18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.8;) a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs what effect the present trouble in Palestine has had on the supply of petrol to Groat Britain from the Middle East? Does this interruption of the supply, if any, affect the allocation of petrol to Australia?
– This matter has come to my attention because it is associated with economic problems concerning dollar supplies and the purchase of petrol from sterling areas. Without going into details, I can Bay that there has been some curtailment of supplies reaching Haifa as the result of the disturbances in the Middle East. The pipe line to Haifa brings over 2,000,000 tons of petrol a year to the port normally, .but there have been intermittent closures of the line recently. Of course, there is anxiety about the general problem of petrol supplies. I am not able to give the honorable member any details because the subject is related to negotiations affecting other countries as -well as Australia. However, the problem is causing some anxiety in sterling countries.
Bulolo Valley Resources
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether the Secondary Industries Commission has received a report from the Plywood Industry Advisory Panel recommending the granting to a company of the lease of timber and gold resources in the Bulolo Valley. Would the granting of such a lease establish a monopoly control of plywood through the Queensland Plywood Board, dominated by two major interests ? Will the Secondary Industries Commission take thu necessary precautions against the creation of monopoly control of building materials? Is there any record of a timber lease covering the Bulolo Valley being recommended about 1039, and, if so, to whom?
-‘! do not think that the Secondary Industries Commission has anything to do with this matter, hut at least one report has been considered by the Industrial Development Division of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. ‘ Consultations have taken place between the Minister for External Territories and myself regarding that report. I am not in a position to give the honorable member any detailed information at present, but I shall consider tho matter and, if there is any information which I think he ought to have, I shall lot him have it. The Department of Post-war Reconstruction was not in existence in 1939, and unless it has been able to obtain a report from another department on the subject, it would not have any information relating to a report made in that year.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel a question relating to shipping services to Queensland ports, particularly the port of Maryborough which, before the outbreak of World War II., had at least two calls by vessels each week. Now, despite a greater population and an increased number of industries, Maryborough has had only five calls by Bimba since the 17th February last. As the lack of shipping has caused much congestion and loss at the port, will the Minister take action to improve shipping services to Queensland ports such as Maryborough?
– I have repeatedly pointed out that the Australian Government no longer controls interstate shipping. If Maryborough is being neglected, the fault does not lie with this Government. I am sure that the Minister for Shipping and Fuel will make representations to the shipping company concerned for the purpose of ensuring that the needs of the port of Maryborough shall he met. However, I repeat that interstate shipping ‘is no longer under the control of the Australian Government.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Repatriation regarding patients in mental hospitals by reading a paragraph from a letter which I have received from the Brunswick Sub-branch of the Australian Legion of Ex-Servicemen and Women -
The members of our branch take a very ken interest in the welfare and comfort of exservice personnel confined to hospital, and one of the hospitals, visited regularly is Bundoora. Our members are greatly concerned over many of the patients in this hospital, whom they believe are not in a sufficiently bad mental state to be confined with those cases which may be considered, unfortunately, at, beyond hope of recovery, and it is considered detrimental to these cases where there are grounds to believe there is every possibility of recovery, that they are compelled to remain in this environment.
Will the Minister examine this matter, and take action to establish half-way hospitals or homes so that the patients to whom I have referred may be given every opportunity to recover their health, and return to civil life?
– On a number of occasions since I have been Minister for Repatriation, representations have been made to me about the treatment of mental cases in institutions throughout the Commonwealth. There is, and probably always will be, some conflict of opinion between persons who are interested in patients in mental institutions. I shall examine the representations made by the Brunswick Sub-branch of the Australian Legion of Ex-Servicemen and Women regarding Bundoora, but I point out to the honorablemember for Bourke that the handling of this kind of case is partly a responsibility of State health departments. In the past, mental cases came within the ambit of legislation of the States in which they were located. To provide a half-way house presents some difficulties. However, the psychiatric section of the department, which is administered by an expert, has segregated mental cases more satisfactorily than was done previously. I shall discuss this matter with the chairman of the Repatriation Commission at an early date and inform the honorable member of the result of my inquiries.
Royal Australian Air Force Uniforms
– My attention has been drawn to the fact that large numbers of Royal Australian Air Force uniforms have been sold by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission in Brisbane where they have been purchased by second-hand dealers, many of whom are Jews, and resold to the public with Royal Australian Air Force buttons attached to them. Does not the Minister for Air consider that that practice may lead to persons masquerading as members of the Royal Australian Air Force, which would be unfair to that service and dangerous to the public? Does the Minister also realize that uniforms may be purchased in large quantities for use outside Australia, with possible harmful results to our goodwill abroad? Does he not consider that action should he taken to remove all means of identification from uniforms before they are sold by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission?
– I have no knowledge whatever of the matter mentioned by the honorable member, but I shall make inquiries to ascertain whether his statements which apparently he has made in good faith, are correct.
– Of course they are correct.
– Will the honorable member vouch for their correctness?
– I will. Members of the Royal Australian Air Force do not tell untruths.
– I hope that they do not, but I should like to have some verification of the allegation before taking action. If it is correct that uniforms are being distributed with buttons and identifying items attached to them unscrupulous persons would certainly be enabled to masquerade as members of the Royal Australian Air Force, and itis necessary to protect the reputation of that service. When I have made inquiries I shall decide what action should be taken.
impo rts-A griculturalmachinery and Spare Parts.
– In view of the acute shortage of dollars can the Prime Minister explain why goods that are not a charge against the dollar pool are not permitted to be imported into this country? I have in mind gifts sent to Australian residents by relatives inthe dollar area and American firms which desire to send machinery and capital equipment to this country in order to establish industries.
Mr.CHIFLEY. - The honorable member’s question involves two aspects. The first is the entry of equipment from dollar areas which is not a charge against the dollar pool, and concerns mainly American companies which are prepared to accept payment for capital equipment in the form of shares in local undertakings. If that procedure were permitted it could result in the creation of dollar liabilities.Ifconcerns which import Americanequipment have to pay for it from their dividends that involves demands on our dollar pool in order to remit the money to the United States of America, so that Australia does not escape its dollar commitments. However, I do not propose to elaborate that aspect of that matter; I prefer to deal- with individual cases on their merits. If equipment for the manufacture of luxury and non-essential goods comes into the country from dollar areas and if, as a result of the manufacture of those goods, dollars have to go to those areas by way of dividends, even though the capital equipment cost us nothing directly, we should be building up a dollar liability. The honorable member referred to gifts made by residents in America or other dollar areas to people in this country. That matter was considered in dealing with the dollar problem. Discretionary power has been gvien to the Minister for Trade and Customs to deal with the particular cases on their merits. I am referring not to very small gifts but. to ones of considerable value. In the norma] course they will be dealt with by the Department of Trade and Customs, but, where there is anything requiring particular attention, the Minister will exercise his discretionary power, after consultation with me, if necessary.
– Newspapers this morning announce “ a cut in dollar imports “ and the intention of the Government to place a ceiling on dollar imports for 1948-49. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture how this will affect the importation of American tractors and spare parts for tractors and machinery generally, which, as the honorable gentleman knows, are urgently required by primary producers in Australia?
– I shall answer the question because it refers to the general dollar position. I recently intimated to the Leader of the Australian Country party, who asked a somewhat similar question, that no restriction was being placed on the importation of spare parts for American-produced machinery already in Australia because it was essential that transport which Ave already have should be kept going. The same position applies to tractors. We have endeavoured to obtain from the United States of America all the agricultural tractors possible. The importation of high-powered industrial tractors has been somewhat limited, although we hope to import a fair quantity of tractors of that type. Apart from the importation of tractors direct from America, we have purchased heavy industrial tractors worth about 400,000 dollars from the American Liquidation Committee in Japan. We are trying to get as many agricultural tractors as we can, but their availability is limited. It is hoped that AmericanAustralian tractor companies will be producing in fair quantities next year. One company at Geelong, the International Harvester Company of Australia Proprietary Limited, is making progress with its programme. Chamberlain Industries Limited, in Perth, has met with hitches caused by the lack of material, but, later, it should be able to produce 35 to 40 horse-power tractors. That applies also to the International Harvester Company of Australia Proprietary Limited, which is extending production. Every endeavour is being made to obtain all available supplies of agricultural tractors. In addition a certain number of Ferguson tractors are being obtained from the United Kingdom. These machines are of a lighter type, and are more suited to orchard work than to heavy agricultural work. Unfortunately, they are heavy .petrol consumers. The United Kingdom, of course, is endeavouring to obtain money from markets other than the Australian market, and is exporting tractors to various countries. At the moment, I am unable to say exactly what number of tractors will be available. The figure of 5,000 has been mentioned, but I am doubtful whether that target can be reached. I may summarize .by saying that we are trying to get as many agricultural tractors as possible. We are also seeking sufficient industrial tractors to meet the essential needs of the community. In addition, a certain number of light tractors are being obtained from the United Kingdom. As, however, the United Kingdom does not manufacture some of the heavier types of tractors for agricultural or industrial work, we have to look elsewhere for these machines, but every endeavour is being made to meet essential needs.
