18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon.J.S. Rosevear) tookthechair at 10.30 a.m.,andread prayers.
Mr.HARRISON.-Into-day’s press, Ihavereadreportsthatshippingbottle- necksatNewcastle have caused an accumulation of large stocks of galvanizedand steel sheeting, which are urgentlyrequired in. other States. The manager of John Lysaght (Australia) Proprietary Limitedhas stated that a near miracle must happen to permit the immediate shipmentof orders to other States, and that if the shipmentsare not effected the works may have to close. I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact thatthiscongestion of steel sheetingis attributable to the action of waterside workers in slowing down the turn-round of ships, thereby threatening the livelihood of fellow unionists in. basicindustries? Inview of the fact that industry is being starved of steel sheeting and of the vital need to stepup production to meet the dollar position andour own requirements, what action doestheGovernment propose to take to ensure that this accumulation of supplies shall he madeavailabletoindustry immediately?
Mr.CHIFLEY.-I am not aware that theparticularmatterstowhichthehonorable memberref erredappearedinto-day’s press. Generally, Ifind that most of the statementswhich appear in the press are grossly exaggerated and inaccurate.
– I do not take much notice of press reports,butI do know that difficulties have occurred not only at Newcastle, but also atSydney and Port Kembla regarding the movement of suppliesof materials to other States. From time totime,I have followed this matter personally, and the position is constantly watched by the Director of Shipping, Mr. Hetherington, who isa most capable oficer,and who does his utmost to meet all thedemands for shipping. Yesterday, the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, in reply to another question about the hold-up of steel at Newcastle, promised to place the whole matter before the Minister for
Supply and Shipping, with a’ view to ascertaining whether the statements about large quantities’ of material being held up were true, and, if so, what action ,-oould be taken to move the’ supplies more expeditiously. As the honorable member is aware, shipping is scarce. It is most . difficult to meet all the demands for ships, .no matter what the other conditions may be. It is true that some delay has been caused by industrial troubles of various kinds. Certain persons claim that the turn-round of ships is not so fast as it might be, and that the rate of handling is not so rapid as it might be. The Minister for Supply .and Shipping and I have taken up this matter with the unions concerned and the ship owners, because it is admitted that the handling of cargoes is not satisfactory from either’ side. In other words, the best arrangements have not been made by the shipping companies in the past - I am not blaming any particular individuals - for the .rapid, handling of cargoes. - It would also appear that the waterside workers are not handling cargoes with, the same speed’. There are- various reasons, for that. The owners in turn have certaindifficulties to overcome. On Wednesday I discussed the holding up of shipping due to the wet weather, and my attention was drawn to the great difficulty of handling cargoes in heavy ram. I assure the honorable member that the whole subject is receiving the closest attention with the object of having essential supplies transported to the various States in which they are urgently required.
– I ask the Minister for “Works and Housing, whether it is a fact that the New South “Wales Housing Commission believes that it has almost exhausted its resources for the provision of emergency housing for families which have been evicted from their homes for various reasons. Has the New South Wales Minister for. Housing submitted to the honorable gentleman certain suggestions for amendments of. the National Security (Landlord and Tenant) Regula-tiona as a means of alleviating the situation? If so, have these representations been given consideration, and what are
I he prospects of the suggested amendments being effective?
– It is quite possible that the New South “Wales Housing Commission .has reached the limit of its capacity to provide emergency accommodation because, generally, this accommodation has consisted of military hutments and other service buildings converted into flats. The supply of these structures is probably now nearly exhausted. I point out, however, that it is within the competence of the New South Wales Housing Commission to make available to evicted’ families some of the homes constructed under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, and I Understand that that, policy is being applied. The “State Minister for Housing has written to me on several occasions in regard to proposed amendments -of the National Security’ (Landlord and Tenant) Regulations. We must bear in mind, however, that . the purpose of these regulations is, ‘first, to give protection to tenants, secondly, to f nsu re that rents ‘shall be reasonable, and thirdly, to provide home-owners who are not in occupation of their premises with an opportunity to get their houses back when they require them. The State Minister has suggested, amongst other things, that all evictions be stopped for a certain period. However, in the opinion of the Government, the present regulations give very, fair protection to tenants because they provide that evictions can only take p’ace in the event of non-payment of rent, !’ie destruction of’ property, or the breaking of a tenancy agreement by sub-letting without consent of the owner. Even when a tenant fails to comply with these conditions, the owner oan only -take the matter to the courts, and the final decision as -to whether or not an eviction order shall be granted rests with the courts. In reaching a decision, the courts have to consider which party is suffering the greatest hardship. Just recently there was an amendment- of the regulations which laid down that any person purchasing a property could not. even take the tenant to court under the personal occupation . provisions until he .’had been in the position pf ownership for ‘ six months. Having regard to the general working of the regulations, I do not propose to make any alterations.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. It should be directed to the Minister for External Affairs, who is absent from the House. The -Prime Minister might tell us when we may expect the Minister back, because i,t is very awkward for honorable members to ask questions concerning his department when he is not here. The Minister for External Affairs was .chairman of the Palestine Commission, which recommended the partition of that country, as a consequence of which there appears- to be a likelihood of war between the Jewish and Arab communities. The newspapers to-day report that the British Colonial Secretary, Mr. Creech- Jones, has said that if the United Nations means business in Palestine or anywhere else, it must arm its decisions so that they can become really operative. Does the Australian Government accept the obligation which the Minister for External Affairs, overseas activities appear to have incurred to join with the United Nations in sending armed forces to Palestine to carry out the partition as recommended by the Minister ?
– The Minister for External Affairs was’ chairman of the United Nations committee which considered the Palestinian question. It recommended the partition of Palestine, and that recommendation was submitted to the main body of the United Nations and was finally adopted. Therefore, the responsibility now rests upon the main body of the United Nations to determine the method by which the recommendation shall be given effect. The United Nations has made decisions about the way that is to be done, and certain supervisory commissions are to be sent to Palestine. There was no direct implication in the recommendation made by the Minister for External Affairs on behalf of the committee as to direct participation by >any individual country in the work of controlling the partition of Palestine. There is inherent in the organization of the United Nations provision for all ‘‘nations of the world to render aid, perhaps even military aid in some instances, but there is no implied obligation upon individual nations to carry out decisions of that body. The recommendations made by the. .committee of which’ the Minister for External Affairs was chairman have nothing at all to do with the provision of military forces.
– They have everything to do with military forces.
– They have nothing to do with the provision of military forces iri Palestine by this country. I made perfectly clear to this House six months ago that I considered that British troops ought to have been out of Palestine long before then.
– “Was that the policy >‘if the Government?
– No. I explained at the time that it- was my personal view. The matter had never been considered by the Government. T made perfectly clear when’ I was abroad that I considered personally that the position in. Palestine was quite wrong from Great Britain’s point of view. In reply to the honorable member for Richmond, I emphasize that the recommendation made by” the committee of. which the- Minister for External Affairs was chairman had nothing at all to do with the provision of military forces in Palestine. It is entirely a matter for the United Nations itself to decide what action it might take collectively for the preservation of peace anywhere.
“BURKE’S DASH TO CARPENTARIA.”
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question concerning a book, Burke’s Dash to Carpentaria, written by Mr. J. Si Weatherston, former Principal Parliamentary Reporter, which has been refused publication on the ground’ of shortage of paper. I understand that a request made by Mr. Weatherston for assistance to publish thework has been declined on the ground that the work is of an historical nature, and therefore cannot be regarded as literature. Of course, that contention is unsound, because Green’s History of England is recognized as a literary work of a very high character.
– The work mentioned has not come before the committee of the Commonwealth Literary Fund, and the only information I have concerning it is that which appeared in a paragraph in the press some days ago-.. Of course, it is possible that it may have been considered by the Advisory Board of the Fund, but I have no knowledge of the matter having been brought before the committee. It is possible, of course, ‘that the work may have been rejected by the Advisory Board as not being of a sufficiently high standard. With regard to the honorable member’s question concerning the printing of the book, neither the parliamentary committee nor the Advisory Board rnakes any direct arrangement with printers even in cases where financial assistance has been approved. That is a matter which is usually arranged by the publishers. Of course, the secretary of the committee may give authors the benefit of his advice and assistance in placing their books with publishers. I shall inquire whether the work has been considered by the Advisory Board of the Commonwealth Literary Fund and inform the honorable member.
– In order to avoid any confusion, might I suggest that it be made clear that the Commonwealth Literary Fund has never made any rule that a work of history is not to be regarded as a work of literature. In that respect the honorable member’s question is quite misleading.
