a year during at least a part of which we were at war. The position is further complicated by the uniform tax procedure. After providing a grant based on 1945-46, and adjusted in respect of the lapse of time between that year and 1947-48, a further adjustment has been adopted in respect of increased taxation grants for the present financial year. For instance, a figure was arrived at based on 1945-46, increased because of ensuing post-war conditions and then decreased because of extra tax reimbursement. The final figure so obtained is now distributable amongst the States according to the formula adopted by the commission.
When the Australian States, including Tasmania, agreed to a Commonwealth federation they did not foresee that, inside a little more than a generation, the Commonwealth would be able to interfere very seriously with their internal policies of expansion, through the use of the federal money-collecting power. Tasmania, as a sovereign State, could have printed its own notes prior to federation. This power has been denied it, and the Commonwealth now controls it absolutely by the various acts passed here relating to banking. If moneys were required for expenditure on public worksbefore 1901, Tasmania could have floated public loans. That power of raising money has also been taken away by the Commonwealth, and the authority of the Australian Loan Council has to be obtained by the State Government concerned. Despite those two curtailments of sovereign rights with regard to moneyraising powers, the States were relatively independent of the Commonwealth before the war, because they had the relatively important revenue-raising power of imposing State income tax. This last bastion of State sovereign rights was removed by the war, and the States are now dependent upon a Commonwealth grant in lieu of their previous freely exercisable right of levying and collecting taxation moneys within their own territorial boundaries. The power of the purse is the most important sovereign right exercisable in a democracy. As the Commonwealth has now taken unto itself all three main heads, namely, loan-raising, revenue collection, and the creation of credit, the States are reduced to the position of mendicants and the Commonwealth has the full power to interfere with State expansionist policy.
Tasmania is a small State and has comparatively few people. However, it has great potentialities, and the postwar years may well be the most important in its history. “With a niggardly policy on the part of the Commonwealth it is now likely to pay very poor dividends, and consequently I suggest that the Commonwealth in these cases might well adopt the recommendation made by the State itself. That would involve an increase in the grant this year to Tasmania, but I feel sure that the future would show that it was money well spent.
The Premier of Tasmania in a recent statement said that the grant proposed for Tasmania was less than that claimed. During the year Tasmania was to receive £900,000 on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, whereas the States’ claim was for £1,000,000. The following table sets out Tasmania’s financial ups and downs in the last few years.
Fi ‘om 1941-42 to 1945-46, Tasmania was the only State that had deficits. Every other ‘State had surpluses in these five years. In the year ended the 30th June, 1946, the total tax collections, excluding income tax reimbursement, per capita were the highest in Tasmania at £5 10s. 9d. a head. In “Western Australia, where collections were lowest per capita, they amounted to £2 19s. a head. The second highest collections per capita were made in South Australia, where they were only £3 9s. lOd. a head. The tax reimbursement for Tasmania was £3 13s. 6d. a head, the second lowest, the highest being Queensland with £5 6s. The Premier of Tasmania foreshadowed in his budget speech in the House of Assembly a deficit of £527,000 this year. He said that the prospect of balancing the budget was remote ‘because of federal legislation, particularly the uniform tax legislation, and that the estimated deficit was twice that ever previously known in the State. There is a real and pressing need for an increase of the grant, to Tasmania. Tasmania, I submit, has suffered most under the uniform tax system and even the Labour Premier of the State has said, in no uncertain terms, that the Prime Minister ought to give the Premiers of the claimant States an opportunity to appear again ‘before the Commonwealth Grants Commission. According to the Tasmanian Consolidated Revenue and Banking Statistics, the deficit for the three months ended September, 1947, was £110,625 compared with a surplus of £145,562 for the corresponding period of 1946-47. Therefore, I submit that, as the deficit is reaching alarming proportions in Tasmania, the Prime Minister ought to reconsider the matter and allow the Premier of that State to appear once more before the Commonwealth Grents Commission in order that Tasmania may receive a reasonable grant from the Commonwealth.
.- As a fellow Tasmanian, I rise to more or less support the remarks of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) in his general summing up of the bill. Moving the second reading of this measure, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said -
The object of this bill is to obtain the approval of Parliament to the payment, during the current year, of special grants aggregating £5,042,000 to the States of South
Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. The provision for the payment of these grants follows the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its Fourteenth Deport which has been tabled for the information of honorable members.
I propose to relate the history of how the States have been assisted by the Australian Government since federation, because the feeling exists abroad that the grants to the States are new and that the Commonwealth Grants Commission is a recent creation. Since federation in 1901 the assistance rendered by the Commonwealth to the States has been continuous. It can be broadly divided into three definite periods of our history. The first period was from 1901 to 1910. This period was covered by section 86 of the Constitution, known as “ the Braddon clause “, which provided that not more than one-fourth of the net revenue of the Commonwealth from duties of customs and excise should be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its own expenditure, and that the balance should be paid to the several States or applied toward the payment of interest on the debts of the States. The second period of financial assistance was from 1911 to 1927. This period was covered by the Surplus Revenue Acts. The YearBook of 1939 explains this system of Commonwealth aid to the States in the following terms: -
A third paragraph referred to special annual payments to Western Australia commencing at £250,000 and progressively diminishing by £10,000 each year. The third period has been from 1928 to the present time. This is covered by the Financial Agreement Act 1928, which provides for -
In addition to the assistance given to the States under the terms of the measures which I have discussed, section 96 of the Constitution empowers the Commonwealth to make special grants to the States, usually on an annual basis. Tasmania has received assistance in the form of such grants since 1912-13, in which year it received £95,000. In 1933, during the third period which I have mentioned, the Australian Government appointed the Commonwealth Grants Commission, consisting of three members, to inquire into and report upon claims made by the States for grants of financial assistance. The three States which have benefited consistently under this system have been Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania. These are regarded as the weaker States, though I do not know why.
In 1935-36, Tasmania applied to the Commonwealth for a grant of £1,100,000, £100,000 more than ithas applied for this year. The Commonwealth Grants Commission recommended a payment of only £450,000. In 1936-37, Tasmania applied for £800,000 and the commission recommended a payment of £600,000.In 1937-38, Tasmania applied for £750,000 and the commission recommended £575,000. In 1938-39, Tasmania applied for £800,000 and the commission recommended only £410,000. In 1939-40 the commission recommended £430,000, in 1940-41 it recommended £400,000 and in 1942-43 it recommended £575,000. From then on, except for one year, there was a progressive increase. The figures are as follows : -
The grant for 1946-47 was the highest ever received by Tasmania from the
Commonwealth. The- amount recommended for this year is £747,000, although the application was for £1,000,000. These figures show that the less wealthy States have received assistance from the Commonwealth ever since federation, which proves that uniform taxation has nothing to do with payments by the Commonwealth to the States. This year the Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Cosgrove, has expressed keen disappointment with the amount of the grant recommended. He declares that the State will show a deficit of £527,318 for the year.
Statements which have been made by members of the Opposition and others suggest that uniform taxation is the cause of the unsatisfactory position of the States. I do not believe that. “When the States were exercising their own taxing authority, they nevertheless appealed to the Commonwealth for assistance every year, as I have pointed out. They also applied every year to the Loan Council. The Commonwealth responded in varying degrees. Therefore, it cannot rightly be charged with neglect of the States at any time since federation. The fact that a (State may suffer a deficit under the uniform tax system is no condemnation of that system. Under the tax system which operated until the introduction of uniform tax, State deficits were quite common. For instance, from 1901 to 1940, Tasmania’s deficits exceeded its surpluses by a total of £1,323,000, in spite of the fact that it exercised its taxing authority and also received grants from the Commonwealth. Under the uniform tax system, Tasmania received last year, by the terms of the States Grants (Tax Reimbursement) Act 1946, a guaranteed sum of £1,220,000. It will receive the same amount this year. According to the provisions of the act, the payment will increase as the State’s population increases. An examination of tax receipts by the State prior to the introduction of the uniform tax system in 1942, in comparison with its income since then, clearly indicates that there has been no overall depreciation of revenue, although there may have been an alteration of expenditure. The -State still derives income from lotteries, racing and other entertainments, and taxes on liquor licences, &c. These produced an amount of £776,057 in 1939-40 of a total income from taxes of £1,613,713. In recent years, revenue from these purely .State fields of taxation has increased.
Tasmania is a progressive State and must not be allowed to suffer a recession. It must be allowed to” go forward, and I agree with the honorable member for Franklin that revenue is of the utmost importance in maintaining its rate of development. Both primary and secondary production in Tasmania are expanding rapidly, and at the same time the State’s financial commitments are increasing. For example, its health services, which are not equalled elsewhere an the Commonwealth, impose an everincreasing drain on financial resources. We cannot permit financial considerations to restrict advancement in the field of public health. The number of hospitals, mobile dental clinics and other services must not be governed by shortage of funds. Tasmania’s education services are also of a high standard and have been favorably commented upon throughout Australia and even overseas. Its area school system is most effective, as honorable members know, and plans have been prepared for seventeen new area schools. Education requires plenty of money, and we cannot afford to restrict it. The State Government is also encouraging the development of new industries by erecting factories for them. This policy as greatly appreciated by industrial firms. Hundreds of companies have made arrangements to establish factories in Tasmania. The attitude of the State Government towards them is, “ If you are prepared to come here, we are prepared to assist you and we shall build you a factory and help you to become established”. There are several such factories in my own electorate and in the electorate of Franklin. This policy requires money. The State Government should not be forced to say to a company which wishes to establish itself in Tasmania, “ We are sorry, but we cannot help you financially, because we are too heavily committed already “. This would discourage enterprise .and force firms to go elsewhere, where conditions might not. be so favorable as they are in Tasmania. The State’s hydro-electric - commitments are considerable. The strain on existing hydro-electric power resources has almost reached the danger point since the war owing to the rapid . development of the housing programme and the establishment of numerous new factories. The State Government is expediting work on the Butler’s Gorge Dam in order to increase the output of electric power, and 900 Poles from General Anders’s army will be brought to Tasmania to help in that work. The State’s transport services are being rapidly improved and extended to all parts of the island.- In all these fields of activity, the ,S.tate must have money if it is to continue its progressive policies.
My criticism of this bill is based on the fact that grants to Western Australia and South Australia are larger than those made last year, whereas the grant to Tasmania has been reduced. After deducting the amount of £423,000 tax reimbursement to Western Australia, the grant to that State will exceed last year’s, grant by £104,000. Likewise the grant to South Australia will exceed last year’s grant by £318,000. For the life of me I cannot understand why Tasmania should be made to suffer by decreasing its grant by £128,000. The system of grants to the less populous States is excellent. The wealthier States may consider at times that they are being unfairly taxed in order to help their less fortunate neighbours, but, after all, this is a Commonwealth system. More co-operation in this country would assist the development of the whole nation. We in Tasmania appreciate the aid given to us through this indirect channel by the larger and financially stronger States. For an expanding State like Tasmania, the commission should apply a progressive policy. Such States should not be subjected to any handicap because they have adopted a progressive policy in respect of primary and secondary industries. Such States should be encouraged because of the vision of their governments. It would be a tragic thing if because a State endeavoured to keep abreast with other States and to advance its industries it were handicapped instead of being helped. The Government of Tasmania is seeking to promote the best interests of its people, and to provide them with improved social services of one kind and another. I realize that the Commonwealth Grants
Commission has a difficult duty to discharge, but I urge that when it next considers allocations to the claimant States it should have regard to the fact that expanding secondary industries, such as those of Tasmania, involve the States concerned in greater expenditure and that therefore larger grants are .justified. It would be disastrous if, because of the adoption of progressive plans, the Commonwealth grants to such States were curtailed in any way.
The honorable member for Franklin referred to a weakness in the procedure of the commission in that grants were determined on figures which were not up to date. It may be that a more effective accounting system should be applied by the States. If this were possible the system of making grants on the basis of the operations of the preceding year, could be discontinued. The Prime Minister referred to this subject in his second-reading speech in the following passage : -
Because the audited results of the States’ budgets on which the commission bases its calculations are not available for some time after the close of the financial year, the grants calculated by the commission for 1947-48 are based in the first instance on the budget results of the States in 1945-46. The grants so calculated - known as the assessed grants - are calculated as being the amounts which would have been required to give the claimant States a balanced budget in 1945-46, provided their revenues and expenditures conformed to the standards adopted by the commission.
One unavoidable consequence of this procedure is that by the time an assessed grant is received it may, especially in a period of rapid change, be greater or less than the current indispensable needs of the State.
I agree with the honorable member for Franklin that adjustments should be made on a more up-to-date basis. The current financial commitments of the claimant States should be considered and grants should not be based on returns two or three years old. I commend the commission for its allocation to Tasmania this year, which is the. second highest in the State’s history; but I ask whether it would not be possible to speed up the accounting procedure in the State in order that the estimated figures of expenditure for the year for which the grant was intended could be submitted to the commission earlier than at present.
– I desire to make some observations on this bill from the point of view of South Australia. The purpose of the bill is closely related to our federal system. It must be realized that when the various States surrendered to the Commonwealth their right to impose customs and excise duties, they were entitled to expect financial assistance from the Commonwealth if the need for it should arise. I do not wish to reiterate statements made by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) concerning the various systems that have been adopted over the years to estimate the amount of grant to certain States in order to recoup them for revenue arising from within the States which formerly went into their own exchequers. I realize that the system at present being applied in this connexion is an improvement on earlier procedures, but there i’s still a nigger in the woodpile. The Commonwealth Grants Commssion takes into consideration the budgetary position of the claimant States in order to assess the amount of grant it will recommend. It has been pointed out that this system has a weakness in that it may influence some State treasurers deliberately to budget for deficits so that they may obtain larger grants from the Commonwealth. I refer, in this connexion, particularly to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. But I can also appreciate the fact that the other States which we refer to as the non-claimant States may also budget for deficits in order that they may call upon Commonwealth assistance. The fact is that the present procedure of the Commonwealth Grants Commission is being seriously tested, and we are not yet quite sure what will be the outcome of the application of the principles which the commission has adopted.