Shortage or Tyres in Western Australia - Priorities.
– In view of the acute shortage of tractor and truck tyres, particularly in Western Australia, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development whether he can give any information about the possibility of obtaining these articles from the United Kingdom? If not, will he request his colleague to inquire whether supplies are available in that country so that, if they are, negotiations can be entered into for the importation of sufficient quantities to alleviate the present acute shortage in Australia?
– The Minister for Supply, and Development is doing his utmost to encourage the greater production in Australia of tyres for tractors and trucks. I shall ask him to inquire as to the availability of supplies in the United Kingdom. The honorable member will be supplied with the information for which he asks as soon as it is available.
– Will the Minister for Transport inform the House what the policy of his department is in connexion with the distribution of new motor cars, compared with the policy pursued when administration of this matter was in the hands of the States? Is it a fact that applications to the State authorities have been handed over to his department for the determination of priorities in accordance with the time of lodgment of the applications? Are cars still being allocated for private use instead of to professional men and others who are rendering an essential service to the community ? I refer, for instance, to the dentists who are hospital honoraries and are sometimes called out at night to attend patients. If cars are being so allocated, will the Minister alter the policy to give priority to those members of the community who are providing essential service?
– The system varies as between the States. As honorable members are aware, the States formerly administered the allocation of new cars. However, at the request of the New South Wales and Victorian Governments, control has been handed hack to the Commonwealth. In each of those States, there has been ‘set up what is known as a
New Motor Vehicle Releases Committee which, in the case of New South Wales, consists of a representative of the State Department of Transport, the secretary of the Automotive Industries Association, and a Commonwealth appointed chairman. In Victoria we have been unable to secure the services of a representative of the State transport authorities because the Victorian Government has refused to co-operate by appointing such a representative. These committees deal with allocations. Those applications which were in hand when the Commonwealth took over were not rejected, although applicants were required to fill in a new form. The old form was retained, and consideration is given to the date upon which the application was originally lodged when allocations are being made.
– Were the applicants notified ?
– Yes. . The distributors were supposed to communicate with the applicants, and advise them that it was necessary to -fill in a new form. It is impracticable to enforce a rigid system of priorities as between various sections of the community because, if that were done, all the available cars might he taken by those in the first group. However, the officers administering the allocation of cars have been advised that the highest priority should be given to certain classes of citizens. I am not aware that cars are still being made available for pleasure purposes only. If the honorable member can cite examples to prove that this is being done, I am prepared to take the matter up with the authorities in the States concerned.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to recent press reports which indicate that Great Britain is in desperate need of scrap iron, a commodity that Australia exported to Japan at one time, in order to boost its export trade. In view of the fact that recently a licence was granted foi the export of about 500 tons of this material to America, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether the Government will consider making a drive for scrap iron for Great Britain?
– The export of scrap iron has been considered by the Minister for Trade and Customs,. who controls the issue of export licences, and myself. There is a considerable demand for scrap iron in Australia by Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and Australian Iron and Steel Limited. The price paid by those organizations is not as high as that which would be paid by other countries, which claim that they need scrap iron urgently, but in considering what price is to be paid for this material in Australia the price of steel has to he taken into consideration. I do not know of any urgent request for scrap iron from Australia being made by the United Kingdom. Requests have come from Canada and also from United States of America commercial sources. The question of allowing the export of some scrap iron to dollar areas has been considered. I need not elaborate nhat point, ‘because honorable members are fully aware of the desperate world dollar position which, despite Marshall aid, is deteriorating and not improving. With respect to licensing, a suggestion has been made that steel might be supplied . to the United Kingdom from European countries. Although steel production in Britain has increased by 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 tons a year, present production is not sufficient to meet requirements. The suggestion that the United Kingdom should obtain supplies of steel from certain European countries is now being discussed. I have had requests from private firms for licences to export scrap iron, but, as I have said, I do not remember any particular request having been made by the British Government. I shall examine the matter further and supply an answer in detail.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for the Interior, a question relating to the publication yesterday of the names of the electoral re-distribution commissioners appointed to determine the boundaries of electorates in respect of the new parliament to be elected, in 1949. It would appear from informal lobby discussions during the last few days that some members of the Labour party are surprisingly well informed as to the new boundaries likely to be drawn in respect of their own electorates. Can the Prime Minister say whether any information along those lines has been made available to individual members of the Labour party? Have these commissioners yet held any meetings ? If they have not, and no such information has been supplied, whence would come this information which honorable members opposite are freely discussing? Does the Government propose to bring down a plan for the determination of electoral boundaries by the Parliament in the course of this session, or the forthcoming budget session?
– Apparently some people must be much better informed about the re-distribution of electorates than I am, ‘because I have not the faintest idea of what will happen under the redistribution in respect of my own electorate. As honorable members know, two of the three members of each commission automatically qualify for appointment because of their official positions. The Minister for the Interior made certain recommendations to Cabinet regarding the third commissioner to be appointed in each instance; and I understand that in that respect he was guided by the Chief Electoral Officer who submitted the names of men he deemed to be qualified to undertake the work. The only part taken in the matter by the Government, Cabinet or myself is that following upon that recommendation the names of the commissioners have been gazetted. It is true that certain amateur commissions have been at work suggesting among themselves what might be suitable boundaries in particular States. That observation does not apply particularly to members of the Labour party; I believe that other honorable members have been giving consideration to the subject, with purely unselfish motives, of course. I have been spoken to on the matter by honorable members on both sides of the House who have ideas as to whether representations could be made to the commissions. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, who is relieving the Minister for the Interior at present, is considering the matter. No member of any of the commissions has been interviewed on the subject. Each, commission will be set up and it will get on with its work. When it has mapped the proposed new electoral boundaries it will exhibit them publicly in order that objections may be lodged against the proposed boundaries by members of Parliament themselves or, indeed, by any one. After the commission has considered any objections that may be lodged, it will submit its report to the Governor-General. The report will, of course, come to the Parliament for final decision. I understand that the practice is that any persons or parties interested in the matter of electoral redistribution are entitled to make suggestions in writing at any time to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer in each State and ask that they be placed before the commission.
– That is before the publication of the proposals?
– Suggestions can be made through the Commonwealth Electoral Officer in each State for submission to the commission at any time by people interested in the matter, but the commission cannot be seen personally in that respect.
– Earlier this year the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture gave me an assurance that ample supplies of jute would be available from India to meet the needs of primary producers in respect of summer-grown crops, which are now being harvested. Can he explain the jute position and say why that assurance is not being fully carried out? Supplies of new bags are very limited, at least in Queensland.
– I think I said that I. hoped that there would be ample supplies of jute available for all Australian requirements. No one could guarantee the availability of ample supplies because we are dependent on the Indian jute exporters and the Government of India, but every step possible to assure adequate supplies is being taken.
– Bacon, pork and other pig meats are urgently needed by people of the United Kingdom. At a meeting of primary producers which I attended recently in my electorate, complaints were made about the price received under the current contract with the Government of the United Kingdom. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether a new contract is being negotiated to take the place of the one which expires in September next? Are the representatives of the primary producers being consulted on the matter of price, and, if not, will the Government consult them?
– A considerable time ago this Parliament passed legislation to reconstitute the Australian Meat Board, upon which there are now repre; sentatives of those engaged in the produc-tion of beef, mutton, and pig meats. There is in force a contract with the Government of the United Kingdom for the purchase of those meats, and the time has now arrived when the terms of that contract are to be reviewed. The Australian Meat Board, as the properly constituted authority, has indicated to the Australian Government the range of prices which it -believes ought to be paid by the Government of the United Kingdom. The Australian Government has considered that recommendation, and has in turn advised the Government of the United Kingdom what prices ought, in its opinion, to be paid under the new contract.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to weights and measures.
Message .recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee of Supply:
Motion (by Mr. Lemmon) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majesty for ov towards defraying the service of the year 1948-49, for the purposes of additions, new works and other services involving capital expenditure, a sum not exceeding £9,797,000.
