18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Crash of Aircraft “ Kurana “- NAVIgational Aid’s - Loss or Aircraft “Lutana”.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation relating to. the unfortunate catastrophe which occurred yesterday in the less of the aircraft Kurana. Will the Minister state what information he has in connexion with this matter? Reports that the aircraft had been flying. at 3,OP0 feet, and others that it had been flying at 11,000 feet and’ was icing up, and that the pilot had requested permission to land, have caused a great deal of perturbation among the people generally. Has the honorable gentleman yet received a report and, if so, will he give to the House what information he has?
– I have received a report from the Department of Civil Aviation indicating that the aircraft Kurana took off for Deniliquin from Essendon airport at 0727 hours yesterday. Following its normal departure message nothing further was heard from cr of the aircraft until radio station D24, which is the Victorian police radio and communications station, advised Mr. Lum, the Acting Chief Inspector of Accidents, at his home at 8.15 a.m., that’ a crash had occurred at Mount Macedon at 7.45 a.m., or as near to that hour as could be ascertained. No messages of any kind came from the aircraft after the receipt of the normal departure signal, and suggestions contained in broadcasts and statements published in the press, that messages from the aircraft involved in the accident were heard asking that it be allowed to decend from 11,000 to 7,000 feet on account of severe icing conditions, have no foundation whatever and only serve to confuse the public mind on the important matter of the safety of the airtravelling public. I am informed that it would have been impossible for the aircraft to have climbed to” 11,000 feet in the time, from the take-off until it crashed. The flight plan was agreed upon betweenthe captain of the aircraft and the flight checking officer and duty pilot of the company at Essendon, and at his request the captain of the aircraft was given permission to fly at 3,000 feet, provided that visual flight rules applied throughout. It is estimated that the aircraft was 7 miles west of the course agreed upon when the accident occurred. The Air Accidents Investigation Committee has commenced its inquiries. It will not be possible to “.scribe a cause to the accident until the committee has completed its inquiries. Investigations so far, however, have shown nothing to suggest failure of the engines or the airframe. I desire to express my sympathy and that of the Government with the relatives ‘of the pilot and the co-pilot who lost their lives, and with those passengers who sustained injury and shock. I also desire to express my appreciation of the capable and courageous manner in which the air hostess, Miss Fry, is reported to have carried out her duties.
– In view of the grave public disquiet at the succession of air accidents, will the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether he is satisfied that the ground organization of the Department of Civil Aviation is adequate for its function of providing directional aids to the aircraft on Australian air routes generally? Further, is it a fact that the directional aids now being installed by the department in Australia at a reported cost approaching £1,000,000 are of a type which was discarded by the United States of America as long ago as 1942 as being then obsolete?
-I believe that the Minister for Air, in answer to a similar question some days ago, stated that the matter was before a court of inquiry and that he would not answer any questions in regard to it until the report of that body had reached him.
– Are not honorable members to be allowed to ask any questions about air accidents?
– If the honorable member does not observe proper courtesy I shall have to deal with him. Certain evidence has been placed before the court of inquiry. The Minister has said that he is not prepared to make any reference to the matter while it is before the court. If the honorable member for Richmond wishes to ask a question about a recent air accident, he may do so.
– Will the Minister make a statement to the Parliament with as little delay as possible regarding whether directional aids in Australia are efficient for their purpose? Will he assure the House that steps will be taken to ensure that directional aids to navigation in Australia will be at least equal to those in use in other parts of the world?
– -Some of the questions asked by the honorable member for Richmond bear upon evidence that was tendered during the inquiry to which I have previously referred. The report of the court that was appointed to investigate those matters has not yet reached me. I am not scuttling for shelter as has been alleged by an envenomed hand directing a poisoned pen, when I say that I do not propose to depart from the attitude that I have hitherto adopted, and which most lawyers agree to be the correct one. That attitude is that comment upon a case that is being heard should not be made by any person whose comments might influence the court’s findings. When the report of the court of inquiry is in my possession, I shall be prepared to make a statement to the House with regard to it I am satisfied that in Australia the best that is possible is being done in the matter of navigational aids. I think that I may say, without laying myself open to a charge of endeavouring to influence the findings of the court, that our equipment is not out of date and that money is not being expended upon the purchase of out-of-date material.
– Did the Minister for Civil Aviation see a statement published in the Sunday Mail of the 7th November, that Mr. Shand, who is assisting the court of inquiry into the loss of the aircraft Lutana, had recommended that the Air Accidents Investigation Committee should be separated from the Department of Civil Aviation “ in order to remove it from any chance of influence “ ? What consideration, if any, has the Government given to Mr. Shand’s recommendation?
– I have not seen the statement but I have read several confusing and sometimes contradictory statements in various newspapers from time to time. I have also read in a well-known Sydney newspaper a report that statements said to have been made by Mr. Shand had been denied by him. That denial will be found in yesterday’s issue of the journal. I do not propose to take any notice of press statements purporting to contain recommendations by Mr. Shand or by anybody else until the report of the court of inquiry has been presented to me. I shall then have much firmer foundations for making a statement on the subject than the honorable member had for asking his question.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, whether he is aware that a catastrophic hailstorm struck southern Tasmania last Sunday, destroying nearly £200,000 worth of apples and pears in the Huon, Cygnet and Esperance areas? Will the Prime Minister issue a direction that officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture make an immediate investigation with a view to determining the extent of the damage and assessing the financial relief that should be given to orchardists who in consequence of the storm have lost their total income for this years?
– Whilst I have not seen a report of the damage which the honorable member has mentioned, I have heard a broadcast statement that a severe hailstorm has destroyed a big portion of the anticipated apple crop in the Huon district of Tasmania. I have also heard that the weather has caused severe damage in certain districts of New South Wales, particularly in the cherry-growing areas.
The general practice is that a State government accepts the responsibility for granting relief- te persons who have suffered losses in particular areas as the result of storms or similar causes. Whilst I deeply regret such unfortunate happenings, it is not possible for the Australian Government to deal with what I may describe as local disasters, although I recognize that the effects are most serious to the primary producer: concerned. The Australian Government grants assistance when disasters, such as droughts, have affected a wide area involving more than one State. Offhand, I should say that responsibility for providing relief to orchardists in southern Tasmania does not come within the province of the Australian Government, but as the honorable member has asked me to consider the matter and as I am not familiar with all the facts, I shall ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to make the inquiries suggested by the honorable gentleman.
Melbourne “ Herald “ Report
– The Melbourne Herald of the 4th November published a news item which purports to be a report of proceedings of this Parliament. It stated that the whole of the 45 minutes of question time was occupied by questions directed to the Minister for Information and Minister for Immigration. I ask that Minister whether he has seen the report. If it is not correct, will he make k statement to the House in order to inform the readers of the Melbourne Herald of the correct position?
– I was amazed at the degree of inaccuracy in the report in the Melbourne Herald to which the honorable member has referred-
– The honorable gentleman should not be amazed at what appears in the Melbourne Herald.
– I suppose I should not. Last Thursday the whole of the 45 minutes devoted to questions were not occupied by Government members directing questions to me. In fact, during the period 26 questions were answered, seven by the Prime Minister, five by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, four by the Minister. for Post-war Reconstruction, two by the Minister for Air, one by the Minister for the Interior, two by the Minister for Labour and National Service, two by the Minister for Works and Housing and only three by myself as Minister for Information and Minister for Immigration. I leave honorable members and the public to judge for themselves how far the Melbourne Herald is prepared to go in its campaign of distortion and deliberate misrepresentation.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to the statement of policy, as declared in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, to the effect that many automatic telephone exchanges will be brought to this country from overseas. Will the Minister inform me what progress has been made in importing exchanges for the benefit of the people in country districts?
– T shall ask the PostmasterGeneral to supply the information for which the honorable member has asked, and I shall furnish it to him as soon as possible.
– About 500 exchanges are under order.
– The Prime Minister reminds me that about 500 orders havebeen placed. Since the budget debate, several exchanges have been installed. It, is the policy of the Government to give to people in the outlying areas the same facilities as those which the residents of the cities enjoy.
– Has the Prime Minister read in a recent issue of the Australian Worker, an article by the PostmasterGeneral, Senator Cameron? The article is too long for me to read in full, but the Postmaster-General wrote, inter alia -
Workers have nothing to gain and everything to lose by increasing production beyond what would be necessary to maintain themselves.
He also wrote as follows : -
Surpluses are a brutal weapon used against them, but increasing strike action hy workers nowadays in most countries would indicate the dangers . . .
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to read from a newspaper when asking a question.
– I shall now ask my question.
– The honorable member should ask his question without making a speech.
– I was only explaining to the Prime Minister what the PostmasterGeneral had written, because I know that the right honorable gentleman is not in the habit of reading newspapers. Of course, the Worker is a labour newspaper, so the Prime Minister should read it. Can the right honorable gentleman say whether the doctrine, as enunciated in the article by the PostmasterGeneral, is the reason for the shortage of telephones and telephone exchanges in Australia? In any case, does the Prime Minister consider it desirable to have in his Government a Minister whose policy is not in line with the right honorable gentleman’s recently announced policy of increased production?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - I have not read the Worker.
Mr.White. - The Prime Minister should do so.
Mr.CHIFLEY.- I have not sufficient time to read all the newspapers. I have not read the article which the honorable member has claimed has been written by the Postmaster-General, but I shall make a point of doing so and of discussing it with the Minister. The honorable member may be interested to know, if he does not already know, that the number of telephones installed in Australia at the present time is a record, and because of prevailing conditions of prosperity, the number of applications for the installation of telephones is still approximately 100,000.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether the delay in the installation of telephones throughout the Commonwealth is due to the failure of past anti-Labour governments to make provision annually for the extension of telephone facilities because they were more concerned with paying the profits earnedby the Post master-General’s Department into general revenue instead of using the money on the provision of more and better services, as is the policy of this Government?
– It may be, if one views the position relatively, that there is a delay in installing telephones, but the rate at which they arebeing installed is many times greater to-day than it was in the years immediately (preceding the war. As the Prime Minister said in reply to a question of this nature asked by the honorable member for Balaclava, this country is prosperous and people now have the money to pay for telephones that they did not have in the days when it was the policy of anti-Labour governments to seize the profits of the Postmaster-General’s Department for general revenue purposes. They also stole a part of the wireless licence fees on several occasions. With proper governmental methods of finance operating under this Government, the right things are being done and it will not be long before every one wanting a telephone will have the opportunity of having one installed.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he can explain why, when the number of telephone subscribers connected with rural or outer suburban exchanges increases, the rental and tariff for calls are increased, whereas when a similar increase in the number of subscribers connected with metropolitan exchanges occurs, those charges remain op the same level.
– If the honorable member supplies me with specific cases, I shall have them investigated. I shall take the matter up with the PostmasterGeneral and furnish the honorable member with a reply, if not this week, some time next week.
Mr.McLEOD. - I ask the Minister for the Army whether there is any truth in a report that has reached me that it is the intention of the Army to require the parents of lads entering the apprentices school at Balcombe, Victoria, to put up a bond of £50 for each year a lad expects to spend in the school, the bond to be forfeited if the lad leaves the school before his twenty-first birthday?
– A submission of that nature was suggested to me by the Army authorities. They were desirous of incorporating in the conditions laid down for apprenticeships that a bond of £50 should be put up by the parents, of boys entering the school. I gave that matter serious consideration. I have informed the Army authorities that they are not to go on with that idea because in civil life bonds are no longer entered into in regard to apprentices. I considered that if bonds were required, parents in poor circumstances would not be able to allow their boys to attend the school although they might be possessed of all the necessary qualifications. The parents of a boy going to the school at the age of sixteen and staying there for four years would be required to put up a bond of £200. I fear that that would keep the sons of poorer families out of the school. Therefore, I have decided that the conditions which provides for bonds shall not be incorporated in the plan.
Inter-union Dispute in New South Wales.
– Does the Prime Minister propose to make a statement to the House upon the settlement of the inter-union dispute on the South Coast of New South Wales? I ask the right honorable gentleman whether there was conceded in the terms of settlement as reported the demand of the miners’ federation that, if the work being done upon the tunnel were held to be within mining operations and so with the scope of operations of the miners’ federation, the terms and conditions should be determined by an arbitrator. I also ask the right honorable gentleman whether all the terms and conditions have been announced and whether there was, in fact, as a condition of settlement, any agreement upon the arbitrator to be appointed.
– I assure the honorable member that there was no discussion with the miners’ federation. The discussions were between the Go vernment of New South Wales and the two Ministers appointed to represent this Government. I have not brought into the House with me a copy of the statement that was made at Bathurst on Saturday by the Acting Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Baddeley, and myself. It consisted of three clauses. It directed that the men should return to work and stated that the two Governments undertook to do two things. The first undertaking was that an arbitrator would be appointed for the purpose of adjudicating on the demarcation question. The second undertaking, which arose from the first, was that if any adjustment of wages and conditions became necessary as a result of the arbitrator’s decisions, the arbitrator would be empowered to make the necessary award. I assure honorable members that, apart from the agreement reached at Bathurst on Saturday by Mr. Baddeley on behalf of the State Government and by me on behalf of the Australian Government, no concessions or undertakings or agreements of any kind were decided on. There has been no discussion between Mr. Baddeley and me about who should be appointed as arbitrator.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether Australia is contributing either directly or indirectly to thecost of the air-lift to Berlin. Has the right honorable gentleman any idea of the total cost of this great united effort? Does he consider that this battle of food will achieve its purpose both economically and politically?
– I do not know whether I would .be justified in giving even an approximate figure of the cost of the air-lift into Berlin. Before I could state such a figure I should have to consult the governments responsible for the expenditure. There has never been any discussion between the respective governments about the cost of providing the Australian crews which are assisting with the air-lift. When this matter was first considered, and the Australian Government offered to supply some small aeroplanes - ten, I think - the United Kingdom Government intimated that’ as a fair number of small aeroplanes were already available, and that it was proposed to use larger types of aeroplanes extensively, Australia could best assist by providing air crews, because the air crews which had operated the air-lift up till then were tired. At that stage there was no discussion about cost, or who would meet it. The Minister for Air, after consultation with me, made arrangements for the despatch of air crews to Great Britain. It was quite clear that the pay and allowances of the men would be met by the Australian Government. The matter of food supplies for the Australian crews would be embraced in the over-all arrangements to provide food for all of the crews operating the air-lift to Berlin. Clothing, also, would be supplied to the men by the Australian Government, except perhaps for flying kit. The Australian Government has not quibbled about costs. The allowances, clothing, and equipment of the men is the responsibility of the Australian Government and food and flying kit is the responsibility of other governments.
– “Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House of the stage that has been reached in the latest negotiations to settle the dispute on the Sydney waterfront between the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union and the Operative Painters Union ?
– A conference was held this morning between executive officers of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and representatives of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union. The conference adjourned at lunch time to allow the federal officers of the union to meet this afternoon to consider the proposals that were made. They have already arranged for a mass meeting of members of the union to take place at the Leichhardt Stadium. I think we may assume that the recommendations that were made at this morning’s conference will lead to a resumption of work within the next day or two.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Can the right honorable gentleman give any indication of the reason why Australian housewives are still unable to secure supplies of rice? Does the Government control the marketing of the Australian rice crop? Is the shortage of rice in this country due to the Government’s policy of exporting rice to eastern countries? Does the Prime Minister realize that this commodity, which can be used to supplement the diet of Australian families, has long been denied to Australians? Is it not time that the present policy was reviewed and changed ?
– It has been explained previously that during the war rice was allocated for purposes other than consumption in Australia. Strong ‘requests were made by some of the allied powers, including the United Kingdom Government, that Australian rice should be made available to eastern countries, the people of which were sorely in need of food. Subsequently, we decided to make Australian rice available to the Australian people, but, in view of the continued acute shortage of food in the eastern countries, the Minister for Food in the United Kingdom Government, who has the responsibility of making foodstuffs available, as far as is possible to him, to people in those areas, made a request that we should continue to export Australian rice to the East to relieve the famine there. That is being done. I presume that the view of the United Kingdom Government in regard to rice supplies is still the same. Some rice is kept in Australia and allocated for use by hospitals and by people for whose diet it is necessary.
– Will the policy be reviewed ?
– Yes, it will certainly be reviewed.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for .Shipping and Fuel say whether, when the petrol ration is being reduced, special recognition is given to the needs of country dwellers, especially those who live at a considerable distance from a railhead, the nearest town, a doctor and a school? Such persons are entitled to special consideration. The matter was brought to my attention by the president of the Kangaroo Valley Branch of the Primary Producers Union, Mr. A. R. Chittick who, in a letter to me, states that, while the members of his organization fully recognize the need to conserve dollars-
– Order ! The honorable member must now ask his question.
– I ask whether special consideration will he given to the needs of country dwellers who have no means of transport other than their cars?
– As I understand it, the petrol rationing scheme is designed to give equality of treatment to those who use motor vehicles in the pursuit of a livelihood. Equality of treatment cannot, of course, mean equality in the amount of petrol received. In determining the ration for primary producers living in the country, account is taken of the distance at which they reside from a railhead or shopping centre. It has been arranged that, where necessary, primary producers may obtain a seasonal allowance of petrol in order to ensure maximum production. Professional men living in the country are entitled to extra petrol, the amount being governed by the distance they have to travel in the performance of their duties. They receive more petrol than do professional men in the cities. People living in country districts are always entitled to go to the local police station and claim a special licence to buy petrol should circumstances warrant this course being followed. I am sure that the Minister for Shipping and Fuel will see that the policy that he has laid down will be applied in the case of primary producers and other persons living in country areas, who can make out a case for receiving more petrol in order that they may earn their living.
– I have been informed that the State governments are shortly to assume control of the prices of leather goods such as footwear, saddlery, and the like. Can the Treasurer say whether the surcharge on tanned hides, which varies from 18 per cent, to 21 per cent., still applies, and does the Government intend to maintain this surcharge after the States have assumed control? The surcharge, though added to the price of leather, is not payable to the producers, but it increases the cost of all leather goods.
– The control of hides, skins and leather has been the subject of discussion between the Commonwealth and the States. These goods cannot be controlled by the States without Commonwealth assistance, particularly on the export side. These discussions have been proceeding for some time. It will be passible to continue certain of the existing controls until the end of the year. Before then, however, it is hoped that it will be possible to reach agreement with the States about the continuance of the controls referred to by the honorable member. The States are already in general agreement that some form of control of hides and leather should be continued. I shall ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to prepare and furnish to the honorable member a written statement on the subject.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to an item in the official organ of the Communist party of the 23rd October which reads as follows : -
A.A.P. Message No. 44 of October 21. from Ottawa, describing the arrival of lit. G. Menzies. “ Stepping from the train with Mr. Menzies, he said, ‘I’m just here to have a look ‘ “.