– Mr. Balmford:the principal Land Sales Control delegate, recently gazetted an order exempting entirely from land sales control all sales effected by a certain co-operative building company. When I asked why there had been this apparent discrimination in favour of one company, Mr. Balmford said that the exemption had been granted to avoid duplication, as the company was a non-profit concern and its affairs were under the control of the Registrar of Cooperative Building Societies in New South Wales, lie said further that one or two other exemptions had been made in somewhat similar circumstances. I ask the Treasurer if he is aware that all co-operative building- societies in New South Wales, whether they are selling ov lending societies, are non-profit organ isations, under the supervision of the Registrar of Co-operative Building Societies, and that in all cases the fair values of houses purchased by members from or with the assistance of such societies ar& fixed by the -societies’ own valuers ? Will the right honorable gentleman, now grant a similar exemption to al] sales effected by these societies,, or in which they are the financing authorities? Will he further- say what are the. one or two other cases in which exemptions were granted ?
– I will supply the honorable member ‘ later with ‘ a full answer to all the questions he has asked. The organization to which he has referred and to which exemption has been granted comes particularly under the supervision of the Registrar of Co-operative Building Societies in N»-w South Wales. Ari assurance has been given that proper protection will be afforded to all persons buying houses from or with the assistance of a society. -It is believed that the control will be as firm as that which the Government would itself be able to exercise. The other exemptions were of a minor character.
Yoting in Divisions.
– J ask you, Mr. Speaker, as the custodian of this House, if you have seen a report in to-day’s issue pf the Sydney Daily Telegraph stating that after the Parliament is enlarged in 1949 members will cast their votes in divisions by pressing a button, and that engineers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are already experimenting with an electric voting system for the House of Representaives?
– I have not seen the report. I can assure the honorable member, .a* the custodian of the House and as the person who would give the necessary instructions, that the report of. experiments of this nature is a figment of the imagination
– I ask the Minister for Immigration if he has seen a statement by the Common-wealth Statistician that during 1947 there was’ a net increase of 226 in the number of persons in Australia of Russian nationality. Will the Minister state who these new migrants are, whence they came and for what purpose they have been admitted to Australia?
– I shall have inquiries made as the honorable member desires. There are a number of people in the world to-day who were of a certain nationality when World War TI. started, but by unilateral act found themselves of another nationality when the war ended. The honorable member will remember the famous ease of Yoizuki, when a number of Japanese ex-prisoners of war found themselves, when the Japanese were defeated, to be Formosan, or Chinese, subjects. Similarly, a number of Greek people who were regarded as Italian subjects because they were born in the Dodecanese Islands became Greeks when the war was over. Latvians, Estonians, Lithuanians and East Prussians, who had their own nationality when the war started, now that their countries have been incorporated in other countries find themselves described as Russians, or of some other nationality. The British Government has not recognized those incorporations of the Baltic countries in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It is quite possible that a number of people, despite that fact, have described themselves as being Russian subjects. I assure the honorable gentleman that the security record of everybody coming into this country is closely checked and screened by security officers, and that he can sleep safely to-night.
Issue of Passports
– I ask the Minister for Immigration, were passports issued to 50 members of a Communist auxiliary known as the Eureka Youth Movement to proceed to Yugoslavia? Was not the Minister aware that these youths proposed to enlist in a Communist international army? Is there any reason of government policy that makes it possible for Australians to serve in a Com.munist foreign army but wrong for Australians to accept employment tinder the United States Government?
– The honorable gentleman has made a statement containing a number of alleged facts. I do not believe that there is any substance in any of the statements he has made. As a matter of fact, when it comes to stating facts the honorable gentleman has a perfect record - he is always 100 per cent, wrong.
– Has the Prime Minister received confirmation through official channels of newspaper cablegrams reporting that all Dominion High Commissioners or other representatives in London have been invited by Sir Stafford Cripps to attend an early conference at which an alarming drift in the dollar exchange position will be discussed? If such a conference is proposed, does it mean that there has been a further adverse development. If so, can the right honorable gentleman tell the House the nature of that development? Will he offer every co-operation by Australia in the matter?
– We have had no official communication from London indicating that Sir Stafford Cripps has asked for a special conference with the High Commissioners on any particular subject. Generally speaking, it has been the practice for the British Government to consult the High Commissioners on a number of matters from time to time, and either the Minister himself or leading officers of the department keep them informed generally of the position. Also, we have in London a statistical dollar committee on which we have a representative. Mr. Nimmo has been sent specially from Australia to that job, and he is engaged constantly on that particular work. I do not think that there is anything that can be said from day to day about the so-called gold and dollar drift. I do not think that I am justified in disclosing all the figures because that is the business of the British Government. What I can say in general terms i.s that it is hoped from month to month to reduce : substantially from .the British ‘reserve the drift of gold and ‘dollars. Various reasons exist ‘for the ‘drift. One ‘is ‘that -other countries, such .as Belgium, demand something more than sterling for their goods. The most general statement ‘that I can make is that in January the drain o’f gold anil dollars ‘from the British reserve was .much more than was anticipated. In other words, the drain has not been reduced by so much as was hoped for. Further ‘than ‘that, T do not think there is any statement that I could justifiably make that would have the consent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is true that there is cause for;alarm. The Chancellor of the Exchequer may be prepared to give more detailed inf ormation as to the ‘future prospects .to the .High Commissioners lor conveyance to their governments, .but more than that “I .cannot say at .the moment.
– Has -the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a statement some weeks ago regarding a sale by Japan to India .of £2,000,000 worth of .cotton goods, .and that India .had. agreed to pay this amount to Japan in United States dollars’? .In view of the precarious position of :the ^British .’Empire’s dollar *pool and the importance of dollars evidently held by India, was any effort .made by the Australian Government to secure payment in dollars ‘for wheat and other products, which Australia sold to India before Japan’s favorable business arrangement was made ?
– I am quite. sure that no attempt was made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who is principally responsible for the negotiations with the representatives of India regarding the sale of .wheat and flour to that country, to obtain payment in dollars for them. We require from India jute, linseed and linseed oil, which are essential to ‘Out ‘economy, and ‘for which -we expect to pay in sterling. Therefore, I may disabuse the honorable member’s mind itf he has any ideas, that we would have required .India to -pay us in dollars “for Australian foodstuffs. In regard to the dealings with the .Supreme Commander-of the Allied Powers for the purchase of Japanese ‘goods, ta ‘complicated problem arises in relation ‘to (currency. I could endeavour .to explain the position at .some length for .the information ,of .the honorable member, 1ut I believe tha”t I should only weary the Souse by Attempting to describe the difficulties which have arisen, for example, in regard to .one payment foi wool, and the purchase .of -certain other materials, including .silk, probably on a dollar basis. In conjunction with the British Treasury, we are endeavouring to break the deadlock .which has arisen in. regard to currency problems in dealing with the sale of goods to and from Japan. I am not .able to give the honorable member any final information on this subject, but I shall .examine his question ‘for the purpose of ascertaining whether I can supply any additional information about the ‘Indian deal.
Registration - ^Treatment of EX-SERVICEMAN
– My .question concerns the case of an ex-serviceman who served for five and a ‘.half years with the 2nd/16th Australian “Infantry Battalion - 824 days ‘in Australia and 1,01ft days in the Middle East, New Guinea and Borneo. He was discharged in “November, 1945. A week after his discharge he received a letter telling him to report to the nearest police-station as an alien. His finger-prints were taken and when, at a considerably later date, hejourneyed to another State, his fingerprints were again taken along with other precautions. Does the Minister for Immigration know of these practices? Does such service as has been given to Australia by this man entitle him to no protection? Should not his discharge paper serve as a passport of a free citizen ? As he has applied for naturalization, should not his service and his honorable discharge immediately secure his naturalization and give him full citizenship rights without delay?
– If the honorable member will give -me the name of the person concerned, I shall have the file brought to .my notice. I cannot believe that any one who applied for .naturalization as :far back as 1945 has not yet received it. .As a matter of fact, that would, be. impossible.. The. average. wait for. naturalization now in my department is only, three months. As’ to what happened. in. 194’5j, about two and a half! years, ago, I” think it is a little late to go. into, all’ the circumstances now; but a person is either a British subject or is not a British subject. If he is -not’ a British subject, he has. to. conform to. the laws regarding those, persons, whom, we- regard, as aliens. There was, at, that- time a requirement, which was largely a war-time requirement,; that, aliens, must be registered and. finger-printed. If. some person did. not take notice of the honorable discharge from the Australian, forces. ofl that person, that. is. one of the- human errors that occur. “We do not finger-print aliens. now. We abolished, that under, the act. that we passed, in. the last sessional period. Persons registering, as aliens no longer have to go to the police stations, but do so by reporting at the Department of Immigration, in the. capital’ cities or at post offices > outside capital” cities. There oan be no complaint to-day about anything thai operates in regard to registration, but if.’ the. person referred to by the hon:orable member, has not yet” been naturalized; I assure Ker’ that it will not be long before he is:
– I asb the– Minister representing the Minister far Social Ser* vices., whether it, is, a’ fact that sickness benefits., are. cancelled when, at recipient receives, his annual, holiday, pay> at* the end of the year? Recognizing that such pay is spread over, the- whole, year, and would not’ exceed3 the permissible- income per week that; is -allowed3, under the sick* ness - ‘Benefits provisions, does the- Minis5 tar consider - it. fair that1 those’ who: are receiving sickness benefits, say,- for December or January; should1 be deprived1 of them because they received” holiday pay-ih a- lump- sum- of £10’ or £19? If the Minister* does not’ consider that this cancellation of sickness benefit’s is< fair, what steps does he propose to take to rectify the position)?*
--! haws.- noi. heard of the circumstances which- the honorable member has described. Such a position co.ul’9 not have arisen in the past,, because the; prevision, granting, fourteen, days! annual, leave, has been, in operation., for less than a. year. .
