18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mb. Deputy Speaker (Mi. j. j; Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– The honorable member for Deakin has stated that a man named Marmach, a known Communist, was employed in the Munitions Supply Laboratories at Maribyrnong and had access to inner laboratories dealing with defence secrets and that he was at present overseas attending, among other meetings, a Communist conference at “Warsaw. I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for Supply and Development whether the statement is true.
– I heard the statement that the honorable member for Deakin made about Marmach. Marmach was a temporary metallurgist, grade 1, at the Defence Research Laboratories for three years from the 1st July, 1945, to the 25th June, 1948, when he resigned. He had no access to any secret information. His work was mainly in connexion with the chromicizing of steel and other minor projects of a non-secret nature. He has not proceeded overseas for the Department of Supply and Development. On the 26th July last, the Melbourne Herald published an article containing the statement that Mr. and Mrs. Marmach were being sent by the Eureka Youth League to an international conference of working youth to bc held in Warsaw in August.
– In view of the promise that the Prime Minister has given to reconstitute the all-party War Gratuity Committee for the purpose of considering claims of members of the Royal Australian Air Force Overseas Head-quarters Staff, London, for an increase of war gratuity to the higher overseas rate, can he. say when that committee will be convened ? I have received letters from ex-members of the Royal Australian Air Force who are in financial difficulties and who would be saved a great deal of worry by an early decision on this matter.
– What I said was that matters relating to war gratuityarise from time to time and that Opposition members of the committee were good enough to come together, without being formally convened, and that they had agreed to add two to their number. The object, of the meeting would be to advise what changes, if any, should be made to the War Gratuity Act. Previously, I also said that subject to the consent of the Opposition members on the committee, I should arrange when a number of matters ha? come in to refer them to the committee. Beside . the honorable member himself, the honorable member for Fawkner and. the honorable member for Henty have mentioned such matters to me. At present, I am not able to say when I shall call the committee together, to consider those matters, but I shall do so at a reasonably early date.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to-
That the House, nt its rising, adjourn toWednesday next, at 3 p.m.
– I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether your attentionhas been drawn to a British documentary film. The Centre, produced by Paul Rotha dealing with the work of’ the Peckham Pioneer Health Centre, London. As the work of that centre is greatly in. advance of ‘ anything yet accomplished in this country and might serve as a model for our own welfare work, would it be possibleto have that film shown in the near futurefor the benefit of members of the Parliament? I understand that the film is now in the National Library.
– I haveno knowledge of the. film mentioned by the honorable .member,, but I shall refer her request to the- Library Committee.
– In view of the serious nature of theallegationsmade yesterday bythehonorable memberfor New England regarding certain matters associated with Metropolitan Portland Cement Limitedand Metropolitan Cement Limited, willthe Prime Minister order a completeand searching investigationbyaroyalcommissionintothose allegations? Will the righthonorable gentlemanarrange for a judgeof Supreme Courtstatustoconduct such an investi- gation?