This message was sent at ordinary ratesand received at Sydney a-t 6.2S a.m.
Urgent Message No. 55, received in Sydney at 7.23 a.m., deleted references to Mr. Menzies!1
Will the right honorable gentleman investigate this leakage of an Australian Associated Press message to the Communist party? Will he ascertain whether the leakage occurred in the offices of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission? Will he also ascertain whether the publication of these messages bv the official organ of the Communist party is » breach of the Overseas Telecommunications Act, and, if so, will he institute proceedings against those responsible for the breach? Will the right honorable gentleman instruct the Commonwealth Investigation Service to submit a report on this and any other known leakage?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “ No “. I do not read Communist newspapers and therefore I did not see the item which referred to the arrival of the Leader of the Opposition in Ottawa. I did not know that the right honorable gentleman had arrived at Ottawa. The honorable member claims that there has been a leakage of press messages. I have not heard of any such leakage. I 3hall ask the Postmaster-General, who administers the telecommunications service, to inquire into these allegations, and, if there are grounds for suspicion that leakages have occurred, an inquiry will be conducted by the Commonwealth Investigation Service.
Victorian Slaughtermen’s Strike
– It appears that, as the result of an unexpected display of firmness on “the part of the Australian Government and the Government of New South Wales, the disastrous coal strike in New South Wales has been settled. Will the Prime Minister display the same firmness towards certain slaughtermen in Victoria, who are on strike against an award by a conciliation commissioner and, by their actions, are disrupting the fat lamb industry in Victoria and preventing the export from this country of certain food supplies urgently needed by the people of Great Britain?
– I did not gather from the rather confused statement which prefaced the honorable member’s question that there is any relation between the coal strike in New South Wales and the strike of slaughtermen in Victoria. The coal strike was settled not so much by any effort on my part as by the co-operation of the executive officers of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, Mr. Monk and Mr. Clancy, the Premier of New South Wales and his Ministers, and the two Ministers representing the Australian Government, who were in constant communication with me on the subject. I understand that the slaughtermen’s dispute is in the hands of a conciliation commissioner, Mr. Kelly, who went to Melbourne last week to endeavour to end the dispute. As the dispute has not yet been settled it would be improper for me to comment on it. The facts surrounding the coal strike in New South Wales were quite different. Other methods of achieving a settlement had failed in that case and the New South Wales Government appealed to me for assistance. As Mr. Kelly is still adjudicating in the slaughtermen’s dispute I do not propose to take any action.
– Has the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs seen a statement made recently by Dr. “ Van Mook, former Lieutenant GovernorGeneral of the Netherlands East Indies, that Australia had no foreign policy regarding Indonesia, “ apart from personal ambitions and ideas “? In view of the importance of the Netherlands East Indies to Australia, in regard to both economic and defence matters, when can the Parliament expect the Government to make a. definite pronouncement of Australia’s foreign policy insofar as it relates to the Netherlands East Indies ?
– I should have no hesitation in making a statement about Indonesia if by doing so I might not further complicate the already delicate situation that exists between that .country and the Netherlands East Indies. I indicated in thi9 House some time ago that I believed that the difficulties between Indonesia and the Netherlands East Indies could be overcome by representatives of the so-called Indonesian Republican party and the Dutch reaching a joint arrangement for the administration of Indonesia. Since then the Australian Government has shown its very active interests in the subject by appointing Mr. Justice Kirby to the Good Offices Committee of the United Nations. Mr. Justice Kirby and the representatives of Belgium and the United States of America on the Good
Offices Committee made certain recommendations for a solution of the Indonesian problem. I have no doubt that had those recommendations been adopted the trouble in Indonesia would not have continued. I have never believed that the dispute has been handled satisfactorily. In view of what is happening elsewhere, and the present disturbed state of the world, I might only create further trouble, or at least be liable to criticism, if I made a statement about a matter which rests between the Republicans in Indonesia and the representatives of the Dutch Government in the Netherlands East Indies. I am not at all concerned about any statement which may have been made by Dr. Van Mook. I have studied the Indonesian problem very deeply. The Communists are now adding to the difficulties there. That could have been avoided had the right steps been taken in the early stages. However, I shall consider the honorable member’s request and see whether I can prepare a statement which will not be offensive to any of the parties engaged in current international negotiations. The honorable gentleman should bear in mind that the subject matter of his question i3 being dealt with by an international organization, and I cannot promise to supply the statement which he desires if it is likely further to complicate the position.
– In the absence of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, will the Prime Minister inform me whether, it is a fact that, under the egg contract with Great Britain, the 12-lb. pack is unacceptable to the British Ministry of Food for civilian consumption in the United Kingdom? Is there a substantial surplus of such packs in the eastern States, and is the Australian Egg Controller requesting the Royal Army Service Corps in Singapore to negotiate with any of the eastern States for them? As Western Australia has been supplying considerable quantities of the 13^-lb. pack to Singapore, what action will the Government take to protect the egg producers of that State, who have developed that market and who have been requested to double their supplies to the Royal
Army Service Corps and supply an additional 50,000 eggs a week to the Malayan Command, for which the Australian Egg Controller will not give approval?
– I think that, instead of answering the question, I shall ask for the adjournment of the debate on the speech which the honorable member has delivered. I understand that the British Ministry of Food has objected to the 12-lb. pack, but I shall arrange for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who is more familiar with the details of the subject than I am, and whose arrival here to-day has been delayed, to prepare a statement in reply to the honorable member’s questions.
– According to this morning’s press, a delegation from India will arrive here on about the 18th November to negotiate an agreement for the sale of wheat by Australia to that country. Will the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, give to the House an assurance that the Australian Wheat Board, as the trustee of the wheatgrowers, will negotiate and determine the duration and terms of such an agreement, and the price per bushel?
– A number of prominent Indians, representing the Indian Government, have already been here to discuss food contracts. Sir Datar Singh, who left Australia in July, had lengthy discussions with us about wheat contracts. He pointed out that the Indian Government liked to enter into contracts for a lengthy period and for the supply of considerable quantities of wheat yearly. The price was also mentioned. It is most difficult to determine a price in a long-term contract. I shall not give any assurance to the honorable member -
– I asked the Prime Minister to give the assurance to the House.
– I shall not give an assurance to the House, either. When negotiations have taken place in the past with India for the supply of flour and wheat-
– And with New Zealand.
– Yes, Australia entered into a contract with New Zealand for the supply of wheat. The Government takes full responsibility for such arrangements. We found that leaving to private enterprise the making of arrangements for the supply of linseed oil and other commodities proved disastrous to Australian users. Therefore, we have discussed such matters with India on a governmental level and any contracts which are made will have the approval of the Government. Although we may consult the Australian Wheat Board and other authorities, we accept full responsibility for any such agreements.
Statement bt Db. I. Clunies Ross.
– Did the Prime Minister read in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald a statement attributed to Dr. Ian Clunies Ross, a distinguished executive officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, to the effect that we are becoming too obsessed with the idea that the only gauge of a country’s greatness is the strength of its secondary industries, and that Australia’s greatness during the next few decades will depend on the extent to which it can increase the production of essential primary products and make a greater effort towards feeding the world? Does the right honorable gentleman agree with those views? Having regard to the world-wide devastation -
-Order! The honorable member is introducing argument, and even argument from outside of the House, into his question.
– At all times, I defer to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I am not aware of having introduced any argument into my question. Having regard to the world-wide devastation caused by the war and the enormous increase of the world’s population in the same period, what positive steps is the Government prepared to take to increase Australia’s production of food, so that we may strengthen our position as a primaryproducing country and play our part in preventing world famine?
– I have not read today’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald. Dr. Clunies Ross is a most able man, who has given great assistance to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and I do not desire to detract in any way from the value of opinions expressed by a person of his knowledge and standing. However, the statements which he is reported to have made are only expressions of opinion. Any one who has studied the economic position of this country will admit that we must endeavour to preserve a proper balance between secondary and primary production. We cannot, for a moment, doubt the wisdom of the great expansion which has taken place in Australian secondary industries. There are urgent calls for an improved standard of living in eastern countries and, indeed, in our own country. Necessary to the achievement of that improvement is increased secondary production. There is also, as the honorable member has stated, a growing demand for the production of foodstuffs owing to the growing population of the world. It is essential that the people who want food shall be provided with the wherewithal to purchase it. It is not of much use to talk about growing more food when some countries are so povertystricken that they cannot provide their peoples with a proper standard of living. Bread at even Id. a loaf is beyond the reach of many millions of people. The honorable gentleman has raised a matter of great importance. It could be discussed at great length. I do not desire to detract from the views of a man of the reputation, of Dr. Clunies Ross. His utterances are worthy of regard. But a proper balance is necessary in the development of our primary and secondary industries. Our primary industries should be developed on the basis of what can be bought by countries that nml food for their populations.
– I desire to address to the Minister ‘representing1 the Minister for Shipping and Fuel a question about the waterside strike in Sydney, where, as the Minister knows, some 4,400 men have failed for nearly a week to answer the pick-up. This has caused 40 ships in Sydney Harbour to remain idle when they should be loading primarily wool. If the strike continues, it will have a serious effect on the wool season. “What action has the Government taken to bring about a resumption of work? Has the Stevedoring Industry Commission, which was appointed by the Australian Government, taken action against the striking members of the Waterside Workers Federation to enforce its orders in Australian ports? What power has the commission to enforce its orders? Oan the House be informed whether any steps are contemplated to bring the strike to an end ?
– I shall answer the question on behalf of the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, because I discussed the matter with him over the week-end and we had a further discussion about it this morning. I arn able to inform the House that consultations took place yesterday between the chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission and the representatives of the ship-owners and the employee.?.. My information at midday was that it was expected that the dispute would be ended to-day and that work would be resumed to-morrow.
– Has the Minister seen Hie reported statements of Dr. Evatt–
– Order !
– I was looking at the t-able news. It is obvious that Dr. Evatt, President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, is seeking the appeasement of the Communist nations of Albania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia, that border on Greece. I ask the Prime Minister whether Dr. Evatt has the authority of the Government in making his proposals or whether the proposal to allow the Communists to overwhelm Greece, to which country Australia, Great Britain and the United States of America have given considerable help in the past is one of his own and Colonel Hodgson?
– Taking a leaf out of the book of the Minister for Information, who generally has an ‘ idea of questions that he will be asked, I had a statement prepared on this matter, but I do not want to read it now. The honorable member has asked me whether I agree with the action taken by Dr. Evatt. The answer is that I do agree with it. I think he acted as President of the General Assembly. The actions that he has taken have my full approval. For some time both this Government and the New Zealand Government have been unhappy about the position in Greece. I have conveyed that fact to higher quarters, too. In this case certain people thought that as some conciliatory methods were being adopted to bring about peace in this area, it was desirable that the execution of ten so called rebels, some of whom were trade union representatives, should at least be delayed, if not abandoned altogether. Dr. Evatt then sent the cablegram. The honorable member wants to know whether that had my approval-
– I did not raise the question of the executions.
– Certain appointments were made to a committee to inquire into the position in Greece. Unfortunately the Polish and Russian appointees did not take part in the deliberations of the committee.
– Australia is now to side with the Communists.
– With Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece coming into the discussion it was hoped that it would be possible to arrive at a satisfactory arrangement, and with that objective Dr. Evatt sent his cablegram to the King of Greece. In reply to the honorable member’s question whether this Government agreed with that course of action, the answer is “ Yes “. However, in order not to delay the proceedings of the House now, I shall let him have a statement on the matter.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Appropriation Bill 1048-4!).
Appropriation (Works and Services) Kill 1948-49.
Sales Tax (Exemptions from Classification? ) Bill 1948.
Debate resumed from the 5th November (vide page 2582), on motion by Mr. Pol i. a kd -
That the bill lie now road a second time.
.- When the House adjourned on Friday, I was referring to the fact that the people of Australia and New Zealand had been particularly lucky during the period of the war to have received a 4-1 b. loaf for ls. or ls. O-Jd. If they had been paying on the basis of the world parity price of wheat, the price of bread, for the greater part of the time, would have been at least double that figure, and during the last year the price would have been approximately 2s. 6d. a loaf. The Government appointed a committee to investigate and report on the cost of wheat production. That committee decided that its term of reference required that it should endeavour to establish the cost of producing a bushel of wheat in Australia, and that that figure should apply to the five wheatgrowing areas. It is right that we should not differentiate between, say. Queensland and Western Australia. Whilst the figure should apply to all areas in the Commonwealth the decision in my opinion was based on wrong premises in many respect. The committee decided that a reasonable remuneration for the farmer who had a capital of up to £15,000 invested in his farm - which is quite a normal amount - should be £6 10s. a week. The ordinary wage of a farm labourer twelve months ago. was at least £5 a week, plus keep. The . wage for a. skilled man was, of course, higher than that. .Some people apparently think that anybody can run a farm, but to-day a great deal of knowledge is required to do so satisfactorily. It is essential that a farmer shall possess a knowledge of science if he hopes to make a success of his farming activities.
By way of comparison, honorable members should consider the conditions existing in other industries. The Department of Road Transport and Tramways in New South Wales is advertising for men, between 19 and 45 years of age, to work as tram and bus conductors. The average earnings of train conductors, with overtime, are about £19 a fortnight. But it is not proposed to pay .the farmer overtime. No man in the community works as much overtime as does a farmer who works his own property. The average earnings of bus conductors are £14 10s. a fortnight. In addition, they receive five weeks’ annual leave with free railway passes, uniforms, and free bus or tram travel to and from work. If such an employee is injured in the course of his work, he receives full pay whilst off duty. If a farmer is injured at his work he receives no assistance whatever; he has to carry the burden himself and, in addition, has to pay another man to do his job. Tram and bus conductors receive half pay if they are off duty sick other than as a result of injuries received on duty. They can also obtain railway tickets at half rates after three months’ service, and excellent recreational facilities are provided for them. I point out that wheat-farmers living in the Mallee district of Victoria and the Riverina district, of New South Wales have very few recreational facilities available to them in those areas. They have to travel great distances when they wish to indulge in recreation, and defray the cost themselves. It is incredible that the committee should have recommended that an adequate wage allowance for farmers was £6 10s. a week. I believe that the figure should be at least £10 a week. Tram and bus conductors who have no responsibility beyond the collection of fares are granted five weeks’ leave annually, on full pay. If the farmer wishes to take a holiday of five weeks he has to pay for it himself. He must pay his fare or. should he travel by his own fiar, he must pay the running expenses. Another aspect of the matter is interest on the money invested. Only 3£ per cent, was allowed as interest on the amount represented by the farmer’s property. I point out that one requires very good security to-day to be able to borrow money from a bank at 4£ per cent. Under this scheme the farmer will not receive even a normal rate on the money he has invested. No attempt has been made to give him a reasonable profit. He will receive only a low rate of interest on his invested capital. and £6 10s. a week as salary. That basis is obviously wrong, and it should be reconsidered.
There is another matter which the Cost of Production Committee admitted was beyond it. That was that, due largely to the war and to the shortage of dollars and the inability or disinclination of the Government to allow dollars for the import of agricultural machinery, farming machinery in Australia to-day is in a worse condition than ever before. The following statement in the report of the Wheat Costs of Production Committee deals with this aspect of the matter : -
Still another difficult question WAS the cost of machinery on the farm. The evidence before us disclosed that owing to the war period and the difficulties of obtaining new machinery, a very large proportion of the farming machinery is now reaching the end of its workable life. The cost of renewing this machinery is much greater than the amount which the farmer has over the life of his existing machinery set aside for depreciation. The committee has not been able to make any practicable allowance for this in its assessment of costs.
The committee admits that that is a just charge against the cost of production, but says that it cannot make a practical suggestion. It is greatly to be regretted that some practical men, with the courage of their convictions, were not appointed to the committee. In arriving at the cost of production, such men would have made a reasonable allowance for that factor.
The finding of the committee was that the cost of production of wheat at sidings was 6s. a bushel. The Government reduced that figure to 5s. 10 id., thus following the recommendation of two members who were public servants. It was apparently glad to avail itself of an excuse to keep the figure as low as possible. I consider that the- Australian wheat-growers are not being treated fairly in this regard. The premises on which the committee based its findings were false in many respects, and the Government took advantage of a minority report to keep the estimated cost of production as low as possible. I am sure that even the Minister will agree that the wheat-growers deserve better treatment than that. During the war they submitted to many injustices, without much protest. Having regard to the difference between world prices and the price that they received for their products at least £100,000,000 was taken from them during that period. Prior to the war they suffered from a succession of bad seasons. They are, therefore, more than any other section of the primary producers of Australia, entitled to a fair deal at the hands of the Government.
The fact that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has complete power to negotiate inter-governmental wheat agreements is a sore point with the Australian wheat-growers. We know that the present Minister (Mr. Pollard) was not responsible for the New Zealand wheat agreement. Like many another unfortunate, he was left with the child. In my opinion, the Government was morally bound to carry out the terms of the agreement. The Minister is now, however, adopting the attitude that he is all-powerful. Recently he made an agreement with Japan for the sale of second-grade wheat, and I believe that he did not consult the Australian Wheat Board before doing so.
– -That is quite incorrect.