– In . the.- mining? industry-, the-pr.oyision.has! operated, for. two years.
– I did not know that the*, honorable member referred to persons employed4 in ^he- mining industry.-
– Those are the- employees whom– 1 had in mind
– Expressing my own opinion, I should say that if. the facts are as stated by the honorable member, th e withdrawal’ qf the sickness benefits, is not fair.- However, I shall refer- the question to- the Minister for Social Services, and: ask him exactly what ‘ the law provides- ih’ this- matter;
Flour Mill. Employees
– Has the.Minister, for Labour and National Service’ seen, the statement of Mr. D. V. Morrison, conciliation, commissioner, that, he. was staggered that flour mill ‘.employees would not work reasonable overtime to produce flour- for hungry people7 overseas? Will the-1 Minister- investigate- the’ reasons why members of the Federated’ Mill Em.ployees Association- are refusing tb> workreasonable’ overtime, a-nd’ will-‘ he lay on the- table- of. the- House the– result of’ such investigations; including amy comments made, b’v mill1 employees* on the- rates of tax’ imposed’” when overtime- is1 earned V
– The- facts are as follows”- The- conciliation’ commissioner, Mr., Morrison;, did’ make some: remarks similar to those mentioned by the honorable member when’, hey was considering claims- by the% Federated1 Mill. Employees Association. Both parties, were present; and” some- rumour - Tj do. not think that.it was more than ar rumour^- -was circulated to. the: effect, that, even if- the conciliation commissioner, made a.; new a-ward, the men would impose.- a ban. on- working overtime.. As, the result, of. that rumour., Mr. Morrison, informed the parties in the court that he -had reached the stage where, he could make his- order but that he would not make any order unless he obtained from the. Federated Mill Employees- Association an assurance that its members would no+ impose a ban on overtime anywhere in Australia. The officers representing the Federated Mill Employees Association, whom I know well, asked for permission to consult their council before they made a definite promise to the conciliation commissioner, because they did not want to break their word. The parties met the conciliation commissioner again on the 17th February, and the representatives of the association gave a definite assurance that no ban would be imposed on any flourmilling operations in any State. Having received that promise, the conciliation commissioner made a new order, and there is no possibility of any ban being imposed. I am sunt of that. The honorable member may rest assured that the mills, about which he is naturally concerned, will be running at full capacity if they have the necessary labour. There will be no suggestion of the Federated Mill Employees Association imposing a ban anywhere in Australia.
-Did the Prime Minister read in yesterday’s newspapers a glowing tribute paid to the Australian economy and the Australian Government by a British businessman, Mr. Gilbert Harriman? Mr. Harriman. who was formerly vice-chairman of the. Hong Kong Stock Exchange, has arrived in Sydney to settle permanently in Australia. He said -
Australia is the most secure country, and the Australian pound, taking the long view, is the soundest. People in the Far East are beginning to realize this.
I include sterling and the gold dollar in this. I think Australia’s economy is wellguarded with controls, and, whatever people have to say about its politics, the Australian Government’s policy is straightforward and honest, as far as its economics are concerned.
In view of the anti-Australian “ knockers “ and denouncers, does not the Prime Minister consider that this Englishman’s view of Australia and the Australian Government is very fair?
– My attention has been drawn to the statement which the honorable member read, and to several other statements which appeared in American newspapers indicating their view of the very sound economy that
Australia enjoys. When invited by the press to make some comment on the matter, I suggested that the articles be sent to the Leader of the Australian Country party.
– There has always been an acting chairman of the board. Board meetings have not been held without a chairman.
– There lias not been an acting chairman. Members of the board have occupied the chair in turn from month to month.
– I am. saying that at all times there has been some one acting as chairman of the board, and that in each case an experienced individual has performed this service. However, I shall consult with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who has given a great deal of thought to this matter, and provide the honorable member for Indi with a reply to his question as early as possible.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 14th
November, 1947 (vide page 2,143), on motion by Mr. Pollard - …
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) 1933-1934 be intended . . . (vide page 2132, volume 194) .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Dedman and Mr. Johnson do prepare and bring in a hill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and read a first and second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has not given any explanation of the purport of this measure. The schedule now before us is merely a list of figures which is incomprehensible to any body who is not an expert on tariff matters. It is a farce to put this list of hieroglyphics before the committee. I invite the Minister to tell honorable members what the measure proposes to do in relation to New Zealand preference. How will these altered rates affect the existing situation?
– An explanation of this measure was given yesterday by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard). With regard to the tariff proposals introduced on the 14th November,19 47, it was necessary to adjust ad valorem rates of duty consequent upon the amendment of the Customs Act to provide for the calculation of value for duty in Australian currency. Certain items in the Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Act provide for ad valoremrates of duty and the reduction of the rates by 12 per cent. is comple mentary to the similar principle of reduction which the committee has approved in dealing with Customs Tariff Proposals No. 1.
– I have seen a few funny things emanate from this Government, butI have never yet known the Parliament to be asked to agree to a schedule consisting of one line stating “ Amendments of the schedule to the principal act “. If the Government intends that the schedule which has just been circulated to honormembers, when the hill is almost through the committee stage, should be approved, it is funnier still. Apparently the Government proposes once again to take advantage of its overwhelming majority in this chamber. What are the amendments that we are being asked to consider? Are they the ones contained in the schedule that has just been placed in our hands? If so, why are they not incorporated in the bill?
– The schedule was in my possession yesterday, and I think it was on the table of the House.
. -Surely this committee is entitled to some explanation of the extraordinary document that has just been circulated. Here we have a series of amendments entitled “ Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Proposals No. 1 “. We know, of course, that New Zealand always gets preference. It has received an. extraordinary preference of approximately 15s. a bushel in the purchase of wheat. We are entitled to know what all this means. The schedule has been kept secret. We do not know its full import. A quick glance reveals, in Item 15, a reference to “Toheroa soup, oyster soup and other fish soup, in powder or otherwise and whether in admixture with other substances or not”. The schedule sets out a long list of commodities in respect of which customs duties are to he altered. Locomotives are mentioned, and I should like to know from the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who no doubt is conversant with the details of the schedule, how many locomotives have been imported from New Zealand during the past ten years. Is this importation a large trade, and isour own locomotive industry/ being damaged by it.?. Then we. see “ winches, cranes^ capstans,. windlasses and hoists….. 7£- per cent, ad valorem What is the. volume: of the trade in this, machinery, between New Zealand and Australia?- A” rate- of. 17$ per cent, a’d’ valorem- is- specified’ for coal screening- machinery: Is- there a” big trade between New Zealand and Australia: in that’ machinery? Why is-it sent’ here?1 It certainly cannot; be used, here becausethere is no coal to- screen. Then we see that a duty of 22i per cent, ad valorem is specified for lead-headed’ nails- and gal:vanized cup-headed roofing- nails: As New Zealand has - no galvanizing- works and no steel- industry, why is that itemincluded? Nb doubt the minister will be delighted to explain that’ before he. finishes pushing this measure through. There are” references to metal bedsteads, cots, fire-irons; and other delectable implements of the home, and to -galvanized iron manufactures “‘made up from galvanized- iron, or from plain sheet iron, and then galvanized “. Are. these manufactures made. from the; stocks. of sheet. iron. which the Government- says are; choked up at Newcastle owing. to the. lack. of. shipping? Does-this iron- float. itself across the Tasman Sea; or is- if some-mythical thing that is- included in the’ schedule in-order that the people of Australia- may get’ toheroa soup free of; duty ?’ If it is mythical, why does* not the- Minister say; so- instead- of putting. all this detail in the schedule; and just - say what- New Zealand* preference” isreally for- preference to- New- Zealand: for- Australian wheat’ and1 toheroa*- soupfree of duty for the- wh’eat-growers’ of Australia?’-
’ - The/honorable, member for New England” (MrAbbott) tried to. be. facetious about this matter. He spoke, about, this schedule being “ a secret, document only just issued-“.’ It has.- been in. the. hands of honorable, members- since, last November, when.it was. introduced in this chamber. As.for the. items in it, all of ‘them were on a. similar schedule. and were put. there, by a government composed of the. present Opposition parties,- not by. this Govern ment. All: that. this, schedule does, is to. set new rates because of. the amendment, that was. made to. the Customs Act. providing, for as different method of. valuation i from that’ previously-‘ used! The schedule5; sets out. rates which will, give to the items specified in it exactly the same protection and the same preference’ as was given under, the -previous schedule. That is all that it does. If any blame: is< attachable for the presence, in the. schedule, of. such items as toheroa soup, sheet iron. or. anything- else,- iti rests with the Opposition parties, whose-government. compiled the schedule in the first instance.