In discussing the uniform tax system in this House recently, I stated that we must recognize that the so-called smaller States in the federation must be maintained in a. financial position, not disadvantageously compared with that of the so-called larger States. The Commonwealth and the non-claimant and more financial States .must be prepared to help the claim-ant States to maintain their activities on a scale commensurate with the normal status of all the people in Australia. The claimant States must be placed in a position to maintain and expand their various primary and secondary industries. If a State is to be prosperous, its industries must be prosperous. The honorable member for Wilmot referred, a few moments ago, to the increase of the grant to South Australia and the decrease of the grant to Tasmania. The honorable gentleman should realize that South Australia is operating with a heavy deficit. This is due largely to losses incurred in the running of the State railway system. If it were possible to avoid the heavy interest charges which the State still has to pay on dead assets in connexion with its railways, it would probably mean that its deficit would practically be overtaken. Last year a. heavy loss was incurred in the operation of the State railways. This was so for many years, but during the war period the railways of all the States, including those of South Australia, were operated on an intensive scale and the losses previously incurred were considerably reduced, and in some cases converted into a profit, but, with the falling away of the extra war-time traffic, former losses have recurred. I have not the detailed figures available at the moment, but I assure the honorable member for Wilmot that South Australia is considerably handicapped on account of losses h the running of its railways.
I agree with the honorable member that the so-called smaller States should be assisted to the maximum degree in consolidating their existing industries and in establishing new industries. The people of these States are entitled to social benefits equal to those enjoyed by the people of the non-claimant States. I have in mind educational and hospital services in particular. South Australia is proud of its country hospitals. We often hear remarks in this chamber about the need to improve the amenities of life of people who live in outback areas. I agree with these views. South Australians are proud of what has been done in this regard. Hospital services and other amenities have been provided in country districts, not only as a result of government expenditure, but also by reason of local government activities and subscriptions by public-minded citizens.
It is not necessary to debate this bill at any length. I support the measure whole-heartedly. If we wish to be Australians in the best sense of the term wo must help one another. The people in the more populous States must be prepared to help the people in the less populous ones. The people in the claimant States should be able to participate, in a measure, in the prosperity of the people in the more populous States. I hope that the time is not far distant when the Commonwealth Grants Commission will be able to deal with the budgetary position of the claimant States in a more uptodate way than at present. The commission should not have to rely on financial returns two or three years old. More attention should be given also to the need to provide funds to enable the claimant States to expand their various industries. T support this bill because I believe that it accords a measure of justice to the claimant States.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 12th November (vide page 1954), on motion by Mr.
That the bill he now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is “to approve an agreement amending the agreement approved by the Sugar Agreement Act 1946”. The Sugar Agreement 1946-51 was made ‘between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government during the term of office of Mr. Cooper as State Premier, and it was based upon a fixed retail price of 4d. per lb. for sugar in the capital cities. That figure was determined under the conditions of the Premiers .plan. The Premiers plan, as honorable gentlemen know, was formulated during the depression years and required sacrifices from all sections of the community, including wage-earners, pensioners and others.
Under the agreement the price of sugar was reduced from 4-J-d . to 4d. per lb. Under the terms of this bill the sugar agreement will be amended to restore the price of sugar to 4½d. per lb. The price of sugar is, therefore, not being increased by this measure; it is merely being restored to the rate that prevailed prior to the reduction that was made under the Premiers plan. All other reductions made under the Premiers plan were restored long ago. Under this agreement, the Australian Government and the Government of Queensland have agreed to amend the existing sugar agreement to provide for an increase of £4 2s. Sd. a ton in the wholesale price of refined sugar of 1A grade, and for the prices of sugar of other grades as at present fixed under the Sugar Agreement Act 1946 to be increased commensurately. The new maximum prices compared with existing prices will be as follows : -
The effect of this increase of £4 2s. Sd. a ton in the wholesale price of sugar will bc to raise the retail price of refined sugar by £4 13s. 4d. a ton, or -Jd. per lb. The new retail price in capital cities will therefore be 4jd. instead of 4d. per lb.
In pre-war years, Australia was one of the major sugar exporting countries in the world, its export quota of 400,000 tons under the International Sugar Agreement being exceeded only by Cuba, the Netherlands, the Philippines, and the British Colonial Empire. Australian production was then about 800,000 tons per annum. However, owing to unavoidable circumstances brought about by the war, production fell considerably during the last seven years. The principal contributing factors to the falling off in production were the scarcity of fertilizer resulting from the occupation by the enemy of Nauru and Ocean Island, and the shortage of man-power because of the calling up of men for the services and for the making of munitions of war. Such man-power as was available was largely unskilled and untrained and unable to do the same volume of heavy work in the field or in the mills as had been done by those regularly employed in the industry. The shortage of machinery, part3 and jute bags was also a contributing factor. During those years, the industry also suffered severely from droughts. In 1943, the total output fell to 523,000 tons, the lowest since 1927. Since 1943, production has remained well below normal. Last year the crop yielded only 548,000 tons. This season’s yield will be approximately -575,000 tons, which is 225,000 tons below the pre-war average. As a consequence, exports fell considerably. It is essential that total production be restored to pre-war levels as quickly as possible so that we may not only export as great a quantity as possible to the United Kingdom in order to meet that country’s present needs, but also at least maintain our export quota when the International Sugar Agreement is being reviewed.
The net return from sales of sugar on the domestic market has always been regarded as the major stabilizing factor in the economy of the industry. Owing to increased costs of transport, jute sacks, refining and selling, the net return from sugar consumed in Australia available to the Queensland Sugar Board for distribution to growers and millers declined from £24 a ton in 1939 to £21 18s. a ton in 1946. The Premier of Queensland has estimated that if the price of sugar be not increased, the return to the industry from the 1947 season’s crop will again he lower. The claim for restoration of the price of sugar to its former level is based mainly on the increased costs of production and manufacture. The price should have been increased when other cuts made under the Premiers plan were restored. Labour costs represent a big item in the production of sugar. An indication of how these have been increased may be given by a comparison of the wages of representative employees in the industry. For instance, between 1932 and 1947, the wages of field workers employed on cane farms were increased by 43 per cent. During the same period the wages of mill hands were increased by 48 per cent. Wages are now higher than in 1930, when the retail price of sugar was 4½d. per lb. The prices of materials used by the farmers and the millers have also risen sharply. The cost of farm materials, including fertilizers, horse feed, oils and repairs, has risen by approximately 40 per cent. Mill materials have risen in price by varying amounts. The costs of the principal items, coal and firewood, have risen by more than 30 per cent, and 33 per cent., respectively. The combined effect of all the factors I have mentioned has been to increase the overall costs of the industry by between 40 per cent, and 50 per cent. These additional costs have had to be borne by the industry, notwithstanding a fall in the net return from home-consumption sales of £2 2s. a ton. Admittedly, export prices have risen, but that has been of little benefit to the industry because of the substantial decline in the quantity of sugar exported. The industry cannot be expected to carry on under these difficulties without compensation. The increase in the retail price of sugar of £4 13s. 4d. a ton will enable the industry to bear these increased costs, facilitate its rehabilitation and encourage a return to pre-war production levels. The new price of sugar to manufacturers will still remain among the lowest, if not the lowest, in the world. The price to manufacturers in New Zealand is £53 a ton. In the United States of America the lowest price is £51 10s. a ton, and in the United Kingdom, £60 a ton.
During the war, Australian manufacturers of products containing sugar were immune from the violent fluctuations that took place in sugar prices overseas. In many countries the price of sugar rose to fantastic heights, and in some countries those prices still prevail. Exporters of manufactured products will continue to be protected by the clauses of the agreement providing for the payment of export sugar rebates in the event of the world parity price of sugar falling below the equivalent Australian price. The new retail price of 4½d. per lb. will still be generally lower than that which prevails in any other country. Expressed in
Australian currency, the price of sugar in some other countries is as follows: -
No other industry has shown such progressiveness and efficiency as has the Australian sugar industry. It is one of the most efficient industries in this country, and, in some respects, in the world. Evidence of its efficiency is shown by the following figures relating to the increased production to the acre during the period 1900-45:-
The fall in production in 1945 was due to disabilities arising from the war. Efficiency in the field has been increased as the result of scientific research into varieties of cane planted; and this has resulted in increased sugar content and resistance to diseases. Many tributes have been paid by sugar producers the world over to the high standard of efficiency of the industry in this country. On the manufacturing side, the efficiency of the industry has also been increased. Evidence was given at the 1931 inquiry by an American expert, Mr. L. D. Larson, of the Kilanea plantation, Hawaii, that Queensland held the record for producing one ton of sugar from a lesser amount of cane than any other cane-producing country. The figures in this respect are interesting. The average weight of cane required to produce one ton of sugar, was as follows :- 1900, 10.09 tons ; 1910, 8.70 tons; 1920, 8 tons; 1929, 6.91 tons; 1939, 6.77 tons; and 1944, 6.83 tons. Evidence of the efficiency of the Australian industry was also given at that inquiry by other American and South African experts.
Under the International Sugar Agreement, Australia has an export quota of 400,000 metric tons. Prior to the last war, this quota was filled by Australia, but owing to conditions caused by the war, such as, shortages of fertilizer, man-power and shipping, the quantity of sugar available for export decreased. Exports from this season’s crop are likely to total, approximately, 120,000 tons. The estimated present-day capital value of the raw sugar producing industry is £52,000,000, of which the growing section represents £32,000,000 and the milling £20,000,000. The loss occasioned by the decline of sales overseas has always ‘been borne directly by the industry. The net return to the industry from sales for local consumption has fallen from £24 a ton in 1938 to £21 18s. in 1946. The export price has increased from about £8 a ton to £25 a ton, but, because of the fall in the volume of exports, the industry has not been fully recompensed for greatly increased costs of production and manufacture during the war.
Under this agreement the industry is obliged to assist the fruit industry. For that purpose the Queensland Government makes an annual contribution of £216,000. From that fund a domestic sugar rebate of £2 4s. a ton and export sugar rebates, based on the world parity price of sugar, are paid. The industry is one of the largest employers of manpower in Australia. Normally it gives employment to 6,300 field workers, 9,000 cane cutters, 6,500 mill hands and 1,100 miscellaneous workers, or a total of 23,900 employees. Indirectly, it provides employment for 16,000 persons. There are approximately 8,500 sugar farms in this country, the average area of each farm being about 40 acres.
Experience has demonstrated that the sugar industry is our best means of settling the vulnerable coastlands of northeastern Australia. Many other tropical and sub-tropical industries have been started in those regions, such as dairying and timber-getting, but they have never made substantial progress because of torrential rains which cause difficulties for stock. In recent years the industry has expanded, and many towns have grown up as the result. The recent war proved conclusively the great advantage to Australia from a defence viewpoint of having a large white population on our vulnerable north-east coast. It was largely in that area that Australia trained and maintained its armies to repel the Japanese invader. Towns, such as, Townsville, Cairns, Bowen, Mackay, Bundaberg and Beenleigh, which owe their existence to the sugar industry, possessed the facilities to enable large armies to be congregated in those areas. We may require, again, to congregate large armies in those areas. Canefarmers’ equipment, such as, tractors and trucks was commandeered by the military forces for the purpose of constructing aerodromes and military roads, and it was from those aerodromes that aeroplanes took off to win the vital Coral Sea battle.
– What has that to do with a sugar bounty?
– I should like to point out we are not dealing with the payment of a bounty to the industry. However, whilst I welcome this restoration it has been too long delayed. The industry was entitled to receive some share of the subsidies, amounting to £64,800,000 which were paid during the war to needy industries. Of that amount, subsidy amounting to £5,152,872 was paid vo the dairying industry in 1944-45, and that sum was increased in 1945-46 to £6,373,511. Similar assistance was given to other primary industries such as the apple and pear industry. However, no assistance of that kind was given to the sugar industry. I welcome the bill; but, on behalf of the industry, I express my regret that as it did not participate in subsidies paid to primary industries during the war, this improvement is so long overdue.
– I support the bill, ‘because it provides well-merited assistance to the sugar industry. I do not propose to speak at length, because I believe that it is not necessary to state in this House the justification for the measure. I propose, however, to correct certain misapprehensions which may possibly exist in the minds of some honorable members and as they certainly exist in the minds of a considerable number of Australians. May I say, Mr. Speaker, that your reference to a sugar bounty a few minutes ago reveals a misconception, because there has never been such a thing as a sugar bounty. Under this measure the industry will be enabled, to recover what is commonly known as “ the depression cut “. I shall not deal with the fact that this proposal will increase the price of sugar to the consumer from 4d. to £hd. per lb. because it hasalready been pointed out that even allowing for that increase, the Australian consumer will continue to be supplied with the cheapest sugar in the world.
I propose to deal mainly with the effect of the measure upon the industry itself. This proposal will increase the price of refined sugar from £33 4s. to £37 6s. 8d. a ton, which -was the price laid down under the 1931 agreement. From that fact, many people will probably assume that the industry is being restored to its 1931 level; and that assumption is supported by certain remarks made by the Minister in charge of the bill when he said that the proposed increase of price would raise the net return to growers on home-consumption sugar from the 1947 crop by approximately £3 a ton. That is not correct, because the proposed increase will not apply to that portion of the 1947 crop which has already gone into consumption. The Minister also said that the measure of assistance now proposed is fully justified, and that it amounts to rehabilitating the industry to its former level. I do not deny that a substantial measure of assistance will be given to the industry under the bill, but that assistance will not. be sufficient to return the industry to its pre-depression level. That is my main point. In order to justify that statement it is necessary to state the prices which were received before the depression cut in 1933. A committee was appointed by the then government to investigate conditions in the sugar industry and, because of the association between the fruit industry and the sugar industry, there were representatives of the fruit industry on that committee. After making a comprehensive survey, the committee presented a report to the Government, and on this report the agreement of 1931 was based. It provided that refined sugar - that is, Al grade - would be sold in capital cities at £37 6s. 8d. a ton, or 4£d. per lb. In the sugar industry, however, we talk in terms of raw sugar, and the price agreed upon was the equivalent of £27 a ton for raw sugar. Then the depression came, and the sugar industry was required to make .a contribution towards the rehabilitation of the national economy, and to accept a price for refined sugar of £34 4s. a ton, equivalent to u price for raw sugar of £24. Since then, the price to the consumer has remained constant at 4d. per lb., and it is likely to be assumed that the return to the sugar industry has also remained constant. However, that has not been so. Since the revision of 1933, the return to the industry has steadily declined from £24 a ton to £21 18s. a ton, the figure at which it stood for 1945-4.6. Therefore, the fact that this measure provides for a return to the 1931 price for refined sugar does not mean tha,t the return to the sugar industry will bc the same as in 1931. The bill provides for an increase of £4 2s. 8d. for refined sugar. It takes 1.06 tons of raw sugar to make 1 ton of refined sugar. Therefore, the increase of £4 2s. 8d. for refined sugar is equivalent to an increase of only £3 18s. a ton for raw sugar, and when this is. added to the price of £21 18s.. we get a price of £-25 16s. for raw sugar.