– If the Minister can prove that he did consult the Australian Wheat Board, I shall withdraw my comment, but I understand that he did not do so. To-day the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), when answering a question, gave the House to understand that he would not give an undertaking that the Australian Wheat Board would be consulted on the duration of inter-governmental wheat agreements or the prices to be paid under them. Apparently the people who own a commodity are to be the last to know what they are to be paid for it. The wheat-growers are to be sacrificed inthe interests of the paint manufacturers, who require linseed oil, or of the woolgrowers, and others who require jute. The time has come when the real owners of Australian wheat should be allowed to appoint the members of their own board so that they may have a voice in the disposal of their goods and in the price that is to be paid for them, but it is obvious that the Government does not intend to give them those rights. Some honorable members contend that ministerial control must prevail at all times. I agree that it must prevail if the Treasury is likely to be called upon to pay taxpayers’ money to the wheat industry. No government could allow such money to be expended upon an industry without having control of the way in which it is to be expended. There is, however, only the faintest possibility that the Treasury will be called upon to bear a financial loss during the currency of this stabilization scheme. It is now holding a large sum of money that belongs to the Australian wheat-growers and it will receive at least another £10,000,000 in respect of the forthcoming crop. The total held by the Treasury will then be approximately £25,600,000. There is no danger of a serious recession in the price of food grains for several years. In spite of the fact that great crops are reported from the United States of America and Canada, the world is still very short of food, and as long as that state of affairs continues it is obvious that the price of wheat will remain at a high level. I do not see how the Government can justify its intention to exercise complete control in this matter and decide to which countries Australian wheat is to be sold, the price that is to be paid for it, the quantities that are to be exported and the quantities that are to be retained in this country. [Extension of time granted.’] The Opposition intends to press an amendment to the bill instructing the Minister that he shall not exercise these powers until the Treasury is financially involved. I urge that in fixing the cost of production of wheat, further consideration be given to the wages of working farmers, the interest that they are to he allowed on the money invested in their farming properties and _ the cost of replacement of machinery. In many instances, the cost of machinery now is more than double what it was in 1938-39. I urge the Minister to give consideration to allowing the wheat-growers a greater say in determining the way in which their products should be disposed of and the prices that they should be paid for them. I urge the honorable gentleman further to give an undertaking that the wheatgrowers will not be expected to supplyto other primary producers at concessional prices, quantities of wheat in excess of the quantity of approximately 15,000,000 bushels that they have very generously already agreed to supply tothem. I ask the Government to give an undertaking that, if the price of wheat falls below the present concessional price,, it will pay to the wheat-growers the difference between the ruling market priceand the present concessional price and ensure that poultry-farmers, dairyfarmers ‘and sheep and cattle breederstake approximately the same quantity that they are prepared to take under the very favorable conditions that obtain now. I believe that this bill represents a step in the right direction, but it will have to be considerably amended. The growers are prepared to accept the scheme because they realize that they cannot get anything better at present. I believe, however, that at the next election the people will put into power a government which will give the primary producers more consideration than they have received from the present Government.
.- I make no apology, as the representative of a city constituency, for speaking on a matter which vitally affects the economy of the country, and I propose to make some observations on the general nature of the wheat industry, and on this socalled stabilization scheme. It is clear that the most favorable time to bring in a stabilization scheme is when prices on the export market are at their highest,, because then the scheme can be more readily financed over a comparatively long period. The need to support the wheat industry as a part of our economy is too obvious to require any elaboration by me, but we ought to have regard to the present condition of the export market, to the effect of export sales on our economy, and to the need to lay down at this stage a carefully-planned stabilization policy. Any scheme must be hedged about by constitutional and political limitations. On the constitutional side, the Federal Parliament has power to stabilize the export market only. The States, on the other hand, can act only in conjunction with the Commonwealth, and then only in respect of the domestic market. For both the Commonwealth and the States, there is a field which is difficult for them to enter. I refer to the field affected by section 92 of the Constitution.
Therefore, any stabilization scheme, whether introduced by this Government or by another, must be conditioned by rigid, constitutional limitations. On the political side, there are the conflicting views of different sections of the wheatgrowers, as well as of the Labour party and the Opposition parties. In determining a stabilization scheme, we must have regard to world trends, and to Australia’s position in relation to world trade. The position of Australia in the world’s markets is that before the war it produced only 3 per cent, of the world’s wheat, which is a very small percentage. I understand that the Government’s stabilization scheme contemplates that Australia’s wheat production ought not to exceed 1S0,000,000 bushels a year, because an upper limit of 100,000,000 bushels has been placed upon exports that may benefit under the scheme. Although Australia produced only 3 per cent, of the world’s wheat before the war, it supplied 18 per cent, of the world’s wheat exports. Between 1.934 and 1938, the export markets of importance were supplied as follows: -
I draw particular attention to the position of the United States of America in the world’s export wheat market, because the policy applied by that country might, and could, have far-reaching consequences for Australia. Since the war, although the quantities of wheat exported by the other countries have not changed greatly, the quantity exported by the United States of America has increased tremendously, and that country is now the largest exporter in the world. It is estimated that, of this year’s crop alone, upwards of 300,000,000 bushels will be available for export from the United States of America. When we consider that, before the war, the United States of America supplied only 8 per cent. of the world’s export market as compared with Australia’s 18 per cent., and that out of this year’s production the United States of America will have available for export nearly twice as much as Australia’s total production, we cannot avoid the conclusion that there are factors associated with the world’s grain market which could have a most devastating effect upon Australia’s economy. We do not know how much wheat Russia is producing now, but before the war that country produced more than 1,000,000,000 bushels a year, and we know that attempts have been made to increase production. Therefore, in determining whether there should be a stabilization scheme, and if so, what sort of scheme, consideration must be given to the consequences to Australia of a sudden collapse of grain prices, since that must have a most important bearing upon what should be the duration of any scheme. When a buyer’s market is restored, the factors most likely to determine Australia’s position in the world’s markets will be in the first place the extent to which importing countries are committed to pur chase wheat from the United States of .America and Canada. I know that the Government has made long-term contracts with various countries, and I urge upon it the need to extend our bargaining facilities. Particularly should we have regard, when framing a wheat policy, if I may use a generic term, to the extent to which other countries might be committed to the United States of America and Canada for the purchase of wheat. Another factor is the purchasing potential of the United Kingdom and of Asiatic countries. Our export market will depend largely on the capacity of the United Kingdom to purchase our wheat, and the expansion of our export trade will depend greatly upon the expansion of the purchasing power of countries on the Asiatic mainland. Those factors will have to be watched from day to day, and from year to year, if we are not to have an ad hoc. policy, varying from time to time.
Another factor to be considered is the political influence of Soviet Russia and Argentina in negotiating commodity sales agreements. Both those countries have engaged in this practice to an extent previously unknown in modern times. Having said that, I direct my attention to the growing export market in terms of money yield, a factor which, I believe, is also of outstanding importance. Export prices have risen- very rapidly. In order to show how rapidly export prices have risen, I propose to compare the prices operating during the three pre-war years with those of 1947-48. In the three prewar years our overseas wool cheque averaged’ £51,000.000 per annum; in 1947-48 it was £150,000,000; comparative figures for wheat are £21,500,000 and £85,000,000; for butter £11,000,000 and £19.000,000 ; and for meat £11,500,000, and’ £22,500,000. The average price of wheat during the first quarter of 1948 was five times greater than it was during the three-year period before the war which I have taken as my base. Although there has been some recession in the price of wheat during recent months, because of the much higher world yield, particularly in the United States of America, those figures point to the need for a wise and - I stress the term - a. long-term stabilization policy at a time when our export markets are producing substantial wealth. If, five years hence, or possibly before then, there results, as I believe there may result, a sudden collapse of the grain markets of the world, we shall then have great difficulty in evolving a sound wheat stabilization scheme. To-day, although all the circumstances are propitious for the establishment of a sound scheme, the Government merely offers a guaranteed price to the wheatgrowers for a period of not more than five years. The framework of the scheme can be summed up very simply. There is nothing mystical about it, nor is there anything peculiar about it by comparison with other schemes that have been brought, forward for the assistance of this industry. The scheme is to operate for five years. The guaranteed price is to apply to wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board for export, either under this legislation or under the legislation to be passed by the States. The guaranteed price is to be fixed from year to year. The scheme is to be financed by means of a tax, the upper limit of which is not, to exceed 2s. 2d. a bushel. The price of wheat for domestic consumption is to be fixed by the States at an amount equal to, or, I understand, certainly not less than, the guaranteed price under this legislation. That, in summary, is the basis of this legislation. I attack certain aspects of it because I believe that the Government has failed to measure up to the need to lay down what should, T believe, be the minimum of any stabilization scheme, a ten-year policy. Let us consider what risk the Government is running by limiting the period of the operation of this scheme to five years. I believe that I am correct in saying that for ten years after World War I. the price of wheat did not fall below 6s. Id. a bushel.’ With the increased costs prevailing to-day, and with monetary expansion not only in Australia but also throughout the world, is it likely that during the next four to five years the price of wheat will fall below or much below the price- prevailing in the years immediately after World War I.? The chances are that for five years, at least, it will not do so. Even if it did, it is unlikely that it would fall so drastically that the contributions of the wheat-growers to the stabilization fund ‘ would not be ample to meet the guaranteed price. To-day, we have a glorious opportunity to lay down a stabilization scheme which would carry the wheat-growers over a difficult period. I do not pretend to know much about the wheat industry except from what I have read and the information that I have been able to glean about it; but it does not seem likely to me that the industry will experience any real difficulties during the next five years. It is possible that in the last year of that period it may do so. By that I do not mean that there will be no recession of world prices during that period, but that I do not believe that there will be so serious a recession, that the world price will drop much below the price guaranteed under this legislation. If that should be so, what risk does the Government take in embarking upon this scheme? This scheme cannot be regarded as constituting a real approach to the problems of the wheat industry, because it is to operate for far too short a period. That seems to me to be an obvious criticism of the scheme.
It is true, as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) said in his second-reading speech, that the Government proposes to review the scheme from time to time, with a view to extending it. That is one way of approaching the problem. I am glad to see at least some stabilization scheme established, even though it be founded on a basis which is not beyond serious criticism. This scheme is - I am prepared to concede - a substantial step towards the stabilization of the wheat industry. But apart from the length of time of its operation, there are other aspects of the scheme which I do not like. I should like to see a stabilization scheme brought in to operate for a ‘period of ten years, under which a board, somewhat comparable with the Tariff Board, which deals with secondary industries, would be established for the purpose of examining the economic factors operating upon the industry and their result upon the economy of this country. Such a board should report periodically to the Parliament on the industry, and, on the basis of its reports, a constant guaranteed price should be fixed for a period of three years ahead. Clause 5 of the bill enables the Minister, after consultation with the appropriate Minister of each State, and, no doubt, acting upon information supplied to him by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, to vary from time to time, but not for any fixed time, the guaranteed price above or below the first guaranteed price of 6s. 3d. a bushel. I find it difficult to believe that the provisions of that clause will operate satisfactorily. I should have thought that a sounder way of dealing with this matter would have been to fix a guaranteed price for a period of three years. Having regard to the circumstances that exist to-day, I should have been prepared to support a higher guaranteed price for a period of three years. Had that been done, in each year the price could have been fixed for the fourth year ahead, having regard to the economic conditions prevailing when the price was fixed. That would give to every wheat-grower a clear understanding of what he could expect for a period of three years ahead. If the economic condition of the country were properly evalua- ted, and a fair guaranteed price were fixed, not for. one year, but for three years, there would be stability in the wheat industry, and a great deal more satisfaction among wheat-growers generally. I regard clause 5 of the bill as open to criticism. It may be - I do not know - that the Minister has encountered some difficulty over it. Had the Government advanced a scheme for a stabilized price for three years as part of a ten-year stabilization plan, and had the guaranteed price been sufficiently generous to compensate the wheat-growers for any upward movement of costs in the three-year period, a better all-round job would have been done.
I have drawn attention to the fact that the Government runs little risk in this plan. The amount that will be available in the stabilization fund at the end of this year will be at least £20,000,000-
– It will be £25,000,000.
– It will be at least £20,000,000. Other calculations have been made to show that the amount will be in excess of £25,000,000. The lowest estimate is £20,000,000. It would certainly appear to be beyond the bounds of possibility that, within the next three years, the Government will be called upon to finance the stabilization fund by the contribution of even a penny. As far as I can see, the Government will not be called upon to contribute anything towards this scheme at all. I do not say that it needs to enter into any obligations to give anything to the wheat-grower9 if the wheat-growers are capable of financing their own operations. The ultimate aim of any wheat stabilization should be to make the wheat industry self supporting. In the early stages of a sound scheme some subvention might have to be made by the Commonwealth.
There are some other aspects of the scheme about which I should like enlightenment. Not much was said in the Minister’s second-reading speech about how the plans of the States are to be dovetailed into this scheme. It is proposed that the States shall set up their own boards which will fix the domestic price for wheat and acquire wheat voluntarily from those who are prepared to deliver it to the State hoards and which will transfer such of the wheat as is not required for domestic purposes 1o the Commonwealth authority for export. The States are to fix the same price for wheat for home consumption as has been fixed under the guarantee in this legislation. I should like the Minister to explain how he expects to overcome the limitations of section 92 of the Constitution except by resort to some kind of licensing system. I have had some legal experience of the operations of section 92 of the Constitution in respect of the butter scheme and the dairy products legislation. As I understand the position, neither the Commonwealth nor a State may restrain interstate freedom of movement provided for in section 92 of the Constitution. That decision has been upheld by the Privy Council, which constitutes the highest tribunal to which an appeal may be made. In the past, however, the prohibitions of section 92 have been overcome or avoided by resort to a licensing system under which persons have to obtain a licence to engage in the production of dairy products or, in this case, in wheat-growing. Unless the States adopt >a form of licensing the Minister may yet encounter difficulties on the constitutional ground that the bills which the State parliaments will pass, and the Commonwealth bill, taken together, invade section 92 of the Constitution. As I interpret the Minister’s explanation, the States do not intend to make provision for licensing wheatgrowers, except, apparently, in respect of marginal areas. I shall be glad if the Minister, when replying to the debate, will give me precise information on that matter.
Apart from those observations, I desire to direct attention to the effect that high prices for our export commodities are having on the Australian economy, because of their direct bearing of the matter on stabilization. As I mentioned earlier in my speech, export prices have risen rapidly, and, coincidentally our production has remained static. Our national income has increased since the beginning of “World “War II. by 88 per cent., and money wages by 98 per cent.
Those figures are large when compared with our pre-war standards, but nonetheless, taking the picture as a whole, our total primary and secondary production has not shown any increase since 1939. At the same time, prices for our export commodities have risen rapidly, and the huge amount of money which we have received and are receiving from the sale of our goods overseas is rather strangely causing serious weaknesses in our economy. As soon as any of the overseas prices for our export commodities collapses, those weaknesses will quickly become apparent, the Government’s scheme for full employment will run on the rocks, and the present high standards of monetary receipts by governments and citizens will rapidly decline. It was because of those possibilities that I thought that the wheat-growers themselves would realize that their interests would be better served in these days of high taxes and high export prices if they were to receive a lower return for their wheat, and so postpone the enjoyment of the balance until later when overseas prices declined, taxes had been reduced, and the money would be of greater benefit to them. Although the income from the sale of our primary products overseas in one sense indicates prosperity in the country, it is very largely only a monetary prosperity, and as soon as those prices decline rapidly, the consequences will be most far-reaching. In my opinion, the Government has failed badly. It should have sterilized, or immobilized, a large percentage of the income from the sale of our export commodities so that the money should not be available to the internal economy of the country at the present moment. Unfortunately, the income has circulated throughout the whole economy, and has exerted a tremendous upward pressure upon prices.
– Bank credit has also been a contributing factor.
– The income from high export prices and bank credit are having most serious consequences upon our economy. For the next three or four years, prices for our export commodities will probably be very high, and it is not yet too late for the Government to limit some of the serious consequences which will follow the unrestrained introduction of huge sums of money into our economy which is already inflated largely as the result of the war and its aftermath. I regret that I have to say that, although the bill is a step forward, it represents only a small advance. The duration of the scheme and the guaranteed price are open to serious criticism. I venture to predict that, during the period of five years that the scheme will operate, the Government will not be called upon to make any contribution to the stabilization fund. If that be so, and if, immediately after expiration of the period of five years the prices of our export commodities rapidly decline, it will be most difficult to keep the wheat-growing industry upon a stabilized basis.
– in reply - The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) made an unusual and interesting contribution to thi3 debate. Like some other honorable members, he strongly advocated that the stabilization scheme should operate for a period of ten years, but he considered that the guaranteed price was not sufficiently generous. He has expressed the view that the Government has failed to control the economy of the country because it has not sterilized the income from the sale overseas of our primary produce at high prices during the last few years. However, the fixation of a guaranteed price for wheat will have a stabilizing effect, and, therefore, in that sense, the Government is in agreement with the view which the honorable member has expressed. It is true that the guaranteed price, and possibly variation of it in accordance with fluctuating production costs, will not stabilize the price paid ultimately to wheat-growers if high prices continue, but, at least, it will stabilize the price to the farmer for a number of years, should export prices fall. The honorable member for Warringah exuded generosity. Of course, that spirit is typical of any political party when it is in opposition, and I suppose that the Labour party, when in opposition, was not an exception. But when the political parties which now form the Opposition occupied the treasury bench for many years, they were never particularly generous to the wheatgrower. Indeed, all their schemes indicated a spirit of meanness. Honorable members opposite referred extensively to the benefits which the flour tax conferred on wheat-growers. The position was that the flour tax, .which penalized the biggest consumers of bread, was levied on only one-fifth of the wheat grown in Australia, yet the proceeds were regarded as a stabilizing medium for the industry. The honorable member for Warringah declared that the stabilization scheme under consideration should operate for ten years, and that the price offered to growers should be more generous than 6s. 3d. a bushel f.o.r. ports, which is proposed in the bill. Has the honorable member taken into consideration the fact that we are unable to forecast with any degree of certainty the markets which may be offering for primary products, particularly wheat, six months or twelve months ahead?
– I mentioned three years.
– I invite the honorable member to recall the position in 1928 when the Bruce-Page Government offered the electors grandiose housing and social services schemes in return for their political support. For example, that Government promised to provide £20,000,000 for home building but I do not think that even £5,000 was expended. It promised to provide child endowment, but the child endowment legislation was not introduced until 1938. It also promised to introduce workers’ compensation, and, in broad terms, act in a most generous manner throughout the length and breadth of the land. But in less than two years disaster overtook the economy of the whole world.
Mr. Abbott interjecting,
– I have just returned from the New England district, where the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has a vast property. I do not think he has done a day’s work on that property in his life. He employs others to do the work for him, and he rakes off a fat profit. When he was speaking in this debate I did not inter rupt him, and I ask him to extend a similar courtesy to me.
It is easy for the honorable member for Warringah to say that world prices for primary products are not likely to collapse in the next few years. The fact remains that, in the past, economic plans which had been based upon the continuance of high prices abroad for our primary products have collapsed like a house of cards. In a short space of time following a catastrophic decline of overseas prices, the whole community faced disaster. In the circumstances, the Government must accept the responsibility for the ‘ stabilization scheme and do what it believes to be a fair thing to wheat-growers, workers, professional men and all other sections of the community. The Government proposes to stabilize the wheat industry with a guaranteed price of 6s. 3d. a bushel, f.o.r. ports, and to vary the price from time to time according to an index of production costs for each season starting with the 1948-49 crop. Such a provision had . never been made by any previous government. The guarantee will be effective for a period of five years, but at the end of three years we propose to review the situation in the light of the then existing economic circumstances, in order to ascertain whether it will be possible at that stage to continue the scheme for a further period of five years. The term of three years, which the honorable member for Warringah has proposed, is too short and offers no sense of security.