Mr.CHIFLEY.- Theanswertothe right honorablegentleman’sfirstquestion is “ No “.Ibriefly explainedthe facts of thiscaseafewdays ago.Thehonorable member forNew Englandmadecertain suggestions which I wassurprisedto hear. He alleged malpractice inregard tothis matter.Frankly, Isayto that honorable member that the wayhe has goneabout this matter almost suggeststhat be has some palings off the fence.Thefact is that an applicationwas madefor the formation of the company mentioned. The application was considered by the Advisory Committee onCapital Issues which consists of very reputable men.The committee comprises the Deputy Governor of the CommonwealthBank; Mr. Armstrong, manager ofthe industrial financesection of the Commonwealth Bank; Mr. Fitzgerald,chairmanof the Commonwealth Grants Commissionand a public accountant; Mr. Magee,formerly Commissioner of Taxation inQueensland ; and the Commonwealth Actuary, Mr.Balmford. Almost invariably, insubmitting applications ofthiskind,the vendorsseek to obtainan undue advantage.I have dealtwith hundreds of applications fromreputablecompanies inAustralia which havesought to obtain what I have regarded asundue advantages. Many of these applications have been rejected. The Advisory Committee on Capital Issues is always preparedto makesuggestionsas to how a company may best be formed to protect its shareholders. During the term of office ofthe Menzies Government, and at the request of the then Treasurer, the honorable memberforWarringah,Ibecame amember of the committee and continued to bea member of it for some years.Iwas notthen a memberofthe Parliament. During his speech last night thehonorable member for New England referred to a Mr. Taylor, whom he describedas the managing director of Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited. I have never met Mr. Taylor nor hadI heard of him beforehis name was mentionedbythe honorable member.Itistrue that Mr. Hamilton, the member for Namoi in the NewSouthWalesParliament, saw me ononeoccasiionaboutthisapplication, Hisactionininterviewingmewasnot unusual.Iregardmyselfasbeingopen to interview bythe highestorthe lowliestcitizen in thiscountry.Thefact thatapersonrepresentssomevested interestdoesnotdenyhimtherightsofan ordinary citizen.Iam (constantlybeing interviewedby representatives of big newspapercompanies andindustrial organizationsonmatters of thiskind. Irrespectiveofwhatthehonorablememb- bermaysay,everypersoninthisCom- monwealthhastherighttoseethePrime MinisterandTreasurer,particularlyin hiscapacityasTreasurer,subjecttothe timeavailable.Itistruethatthere weredifferencesofopinonabouthow thiscompanyshouldbeformed.Itis alsotruethatdiscussionswereheldabout theadvisabilityofprovidingdollars forthecompanytopurchasesecond-hand cement-makingplantinAmerica.Mr. Hamiltonsawmeonthesubject,andI referredhimtotheAssistantSecretary oftheTreasury,averycompetentofficer, whoisknownbymosthonorablemembers tobe”prettytough”.Atalaterstage, the application wasconsidered bythe Minister for TradesandCustoms,another Ministerandmyself withaviewto ascertainingwhether,havingregardto allthecircumstances,itwasadvisable toprovidedollarsforthepurposesought. ThesearesomeofthefactsasIremember them. I did mot hear the honorable membermake his raccusations in theHouse last night.ObviouslyI cannot hear everything that issaid here.Only this morningI heard for the first time that some criticismhadbeenlevelled against me on thegroundthatI hold shares ina wireless station. It lis true thatI hold those shares, but only as trustee of the Australian ParliamentaryLabour party.
– On behalf of the Parliamentary Labour party? That is unusual.
– Never mind whether it is unusual or not. I am stating the facts.
– And the company pays a 16 per cent. preference dividend.
– I know all about that.
– The dirty little suspicious minds of the Opposition are showing now.
– In acting as trustee for the party of which I am leader, I have some very high examples to guide me. I believe that I am acting correctly. However, returning to cement, we did consider the proposal. I did not make any decision at the time Mr. Hamilton interviewed me to seek permission to establish a cement-making plant in the Berrima district. I referred him to an officer who knew all about that matter. Mr. Hamilton did not interview me again, but later when I and certain other Ministers considered the proposals, we had before us information which we understood to be factual. It was to the effect that although there was some surplus cement-making capacity in New South Wales, there was a shortage in other States and that the production of cement in New South Wales was reported to be between 80,000 tons and 100,000 tons less than annual requirements. Inquiries at places like Mort’s Dock indicated that, although orders had been placed for machinery in the sterling area, delivery could not be made for two or three years. In view of the cement requirements of the extensive public works programme covering the years ahead, we decided that it would be to the advantage of this country to have an additional cement-making plant as soon as possible. Whether that decision was wise or not may be arguable, but it was made because we believed that an extension of our cement-making capacity was desirable to meet our own needs and to develop our export trade. Those are the facts. I do not know how the honorable member for New England, who is an old friend of mine, got “ off the beam “ in this matter. I am sure that in his heart he does not believe that any of the Ministers of whom hehas spoken would be guilty of malpractice. I cannot go further into the details of the matter now, because I have always endeavoured to avoid disclosing the affairs of organizations that do business with the Commonwealth. Frequently, confidential information is supplied to the Government, and I insist that that confidence shall be respected. However, I am prepared to supply additional information to the Leader of the Australian Country party. I shall not extend this offer to the honorable member for New England because he seems to be somewhat biased in his attitude to this matter.