Resolution reported. ‘
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on Resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Lemmon and Mr. Dedman do prepare and bringin a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Lemmon, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
When introducing the supply bill for £74,728,000 for the necessary normal services of government, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) stated that it was the intention to ask the Parliament to provide, by means of a separate bill, supply to cover expenditure on additions, new works, buildings, &c., until the budget had been approved.
Precedent for a supply bill of this nature was established in 1914, and for the three years 1914-15 to 1916-17 thirteen such bills were passed by the Parliament.
There has been a considerable lag in expenditure under the works programme of £32,000,000 for the current year, and it is necessary to make provision in this bill for £9,797,000 to finance for the ensuing four months works that will be in progress at the 30th June next. The requirements of the several departments are summarized in the schedule to the bill, and are based on the programme and amounts approved by the Parliament in the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1947-48.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 3rd June (vide page 1689), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a bill to approve the acceptance by Australia of the. International Wheat
Agreement. The necessity for suchan agreement between the wheat exporting and importing countries has existed for many years. To-day, the nations realize that binding trade arrangements must be made between them for their mutual benefit if they are to avoid a repetition of the economic chaos that existed before the outbreak of World War II. The need for an international wheat agreement has been recognized by the Australian wheat industry for the last 30 years. Wheat-growers have learned by hard experience that only by such an agreement can their future be assured. Violent fluctuations of the price of this great basic commodity affect adversely exporting and importing countries alike. Wheat is one of the major factors in trade between the nations, and in this agreement the three exporting countries, Canada, Australia and the United States of America, with 33 importing countries, have agreed to what is virtually a world wheat stabilization plan. Naturally, there are in all countries certain interests which are opposed to any stabilization plan for primary commodities, because, by their control of trade in those commodities they have made great fortunes at the expense of not only the consumers but also the producers. That is why opposition to this agreement is being voiced in this chamber. Just as the nations of the world must explore every avenue for avoiding unnecessary armed conflicts, so also must they do everything possible to avoid unnecessary trade wars. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), in a very well prepared speech from the angle of the wheat speculator, showed his complete unconcern about the necessity for safeguarding the interests of the Australian wheat farmers during the ensuing five years. The honorable member, and those who support him, know very well that as the result of this agreement they will lose the huge profits which they have reaped in the past at the expense of the Australian wheat-producers.. It is amazing that the honorable member should have the affrontery to state publicly in this House that the agreement will have a detrimental effect on the Australian wheat industry. The Australian Country party, the self-styled protagonist of the primary industries of Australia, is more concerned about the interests of the speculators than the well being of the man on the land. Therefore, we are amazed when we hear the honorable member for Indi and his colleagues complaining that, under this agreement, wheat-growers will be forced to forfeit the advantage of high current prices. The honorable member declared that the growers could obtain £1 a bushel anywhere to-day. He was supported by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull). That statement is not correct. The honorable gentleman referred to a world parity price for wheat. There is no such thing to-day. A few small shipments of wheat have been sold to some countries at a price of about £l%a bushel, or perhaps higher, hut it would not be possible to obtain that price for the whole of Australia’s export surplus on the world market to-day. Anybody who studies futures on the Chicago speculators’ market knows that the world price to-day is about 15s. a ‘bushel. Therefore, it does not seem that a price of £1 a bushel, or even higher, will be obtainable for many years. This Government realizes that fact and is planning for the future accordingly.
The practical wheat-grower also looks to the future. He knows that the present price is fantastic and must fall. We are not prepared to say to him, “ Leave things as they are, and you can hoe your own row when the price comes down to 3s. a bushel again “. The farmers have had bitter lessons in the past. If their socalled representatives in this Parliament heeded those lessons they would proclaim the virtues of the international agreement. Members of the Australian Country party are always telling the farmers that they believe in stabilization, but they never try to put their words into practice, and they oppose any attempt made by this Government to stabilize the industry. Australia is one of the greatest wheat exporting countries in the world. The ratio of exports to home consumption is about two to one, and, on that basis, Australia is a greater exporter of wheat than is the United States of America. Therefore, we must jealously guard the interests of our wheat industry. What would happen to us if we were not a party to this international agreement and had to try to find our own markets in the world? Where would we find ships to carry our wheat overseas? Great Britain, one of the greatest purchasers of wheat under the agreement, virtually controls our shipping resources.
The members of the Australian Country party have not explained their motives in opposing this measure. I am honest, and I have no hesitation in explaining the Government’s motive. Our object is to avoid any future depression in the wheat industry. The Australian Country party does not caro what happens to the wheat-farmers. It is completely irresponsible in these matters. It always has been, and always will be, irresponsible. Its members have employed puerile arguments in an effort to justify their opposition to the agreement. They say that we cannot trust the other signatories to the agreement. That is ridiculous. How could nations make agreements amongst themselves if that were so? Can we trust nobody? Members of the Australian Country party have suspicious minds simply because they themselves are not trustworthy. They have betrayed the wheat-growers time and time again. They should not judge other nations by the standards which they apply to themselves.
– The people did not trust the honorable member last Saturday.
– They always trust me, because I am honest with them and tell the truth.
– The honorable member did not tell them the truth about the referendum.
– The honorable member knows nothing about the wheat agreement and he ought to keep out of this debate. He has all the attributes of a Julius Streicher in his make-up. Consider the agreement from another point of view. The importing countries did not rush to conclude it. They are good traders, and they realized that it represented a good bargain for the exporting countries.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) did not rush to the aid of the wheatgrowers when he said, a few years ago, that he would not give them anything. He ought to pipe down. There are two sides to any agreement. Great Britain, one of the buying countries, was not anxious to join in the agreement last year. It looked upon the matter as a business proposition. It knew from experience that high prices for wheat could not continue and, therefore, it was not anxious to commit itself. Its Government considered at that time that a price of even 12s. a bushel was too high, because it expected a considerable reduction within a few years. Honorable members opposite ignore the inevitability of a price reduction. Posing as the champions of the wheat-growers, they urge the farmers not to enter into an agreement that will stabilize their industry for the next five years.
The buying countries, realizing the uncertainty of future events, were quite willing to gamble and allow events to take their natural course in the hope that they could get wheat cheaply a few years hence. However, after considering all aspects of world economy, they decided that the wisest course would be to reach an agreement and reap the reward of any concessions they might make through the channels of reciprocal trade. They realized that, if they bought wheat cheaply, they would not be able to sell their own- products to the exporting countries. Members of the Australian Country party do not understand the views of the farmers because they are not practical men. The farmers now know what to expect for the next five years. Under this agreement they can look forward to a price of 12s. a bushel.
– For one year!
– No; that is only the story that the Australian Country party tells. The farmers will be able to get that price over the full period of five years if world prices remain high. Furthermore, they know that, during the first year of the currency of the agreement, they cannot receive less than 9s. a* bushel. They also know that, during the second year, they may continue to get 12s. a bushel if world prices remain high, and that they cannot get less than 8s. 6d. a bushel. In the third year, the guaranteed floor price will be 8s. a Bushel. It is comforting for a wheat-farmer to know that he can rely on those prices.
In the old days, the producers always felt insecure because they could not foretell what returns they would get for their crops. They had no sense of security in the days when they received a first advance of ls. 5d. a bushel from the Menzies-Fadden Government To-day, they can look forward to five years of reasonable prosperity. A great deal can happen in five years. Probably at the end of that period the world price will he down again to 3s. or 4s. a bushel. Nevertheless, the growers know that the lowest price they will receive under the agreement will be 6s. a bushel. The Opposition has not employed any legitimate argument against the agreement. Its terms are wise and necessary for the welfare of all countries which are parties to it. I hope that the system of fixing guaranteed floor prices for primary products will continue to operate. It has already benefited the wool industry, to which it was introduced by a Labour government. The knowledge that their returns cannot fall below a certain level enables producers to work on a businesslike basis. I recall when wool was sold in 1939 at lOd. a lb. The producers were not consulted then by the honorable members who now complain that the wheat-growers were not consulted about this Government’s stabilization plan. I should like to test the sincerity of honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), for instance, said that the growers were not consulted about the wheat agreement. Will he tell me who represented the Australian wool-growers at the conference at which an agreement was made to sell Australian wool at lOd. a lb? I have asked that question many times, but the honorable member and his colleagues have remained dumb. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) will be able to tell the House about the consultations that preceded the making of the wheat agreement. High prices are always welcome, but they have always proved to be a weak reed to those who have placed trust in them in the past
When prices rose, farmers became optimistic and bought machinery and equipment on credit. They were caught over and over again in that way. Then when prices fell the farmers again got into debt and worked for the banks, machinery agents and others, which the Australian Country party represents and has always protected. The honorable member for” Indi accused the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture of exercising dictatorial ministerial .control. I remind the honorable member that he was a Minister in the Menzies Government which issued a ministerial direction to the Australian Wheat Board to sell wheat on credit to Japan. I do not know whether Japan ever paid for that consignment. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was also a member of that Government. Yet honorable members opposite have accused the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture of being a dictator !