That,, however, does not complete the picture, because several qualifications are attached which do not appear in the text of the bill. One is that, immediately the amended prices begin to operate, the shipping subsidy of 1.0s. a ton. which the sugar industry has been enjoying in common with other industries, will cease. Thi.« amount will have to come out. of the increase. The industry must also bear the co.=t of the 40-hour week, without using this fact as a reason for urging a further increase of price. It is difficult to determine the monetary cost to the industry of the 40-hour week, but experts have stated that it will bo not less than f’960.000 a year. Iti order to discover how much should be attached to the homeconsumption price of sugar to compensate for this. we must remember that the largest production of sugar in Queensland in any one year has been less than 900.Onn tons’ and that more than 50 per cent, of the present crop is consumed in Australia. It can be shown that at least £1 per ton of the increased cost due to the introduction of the 40-hour week should be debited against the price increase of £3 18s. a ton. Thus, we have deductions amounting to 30s. a ton, which will depress the amended price of raw sugar to £24 6s. a ton, which is only 6s. a ton more than the price paid after the depression cut of 1933. Thus, while the price for the consumer is raised to the pre-depression level, the return to the producer will be practically equivalent to the return obtained in the worst years of the depression.! Production costs are still mounting, and must be met out of the fixed price. The industry still faces a difficult task in rebuilding its economy after the war. It requires vast quantities of materials, such as galvanized iron, machinery and wire, all of which are very difficult to obtain. It requires large quantities of fertilizers, most of which are still rationed in one way or another. Finally, it needs a considerably increased amount of labour if the industry is to handle increased crops. In this regard, the Government can give valuable assistance, which, though not measured in cash, would actually be equivalent to the assistance provided in this measure. I do not wish to appear in the role of a carping critic. The Government was asked to increase the retail price of refined sugar to 4-Jd. per lb., and it agreed. I have mv own ideas of the motives which influenced it, but still, it did increase the price, and for that is worthy of congratulation. However, I believe it is important that the facts should be known. In the past, the industry has suffered because of a lack of knowledge of the circumstances associated with it. The sugar industry has been of great assistance to Australia, particularly in recent years, and it is desirable that an accurate knowledge of its economy should be widely held.
I refer now to farm values in the sugar industry, and to the way they are likely to be affected by recent developments, because this, too, is a. point upon which there has been a. good deal of misunderstanding. For instance, the industry recently found it necessary to correct a great misconception which apparently existed in the mind of -a certain judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court during the hearing of the Forty-hour week case. In order to combat that erroneous impression, a very careful survey was made of the actual farm sales that had taken place in the industry over a certain period. The results of the survey disclosed that the average value an acre of cane sugar farms throughout Queensland on a “walk-in, walk-out” basis was approximately £44 an acre. I ask honorable members to note that figure, because very often in casual conversation people are heard to say that sugar farms in northern Queensland are bought at a price of £100 or more an acre. The average figure in fact is £44 an acre. Of that amount, £22 represents the value of buildings, machinery, stock and crops, whilst a further £17 has to’ be allowed for fixed improvements. The average unimproved value is only £5 an acre. These figures, which cannot he challenged successfully, should be sufficient to show that farm values have not risen to any undue height as a result of the previous assistance received by the industry; nor are they likely to increase in the future as a result of the operation of this measure.
I hope this explanation of the true position that will obtain as a result of the passing of this bill will convince honorable members that the increase in price provided for is but simple justice) to the producer and that it does not amount in any sense to an exploitation of the consumer.
– I wish to know whether this proposed increase in the price of sugar is likely to result in greater supplies becoming available to consumers. The present shortage of sugar, at any rate in Victoria, is causing severe hardship to housewives. Representations have been made to me by housewives’ associations and individual housewives who are faced with the prospect of having very little sugar to use during the jam-making season just about to begin. Representations have also been made to me by those who are selling the summer fruits. The greengrocers fear that if sufficient sugar is not forthcoming, the summer fruits will be left on their hands. Soft fruits deteriorate very rapidly, and they say they cannot dispose of them unless sufficient sugar is available.
Oan the Minister say whether the supply of sugar will he affected by the increased price? If so, can a statement be made to assure these groups of people to which I have referred that sufficient quantities will be available?
– I wish first of all to compliment the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) upon the very explicit and precise statement he has put before the House. The sugar industry is indebted to him for his account of the history of its troubles. The honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) referred to the troubles of the greengrocers
– The honorable member referred to the troubles of the housewives. They cannot get the sugar.
– Perhaps the Minister will contain himself for a moment. The honorable member for Bourke mentioned greengrocers. There has been trouble with regard to fruit during the last two years. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) is always very concerned with the Victorian canned fruits, and I am concerned with the pineapples grown in my own district. On each occasion during the last two years when stone fruits have become available there has been a strike in New South Wales. If the honorable member for Bourke has any influence at all in this direction, I invite her to speak with me on any platform she cares to select, in an attempt to prevent these strikes again occurring in sugar refineries just at the time when the unfortunate growers wish to place their fruits with the canneries. During the last two years there have been strikes in the sugar refining industry in Sydney and Melbourne at the critical time, and, as a result, sufficient sugar has not been available to permit the fruit to be preserved. These strikes have been caused by the Communists in New South Wales and Victoria, and I would .be only too pleased to ask that the honorable member for Bourke should try to stop these people taking action which would result in the loss of the fruit for the third year in succession.
During the depression a Minister of the Australian Government negotiated an agreement by which the sugargrowers of Australia, nearly all of whom are in Queensland, agreed voluntarily to reduce their prices by id. per lb. That was not done after the depression, but during the depression.
– Who reduced it?
– The growers agreed voluntarily to reduce their retail price from 4½d. per lb. to 4d. per lb.
– It was the Lyons Government, was it not?
– It certainly was not a Labour government that made the approach to bring about a reduction in price. It was the Lyons Government. The policy of the Labour Government is high wages and short hours and cheap food. However, I do not wish to touch upon any contentious matters. The growers voluntarily reduced the price by id. per lb. Since the depression the retail price has been 4d. per lb., which reduced the price for raw sugar from £27 a ton to £24 a ton, or £21 10s. net. It will be realized that in all industries since that time there have been increased costs. There have been accumulated increased charges in every industry. During World War II., Australian sugar-growers could have obtained £50, £75 or even £90 a ton for their sugar on overseas markets. I remind the House that Australian sugar is the only sugar in the world which is produced by white labour. Some time ago, the sugar interests decided that after the conclusion of the war, they would ask the Australian Government, regardless of its political beliefs, to approve an increase of the retail price to 4-Jd. per lb. No other primary industry in Australia is so organized as is the sugar industry. But the payment of an additional id. per lb. will only restore the price to the figure ruling before the industry agreed to a reduction of id. per lb. during the financial and economic depression sixteen years ago. In the interval, many sugar-growers have left the industry, because they were unable to make ends meet.
Since the increase has been promised, costs of production have considerably increased. For example, employees in the industry are receiving higher wages, and transport costs also have risen. While the growers are grateful to the Government for the additional id. per lb., they contend that the increase is not sufficient. Indeed, increases of remuneration which have been granted to industrialists since the conclusion of World War II., plus machinery and other growers’ costs, will more than absorb the £2,000,000 which the growers hoped would be the value of the increase. Honorable members have only to consider the increase of the basic wage, and the introduction of the 40-hour working week, to realize how the costs of production of the sugar industry have been affected. Any assistance which has been granted to the industry has only been sufficient to enable it to continue in existence. The sugar industry makes possible the settlement of the northern areas of Queensland, ‘because in those districts other primary products could not be grown on a profitable basis. I appeal to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) to review, with the sugar interests, this important industry, and approve an increase of price commensurate with the higher cost of production. I emphasize that the increase of id. per lb. will not make the industry more profitable than it was a few years ago. I shall not commend the Government for granting this increase, because it knows perfectly well that Australian sugar interests demanded it. Nothing leas than the payment of an additional id. per lb. will suffice to enable the growers to remain on their farms. If they are unable to remain in the industry, the only alternative is the loss of a most valued industry.
.- As the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), who has one sugar mill in his electorate, assumed the responsibility of speaking on behalf of the sugar industry, I suppose that I, with nineteen sugar mills in my electorate, have no right to deprive him of that honour. The granting of an additional ½d. per lb. will only restore an amount which the Lyons Government took from the sugar industry sixteen years ago. It is unfortunate that the restoration of the id. per lb. has been so long delayed. However, that is what occurred, and the sugar industry, in common with every other industry, has had to suffer all the additional costs of production, and, to date, has not been so fortunate, as some other industries, as to receive an increase of price for its product.
The remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (“Mrs. Blackburn) regarding the sugar shortage were the principal factor that induced me to participate in this debate. The shortage of sugar is not confined to Victoria and New South Wales, but is general throughout, the Commonwealth. .Frequently, I have been asked to explain whether the Australian Government proposes to take any action to alleviate this shortage. I suggest to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) that when he replies to the honorable member for Bourke, he should explain to the House and the country that this Government has no Con.1 ro 1 whatever over the distribution of sugar, and, therefore, that the shortages throughout the Commonwealth are not its responsibility. As a matter of fact, this Government has been Warned for the shortages of many commodities, but as th” House is now dealing with sugar, I ask the Minister to inform honorable members as to the actual position.
.- All the speakers who have taken part in this debate, with the exception of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Rourke (Mr.-. Blackburn), have been the representatives of the sugar-producing arena of the Commonwealth. I desire to say a few words, speaking as the representative of one of the southern constituencies ‘where, perhaps, not a great deal of sugar is produced, but where, in normal circumstances, a considerable quantity of sugar is consumed. It is from that aspect that 1. shall address a few remarks to the House. “When 1 first came into this Parliament the price of sugar to Australian housewives, particularly in the southern States, was a live political question. One of the first excursions that I made as a member of the Parliament was to the northern areas of Queensland to see for myself, as far as I could do so during a short, visit, whether the protection accorded to the sugar industry and the price then prevailing for sugar could fairly be regarded as justified. It will probably relieve the feelings of my colleagues from Queensland if I say at once that my experience at that time confirmed my view that the price was just, and that the people in those northern areaswere making a valuable contribution to the economic life of Australia, and werecarrying on their industry under difficulties with which most people in thesouthern States were quite unfamiliar. I found also that for most of the articles that they required, and for the ordinary amenities of life, they had to pay higher prices than citizens in the southern parts of the Commonwealth were called upon to pay. I then formed the opinion that the policy of the Government which I supported - the Lyons Government - was sound and that the price of sugar was fair. I returned to my electorate and told my constituents the conclusions that I had reached. I believe that that view was generally accepted at that time, and has been accepted by most of the people of Australia since then. We are now asked to endorse a price increase of 12-i- per cent, in the retail price of sugar. As has been emphasized by members of all parties from Queensland, the increaseshould be interpreted as a price restoration rather than as a price increase. I shall not argue with them on that score, but I remind them that the higher price’ of sugar will represent an increaseof 1.2-J- per cent, to the Australian housewife in respect of the price of a basic commodity in daily use in Australian homes. I do not question the justice of the increase that, has taken place, because if we examine the price payable in other parts of the world, on the basis of figures which I understand have been supplied by the Department of Trade and Customs, it would appear that, with the exception of people living in the. United Kingdom, the consumers of sugar in Australia are paying a lower price, even with this increase, than people iri any other country are called upon to pay for their sugar.
– The price in the United Kingdom is 6id. per lb.
– That, T think, is in terms of Australian currency, because the figure supplied to me was 3¾d. per lb. Perhaps there had been an increase since I. received the information in my possession and, if so, I accept the correction of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). His interjection merely confirms my point. I say these things now because I believe that the sugar industry is of great value to Australia and that it i3 carried on under conditions which most Australians would regard as abnormal. The residents of the areas in which most of the sugar is produced have to pay heavy freight costs for most of the things they require, such as food, clothing and building materials, and consequently they are to that degree at a disadvantage compared with their fellows in other parts of the Commonwealth.
But my principal purpose in rising was not to address myself to that aspect of the sugar industry. I have a very genuine admiration for the people living in our far north. I do not think that most of us realize how far north some of them live. It came as rather a shock to me to learn that Brisbane is less than half way from Melbourne to Cairns. Most people in the Commonwealth who see the sugar districts on the map do not realize how remote they are from the southern districts of Australia. It is difficult, for example, to realize that the Queensland Parliament, sitting in Brisbane, is farther removed from a citizen of Cairns than Brisbane is from Melbourne. It is only when we realize the distances involved, and the difficulties of the people concerned, that we can get a proper approach to the problems associated with the sugar industry. We have every cause to be proud of the people living in our far north, including those in the sugargrowing areas, and if the Parliament is now according to them a belated measure of justice I am happy to support it.
I rose principally to deal with that aspect of the subject before us to which the honorable member for Bourke referred, namely, the current shortage of sugar in the southern States. This is a state of affairs which I hope the Minister will explain, because, as honorable members know, in pre-war days we were accustomed to a glut of sugar in this country. lt was then necessary for us to export a considerable portion of the sugar pro duced in Australia in order to keep the industry on its feet. Whatever the causes, the fact now is that, instead of a glut, there is an acute shortage of sugar in the southern States. I know how serious that shortage is in Victoria, and, from what I have been told by the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), the situation is as bad, if not even more acute, in Tasmania. There is, undoubtedly, a serious shortage of sugar for domestic consumption and manufacturing purposes in those two States at least. Th-i position is so’ extraordinary that the Minister should clarify it. More than two years have passed since the war ended, and, notwithstanding that sugar is being produced in large quantities, there is a shortage in many parts of Australia. Strangely enough, that scarcity is not confined to the southern States. When I was in northern Queensland last year. I was told that the citizens of Innisfail, which the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) and the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) will tell us is one of the main sugar-producing areas of the Commonwealth, could not, obtain sugar for domestic consumption. That, was not because sugar was not passing through the local mill, but because it had to be refined elsewhere. If the increase of the price of sugar is justified on economic grounds arising from general price increases, no one should have any hesitation in supporting it; but if the increase is due to the policy of the Government, or to any lack of efficiency on the part of those in control of the industry, especially in the direction of ensuring that the raw sugar is speedily refined and expeditiously transported to where it is needed, the Parliament should be told the facts. According to the information that I have, there is adequate production, but just as certainly there is an inadequate supply of refined sugar available for the people in at least some of the States. What factors have brought that situation about?