.- If one looks at the original act, one finds that what the Minister (Mr. Dedman) has said is .nonsense. He h as tried to: lead the committee to believe that all we. have, here is a state of affairs similar to what was provided in the original act. However, one only needs to’ run one’s” eyes through the original act and the, schedule which was annexed to it- I refer* to. Act No.. 24 of. 19.33^-to find out. that, a great number of. items, is set..out. there. and that tariff rates are. specified,in..respect.of each of them in the last, column of that schedule. . Then, when: one turns to. the document: which, just this, moment, has been; distributed to. honorable members,, one. finds; that, there., is provision, for. a variation, of. those, tariff rates, and that, of course, is the- whole., point.!. This newpiece, of legislation proposes, to vary the tariff rates set, down in the ‘original. docu-ment. Therefore, when the Minister said, that this thing is the same as before, and’ that it1 is ‘ all- the fault of; ax. previous- government fon having set the matter out in this way, he was merely talking nonsense.The’ real’ point at issue- is- the-1 most- extraordinary form- of this- legislation! Here is- a bill for an- act; containing– three1 clauses- and containing’ a - schedule-. All that is said- about’ the schedule is, “ Amendments,of the schedule to the principal act “. The principal act’1 had-‘ the virtue of Having a, schedule annexed1 to it. This document has no’ scheduler annexed to* it; but’ a separate– paper ‘has been- placed on- the- table this morning- for the first’ time-
– - L repeat that it was issued, last November.
– It-came to -the notice of honorable- members’ for “the’ first time this morning. It is not a schedule to the bill at all. sIt is ‘something’ en’tirely ‘different. It ‘is fa revolutionary -way ‘o’f ‘legislating to bring in a bill which includes the words ““The ^Schedule’”, following the clauses, 1 but >-which, in ! fact, “‘has ‘ no ‘ schedule .
This ‘is the first ..time .that T’ have ever seen a bill which refers to a schedule in the ‘principal clause, but ‘which has no -schedule at ‘all. ‘Tha’t ‘the -Parliament should “ be asked ‘to -approve of “legislation which refers to a ‘-schedule when there :is no schedule to:it, calls for an explanation.
– T.he ‘transaction cif the business ‘ of t this Parliament ‘in: this .’manner ‘should not .be -tolerated, and ‘I rise for i the second (time to protest against the methods adopted by the Minister for Postwar ‘Reconstruction ((Mr. Dedman), who ‘is ;in ‘charge ‘of the bill -and who has just returned :from Havana, where :he -attended the ‘international trade conferences. If this is the way in which business was ‘conducted at -the Geneva and ‘Havana conferences, .the results brought back by the Minister requirevery close scrutiny. He has entered this chamber in ‘ the ‘manner of .one who is accustomed to having his- word taken as law, and has thrown on “the table a document containing possibly 2,000 items couched in terms which not even an expert “could understand unless .he had studied .them for days. This document was given tens about fifteen minutes, ago. An attendant moved around the chamber and handed each honorable -member a> copy of this document .containing masses of figures, names and ^descriptions, and we are. now .invited to vote for the adoption -of ;the .-schedule en Hoc. The .Government may be trying to squeeze through something, hidden in a mass of figures, :that .might have very .serious effects on -some ‘Australian industries. I : am -not able. to say. at the moment whether that is -:sr» or not, because one would have to scrutinize .the document for. hours in order to.- learn .what-it contains. I. notice, for example, .that there is reference to impacted ;dried milk. -I -.do not know that Australia is :noi in ra position ‘to pro-wide :its.-:own requirements. of milk products. However, -the ‘.schedule refers .to milk, -dried or in powder form, and,the same in ‘combination -with “casein, sugar of milk,!or ..other milk .products “-not in combination with rum I notice - for which a tariff -rate of 22^ .per cent, ad valorem .is stipulated. Just what -will be the .effect :of .that 1 .Can .the Minister . say whether .it will .change the .previous ^situation!? ?Mr. Dedman; - -It twill not ‘change ‘the previous situation one iota.
– Then what is the necessity ;’f or giving us a second dose of this :in Parliament? .1 notice .that coil pipes are mentioned in the schedule. ‘1 do not know whether they are for the use of the Prime Minister ‘or ‘-whether they : are: some .other , product. 80 explanation is given. Coil pipes could -.be .any .sort of pipes. There are thousands of .items in the schedule, and we are expected to pass items which we might have cause to regret having passed, because so far we have not been green -.a chance .to examine them.
.- The committee : is ‘entitled to van explanation by -the .Minister . of ‘ the points which have .’already !been -mentioned. Why has this legislation -been introduced -in -this form ? I repeat that .1 have never previously seen a hill bearing the ‘words “ The Schedule”’, but which, in fact, has no schedule .to it. Ye”t that is what we .have here. This is a very -serious point and I. in vite the ;Minister to give i immediate attention.to.it.
– The method of implementing this proposal is exactly the same as the method that has -always been used in. this Parliament.
– I have not been in this Parliament :long enough to know that.
– The honorable member oan :take it ‘from me that it ‘is so.
– I do not take it .from the Minister. ‘I suggest that never :in the history of the Australian Parliament has a “bill been brough t down-which, in one .of its clauses, refers to a schedule which does not exist.
– How can one look at the schedule if.it does .not .exist? !Mr. ..BE ALE:: It: is « a :great indulgence on the part of the ‘Government to let .us know, by inserting two words, “ The Schedule “, that there is such an animal !
Mr.Menzies. - Now we see it, now we do not!
– It is like the famous “ Oozelum “ bird. The bill refers to a schedule, but we find that there is no schedule. Never in the history of Australian legislation can a bill have been brought down in this form. Not only is it slovenly, but it is impertinent in its treatment of the representatives in the Parliament the people of Australia. If there is a schedule why should it not be included in the bill?
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 14th November, 1947 (vide page 2143), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference)1934-1939be amended * . .(vide* page 2140. volume 194).
.- The purpose of this proposal-
Mr. Beale interjecting,
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Order! The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) must be a little more courteous to the Chair.
– I simply wished to point out-
The CHAIRM AN. - Order ! The honorable member has not been called. I shall deal with him if he does not conduct himself in a proper manner.
– The Chair made an accusation against me, and I want to reply to it.
– Order ! If the honorable member does not control himself I shall deal with him.
– The purpose of this proposal is similar to that of the Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Amendment No. 1, with which the committee has recently dealt Certain items covered by the Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Act are subject to ad valorem duties and the rates have been reduced by 12 per cent. in view of the new basis for calculating value for duty.
.- The matter under consideration may not be of outstanding importance in itself, but it does give members of the committee an opportunity to discuss all the items in the schedule. Item 291, building timber, affects the construction of houses, a matter which is of vital importance in Australia to-day that should not be disposed of without some discussion. We should review the rates of duty operating in regard tooregon logs and sawnoregon. The Government should make inquiries of the timber trade to ascertain -whether timber cannot be produced more cheaply than it is at present, and the Tariff Board should also be asked to furnish a report on the subject. Since the present scale of duties was imposed before the war conditions have changed considerably. To-day building materials are in short supply, and the Government should investigate the possibility of obtaining building timber more cheaply from Canada. This is an aspect of the matter which should receive special consideration by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon). Canadian timber possesses some qualities which are lacking in Australian hardwoods.
– What about the softwoods in New Guinea?
– That subject would be regarded as sub judice to-day. Whilst the importation of Canadianoregon would involve us in the expenditure of dollars, I think that the advantages which would accrue to the community would justify that expenditure. Australian hardwood is already well protected by tariff, but the important thing to-day is that the price of house construction should be reduced. The introduction of the 40-hour week, the shortage of building materials of all kinds, and a number of other factors have caused the price of house construction to sky-rocket, with the result that buyers of homes, and particularly those who purchase war service homes, will require a lifetime to pay for them. If a substantial reduction could be effected in the cost of some of the essential materials the lot of most of our people would be much happier. I exhort the Government to review particularly the protective tariff placed on timber, and to confer with the building trade and the Tariff Board to ascertain whether it is not practicable to permit the importation of Canadian timber in the form of sawn logs. I appeal to the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy), who has just entered the chamber, to support my proposal. Like other South Australian members he has spoken on this matter before, urging that cheaper building timber be brought into the country. This is an opportunity for him to support my appeal.