– I was the Minister who issued the direction for the sale of wheat to Japan.
– Order! The honorable member for Barker’ must refrain from interjecting.
– I am doubtful whether Japan ever paid for that wheat.
I now propose to test the sincerity of honorable members of the Australian Country party by referring to their political record. Why should they always oppose any plans for the stabilization of the wheat industry? ‘The present agreement is a great international plan for stabilization. I realize that members of the Australian Country party do not, like to be reminded of their murky record, and their lack of concern for the welfare of the primary producers. In a few moments, I shall read some remarks of a man who is typical of the genuine Australian Country party representative in the early days of the history of this political organization. Mr. P. G. Stewart, who formed the Australian Country party, was really a Labour man. After a few years, members of the Australian Country party, like the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), sold out the farmer. As the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) said last night, the Australian Country party is financed by vested interests. That is the simple truth.
– I do not see any evidence of it.
– The honorable member does not drive around in a gig, as Mr. P. G. Stewart did when he was organizing the farmers to support the Australian Country party. Not long after the formation of this party, the big vested interests secured control. There are still many primary producers who believe in the original Australian Country party. They are the genuine men. I propose to read some of the remarks of a typical old-style member of the Australian Country party, Mr. G. C. Marshman, as reported in The Wheat-grower on the 19 th June, 1946. Mr. Marshman was a delegate of the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association at a conference of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation held in Perth. He was also the growers’ representative on the Wheat Quality Committee in Victoria. He speaks the truth, and I like a man who does so. He recalled some of the experiences of the wheat industry, and warned growers against those who, he said, “now piped a different tune and- posed as growers’ representatives “. He stated -
At the last Country party conference I listened to the debate on the wheat stabilization plan when the resolution was carried asking for 5s. 2d. a bushel at growers’ sidings, and heard Mr. McEwen’s eloquent speech in favour of this motion.
As I listened, my mind went back a very few years and I reflected on a visit that 1 paid to Canberra with a deputation from the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers’ Association, when we requested the Menzies- Conn try party Government to make a payment of 3d. a bushel to growers on wheat that had been delivered to the 1939-40 Pool.
A request for 3d. a bushel was very modest. Mr. Marshman continued -
During that visit, we interviewed Mr. Cameron, the then Minister for Commerce, and were in no way encouraged by his attitude towards us-
Evidently the honorable member for Barker was in one of his Scotch moods that morning. Mr. Marshman proceeded -
Whilst ou this visit, we met Mr. Mc’Ewen in the corridors of Parliament House and made known to him the purpose of our deputation, and requested hia support. The reply we received was : “ I refuse to embarrass the Government on such a matter at this time “.
The criticisms of members of the Australian Country party, which I have uttered to date, have been mild compared with those spoken by Mr. Marshman who also said -
It so happened that a short time previous to this visit to Canberra, the association had written to all Victorian members of the Federal House requesting that each should declare his attitude towards the association’s efforts for just treatment for the growers, pointing out in this circular that, if support was not offered we would he compelled to pledge our support to a candidate who would foster our claims.
I invite honorable members to listen to what the honorable member for Indi said according to Mr. Marshman, who stated -
Mr. McEwen did not sent a reply, but while members of the deputation were in his room at Parliament House, Canberra, he referred to this circular, which was on his tabic,, and angrily remarked that he resented such an approach to him and would ignore the circular and the body that sent it. Now he poses as the growers’ champion-
Yet the deputation asked for only 3d. a bushel. Mr. Marshman went on to say -
Another Australian Country party member interviewed on this occasion was Sir Earle Page and, when he learned the nature of our mission, calmly and deliberately told us that we would need to decrease our wheat production, and, to augment our returns from wheat-growing, turn to dairying.
The right honorable member for Cowper advised the practical wheat-growers of the Wimmera to reduce their wheat production and to engage in dairying. It was a toss-up at that time whether a primary producer would lose more money in wheat-growing or dairying. Mr. Marshman continued -
He instanced several districts from his electorate where men had gone in extensively for dairying oil river frontages and made good.
Honorable members should see the number of river frontages in the Wimmera! The truth is that there is only one river in that portion of Victoria. Mr. Marshman continues -
I am citing these eases in order that growers may see vie ry clearly that the guaranteed price as set out in the present scheme is being used as a -political football. The government of the day, when our wheat pool was brought into operation, and a Wheat Board appointed, did not seek the assistance of growers, but made the appointments from firms and trading companies who had long been making money out of the growers.
We must not disturb the profits of thevested interests which so substantially support the finances of the Australian Country party ! I agree with the following remark by Mr. Marshman : -
The explanation given was that it was desired that the ordinary channels of trade should not be disturbed more than was absolutely necessary. I find it particularly difficult to reconcile the men that were and the men that are, and would warn growers to be most cautious about taking action to destroy a substance whilst they go out to chase a shadow.
Those statements prove that the opposition which members of the Australian Country party have expressed to the International Wheat Agreement is consistent with their disregard of the interests of wheat-growers over the years when the growers were experiencing severehardships and were in a seriousfinancial position. By ratifying the International Wheat Agreement, theAustralian Government is endeavouring to prevent a repetition of thoseconditions, but vested interests and their representatives in this House, who have never exhibited any concern for thewelfare of wheat-growers, are opposing it. Later I shall read more extracts from Mr. Marshman, because the Australian people., and particularly the wheat-growers, some of whom still placetheir confidence in the Australian Country party, should be told about them, but I wish first to quote from another newspaper report. Last night, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) said that 90 per cent, of the farmers in his electoratewere opposed to the agreement. I propose to quote from the Kaniva Times, which is a newspaper circulating in the Wimmera district.
– It is a Wannon newspaper.
– That is immaterial, because it does circulate in the Wimmera district. The newspaper contains a report of speeches made at a dinner tendered to Mr. G. H. Evans, the State president of the Victorian Wheat and Wool.
Growers Association, by the West Wimmera District Council of the organization. The report of Mr. E. W. Dahlenburg’s speech reads -
Party politics were trying to disrupt the wheat-growers’ organization, yet Mr. Evans never allowed them to creep in. Had it not been for party politics they would have had the stabilization plan by now.
Now to return to Mr. G. Marshman, who supported the toast of the guest. In doing so he is reported to have expressed the following view : -
Wheat-growers had been definitely sidetracked in the past twelve months. . . The greatest party in side-tracking them was the party to which he belonged, the Australian Country party. They had advised the growers to vote “ No “ on orderly marketing-
I interrupt the quotation to remind honorable members that members of the Australian Country party in the Parliament crossed the floor of the House to vote with members of the Australian Labour party in support of organized marketing. In doing so they displayed considerable cunning .because they were seeking to convince their electors that they were anxious to promote their interests. However, that did not prevent them at the last referendum on organized marketing from urging their supporters to vote “ No “. They circulated a flood of propaganda against the proposals for organized marketing, and one is compelled to ask who paid for that propaganda? I say that it was the great vested interests who paid for it. Actually members of the Australian Country party did not determine the attitude which they adopted; that was decided for them by the vested interests which they represent’. Nevertheless they did their utmost to oppose the proposals for organized marketing. Mr. Marshman is reported to have said that members of the Australian Country party- he advised the growers to vote “ No “ on orderly marketing, yet they knew that a “ No “ vote would put the death seal on stabilization. The Australian Country party said, in effect, “We will give you a stabilization plan, but don’t give us the power to give it to you “.
I remind honorable members that Mr. Marshman is a wheat-grower-
– Is he employed by the Government ?
– That is a fine remark to make !
– Order! The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) is making a nuisance of himself. He must remain silent.
– It is a pity that the Government has not employed a few men like Mr. Marshman to tell people the truth. Honorable members of the Australian Country party are backed by unlimited finance, and they use it to propagate lies. Another wheat-grower, Mr. W. J. Howland, of Dimboola, criticized the opposition to stabilization. The report of his utterance reads -
They had lost something they would never retrieve in the plan that had been turned down.
Another speaker was Mr. Aver Bell, who is reported to have said -
They were now at the cross-roads, and he wondered whether they would get what they had set out to obtain, namely, stabilization.