– Private enterprise has failed.
– I cannot accept that as r.he reason, unless the honorable member, or the Government, substantiates it in some detail. .Shipping has moved so slowly in recent years that unrefined sugar cannot be moved speedily enough to the refineries and the refined sugar speedily enough to where it is used. “We have a paradox.
– The shortage of labour is the trouble.
– When I learn that Australian coastal shipping is taking three times as long between ports as it did before the war, I cannot accept the explanation that the shortage of labour is the difficulty. There is not effective supervision or we are not getting the effort from men engaged in the transport industry required to keep supplies moving from State to State. Those are aspects that the Minister should explain to the House before it adopts this legislation. A further point that calls for clarification, which was not evident in the secondreading speech of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, is that if the problem is not one of sugar refining and there is an actual shortage, what representations have been made by the Commonwealth Government to the Queensland Government to ensure a greater acreage shall be put under production ? We know that there is a restriction of acreage in Queensland.
– There is no shortage of sugar. The honorable member knows that. The trouble is industrial.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) assures me that there is no shortage of sugar. If there is no shortage, argument about increased acreage would appear to go by the boa.rd, but it would appear that, when the world is clamouring for sugar, we should ensure the development of the widest area that could be developed for the cultivation of sugar cane.
– The .area under cultivation has been substantially increased for the settlement of ex-servicemen.
– I am glad to hear that. If that is so, we come back to the transport difficulty and the industrial trouble.
In respect of the movement and refining of sugar, if there are avoidable causes in the way of a satisfactory supply of sugar, I hope that the Government is doing something to remedy them. I hope that, in his speech in reply, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will give a satisfactory explanation of that point.
. - in reply - My reply will be necessarily brief. Other than the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) and the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn), the only honorable members who have spoken since I moved the second reading of the bill have been four Queensland members, who supported the measure. Apparently the bill completely satisfies members representing constituents in Queensland. The support accorded to this measure indicates that honorable members are conscious of the value of the great sugar industry to Australia. Many years ago I took an interest in the industry and spent some time on studying its development. I early became conscious that it is indeed one of Australia’s great national industries. It is essential. Therefore the growers, workers and processors must be assured of an adequate reward for the part they play in sustaining it. Unfortunately, outside this Parliament, there is a tendency to believe that, to some degree at least, the sugar industry is oversubsidized, over-profitable and a barnacle on the people of Australia other than Queenslanders. I have always disagreed utterly with that view, and I express gratification to-night that at least this House does not endorse it. Few manual workers give a better return for their labour than do the workers in the sugar industry, the shearing industry and the mining industry. I pay tribute to them. I pay tribute to the sugar-growers themselves, who are manual workers as well as brain workers, and to the process workers and all others engaged in the industry. I direct the attention of those southerners who sometimes feel that they are exploited and have the idea that they pay an undue sum to the producers of Queensland to the fact that during World War L, Great Britain found it necessary, as a matter of national policy, to introduce a system of subsidy payments to its sugar beet-growers when its supplies of sugar from other parts of the world were almost completely cut off by the German submarine blockade. For five years - I do not know what happened after that - it paid as a subsidy no less than £29,500,000 in order to establish within its own borders an industry that in. time of war or other difficult circumstances; would at least ensure it of some sugar production of its own.
– Great Britain still subsidizes the production of beet sugar.
– Yes. I have little to add except a few points in reference to the very relevant remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) about supplies of sugar in the southern States. I cannot give any assurance that this measure in itself will provide increased supplies for consumers in the southern States, but, at least, I can express the pious hope that the increased return provided for by the measure will be a factor in increasing supplies available to them. Production over a period has decreased. Last year production amounted to 548,000 tons. This year it will be 575,000 tons, which is 275,000 tons less than it was in the year in which war broke out. As the honorable member for Fawkner said, several factors are responsible for the insufficiency of sugar supplies in the States. There is the transport problem.
– And there is increased consumption.
– Yes. I was coming to that. There is also the problem of industrial troubles. More important than any other factor is that we have every one in work. Australian men, women, and children enjoy a higher standard of living than ever before in our history.
– Do not forget about the Government.
– There is no need for me to emphasize that this is the best Government in the world when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) himself admits that. The Australian people are consuming much more sugar per capita than ever before in our history. I appreciate the spirit in which the House has accepted and justified this measure, and I hope that it will assist materially tho preservation and advancement of this great Australian national industry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 9 -
The powers specified in Divisions 2 and 3 of this Part are conferred for the purpose of enabling the banking business of private banks to be conducted by or on behalf of the Commonwealth Bank and for the purpose of furthering the expansion of the banking business of the Commonwealth Bank.
Senate’s amendment No. 1. - :Leave out “enabling the banking business of private banks to be conducted by or on behalf of the Commonwealth Bank “, insert “ facilitating the control by the Commonwealth Bank of the banking business in Australia of private banks “.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This is substantially a drafting amendment. The object of the clause as it stands is to make clear that the powers conferred in the two succeeding Divisions of Part IV. are to be exercised for the purpose of banking and for purposes incidental to banking. Division 2 authorizes the Commonwealth Bank to acquire shares in Australian private banks, and Division 3 authorizes the Commonwealth Bank to appoint the directors of Australian private banks, the Australian shares in which have been acquired. The proposal is to amend the clause so as to state that these powers are conferred for the purpose of facilitating the control by the Commonwealth Bank of the banking business in Australia of private banks. It is obvious that the powers conferred under Divisions 2 and 3 will, in fact, do so. The new wording is more clear and direct than the wording of the clause as it now stands.
.- The last sentence of the explanation of this amendment by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is humorous. The Parliamentary Draftsman, in my experience of him, does have his humorous moments and this apparently was one of them. He says -
The new wording is more clear and direct than the wording of the clause as it now stands.
I remind honorable members that the wording of the clause as it now stands is that the powers specified are conferred “ for the purpose of enabling the banking business of private banks to be conducted by or on behalf of the Commonwealth Bank “. I thought that was fairly clear and showed exactly what was going to happen; but the new words are “for the purpose of ‘ facilitating the control by the Commonwealth Bank of the banking business in Australia of private banks “. If any honorable member can explain why the second version is more clear than the first, I shall, to use an old phrase, “ eat my hat “. The only difference that I can find - and I have examined the proposal with every care - is that as the clause now stands it talks of the banking business of the private bank being “ conducted by or on behalf of the Commonwealth Bank “ - “ conducted “ is the word that I emphasize - whereas in the revised version the word is “ control “. I have a feeling that the lawyers must have .been to work, and that somebody has suggested that as this bill is to be argued in the High Court, perhaps it would be. more pleasant to have a word like “ control “, which does not sound quite so much like complete nationalization as the word “conducted”. So, for some reason of that kind, this change is being made.
– I do not know whether the right honorable member is right about the purpose of the alteration, but that the lawyers have been concerned in the matter is perfectly true.
– I could smell it all over the amendment. .So, there is a great and mysterious scheme enshrined in these words; but, as the Government has a majority in this chamber, all the comments in the world by me on that great and mysterious scheme will not amount to anything. I shall content myself by saying that I dissent, .from the proposition that the new wording is more clear and more direct than the wording as the clause now stands.
.- With the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), I cannot accept that this amendment is merely a drafting amendment. Obviously, it has some deeper significance than that. Although the Prime
Minister (Mr. Chifley), with that reticence to which we have become accustomed, without, however, feeling any appreciation of it, has said that it is merely a drafting amendment, I see a significance in it possibly beyond that envisaged by the Leader of the Opposition. The new words that the Prime Minister proposes to insert are “ facilitating the control by the Commonwealth Bank of the banking business in Australia of private banks “. When these words are considered in relation to the words that now stand in the bill, the suggestion is that all that is going to happen when this amendment is agreed to is that the Commonwealth Bank will act as a central bank, much as it has acted in the past, and that the private banks will carry on, much as they have carried on in the past, the only difference being that the Government will hold the shares in the private banks. Otherwise, there will be no substantial change in the commercial and banking practices of the Commonwealth. That, seems to link up with, something that was said by the Prime Minister in his second-reading speech, but which I do not think has been Mated explicitly since. If the intention of the Government is merely to maintain a central bank, and, while holding the bulk of the shares in the trading banks, to carry on these banks as they are at present, while exercising merely a benevolent, control over them, it would be as well if the Prime Minister took the committee into his confidence and told us just what the proposal is. It is not to be expected at this late stage of the banking legislation - the most significant legislation, on the admission of every one concerned, that the Parliament has had presented to it since federation - that an amendment is to be made .merely for drafting purposes.
Even before the bill was debated in committee and while we were protesting against the limit imposed upon the debate, I myself reminded the Prime Minister that it had been the practice of his Government to introduce a number of amendments to its legislation. The right honorable gentleman, with a show of indignation, said, “ Not to my bills “. He was quite haughty about it. He suggested that he took such good care in the drafting of bills that it was not his practice to alter a word of them. So when we contrast the right honorable gentleman’s present attitude and our experience of bills which he has introduced, on the one hand, with our knowledge of the procedure adopted in regard to bills introduced by other Ministers, including some of the most senior, such as the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), on the other hand, I cannot bring myself to accept the Prime Minister’s simple assurance that the amendment proposed is simply a technical one. It may be that the interpretation placed upon the Government’s action by the Leader of the Opposition is correct, and that reference will be made to this amendment when the whole measure is litigated in the courts. However, the Prime Minister is asking us to stretch our faith in human nature when he asks us to believe that at this late stage of a measure which was debated at such great length this amendment has been introduced merely for drafting purposes. My own interpretation of his action is that he is seeking to lull the suspicions of those who believe that there is to be only one great bank. The Prime Minister is saying, in effect, “ There will be one central bank, but the other banks, whose shares that central bank holds, will continue to operate as they have in the past”.
– I do not propose to go into any further explanation of the proposed amendment. The draftsmen who prepared this measure were given instructions as to what the Government intended. Upon reviewing some aspects of the verbiage and the draftsmanship of the bill, they believe that some clauses do not express the Government’s intention as clearly as it might be expressed, and that is the reason for the amendment proposed. I fan assure the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) that no fresh instructions were issued to the draftsmen, either by myself or by any member of the Government, and that the amendment proposed is not the result of any change of attitude on the part of the Government or of later legal advice. I am pleased to notice that the honorable mem ber for Warringah (Mr. Spender) did not participate in this debate, because I could not have given him any more information. As the honorable member for Fawkner suggested, this is purely a lawyer’s drafting amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 33- (1.) The Court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine claims for compensation arising under this Act.
Senate’s amendment No. 2. - At end of clause add the following sub-clauses: - “ (6.) Where the members of the Court are divided in opinion on any question, the question shall be decided according to the decision of the majority, if there is a majority, but if the members of the Court are equally divided in opinion the question shall he decided according to the opinion of the Chief Judge, or, if the Chief Judge is not a member of the Court or there is a vacancy in the office of Chief Judge, according to the opinion of the next senior Judge present. “ (7.) For the purposes of thelast preceding sub-section, the Judges of the Court shall have seniority according to the dates of their commissions. “
. -I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This is a purely technical amendment. The first object of inserting the proposed new sub-clauses is to make clear that the Federal Court of Claims is able to act bya ma jority decision. For the purposes of this bill, the jurisdiction of the court is to be exercised by not fewer than three judges, but there is nothing in the bill to require that there shall always be an uneven number of judges sitting. The proposed new sub-clauses indicate how the decision is to be reached in cases where the court is equally divided in opinion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 34 -
A judgment or order of the Court -
shall be final and conclusive;
Senate’s amendmentNo. 3. - At end of clause add the following sub-clause: - “ (2.) A judgment or order of the Court shall be enforceable as if it were a judgment or order of the High Court.”.
– I move: -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This is a purely technical amendment. Under the bill as it stands, provision for the manner in which the judgments of the Federal Court of Claims are to be enforced is left to be made by the judges, in the exercise of their power to make rules of court. It seems preferable to cover this point in advance, as has been done with other federal courts.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate’s amendment No. 4. - After clause60, insert the following new clause: - “ 60a. The Commonwealth guarantees the payment of all compensation payable by the Commonwealth Bank under this Act.”.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This is a technical amendment, inserted to clarify the legal position. As the committee is aware, the acquisition of banking property under the bill will be carried out by. the Commonwealth Bank, and not by the Commonwealth. Under section 10 of the Commonwealth Bank Act, the Commonwealth guarantees the payment by the Commonwealth Bank of all moneys due by the bank. This means that claims under this bill must be made against the Commonwealth Bank in the first instance, and assessed against the bank by the court if necessary, but that the whole resources of the Commonwealth stand behind the obligation to pay. The amendment puts this position in strict legal form.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) stated in the course of his second-reading speech that the compensation required to be paid to private banks and their shareholders would be financed from the resources of the Commonwealth Bank. Section 10 of the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945 provides that the “ Commonwealth shall be responsible for the payment of all moneys due by the bank “. It seems significant to me that the Government now finds it necessary to introduce the amendment proposed to this clause in order to amplify a provision which already exists in another act. In its present form the measure contains no provision with regard to the method to be adopted to finance the very large trans actions which will be involved. Is it a fact that the Government now finds that the Commonwealth Bank cannot finance the acquisition of the shares of the trading banks out of its own resources, and that it is necessary to guarantee payment of compensation by specifically declaring that the whole resources of the Commonwealth are behind that bank? During the course of the second-reading debate the Prime Minister contented himself with asserting that the resources of the Commonwealth Bank would be sufficient to finance the acquisition of the shares of trading banks, and that no other funds would require to be employed.