– I am not biased.
– I have no doubt that the honorable member hasbeen prompted by other vested interests.
– I have seen the Prime Minister prompted by the “ commos “.
– Vested interests are always in conflict in matters such as this. The profit motive seems to stir up some of the worst human emotions.
– There will be some trouble in the Labour party about the preference dividend of 16 per cent., which the honorable member for Deakin mentioned on Wednesday.
– I do not think so.
– Order ! The Prime Minister is replying to. a question which the Leader of the Australian Country party has asked, and 1 ask him not to be led away from his answer by interjections.
– As the Leader of the Australian Country party was the Treasurer in the Government that was responsible for the establishment of the Advisory Committee on Capital Issues he knows a great deal about the difficulties that arise in these matters, and he has a considerable knowledge of the accountancy aspect. I have complete confidence in his honesty, and he, along with the Acting Leader of the Opposition, although that honorable gentleman has not asked to do so, may, if they care to do so, examine the relevant papers.
– I am not prepared to accept the responsibility of a royal commissioner.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party would not have the power to take evidence on oath as a royal commissioner would.
– Order ! The Prime Minister’s reply is developing into a discussion among honorable members. The Prime Minister was asked a question, and is making a rather lengthy reply. However, the Chair has no control over that. If an honorable member asks for information, the Prime Minister may reply to it at whatever length he considers to be necessary, but honorable members are not in order in promoting a discussion as the right honorable- gentleman progresses.
– There is no need for any oaths in this matter. I merely say that the papers are on the file, and if the Leader of the Australian Country party desires to examine them, he may do so. If he chooses not to examine them, that will be all right with me. I give to the House a complete assurance that I have stated, in broad outline, the facts of the case.
– In view of the growing Japanese interest in whaling, as confirmed by members of the parliamentary delegation who recently returned from that country, and Australia’s desire to play its part in the Antarctic, can the Prime Minister indicate whether any progress is being made with the establishment of the Australian whaling industry, with Hobart and Albany as probable bases?
– Australia’s participation in the whaling industry has been the subject of a Cabinet decision. The first matter to be decided was whether shore factories should be established at Albany, in Western Australia, and at Twofold Bay, in New South Wales. The Government agreed to bring to this country Captain Melsom, a Norwegian whaling expert, who has investigated all these matters, and, I understand, has made a report to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I shall ask the Minister to examine the document, and perhaps inform the House of Captain Melsom’s conclusions. The second matter for consideration was whether a base for
Antarctic whaling should be established in Tasmania. One of the difficulties which then arose was the provision of a factory or mother ship. The original intention was to order the ship from the
Furniss company, in the United Kingdom. I have not examined the matter for some time, and, therefore, am speaking from memory, but I understand that for a number of reasons the company could not supply the ship’ for a considerable time. We hoped then to obtain one of the Japanese factory ships. The decision of the Government is that Tasmania shall be the centre for Antarctic whaling, but that depends upon the provision of a factory ship.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, with a view to alleviating the dollar shortage in Australia, he has given any thought to the encouragement of American investments in Australia and to ways and means by which such encouragement could be given? Is he aware that there is an influential body of opinion in the United States of America, which is urging the expansion of overseas American investments, with a view to alleviating the general shortage of dollars in other parts of the world?