I impress upon honorable members that the gentlemen whose views I have quoted are not Labour men, but are, presumably, supporters of the Australian Country party. Obviously, the faith of Mr. Bell in that party was wavering. I could quote similar utterances by representative wheat-growers, but I think that I have said sufficient to indicate the hypocrisy of the claims of members of the Australian Country party to speak for the wheat-growers. Of course, it is obvious that grain merchants and speculators will not make much profit from transactions conducted on a governmenttogovernment basis. I suppose that such transactions are regarded as “ socialism “ about which members of the political parties opposite have been trying to frighten the farmers. What members of the Australian Country party really mean is : “ Keep the merchants’ profits up at ‘the expense of the farmers ‘’.
I have listened carefully to the speeches made by several honorable members opposite in the course of this debate, and I took a note of the points made by some of them. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is honest and he openly expressed his disapproval of the International Wheat Agreement.
Unlike members of the Australian Country party, he has the courage of his convictions and speaks the truth as he sees it on every occasion. He voted against the proposal for organized marketing and against the social services proposal, and is at least honest and consistent in his attitude. However, I propose to deal with the attitude adopted by some members of the Australian Country party. The honorable member for Wimmera contended that the Government proposed to ratify the agreement in defiance of the wishes of the wheatgrowers. What is the function of a government? The function of the Government is to protect the people, and, in the case of the wheat-farmers, to protect them from the Australian Country party. Members of that political party have had their day, and we know what they did when their party was represented in a former government. The wheat-growers who were operating on a small scale were never in so bad a plight, and, as the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) explained so graphically yesterday, members of the Australian Country party would like to see such wheat-growers placed in that plight once more. According to the honorable member for Wimmera, the Government has no right to do anything to benefit the industry. He forgets that every one suffers when the price of our primary produce falls. He mentioned the world parity price of wheat, but I do not think that he really knew what he was talking about, because there is no such thing as a world parity price. Of course, if the price of wheat fell to 2s. or 3s. a bushel, he would be among the first to cry out for the introduction of a stabilization plan. He inquired rhetorically whether the Australian wheat-growers were the envy of the world under the present Government. [ believe that I can demonstrate that they are. He complained of the high taxes which Australians have to pay, but, after all, taxes are not as high in this country as they are in Great Britain or in New Zealand. The Australian £1 will purchase more in this country than will the English £1 in Great Britain, and I think that that is one of the best answers to the honorable member’s criticism. Why are millions of dollars of American capital being invested in this country I Surely that does not indicate that other countries regard us as being down and. out. Are we a contented people? The honorable member mentioned that women have to stand in queues. I do not know of any queues, except perhaps cigarette queues, in which there is any need for women in Australia to stand to-day. I remind the honorable member of the dolequeues that were in existence when antiLabour governments were in power. They do not exist to-day and we do not want tosee them again. The honorable member said that any one who supports theLabour Government must be in its pay. I do not propose to reply to that remark,, because the honorable member obviously does not know very much about it.
The honorable member for Swan (MrHamilton) showed in the speech he madelast night that he has not the courage of his convictions. He said that hebelieved in the International Wheat Agreement “ in principle “, and, having said that, he proceeded to make a vicious attack upon it. I ask honorable members to contrast the attitude of the honorable member for Swan with that of the honorable member for Barker. The latter has the courage to stand up for his convictions, but the honorable member for Swan is afraid to state his convictions or to stand by them. . He wishes to pose as a farmers’ representative. A few years aga he was himself down and out. He was kicked, but to-day he is licking the boots of those who kicked him. My advice to the honorable gentleman is to stand up and fight those who kicked him then. They kept him down for a time, but now they have picked him up ; in consequence he licks their boots and is their best servant. The standard of the Australian Country party was never very high, but the honorable member has lowered it. He cannot speak the truth except by accident. That is the type of man that he is. Last night, when the honorable gentleman was congratulating the deputy leader of his party, probably in the hope that he would, be promoted, although I think that that is unlikely, I interjected to say that the honorable member for Indi had stated the case for the speculators and growers very well, whereupon he implied that I was referring to the flour-milling industry. That is the type of man he is. In attempting to reply to the remarks made by the Minister for “Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), he suggested that the Minister wanted to hand over the co-operative bulk handling organization to a Labour government in Western Australia. That w,as a deliberate lie, as the honorable member realized, but as he belongs to the Australian Country party we are not surprised. I propose to quote from a report of the directors of Cooperative Bulk Handling Limited (1945).
– I rise to order. May I be informed what bulk handling has to do with the International Wheat Agreement? I have listened to the speeches of honorable members opposite, and they have hardly touched upon this agreement. Is the House debating bulk handling, the history of the Australian Country party, the personal reputations of certain honorable members on this side of the House, or the International Wheat Agreement?
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) is as close to the mark as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was.
– I want to give the lie to what was said by the honorable member for Swan and to prove that the Minister did not try to hand that organization over to the Western Australian Government. When the Minister resigned from the board, the directors, in their report, said this -
The directors desire to place on record their Appreciation of the ungrudging and effective help given by Mr. Nelson Lemmon, M.H.R., in the interests of shareholders in matters affecting the company and Commonwealth Government departments, and also for the way in which he supported the company in the matter of road transport of wheat.
Honorable members can choose which statement they believe.
This agreement will serve the best interests of the wheat-growers. As an exporting country, Australia is bound to subscribe to it in order to safeguard the future of this industry. We cannot pierce the fog of the future and see what will happen. Conditions are unsettled and a crash may come at any time. The nations of the world know -that it is necessary to prevent future collapses. Depressions are all man-made and they can be prevented by men of goodwill. I believe there are men of goodwill in other nations and that they will honour their obligations under this agreement for their own benefit as well as for ours. 1 commend the measure to the House as a good one.
.- I do not intend to follow the example of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), whose speech consisted largely of vilifications of members of the Australian Country party. It ill becomes an honorable member who rarely speaks in this Parliament to make a speech of that kind. I particularly deplore his attack upon the honorable member for Swan C.Mr. Hamilton), who has a distinguished record in war and peace, who settled on the land and who knows what he is talking about in this regard. His comments were worth hearing. He made an excellent speech and it was obvious to us all, whatever our political affiliations may be. that the honorable gentleman’s contribution to the debate was thoughtful and sincere. It is sincerity that counts above all other things in politics.
One of the proposals in this agreement is that an international council shall have charge of the wheat exports of Australia, Canada and the United States of America at controlled prices. There is much conflict of opinion on this subject in the United .States and Canada, which are exporting countries, as well as in Great Britain, which is the greatest importing country. I propose to quote several excerpts from agricultural journals, which the Minister may or may not have seen. The North-West Miller, an American publication, contains this statement -
As is well known, Soviet Russia and Argentina are not, by their own choice, parties to the agreement, the first-named for obvious reasons. . . .
The obvious reasons, no doubt, are thar Russia, in accordance with its policy of disturbing the economy of the countries of the world and of attempting to make them ripe for communism by creating discord and chaos, will hold hack its wheat at first and then flood the markets of some countries when the time is propitious for that to be done. We have seen that happen in Europe, when Russia has offered wheat to France, Hungary and other countries in an attempt to sap the loyalty of the democratic members of their governments. There is .a serious flaw in this agreement. I believe that if we can achieve international accord we should do so, but we must not be simpletons and accept anything that is put up to us. If we do, we may regret it later. The article in the North-West Miller continues - . . and the second because, having welshed on the quasi agreement of several years ago, and played a lone hand at enormous profit to its Government through the years since then, it characteristically, and doubtless wisely, refuses to permit itself to be shackled in the years ahead.
That report refers to a previous attempt to conclude a world wheat agreement, to which Australia was a party. That attempt failed because one of the signatories, Argentina, which was one of the great wheat-producing countries, broke away. That can happen again. We can happen again. We must not be foolish. We should examine this proposal with our eyes open. Briefly, this scheme is to sell the wheat of the three nations, of which Australia is one, to 38 other nations, which have some 83 colonies and dependencies, at the rate of 500,000,000 bushels a year for five years.- Will the scheme work? We know that bureaucrats representing the different nations who go to these conferences make what they consider at the time to be the best arrangement possible; but our experience in this matter is in line with what has happened at recent conferences at Geneva and Havana, where our representatives, lacking proper background or knowledge of the long history of preferential trade, bartered away our traditions in that respect. In doing so they whittled down the preferences which we enjoyed under our Empire trade system which strengthened our economy in the past ani could help immensely to get Great Britain out of its present difficulties. Similarly, our representatives went to this conference and were influenced by representatives of other nations. I shall quote the opinion of Mr. H. G. L.