– I can assure the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) that there has been no change in the minds of members of the Government in regard to the capacity of the Commonwealth Bank to discharge from its own resources the liabilities imposed upon it by this bill. The amendment proposed is simply the result of a suggestion made by the draftsmen, who are members of the legal profession, and profess to detect some point which requires to be clarified. Because so many lawyers have been engaged in the preparation of the bill, I have deferred to their point of view in regard to technicalities, and for no other reason. I can assure the Leader of the Australian Country party that my opinion now is no different from that which I held when I made my second-reading speech.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported: report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 19th November (vide page 2305), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This measure cannot be allowed to pass without some comment by the Opposition. Notwithstanding the fact that we are now supposed to be living in a time of peace, no attempt has been made to reconstruct the Ministry to bring it into’ line with normal peace-time ministries. In other words, the Government is not prepared to apply to itself the treatment which it insists must be applied to other organizations. The official records disclose that the Prime Minister and Treasurer is the Bight Honorable J. B. Chifley, and that the next Minister, in order of seniority, is the Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), who is also Deputy Prime Minister. However, he is very seldom in Australia nowadays, and it appears that very shortly it will be necessary to appoint a deputy to the Deputy Prime Minister so that that office will continue to function. There is no doubt that a Minister who is responsible for the AttorneyGeneralship and the Ministry of External Affairs has a fairly large part of his _ time occupied by his ministerial duties; but when he has added to them the chairmanship of some committee which is to settle the Arab-Jew question, and is very busily engaged at Lake Success settling the affairs of the world, it is obvious that he has more than a fulltime job. It is not to be wondered at that, perhaps, there is some falling off in the efficiency of a certain government department when its official head is so little in attendance to guide its affairs.
I am surprised to find that, from the point of view of seniority, the third Minister in this miscellaneous make-up is the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway). I should not have expected to find that, from the precedence which Ministers take, even if it be not accorded to them, in the active operations in this place. I grant that, possibly, the Minister for Labour and National Service has a fair amount of work to do. If one can judge by the number of employment bureaux being scattered all over Australia, he might have a full-time job looking after them. Next, as fourth in order of seniority, is the Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford). Here, again, we might concede that the gentleman who is responsible for the administration of those two departments is more or less fully occupied, especially when we remember that during his time- he has set a precedent by entering into the field of government activity in the air. He has also paid visits overseas once or twice. Fifth on the list we have one of the most amazing appointments I have ever known, that of Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully). I see my friend, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, sitting at the end of the Government bench. He must be the most expensive Minister in the Government. I did not think that the moving of the “ gag “ would ever be such a costly financial operation as it has been since my friend’3 appointment to that post.
– It is a very effective operation.
– Yes, but the Minister does not use it on the right side. If the Minister for Transport (Mr. “Ward) suffered from its operation once or twice it would, perhaps, be better for his own team. Perhaps the VicePresident of the Executive Council is just a little inclined to lean too much towards the left when he should lean towards the right. Next in line is the Minister for Supply and Shipping and Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Ashley). There can be no doubt that whatever the Minister’s activities may be, the way in which the Ministry of Supply and Shipping, especially Shipping, is being conducted to-day leaves a lot to be desired.
– The Minister also handles disposals.
– He either handles disposals or disposals handle him, or perhaps they handle themselves. Next, we have the Minister for Defence, Minister for Postwar Reconstruction and Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Mr. Dedman). I notice that this Minister is now presiding at some conference in the city of Havana. He was here only a few days ago. So much for that. Next, we have the Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward). He is listed in about the centre of the list, whereas he should be at the extreme left, which would put him last. Whether or not he has enough to occupy his time and mind ministerially, he is always busy in some other direction. We have not heard lately how he is getting on with the establishment of the native village in New Guinea, and whether he has decided to name it after himself or after me. I thought that, in due course, I might receive some mark of approbation from the Minister by having the village named after me; but no doubt it will be called “ Ward ville “, or something as near to that as one can get in the language of the natives of New Guinea. The Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) comes next. As one who had a very short but rather hectic life in that capacity, I may say that it did not take me two hours active work a day to carry out my ministerial responsibilities. The Postmaster-General might say that I did not carry them out fully. Honorable members opposite may have disagreed with one or two things that I then did.
– We did.
– But not too loudly. They were not prepared to challenge them.
– What about 2KY?
– I would have given “five bob” any day for -the Minister for Transport to have submitted a motion on that matter.
– We asked the honorable gentleman to produce the file on 2KY, but he ran away.
– He went on a fishing trip to Kangaroo Island.
– I fixed up that matter long before I went fishing and I had the pleasure of making one or two of the honorable member’s “ cobbers “ fly over to Kangaroo Island to see me and apologize. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) wanted to make a broadcast at 10 o’clock in the morning, but I kept him off the air until ten o’clock at night, so I had another win there.
– Where did the honorable member finish up?
– The Minister and all his friends will be finished on the very first occasion on which they go out to grass. Next, we have the Minister for Information and Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell). I have to ask him an interesting question to-morrow relating to his department, so I had better not ruffle his feathers too much to-night. Here in the Ministry of
Information we have a completely redundant department, which is causing great expense to this country and is not producing one shilling’s worth of actual value for every £3 of expenditure incurred upon it. It is difficult for us to justify expenditure on that department. Next, we have the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), who might be called the Martha of the Ministry, as he has to do all the rough jobs about the kitchen and the house. Honorable members will recall the role played by Martha in Holy Scripture.
Then we have the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna), who is in charge of a growing department. I merely say that it is very hard to justify some of the activities of that department. Next in turn is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard). He will not want to make many speeches of the kind he made this afternoon or he will be very much lower down on the list, and I do not regard that as hostile comment. Then we come to the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon). Seeing that most of the housing construction in the Commonwealth is carried out by the State governments, it is difficult to understand why we should have a Minister in charge of housing. As to works, there are good works and bad works. It is the tail-end of this list of the second Chifley Ministry which is most interesting. Heading the “ tail-enders “ is the Minister for Munitions (Senator Armstrong). How, in present circumstances, we can justify the retention of a Ministry of Munitions is beyond my understanding. The same remarks apply to the Ministry of the Navy and I say that with great respect for the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), who occupies that portfolio at present. Outside Tone’s Fir/Ming Ships, one would need a good telescope to get a good look at the Australian Navy. Perhaps a microscope would be the more appropriate instrument to use for that purpose. How we can justify the appointment of a special Minister to control the Navy, I do not know. The same remarks apply to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers). To my mind, the time has come when there should be incorporated in the
Ministry of Defence the Ministries of the Army, Navy, Air and Munitions. “We should get down to a policy under which the whole of the defence activities of the Commonwealth will he brought under the co-ordinated control of one Minister.
– The honorable member is against centralization?
– I am against centralization; but I am not against bringing under one ministerial head all of the departments which should be brought under one Minister in order that departments may be administered efficiently. The present tendency throughout the world, born of the experience of the recent war, is to bring Army, Navy and Air Force under one head, and to have them much more closely coordinated with regard to policy and tactics than they have ever been before. The tendency of this Government, however, seems to be to disperse responsibilities, whereas the governments of every other country have concentrated similar responsibilities. We have also the Ministry of Trade and Customs, which, of course, is very necessary, because the Government’s “ Peter “ must collect the pence for the treasury as Peter did of old. Last on the list is the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard).
The salient fact with respect to ministerial responsibilities is that whatever they may be they cannot be so great to-day in a majority of departments as they were when we were prosecuting the war. Furthermore, Ministers received an increase of salary this year just the same as every other honorable member did.
– Not every honorable member.
– Some honorable members refused to accept that increase. That is their own decision. I make no comment on that, because we volunteer, in the strictest sense of the word, to come here. No one is forced to come here; but if I had my way every honorable member would be forced to take the prescribed salary, whatever it be. In the present circumstances, it is very difficult to justify this increase of £6,400 in the ministerial pool. The time is overdue when there should be a thoroughgoing reconstruction of the Ministry involving concentration of some government departments under one general head, a general review of ministerial responsibility and a trimming of the ministerial order to suit the’ conditions of peace. However, the Government is attempting to maintain in peace every organization just exactly as it functioned in war, and virtually to pretend that there is no necessity whatever for any alteration.
– I cannot allow the bill to pass without protesting against it. I protest against the inordinate amount which Ministers propose to vote to themselves. As the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has pointed out, Ministers shared in the recent increase of £500 per annum granted to each honorable member. I thought at that time that that was a fairly adequate increase to members having regard to the service they render. It is very difficult, indeed, to resist the claims of other pressure groups in the community. When I say “ pressure groups “, I use the term with all respect to old-age pensioners, war widows and others who are making claims upon the Government.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman cannot explore all those claims under the bill.
– I am pointing out that when Ministers grant to themselves an increase which will bring their salaries up to £2,850 each, or £55 a week each, it is very hard to resist the claims of other sections of the community.
– The honorable member will not be in order in exploring those claims.
– I am not doing so. I am pointing to the morality of this proposal; and I am entitled to do that.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill, or I shall ask him to resume his seat. He is trying to be clever at the expense of the Chair. Speak to the bill.
– The Chair is trying to be clever at my expense. I have certain rights; and I am speaking to the bill. I regard it as one of the most shameful measures that have been introduced into this Parliament. Under it, Ministers propose to vote to themselves an additional amount in salary of £6,400 a year, and to make the increase retrospective to the 1st July, that is five months ago. In addition, they received an increase of £500 per annum which was recently granted to all honorable members ; but Ministers are still not satisfied. As the honorable member for Barker has pointed out, nineteen Ministers are now doing work which has become redundant as the result of the cessation of the war. I have in mind the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) and the Minister for Munitions (‘Senator Armstrong). I do so with due respect to them personally. Recently, the Government of the United Kingdom reduced the number of its Ministers, and every other member of the British Commonwealth of Nations is reducing the number of its executive, because the requirements of ministerial direction during peace are not so pressing as they were a few years ago. However, although the duties of the majority of Ministers have decreased, the Government now proposes to increase their salaries to £55 a week, and to make the increase retrospective to the 1st July last. These are the gentlemen who make declarations about “ tall poppies “, and use other similar descriptions of persons in the higher ranges of income. I do not begrudge salaries which are legitimate, fair and appropriate to the duties involved, but we are losing our sense of proportion in this Parliament in respect of what we vote to ourselves, simply because we have the power to vote it. There is no other reason. I submit that if this matter were referred to a conciliation commissioner, even one of the recently appointed commissioners, he would not award the retrospective grant proposed in clause 3. I oppose the bill. There is no warranty for it. The amounts cannot be justified ; and we cannot justify making the increase retrospective. The bill is a misuse of the power of Ministers to make awards to themselves.
.- I oppose the bill. I opposed the measure which increased the number of Ministers to nineteen. Why is this increase proposed? It is made simply to keep in ministerial office some Ministers who should be back on the back benches. 1 do not deny that the work of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and some senior Ministers is very heavy. When federation was formed eight Ministers sufficed ; and the first government of the Commonwealth enacted practically all of the foundational and basic legislation now on the statute-book. We now have nineteen Ministers, who will now take this further increase from the taxpayers’ money when this additional payment of £6,400 a year, which is to be made retrospective to the 1st July last, is approved, as it will be, with the passage of the bill, within a few minutes. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has put the’ scarifier pretty closely through the hierarchy; but one can make specific reference to individual Ministers. It is positively ridiculous to have four Ministers dealing with defence. There is Minister for Defence who holds other portfolios.
– There is a fifth, the Minister for Munitions.
– I do not include him. We have the Ministers for the Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as the Minister for Defence. There is no army operating in Australia. There is not a single battalion training in this country. We have a force in Japan, but that is beyond the Minister’s reach. We have a navy consisting of a few cruisers and destroyers and, shortly, we shall acquire two “ flat-tops “. It is a very small navy. The Minister admitted recently that he could not demobilize his medical officers because, although the department advertised for doctors, it got no replies. Yet the Minister draws £2,500 a year, or approximately £55 a week, for a job which carries no responsibility. In fact, the department could carry on automatically. Then we have a Minister for Munitions (Senator “Armstrong). What munitions are being made now? I understand that the department has actually launched out on the manufacture of caps for toy pistols. That shows to what lengths it is driven to keep itself in existence. The department did good work during the war, but it should be wound up now, and the employees allowed to go into productive activities. We also have a Minister for
Air (Mr. Drakeford), who was in the chamber a minute ago, though I do not see him now.
– I have stated before that it is bad form to refer to the absence of any honorable member from the chamber. It might be misunderstood.
– He is behind the Speaker’s chair.
– Well, he was here a moment ago. At any rate, I am glad he is behind the Speaker’s chair. There is a Royal Australian Air Force, which has been so effectively demobilized that there is scarcely a squadron in existence in Australia. Hundreds of aircraft may be seen in the -fields alongside the road between Melbourne and Geelong. I suggest that some of these aircraft might be used to carry supplies to places where they are needed. It has been reported that recently the Minister used a twentypassenger Dakota aircraft to return from Tasmania from a union meeting. Is it right that he should use an aircraft which consumes 360 gallons of petrol for this return trip and for to and from trips between Melbourne and Canberra, when the dollar shortage is so acute, and there are airlines operating on the same route ? Practices of that kind should be abandoned. A Minister for Defence, with one assistant Minister, could do the whole job. For the last two years, the junior Ministers have been engaged in salvage operations only. There is a Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), with a £200,000,000 scheme in his head for the standardization of railway gauges. His only sideline is the Department of Externa] Territories, including New Guinea, that valuable territory which was an outpost of defence for Australia during the war. He never took any interest in it until he became Minister, and we are entitled to ask just how interested he is in it now. We have all heard his arrogant replies to questions about New Guinea. It is time the Prime Minister called him to task, or replaced him by somebody who was at least sympatheticto the white settlers there. The present Minister, by his maladministration, seems to be anxious to drive the white settlers out of the territory. There is also a Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), who sits somnolent on the front bench until some one touches him on the shoulder and says, “ Come on, it is time you moved that the question be put”. Then he rises to his feet, and applies the gag.
We must not overlook the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard), who is nineteenth in the hierarchy. That is where he belongs. It must have been a very close shave for him to have got in at all. If the Minister for Repatriation had not interjected, I might have forgotten him. He deserves to be forgotten. If he runs his department as inefficiently as did his predecessor, who was defeated at the last election, we shall probably not see him in this House after the election two years hence. The Department of Repatriation has many efficient officers, and has done excellent work. However, the Minister had the audacity to circularize deputy commissioners, reminding them that the policy of the department -was preference to unionists. Actually, the Minister is a mere cypher. When an honorable member asks a question, the Minister rises and says that he will obtain the information - and it comes along perhaps six months later. I think he tries now and then to do something, within the limits of his ability, but he should call the commissioners together and say, “ Let us have prompt decisions “. I received a letter from him a few days ago in respect of a claim for a widow’s pension that was made six months ago. If that is an example of the celerity with which the department works, God help the Commonwealth !