– The honorable member has raised a subject to which my colleagues and I have given a great deal of consideration. A number of American companies have expressed a desire toinvest capital in Australia, either by joining in existing businesses as partners or shareholders, or by establishing their own businesses here. One scheme, which has been mentioned in the newspapers recently, was for the manufacture of diesel engines. All such schemes raise certain difficulties. The establishment of an industry would involve the provision of dollars, first, for the purchase of plant; secondly, for the payment of royalties, possibly to some parent concern in the United States of America; and, thirdly, for the payment of dividends if the undertaking returned profits. The Government of Canada has found that the payment of dividends to shareholders of companies in that dominion financed entirely with American capital imposes a heavy and continuous drain upon its economy. I have been very reluctant to reject many of the proposals which have been made for the establishment of businesses in Australia under the control of American companies operating in conjunction with Australian companies. One scheme would have involved the provision of 13,000,000 dollars during the next three or four years, and the Government is not in a position to guarantee that two years hence it will be able to make available an amount of, say, 5,000,000 dollars for any one company. In building up such a business, the company might have to purchase 50 per cent. of its plant and equipment overseas. In some instances, we have been able to make an arrangement for an increased amount of American capital to be joined with Australian capital. In each case of this nature we have endeavoured to provide that at least 50 per cent. of the capital in the company concerned shall be Australian capital in order that an Australian interest and outlook shall be retained. I emphasize that very careful consideration has been given to all such proposals. Dollars have been released in some instances; but other applications have had to be rejected because they would have involved long-term, payments of dollars which Australiacannotguaranteeat present.
Mr.TURNBULL. - I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel concerning the grave shortage of nails to which I referred in this House last night. Ihave received a telephone call from a constituent at Quambatook; Victoria; who told me that nailsof any sizes were absolutely unprocurable in that area. I then communicated with the authorities in Victoria, and was told that the shortage was general owing to the inability of manufacturers to secure nail wire from Newcastle as the resultof shipping difficulties; and that builders in Melbourne were endeavouring to purchase nails in 1-lb. lots wherever possible. Will the Minister cause investigations to be made and take steps to have shipping space made available for the transport of’ nail wire from Newcastle to Melbourne- so that the manufacture of these essential articles may continue?
– The honorable member’s question ignores the fact that interstate shipping has been de-controlled for a long time. It is true that the Australian Government has some vessels which are used for interstate traffic, but private enterprise also has a responsibility in the matter of ensuring that supplies of the necessary raw materials find their way to manufacturers. I can assure the honorable member that the Government will do its utmost to see that shipping facilities are made available, but that does not absolve private enterprise from its responsibility to provide vessels for the despatch of supplies from Newcastle to Victoria and elsewhere.
– I ask the Minister representing the. Postmaster-General whether it is. the intention of the Government to introduce television in Australia? Will the introduction of television necessitate the payment of royalties and performing. right, fees to the promoters; of organized sports meetings and theatrical performances?
Mr.CALWELL. - Television, facsimile broadcasting and frequency modulation are all under consideration by the Cabinet at the present time, anditis expected that an announcement of Government policy in regard to them will be made duringthepresent parliamentary session.
Recruiting and Strength
– Will the Minister for Air say, first, what progress has been made in recruiting for the Royal Australian. AirForce; secondly whether units are yet up to establishment; and thirdly, how many squadrons other than those that are stationed in Japan would be available for service if an emergency arose ? If the Minister cannot give that information now, will he make an. early report to the Parliament?
– I am informed that recruiting for the Royal Australian Air -Force is on a satisfactory basis. I shall endeavour to obtain the other information for which the honorable member has asked.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether an agreement was signed at Lake Success on the 3rd June last, by John D. L. Hood, on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia, and D. Julius Katz-Suchy, on behalf of Poland, under which Australia is to make a free gift to Poland of 800,000 dollars worth of wool? Has the Australian Government agreed to supply the wool without charge and, in addition, to pay the costs ofprocurement, storage, insurance, transportation and shipment to the port of entry into Poland? Is the Government aware of the concern felt in the United States of America, as reported in the New York Times of the 4th J une last, that this wool might find its way into Soviet hands for military purposes, despite any agreement to the contrary? Has the attention of the Government been directed to the fact that Czechoslovakia and Poland, which hitherto were not wool buyers, have been co-operating with the Soviet asbig wool buyers on both the Australian and Texas markets? Have agreements yet been concluded for free gifts of Australian wool to Hungary, Italy and Yugoslavia? Is the statement in the New York Times that no precautions are mentioned in the Polish agreement to ensure that the free wool is not used for uniforms and other military purposes in accordance with fact?