– Whilst I have always advocated the imposition of adequate tariffs, I consider that the present time is one when we should make temporary adjustments to our tariffs in order to meet our difficulties. Item 157 deals with barbed wire. A duty of 50s. a ton is imposed on barbed wire imported from abroad at a time when it is urgently required by primary producers. The Australian iron and steel industry is being frustrated by a concerted attempt on the part of enemy agents to prevent the manufacture of many things which are essential to primary producers. Local manufacturers have been quite frank in admitting that fencing materials, including posts, cannot be delivered to primary producers for two and a half years because of the shortage of coal, which is holding back production. The iron and steel industry is also being hampered by the adoption of “ go-slow “ tactics.
Because of our present economic situation, it is necessary for us to review our tariff policy in order that the proper development, particularly of primary industries, of the country may proceed. I ask the Government to hesitate before pressing for approval of this schedule. Spare parts for trucks and motor cars are almost unobtainable, but a heavy duty is imposed upon them. Instead, a’ subsidy should be paid in respect of any that are imported so that the wheels of industry may continue to turn and country people may be enabled to carry out the tasks that are so essential to the prosperity of our primary producers. Owing to the dollar shortage we cannot import many new motor vehicles, and are forced to use old ones. They have continually to be repaired and will have to be laid aside if spare parts cannot be obtained. I urge the Government to ensure that when these items arrive in Australia they are delivered to the places where they are most required.
.- I support all that has been said by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) about certain items in this tariff schedule. The duties imposed upon barbed wire and oregon timber, for instance, are intended either to raise revenue or to protect Australian industry. At the present time the Government is bloated with revenue from income tax, sales tax, customs duties and so on. It has even reached the stage at which it does not bother to collect £60,000,000 arrears of income tax. There is no justification for imposing duties, in order to raise revenue, upon items that have an important effect upon the housing of the Australian people and the efficiency of its primary producers. If that is the motive, the duties should be abolished and the articles imported duty free. If the intention is to protect Australian industry, surely the Government knows that it is not necessary to protect industries so overwhelmed with orders placed at highly remunerative prices that they are years in arrears with deliveries. I refer to the iron and steel industry and the timber industry. Present circumstances afford no justification for the maintenance either of a protective duty or a revenue raising duty upon items seriously affecting the cost of houses and the proper conduct of our primary industries. There is an increasing demand for
Oregon timber for use in flooring and other housing requirements. That is due to the difficulty of importing the Baltic timber normally used for this purpose and the inability of Australian mills to supply adequate quantities of kiln-dried Australian hardwood or softwood. A person who wishes to build a house to-day- is - told, that the. only timber: available.- for: floors;, skirting boards,, architraves, picture rails, and other, fifetings.! formerly made of- kiln-dried hard:wood, or Baltic softwood; .is oregon timber, costing approximately twice as; much.
The committee is asked to approve a tariff’ schedule, the effect of which will: be:to increase the cost: of home building, in: this country at a time, when that costhas already- risen to- a level hitherto, not’ dreamed’ of. The cost of homes is such, that even, a Labour: government, cannot” regard it with, indifference as: falling’ upon capitalists, even if home-buyers are; as the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction once described them, little capitalists, who aspire, to nothing more than ownership of their own homes. These people are entitled to protection from the extortionate prices, that are now being charged; I have brought architraves, paying 9di a running foot for oregon timber. 3 inches or 4 inches wide. This tariff schedule is designed to perpetuate those high costs. The complaint is made to-day that, even homes built by State housing, commissions are let at rents in excess of £2 a week.
If homes .have to be floored, with oregon. timber,, the capital, cost will increase. In my- own. district, many homes, are being built, with floors constructed of that-, material. That is. a purpose. to. which it was. never, intended to put that timber in. this country, and thereason, for- ite. use. is the. inability of. home builders to obtain other, timbers.
Similar arguments - apply to the duty upon barbed* wire, because at- the. present time it is not .possible to buy bar-bed wire:. I. am engaged in, the. live-stock,. industry,, and. although I have had ai standing, order for barbed, wire, placed with, my pastoral, company for. seven years L have, not received, a.single coiL The small. quantity that is. available -is diverted to: exservicemen - quite properly,, in my; opinion.. It is- diverted, from. ex-ser.vice personnel only to. settlers who suffer, serious loss, through bush fires, or floods, , and. then, the. preference reverts, to ex-service -personnel. I know all* about, that aspect of the: matter: However,, many farmers throughout, the. Commonwealth are obliged- to. let, their, stock, roam. the. roads, because, they, cannot purchase- wire to. fence, their pr.o- perties. But,, im this:, instance; when theGovernment, is. not, short, oft revenue and . there is.no.’need for a duty- to protect theAustralian iron. and. steel industry- .. we are asked to ratify a. duty, which ‘will.have: the effect of keeping- up. the, cost of barbed wire, and”, to: some: degree,, ofl keep; ing. it out of the country altogether’. Tha t is” an- iniquitous policy-: Lam not asking’that die -Government revert. to-a: duty-free policy in respect of these, items-. I acknowledge: the necessity; when, circum-stances warrant such a policy, for; protecting our timber and iron. and. steel industries; There. is, however,. no need at; the moment’. for a protective duty; and no honorable member* will- suggest, that, any necessity will arise within the next: two or three years- for protecting these industries in order to ensure disposal ot: their entire output. Therefore; I intend tomove an amendment that all items indivisions VI. and X.. be deferred until such time as the Government brings forward a proposal for the temporary dutyfree entry of these requirements for housing and primary production, in this country.
– (-Mr: Clark).-
The divisions mentioned by the!.honorable member- are- not’ now- before the- Chair: The committee is ‘now- dealing only with items 157. under - Division VI’.
– For- the reasons 1 have given,.! move -
That item 157 bc postponed.
Mr. ABBOTT (New England) [12.0 J. -I .support .the amendment. moved. by the honorable member -for Indi (Mr. McEwen). ‘It is proposed that the duty on barbed wire be at the rate of 50s. a ton. This is a classic example df the lack of knowledge of a socialistic government and df the damage which, in its ignorance of the requirements of primary industries, ‘it can do to those .industries. In its ignorance, it depends upon advisers who are congregated at ‘Canberra, far removed from the areas of primary production, and unaware of developments in industries supplying. the needs of primary industries in this and and other countries.
Presumably, the item applies solely to steel barbed wire. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), in his peregrinations overseas, if he were interested at all in primary production, must have read in American magazines, such as the American Country Gentleman, the -Farmer’s Journal, the Implement Manufacturer of Chicago and the Arizona Farmer, of the enormous development which has taken place in the United States of America and Canada in the manufacture of barbed wire from aluminium. The Minister implied ‘that this and other items should be agreed ‘because they were imposed by a Liberal-Country party government ‘some years ago. Apparently they are ‘there, like the laws of “the “Medes ‘and Persians, -never to be changed. But the Government, depending merely on library research, and -without ‘any ‘practical experience of the needs of the man on the land, completely ignores the enormous development which ‘has “taken place in the United ‘States of America and Canada in the manufacture of aluminium products, including aluminium barbed wire, which are on the market to-day. “Just :how .ridiculous is this proposal to i impose a duty on barbed wire at the rate of 50s. a ton will be realized when we know that the running length of a coil o’f aluminium barbed wire is three times the: running length of a coil of steel barbed wire :of the same weight. Whereas, a 1-cwt. i coil :of steel barbed wire has a running length of : 800 yards, a -coil - of aluminium barbed -wire of the same -weight has a running’ length of 2)400 yards. This proposal reveals the -slipshod manner in which this -schedule ‘has .been compiled. It also reveals ‘a lack of practical research. I -strongly oppose the item, which should not only be deferred, -even if we have to wait a few days, but should also be put into,order so “that, when we have it before us again, it shall be plain that it refers tol bar bed wire ‘made from’ steel and not to barbed wire made from aluminium. The item is- a classic- example of the Government’s gross stupidity and ignorance in dealing with the needs of primary producers. Therefore, I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment for the postponement of the item, even though it may mean that, for-a week or two, the’ higher rate of duty shall-stand, it could then he exactly described. We may then move for :heavy reductions of the tariff imposed -on such products. We have been told to-day and time and time again that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and Australian Iron and Steel Limited are producing 45,000 tons a week less than their capacity because of labour and coal shortages. Are the development of primary industries and the production o’f food so urgently required from Australia to be held up by very heavy duties on these imports because the Government is un- willing to bring about ‘the state of affairs that -would produce ‘the necessary iron and -steel? Are we to have production held “up ‘and the world starved because we arc not producing the food that we could if we got barbed “wire and wire netting and other agricultural requirements ‘that - we need? The Government is -so unaware of the ‘conditions -of the -world ‘to-day that it does not know that aluminium ‘barbed wire that weighs only one- third of the weigh t -‘of -steel -wire is procurable.