I am sorry that the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) is frowning at me. I had nearly forgotten him, too. This young man was left a hereditas damnosa. He is very busy getting out publications prepared by longhaired young men and short-haired women, and he is very busy making plans, but the results have not been notable. In Victoria, last year, fourteen war service homes were completed. A good many more were started, but were never finished; yet the philanthropist, Mr. Sol. Green, built 50 houses in twelve months without government assistance and without the overhead. During the war, the Cabinet could have been dispensed with altogether, and if we were to dispense with it now, we could save enough money to build many houses and provide useful community services. I do not minimize the work done by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard). Hie is also carrying in this House the burden of the Minister for Trade and Customs. I have always said that the portfolio should be held by a Minister in this House. The Minister representing him here is forced to say, in answer to questions, that he will confer with his colleague in the Senate, and provide a reply later. He has a full-time job in connexion with commerce, on the export side. The Ministry should be reshuffled. I could go through these cases individually and draw attention to other inadequacies.
The bill contains only about twenty lines of print, but it mulcts the taxpayer of over £5,000 a year. That amount is to be divided among the honorable gentlemen sitting on the Government front bench. It would be a good thing to invite these sixteen paragons of industrial virtue, the new conciliation commissioners, to sit in the public gallery here, to let them look at the Government front bench and to see whether they could agree unanimously that the Ministers are worthy of the increase. These gentlemen go to caucus-
– The honorable gentleman should deal with the bill.
– You, sir, know the workings of caucus better than I do.
– I know the Standing Orders as well.
– I will not transgress the Standing Orders; nor will I touch upon the sacred subject of caucus. That is a star chamber, and whatever is decided there goes.
– Order 1 The honorable gentleman should deal with the bill.
– The bill provides for an increase of over £5,000 a year, and I am opposed to it. I repeat that when federation was brought about, eight Ministers were considered to be sufficient for the government of this country. Those were the halcyon days. Those were not the days when Ministers came into office and grabbed with both hands all the pay and all the increments they could get. Every one of these nineteen Ministers has a motor car which travels from State to State, even for the purpose of conveying relatives’ baggage.
– The honorable member should not say too much. Otherwise I might say a few things about him.
– Order ! Motorcars are not mentioned in the bill.
– I agree. The use of a motor car is one of the amenities that is not mentioned. Only pay is mentioned here, and I consider that in about twelve cases of the nineteen it is an overpayment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill road a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 19th November (vide page 2306), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 19th November (vide page 2312), on motion by Mr. Lemmon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is to deal with servicemen serving in the interim army and the interim air force and to extend to them the facilities provided by the War Service Homes Act. The second-reading speech of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) was very brief and slightly ambiguous, but I believe I am right in saying that the bill takes in all men. serving in the interim forces. The area of eligibility is widened, but as a result the waiting list is increased. Although this department is a federal one and is not dependent upon any State activity, its record of recent years is an uninspiring one. As late as the 22nd October of this year, Senator
Cooper asked what was the total number of applications for war service, homes received for the year ended the 30th lune, 1947. Without going into details of the figures for each State, the reply revealed that there were 12,503 applications. The honorable senator further asked how many of the applications were approved, and he was told that of those 12,503 applications, only 4,931 were approved. None was approved for the Northern Territory, although there were five applications. The honorable senator inquired how many homes were under construction at the 30th June, 1947, and the answer was that there were 1,069. He went on to ask how many were completed. It is useless merely to start houses or to buy blocks of land, and then ro include them in the list and say that something is being done. The answer given to the honorable senator was that in New South Wales fourteen houses were completed; in Victoria, thirteen; in Queensland, 100; in South Australia, 56; in Western Australia, 135; and in Tasmania, 10. That is a very uninspiring record.
– Sol. Green did more than that.
– Sol. Green built more houses in Victoria at a cost of “ £50,000 than the whole department erected in that State, and it has to be borne in mind that the overhead charges of the department amount to about £50,000. I do not criticize the officials. They are hardworking nien, mostly ex-servicemen. The excuse can be made that there is a shortage of materials. All the criticisms I made last night regarding the shortage of labour and materials can apply in this instance as well. The Minister is well aware that his difficulties will be increased by reason of the greater number of persons becoming eligible for the provision of these facilities owing to the operation of this measure. Something should be done to galvanize the department into greater activity and a more forthright policy should be laid down, There are two major matters involved here and T. ask the Minister to devote his attention to them. First of all, in a question recently addressed by myself to the Prime Minister, it was pointed out that ex-servicemen in Papua and New Guinea do not get. the benefit of the facilities provided by the War Service Homes Department. Most of the settlers are exservicemen and most of them are eligible, yet no facilities are provided. The federal conference of the “Returned Sailors, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia raised the matter when it met in Canberra. I received a favorable answer to my question, and the Prime Minister said he would see that something was done.
I ask the Minister for Works and Housing to look into this matter. There is no reason why these men, who have already suffered hardship, should not have the benefit of these facilities, and there is no reason why the department should not undertake the building for them instead of leaving it in the inefficient hands of the Ministry of Transport and External Territories. As to the second matter to which I have referred, not so long ago the Minister for Works and Housing said that his department intended to evolve a special type of house that would be DU rchaseable by the widows of ex-servicemen. As I pointed out in the previous debate, it would probably be said that, a. widow was not a good risk - that, she had only a pension and had insufficient money to put down on a property. That is wrong. They should be granted a priority, and their eligibility should not be subject to a means test. I am aware that the Minister has been endeavouring to find a solution of the problem. He stated that a type of small home would be designed to meet the.se particular cases, but he has not indicated in this debate whether any progress has yet been made with that proposal. At the committee stage I propose to move an amendment to give effect to my proposal for the purpose of ensuring that the facilities of the War Service Homes Department shall be extended to persons residing in the territories.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section four of the principal act is amended -
Motion (by Mr. White) proposed -
That the following new paragraph be added : -
by adding at the end of the definition of “ eligible person “ the following words: - “and includes a resident of the Territory of New Guinea or the Territory of Papua”.
.- The Government cannot accept the amendment, which is designed to extend the whole of the provisions of the War Service Homes Act to the Territories of Papua and New Guinea. I inform the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) that such an extension is now under consideration, but, in view of the building position in Australia at the present time, the Government does not feel disposed, at this j lnCture, to apply the provisions of the act to the territories. I shall discuss the proposal with the Minister for External territories (Mr. Ward) after he visits Papua and New Guinea early in the new year.
– I propose to read to the committee the contents of a letter which I have received from an ex-serviceman who is now living in New Guinea. The writer deals with his desire to obtain a war service home, or, for that matter, a home of any kind. He says that an official visited him after he had made certain statements regarding the lack of home3, and his letter reads -
I was able to show him plenty, including two young married women, expectant mothers, who were compelled to live in tents because the Administration cannot make timber available, and yet coming up to my home last night, T passed two jinker loads of newly cut timber coming into Rabaul from the Administration saw-mill.
That letter, which is dated the 21st November, was despatched by airmail. The statement of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) that priority must be given to the construction of homes in Australia, where the building programme is not so advanced as we should like it to be, ignores the claims of young married persons, particularly exservicemen, who are undertaking pioneering work in New Guinea. Therefore, I take this opportunity to present their viewpoint, in the hope that it will receive sympathetic consideration from the Government.
.- I exhort the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) to accept the amendment. I remind him that all the requirements of timber and other materials for home construction are already available in the territories, and I am sure that the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) would feel relieved if the Department of Works and Housing assumed responsibility for this job. This department, which is able to “ deliver the goods “, is quite capable of erecting homes in the territories. If my suggestion were adopted, the Department of Works and Housing would relieve the Administration of this responsibility, and yet work harmoniously with it. I cannot see any reason why the Minister should reject the amendment. My proposal, if given effect, would not involve considerable expenditure, and the construction of homes in the territories would be properly supervised. Homes of a good standard are built under the direction of the War Service Homes Commission, and many more of them are required. Speaking from memory, I believe that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) gave an assurance, when the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia conference met in Canberra, that at an early date the suggestion which I now make would be given effect. I urge the Minister to examine that assurance.
– The statement of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) that adequate supplies of building materials are ‘available in the territories, is not in accordance with the facts. I returned recently from a visit to Rabaul, Lae, Finschhaven and Port Moresby. I travelled many miles by jeep through those areas for the purpose of examining the timber possibilities, and compiling a report for the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) on future construction and town sites. The Department of Works and Housing has taken over from the Department of External Territories the whole of the building programme, and is setting up a works organization throughout the territories. So great are the difficulties that we are not able to obtain buildings for our own employees. For example, the project engineer, whose head-quarters will be situated at Port Moresby, is living in a structure which is lined with sisalcraft.
– Houses have been built at Bulolo.
– I visited Bulolo. There is a stand of good pine handy to the town, and from this timber a good type of home has been constructed. However, those conditions - good timber and proximity to a town - do not occur elsewhere in the territory. The whole of the plant is owned by the Bulolo gold dredging enterprise, and we hope to construct prefabricated homes in the Bulolo area, and transport them to the coast. As the honorable member is aware, the principal means of transport between Lae and Bulolo is by air. The cost of conveying a prefabricated house by air would be prohibitive, and from the physical standpoint, this method of transport would have great difficulties. We have obtained machinery to construct a good road from Bulolo to Lae, but before that work can proceed very far, we must erect a bridge over a river approximately 30 miles away. This engineering job will be undertaken by the Department of Works and Housing. When the work is completed, the transport position will be greatly improved.
The statement of the honorable member that adequate supplies of timber and other building materials are available in these areas is not correct. The honorable gentleman is aware of the effect of the tropical climate on such materials as black iron, particularly when they were badly damaged during the war. Some supplies of galvanized iron, in good condition, are still available, and we are salvaging it. All the other material is in bad condition, and cannot be used for the erection of houses.
– In the territories, is home construction given priority over administrative buildings?
– There are no administrative buildings. All the buildings at Rabaul were flattened during the war, and at Lae, not one building other than, those which we have erected was left standing. These structures included old army stores,’ and were of a temporary nature. In the buildingswhich the Army erected, black iron was used, and it is no longer serviceable. The jungle has also claimed] large quantities of materials. There” are no buildings at all on those areas. My department is preparing plans along modern town planning lines, so that future buildings will be erected in accordance with a definite plan, instead of being erected in a haphazard fashion. In the future, there will be a system of priorities, and probably some administrative buildings will be erected. The only administrative buildings there now are old army huts which the jungle has not yet claimed. The Minister for External Territories proposes to start a shipping service along the coast in an effort to get materials. The Government is doing its best to improve the situation, but at this stage it would be wrong to extend the act to that area. It will be useless to do so until the physical position is such as to enable something to be done.
– Oan adequate supplies of timber be cut on the spot?
– In some parts, such as the Bulolo district, that could be done. In parts of New Britain, especially near Rabaul and in the coastal areas, there is some good timber. The trouble is to get it to the places where it is needed. It is comparatively easy to get the timber out of the forest, but the ravages of borers, and deterioration caused by mould should the timber be left for any length of time where it is felled is so great that 25 per cent, of the timber would soon ‘be lost. In those areas timber must be transported to the coast almost as soon as it is felled. The problem is one of shipping. The Minister for External Territories is endeavouring to charter a lumber vessel to carry timber. When these difficulties have been overcome, it will be time to consider other matters. I repeat that it would be wrong at this stage to hold out a promise that the act will be extended to these areas.
– I rise to correct an irresponsible statement made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who is in the habit of making such statements without supporting them with particulars or names, and which upon examination, prove to be inaccurate and untrue. The honorable member has referred to white residents of these territories living in tents. As a result of charges made by him some time ago that white planters were living in tents in New Guinea, a special office]’ was detailed to make an investigation, especially in the Rabaul area, where Colonel H. T. Allan operates. As the honorable member for Richmond was not in the chamber last night when I referred to this subject, I repeat now that Colonel Allan and his wife were photographed outside a tent and that the photograph was published in the Melbourne Sun NewsPictorial under the heading, “White planters living in tents in New Guinea “. Upon investigation by the special officer referred to. it was found that the tent shown in the picture had been erected on a portion of the property belonging to Colonel Allan. It had been erected for emergency purposes and was used only infrequently. Colonel Allan has probably the best home in the territory. Instead of being vague, I suggest that the honorable member should supply me with the names of persons who are living in tents in these territories and for whom it is claimed the administration is making no provision in the way of homes. If he does so, the matter will be investigated, but I expect that the result will be the same as in the case of Colonel Allan and his wife. There are difficulties in the territory, but an examination by a. special officer of the charges made showed that no evidence was brought to his notice of white people living in tents. However, if the honorable member will supply evidence in support of his statement the matter will be investigated.
– As the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) has gone out of his way to make slanderous remarks about Colonel Allan I inform’ the committee that that gentleman has lived in the Territory of New Guinea for 25 years. He has pioneered many islands in that part of the Pacific, and is a witness of some repute. He is a man of standing and occupies the position of New Guinea delegate to the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia.
– ls he living in a tent?
– I am referring to the character of my witness, and I am pointing out that Colonel Allan is a man of undoubted integrity. He commanded an island battalion-
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to proceed along those lines.
– The Minister for External Territories asks who wrote the letter to me. It was written by Colonel Allan. When that gentleman was in Canberra some time ago I accompanied him to the Minister’s office, when the Minister extended to him the courtesy of an interview. Colonel Allan also interviewed the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley V He presented a case to those two Minister? on behalf of residents of New Guinea. J have not endeavoured to capitalize anything arising out of those interviews: but, when the Minister attacks people who endeavour to present the case for the residents of New Guinea in respect of housing and other matters, I regard hi.= attack as a breach of the usual courtesies associated with deputations.
– Is Colonel Allan living in a tent?
– He has never claimed that he is living in a tent.
– Then why was he photographed in front of a tent, and why was that photograph published in a. Melbourne newspaper ?
– He spoke as a delegate representing ex-servicemen in New Guinea when he referred to housing and other matters in the territories. He has written to me. His letter is dated the 21st November, 1947 - only a few days ago–
– Who are the white women living in tents in New Guinea?
– Colonel Allan has not supplied me with their names. In his letter he said -
The Government Secretary has been over here checking up on my allegations.
– Did he not want them investigated ?
– The Minister must cease from interjecting.