Strange, of Winnipeg, a world authority on wheat who, probably, knows more about wheat than any half dozen of the representatives of the nations who signed this agreement. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) to ponder this opinion. Mr. Strange said -
This pact is a weird document, reading like a super-planner’s roy dream, full of indefinite clauses and loopholes.
How that would suit the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), the super-planner who, given a pencil and a piece of paper, believes he can plan so as to resolve every one’s difficulties, or write down a form of government or administration that would satisfy every one! Enthusiastic bureaucrats of his type fail to pay regard to the human elements in problems of this kind ; on the contrary, their attitude brings nations to disaster. Hitler was a socialist and became a dictator. Mussolini, Lenin and Stalin also were socialists and followed a similar pattern; all were imbued with the coffee-house vapourings of Karl Marx. We shall drift in that direction if we continue to send to overseas trade conferences delegates with half-baked ideas who are carried away by the enthusiasm of bureaucrats from other nations. Mr. Strange continued -
The preamble states that the authors regard it as an important milestone oil the road to world peace.
How often have we heard that? One honorable member opposite said that we had fought two world wars for world co-operation. Did we? I thought that we fought those wars for our selfpreservation and the preservation of the Empire to which we belong. Of course, the Communists think first of world cooperation and one world government. I recall that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, when speaking recently at Ballarat, said that we were gradually drawing ‘ nearer to a co-operative Commonwealth, under a socialist mandate. Such statements are the outpourings of theorists completely out of touch with realities. Mr. Strange continued -
We are obliged to differ. The pact leaves out the Argentine, Russia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Roumania and Bulgaria, all of which countries ordinarily export considerable quantities of wheat. It would appear, too, that the share of world trade usually enjoyed by the Argentine is divided up amongst the United States, Canada and Australia. This, of course, would impose considerable hardship on the Argentine and on some other exporting countries, which kind of thing, we suggest, is tending towards the road to world peace or to goodwill among the nations.
Commenting on Mr. Strange’s statement, the North-Western Miller said -
Later in his analysis he- quite properly directed attention to the fact that the committee, concerning itself solely with wheat, completely overlooked the inevitable effect of controls of that commodity upon other products of agriculture - rye, barley, oats-, flaxseed, beef, mutton, pork, bacon, eggs, cheese and innumerable other commodities, with the accompanying inevitable disturbing changes in production in every country in order to adapt itself to free markets in all things save wheat alone.
It must be obvious to all honorable members, whether they be primary producers themselves or possess only a cursory knowledge of primary production, that we cannot pick out one primary product and make a world agreement about it without disturbing the internal economy of all the nations concerned, be they buyers, or sellers, of the particular product. I come now to the only point which I intend to discuss at length. I make the .following quotation from the North- Western Miller: -
Numberless points, in themselves minor, but of great importance to those certain to be affected by this surrender of control of the world wheat crop to an international council, are not made clear in the text of the agreement. Notable among these is the clear implication that any country may elect to take all of its allotment in wheat. While this is not specifically covered anywhere in the agreement, it is clearly implied in a footnote (.page 3) reading, “Without prejudice to the preference of any country for imported flour of any extraction rate, &c. “, which can mean nothing but that any and every country could take all of its allotment in wheat, leaving the future of America’s export flour trade wholly subject to rulings by the council.
When this agreement was mooted I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture the following questions upon notice : -
The Minister replied -
That is a very indefinite and nebulous reply - “ some form of control “. Flourmilling is a very important industry in Australia. The Minister may not know that last year flour exported from Australia was valued at £22,675,000; or that the industry gives employment to thousands of men in mills throughout the Commonwealth. In addition, its biproducts,. bran and pollard, stock feed and the like, and the assistance it has given to dairying, pig-raising and poultry-farming, must be taken into consideration. I remind the Government that we have Empire family commitments of much greater importance than those involved in this agreement. I refer to our responsibility to increase supplies of butter and eggs to the United Kingdom. Our butter exports to the Mother Country have seriously declined. Yet, we are now asked to embark upon this international venture without being given any guarantee regarding the purchase of to the agreement will be at liberty to take the whole of their quota in wheat. Australia undertakes to supply 85,000,000 bushels of wheat during the next five years. That is about the limit of our capacity. Of our total production, 70,000,000 bushels is turned into flour, of which 33,000,000 bushels are consumed on the home market and 37,000,000 are exported. We have developed a very valuable export trade.
– The limits mentioned by the .honorable member are not the limits we can supply. After we have met our obligations under the agreement we can supply outside of it.
– I do not believe that the Minister thinks that we can supply more than 85,000,000 bushels a year. Generally, it is estimated that that is about the limit of our capacity. The Minister is merely evading the point when he say* that the Government will be able to maintain our present export trade while, at the same time, fulfilling our obligations under the agreement. Let him now say that the purchasing countries will take a certain proportion of our export wheat in the form of flour.We cannot expect Great Britain to do so, because in that country the flour-milling industry is more strongly established than it is even here.
– Britain has accepted responsibility for supplying approximately 40,000,000 bushels of wheat to its colonies, and most of that will be in the form of flour. Thus, nearly half of Great Britain’s quota will be in flour.
– There is nothing in the agreement to indicate where the wheat shall go. We know that some of the dairy produce which we are supposed to send to Britain goes, in fact, elsewhere, and this has been the subject of protest. It is the duty of the Minister to see that our exports go where they are intended to go. At due time, we had an important trade in flour with Mauritius, the Netherlands East Indies and China, but it is now jeopardized. During the last two years, we have lost millions of pounds worth of trade with the Netherlands East Indies because the Government was not strong enough to discipline the Communistcontrolled Waterside Workers Federation when its secretary, Mr. Healy, said that no Dutch ships could load cargoes in Australia for the Netherlands East Indies. Now, some of the other signatories to the wheat agreement have taken that trade, and are sending flour to the Netherlands East Indies, our nearest neighbour.
– Flour mills in Australia are working to capacity.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) is straying from the subject before the Chair.
– I am talking more to the point than did the last speaker, and he was not checked.
– That is a reflection on the Chair, and I ask the honorable member to withdraw the remark or resume his seat.
– I have nothing to withdraw, so I shall resume my seat.
.- The Australian wheat industry is to be the first victim of this Government’s craven surrender to the new internationalism. Others will follow. Wool, dried fruits, dairy produce, sugar - all are on the list. Manufacturing industries are to be dealt with under the International Trade Organization. Australia is regarded by the internationalists as one of the “ havenots “. The internationalists have always regarded this country as a colony. We are to produce only raw materials, and sell them at coolie rates. The International Wheat Agreement is just another melancholy instalment of the master plan.
No consideration is given to maintaining existing living standards, or to actual costs of production. Our economic sovereignty is being bartered away by this Government. It rushes headlong into every conceivable international gathering, and offers the assembly large chunks of our national assets. At one gathering, it is wheat. At another, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has other Australian industries on his list. Nothing is too large, and nothing too small, to barter away.
This kind of thing was done first at Bretton Woods. As a result of the agreement at that conference, we lost a large portion of our dwindling gold reserves, and committed ourselves to back the loans of all kinds of mendicant nations. But we are too proud to ask for dollars, despite our favorable overseas balances. Then came the International Trade Agreement under which whole sections of Australian industry are to be sacrificed. Now, it is the International Wheat Agreement. Wheat is just as much a cornerstone of the Australian economy as is wool. If it is not economic to grow wheat in Australia, farmers will be bankrupt, export trade will be lost, and huge areas will become little better than dustbowls. Australia would then quickly become a debtor nation again.
One after another, our economic bastions are disappearing - our freedom to produce what we want, our freedom to sell it where we like, and our freedom to maintain our own living standards.
All are being sacrificed, because this Government has fallen for the shibboleths of the supermen of this new internationalism.
Certain questions must be answered by the Prime Minister, and the people are entitled to know the answers. Who gave this Government authority to sell wheat at such a fantastically low figure? The wheat still belongs to the growers. It is the product of their toil and sweat. Under Hitler or Stalin, it would be the property of the State. Is it to be the same under this Government? Where is the justprice principle which is a fundamental of our Constitution? If world parity is 20s. 6d. a bushel, is 12s. a just price? No international agreement can break down the just-price principle. No international body can free the Government of the obligation to uphold the principle.