.- It is not very often that we have the opportunity of reviewing these duties, but when it is provided the Government should take cognizance df the views of honorable members representing the food-producing industries of the country ‘and the people in need of homes and other buildings who, I sup”pose, are represented by all honorable members. The standard and stock excuse of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) for the maintenance of these items is that they are related to the Ottawa Agreement and were put into operation fifteen or sixteen years ago, long before this Government took office. His defence is that these items are only a variation to bring the duties into line with a change in the standard of currency. That is no defence at all and it does not in any way satisfy the people who need the materials covered by the schedule. The Minister aptly bears the title of Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. That, in itself, ought to signify that there has been a change of conditions since the tariff based on the Ottawa Agreement was tabled. Circumstances to-day are vastly different. Tens of thousands of people are unable to build homes. Thousands more cannot produce the food required. We have committees set up by the Government to organize driver for food for Britain and for increases of production, and we hear many exhortations from Canberra as to what the farmer is to do; but I, as a farmer, am unable to do the things that I want to do - and there are thousands like mc - because I cannot get materials to fence paddocks, to cultivate and to improve pastures. The materials are not available. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) said that he had not been able to secure a coil of barbed wire for years. Neither have thousands of farmers throughout the country. Yet the Government exhorts the farmers to produce more. There should be some flexibility in the mind of the Government on this matter. What was done fifteen years ago should not stand for all time. This is the time and the opportunity and to-day presents the need for a change of the tariff policy, a temporary change if you like, as the honorable mem’ber for Indi said, but a change of sufficient duration to enable us to import supplies of materials to relieve the shortages in Australia.
– Where are the supplies available?
– That will soon be ascertained if the duty is varied. The Minister is taking a different tack now. He implies that no need exists to alter the duties because we could not get supplies, in any case. Let us test that. I think it could be quickly demonstrated that we could get some additional supplies for Australian industries.
– The honorable member knows that that is not true. They could not be got from Canada.
– I know that the output of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is 25 per cent, less than its capacity because it cannot get steel, coal find coke at Newcastle. I was informed of that at Newcastle last week. Consequently, home-building and productive enterprises are held up. The Government, has the opportunity of making a forward move by permitting the entry of those supplies. The Minister says that we can not get them from Canada, but has he tried? Let private enterprise have a “ s?o “, and I shall be able to give the Minister an answer within .six months.
– What the Minister says does not apply to Oregon, anyway.
– lt certainly does not apply to Oregon. On the. one hand. the1 Minister for Immigration confessed yesterday to spending millions of pounds to bring migrants to Australia, and, on the other, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen”) claimed that migrants should not be brought here until homes we available. We know that the Australian sawmills cannot supply sufficient timber for the homes that should be built. Any one who has attempted to build in the last year or two knows that. The Government should show a realistic approach to post-war problems. The first man. to support that point of view should be the man who bears the title of Minister for Post-war Reconstruction.
– Minister for “ Post-war Destruction “.
-I should not like to say how the general public describes him, but that, at any rate is his official title. I come from a timber district, and I can say that Australia’s timber resources art rapidly running out. On the north coast of New South Wales and in Queensland, for example, farmers and fruit-growers are almost unable to buy cases in which to send their goods to market. The price of cases has gone up since the war from 9d. to 2s. 6d. each. That is an increase of about 300 per cent., but cases are not available because the timber that is available is being diverted very largely to house building.
– By how much have bananas gone up?
– The price of bananas is lower than it was before the war. If the Minister remained in Australia, instead of -touring the world, he would know something of what is happening in his own country. I notice that the duty on bananas has been reduced.
The CHAI!RMAN. Order!
– I support the amendment of the honorable member for Indi. We are not prepared at this juncture to advocate that the duty be abolished, because, manifestly, that would be improper, but a proposal should be introduced to discontinue or reduce certain duties -for a period. They could be safely discontinued altogether for the next five years. An honorable member, by interjection, suggests three years, but I think we could go further than that, because there is no prospect of Australian manufacturers of timber, barbed wire or other materials catching up with the back log of orders for years. More revenue is not required and industry does not require to be protected. So what is the reason for the retention of the duty other than the stubbornness of the Minister in dealing with one of the most important subjects in Australia to-day?
– Mr. Chairman-
– I rise to order. On several occasions I have endeavoured to secure the call. 1 have no desire to invade the province of members of the Australian Country party, but it is usual, in the present circumstances, for the Chair to alternate the call between the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), a member of the Australian Country party, has just resumed his seat, and, as no member of the Labour party rose, I contend that I should receive the call.
– Order ! No point of order is involved. The Chair is entitled to call an honorable member as it sees him rise. The honorable member for Wimmera has not spoken previously, and the honorable member for Barker has done so.
– But not on this subject.
– Order ! The Chair has charge of the committee.
– No honorable member interested in primary production could fail to support the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). I believe that materials which are urgently required for primary production at the present time should be admitted to this country free of duty. One has only to travel throughout Australia to realize that the primary producer’s equipment is deteriorating, and, unless his machinery can be repaired or replaced,. Australia’s production will suffer. On several occasions, I have made representations to the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) regarding the lack of supplies of wire, and the replies which. I have received show clearly tha t the Minister does not expect the position to be remedied for some years. The latest reply which I received, stated that, owing to the lack of man-power in the wire-pulling industry, it was doubtful what would happen in future, and supplies would be short for some considerable time. The seriousness of the position i9 emphasized whenever we hear the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) speak of the general shortage of man-power throughout Australia.
The honorable member for Indi said that certain sections of the community who require supplies of wire are granted priorities. One of these classes, and rightly so, is the ex-serviceman on the land. But what is the use of granting ex-servicemen a priority when they are not able to purchase their requirements of wire? That is what is happening in Australia to-day. In Victoria, the land settlement of ex-servicemen is being held up through this shortage. If we cannot produce the goods which we require, we must obtain them elsewhere. I have always held the opinion that Australia is essentially -a primary ‘producing country, ‘anil although. T strongly favour the development of “our secondary industries in every way, ‘I consider that they should bean. adjunct to and should not expand at the expense of the primary industries. Apparently, we must have tariff protection -to -bolster the 40-hour week, and shield workers who are not giving maximum output. Primary producers are anxious and willing to .give maximum production, and suitable action should be taken ‘to adjust this ‘lack of balance between primary and “secondary ‘indus”tries.
The barbed wire position in Australia is an excellent example .of the difficulties which .primary producers encounter in securing their requirements. My constituents find that their plant and equipment has deteriorated, and I emphasize that if the condition of .this machinery continues to deteriorate, production will be .reduced, and our population will face a reduction of its standard of living. Secondary industries cannot : be built up permanently at the expense of the source . of their expansion, namely, the .primary industries. This .Government, with its socialist .outlook, appears to believe that it-can develop secondary industries and attract population from the rural areas to the cities,, and .that Australia will continue to prosper. History ‘has proved the fallacy .of that belief. The policy may succeed-for a time–
Mr. -Dedman; - This Government “has done .more to ‘decentralize industry than any ‘previous .government.
–rf ‘the Government persists with its present policy, Australians will ‘not be able to retain their present-standard’ of living. Primary : producers .axe being ‘menaced and i harassed, and ‘their production is being -affected in many ways which could be avoided. Therefore, in supporting -the amendment, I believe -that ! am acting in the best interests of Australia, because the :purpose is to ‘increase production. The Prime Minister and many other honorable members opposite have stated that -we ‘must increase production. What is the use of “that advocacy when nothing practical is done? It is as ‘futile as ^giving .an fox-serviceman a property, and not making it possible for him to obtain the materials required to work :it. Prompt action must ‘be taken ‘to overcome these shortages rf ‘we are to make Australia -a great nation
-KINDER (Franklin) ‘[12.21’J. - I desire to ‘refer -to that part of item 291 which relates to timber, ‘bent -or cut into .shape, dressed or partly dressed. The ‘duty on .these imports from Canada has been reduced from So .per -cent, to 47$ per cent, ad valorem. I have in. mind the importation of Canadian .case timber to -supply the Australian .fruit industry in .general, and the .requirements of Tasmanian fruit-growers in particular. Throughout Australia at the present time, there is a grave shortage of case timber for the fruit industry. This shortage is most serious in Tasmania where this year more than ‘6,000,000 cases of apples and pears will be available for export. ‘Fruitgrowers are experiencing great difficulty in obtaining supplies of case ‘timber. -Before the outbreak of World War II., we imported a substantial quantity of Canadian wood for case timber, and some persons engaged in the fruit industry prefer it on the ground that the presentation of their fruit, particularly on export “markets ‘as in ‘the United Kingdom, is of a “better character. At present, ;there is a shortage -of this Canadian timber, and a grave shortage of Australian ‘timber for the case ‘industry.