– Neither the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) nor I has yet had an opportunity to visit New Guinea, although we frequently receive communications from people living there. That is because they realize that, for a number of years wo have displayed an interest in the territory. We are bound toaccept statements made to us by reputable residents of these territories. The Minister is in a position to contradict them, but when his contradictions are in turn contradicted by persons of the type of Colonel Allan, I have no hesitation in deciding whose word I accept. The letter continues -
Iwas able to show him plenty, including two young married, women, expectant mothers, who are compelled to live in tents.
That is a definite statement. I challenge the Minister to produce evidence that it is false. It is not sufficient for him to say that he sent an officer to make investigations. He must say who the officer was and when he went there. I undertake to obtain from Colonel Allan the names of people living in tents.
The Minister should apologize to him publicly in this chamber,but he takes refuge in the fact that he is here and New Guinea is far away. I take this matter up, first, because those people are living in an outpost of Australia, and, secondly, because they are ex-servicemen. I realize that unfortunate conditions occur in New Guinea, and I am not saying that that is entirely the fault of the Government. The war is not long over, and New Guinea was in the front line of battle. It is difficult for any government to meet demands made upon it in this respect, but when representations are made to the Government, especially the Minister for External Territories, they should be sympathetically considered and honorable members, who are fighting on behalf of the residents, should not be ridiculed and slandered. When the Minister goes to New Guinea I dare him to meet Colonel Allan and other exservicemen and still say on his return to the Parliament that what Colonel Allan claims is wrong.
Amend ment nega ti ved .
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill -by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Lemmon) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I am impelled to bring before the House the culmination of the series of representations made by me and other honorable members on behalf of a former chief petty officer in the Royal Australian Navy named H. A. Roope. This man, who had an extraordinarily good record, served honorably with the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy for nearly 22 years. He served in two wars and holds the Good Conduct Medal and the Long Service Medal and a certificate marked “ V.G. 27 “. Obviously, he had an excellent record of service. He is married, with two children. He claims that he was victimized because he approached the then Minister for the Navy, Mr. Makin, while en route to Darwin on H.M.A.S. Hawkesbury in January, 1945. He states that the Minister addressed the ship’s company, inviting any man with a grievance to come forward. Roope says that he took the Minister at his word and approached him. I pause to say that when a Minister invites ratings to come to him with complaints, he should listen to them. If a man takes advantage of such a request, he should not be disciplined, as this man appears to have been, because he approached a Minister.
– I bet the Minister did not know he was.
– That is why I bring the matter before the House. The present Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) may have a file on this man, but I propose to place additional information before the House. I should not have risen but for supporting evidence that I have received in the last two days from the former assistant rehabilitation officer at the Balmoral Naval Depot. Roope says he did not receive recreational leave in 1944, and he approached the Minister to ask for fourteen days’ leave, which was due to him, in order that he might see what he could do for his wife and children. His request was not granted. He says that he returned to Australia in 1943, to find his wife an invalid and that several applications for discharge on compassionate grounds were not sent to the Naval Board. He further states that five medical certificates about his wife’s health sent by him to the naval authorities were ignored. One can imagine the mental distress he suffered when he found his wife an invalid and was not able to get compassionate leave in order to look after her. In December, 1944, he was put on draft for Darwin. He again sought a compassionate discharge without success and fourteen days’ leave also without success. I understand that he said, “Well, I will not go to Darwin “.
– That is true.
– The Minister says, “ That is true “, but Roope claims that at no time did he receive a direct order to go to Darwin and that had he received one he would have obeyed it. As his deferred pay depended on his obedience of orders, I should say he certainly would have obeyed orders. In any event, a man with his good record must have been in the habit of obeying orders. Anyhow, he states that he did not at any time receive a direct order to go on draft and did not know that he was on draft until he was placed under escort, although no charge had been preferred against him. He was not charged at any subsequent time. On the night before he was to go on draft he was given duty. The next morning he was awakened, told to pack his things and placed in a naval police wagon and taken to the railway station to entrain for Brisbane en route to Darwin under escort. He says, that, without regard for his rank,- he was placed among able-bodied seamen, who were also under escort. Under the King’s Regulations, a petty officer must not be placed under the escort of able-bodied seamen. In any event, as no charge had been preferred against him, he ought not to have been placed under the escort of any one. The fact that he had not been charged and was at no time charged is most important. Roope claims that no proper attempt was made to investigate his claims about his wife’s health and that, before being sent to Darwin, he asked that Chaplain Marshall investigate his claims about her health. Inquiries were not made until after his despatch for Darwin. On arrival at Darwin, he was released from arrest and given responsible duty as coxswain of H.M.A.S. Koala. A few months later, on receipt of a navy signal by the naval authorities at Darwin, he was sent to Sydney for discharge. On arrival at the Balmoral depot, he learned that instructions had been given that he be got rid of as soon as possible. I thought that was rather strange, but I have received supporting evidence in that regard. He states that he was hurried from the depot without his discharge certificate, was given neither ration coupons nor civilian clothes, and was not provided , with even the means of buying a rail ticket to his home. He did not receive his deferred pay until a long time after his discharge. He complains that he was also .deprived of one month’s rehabilitation entitlement and fourteen days’ recreational leave, and that he received no travelling concessions. He has informed me that his wife is now in permanent ill-health as the direct result of the failure of the naval authorities to investigate her state of health at the time he requested the investigation and asked for a compassionate discharge.’
I thought that he might have been suffering a persecution complex and that now that he had received a free discharge everything would be in order; but I am rather concerned at subsequent information sent to me in a letter dated the 17th November and signed by A. E. Sanders, J.P., formerly assistant port rehabilitation officer. He is a man who ought to know what he is talking about.
– Where is he stationed?
– At Balmoral. The letter is as follows : -
Mr. H. A. Roope, exPetty Officer Royal Australian Navy, has asked me to verify his statements as to his discharge from Balmoral Naval Depot Saturday, 3rd March, 1945. At that time I was employed under the Port Rehabilitation Officer, Lieutenant-Commander EC. Stuart Codde, Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Whenever the Port Rehabilitation Officer was ashore on duty or on leave I was empowered to act in his stead. Friday afternoon, the 2nd March, 1945, Roope arrived at the depot from Darwin. As my office had been closed for the day I told Roope to report to me Saturday morning, 3rd March, at 9 a.m. This he did and I completed his demobilization form and then rang the Manpower office, Martin-place, Sydney, to ask for an official to be sent out to issue food and clothing coupons. I was told there was no official available. I then told Roope to report to the Master at Arms and ask for week-end leave and to report to me at 9 a.m. Monday, 5th March. Roope then left to see the Master a.t Arms. At about 10.30 a.m. I received a phouc call from Commander J. Walsh, Royal Australian Navy, who told me I was to get rid of Roo.pe immediately as he did not want him hanging around and to get a Man Power official out immediately. I sent for Roope and also rang the Man Power official again, to be told I would have to wait until Monday morning, when Mr. Brett would call. I then asked Roope if he would be satisfied if I sent his coupons on by registered mail. He agreed to my suggestion and I then told him to report to the sick bay for medical examination and then to report to the Paymaster for final payment as the ship’s office would close at 11.45 a.m. Monday, the 5th March, 1945, I had a phone call from Wollongong to say Roope had collapsed on Sunday and was in the Wollongong hospital. .[ advised the caller to send a medical certificate immediately to the Port Rehabilitation Officer. This was received Wednesday, 7th March, by LieutenantCommander Stuart Codde. It stated that Roope was suffering from fluid on the left lung. A/B L. Acott, another dischargee, informed mc that he had had to lend Roope ten shillings (10s.) to pay his fare to his home, as Roope had received no payment at the ship’s office. To my knowledge Roope had ?9 to his credit on the ledger and also bis deferred pay was held at Navy Office. It would have been quite simple for Roope to have drawn an advance payment. This has been done in hundreds of other cases. About the end of January or early February of 1945 Roope was sent to Darwin under escort. He left Balmoral Naval Depot with an escort of one petty officer and four able seamen. As he had not been charged with any misdemeanor, I understand it was contrary to King’s Rules and Naval Regulations. Roope committed no crime to my knowledge unless his statement that he would not go on draft until his request for stay of draft on compassionate reasons was fully investigated. It seems strange to me that a petty officer with 27 V.G’s to his credit and also holding the long service and good conduct medal should be treated in this manner. To my knowledge Roope was not at Balmoral Naval Depot between February and the 3rd March, 1945, but was stationed at Darwin during that time. It is certain that Roope did not receive a proper medical examination otherwise the medical officer would not have discharged him whilst he was medically unfit. It is difficult to recall all the happenings at this late date. At no time did Roope obstruct or cause me any trouble, but was quite helpful all through my dealings with him. I made this statement to Commander Walsh when he questioned me on the Monday morning after Roope’s discharge. In fact, knowing how worried Roope was about his family, I was quite pleased at Roope’s behaviour all through the interviews I had with him. If there is any other information I can supply I will be quite pleased to do so. I make these statements willingly believing them to be true in every respect
That is why I have raised this matter again. If the statements that have been made by the assistant port rehabilitation officer are correct, an immediate investigation is called for. So fiar as I am aware, this man has not a criminal record. He has good conduct medals and 27 “ V.G.s “. He fought in two wars and his service totals nearly 22 years. He is chief petty officer. He had acer.ued leave and wanted to take 14 days’ compassionate leave before going on draft, to see his invalid wife and arrange attention for her before leaving. There are other facts that are not so savory. He says that Chaplain Marshall told him he had to go on draft and that he could put his wife and children in a home. He was so concerned about leaving his family that he thought he should be given compassionate leave; but instead of that, he was picked up, put in a police van, and taken by train, under escort, to Brisbane. He was then shipped to Darwin ; but after he had been there for only a short period, apparently, it was considered that his case warranted investigation, because a signal was sent to Darwin asking that he be returned. When he returned to Balmoral an officer said, “ Get him out of the way “. He was discharged without a penny, although on the ledger he had a credit of ?9 plus his deferred pay. He borrowed 30s. to get back to Wollongong. When be got there he collapsed and was taken to hospital with fluid on the lung. He should have been medically examined before being discharged. I have stated the facts as they have been brought bo my notice by the assistant rehabilitation officer, and if they are correct an investigation should be made immediately.
– I have perused the file relating to petty officer Roope on a number of occasions. Only a few days ago I had the file in Canberra and made it available to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) at his request. Apparently the right honorable gentleman was satisfied, , because I have not heard any more from him on the matter.
– The letter from Mr. Sanders that I have read was addressed to the Leader of the Opposition.
– I made the file available to the Leader of the Opposition for his personal perusal. It was .returned to my office and has since been sent back to Melbourne. The following information has been gathered from the file: - Petty officer Roope had been serving at Penguin and Boom. Depot, Port Kembla, from, the 25th March, 1944, when he was drafted to Darwin on the 11th December, 1944. On receiving draft, he immediately applied for its cancellation on compassionate “rounds. He was medically examined by Dr. Charlton and Surgeon Commander Pritchard and pronounced medically fit. His draft was deferred pending investigation of his case by Chaplain Marshall. The chaplain reported to Acting Captain Walsh, Commanding Officer, H.M.A.S. Penguin, that he was having difficulty with Roope who refused to produce a medical certificate of his wife’s illness, and was unpleasant to deal with. The chaplain had, however, rung Roope’s local doctor, Dr. Britten, of Wollongong, and explained the regulations governing compassionate cases. Dr. Britten said he would give a medical certificate if Roope called for it. Captain Walsh interviewed Roope, and explained to him that consideration could not be given to his case unless he were prepared to assist a<nd granted him leave over Christmas to get ready the necessary evidence. After
Christmas, Roope again interviewed Captain Walsh and complained that his case had not been properly investigated, the basis of the complaint being that he was a Roman Catholic and preferred to deal with a Roman Catholic chaplain. He still did not produce a medical certificate. On the evidence then available, his grounds for compassionate cancellation of his draft were not considered strong enough.
Consequent upon statements made by Row)e that he “ did not intend to go to Darwin “, he was escorted from the depot to Central Railway Station, Sydney, for train passage to Brisbane and Moreton was forewarned of the facts of his case. This man was told that he had to go to Darwin, and he informed the officer that he did not intend to do so; in other words, if he persisted in his expressed intention he would be absent without leave. After Roope’s departure, Captain Walsh sighted a medical certificate dated 22nd December and had his case re-investigated by Roope’s parish priest, Father O’Callaghan, whose report indicated no urgency for Roope’s presence at home. In the meantime Roope arrived at Brisbane, and embarked in H.M.A.S. Hawkesbury for passage to Darwin. Hawkesbury had on board the then Minister for the Navy (the Honorable N. J. 0. Makin) and the Secretary of the Department of the Navy, Mr. A. R. Nankervis. During the passage, the Minister informed the ship’s company that he would receive complaints, and subsequently Roope interviewed him. The honorable member for Wentworth suggested that Roope was disciplined after his interview with the former Minister.
– I said that that appeared to be so, according to the statement made by Sanders.
– -But shortly after Roope arrived at Darwin he was granted a free discharge on compassionate grounds. I think that that adequately answers the contention that he was disciplined. It may be true that he asked for fourteen days’ leave, but the fact remains that shortly after he arrived at Darwin he was granted a free passage and flown to Sydney. I emphasize that he was flown, and not sent down in a ship. On his arrival on the 3rd March, 1945, orders were given for his immediate demobilization. That does not indicate that he was harshly treated because he had had an interview with the Minister. Since I have been Minister for the Navy I have interviewed hundreds of ratings, and none of them has been disciplined because I interviewed him. Roope was discharged and demobilized shortly after his interview with Mr. Makin. The file states -
Iti accordance with demobilization routine, Roope was interviewed by the rehabilitation officer at Penguin. The Man Power officer was not available that morning, but P.O. Roope was sent an identity carol and coupons on Monday, 5th March, by registered post. He was examined by Dr. Charlton and an X-ray taken of the chest. The consultant radiologist, Dr. Oxenham, who examined the films, reported “Both lung fields clear”. The only disability claimed by Roope was deafness in the right ear.