-Some of the points raised by the honorablemember cover a good deal of ground, particularly those relating to the provision of wool to Czechoslovakia and other countries, which was in some instances made under credits, and to the places to which international relief supplies are to be sent. The honorable member’s questions are fairly lengthy and I shall prepare a written reply, covering all the points he has raised, so that he will have full information on the subject.
Empire Air Routes
– For the informa tion of the House I ask the Minister for
Air what steps, if any, have been taken to develop the Empire Indian Ocean air route from Perth to London via Cocos Island, Diego, Garcia Island, the Seychelles group, Mombasa, Khartoum and Malta? Is it a fact that that route would pass entirely over British territory and would be shorter than the route at present used, via Singapore, Bangkok, Karachi and Baghdad, which would have to be abandoned in the event of world-wide hostilities ?
– Steps have been taken, and are continuing to be taken, to provide the necessary equipment and facilities for a trial flight to be made over the Indian Ocean route. That fact was announced in the press some time ago. Facilities are necessary at Cocos Island and elsewhere to ensure that, when the trial flight is made, aircraft will be properly serviced, maintained and fuelled. Investigations are being made regarding actual geographical details of the Indian Ocean route as an alternative to the present route, but it would notbe wise to disclose Australia’s plans for the provision of an alternative route to be used in the event of hostilities making such a route necessary. I can assure the honorable member, however, that all the steps he has mentioned are being taken. I believe the Indian Ocean route is shorter than the present route and could be made to pass only through Empire territories, but the existing facilities are not nearly adequate for the inauguration of a regular service. The Government is continually exploiting all opportunities to make alternative routes available should an outbreak of hostilities make them necessary.
– Is the Minister for Immigration yet in a position to reply to a question which I asked earlier this week regarding the cost of bringing migrants to this country?
-by leave- British ex-service personnel and their dependants are granted free passages, the maximum contribution made by the United Kingdom. Government being £stg.75 per adult passage; the balance, if any, being met by the Australian Government. For example, on a ship on which the rate of passage is £stg.70 the amount would be wholly paid by the United Kingdom Government, and on a ship on which the rate of passage is £stg.80, £stg.75 would be contributed by the United Kingdom Government and fstg.5 by the Australian Government. The rates of passages charged on different ships vary, but an approximate average contribution by the Australian. Government in respect of free passages is £stg.l5 per migrant. “With regard to assisted passages, the base or economical rate adopted by the United Kingdom is £stg.75, in view of the fluctuating costs which apply in respect of different vessels. The contribution in the case of an adult migrant is fcstg.10. Deducted from £stg.75 that leaves £stg.65, of which the United Kingdom Government pays half and the Australian Government pays half. After deducting the migrant’s and the United Kingdom Government’s contribution, any additional amount of passage beyond £stg.75 is met by the Australian Government. To date the average cost to the Australian Government of adult assisted passages has been approximately £stg.47 for each migrant.
When the port of disembarkation is in a State other than that for which the migrant is destined, the Commonwealth is responsible for transportation to the State concerned, and for any accommodation and maintenance en route and while the person concerned is awaiting transportation. It is estimated that the average cost to the. Commonwealth is £7 10s. That rate is influenced by the fact that migrants are sometimes landed in Fremantle and transported overland to other States in order to ensure a quick turn around of ships.
By arrangement with the States, free accommodation is provided for immigrants on their arrival for periods of up to seven days in the case of free and assisted British migrants. Under the nomination system most migrants normally proceed to the homes of their nominators immediately after arrival and find it unnecessary to take advantage of the State reception centres. The cost of operating reception centres may vary in the several States, but it is not thought that those costs would exceed 7s. a day, and if the average stay was one of approximately three days the value of the accommodation given to the migrant would average about £1. The Common: wealth does not pay the fares of immigrants who are transported only intrastate from the reception centre to their final destination. However, if it is necessary to use private transport the Commonwealth and the States concerned contribute equally to the cost. It would-be virtually impossible to obtain from the States particulars of charges which have been incurred separately on State-owned and privately owned transporation. In any event, it is thought that these charges would not be likely to exceed an average of 10s.