I suggest that -Canadian timber for the case industry be imported under bylaw, .’and ‘that, for the -time being, the present duty should be waived. As the honorable member for -Indi (Mr. McEwen) mentioned, while there is such a shortage of Australian timber, the need to protect our own industry does not really arise. ‘It will not do ‘so until the local supply approximately equalizes the demand. By removing the existing duty, we shall not imperil our own production and industry. If the Government is sincerely interested in the welfare of the fruit and timber industries, it can very well make this gesture, which will be of great help to fruit-growers, and permit the growth o’f their industry. I support most emphatically the remarks made by members of the Australian ‘Country party, and I should like to hear the reply of the Minister for- Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) on the subject.
Mr, ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker.). 1 12.25],– I wish to bring, to the notice of. honorable members the important effect of. the currency exchange rate on these proposals-. The document that we have* before us was tabled- on the 14th November; 1947, and took effect from. 9 a.mi next day. It. provides in the case of item 15.7 that existing tariffs shall be altered-
By omitting - “ on and after 2nd April, 1930 157. Barbed wire . . per ton 50s. And for each. £1 by; which the equivalent in. Australian, currency of £100. sterling is less than £125 at the date of ex* porta tion -
Ali additional duty of . . per ton 2s.”
Other proposed amendments are similarlyworded. I can understand that the Government may have certain reasons for these amendments and I could appreciate those reasons if the Government held the view that Australian currency and’ British currency were to approximate each other in value. I personally cannot see. that: I believe that the existing disparity is likely to. be increased and I should like to. know whether, or not the. Government believes that Australian, currency and. Canadian- currency arelikely to! maintain a, relationship, entirely divorced from the relationship which, may soon, exist, between. Australia-m currency, and. British i currency. This is rather important- because the. question, of extra duties, being, applied- to- importsfrom, other countries will’ become1 very urgent; should* the.- currency- relationships! between ourselves, and- the1 United Kingdom experience-, certain, changes.. I canquite, understand, the position, that, prevailed before- the: beginning- of: the- last w,ar, but, we are now, approaching a stage in. the history of sterling- at which certain changes; appear tm be inevitable, and’ in. the: interests- of the economy of the>. sterling area, the:- sooner, these modifications are made; the* better.. But: I should-, like to .know whether-the; Government has any statement: to> make. in. clarification oft the- position- so> far,- as! the?- fixing- of dutiesof customs in relation to variations: of
Australian currency in- terms of other currencies is concerned! This- is a vital matter- and’ one which- 1 think should be clarified now rather- than: later, when things- may be much more complicated.
– These measures have no relation whatsoever to the present position of sterling. They are the result of action to provide for a new method, of value- for duty purposes, thenew. method! being, value in. Australian, currency instead of in sterling. The sole reason, for the. introduction of this bill and the other measure with which we have just, dealt is to amend the rates so that the same measure of protection will be. provided as was. enjoyed, previously…
– I am surprised that;, in the course of this discussion on the importation of timber, no honorable member has stressed the necessity for the conservation of our– own forest resources. I am reminded of the wise words of our former Inspector-General of Forests, Mr. C. E. Lane Poole, who said, many, years ago, “ “When we- import too little, we cut too much These words are just as true to-day-as they were then. I remind honorable members that in relation to Queensland, the most richly endowed timber State- of the Commonwealth, had the- rate: of cutting operating ten years ago beenallowed’ to continue, the timber resources of that State would” have been depleted in fifteen years: To-d:ay there is an urgent need’ to import timber into this- country, not’ only to alleviate the present1 shortage,, but also to- protect our- own forests. I’ could’- speak- also of the effects- of the serious’ shortage- of barbed’ wire- in the northern portions of the Commonwealth, but- 1 propose ai? this stage to confine my remarks to item- 291 g which- deals with unsawn logs. I have conferred with senior officers- of the- Department of Trade and Customs and’ they have informed me that timber now being- imported from British. North Borneo-is subject, to a duty of only. 1%’ per. cent; under the British, preferential’ ta-riff, plus; of course, the usual 5 per cent’, primage which” is common- to both’
Canadian and British timbers. I congratulate the Government upon that concession, but why not go further and allow the free importation of timber from these areas. 1 For two years, I have been endeavouring to do the work Of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) in the rebuilding of Darwin, but I have had no support at all for my efforts. Indeed, the Minister has now come under fire from the newly-elected Northern Territory Legislative Council which held its inaugural meeting last week. Strong criticism was voiced by the member for Tennant Creek (Dr. Webster), who is not a Government nominee, but a representative elected by the people. For two years I have been corresponding with the British North Borneo Timber Company with a view to having logs brought to Darwin. One firm in Darwin which has its own saw-milling equipment has asked me to make representations to the responsible Minister - I am not sure whether it is the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) or the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), because one Minister “ passes the buck “ to the other - to have the logs shipped from Sandakan in North Borneo to Darwin in cattle ships returning to that port after carrying cattle to Manila. I have not been able to obtain a satisfactory reply from either Minister. I have received communications containing a mere mass of words, but no definite statement of policy. When passing through Brisbane last Christmas, I noticed a report in the press that on the wharfs were large quantities of North Borneo logs consigned to Brett and Company Limited of Brisbane. Apparently this live-wire firm has been able to import the timber itself. I see no reason why Darwin should be by-passed in favour of Brisbane. It is the duty of the Ministers who are concerned with the rebuilding of Darwin to ensure that adequate supplies of timber shall be made available for this purpose, instead of allowing the Darwin people themselves to bring timber in from the bush on their shoulders. Recently, an agent of the British North Borneo Timber Company, Mr. Parnell, who during the war was interned by the Japanese in Borneo, visited New South Wales in an endeavour to purchase machinery to rebuild the saw-mill at Sandakan. The latest information that I have from Harrisons Ramsay Proprietary Limited, one of whose senior officers, Mr. Wearne, has just returned from Borneo, is that the company would bo pleased to make some arrangement to import logs. Why should I, as a private member, have to do a Minister’s job? The Government confiscated land at Darwin. Why is it not attending to this matter? Two Ministers are directly in control of the territory, and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) also have fingers in the pie. They are neglecting their duty by failing to attend to the territory, over which, jointly, they have full control. The time is overdue for a responsible Minister to visit New Guinea and the islands of the archipelago which stretches from the end of the Malay Peninsula to the Solomon Islands, with a view to making use of their enormous timber resources to augment our local supplies, which are steadily being depleted. Of course, this Government is not likely to regard the potentialities of these islands seriously. It has never done so.
Mr. HARRISON .(Wentworth) [12.36’J. - As I understand the position, the Government is asking the committee to agree to a schedule which, it claims, will ensure the collection of approximately the same amount of duty as was formerly collected when values were calculated on a sterling basis. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has said that this amendment is merely a reflection of some agreement arising from the Ottawa Conference. That is true. However, as has been pointed out, circumstances have changed considerably since the Ottawa Agreement was negotiated. Circumstances within Australia are entirely different from what they were then. We all appreciate the seriousness of the housing situation to-day. There is an urgent need to bring into Australia suitable softwoods to augment the limited supply of locally produced timber in order to accelerate our housing projects. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) has pointed out how the shortage of timber is limiting the production of cases.
All of our shortages can be overcome and the wishes of honorable members on t his side of the chamber can be met if the Minister will take notice of the suggestion which was made by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who opened this debate. The honorable member has had great experience of customs laws and procedure, and, in the light of my limited experience, I am happy to support his suggestion that timber be permitted to enter Australia under by-law, even if only for a limited period. Such an arrangement would allow the Government to continue to control the basic tariff schedules while, at the same time, permitting the free entry of timber to overtake local shortages.
– Action under by-law can still be taken even if we pass this measure.
– I know. That is the point. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has proposed an amendment about which I am. not too happy. If the Minister would give the honorable member an assurance that he would consider permitting the free entry of timber under by-law for a limited period, I am sure that the honorable member would withdraw the amendment and that there would be no need to divide the committee. The Minister should say, “ We recognize the great advantage that will accrue from having a surplus of softwood timbers in Australia, and therefore we consider, in the light of what has been revealed in this debate and of what has been said by timber interests generally, that consideration should be given to the importation of softwoods under by-law “. The implementation of the suggestion made by the honorable member for Balaclava would not adversely affect the millers. They are not likely to raise any objection. They are handling all the timber that they are capable of handling. We are badly in need of oregon. Honorable members have only to look at houses that are being erected in order to realize the seriousness of that shortage. Uncompleted houses are left waiting for roofing tiles for long periods, and the timber is exposed to the elements. This hardwood is usually put into the houses in a green or near-green condition and, before the tiles are finally put in place, it buckles so much that the workmen have difficulty in getting the tiles to sit flat. That is a common experience to-day. It would not occur if we had adequate supplies of oregon. Oregon does not suffer from exposure to the weather as does hardwood that has not been kiln-dried. It is not subject to the same stresses and strains. It is idea] for use as roofing timber and it should have a place in the development of our housing schemes.