The honorable member for Wentworth asserted that, when this man collapsed at Wollongong, he was found to have fluid on the lung, and he suggested that he should, have been medically examined before his discharge. The fact is that he was examined by Dr. Charlton, and an X-ray examination of his chest was made by the consulting radiologist, Dr. Oxenham, who reported “ both lung fields clear “. The only disability claimed by Roope was deafness in his right ear. After completing the depot routine, Roope reported to the ship’s office for final payment on discharge. “He was informed that, as his transfer list had not been received, and since all loan items had not been returned to store, it would not be possible to make a final payment, but that any moneys due would be paid to him, together with his deferred nAV According to the file, Roope refused to sign this form. He also refused to open a banking account, particulars of which were required for completion of the discharge form. The file states -
While in the ship’s office, Roope refused to sign Form A.S.1031Y (Application for final payment on discharge). He also refused to open a banking account, particulars of which are required on Form A.S.1.031Y. He refused to bc seen by the Assistant Paymaster and left the office in a cantankerous mood. Room made application for a warrant to his home, but this was refused in accordance with Naval Financial Regulations and Instructions, Article 175 (2). He made no representations that he was without the means of purchasing a railway ticket. Roope had served in Penguin previously, and was well acquainted with discharge routine and procedure.
Had he informed the discharge authorities at Penguin that he did not have the necessary money to purchase a rail ticket, he would not have experienced any difficulty. The file also states -
Payment for accrued leave was delayed because Roope changed his address without informing the Navy Department.
Because of letters which I have received from Mr. Roope, I have examined his file and reviewed his case on a number of occasions. Undoubtedly, it is a most unfortunate one; he is in ill health, as also are his wife and family. However, I believe that he has received the maximum consideration, not only from myself, but also from my predecessor. In view of the statement made by the assistant rehabilitation officer, I shall re-examine the matter, but I do not hold out much hope.
– I realize that the present late hour is not an opportune one to bring forward a matter such as I propose to mention, but the motion for the adjournment of the House is the only opportunity now afforded to a private member to raise such topics. The matter on which I will speak has no party-political significance, and I trust that honorable members will regard it as I do. I look forward to the co-operation of the honorable members for New England (Mr. Abbott), Indi (Mr. McEwen), Gwydir (Mr. Scully), Darling (Mr. Clark), Riverina (Mr. Langtry), Hume (Mr. Fuller), Wannon (Mr. McLeod), Calare (Mr. Howse) and Bendigo (Mr. Rankin). I appreciate the attention already given to the matter by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), and hope that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) will also see fit to give the proposition their support. I propose to refer to the harvesting of the forthcoming wheat crop. It is general knowledge that Australian farmers are approaching the harvest of the heaviest and most valuable wheat crop ever produced in this country. Crops in many parts of the world are failing because of drought conditions, and Europe is in dire need of every bushel of wheat available for shipment. There is no doubt that many of our farmers, especially those in southern New South “Wales and Victoria, are insufficiently equipped with motive and machine power to handle the forthcoming harvest. A series of drought years, and a reduction of the number of Clydesdale horses, has decimated animal horse power on wheat farms in Australia. After the cessation of hostilities, our farmers expected to be able to replace animal horse-power with mechanical power for agriculture, but the Government, under its licence system for the control of tractor imports, has apparently been unable to arrange supplies in sufficient numbers. In addition, because of the industrial dispute among engineers and ironworkers in Victoria during the first half of 1947, the largest makers of harvesting machines in Australia lost six months’ production, and have been unable to supply more than one-third of the machine requirements of farmers to handle this season’s heavy crop. To these factors must be added the shortage of cornsacks, storage space in the country, motor trucks to cart wheat from the farms to the silos and railheads, and, possibly, coal for rail haulage. This combination of circumstances constitutes a national emergency that warrants the attention of the Australian Government. “What can be done? I shall endeavour to suggest a logical answer in order to save the harvest. The Government should co-operate with the State Departments of Agriculture so that a quick survey may be made of the position with a view to organizing an army of contractors to go into the field to render assistance where necessary. In the north of New South Wales the season is a month earlier than in the Riverina, and from six to eight weeks earlier than in northern and western Victoria. The call can be made for, say, 200 volunteers from the north and west, with suitable tractors and harvesting machines, to follow the season down south as an organized army to handle the harvest on contract rates to be fixed by the Government. The farmer does not want, or need, the work to be done for nothing. He is able and willing to pay, but he may need assistance by public organization. Movable canvas camps. with cooks, food canteens and fuel, supplies, could be provided at selected centres for the contractors) and the direction of operations could be arranged through the officers of each State Department of Agriculture. Contractors would, of course, pay for all fuel supplies, and nominal camp charges for accommodation and food at central camps. That appears to be the kind of organization needed, and it is generally considered that help is necessary. The Government may contend that this matter is the responsibility of the States, but I am inclined to the belief that we are confronted by a national emergency, which should be met by the Australian Government in conjunction with the States concerned. A little money may be involved in this plan, and the States are not in a position to add anything to their present commitments. The wheat harvest is of national and international importance, and the heavy crops that are promised this season should not be subject to the risk of storm and fire for one day longer than is necessary. It will be a miracle if some crops are not destroyed. Ripe wheat, left standing, will be in danger in Victoria after January next, and Australia and the world cannot afford to lose one bushel of grain. This scheme has no relation to group farming, or the conscription of labour. It is a voluntary emergency plan.
I am indebted to the honorable member for New England for drawing my attention to an article which appeared in an American publication entitled Farm Journal, in which are set out details of a somewhat similar scheme that is operating most successfully in the United States of America. The article is entitled “ Here come the combines !” What are termed “ combines “ in America are called “ harvesters “ in Australia. A “ combine “ in Australia is a scarifier and seed drill combined. The article reads -
If you are thinking of joining this parade, ask your representative about the prospects.
In this country the representative would be a representative of the Minister for Labour and National Service -
He can find out quickly whether you’re needed and where to head for. . . .
Each morning during harvest, the State faim labour offices in the wheat States put together a new map showing just where machines and men are needed (or are in surplus) that day. This information is based on daily wires from each country representative, who in turn gets the information from “farm labour representatives” in country towns.
The information is passed back to each county, and is interchanged daily between States. Any combiner who wants to know where to go next need only “ see the nearest county agent “. He can even get a map showing arterial routes and giving bridge clearances. . . .
Those are the travelling combine operators. Some 6,000 of them crossed a State line last year, including 350 from Canada. There are as many more this year. They’ll be back home just in time to harvest their own crop, and maybe push on still further north.
It will be observed that the scheme operates northwards in America, owing to its location in the northern hemisphere, but the operators would come south in Australia -
With the northerners who return will come southerners whose harvest is done. It’s the greatest harvest brigade in the world.
Most operators travel with only one combine and one truck. On the other hand, Cai. Sitter from Mossbank, Saskatchewan, came south to Colby, Kansas, with twenty, combines one year - the record so far.
In between are hundreds of men who have three to ten combines and trucks apiece, plus bunkhouses and cook shacks. Last year, Hofstrand’s outfit, for example, included four combines, four trucks, cookhouse, automobile, and a light airplane which he shuttled back and forth between Kansas and North Dakota. The combines are loaded on the trucks for travelling.
I do not suggest that we should adopt such an advanced scheme as that, but one which will overcome our difficulties -
They’ll thresh a man’s crop without his doing a thing, but paying the bill. He won’t even haul the wheat, nor -will his wife have to cook for a single extra hand. Above all, he has a better chance to get his crop in before if- is lost.
– There is nothing to prevent our farmers from doing that if they so desire.
– I do not want the Minister to treat this as a political matter. What I desire to do is to encourage the Government to sponsor such a scheme, and not to leave its organization to the farmers who are under high pressure. The implementation of the scheme should be a matter for the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– Is there plaint available with which to undertake such a scheme?
– Having finished his harvest, a farmer in northern New South Wales or the Riverina, as the season goes south, may be encouraged to go, say, into the Wimmera and assist the farmers there.
– By using their machines ?
– Yes, by bringing their own tractors and machines as they would have completed their own harvest. I merely make the suggestion. I am not the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture nor Minister for Labour and National Service, and, accordingly, I can do no more than make the suggestion which I regard as a logical means of bringing great advantages to Australia in the harvesting of the wheat crop. I commend the proposal to the consideration of the Government.
Mr. ANTHONY (Richmond) 11.53]. - I have no desire to detain the House, but a matter of rather urgent importance has come to my notice, and I have been asked to bring it before the House and the responsible Minister. The Queensland and northern New South Wales pineapple industry has just been dealt a smashing and devastating blow as the result of news received from Canada. The pineapple industry in Australia largely depends upon the export of canned pineapples to Canada, which is its principal export market. Word has come through that Canada has placed a complete embargo upon all canned goods, notably Australian canned pineapples. Since Australia would have exported about 1,000,000 cases over the three-year period of the contract, this means that the pineapple industry will be hit as severely as any industry in this country could be. This development is the result of the recent Geneva trade agreement.
– I understand that that is not so.
– If the Minister can give me information on the matter, I shall be glad to have it, because I have endeavoured unsuccessfully to obtain it from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Oourti.ce), who is very sympathetic towards the pineapple industry which flourishes in his State. However, he did not have the information. My information comes from the general manager of the Committee of Direction in Queensland. He states that his organization, through the Australian Trade Commissioner at Ottawa, ascertained that this embargo had been imposed, and has been in operation as from the 18th November last. Therefore, it is an accomplished fact. I point out that Canada has a very favorable trade balance with Australia. The latest figures given in the Tear-Boole show that in 1944-45 we sold to Canada, £3,797,000 worth of goods, whilst we bought from Canada £8,991,000 worth of goods, or over twice as much as we sold to that dominion. Therefore, we have every reason to expect Canada, to give priority consideration to Australian goods. I understand .that Canada has taken this action largely as the result of the new agreements which have- been entered into at Geneva. It is imposing an embargo on not only Australian canned fruit but also canned fruits from other countries. Canada, apparently, has had to exclude Australian goods because it desires also to exclude United States of America goods, but wishes to avoid discriminating in favour of Australia.
– That seems more likely.
– I am giving information which has been given to me, and E ask the Minister to make a statement on the subject. My attention has been directed to article 23 of the agreement of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment which enables a dominion, such has Canada, to make a discrimination in favour of a nation such as ourselves. In view of the great importance of this development to the pineapple industry in Queensland and northern New South Wales which, although it is not a major industry, is worth £1,000,000 a year and contributes largely to local economy, I ask the Minister to make a statement on the matter to-night, because this bombshell has exploded only within the last 24 hours although the embargo has been in operation in Canada since the 18th November.
The Minister himself would not previously have known of these circumstances. I have every reason to believe that the facts are as I have stated them. If that he so, I ask the Government to make urgent representations to Canada with a view to restoring the former position.
– I represent about 85 per cent, of the pineapple-growers of Australia. Recently, I noticed statements made regarding the industry, and, consequently, I gave close attention to the voluminous report of the Geneva conference on the subject. The tariff decisions affecting the pineapple industry can be received by the growers of Australia with some consolation when they remember that there was a possibility that they might have lost all their protection as the result of the discussions at Geneva. The Geneva decisions were the culmination of the determination by the nations of the world that tariffs generally should be reduced. As 80 per cent, of our exports of pineapples go to Canada, I, as the representative of the electorate in which the majority of pineapple-growers reside, take more than ordinary interest in the industry. After issuing a recent statement on the Geneva Agreement, I saw a statement made by Mr. Flue Smith, who is well informed on these matters and who is not pleased with the Agreement. Despite apprehension in various quarters as to the effects of past tariffs, however, they have generally proved to be adequate. I trust that the Geneva Agreement which has been signed by the Government will fully protect the pineapple industry. I have examined the new Canadian tariffs with respect to pineapples.
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order in dealing with tariffs covered by an item on the notice-paper.
– Pineapples were admitted to Canada free of duty. Under the new agreement, they will still be admitted free of duty. The most-favoured-nation tariff which Canada extended to our competitors was 3 cents per lb., and that tariff has now been reduced to 2 cents per lb. Canada still gives to Australian pineapples a preference of £14 Australian a ton against its most-favoured-nation tariff. Great Britain has not altered its tariff. Britain did cancel preference on fruit salads, but this did not apply to tropical fruit salad, so our tariff with Great Britain remains unaltered. Under the agreement our growers are still given a good chance against their competitors. Indeed, I am pleased that we have received as good a deal as we have actually been given.
– There maybe something in the suggestion by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) if it is not already too late. Something of the kind has been done by getting chaff cutters to go from farm to farm on contract. I shall discuss the matter to-morrow with officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and see if something can be done.
– Regarding the points , raised by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), information has reached my office regarding action taken by the Canadian Government which it is considered willl be detrimental to the interests of the pineapple-growers in Queensland. Mr. Kahn has been appointed to Canada, and will make full inquiries to ascertain the real cause of the trouble. I do not think it has the slightest relation to the Geneva conference agreement. Rather, do I think that the Canadian Government has taken this action in its attempt to rectify its dollar shortage. We know that it has had to re-impose prices control, and to prohibit the importation of certain goods. We shall endeavour to clarify the position as soon as possible, because we realize fully that the interests of Queensland pineapple-growers must be protected. We shall make the strongest possible representations to the Government of Canada.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Broadcasting - Composite profit and loss account of the national broadcasting service for year 1945-46.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes -
Chelsea, Victoria. Corrimal, New South Wales.
Lands Acquisition Act and Lands Acquisition Ordinance of the Northern Territory - Land acquired for Department of Works and Housing purposes - Darwin (near), Northern Territory.
House adjourned at 12.7 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. Prior to the expiry of Guinea Airways’ licence for the Adelaide-Darwin service, the company did apply for an airline licence for the route Melbourne-Adelaide-Darwin. Since then discussions have taken place between representatives of the Government and of Guinea Airways and I am pleased to say that an amicable settlement was reached and the amount of compensation to be paid to the company in terms of the Airlines Act was agreed between the parties. In accordance with the terms of the settlement Guinea Airways withdrew its application for an airline licence for the route MelbourneAdelaideDarwin.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Attorney-General, upon notice -
How many prices prosecutions lapsed because they were out of time - (a) through non-service of the summons ; (b ) because of want of prosecution; and (c) for other reasons, within the prescribed period?
– The Minister acting for the Attorney-Goneral has supplied the following information: -
I suggest that the honorable member’s question is to some extent based on a misunderstanding. Offences under the National Security Act are prosecuted summarily or on indictment and, for such offences, no fixed time is prescribed by law. Since the inception of the Prices Regulations, there have been over 13,000 convictions for breaches of the regulations. The number of complaints investigated in respect of which proceedings were taken some part of the way towards prosecution are several times that number. No records are kept however which would enable the number of complaints that did not reach the stage of prosecution for the reasons stated by the honorable member to be given. To obtain that information it would be necessary to search an enormous number of individual files.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 November 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19471126_reps_18_195/>.