Regarding child migrants sponsored by approved voluntary organization, children under fourteen years are provided with passages to Australia without charge to the organization, and the cost is borne equally by the governments of Australia and the United Kingdom. However, in the case of juveniles between the ages of fourteen and nineteen years, their guardians or the organization which sponsors them are obliged to pay £stg.5. The balance of the fare is shared equally by the two governments. Organizations are granted a £A.5 equipment allowance in respect of each child landed in Australia. This is paid by the Australian Government. In addition, the Commonwealth pays to the organization child endowment of 7s. 6d. a week for each child, and provision has been made in the budget to increase that payment to 10s. a week. The Government of the United Kingdom contributes 6s. 3d., Australian currency, and the States 3s. 6d. per week, which represents a total payment of 17s. 3d. a week for each child. The Commonwealth and States also contribute to capital expenditure incurred by approved voluntary organizations to provide accommodation and other facilities for child and youth migrants. Contributions are made on the basis of one-third by the Commonwealth, one-third by the States and one-third by the organization concerned. The cost to voluntary organizations of fares of nurses and escorts for the children en route to Australia are met jointly by the Australian and United Kingdom Governments. Medical expenses incurred in respect of such children during the voyage are also shared jointly by the two Governments.
To sum up, the cost to the Commonwealth and the States of British free and assisted migrants is as follows: -
These figures are, of course, approximations, and I assume that the honorable member does not wish the Commonwealth and State Immigration Departments to make a detailed investigation of all their accounts, running into thousands, so as to take out exact figures. He will appreciate that this would be too great a task for the various departments to undertake, having regard to the pressure of departmental work.
The figures which I have cited do not cover capital expenditure incurred as to half by the Commonwealth and half by the States, in setting up their reception centres. It would not, of course, be possible to average this expenditure as the buildings will be utilized for very many years yet for the purpose for which they were obtained. For a similar reason, no average cost for child endowment or for grants to voluntary organizations for accommodation, have been included under the summary of contributions in. respect of child migration.
I know the purpose which the honorable member had in mind in asking his question. It has been claimed from time to time that the cost to the Commonwealth and the States of bringing immigrants to Australia has been between £200 and £300 for each person, including children. I have shown that the Commonwealth and the States are administering a big scheme, and doing it very efficiently and economically. I doubt whether, at any time in the history of Australia, immigrants have been brought to the country at such small cost to the taxpayers.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1947, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz. : - “ The erection of a hostel for officers at Darwin, Northern Territory”.
It is proposed to construct a hostel at Darwin to accommodate, in the first instance, 152 persons in a series of buildings which are estimated to cost £255,000. The existing quarters for single employees of the Government in Darwin are inadequate, and the erection of the new hostel is rendered necessary in order to provide a reasonable standard of accommodation. I lay on the table the plans of the proposed hostel.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
. - I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1947, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz. : - “ The erection of extensions to the City West Telephone Exchange, Melbourne.”
The proposal envisages extensions to the east side of the existing exchange and the additions will make provision for basement, ground floor and floors 1 to 6 above. The building will be of steelframed construction with a brick in-fill and concrete floors. The additions are necessary to provide accommodation for the expansion of exchange equipment. The estimated cost of the additions is £197,300. I lay on the table drawings of the proposal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) agreedto -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to repeal the Wheat Tax Act 1946, to provide for the refund to growers of wheat of moneys raised under that act, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
. - by leave - I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This measure is intended to return to wheat-growers £11,000,000 which has been collected in wheat tax from the 1945-46 and 1946-47 crops. The tax was imposed in 1946 under legislation dealing with the wheat stabilization plan, about which I merely say that it was not supported by the necessary State legislation. Another plan is now before the States for their consideration, and a little later in this session honorable members can expect the introduction of another bill in regard to Australian wheat-marketing. The form of that bill will depend on what the State governments decide to do, or not to do, in the meantime, and it does not concern us at present.