The restrictions now imposed upon the importation of timbers are so excessive that the costs of home-building are being unduly inflated. The duties specified in the schedule applied before the war, but then the demand for home-building was not so keen as it is to-day. Furthermore, in addition to the duties, home-builders must pay primage and sales tax. This automatically forces up building costs. As other honorable members have pointed out, this Government is bloated with revenue. There is no need whatever for it to insist upon’ the collection of this revenue tariff, because our hardwood industries are not now in need of protection. It is obvious that the Government is using this tariff solely as a means of gaining revenue, a process which is causing unnecessary inflation of building costs. The difficulty can be resolved by the Minister saying to the honorable member for Indi that the Government will consider permitting the entry of timber under by-law for a limited period. I am sure that the honorable member would thereupon withdraw his amendment. Surely the Minister should be in a position to give consideration to this reasonable suggestion.
I draw attention now to remarks of the honorable member for Franklin. Tasmania has produced a record crop of apples this year, but the growers have only an extremely limited quantity of cases in which to pack the crop. They have been promised that ships will call to take the apples overseas, but they are made suspicious of the Government because it has now changed the method of assessing the crop and has announced that growers will be paid only for the apples actually delivered. They have not enough cases to handle their crop and it seems- that’ the Government is- not providing -for. the manufacture of the cases necessary for the growers to- effect deliveries.-
– Order ! The honorable- member’s remarks- are not* re=lated to the subject’ before the Chair.
– My remarks are intended as an illustration of the timber shortage. The point is that, the timber required to make cases for the. apple, crop in Tasmania is not procurable. If the Government- agreed’ to permit the entry of timber under by-law; it would be avail* able. T was told by a prominent man associated ‘ with the case-making industry in Tasmania that manufacturers to-day are- cutting up timber tha=t normally would be used for- the manufacture of furniture. That indicates– the extremeseriousness of the timber shortage.
– Do you. believe him?
– I. do - believe’ him. This- man. was- appointed by the present: Government, to act in a. senior, position, of authority and. he.- is a man. of. high, standing with-, the: Government: He’ has informed me. that it is- an established fact that! case manufacturers are cuttingup planks that normally would be- used, to, make-, furniture. They are: doing: thisin> an. effort to accommodate the hugecrop, off apples produced in- Tasmania thi s sea.son: The arguments that Have- been advanced; in this, discussion- should: lead/ the: Minister to say that the Government-, will permit’ the- entry of timber- under, bylaw for a: limited period until: shortagesare overtaken. If the: Minister does that he wilh accomplish . two - worth-while-, ends..
In the first place, he. will, accelerate the; implementation of the Government’s policy in many fields, and, in the second place, he will’ do something to re-establish. Tasmania’s economy, which was- so rudely shattered’ by the war. I appeal to him to forget that the. present duties were imposed because of the Ottawa Agreement,., and’ to realize that the war has had a most far-reaching, effect on many things, particularly on the economy of Tasmania, and! to seize the present opportunity, to restore that economy.
– The- pur-pose- of the present debate is- not to> discuss, the? lowering: off tariffs generally;, but: simply to: authorize? the1, continuance; of existing’ tariff rates; with: modifications to- conform :to present monetary values: The-, honorable- member for New England (Mr. Abbott) made a., great fuss about the- present duty. on. imported : barbed wire, and I- understood! him: to. say that steel barbed wire weighing- 1 ton contains], when uncoiled, only - 800; yards’ of. wire:
Opposition members interjecting ,
– I understood: him to. use the- word “ ton.”,. but if: he-used theword “hundredweight” he: would: be; correct. I mentioned, that because the honorable member criticized the “ ignorance “ of members of the Government and officers of the Department of Trade, and Customs. “When the honorable, member suggested that differential rates of duty should be applied to -various- gauges of barbed wire, I suppose he had in mind that the’ rate of duty payable should be; calculated” according to the length of wire and not: its weight; However, nearly all the criticism he launched at officers of the department in connexion, with- the duty fixed for barbed wire- was entirely without foundation.
Discussion, of the. duty imposed, on imported timber has wandered away, from the. item under discussion, namely, Canadian timber… I trust that, the Government will give serious consideration to. abolishing the. duty on. oregon imported from Canada. I-f w.&. really,- want. to. re:duce the cost of house construction .in thiscountry, . we must, explore, every; means: of reducing, the- grice. of building: materials. Of. course, I. realize: that- it would befool ish. for. the- Government/ to, imperil existing; Australian, industries! by; making!, indiscriminate reductions* of- tariff,, but when the- tariff can- be reduced on. someimported items; without, adversely affect ing local.- industry; the Government/ should not hesitate, to. reduce; it.. Australian timber- cannot, satisfactorily he substituted for. Oregon in, houses. constructed in South Australia;, where; or egon i was- used,, as; roofing, timber,; almostexclusively before the war. E-a-uri. has’ been: used; . butt only, as; ax substitute: fonoregon. The report issued! by- the*. Timber
Controller approximately five years ago disclosesthat notnearly sufficienttimber is grown in Australia tomeetlocal requirements, and that is something which theGovernmentshouldbear in mind when consideringits tariffpolicy. Some people contend that the absenceof overseas timberresults in the cutting ofmore timber in this country than is desirable, and there is something in that contention. I was a member of theCommonwealth housing commission which, in conjunction wit h otherinvestigations regarding housing, inquired into the supply ofbuilding materials.During ourinvestigation, we were inf ormed by a government timber expert that the standing timber available in this country wasinsufficient to meet local requirements, and that the prospects of an adequatesupply in years tocome were disturbing. It was impressedupon us that more Queensland timber should be utilized, but, at the same time, it was apparent that ifthe standing timber in that Statecontinued to be cut, without adequatere-afforestation beingundertaken, thesupply from that State would notcontinue for very long. Furthermore, consideration of the welfare of Australia requires that regard be had to the . needs.of every State.
Three-ply timber is also included inthe proposals before us. Although it may be necessary to imposea tariff duty on 3-plytimber coming into this country, someStatesshould notbe penalized in order that 3-ply timber maybe made available by others. As an illustration of what I mean, Queensland 3-ply wood cannot be obtainedfor use in South Australia unless we are prepared toaccept a certain quantity of ready-made doors. Whenthe Parliament agreed originally to place a duty on imported3-ply wood to encourage theQueensland timber industry, I do not thinkthat it intended that residents of one State should be at a disadvantage as compared with those of another.Of course, Government control is not responsible for the shortage of 3-ply wood inSouth.Australia.I want to:make that quite clear, because that shortage has come aboutsolely by the action of private interests.
As Isaidpreviously, I hopethat the Government will lift theduty.on Canadian building timber, ofwhich the most important tothis country isoregon. Some years ago the timber industry established logging mills to cutoregon logs in South Australia,butthose timber mills in that State have since ceased operation, with the result thatmuch cheap, offcut timber is no longer available. In their interests, as well asin the interests of all Australians, I again ask theGovernmentto abolish entirely the duty onimported oregon logs.
Motion (byMr. Dedman)proposed -
That theHouse do now adjourn.
– Last night I endeavouredto discussa certain matter, but the Chair ruledthat the Standing Orders did notpermit.meto do so.
– An agreementwas made that the House should rise at 1 p.m. on Fridays,and that thereshould be no speeches madeon Friday on the motion for theadjournment ofthe House.
– I am speaking to that motionnow, and Ihave every right todoso.
– It is abreach ofthe agreement.
– I propose to refer to a scandal in respect ofpetrol rationing in Australia. In a Sydney court two daysago it was revealed that a. youth of nineteen years of agewasableto accumulate approximately 500,000 petrol coupons in a period of eight months-
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J . S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Labour and National Service - J. L. Buckland, B,. Go [island.
House adjourned at 1.2 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
When may the honorable member for Swan expect the further information promised by the Minister on the 28th October, regarding refunds nf advances to Australian prisoners of war!
– The following information additional to that supplied in. my reply of the 28th October last, is now supplied : -
The number of members who repaid amounts voluntarily after their discharge from the Army is 513. The number of refunds made by (a) The Commonwealth Bank is 55; (6) The trading banks, nil. The number of discharged members who have not refunded amounts is 1,407. The amount repaid by members voluntarily is £3,389 16s. Id. The amount repaid by the Commonwealth Bank is £478 15s. 7d., and the amount not refunded by discharged members is £10,476 13s. 8d. After full consideration of all aspects surrounding the recovery of overpayments arising from advances of pay so made to these members of the Australian Military Forces, I directed that the amounts which had been recovered from such members of the Austraiian Military Forces after their discharge from the Army should be repaid to them, and action to this end has now been taken.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
– The Minister for Munitions has supplied the following information : -
Gen era l Elections: Breaches op thi Electoral Act.
n asked the Minister for lie Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to thehonorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 February 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480220_reps_18_196/>.