How is the quota of 85,000,000 bushels to be obtained? Is there to be a permanent compulsory pool, with the Government seizing all wheat and selling it for whatever figure it thinks fit? If. so, there could be a home-consumption price of £2 a bushel, while we sold wheat to Britain, India, Trance, Germany or Belgium. at 6s. 3d. a bushel. Under that system, the growers would have no control whatsoever. Or is it intended that the taxpayers are to be saddled with the cost of this blunder? That happened in the case of the New Zealand wheat agreement blunder. If that kind of thing happens next year, the agreement might cost the Australian taxpayers anything up to £30,000,000. In the fifth year, when the price of wheat is to be fixed at a dollar a bushel, the taxpayers could be £50,000,000 to the bad. On the other hand, if there is a glut of wheat. and the price slumps, as it did in 1930, our export quota will be a bagatelle. The representatives of the United States of America, a non-exporting country, went out of the conference with a much bigger quota than that allocated to Australia. What was the basis used to arrive at the quotas? Was it prior exports, or was it a case of big nations against small nations? If the growers are to carry the burden, we shall have a bankrupt industry, ii.nd no wheat. If the taxpayers are to carry the burden, they will be subsidizing a cheap loaf of bread for other countries, and buying a dear loaf in Australia for themselves. The wheat-farmers of Australia must hold this Government responsible for this betrayal. They know that every time this Government goes into one of these so-called international conferences, the odds are that this country will get a raw deal.
Two of the world’s largest wheatgrowing nations - Argentina and Soviet Russia - will not be parties to the agreement. They will still be able to sell their surplus wheat on the world’s market, at ruling parity. They will be able to dump wheat, or withhold wheat, as they wish. So, it is not a world agreement, and there is no reason why we should be parties to it.
The International Wheat Conference was dominated by consumer nations. There were only three recognized wheat producers- present - the United States, Canada and Australia. The United State? Government dared not go to the country with a general commitment for “ dollarabushel “ wheat. But it can afford to subsidize a loss on 185,000,000 bushels for export if it can get its way in acquiring world markets. Its home market is its biggest consideration, and wheat for export is only a minor trade factor. Canada is in a more difficult position. It is tied to the dollar economy for good or ill - in this case, it may be ill - but even then it will be much better off than Australia. All the rest of the 36 nations were wheat importers. This country is encircled as soon as its representative enters one of these conferences. We have nothing to gain, and everything to lose.
While this agreement was being negotiated, the Government announced that the New Zealand wheat agreement was to be reviewed. It led the country to believe that the revision was due to a stroke of Government genius. Actually, the Government knew at the time that. New Zealand was to be a party to the International Wheat Agreement, and had no alternative but to accept an adjustment in price. But under cover of that compulsory review, did this Government barter away any further trade concessions to New Zealand as compensation? If so, that information should he divulged. Then, there is the question of employment in this country. The agreement stipulates wheat exports. There is no mention of flour. Australian flour-mill employees are entitled to protection. If the Government were sincere in its policy of full employment, it would have provided full protection for Australian flour-mill employees. It would have insisted on Australia having the right to ship its quota in the form of flour, instead of wheat. It would have insisted on a guaranteed price for flour. But the flour-mill employees are to be given no protection whatsoever. Once they have filled domestic requirements, they can become workless. The Government claims that this agreement is a protection against a slump caused by over-production. So it says it is protecting the wheat-farmers. But it has taken no steps to protect flour-mill employees, and other workers engaged in the processing of wheat in Australia.
What did the Government’s representative at the International Wheat Conference know about the problems of either the wheat-farmer or the flour-mill employee? He was Mr. McCarthy, another government bureaucrat, who has spent his working life as a clerk, and then as an administrator in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. He has been trained to think of wheat, wool, meat, wine, potatoes, and bird seed, in terms of statistics. He has not the slightest practical experience of primary industry. Why was the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture not sent to such an important conference? He would at least have been a practical man. Why were not the farmers and the flour millers represented ? Instead, the Government sent abureaucrat, who, with other bureaucrats, set about deciding how many bushels of wheat the farmers of Australia could grow, and how many bushels they were tobe allowed to sell. So, the farmers in the Riverina; the farmers in the electorates of Gwydir, Hume, Wimmera, and the other wheat areas of Australia, had their futures thrust into the hands of Mr. McCarthy. If he made a mistake, they could go bankrupt. It was Mr. McCarthy who was to determine whether they were to survive in the industry, or go to the wall. That is the real meaning of what some one has called the “managerial revolution” - the dictatorship of bureaucracy. The Mr. McCarthys of the world plan the lives and the futures of the farmers, the flourmill employees, and every one else. They meet in the salubrious atmosphere of Havana, or Geneva, and draw up these allegedly fool-proof agreements to run the affairs not only of the world at large, but also of the smallest farmer in the world. In the old days, the lords of the manor managed the lives of the serfs. To-day, we have the Mr. McCarthy’s - the Mr. McCarthy of the Prices Branch and the Mr. McCarthy of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture - to manage things. It appears to he a great world indeed for the Mr. McCarthys. But it is a very grim world for the plain everyday folk whose lives are being run by the Mr. McCarthys ! If any one says anything about these bureaucrats, the Prime Minister immediately becomes self-righteous. He tells us that “Mr. So and So “ is a trusted public servant, with an excellent record and a man whom the Government trusts implicitly. No one is questioning the qualifications of these men as public servants. But their qualifications to usurp the functions of government must be challenged! The Government has defaulted in its responsibility to govern by handing over the reins of government to the bureaucrats - the Mr. McCarthys. That is what has happened in connexion with the International Wheat Agreement. When this Government asks for power to do anything, it does not want power for itself. It wants more power for the Mr. McCarthys. This agreement is the result of giving power to the Mr. McCarthys to barter away the future of the Australian wheat farmers and the Australian flour-mill employees. They take out the slide rules, consult their volumes of statistics, measure all their graphs, and then decide what the farmers should be allowed to obtain! They take no risks. If they make a mistake, it is just too bad. They will still be at the next international conference, in another salubrious tourist resort, with all expenses paid, and the most expensive of hotel suites. The wheat-farmer can be bankrupt, the flour-mill employee can be workless but to the Mr. McCarthys, they are just so many statistics. The country is entitled to know the truth - the whole truth - about this agreement. What happened behind the scenes? Was the Government a party to the agreement in the negotiation stages? Surely it was apprised of the proposed terms before the final agreement was reached ! Did it protest? Or, did it once again meekly acquiesce? The internationalists appear to exercise some form of fatal fascination over this Government. Perhaps it is because this Government has never said “ No “ to any one of its professor bureaucrat advisers.
The International Wheat Agreement was a test of the Government’s ability to stand up to pressure. It capitulated without any apparent struggle. That will be the measure applied in future negotiations. Argentina will now be regarded as a tough nation and Australia as a weakling, and the internationalists will act accordingly. The real sufferers certainly will he the wheat-farmers of Australia, who will have no reason to forget this “ sell-out “. As a Parliament, we should insist, even at this advanced stage of the Government’s complete intoxication with power, that proposed international agreements shall be referred to the representatives of the people before and not after they are completed.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann ) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr-. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The bill now under discussion contains few clauses, but embodies the very important International Wheat Agreement. I have listened carefully to the contributions that have been made to the debate, including those of two Ministers. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) referred to the agreement as the charter of the wheat industry. I am afraid it is a charter that has a dark side, which is exemplified by the money that is to be taken from the wheat producers. Both that Minister and the VicePresident of the Executive ‘Council (Mr. Scully) have referred to the history of the wheat, industry in the ‘thirties. The Vice-President of the Executive Council referred mostly to his own administration, hut the Minister for Works and Housing and other speakers, who have referred, continually to the thirties, have conveniently refrained from making any reference to their administration of the ‘forties. They stressed the hardships ‘which were endured by the wheat-growers in the thirties. Doubtless, hardships did then exist, but they were caused by the circumstances and conditions of world affairs and prices, rather than by the administration of the time.
Whilst reference was made to the history of the industry during the early thirties there was no reference to that of the Scullin regime. “While the VicePresident of the Executive Council was Minister for Commerce, there was poverty amidst plenty in the wheatgrowing industry because individual production “was restricted to 3,000 bushels. Reference has been made to the hardships of the ‘thirties. In those days wheat-growers were allowed to grow as much wheat as they wished. As the honorable member for “Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) said, if they wished to do so they could switch over to dairying and other forms of primary production, but they could not do that when the Vice-President of the Executive Council controlled their destiny, because, at that time they were under industrial conscription for war purposes. The honorable gentleman forbade them to grow sufficient wheat to make a living for themselves and their families. The gross income which a farmer could then earn from his 3,000 bushel crop was £600. Of what use is it for the honorable gentleman to deny that he imposed restrictions? The restrictive legislation which he was responsible for placing on the statutebook represented one of the greatest tragedies in Australian legislation. In the first year of its operation the crop was reduced to 143,000,000 bushels, in the second to 93,000,000 and in the third to 57,000,000 bushels. The Government has now contracted to supply homeconsumption needs, to ship- 85,000,000 bushels overseas, and in addition to place 25,000,000 bushels in a pool.