– I did not advocate that the scheme should operate for only three years.
– 1 do not desire to misinterpret what the honorable member for Warringah has said.
– I said that the scheme should operate for ten years, and that the price should be reviewed at intervals of three years.
– Although the honorable member has suggested that the price should be reviewed every three years, the Government has acceded to the expressed wish of wheat-growers’ organizations for a review every year. The honorable member for Warringah considers that world prices for our export commodities are not likely to decline in the next few years. Whilst I hope that he is right, the Government has a responsibility not only to the wheat-growers, but also to all the people of Australia to take into consideration possible world trends in relation to wheat. According to authorities, the world demand for food is increasing, because the people of many countries no longer accept the low standards of living that prevailed in the past. However, the capacity of the United States of America and Canada to grow everincreasing quantities of wheat seems to be almost limitless. It was my considered opinion two years ago that, in all probability, there would be a diminution of wheat production in the United States of America. However, to my surprise, wheat yields in America have continued to increase. Authorities in the United States of America and officers of my department, who have been to America, attribute the phenomenon, amongst other reasons, to the price of wheat which, in that country, is supported by the Commodities Credits Corporation. Of all the countries, America has probably the greatest capacity to manufacture machinery for preparing the soil and handling all primary products, including wheat. So, contrary to my expectations, America may maintain, and even increase, its present yields. We must consider that possibility and also the situation in Europe where France has a normal crop this year. We do not know what is happening in Russia or the Danube basin, but we do know that the wheat prospects are contrary to what some people expected. An influx of wheat on the world’s markets could very quickly completely unbalance wheat prices. I do not want to be dogmatic, but according to my memory in the pre-war period a surplus production of only 80,000,000 to 100,000,000 bushels of wheat is sufficient to topple world prices. In the circumstances, the Government has to exercise a sense of responsibility. This legislation will place the wheat-growers in a position of security for five years without adversely affecting the Australian economy. The honorable member for Warringah and the honorable member for Indi have said that very little risk is being taken. Let us analyse that. There has been some criticism of the taking into the stabilization fund of approximately £15,000,000, which will be deducted from the return from the 1947-48 crop. The honorable member for Indi took particular exception to that and said that another £10,000,000 would come from the next harvest. We hope that is right. With a guaranteed price of 6s. 3d. a bushel on 100,000,000 bushels of wheat, if the world wheat prices fell to 3s. 3d. a bushel, the stabilization fund would be required to make up to the wheat-growers 3s. a bushel. A quick calculation makes it quite clear that a crop of 100,000,000 bushels with a loss of 3s. a bushel would immediately drain from the stabilization fund the slim of £15,000,000 and would leave it commencing its second year with only £10,000,000. It would not be wise to have the stabilization fund starting off in a comparatively bankrupt state. In any case, wrapped up in this plan is an undertaking that in the event of the fund hecoming too inflated, which we hope for, the Government will return to the growers the tax on the oldest existing pool. That is in line with the principle that we adopted in relation to the 1945-46 and 1946-47 tax.
The honorable member for Warringah suggested that a body like the Tariff Board should be created to deal with the problem of ascertaining costs of production in the industry.
– And the economics of the industry.
– That is so. I do not entirely disagree with the honorable member, but he will realize that since the Labour party has been in office it has set up the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, which has done a vast amount of excellent work. I have not heard one word of criticism breathed against it. It is under the guidance of Mr. Crawford, a capable economist. Its officers are largely graduates of Australian universities, many of whom have had practical experience. They have done a first-class job. I should say that they would be in a better position to ascertain costs of production in .the wheat industry and to handle matters associated with the economics of the industry than would be a body, like that suggested by the honorable member, because the ascertaining of the costs of production of primary products is not an exact science. A vast amount of. actual field work is required. The co-operation of State agricultural officers is necessary. Visits to individual farms are essential. I believe that the bureau has a great future and that it will carry out efficiently and effectively the work that the honorable member has suggested should be done by an organization like the Tariff Board.
The honorable member for Indi, of course, led the debate on the bill for the Opposition. One of his main complaints seems to be that the Labour party is endeavouring to put on the statute-book the good parts of the Australian Country party’s policy. He referred to the different points of that policy and one of the criticisms that he offered was that the draft of the complementary State legislation had not been supplied to members of this Parliament. The honorable gentleman knows as an experienced parliamentarian that it is not usual for State parliaments to submit to members of other parliaments draft of bills that have not been placed in the hands of their own members. In the circumstances I do not regard that criticism as serious or sensible. Then the honorable gentleman asserted that the Australian Country party’s policy of stabilization had been followed by the Government. The Australian Country party is entitled to jump on the band waggon now if it wishes to do so. I leave the honorable member to reconcile his statement of faith with the bitter opposition to this scheme by a lot of his colleagues in the campaigning that preceded, the taking of the recent ballots. If his party could only reconcile its principles with its practice, we should all know where it stood before instead of after the results come out. The honorable gentleman criticized parts of the scheme as being in the nature of a confidence trick on the wheat-growers of this country. If there is one thing that the wheat-growers’ have known definitely ever since I have been Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, it is that the Government stands by its proposals. He said that the wheat-growers did not know what the constitution of the board would be or what ministerial control there would be. As far back as the last meeting of the Ministers for Agriculture the question of ministerial control was dealt with and I firmly told every State Minister - and some of them agreed with me emphatically - that in no circumstances would the Australian Government relinquish its right to control the finances of this country. If the honorable gentleman thinks that a statement of that policy has been withheld from the wheat-growers he has
Another think coming to him, because the day after that meeting of the Ministers for Agriculture was held I met the full executive of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, at which the question of ministerial control again came up and I emphasized once more that the Government would not relinquish its rights in the matter. I am glad to observe that some members of the Liberal party agree with this attitude and at least realize and accept the fact that the Government has a responsibility to all the people, not just to one section. As the result of lack of facilities for organized marketing from 1921, right up to the outbreak of the second world war in 1939 there was no effectively organized plan for the sale and destination of Australia’s wheat. Governments of the complexion of honorable gentlemen opposite kissed the wheat goodbye, and handed it over to the local and international wheat merchants. These people exercised the control and made a very good profit. The wheat-growers have accepted the fact that under this scheme and while this Government lasts, responsibility will be accepted by the Government for what is done in regard to the export and sale of wheat overseas.
The honorable member for Indi, exercising his snide tactics, referred to the New Zealand wheat deal. It is ancient history. As I have said many times before the only weakness perhaps was that at the time the arrangement was made it was not immediately announced to the House, because at that time-
Mr. Abbott interjecting,
– Stop yabbering and listen to sense. The honorable member for New England cannot “ take it “.
The only mistake, if a mistake was made, was that an announcement of the intention to make up the differences in price was not made to the House immediately. My predecessor-
Mr. Abbott interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for New England is continually interjecting. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture listened in silence to honorable members, and he is entitled to be heard in silence.
– At the time of the sale of wheat to New Zealand people in a position to forecast prices considered that for the initial twelve months of the agreement 9s. 6d. a bushel would be quite a good price and that in the four years after the first year wheat would be down to 5s. 9d. or 6s. a bushel. Honorable members opposite say that the Government was afraid to deal with that problem. The plain fact is that this so-called ghost was Drought out before the 1946 general election. Its chains were rattled by the honorable member for Indi but it did not gallop at all well. The Government was so little concerned and so honest and decent that it did not trouble to make any announcement or do anything about the matter. It was only after the general election had been held and won that the Government announced publicly that it would make up the difference between the price fixed in the agreement and export parity. Had the Government thought that the transaction would weigh with the wheatgrowers during the 1946 general election it could have held a hurriedly arranged meeting of Cabinet and dangled something before the wheat-growers that mighthave appeased them. I pay tribute to my colleague the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) for all that happened in that connexion.
The honorable member for Indi, who is almost always wrong, also said that we had interfered with the Australian Wheat Board in respect of the recent sale of wheat to Japan. That is a falsehood. There was no interference with the board. The sale was of 25,000,000 bushels of wheat at 12s. 4d. a bushel.
– The wheat was damaged.
– Yes ; it was inferior wheat. When the minutes of the relevant meeting of the Australian Wheat Board reached me and I read them I saw a reference to the transaction. I made inquiries so that I should be fully informed whether the proposed sale of the wheat to Japan could be considered to be good or bad, because had I considered it bad, I should have had to interfere. I considered that it was a good sale and the board effected the sale. That is supervision of the right type. When the honorable member was a Minister he kissed the farmer’s wheat good-bye and passed it oved to the wheat merchants of Australia and overseas to make what profit they could on it.. The wheat speculators got the advantage of the increase of the weight of the wheat and put it into their own pockets. The practice henceforth will be that wheat grown by Australian farmers shall not be sold for the benefit of local and overseas speculators.
The honorable gentleman also said that stock feed sales should be limited and that any wheat sold for feed above the limit should be subsidized. This is a vague version of the proposal of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. My first comment is that if the public guarantees a payable price to growers, come hell or high water, the public is entitled to protection. That protection is full supplies at the guaranteed price. The honorable gentleman talks about sacrificing wheat at the world’s export parity to supply our own people. The honorable member knows that export parity could be applied to other matters than prices. If the practice suggested were followed in relation to wages, people like the honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Indi would have to pay their employees about £3 a day. The basicwage earners of this country would be receiving three times as much as they are receiving to-day if the base rate were established in relation to the prices economy ruling in the outside world. That would also apply to the professional men in this country.
– My men work on the share system, and are getting at least twice that amount.
– The honorable gentleman is an excellent employer in that respect. The more his share-workers get, the more he gets also. Honorable members should take into consideration the fact that, in the event of world supplies of wheat being in excess of requirements, world prices would recede. After all, the home market is the best market. 1 understand that there are a lot of poultry-farmers in the electorate of the honorable member for New England, and, as a result, he has expressed sympathy with the poultrymen. He contended that they should get poultry feed at Australia’s home-consumption price, and that any price deficiency compared with export parity should be paid to the growers out- of Consolidated Revenue. Yet, honorable members know that when the next budget is being debated he will howl against subsidies, and demand a reduction of taxation. The mass of inconsistencies in the honorable member’s submissions are nauseating to the people of this country.
It was claimed that the guaranteed price is not high enough. Naturally, the guaranteed price is the most important part of the plan from the growers’ stand-point, because they can produce with an assured profit, and get benefits as a result of high export prices as well. The Australian Wheat Growers Federation has endorsed the price, and the variation according to changes in production cost will give the growers a sense of security that they did not have before. The honorable mem,ber for Bendigo and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) were somewhat critical of the report of the Wheat Costs of Production Committee. The honorable member for Bendigo is reasonably fair, particularly when he sees the writing on the wall ; and he wants to be on the hand wagon. The honorable member for Warringah also wanted to show the great interest of the Liberal party, particularly that of members of the party who reside in his city electorate. The report to which I have referred was compiled by men who have a good knowledge of the wheat industry, and is subscribed to by them. They comprise two grower members, Mr. Ellis Walker, who was president of the Australian Wheat Growers Association for 1946-47; and Mr. G. G. Marshman, of Victoria; Mr. C. W. Browne, a consulting accountant of Sydney; Mr. G. Connelly, formerly chairman of the Metropolitan Land Board, Sydney and Mr. Justice Simpson who was chairman of the committee. The committee’s attitude to the matter of income from sidelines was generous.
– Will the Minister explain thatstatement?
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Burke). - Honorable members must remain silent while the Minister is replying.
– The honorable member for Wimmera went on to analyse the report of the Wheat Costs of Production Committee. What the honorable member completely overlooked when he criticized the report of the committee - andIdo not object to fair criticism of the report - is that a hard-headed body of men, the executive of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, accepted the Government’s decision on the report of the committee. I have negotiated with the members of thefederation for years. So, also, have my predecessors and other honorable members of this committee. Honorable members can take it from me that the executive of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation would not have accepted the decision of the Government on that report unless they were satisfied that it was a fairly generous assessment of the situation. I point out that there is no exact formula whereby the costs of production can be arrived at in this industry. In the case of two farmers, one on either side of a road, commencing with the same amount of capital, enjoying the same good health, and possessing similar plant and equipment, one could produce wheat at 3s. 6d.a bushel, whilst the other’s cost of production might be as high as 8s. 6d. a bushel. The cost of production as shown by the committee’s report varies with thousands of farmers in this country. At times wheat may be produced at as low as ls. 6d. a bushel. Many farmers produce wheat at 8s. to 9s. a bushel.
The honorable member for Wimmera spoke about what he called the very low allowances to be made for the farmer’s own labour. The committee dealt fully with this aspect of the matter, and its report was signed by all members, including the growers’ representatives, with no pressure from me. The relevant portion of the report reads -
Amount to be allowed farmer for his own remuneration :
In this report the committee feels that it cannot do better than repeat the remarks made in the first report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat, Flour and Bread Industries dated July, 1934- “ Manifestly this is a matter for serious consideration in Australia because the fixation of a standard of living for workers in sheltered and secondary industries has become an accepted principle of the national life. It is not likely that there will be any unanimity of opinion on such a fundamental matter. . . . The people of Australia must decide what standards of living their farmers are to enjoy and must implement their decision by making any necessary adjustments.”
The committee is of the opinion that it is not called upon to decide what is a fair remuneration to the farmer for his own efforts, but in as much as some cash wage must be used in formulating the cost of production six pounds ten shillings (£6 10s.) per week Has been allocated for this purpose. In arbitrarily arriving at this figure the committee has not overlooked the fact that the farmer has certain financial benefits from his farm which are not available to city workers, in particular :
1 ) He seldom pays rent as his house is part of the property on which he lives and works.
Local government rates are defrayed bythebusinessofthefarm.
So too is insurance.
The water supply is part of the farm and where water rates are payable these are included in the farm’s costs.
Fuel for the house is usually provided from the farm.
In the majority of instances many commodities are provided from the materials produced from the farm, particularly dairy produce, eggs, poultry, meat (or at least mutton and sometimes, pork) and in most instances, for at least part of the year, vegetables.
Nor has the committee overlooked the various serious disabilities which cause the farmer to incur expenses which generally exceed those of a city dweller, e.g. the cost of domestic articles is undoubtedly higher in the country than in the city; the cost of medical attention is generally considerably higher than it would be in the city; the cost of transport of children to and from school in the primary stages is heavy, and the cost of attending to business matters, by reason of the distance of the farm from the local township, is expensive in time and money.
The committee considered all of those factors, and, realizing that the ascertainment of the cost of production of a primary product is not an exact science, said in effect, “We will assess the wage fifure at £6 10s. a week “. The honorable member for Wimmera made some fantastic proposal that there should not be any income tax assessed on income from wheat at 6s. 3d. a bushel. The idea was so fantastic that I did not give it any consideration. There is only one sound basis for the assessment of income tax and that is the net annual income? The farmer has generous allowances made to him.
The honorable member for Indi ventilated a personal feud between himself and Mr. Cullen. He inferred that Mr. Cullen was likely to be appointed chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, and that that was due to the fact that he was my confidant. I can tell the honorable gentleman that I have not seen Mr. Cullen more than four times during the last two or three years. He is not a political pal of mine ; on the contrary, he is a member of the honorable member’s party. Attacks of this nature on people because they do not happen to agree with the honorable member’s point of view seem to me to be dastardly when they become personal, and infer a despicable and dishonorable line of action on the part of the person making the attack. A similar course was adopted by the honorable gentleman with regard to the late Sir Louis Bussau after his death. I cannot understand the honorable gentleman. He seems to think that, because Mr. Cullen has been active in support of this measure, he is to be appointed chairman of the Australian Wheat Board. .His qualifications, if he were appointed, would justify the appointment. Mr. Cullen is 53 years of age, and was dux of the Princes Hill State School in 1908; in 1909 he won a scholarship tenable at the Government Mining and Agricultural College. He entered Scotch College in 1910 and remained there until 1913. In 1911 he passed the junior public examination with honours and reached matriculation stan- dard at the age of sixteen years. He is 8 returned soldier of World War I. He served abroad with the 2nd/5th Divisional Artillery and was commissioned on the- 31st July, 1915. On his return from the war, Mr. Cullen went on the land and is still occupied with rural pursuits. He holds awards by the Beulah Agricultural and Pastoral Society issued in 1923 and 1924 for crop competitions conducted for the soldier settlers. In 1941 he was appointed an executive member of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Board, established by the Menzies Government. He has been a member of the Wheat and Wool Growers Association since 1930. He was an executive member of that organization for fifteen years and State president for four years. In 1940 he was Federal President of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation and also a member of the Australian Wheat Board. He was appointed by the Dunstan Government to the Victorian Wheat Products Prices Committee in 193S and held that position until 1942. I do not know what advantage the honorable member for Indi hopes to gain from these coward’s castle attacks, but it is to be hoped that he will mend his ways and refrain from using his position as a member of this Parliament to accuse people of ulterior motives in every attitude they adopt.
The honorable gentleman was probably annoyed because Mr. Cullen took a prominent part in advocating the adoption of this scheme. He seems to have his “ rag “ out because Mr. Cullen, although he was the chairman of a wheat stabilization authority, exercised his right as a citizen to address meetings of wheat-growers and to speak in favour of this scheme. Does a man lose his rights as a citizen because he’ is a member of a semi-governmental authority? Is he to be struck dumb politically because his point of view does not coincide with that of the honorable member for Indi? If that is what is suggested, it is a new philosophy to me.
– The question is whether he is paid from public funds.
– When a man has finished his day’s work, his time is his own. Does a man sell his body and soul when he is appointed to a semigovernmental authority?
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! The Minister is entitled to be heard in silence. He has only a few minutes left of his time, and it must not be taken up by interjections.
– It seems to me that there is a desire on the part of the honorable member for Indi to rob people of their democratic right in a community such as this. That is outrageous. The honorable gentleman is on the band wagon now. He has blessed this scheme with faint praise. In 1945 I was invited to attend a meeting of wheat-growers at Berrigan and I agreed to do so. When I arrived, I found that the honorable member for Indi had got there before me. The honorable gentleman was obviously in league with the gentleman who convened the meeting and also with the chairman, because, when I began to speak, I was informed that I had no right to refer to the history of the wheat industry. The honorable member for Indi, knowing that the Australian Country party and the governments with which he had been associated had a disgraceful and shocking record in regard to helping the wheatgrowers, was afraid that I might refer to his history. When he was asked by some wheat-growers to guarantee a certain price for wheat - I think it was 3s. 8d. a bushel - he said that he would not embarrass his Government. Doubtless he thought that I might refer to that occurrence at the meeting. I would not think of attacking the honorable gentle- . man at a public meeting like that, but I was, perhaps, going to make some reference to his history and that of the Australian Country party in connexion with the wheat industry. However, he had closed the door. As soon as the chairman saw that I was going to delve into the past he said that I should be out of order in doing so and could refer only to the future. However, every dog has his day. The general election took place and the electors expressed their opinion. In the Riverina, they voted for my grand old friend, Mr. Langtry, and they will vote for him again at the next general election, because they realize that this Government earnestly desires to find a solu tion of the problems of the wheat industry.