A feature of the 1946 legislation was that it provided for the imposition of a tax on wheat exported during years of high prices. That tax was the growers’ contribution to a stabilization fund. In effect, this Parliament agreed to guarantee wheat-growers against low prices, provided that they themselves made a reasonable payment during the time they were receiving high prices. It will be remembered that the original plan was announced at the beginning of 1946. One point made at the time was that no more than a reasonable fund was needed; it. was not intended to build up an excessive fund from growers’ contributions. The refund now proposed arises from that principle. The tax has been collected for the two seasons, and now, for the 1947-48 record crop, prices are still high. There is over £11,000,000 in the fund, and another £15,000,000 will be received from the 1947-48 crop.
Export wheat prices have shown a decided decrease this season, but price prospects for next season’s wheat still seem good. Consequently, the £15,000,000 expected from the 1947-48 crop will provide a reasonable foundation for the stabilization fund, and the amount already held should go back to the growers from whom it came.
The same effect would result, of course, if the present funds were held, and tax on the present crop reduced. That would be easier and would provide the same money, but the Government in this bill is adopting a method which meets with general approval. Where a refund is possible it is being made to the oldest contributing pool, and the idea is that the fund will be subscribed by the latest pool practice. In this way, the contribution is made by the group which is most likely to share the actual benefits. The principle of “first in, first out” is the fairest one to adopt, and it is supported by wheatgrowers. It also has the advantage of returning the money available to the oldest contributing group, and that is the group in which some hard-luck cases, which deserve special consideration, have developed.
The bill gives effect to a refund which was announced by me at the beginning of the year as an item of Government policy. At that time there seemed little prospect of an international wheat agreement, and the High Court judgment on the Nelungaloo Wheat case had not been given. Not long after, ratification of the international wheat agreement seemed assured, and it was approved by the Parliament. Since then I regret that the failure of other nations to accept the agreement has made it necessary for Australia, together with Britain and other countries, to withdraw from the agreement. Consequently, the international agreement on wheat which is desired by Australia is still in the future. Events, however, have not altered the desirability, and the practicability, of a refund of the tax from the 1945-46 and 1946-47 wheat crops. The repayment to wheat-growers can be made, and E have pleasure in recommending it to the House. 1 have mentioned that the amount collected is, in round figures, £11,000,000. The money is in a trust fund, and has been invested, so that there will be interest on it which will also be paid to wheat-growers. The method of payment will be the one familiar to growers as a source of income since 1939. The. money will be paid to the Australian Wheat Board, and will be distributed to wheatfarmers as a part of the payments from the two pools concerned. It is intended to make the payment for the 1945-46 season before Christmas. The 1946-47 crop repayment will be made at a convenient date to be decided later.
Honorable members will know that the tax is imposed on wheat exported, and the maximum rate is 50 per cent, of the surplus above the home-consumption price. As export prices were very high during the two seasons, the actual amount collected was 2s. 2d. a bushel on export wheat, which is less than the 50 per cent, mentioned. In other words, advantage was taken of the provision of the act under which a smaller percentage than 50 per cent, could be collected. Calculated over all the wheat in the pools the amount collected, and .now to be repaid with interest, is approximately ls. lid. on the 1945- 46 crop, and 10£d. a bushel on the 1946- 47 crop.
I now ask honorable members to endorse the repayment to wheat-growers, with the assurance that it is fully justified. It is in accordance with the policy endorsed by the Parliament in 1946, and I hope it N/ill soon be followed by other action to mark the agreement of all governments in Australia on measures to ensure the prosperity of the industry in the years to come.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Turnbull) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Johnson, and read a. first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to provide that, as from the date of the next general election, the people of the Australian Capital Territory, which, of course, includes the Commonwealth Territory at Jervis Bay, shall be directly represented in the Parliament of the Commonwealth by a member of the House of Representatives elected from time to time by the electors of the Territory.