– The honorable member has overlooked the fact that not in any one year did growers fully sow the acreage which they were allotted. Restrictions iti acreage were brought about because of the shortage of superphosphate.
– I shall deal with the Minister’s interjection presently. The policy of restriction adopted under the Scully administration brought about a reduction of the total crop at a time when the world was demanding wheat, and when we could have supplied the requirements of India and New Zealand at prices satisfactory to the growers.
Let us consider the history of the Queensland wheat industry during the ‘thirties. During the whole of the period of the operation of the Queensland Wheat Board, a grower-controlled, co-operative marketing body, the return to the wheatgrowers averaged 4s. 9d. a bushel, yet the honorable gentleman refused to allow individual wheat-growers to grow wheat in excess of 3,000 bushels under the 4s. quota at a time when ‘he admitted that every bushel imported into Queensland from the southern States cost more than 5s. 7d.
– That is untrue, and the honorable member knows it.
– As the result of those restrictions the consumption of wheat in Queensland was reduced.
Mi-. Scully. - Nothing of the kind.
– The Toowoomba Chronicle characterized the Scully restriction scheme as a tragedy. It was certainly a tragedy to reduce production at a time when we could have laid the foundations for future markets and have helped countries in need of our wheat. The honorable gentleman, however, restricted production and forebade the growers to grow more wheat. Let him face up to the follies of his own administration. Let this so-called champion of the wheat-growers answer this indictment if he can. Honorable members opposite well know how dissatisfied were the wheatgrowers at that time. Last week I asked a member of the Australian Wheat Board what he thought of this agreeement and he informed me that he had not yet seen a copy of it; but every letter oh the subject published in the newspapers criticizes it. The calamitous state of affairs that existed in the wheat industry as the result of the Scully restriction plan-
– The wheat-growers were never at any time better off than they were under the Scully administration.
– It is all very well for the Minister, with his large salary, to tell wheat-growers that they were well off. How does he reconcile that statement with the fact that, during the period 1 have been discussing, the gross income of any wheat-grower from his wheat crop could not exceed £600 a year? Out of that amount the wheat-grower had to meet the cost of machinery, labour, superphosphate, seed, bags and twine, and he and his family had to live on what was left over. The total production of wheat was scaled down to 57,000,000 bushels at a time when the normal Australian consumption was 70,000,000 bushels. In challenging a statement made by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), that Australian wheat-growers would lose between £12,000,000 to £13,000,000 as the result of this agreement, the Minister forWorks and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) said that we could not look far enough into the future to gauge what losses may occur under this scheme.We do not need to look into the future in respect of the contracts made with the United Kingdom and India. The loss will be even greater than has been stated by the honorable member for Indi. Australia has made two major wheat contracts, the first with the United Kingdom to supply80,000,000 bushels at 17s. a bushel and the second with India to supply 20,000,000 bushels at18s. 6. a bushel, Australian ports, freight in each case to be provided by the purchasers. The Australian Wheat Board hopes to be able to ship one-half of the wheat covered by these contracts by the 1st August, the date upon which the agreement is to come into effect if it is ratified by the countries concerned. The loss at the minimum differences would be the sum involved in 40,000,000 bushels at11s. instead of 17s., amounting to £12,000,000 and 12,500,000 bushels at11s. instead of 18s. 6d. amounting to £4,687,500, or a total loss of nearly £17,000,000. That represents 2s. a bushel on 170,000,000 bushels, which is equal to two years’ delivery to the International Wheat Council of 85,000,000 bushels each year. These figures show that the statement made by the honorable member for Indi was factual. I am not averse to granting concessions when prices are exorbitant. I am quite frank about that. I do not think we can regard present prices as being stable. They are extravagant and will not continue at the existing high level. When, however, we grant concessions,we expect some compensating concessions in return. During this debate much has been made of the need for stability in the wheat industry during the next five years. My opinion may not matter to members of the Government, but I consider that shortages of commodities in the world would ensure stability for the next five years in any case. Production will not overtake demand for at least three or four years. After analysing the concessions in the agreement, I submit that the guarantees should apply for much longer than five years in order to secure stability in the wheat industry. The agreement gives no guarantee of maximum prices, particularly after the expiration of the first two years, because the council that is to be established will have the right to revise the maximum and minimum price levels, subject to certain limitations. We may as well accept the fact that the growers will be expected to work on the minimum price level. That is the only safe basis that we can use. Government spokesmen have frequently stated that the minimum price will be 6s. a bushel.
– The price levels can be altered only by a two-thirds vote of the exporters and importers, voting separately. That means that a reduction of the minimum price level can be effected only if two of the exporting countries agree to it. That will not happen unless such a reduction becomes absolutely essential.
– But if a variation becomes necessary to meet Australia’s needs, we shall have to secure the support of the other two exporting countries. Those two countries together could outvote Australia and prevent a variation. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
The following paper was presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes -Regents Park, New South Wales.
House adjourned at 1.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Postmaster- General has supplied the following information : -
Constitution Alteration: Broadcasts on Rents and Prices Referendum.
l. - On the 5th May, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked the following question: -
Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral indicate whether it is true that the Australian Broadcasting Commission lias directed that its news broadcasts must not include any references to speeches Or statements on the rents and prices referendum campaign? If so, will the honorable gentleman ascertain if this censorship has been imposed for political reasons? If it is not imposed for that purpose, will he inquire as to the reason for suppressing statements and speeches which are of importance to every Australian?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information : -
The honorable member for Bendigo has asked a question concerning the broadcasting over national stations of news items relating to the forthcoming referendum. In this connexion, the Postmaster-General has been informed by the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission that it is the policy of the commission not to include any reference to the referendum in news sessions after the commencement of the campaign, but to give each side equal time on the air to express its views. This is the usual practice followed prior to elections when parties are allowed specific times but no other reference is made after the issue of writs. The commission has decided, on past experience, that it is advisable during the currency of political campaigns to leave issues strictly to contending parties and groups.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.Chifley. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
General did, in reply to the honorable member for Wentworth, describe as utterly fantastic the story published in a Sydney weekly paper of that date that Australian Communists, in partnership with the Indonesian Government, were planning a huge company to monopolize trade between Indonesia and Australia. The Attorney-General further stated that before any trading monopoly of that nature could be granted, the Commonwealth Government would have to be consulted. On the following day, the Attorney-General, in reply to a further question by the honorable member, stated that the story about the formation of such a trading company was almost certainly part of a pretty elaborate hoax. Subsequent events have proved the Attorney-General’s view to have been entirely correct. The other questions now asked by the honorable member relate to a different matter altogether.
A company known as Asian Airlines Proprietary Limited has been registered in Sydney. It is an ordinary trading company and has no connexion with the imaginary trading company referred to by the honorable member.
Yes. 4. (a) Yes. The four associates mentioned arc Australian ex-servicemen and state that the establishment of this company was a rehabilitation venture. (b) I believe not.
Mr. Campbell claimed such designation, but wasnot recognized as such by the Commonwealth Government. He was reported as being a potential director of the non-existent company referred to in the answer to question No. 1.
Mr. Campbell purchased nine Catalina aircraft from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. These aircraft were advertised for sale by public tender and Mr. Campbell’s tender, being the highest individual tender received, was accepted. Mr. Campbell’s tender was signed by him personally and contained no reference that it was submitted on behalf of other parties. It appears, however, from an agreement filed in the Registrar-General’s Office, Sydney, that the persons named by the honorable member were the actual purchasers of the aircraft and that they subsequently sold the aircraft to Asian Airlines Proprietary Limited for the consideration stated.
The sale was made by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission and it is not the practice of the commission to inquire into the political background of persons in the Commonwealth to whom surplus property is sold.
No application for approval to operate an airline service either inside or outside Australia has been submitted by the company.
No contract has been given to the company for the carriage of mails nor is the negotiation of any such contract contemplated.
As already explained, the alleged company, with regard to which the AttorneyGeneral made the statement mentioned in the answer to question No. 1, was altogether a different company from Asian Airlines Proprietary Limited.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 June 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480604_reps_18_197/>.