– The chairman of the meeting to which the Minister referred had probably read the reports of debates in this House.
– I am satisfied that he had been in conference with the honorable member for Indi. That honorable member stated that under this scheme, the Government will take too much for the stabilization fund. I have a copy of the policy speech that was delivered by the Leader of the Australian Country party at the last general election. There is not the slightest doubt that the Country party proposed, if returned to power, to take half of the amount by which the actual price of wheat exceeded the guaranteed price. I do not criticize that proposal, but if it had been implemented a tremendous stabilization fund would have been accumulated, because the Government would have taken half the difference between, I think, 5s. 9d. a bushel and £1 a bushel, or, more recently, 18s. 6d. a bushel. In those circumstances, it can hardly be alleged that a maximum of 2s. 2d. a bushel, which will be taken under this scheme, is an excessive amount. This Government has demonstrated its good faith by providing that a refund shall be made to growers if the fund becomes too large. They will not, therefore, be asked to contribute unnecessarily.
– What about machinery?
– The honorable member for Wimmera is very much concerned about machinery. [Extension of time granted.] He picked upon a passage in the report of the Wheat Costs of Production Committee in which it was said that the problem of the assessment of machinery replacement cost was a difficult one. In assessing the cost of production of wheat, the committee made an allowance for replacement costs, but it experienced difficulty in making an extra allowance. If the honorable member for Wimmera analyses that report carefully, he will find that the committee took depreciation of machinery into consideration. That factor was again taken into consideration when assessing the movement in the cost of production which has recurred recently. The honorable member was rather off the beam. The committee pointed out that perhaps the circumstances were rather abnormal, but they allowed the ordinary 10 per cent, for depreciation of farm machinery. The honorable gentleman has overlooked that. The committee bore in mind the fact that there had been a banking up of depreciation, but during that banking-up period the wheat-growers had saved a certain amount of money, on which they had received interest. Apparently, the members of the committee, even the two primary producer members of it, considered that it was not a factor to worry about too much. Probably some adjustment will be made at a later stage.
The honorable member for Indi said that the Labour party was responsible for licensing and restriction of acreage, but that system was introduced under the Page plan in 1940. We had to continue it for a period, but now it will be abandoned. It is not in this plan. The honorable gentleman went on to claim that the wheat tax is wrong in law and equity, as well as harsh and unjust. I recommend the honorable member to read the judgment in the Nelungaloo wheat case to correct his view of the law, and then to remember that the wheat tax under the Page scheme was a similar kind of tax, but much more deserving of the terms he employed. The Page tax was a part of the vaunted Australian Country party plan.
The honorable gentleman then gave communism an amazing boost by claiming that this stabilization scheme is a move towards Moscow. Measures to give wheat-growers security are not communistic measures, and there is no need for the honorable gentleman to give the Communists credit for a plan that the Australian wheatgrowers regard as their own. Immediately after giving communism the credit for this scheme, he claimed that its main features are those of the Australian Country party plan. The Australian Country party must get some credit, even if it has to claim communism’s creeds to do it! The honorable member for Indi further said that he objected to ministerial control and referred to growers who sell themselves into ministerial bondage. It is worth considering this cry about, ministerial control in order to see what it means. Certainly the Australian Wheat Board has functions that are subject to the direction of the Minister, but the power of direction is rarely used, and only when it is fully justified in the public: interest. The simple-minded objection of the honorable gentleman ignores realities and the changes of the last few years. Export sales now are frequently made to governments, and at any time negotiations may become a direct matter between governments. The honorable member for Indi was unfortunately absent from the House when I replied to the debate on the motion for the second reading of the International Wheal Agreement Bill. During the course of that debate, he accused me of not consulting the Australian Wheat Board in regard to that agreement, or to the agreement relative to the sales to Britain. In effect, he repeated those allegations in his speech on this bill. If the honorable gentleman will read my speech on the International Wheat Agreement Bill, he will find that, in respect of that agreement, I asked the advice of the Australian Wheat Board. I could not prevail upon the board to treat the matter confidentially, and its answer was unsatisfactory. It is true that in such circumstances we went ahead and did what we did, and we should do it again in similar circumstances. In all instances where satisfactory business is being transacted, the Australian Wheat Board will not be interfered with. The honorable gentleman completely overlooked the fact that, although one may indulge in mumbojumbo about the wickedness of ministerial control, the constitutional power to control exports may have to be applied at any time. Australia has moral obligations that cannot be ignored, and these may entail supplies of Australian wheat being sent to certain areas. Legal obligation? also may arise, in the manner contemplated by the International Wheat Agreement. Although previous governments have placed legislation upon the statutebook that did not always directly provide for ministerial control or even mention it, the government of the day was always possessed of the power over exports that was bestowed upon it by the Customs Act 1901-1935. Those governments knew, or should have known, that they had that power wider legislation other than that which they were then introducing. This Government, openly and frankly, has drawn the attention of the whole world to the fact that, when necessary, it will use that power. The honorable member for Indi was a member of a government when the Customs Act in its present form was in operation, but he made no attempt to alter it. Section 112 (1.) of the act reads as follows: -
The Governor-General may, by regulation, prohibit the exportation of any goods
the exportation of which would, in his opinion,be harmful to the Commonwealth.
Section 112 (2.) states -
The power contained in sub-section ( 1 . ) or (1 a. ) of this section shall extend to authorize the prohibition of the exportation of goods generally, or to any specified place, and either absolutely or so as to allow the exportation of the goods subject to any condition or restriction.
That applies to prices or destinations. Section 112 (1.) dates back to 1901. It has not been altered by any government, because it is realized that ministerial control is essential to the welfare of the people, including the wheat-growers.
This plan is the culmination of efforts to stabilize the wheat industry made by the Labour party, through the instrumentality of my predecessor, the present Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), from the time he took office as Minister for Commerce in 1941. I remember frequent meetings of the Wheat Growers Federation. I remember assent being given to a. plan placed before the federation in December, 1945, by the present Vice-President of the Executive Council. I remember the wrecking tactics adopted by members of the Opposition, not because they did notbelieve the plan had merit arid was good for the growers, but because they feared that some credit might go to the Minister and to the Government for doing something to benefit the wheat-growers. The battle that was then begun has been continued up to the present time, when the plans of the Government have at last come to fruition. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the work done by the VicePresident of the Executive Council.To him belongs the credit for setting up a committee to inquire into the cost of producing wheat. The Government has always acted promptly to meet changing circumstances. When occasion demanded, Cabinet has met, the Australian Agricultural Council has been called together and the Australian Wheat Growers Federation has been consulted. We have kept on keeping on until we have now received the rather hesitant approval of the Australian Country party, and the somewhat more generous praise of the Liberal party, besides the enthusiastic co-operation of the wheatgrowers throughout Australia. Party politics aside, I believe that this stabilization scheme will prove of benefit to the wheat-growers, to the people generally, and to the economy of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purpose of a bill for an act relating to the stabilization of the wheat industry.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 - (1.) For the purposes of this Act, the guaranteed price in relation to wheat of any season shall … be Six shillings and three pence per bushel. . . .
.- This is the basic clause of the hill, because it contains the essence of the stabilization scheme. It fixes the guaranteed price of wheat at 6s. 3d. a bushel, and states that that figure was arrived at by reference to representatives of the Wheat Costs of Production Committee. It also provides that the price of 6s. 3d. a bushel may be varied by the Minister in accordance with variations of the cost of production as compared with the base year of 1947-48. In my opinion, the decision of the- committee to fix 6s. 3d. as the cost of production was not based upon sound premises. The committee declared that it was not able to take into consideration certain factors which have a vital bearing on costs, one of them being the cost of replacing worn-out farm machinery. Nevertheless, that is a most important factor when we remember that, during practically the whole of the period under review, it was not possible to replace farm machinery, and that now, when it has become possible to do so to some extent at least, costs have risen greatly. Although the committee did not make allowance for this it drew attention to it, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), when considering the committee’s recommendations, could have made the necessary allowance, but he did nothing. The recommendation of the committee was based on 6s. a bushel at country sidings, a figure which the Government reduced to 5s. 10 1/2d. The Minister declared that no one could arrive at an exact figure representing the cost of production. I admit that, but why did he not allow the 15 per cent, to compensate for the declining price of sidelines? The committee stated that the price of sidelines was unduly high between 1940 and 1946, the period which was under review, and it recommended that an allowance of 15 per cent, should be made in recognition of this fact when arriving at a basic figure to represent the cost of production. The Minister, apparently, thought that he was sufficiently expert in the industry to brush aside the findings of the committee in this regard. In doing so, he committed an injustice, particularly when he also refused to make any allowance for the cost of replacing worn-out machinery, even after the committee had drawn attention to that factor.
In arriving at its cost of production figure, the committee allowed wages to the grower at the rate of £6 10s. a week. Figures compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician show that 2,374,500 wage-earners in Australia were earning, on an average, £8 0s. 6d. a week at the 30th June, 1948, and this number included both men and women. The wheat-grower may have the benefit of milk and butter from the farm, and may have a home to live in, but the committee found the average wage paid to farm workers was £5 10s. a week, and the farm worker is provided with a home and with meals. Therefore, I maintain, the wheat-growers are not being treated justly, and the needs of the industry have not been met.
In its report dated March, 1948, the committee said that it had set out to find the cost of producing a bushel of wheat. The Minister pointed out that some people can produce wheat for as little as ls. a bushel. That may be correct. Others can make a profit on wheat sold at 3s. 6d. a bushel, and the Minister stated that such persons would make a good profit if the wheat were sold at 6s. 3d. a bushel. The Minister, however, told only half the story. The committee also found that it cost some farmers as much as 28s. 6d. a bushel to produce wheat. That, of course, is a ridiculously high figure, I admit, but, in these matters, we must be guided by the findings of the committee. The matter is not affected by what I- may think, or by what the Minister, in some wild flight of imagination, may say. The finding of the committee plus the Government’s adjustments was that it cost 6s. 3d., on an average, to produce a bushel of wheat. It does not matter how much we may dislike the finding of the committee that £6 . 10s. a week represents a proper wage to allow to the grower, nor how much we may dislike the interference of the Minister with the recommendation of the committee on the subject of sidelines, the fact remains that for this bill the figure of 6s. 3d. is the cost of producing a bushel of wheat.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I had referred to the fact that in its report the committee had stated that it was unable to make any satisfactory assessment of the cost of machinery replacements. In my secondreading speech, I cited figures showing that the cost of farm machinery had increased by at least 50 per cent, since 1939 ; but the Government has made no allowance for that. In its assessment of the cost of production, the committee made an allowance to cover interest on the wheat-grower’s investment in his property of only 3J per cent. It is of no use to say that it is possible for farmers to grow wheat for less than the cost ascertained by the committee. It may be possible to do so in some districts, but in others it costs much more. The committee merely sought to strike an average. Once the cost figure recommended by the committee is departed from the Government merely makes a hit in the dark in fixing another figure. The recommendations of the committee should either be accepted or rejected. To some degree the Government has accepted the findings of the committee. A shoemaker, drawing from his business a salary of. say, £1,000 a year, who ascertains that the cost of making a pair of shoes is 25s., adds, say 30 per cent, to that cost as a fair margin of profit. Similarly, a machinery manufacturer supplying machinery to the wheat-growers also adds a margin for profit to his costs of production. So also do flour millers, breakfast-food manufacturers, . oil companies, and, in fact, all those who supply the wheat-growers’ requirements. Most of them add 33 per cent, as their margin of profit on the bare cost of production. The Australian Country party does nol ask for a high margin of profit for the wheat-growers; but it has always urged’ that the price of wheat should be based on the cost of production plus a reasonable margin of profit. I move -
That the following words be added to subclause (1.): - “plus a reasonable margin of profit to be assessed by a special committee to be set up for the purpose “.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - I rule the amendment out of order on the ground that it would create a contingent liability on the Consolidated’ Revenue.
.- This clause is perhaps the most important in the measure. During my second-reading speech, I stated that for years the wheat-growers ‘and the governments of Australia had been endeavouring to evolve a plan to enable the wheat industry to withstand a period of price recession. All through the years wheatgrowers have asked that they be given a guaranteed price which would return them the cost of production plus a reasonable margin of profit. In my maiden speech in this chamber, I said that if the Government would introduce such a scheme I would support it, as would every wheat-grower in Australia. I have stated that I intend to support this bill because it represents the nearest approach to what the wheat-growers have sought. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has said that wheat-growers generally voted in favour of the plan. With that I agree, but I remind the honorable gentleman that they were compelled to do so. With the exception of the growers in Western Australia, they had no alternative. The wheat-growers in Western Australia had an opportunity to vote for an alternative plan, because the Government of that State introduced legislation to provide for a wheat plan which was to operate if the Commonwealth scheme broke down. Wheat-farmers, generally, have no option but to accept the arbitrary figure of 6s. 3d. a bushel proposed in this plan. In arriving at its findings, the Wheat Costs of Production Committee took no account of the increased cost of machinery, and it allowed the wheatgrower only £6 10s. a week as remuneration for his labour and a rate of only 3J per cent, as interest on his capital investment. We have repeatedly pointed out that no allowance was made by the committee to compensate the wheat-grower for the management of his property. Throughout the years, honorable members on this side qf the chamber have stated that if the wheat-grower is to be expected to continue on his farm and to contribute to the economy of the country he should receive the same treatment from the Government as it gives to people working in secondary industries. During my second-reading speech, I stated that first-class tradesmen employed in the metropolitan areas throughout Australia are paid at least £8 10s. 5d. a week, and, in addition, enjoy the privilege of a 40-hour week and many other privileges which are not available to the man on the land. In supporting the findings of the Wheat Costs of Production Committee, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that wheat-growers generally obtained some of their foodstuffs from their own farms. The honorable gentleman also said by way of interjection that on many occasions the wheat-grower works for less than the normal working hours. I remind him that they frequently work long hours of overtime on Saturdays, Sundays and ordinary week days for which they receive no payment. The committee recommended 6s. 8d. a bushel at ports, hut the Government would not accept that recommendation and reduced the price by 5d. I regret that the Chair has ruled out of order the amendment which the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) desired to propose. The rejection of the amendment on the ground that it would involve the Government in additional expenditure entitles honorable members on this side of the chamber to criticize this measure to the fullest extent. At a later stage I propose to submit an amendment designed to provide a guaranteed price to be determined on a basis different from that provided in the bill. As my proposal will not involve any immediate additional expenditure, it may bo accepted by the Government. I propose to move that for the coming harvest the guaranteed price shall be that provided in this bill, but that for succeeding harvests during the term of operation of this plan the guaranteed price shall be based on the cost of production, plus a margin of profit, and be related to the wages paid to employees in other industries. The purpose of the amendment, which I foreshadow now, is to ensure that the wheat-grower shall receive a just reward for his work and for the responsibility of managing his farm. Wheat-growers are not greedy; they are prepared to meet the Government and the people of this country as far as possible, but they believe that they are entitled to receive at least their cost of production plus a margin of profit. Through their unions, men working in industry may approach the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for the determination of their remuneration. Under the arbitration system the workers in industry are assured of the cost of their hire. The same consideration should be extended to those who till the soil and contribute in such a large measure to the economy of this country. I disagree with the Minister’s claim that the wheat-growers accepted this proposal gladly. They did not do so. Ever since the .first wheat stabilization legislation was introduced by this Government in 1946. they have consistently fought against the adoption of any predetermined cost of production. Only after the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture realized that the wheatgrowers would not agree to the stabilization plan of the Government was he prepared to listen to the claims submitted to him by the Wheat Growers Federation at his conference with representatives of the federation in July last. At that conference the wheat-growers plainly indicated that they would not accept a floor price of 6s. 8d. a bushel f.o.r. bulk basis at ports. Only since then has the Minister been prepared to consider an alternative. Although no provision has been made in the bill for the adoption of an index figure, the Minister has stated that it is the intention of the Government to fix an index figure covering the cost of wheat production. If that be done, the farmers may receive a cost of production, plus a margin of profit ; but, as I pointed’ out in my second-reading speech, it will not be the cost of production but a cost, of production and a margin of profit. It will not be the figure recommended by the Government’s own committee, but onefoisted upon the wheat-growers by this Government. Whilst we are prepared to abide by the majority decision of the wheat-growers and to accept this scheme,. we cannot allow the Minister to mislead the people into believing that the wheatgrowers are wholeheartedly behind the scheme. The wheat-growers voted for the scheme solely because they had no alternative. They had no desire to return to pre-war marketing conditions which were in a chaotic state resulting fromthe planning of the Government to meet the contingencies of the war. They did right to vote in favour of this scheme rather than return to the chaotic conditions of the past. This Government, which claims to be friendly towards the wheat-growers, was guilty of a vile and vicious act when, in order to coerce wheat-growers to vote in favour of this scheme, it used a hit of pressure at the right time and in the right place and instructed the Australian Wheat Board to demand cash payment from wheat-growers for their supplies of cornsacks. Such an act did the Government no credit. We are still waiting for the Government to permit wheat-growers to obtain cornsacks on credit. I regret that the amendment which the honorable member for Wimmera desired to move has been ruled out of order by the chairman. The cost of production which forms the basis of this bill is not the real cost of production, but only an arbitrary figure chosen by the Government.