The principle of representation in the Parliament and the right of the people of a territory to choose their representative by vote will, it is believed, receive the endorsement of all honorable members of this House. Section 122 of the Constitution provides that the Parliament may allow the representation of any territory of the Commonwealth in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on terms which it thinks fit. However, in the case of such a territory, there is no alternative to direct representation insomuch as the Constitution does not permit of a territory being included with a State or any part thereof for the purpose of forming an electoral division.
At the present time there are approximately 9,750 electors enrolled on the roll of electors for the Australian Capital Territory, and honorable members will readily agree that the number will rapidly increase as a consequence of the extensive expansion in the development of the federal capital planned to take effect within the next few years.
As a result of legislation passed by the Parliament recently, Tasmania will, immediately following the next general election, be represented in the Parliament by fifteen representatives - ten senators and five members of the House of Representatives. The number of electors now enrolled for Tasmania is approximately 158,000, and assuming the number rises to 165,000 by the end of 1949, Tasmania will have in the next Parliament one representative - taking the Senate and House of Representatives jointly - for each 11,000 of its electors.
It may be claimed that the population of the Australian Capital Territory is not yet equal to a normal federal division. The absolute equality of vote value is an academic ideal that never has been and never can be realized exactly. Such an equality is secondary to the fundamental principle that every substantial section of the people should have some representation. The Australian Capital Territory is a distinct community and the Constitution recognizes that the smaller States, being distinct communities, are entitled to a minimum of five representatives, irrespective of population.
The power given to Parliament to allow representation of a territory is a power coupled with a duty to exercise the power as soon as circumstances warrant it. It is confidently expected it will not be long before the number of electors in the Australian Capital Territory reaches at least 11,000 and, therefore, on the basis of comparison with the State of Tasmania alone, it is considered it would be most unfair to continue to deny to the electors of the Territory -the right of choosing a parliamentary representative who could directly voice their views and air any grievances they may have. However, because the number of the electors resident in the Australian Capital Territory falls far short of the average number of electors represented by members of the House of Representatives for the States, the bill provides that, as in the case of the Northern Territory, the member for the Australian Capital Territory shall not be entitled to vote in the House, except on a motion for the disallowance of any ordinance of the Territory and on any amendment of any such motion.
The ‘bill further provides, in terms similar to those contained in the Northern Territory Representation Act, that the member for the Australian Capital Territory shall not be included in the count for the purposes of determining a quorum ; that he shall not be capable of being chosen as, or of performing the duties of, the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees of the House; and that he shall not be counted for the purpose of determining an absolute majority in the event of a joint sitting of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives or in connexion with any proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution.
The qualifications of a member representing the Australian Capital Territory as set out in the bill are precisely those of a member for an electoral division of a State and, except for the specific limitations to which I have already referred, the member elected for the Territory will have the same powers, immunities and privileges as other members of this House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Presentation to the Governor-General.
– I inform the House that the Address-in-Reply will be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General, at Government House, at 5.15 p.m. on “Wednesday next. I shall be glad if the mover and seconder of it, together with as many other honorable members as can conveniently do so, will accompany me to present it.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of. Supply and Development -M. A. Condon, A. H. Debnam R. 8. Matheson.
House adjourned at 11.36 a.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice - 1, Ib he . yet in a position to make an “ announcement on the question of the issue of ‘an Australian war medal, not only to members of the defence forces of the Commonwealth but to members of the civilian* defence forces who participated in World War II ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are. as follows: - 1 and 2.’ It is not yet practicable to make . an announcement on this subject but, as indicated in my reply to a previous question by the honorable member regarding the matter, an announcement will be made as soon as the Government is in a position to do bo.
Pharmaceutical Benefits. - Mrs. Blackburn asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice - . 1, Is the formulary issued by the Government under the free medicine legislation intended to apply to prescriptions issued by medical practitioners who in whole or in part of their practice use homeopathy? 2, If it is shown that any homeopathic pre- scriptions cannot be properly prepared from the drugs .now in the formulary, will the extra drugs used be added to it?
y. - The Minister for Health has supplied the following information : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 September 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480910_reps_18_198/>.