– I regret that the Chair cannot see its way clear to accept the amendment.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - The Chair has no option in the matter. The Standing Orders provide that such an amendment may not be accepted.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has said that during the term of operation of this scheme the industry will be reviewed annually in order to determine a reasonable guaranteed price. It does not matter whether a review is made every month. It is the basis of the arrangement which is so important. If the review is made every year and the price rises or falls according to the fluctuations in the cost of production, the price will vary according to the index figure which is accepted now. That index figure was determined by the committee which inquired into costs of production in the wheat industry. Some honorable members have said that the stabilization scheme should operate for five years, whilst others have stated that it should operate for ten or even twenty years. I have endeavoured to point out that the important factor is not the period of the operation of the stabilization scheme hut the stabilized price itself. When the price fixed as the index ls 6s. 3d. a bushel f.o.r. ports bulk basis, that amount may appear satisfactory to some wheat-growers. Wheat-growers in some districts can produce wheat profitably at 6s. 3d. a bushel, but wheat growers in other districts will be producing at a loss at that figure. The committee of inquiry which this Government appointed did a reasonably good job. It took the average cost of production for the whole of Australia, with the exception of Queensland, which it disregarded because it received only nine replies to its questionnaire from that State. The committee informed the Government in a pamphlet, which it issued last March, that the cost of producing a bushel of wheat at the average country siding was 6s. As the Government was not sure whether the committee meant bagged basis or bulk basis, it decided to reduce the figure to 5s. 10£d. a bushel. Then it fixed the guaranteed price at 6s. 3d. a bushel f.o.r. ports, bulk basis. Considering the cost of transporting wheat from country sidings to the seaboard, and the cost of administration, I contend that the price should have been at least 6s. 8d. a bushel. I use the words “ at least “ advisedly, because with the introduction of the 40-hour week, the price should have been nearer 7s. a bushel. However, the Government has decided to guarantee 6s. 3d. a bushel f.o.r. bulk basis. As the amendment which I have submitted has been ruled out of order, I urge the Minister to re-examine my submissions, and explain to honorable members, if he can. how an industry can be expected to continue if it receives no more than the cost of production. If a storekeeper in Melbourne, Canberra! or in any part of the wheat belt were told that he must conduct his business without profit, he would not continue in business on that basis. But the wheat-growers will be placed in that position. The Minister runs to cover whenever I refer to this subject. He says that wheat-growers in certain districts can make a profit at 4s. a bushel. However, the committee which inquired into the cost of production in the wheat industry, stated definitely that the cost of producing a bushel of wheat in Australia is equivalent to 6s. 8d. a bushel and in a statement the Minister has admitted this. Because the Minister would not allow consideration of certain sidelines, he reduced the price to 6s. 3d. a bushel which, I assert, is 5d. a bushel less than the cost of production and does not allow a margin of profit.
The Government extends greater consideration to the big monopolies in the cities than it does to the wheat-gravers. In my first speech in this chamber, I said that the wheat industry must never again be left to the dealers and speculators. What is the position to-day ? Investors in big industries receive dividends of 6 per cent., 8 per cent, or 10 per cent, per annum, and, unlike the farmers do not run the risk of drought. They are sheltered, fostered and nursed by the Labour Government which, in the past, always paraded its opposition to hig monopolies. From time to time, wheat-growers in my electorate and farther north encounter conditions of drought, or suffer losses through rust in their crops, and may have a succession of failures. Perhaps they receive a return of only 12s. an acre under drought relief .legislation, if they are lucky. Under this so-called stabilization scheme, the Government is offering wheat-growers a return of 3^ per cent, on the capital invested in their properties. They have no margin of profit. I should like to know the margin of profit which the manufacturers of agricultural implements enjoy. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who is endeavouring to interject, does not know what the figures are, but I dare say that he supports the monopolists. Parkes, the constituency which- he represents, is in the metropolitan area of Sydney, and is not to be confused with the town of that name in New South Wales. He would support the big industries. Th, treatment which wheat-growers receive under this bill is one of the reasons why people are drifting from the rural districts to the large cities.
– The honorable member is nothing but a socialist.
– If I were a socialist, this bill would suit me perfectly. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), who represents the electorate of Forrest in Western Australia, has said that this bill is, in many ways, a socialist measure.
– That is correct.
– I agree with the opinion which the Minister has expressed.
The Government’s plan for the introduction of the socialization of industry is revealed. If the Government can get the wheat-grower into a position wherehe cannot make a profit, it will drag him down with the rest of the community. The Government does not propose toallow private enterprise to succeed, or to make any allowance for initiative. It desires to herd the people into the cities.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! I have allowed the honorable member to develop his argument at great length, but his remarks are not strictly relevant to the clause.
– I return to theclause. Sub-clause 2 reads -
Whore the Minister is satisfied that, in relation to wheat of any season, an increase or decrease in the guaranteed price as specified in the last preceding sub-section is. desirable . . .
I direct attention to the words “where the Minister is satisfied “. I know that the honorable gentleman is not satisfied with many things. On a number of occasions, he has stated his views on socialism. The condition whether the guaranteed price shall be varied according to an index of production costs depends on whether the Minister is satisfied.
This evening, I am endeavouring to obtain a better deal for the wheat-growers, amd in trying to achieve that objective, I have submitted a certain amendment, which has been ruled out of order. I urge the Minister to examine my proposal in a straight-forward practical manner to determine whether a margin of profit can be allowed to the wheatgrowers. If my statements have been incorrect, perhaps the Minister will explain where provision is made for a margin of profit. Does it lie in the 3^ per cent, interest, in the amount of £6 10s . a week wages, or in the provision which wheat-growers will need to make for the purchase of new machinery, thecost of which has risen by 50 per cent. As for as I can see no provision has been made for a margin of profit. The whole basis of the bill lies in government policy, which is to tread lightly until the next election. If the Labour Government isreturned to office thereafter, the sky will be the limit.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) has attacked the Government because of its inability to continue the previous policy in supplying cornsacks to wheat-growers. The honorable member is most inconsistent. He has accused the Government of endeavouring to implement a socialist policy, but desires it to continue in the cornsacks trade. When the honorable member was a wheat-grower, he probably did not obtain cornsacks without giving a lien on his crop.
– I was not subjected to intimidation.
– I grew wheat in the days when there was no benevolent government to assist me. I was not guaranteed the cost of production. In those years thousands of hard-working farmers were forced off their properties. Wheatgrowers who are now not in a financial position to pay for cornsacks will never be able to pay their way and I advise them to get out of the industry. Of course, I make an exception of farmers who have suffered losses from drought or other adverse circumstances.
The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) has repeated expressions such as “ cost of .production plus profit “ at least ten times like a gramophone record, but not once has he said what the cost of production and percentage of profit mean. To show his inconsistency, I recall that last week he referred to some wheatgrowers who were paying income tax at the rate of 10s. in the fi. To-night, however, he has referred to the poor wheatgrowers who do not receive the margin of profit that the average tradesmen receive. He has also mentioned the average wage of workers in industry. What the honorable member did not state was that the average worker in industry has to meet a number of charges, such as water rates, from which wheat-growers generally are exempt. For purposes of illustration, I shall refer to my own farm. Fortunately, because of the good prices for wheat which the Labour Government has paid, I was able to discharge the mortgage on the property three and a half years ago. The interest on the capital value of my home on the farm, was an allowable deduction for purposes of income tax. That benefit is not extended to any average worker. The wheat-grower usually does not have to purchase fuel, butter, eggs, milk and meat. How, then, can the honorable member for Wimmera make a reasonable comparison between the wheatgrower and the average worker? One honorable member opposite has said that farmers do not receive double rates of pay for the many hours of overtime which they work. It is true that, at times farmers work long hours. I have worked seventeen or eighteen hours a day when I have been sowing a crop. At harvest time, if the sun has been hot enough, I have put in the same time and worked until sunset, but after the crop has been taken off I have been able to enjoy two or three weeks’ holiday before starting fallowing. Nor did I have to rise at an early hour when the seeding and harvesting jobs were finished. As a matter of fact, on a modern farm where tractor farming exists a 400-acre crop can be produced in 17$ weeks, working on a 40- hours a week basis, and working the area seven times, which is a fair average if we allow two hours per day for attention to machinery, oiling up, &c. This would represent another four weeks,* making a total of 21£ weeks on a 40-hours a week basis. Many weeks have to go for sidelines, which are the subject of the clause. But there are quite a few weeks, particularly in Western Australia, when farmers are able to make improvements by adding a little more fencing or excavating another dam, by building a shea or by clearing. They are not considered in deciding the cost of production, but the hours of overtime worked in the creation of improvements increase the capital asset. Those are facts to be taken into consideration. The Wheat Costs of Production Committee had discussions in one of the committee rooms of Parliament House with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the executive of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. After considering the report of the committee, the executive of the federation accepted 6s. 3d. a bushel as the basis on which the cost index is to be operated. Since then members of the executive have continued to accept that basis. Mr. E. Walker, a grower’s representative on the committee, said -
The Committee were of the opinion that sideline returns 1942 to 1947 (the period under review) were likely to be of a higher order than would occur under normal or ensuing conditions by about 15 per cent. Therefore, it seemed to them that a reduction of 15 per cent, would be the correct and equitable adjustment to make.
This was done, and the result was the lifting of wheat costs by CJd. a bushel, bringing the No. 3 cost from 5s. 4d. to 5s. 10 1/2d. bulk siding basis.
The Federal Government disallowed this side-line adjustment in the light of subsequent knowledge not in the possession of the Committee that prices from side-lines were not in fact decreasing.
As honorable members are aware, sidelines have been increasing in price since then. Mr. Walker continued -
Therefore, the Committee’s price of 5s. 4d. became the accepted price bulk at sidings.
That is the statement of the wheatgrowers’ own representative.
It is perfectly true that machinery presents a difficulty, but the honorable member for Wimmera, when he says that tractors cost so much and ploughs so much six or seven years ago and that they cost about twice as much to-day, should’ remember that machinery today is far better than it was before the war. It is far more efficient. Machinery to-day will do two or three times the work with less maintenance than similar machinery would do in earlier days. In those days the average motor car or truck had to have the cylinder-head removed after it had covered about 40,000 miles. The valves had to be ground and a new set of rings had to be inserted. Even before that time spark plugs had to be replaced. Then, after about another 30,000 miles, the cylinders had to be rebored. The cylinder-head need not come off the average car or truck to-day until it has covered about 80,000 miles. A few years before the war, harvesters were equipped with straight bearings. Men “ ran ‘” them inevitably because of blocks in the feeder wicks. The bearings of presentday harvesters float in oil, and it is impossible to “ run “ a bearing unless one is plain dumb, and the average farmer is not plain dumb. When the honorable member says that machinery costs twice as much now as it did before the war he ought to remember that it is far better machinery. Of course, I agree that machines are not worth twice as much, but it cannot be denied that they are far superior jobs, and it is absurd to compare maintenance costs now with those before the war.
– This is certainly a most interesting argument. It is based partly on the question of the cost of production and partly on factors that go towards making up that cost of production. Personally. I cannot quarrel with the price of 6s. 3d. a bushel at present. As one who has had considerable experience of wheatgrowing in a very dry district, I can say that in many years I should have been very happy to receive half that price. Had it been available, the history of wheat-growing in many parts of Australia would have been different. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) will acknowledge that.
– Yes, but the honorable member for Barker must bear in mind that the cost of everything has risen.
– Yes, I am fully aware that the cost of everything has gone up. But there are one or two things that the Australian wheatgrower should examine. In Current Problems Digest, for this month there appears under the heading “America’s Way of Growing’ Wheat “, a most interesting article. Apparently an Australian visited the United States of America and took stock of the manner in which it conducts its wheat-growing industry to-day. I propose to read two or three sentences that bear vitally on the question before us. The author speaks of the successes in the Great Plains area of the United States, where a crop of 974,000,000 bushels was grown last year. This is what he said -
This success, I found, is attributed to three main factors: (1) complete mechanization; (2) improved varieties of wheat; and (3) better farming methods.
In the State of Kansas, for example, statistics show that with the aid of new types of farming implements, up to 751 acres can be handled by one man, whereas hia forefathers spent probably a week of back-breaking labour in growing and harvesting a single acre of wheat. The present big farmers on the Western Plains can handle an acre of grain, from soil tillage to market, with about two to three .’‘ours’ actual labour.
The writer was cutting it very fine when he gave such an exact figure as 751 acres but that is a very serious statement by a man who apparently is a recent observer. As to his competence, I am not able to speak, because I do not know his name. The article is signed with the initials “P.F. “. It continues-
A harvesting team of to-day consists of one man driving a fast-moving reaping and threshing machine and another driving a truck. Together they can cut, thresh and haul into storage as many acres of grain as twelve to fifteen men could do a generation ago. 1 think that is one of the factors that the Australian wheat-growing industry has to take into consideration when dealing with the question of Australia’s place in the markets of the world as a wheat exporting country. No amount of tinkering inside our own borders will enable us to override the fact that we have to meet competition of a very highly developed character in the United States of America and to a less degree in Argentina. Of course, Canada ranks equally with the United States. The factors that contribute to the cost of production in Australia are known. There is no need to argue them. The salient point is that the price will rise and fall according to the Wheat Costs of Production Committee’s estimate of the rise or fall of the cost of production. There is an allowance for wages for the grower. I do not think it is a sufficient allowance. The man managing a farm property has to be not only a manager, but also a mechanic and a stock master, [n some instances perhaps he has to be an authority on pastures. At any rate, he must be able to manage pastures. He is skilled above the ordinary technician. With all his ability he is to get just the basic wage for his labour. That understates the need. The other question asked by the honorable member for Wimmera about interest is reasonable. It is a question that requires more attention than has apparently been given to it. The rate to-day on government bonds, which are normally called gilt-edged securities, although I have had grave doubts about the correctness of that description, is 3£ per cent. For a long time it was 3J per cent. A man looking after a property is entitled to a little more by way of allowance for interest than are people who put money into government bonds and have no drought, fire or flood risks, which are the three big risks that agriculturists are up against, particularly in the wheat industry. Sidelines are important. They vary from farm to farm. . No matter what committee is appointed, it cannot arrive at more than a fair average cost of producing wheat any more than it can arrive at a fair average return from sidelines. A man’s’ ability to deal with sidelines depends on the district in which his farm is situated and the opportunity presented by the market. Some people go in for one sideline and some for another. I think it can be laid down and it has been advocated by the State Departments of Agriculture that every farmer should diversify his farming as much as possible. The greater the diversification the safer he will be and the more complicated will be the calculation of the fair average cost of production of wheat. At present we might, give this scheme a trial. It has received the approval of the growers. Whether it is completely satisfactory to them or not is a matter of opinion. I have expressed my. opinions. The committee knew very well what they are Nevertheless, I have not discovered in my contact with the wheat-growing industry to-day any hostility to the present price. It may, of course, exist in the electorates of other honorable members who represent the wheat-growers. The wheat-growing districts in my electorate include not only some of the best, but also some of the worst areas in South Australia. I should expect that if there was any very great dissatisfaction with the price of 6s. 3d. a bushel, I would have heard about it from some of the growers, or some of the growers’ organizations in that district.
The matter of living conditions was referred to by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon). I have always taken the stand - as I hope other agriculturists will do - that the first rule is that a man on the land should live well off the land; if he does not, he is a fool-
– And he had- better get off it.
– When all is said and done, despite all the Arbitration Court awards and all the laws relating to the fixing of prices, our span of life on this earth is short, and if a farmer does not live well off the land he has only himself to blame. A criticism that may well be levelled against a good deal of the wheat-growing territory in Australia to-day is that there is too much of a tendency to specialize on wheat production, to the exclusion of everything else. The greater the diversity in our agriculture the better it will be for agriculture generally. I trust that this provision, when it is implemented, will do something towards bringing about that diversification.
.- It is rather amusing to listen to the honorable members of the Australian Country party in their criticism of the report of the Wheat Costs of Production Committee, particularly in connexion with the clause being debated. Two of the most backward and mentally dull members of that party have criticized practical men who have spent a considerable time in preparing this report. It is a very difficult matter to inquire into farming costs, because they vary so much from time to time and from place to place. I do not think the honorable members to whom I have referred know very much about the industry, especially the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull). He reminds me of a willywagtail, jumping from bush to bush chattering away about something - nobody knows what. I feel that honorable members on the Government side of the chamber should reply to some of the stupid arguments that have been advanced by the Opposition. It is set out in the interim report of the Wheat Costs of Production Committee that an amount of £6 10s. a week shall be considered as a fair wage to the farmer in formulating the costs of production. I remember the day when I would have shaken hands readily with any one who guaranteed me that wage. The farmers then only existed by living off the land. By the time that the man to whom interest was payable received his dues, little was left. I know from practical experience what can be got off a farm. It is true that a farmer has his own meat, butter, milk, eggs, rabbits and firewood. The honorable member for Wimmera claims to have an all-round knowledge of the industry, but he does not impress any one with his knowledge. He said that the trade unions get a margin of profit. They would be very surprised to know that. The method of adjustment of his wages provides him with merely a subsistence living for him and his wife and family. It is true that there are margins for skill. Whilst it is quite reasonable that the farmer should have to take those items into account as they are taken into account in the dairying industry, let us consider the basis. Such items must be taken into account in deciding the cost of production of the wheat. The honorable member for Wimmera has the idea that that is all that he is going to get under this bill. He must be suffering under a delusion. As the members of the Wheat Costs of Production Committee pointed out, they did not feel that they were called upon to decide what was a fair remuneration for the farmer for his own efforts, hut they thought that £6 10s. a week was a fair amount to be allowed for the purpose of calculating the cost of production.
– The honorable member is not even referring to the report.
– The farmer has certain advantages which are not available to city workers. The farmer does not pay house rent, which is a very considerable item when the landlord is knocking on the door. A city worker may be in receipt of £6 or £7 a week and may have to pay £2 a week as rent. That is a fairly big proportion of his weekly wage. Then the local government rates, insurance, water costs and rates are paid through the business of the farm. Many commodities are provided on the farm, such as eggs, mutton, and, for part of the year, vegetables. The committee, of course, was merely endeavouring to arrive at a basis for calculation. Some of the arguments advanced by Opposition members are being advanced to try to retrieve their position. They have used u good deal of their time and influence in the past in trying to prevent a measure of this kind from going on to the statutebook. By their spurious arguments they are now trying to cover up their previous errors. The farmers realized that practical men were working out the cost of production to put it on a sound basis.
.- I have no need to try to retrieve my position because for the last twenty years I have adhered to the view that the farmer should be recompensed on the basis of his cost of production plus a margin of profit. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) said that I had referred to trade unions, whereas my remarks referred to tradesmen. Having had considerable experience in the matter, I think I was correct in saying that the tradesman to-day receives a fair remuneration for his labours, and, in addition, has the opportunity of approaching the Arbitration Court through his trade union. If there are any wheat-growers in the Wannon electorate I should imagine that they would not be too pleased to hear the honorable member say that he assesses their value at only £6 10s. a week. I have no need to get on the band wagon at all. I have always advocated that the wheat-growers should receive for their product the cost of production plus a margin of profit. It is the formula that worries me. Before moving on to an amendment that I propose to move, I should like to make some comment on the remark of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon). The Minister was farming in one locality in Western Australia when I was similarly engaged in another. He stated that I said a few moments ago that I disagreed with the wheat hoard selling cornsacks, and mentioned that in years gone by the farmers had to get cornsacks under lien. I admit that. Sometimes we had to put up the cash and at other times we did not. However, I remind the Minister that while a person was engaged in that sort of business it was possible to go and speak to the merchants with a view to getting cornsacks, even after some of them had issued a manifesto that none were to be supplied before the cash was available. That cannot be done with the Australian Wheat Board, because it works under government regulations; a farmer would find it most difficult to get in to the inner circle. Ever since 1942 the Australian Wheat Board has been the agent for the jute controller. I ask the Minister where else could the farmers get their cornsacks? They are entirely in the hands of the Australian Wheat Board as the agent. The Minister said that at no time had the federation disagreed with the figure of 6s. 3d. a bushel mentioned in the bill. T propose to bring the Minister up to date on this aspect of the matter. When the Australian Wheat Growers Federation met the Minister, and the Australian Agricultural Council in February, this year, the federation submitted point No. 2 of its plan, which was -
A plan to provide for a guaranteed floor price to be based upon and_ maintained at the determined cost of production, provided that the cost of production shall include a remunerative wage plus interest on the capital involved, the price of 6s. 3d. a bushel at bulk basis f.o.r. ports to be accepted as cost of production price as at the 1st December, 1947. Those numbers to be linked to an index figure which will adjust fluctuations in costs, and to he reviewed annually.
In its reply, the Australian Agricultural Council disregarded altogether the claim of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation that this figure should be attached to an index figure. It is of no use for the Minister to say that the wheat-growers have rejected 6s. 3d. a bushel. I have stated that in this chamber many times.’ The reply from the Australian Agricultural Council read -
In relation to the remaining, portion of the recommendation, the Australian Wheat Growers’ Federation be informed that in the event of the Cost of Production Inquiry Committee recommending an index figure accepted as practicable by the Commonwealth Government, consideration be given to varying the price up and down according to the indication’s variation.
Even at that stage the recommendation of the federation was not accepted although it was at that time complaining that 6s. 3d. a bushel was npt definitely related to the cost of production which might vary from season to season. It was only in July that the Minister even considered introducing an index figure.
The Minister also referred to the farmers taking holidays. If my memory serves me right, I have heard members on the Government side of the committee say how badly the farmers were treated in the depression years. It nearly brings tears to my eyes to hear some of the speeches delivered from the benches opposite. The Minister said that during all the years that he was farming he was able to go for regular holidays. That is the normal. No matter how badly off the majority of the wheat-farmers were they were able to get a few weeks off. They honestly earned their holidays by hard work during the year. At times farmers work seventeen to eighteen hours a day. , It is of no use for the Minister to say that when a farmer is not harrowing, harvesting, he is erecting fences, and so increasing his capital assets. A farmer must have side lines. It has been realized very painfully in some instances that it is impossible for a farmer to rely solely on growing wheat. A look at the report of the Wheat Costs of Production Committee, will show that throughout the length and breadth of Australia the committee was able to find only one man who relied entirely on the growing of wheat and did not have any side lines. It is necessary to have sidelines. Whilst I admit that the farmer is thereby improving his capital asset, he still has to work during the years when he has his stock on his property with a view to making conditions for wheat-growing more easy and profitable. It is ridiculous for the Miinster to say that the farmer is not working except when he is engaged in his major activities. I admit that he does not work for 15 or IS hours for every day of the year, because the human frame would not stand it. If the farmer is to get a financial benefit from wood, he must cut it and cart it. Men do not like cutting wood in these days, but nevertheless it must be done. If the farmer is to grow vegetables, he must dig his garden and cart water, and probably he will be carting it during all hours of the night. If that is not work, then I want to know what work is. The farmer is entitled to the wood that he gets, but he must first cut the tree down, then cart it to his home and chop it up. It is probable that his wife will, even then. say that the split wood is too large to go into the stove. Although it is right and proper that these factors should be taken into consideration, they should be put into their proper perspective. The farmer has to bring a great deal of skill to bear upon his tasks. He must be a bookkeeper, something of a scientist, and a general agriculturist. He must make a complete study of stock husbandry. It 13 not an easy job, and it is not very pleasant for him to find that the committee makes such a paltry allowance as the value of his skill.
The worst feature of the matter is that when the committee made its report the Government was not prepared to accept its findings, and reduced the figure by approximately 5d. a bushel. That is one of the matters about which the farmers complained. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said that he had not heard of any complaints. 1 refer the honorable gentleman to the report of the meeting between the Australian Wheat Growers Federation and the Australian Agricultural Council in February last. The wheat-growers are not complaining about the prices they are getting to-day so much as about the fact that the 6s. 3d. is not the cost of production but a cost of production. I propose to move -
That the following sub-clause be added to the clause: - “ (3.) Except for the harvest of the 1948-49 season, the guaranteed price shall be adjusted from season to season by such amount as will ensure the payment of full cost of production, plus a reasonable margin of profit, including au allowance for wages for a farmer working and/or managing his property which will be in relation to the rate of pay and allowance and overtime provided for in awards covering workers required to possess comparable skill and experience, and shall further include such an interest return on capital investment as will be reasonable having regard to the risks of wheat-growing as an industry and to the average return on capital invested in other trades and industries.”.
The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) said that I was trying to get back on to the band wagon and that .1 was running for cover. As the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) knows, I am now preaching what I preached at meetings of the Wheat
Growers Union in Western Australia in the early 1930’s. It is, unfortunately, too late to apply the terms of the new sub-clause to which I have referred to this year’s activities but they represent a basis upon which any government can work if it genuinely desires to give the wheatgrowing industry security and stability for a period of years.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - The amendment that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) has moved is identical with the amendment of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) except that it proposes that the inceased charge be deferred for a year. I rule that is is out of order for the reasons that I gave earlier.
.- This is another attempt by members of the Australian Country party to save their political hides. They are running to cover ;ir, every turn of the wheel. They were sentenced to political death by the wheatgrowers at the ballot that was conducted recently. Their Deputy Leader, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has been told in no uncertain terms that his party no longer represents the interests of the wheat-growers of Australia. The honorable gentleman thinks that the wheat-grower’s memory is a. short one. Let me recapitulate the record of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party in their last year of office. In 1941, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, told Parliament that the advance of 2s. 6d. a bushel that was offered by his Government was a generous advance. He added that Cabinet was not prepared to grant more, despite the claims of the wheat-growers for greater consideration. The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party was a member of the Menzies Administration, and he. has since become the spokesman of the Opposition on wheat matters. When the honorable gentleman was a member of the Menzies Government he held views that were directly opposed to those which he now expresses in this Parliament. When he was asked on one occasion by an organization of Victorian wheatgrowers to pledge himself to fight for an increase beyond 2s. 6d. a bushel, he replied that, because of war expenditure, the time was not opportune to do so. At that time war expenditure was less than one-sixth of our present expenditure on rehabilitation. In the course of the debate on this bill honorable members opposite who belong to the Australian Country party have tried to pretend that their hearts bleed for the wheatgrowers. They are only wasting the time of the Parliament and the nation, because the Australian Country party will never again deceive the Australian wheatgrowers. As I said in my speech on the motion for the second reading of this bill, the members of the Australian Country party should hang their heads in shame and walk from this Parliament. The Labour party is the only party that will provide long-term stability for the wheatgrowers and guarantee domestic and export prices. It is the only party that merits the confidence qf the Australian electors.
I rose mainly to place cn record a statement that appeared in the South Australian Wheatgrower, of the 28th October. It was made by the president of the South Australian Wheat and Wool Growers Association, Mr. W. F. Nicholls, and reads as follows : -
In view of the powerful opposition the South Australian result in the wheat ballot is very satisfactory and the all-Australian majority of 29,000 against 16.000 is excellent indeed.
This should mean the beginning of a new era for the wheat man and will assure him of proper protection when he needs it instead of helping to provide protection for others and getting none himself, as in the past.
Two essential features which are provided for in the plan constitute a triumph for the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. The first is the relation of price to cost and the second the assumption of responsibility by the Government for the permanent well-being of the wheat-grower.
I wish to gratefully acknowledge the part our members have played in bringing to pass such an excellent result and thank all concerned for their loyalty and assistance.
That places beyond doubt what the wheatgrowers think of this scheme. Honorable members opposite have risen and endeavoured to save their faces, because they realize what will happen to them in the near future. There is nothing that can save the Australian Country party from almost complete annihilitation at the next general election. It has been left to the
Labour party to save, not only the wheatgrowers of this country, but also every one of our primary industries. The record of the Australian Country party is a sorry one, and will not be forgotten by the Australian people. I have no fears whatever.
– The honorable member is leaving his electorate.
– I am not. My electorate has been split into two parts. The electorate that I propose to contest contains 28,705 of my old electors and only 9,S55 new electors. How it can be said that I am leaving my electorate is beyond my comprehension.
– The honorable member must confine himself to the clause.
– I have stated as forcefully as I can that I fear nothing. The rural people of Australia are fed up to the teeth with the Australian Country party, which has betrayed them at least ever since I have been a member of this Parliament. There has not been a measure brought down for the protection of primary producers with which the members of the Australian Country party in this Parliament have not played political football. They know full well that they are in an entanglement from which they will not be able to extricate themselves.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause that is now under discussion.
– I rose mainly to place on record the statement that was made by Mr. Nicholls and published in the South Australian Wheatgrower. It shows the members of the Australian Country party what the wheat-growers of Australia think of them.
.- The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), who says that he fears nothing and dreads nought, gave a very good imitation of a man who is fearful of the result of the next election. He waved his hands and told us of the confidence that v be had in himself and in his own virtues as a member of the Parliament.’ His cheeks went white as he condemned the Australian Country party. Almost in the same breath, he told us that he had run away from a seat called Farrer.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable gentleman must confine himself to clause 5.
– Time is much too precious to devote much of it to dealing with the affairs of the honorable member for Hume. What the committee is concerned with is whether the price that is to be paid to the Australian wheatgrowers for their wheat is based upon reasons that are fair and just to the wheat-growers and to the rest of the people of Australia. When all is said and done, the wheat-grower is entitled to no more and no less than a just return in comparison with the remuneration received by other sections of the workers. When we examine the basis upon which the price of wheat has been fixed for the purposes of this scheme, we must come to the conclusion that the farmers of Australia, whether they be wheatfarmers or butter producers, or any other kind of farmers, are regarded by the Labour party simply as peasants. I say that because of the contemptuous manner in which the interest rate on farmers’ capital has been fixed, and the lack of appreciation shown by the Government for the skill acquired by the managerowner of a farm over the years. In this bill, the farmer is to be allowed 3J per cent, on the capital invested in his farm. If a man puts his money into flats or house property or shares-
– Or into growing bananas ?
– If he invests his money in banana-growing he will not get a. return of even 3J per cent., but a man who invests his money in dog biscuits, or in any other industrial undertaking, expects a return of more than 3£ per cent. Of course, if he invested his money in producing wheat for sale under the New Zealand wheat agreement he would be on a loser. The Commonwealth Bank, which has been praised so much by honorable members opposite, demands 4 per cent, on money lent to farmers on mortgage, but the wheat-farmer is to be allowed only 3J per cent, on money which he invests in his own farm. Then, in order to round out the picture, the scheme
Allows the manager-farmer, the man who has spent years of his life gathering experience, £6 10s. a week as his own remuneration. It is a fallacy to believe, as many city people do, that any one can till the ground and raise crops. It is only after years spent in learning how to plough the ground, when to sow the seed, how deep to sow it, what fertilizer and how much of it to use, that a farmer can hope to be successful. This knowledge and experience make all the difference between success and failure, but the Government proposes to reward the farmer for his skill and experience by allowing him £6 10s. a week, which is just a little more than the basic wage. It is less than the wage paid to a railway porter, and less than that paid to almost any factory employee in a city, and yet the Government claims that this is a scheme for which the farmers ought to be grateful. The Government has not pointed out that, for several years to come, the wheat-growers will be receiving under this scheme merely their own money, less that part of it which is held in reserve in order to finance the stabilization scheme. We cannot hope to alter the scheme now, because the Government has an overwhelming majority in the Parliament. However, I hope that the Liberal party will assist the Australian Country party to alter the proposed arrangement, when the opportunity offers, so as to place & just assessment upon the services of primary producers, and to ensure that wheat-growers shall obtain .a greater margin of profit. If only a bare minimum of £6 10s. a week is allowed an owner-manager, and only 3£ per cent, is allowed on capital invested, there will be nothing left over to spend on improvements. There will be no margin to expand production, or to enable a farmer to set up his sons upon adjoining properties. Wheat-farming and, indeed, all other kinds of farming, will become static. There will he no scope for expansion. Perhaps Government supporters will claim that there is no justification for increasing the production of wheat, but the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) himself has asked for increased production of foodstuffs so that we may help to feed a hungry’ world. Production cannot be increased unless the farmer is allowed something over and above the bare cost of production. He must have capital with which to buy machinery, and to clear and cultivate more land. Therefore, I protest strongly against the meanness of the Government in allowing only 3£ per cent, interest on the capital invested by the farmer in his property, and in allowing him only just a little more than the basic wage, although he has to carry the responsibility of management, and take all the risk associated with farming.
.- This clause fixes the price that the farmers are to receive for their wheat. The return which we get for our labour is what concerns all of us, whether we be primary producers or wage earners. There is revealed in this scheme the basic approach of the Government to the matter of remuneration for primary producers. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has shown that, under the stabilization scheme, experienced farmers, the owner-principals of very big business enterprises in many instances, are to be allowed only £6 10s. a week under the formula for arriving at the cost of producing wheat..
– It is only a basis for calculation.
– Evidently the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) has not read the clause. Wheat farmers are to be allowed, in the same formula, only 3£ per cent, interest on the money invested in their properties. Those facts make it quite clear that the Labour party, which devised this scheme, represents those who buy wheat, not those who sell it. The scheme reflects the attitude of mind of those who frequent the trades halls in the great cities. It also reflects the attitude of mind of the consumers who, all through history, have wanted, to buy at a cheap price irrespective of the effect upon the producers, who really carry the nation along. I remember that, a year or so ago, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) met a European diplomat in Canberra. The diplomat greeted him in this way : “ You, Mr. Fadden, are the Leader of the peasants’ party “. The Labour party, also, regards the primary producers ‘as peasants. It is provided by law that a ‘bank which advances money to a farmer shall get 4£ per cent, interest. The Commonwealth Bank itself charges 4 per cent, upon mortgages to primary producers, but under the stabilization scheme interest on money invested by the farmer in his own farm is assessed at only 3^ per cent. That is the measure of the generosity of the Labour party. In Victoria, lad porters, nineteen years of age, are paid £7 19s. a week. The farmer who -spends his life in this risky enterprise, in which in the very nature of things there must be failures because of seasonal conditions, is to get a mere £6 10s. a week. There is a strike of slaughtermen in Victoria at present notwithstanding the fact that men employed in the slaughtering of cattle for export earn more than £13 a week for 22 hours work. The farmer is to get only £6 10s. a week-
– For how many hours?
– Yes, and for what dirty work ! Any one who has followed a set of harrows and has worked in the rain on the land knows the kind of work in which the farmer is engaged. Honorable members opposite describe themselves as the champions of the workers. Is the man who works for wages in the secondary industries the only worker? Is not the farmer who is producing wheat to supply bread for the nation also a worker? If he remains on his farm he is to be allowed £6 10s. a week; if he goes into industry he may earn more than £13 a week. This attitude on the part of the Government is illustrative of the fact that the Labour members are in politics principally to ensure that the great masses of the workers in the cities shall get cheap bread and enjoy the best of conditions. When the Australian Country party was associated with the government of this country in 1938 it fixed the price of wheat at 5s. 2d. a bushel-
– For one-fifth of the crop.
– For the Australian consumer. The Labour Government did not see fit to alter that price until this year, when it increased it by a few pence a bushel. When we were associated with the Government of the country we fixed the price of wheat at a figure which would enable the Australian consumers to buy a 4-lb. loaf of bread for a shilling. They have continued to enjoy that price for nine years during which wages have practically doubled and the cost of almost every component in the production of wheat has probably doubled, yet this Government has increased the guaranteed price from 5s. 2d. on a bagged, basis in 1938 to only 6s. 3d. for bulk wheat. This Government is solely concerned with the protection of the consumers irrespective of the impact of its policy upon the producers. The man on the land is to be allowed 3^ per cent, interest, not on the whole amount of his investment but on the value of his equity in his property. I invite the Treasurer and the members of the Government to inspect the balancesheets of the great joint stock companies of Australia to see for themselves how the profits on shareholders’ funds have increased in recent years. In most instances, as the result of price fixation by this Government, the returns on shareholders’ funds invested in industrial enterprises in the capital cities have ranged from 8 per cent, to 18 per cent. A wheat-grower is to receive 3J per cent, interest on his equity in his holding if he gets a crop ; if he does not get a crop, he will get nothing. When the Parliamentary Labour party buys preference shares in a wireless station, it receives 16 per cent, on its investment. It is all right for the Parliamentary Labour party to accumulate funds, but it is all wrong for the wheat-grower to ask to be given a reasonable rate of interest on his equity in his property. I do not know of any business or trade in this land which is more risky than wheat-farming, yet the price of wheat is fixed on the assumption that Si per cent, on the wheat-growers’ investment is an adequate return. That is incredibly and unbelievably unfair. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) sought to move an amendment but was prevented from doing so because it contravened the Standing Orders. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture should recognize the merit of the honorable member’s proposal and adopt it as his own. thus bringing it within the scope of the Standing Orders. The purpose of the honorable member’s proposal was to ensure that each year the guaranteed, price should be adjusted from season to season by such amount as would ensure the payment of full cost of production plus a reasonable margin of profit, ls that unreasonable? He also sought to include in the guaranteed price an allowance for wages for a farmer working on or managing his property which would be related to the rate of pay, and such allowances and overtime as are provided for in awards covering workers who are required to possess comparable skill and experience. Who could take exception to that? Who among us will say that the worker in the wheat industry is not entitled to the same wage return as the worker of comparable skill and- experience who is required to work a comparable period in any other industry? I dare a member of the Labour party to challenge the fairness of that contention. Honorable members opposite are silent. No one of them would brand himself as an anemy of the wheat-grower by saying that such a request is unreasonable. The Government, however, regards it as unreasonable because it will not adopt as its own amendment along those lines. The honorable member for Swan also sought to include in the calculation cf the guaranteed price such an interest return on capital investment as would be reasonable having regard to the risks of wheatgrowing as an industry and to the average return on capital invested in other trades and industry. Is that unfair or tinreasonable? Should not the wheatgrower expect to receive the same return as those who invest their capital safely in trades, industries or real estate in the capital cities? Is the wheat-grower to be kept down to the level of a peasant? Apparently he is expected to be content to accept £6 10s. a week at a time when a lad porter is able to earn more than £7 a week; and to have the rate of interest on his investment to 3£ per cent, at a time when he is compelled by the same Government to pay his bank 4i per cent, on his overdraft. There is no justice in such a proposal. I cannot understand the attitude of the Government in believing that it can sustain an industry on that basis. Do the members of the Government really believe that, taking the long view, a wheat-grower will continue to work on his farm for £6 10s. a week when he can go to the city and earn £8 or £9 a week? Does the Government believe that men will continue to invest their capital in such a risky enterprise as wheat-growing for a return of 3^ per cent, when they can invest it safely at 4rJ per cent, under the laws made by the self -same Government? Such a proposal may well threaten the destruction of the wheat industry. Unless the Government amends the scheme in such a way as to give the wheat-grower hie costs of production, including a reasonable weekly wage and a reasonable return for the capital invested in his farm, wheatgrowing may be eliminated from the industries of this country. Before it is too late I ask the Government to recognize that these are indisputable facts. If the Standing Orders prevent the submission of an amendment along the lines indicated by the honorable member for Swan, let the Government adopt the proposal as a ministerial amendment and incorporate it in this bill which carries the propaganda title of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill. The basic elements of any stabilization scheme must include a’ return to the growers of their costs cf production, and a reasonable margin of profit. That is all that members of the Australian Country party are fighting for.
.- I did not intend to speak on this clause, but I am impelled to reply to the “ tripe “ delivered by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), which is so typical of the honorable gentleman. He would have the people believe that the guaranteed price provided for in this bill has been determined by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) or by the Labour party. That price was arrived at by a body of very capable men. The honorable gentleman made a mouthful about the interest rate allowed in the calculations of the Wheat Costs of Production Committee. When the Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member was in office, the wheat-growers paid up to 8 per cent, interest on their overdrafts, and the money was at call. Thousands of wheatgrowers were put off their properties when they could not meet their interest payments. Notwithstanding that fact, the honorable member has endeavoured to persuade the people that he and his party respresent the men on the land: The wheat-growers have agreed to every proposal contained in this bill. What a hide the honorable member has in trying to persuade the wheat-growers that he represents them in this Parliament ! Fair-minded wheatgrowers will be astounded at the fight of Australian Country party members against this bill. Listening to honorable members opposite, one would think that the wheat-growers will receive only £6 10s. a week irrespective of what they grow. Many farmers will receive £50 a week under the guaranteed price. I am not talking merely for the sake of talking; I am speaking from a lifelong experience in an industry which I know backwards’. I was on the dole during the years when honorable members opposite were in office. In those days, thousands of farmers were driven off their land because they could not meet their interest payments. The Labour Government was the first government to reduce interest rates so that the primary producers of Australia would have a chance of meeting their indebtedness. What was the attitude of honorable members opposite, particularly of the honorable member for Indi, in relation to the banking legislation passed this year? Government supporters fought tooth and nail for the right of the Commonwealth Bank to control the credit of this country and to reduce interest rates. Instead of paying from 6 per cent, to 8 per cent, interest on their overdrafts, the farmers are now paying only 4 per cent. When honorable members opposite were in office, if the unfortunate men on the land were not able to meet their interest payments the big financial institutions foreclosed on their properties. Now the farmers have from 20 to 40 years in which to repay their indebtedness. I trust that the validity of the Banking Act will be upheld and that the Commonwealth Bank will be given full power to control the credit of the nation. The honorable member for Indi has complained that the wheat-grower will receive only 3^ per cent, interest on his capital investment. What did he receive in days gone by? When antiLabour governments were in office, wheatgrowers were reduced to a standard below that of peasants, and became virtual slaves. The honorable member for Indi has referred to employees at abattoirs and in other industries who receive what he described as high wages. I say, “ Good luck to them “. If wheat-growers in the past had been able to show the same profit as they are able to show under the Labour Government, they would be in an excellent position to-day. I do not desire to be misunderstood. Some honorable members opposite are reasonable men, but the honorable member for Indi ha3 been the greatest enemy of the primary producers. Despite his opposition inside and outside this chamber, this bill will be passed. The honorable member has tried to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. He has done his utmost to condemn and defeat the bill. The Government has not received any assistance from him. I am gratified that the wheat-growers have rejected his suggestion that they should oppose the present stabilization scheme.
The hostility which members of the Australian Country party have shown to any attempts by the Labour Government to improve the conditions of primary producers, is not of recent origin. During the last 30 years anti-Labour governments have not passed any legislation to benefit the man on the land. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), in his second-reading speech, said that it had never been explained to his satisfaction why the Scullin Government had not proceeded with its plan to pay a guaranteed price of 3s. a bushel to wheatgrowers. Later, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) explained that the Commonwealth Bank Board had refused to make the necessary money available. I also propose to delve into history. The Scullin Government originally offered a guarantee of 4s. a bushel for the 1929-30 crop, and the then chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, Sir Robert Gibson, stated that the bank would arrange the necessary finance. I do not like to criticize a deceased person, who cannot defend himself, and, therefore, I regret that I am obliged to refer to the name of Sir Robert Gibson in this debate. The Labour Government had a majority in the House of Representatives, but faced a hostile anti-Labour majority in the Senate. The then Prime Minister, Mr. Scullin, and the then Minister for Markets, Mr. Parker Moloney, received an assurance from Sir Robert Gibson that the necessary money would be made available to pay the guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel, but the bill relating to the proposal was rejected on the votes of members of the Australian Country party in the Senate. The next move which the Scullin Government made was to offer a guaranteed price of 3s. a bushel. However, certain financial institutions were opposed to the arrangement, and the Commonwealth Bank Board declined to provide the necessary finance. I have given that explanation to satisfy the curiosity of the honorable member for Barker. .From the early 1930’s until the Labour Government took office in 1941, the wheat industry wa3 down into the depths, and wheat-growers were in the position of slaves. Yet honorable members opposite have had the audacity to-day to say that the Labour party does not legislate for the benefit of the primary producers. I declare unhesitatingly that the man on the land has derived definite benefits from the sympathetic administration and support of the Labour party since it took office seven years ago. If the Liberal party and the Australian Country party were now occupying the treasury bench, the wheat-growers would not have a guaranteed price for the next five years. We do not need to thank honorable members opposite for supporting the bill. They know that the Government has a majority in this chamber and in the Senate, and that, despite their protests, the bill will be passed. They have done their best to defeat the measure outside the Parliament. For many years, they succeeded in keeping the primary producers in the position of slaves. They should he ^ashamed of their record. Those who have been through the fire fear the flames. During the financial and economic depression of the 1930’s, many wheat-growers were on the dole. The harder they worked, the poorer they became. -They lacked the purchas ing power with which to buy food and clothing, yet thousands of people in the cities who, in normal times, worked in the food and clothing industries, were unemployed and on the verge of starvation. The conditions in those days were an everlasting disgrace to anti-Labour governments. Some honorable members opposite have said that the Government’s policy of full employment will not benefit primary producers. Full employment will promote conditions of general prosperity. Any statement to the contrary is childish. An honest man has difficulty in listening in silence to the “ tripe “ which honorable members opposite have delivered in this debate and to the hypocrisy which they have displayed in their attempts to defeat the Government’s stabilization plan. They have complained about interest rates since the Labour Government took office. In 1935 the primary producers’ debts totalled some £500,000,000 and a reduction of the interest rate by li per cent, would have means a difference of £11,000,000 per annum. By its policy of guaranteeing prices for all primary produce this Government has not only reduced interest rates, but also mortgages’ and overdrafts by millions of pounds. I am quite sure that this stabilization scheme will help to reduce them still further. Interest rates on overdrafts and mortgages are lower to-day .than they have ever been. Cheap money is a most important factor in enabling primary producers to show a profit. I had nOt intended to take part in this debate, but I felt impelled to do so in order to defend the Government against the lying statements uttered by the honorable member for Indi. As long as the Labour Government is in office, the wheat-growers will enjoy conditions of prosperity.
– Some of the speeches by honorable members opposite this evening may have most unfortunate results. I respect, honour and appreciate sound and reasonable criticism, but the criticism of this bill has been based on a false foundation and on misrepresentation, and does a distinct disservice to Australia. From time to time, members of the Opposition complain that the rural districts are being denuded of population. To-night, however, their speeches have been calculated to warn wheat-growers, and, what is worse, young men who have capital to invest, and propose to go on the land that the Government proposes to make wheat growing a peasant industry using the word “ peasant “ in an offensive sense. That criticism is most unfortunate. This is probably the first occasion when the Australian Government has reached an agreement with Governments of all the States, irrespective of their political beliefs, on a stabilization plan, and, in addition, have secured the approval of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. I have yet to learn that a peasant has not an honorable occupation, and should not enjoy an adequate standard of living. As I listened to the remarks of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), I began to analyse the bases of their criticism. After long years of misrepresentation and fortuitous circumstances in rigging pre-selection ballots for candidates for country electorates, there drifted into this Parliament wealthy men who represented the great landed “ squattocracy “ of the country. They did not want the peasants, as I understand the term, to own their own land. They did not favour one-man farms, and the settlement of thousands of additional Australians on the land in this fair country. They were opposed to the progress of closer settlement, and to the land settlement of exservicemen. At present, thousands of competent young men, including the employees of abattoirs, would willingly leave the cities and settle on the land to grow wheat if more of the large estates were subdivided for closer settlement. They would be proud to be termed peasants, in the sense in which I interpret the meaning of the term. Therefore, the misrepresentation in which some members of the Opposition have indulged today, does a distinct disservice to Australia and its people. Last week-end I travelled through the New England district, and passed the property of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). Believe me, he is not a peasant. I saw great estates, and hundreds of miles of magnificent country which is capable of carrying thousands of additional primary producers. However, prospective settlers have not access to that land. If an attempt were made to subdivide those estates to enable people to become working farmers or peasants, the necessary legislation would encounter the antipathy and strong antagonism of the nominee Legislative Council of New South Wales. A similar position applies in other States. In the Legislative Councils, the cohorts of the Australian Country party are well represented.
– The Legislative Council of New South Wales is not a nominee chamber.
– Of course it is. It was rigged by the contemporaries of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) years ago.
– Order! The clause under consideration does not refer to the Legislative Council of New South Wales.
– I am . pointing out that the contemporaries of the honorable member for Parramatta attempted to rig the Legislative Council of New South Wales in such a way as to ensure that the Labour party should never have a majority of members in it. Everybody knows how that attempt was made. I do not need to receive my political education from the innocuous honorable member for Parramatta, because I have a considerable knowledge of the politics of this country. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) also has a knowledge of the subject. In the circumstances, the pettifogging criticism of the bill is sheer nonsense. The honorable member for Richmond has mentioned that under this bill, the weekly wage of the wheatgrowers will be £6 10s. No such figure has been fixed. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), when Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, acceded to the request of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation to appoint a committee to inquire into the cost of producing wheat in Australia.
– And he sold the wheat behind the farmers’ backs.
– The honorable member is a liar.
– It is offensive to me to bo called a liar, and I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to withdraw the remark
– The honorable member stated a deliberate lie, as he well knows.
– It is most offensive to me to be called a liar.
– Order ! I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it.
Mr. Edmonds. - I rise to order! 1 submit that the honorable member for New England was out of order in the first’ place in interjecting while the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was speaking. Any remarks which pass between two honorable members neither of whom has the call, should not be subject to the Standing Order which requires that an .honorable member shall withdraw an expression which another honorable member regards as offensive to himself.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.There is no point of order.
– The personnel of the committee of inquiry gave complete satisfaction to the “Wheat Growers Federation and its members. One of the committee was Mr.’ Ellis “Walker, of Western Australia, who, at that time, was the chairman of the “Wheat Growers Federation. Wheat-growers could not quibble at that appointment. Another member was Mr. Marshman, a barleygrower, an executive member of the wheat growers’ organization, and a member of the Barley Board. Other members were Mr. Brown, an accountant, and Mr. Connolly, who held a high executive position in New South Wales. The VicePresident of the Executive Council appointed Mr. Justice Simpson of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory to be chairman of the committee. The committee had perfect liberty to inquire adequately into the cost of producing wheat. The members of the committee knew, as realists, and as I know and as I said this afternoon, that there is no exact science that can be applied to ascertain the costs of production. I said then and I reiterate now for the benefit of listeners that two men can occupy adjoining blocks and grow wheat or anything else; they can go on to the land at the same time and pay the same prices; they can have the same health and the same opportunities and the same amount of rain ; yet in ten years one of them will have £5,000 or £10,000 in the bank as a “nest egg” and the other will still be paying interest on his mortgage to some banking institution. The misrepresentation that is taking place is designed to give people the impression that the wheat-grower has been fixed down - that is a phase honorable gentlemen opposite use - so that they shall not receive what they are entitled to from their industry and so that they shall not receive more than £6 10s. a week. Nothing could be further from the truth. After a calculation involving consideration of the wheat-farmer’s labour, brainpower, investments, climatic hazards and so forth, we have said that the price he shall be guaranteed shall be a price a t which it is considered that any man can grow wheat at a profit and that the farmers shall be able to earn in times of good prices and even when wheat drops to 6s. 3d. a bushel shall be substantially greater than £6 10s. a week. The fact is, as I pointed out earlier, that it has been ascertained in certain wheatgrowing areas that a large number of farmers can grow wheat profitably at 3s. 6d. or even 2s. 6d. a bushel. It is true that in other parts of the country it may cost 8s. 6d. a bushel to produce wheat, but, by and large, the most efficient growers on country where wheat should be grown can make substantially more than £6 10s. a week under this bill. Many will make £12 or £15, and £25 would not be out of the question. If that is not true I wonder why, during the budget debate, members of the Australian Country party were so articulate about the high rates of tax and the necessity to reduce them because they press so heavily on primary producers. All this talk is the acme of inconsistency. Why, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) talked about farmers having to pay 10s. in the £1 in income tax. They are farmers who must be doing magnificently out of the growing of wheat. They will continue to do magnificently at 6s. 3d. a bushel, which is the approx mate lowest amount that they can receive for five years. Those facts are incontrovertible The honorable member for Indi worked himself into a sweat. He talked about £6 10s. a week. He said that that represented the minds of the Trades Hall. Not one member of the committee was a worker’s representative. The honorable member said that £6 10s. a week and no more is the amount that wheat-farmers could get. He said that the basis of calculation of the cost of production was wrong. The calculation was made by a committee with not the remotest association with the Trades Hall. Then with deplorably mawky talk, the honorable member said that a peasant’s occupation was not a good occupation. I only wish that we had made sufficient progress in this country and that Labour had been long enough in power to ensure that throughout northern New South Wales and the western district of Victoria thousands more people could have been happily settled on the land; but because of the retrograde policies of previous antiLabour administrations we have the deplorable state of affairs that exists to-day when the State governments are experiencing difficulties in their attempts to resume properties in order that men who fought for this country may be settled on the land. Men with substantial holdings are resisting efforts to induce them to yield some of their land. Some decent men have willingly divested themselves of some of their excessive holdings, but they are too few. If putting thousands more Australians on the land is introducing peasantry, let us have more of it. Honorable members opposite do not encourage young Australians by their misrepresentations. The honorable member for Indi sometimes displays a shocking lapse of memory. He referred to the interest rate used as a basis for calculating the cost of producing a .bushel of wheat and the income that wheatgrowers will receive in the next few years. The farmers will be allowed to earn as much income as they can and may make as much as they can from their efficiency. The honorable member in his sickly sentimental manner referred to the profits of joint stock companies. He said that the balance-sheets showed that few of them paid dividends of less than from 8 per cent, to 15 per cent. Yet, during the budget debate, he wanted us to reduce the taxes on their profits. The honorable gentleman also talked about slaughtermen earning £13 a week. I cannot see him working in a slaughter house. I would be hard put to it to enter the slaughtering trade myself. He begrudged those men their £13 a week and said that they wanted to earn £20 a week. Whether the slaughterman earns £13 or £20 a week he is entitled to it. But he gets it for only a limited number of months in the year. The wheat-grower is to be guaranteed 6s. 3d. a bushel for five years. Given good seasons he is much more likely to earn £16 or £20 a week than £6 10s. The honorable member for Richmond’ (Mr. Anthony) is a bananagrower, and, I understand, a most successful one. Does he tell me that the other banana-growers in his district can grow bananas as cheaply as he can? Of course they cannot. Many have land as good as his and the same opportunities, but they lack his capacity for good management. But he does not sell bananas on the market at 6d. a dozen less than they do because he can grow them more cheaply. For years the growers had no guaranteed floor price for their export wheat but only a guarantee of 5s. 2d. a bushel for one-fifth of the total crops. The farmers now are guaranteed in respect of practically the whole of their crops up to 100,000,000 bushels for export plus the home-consumption wheat. For five years they will enjoy security not hitherto enjoyed by them. This is a substantial improvement upon the days when the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) found not only the wheat industry but also all ‘ other primary industries in such a deplorable state that he was compelled to introduce legislation into this chamber for the adjustment of farmers’ debts. The wheat industry was at that time in a state of destitution. If this is a bad measure, then honorable members opposite know what to do about it. They can demonstrate the genuiness of their utterances by voting against this clause.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard). The Minister said repeatedly that I had found fault with the committee that was appointed to ascertain production costs in the wheat industry. That is absolutely untrue. I have said on three occasions that the committee applied itself to its job in a practical manner, and that, in the circumstances, its finding was reasonable. What I did say, however, was that the finding of the committee had not been accepted either as the cost of production or as an index figure. The committee determined what it considered to be the cost of production, but made no allowance for a margin of profit. The Minister also claimed that I had said that certain wheat-growers in my electorate were paying 10s. in the £1 income tax. That is quite true, but I explained that that was because, in the past year, they had been getting the advantage of the high overseas prices. It bad nothing whatever to do with the cost of production when the price of wheat falls, and this measure becomes operative.
– We have heard some remarkable speeches to-night in this debate. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) and the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) delivered violent attacks upon the Australian Country party, but said little about wheat. They made those attacks because they see the shadow of the fate that is confronting them. They know what will happen to them at the next election, and their squeals have reverberated around this chamber to-night. However, I did not rise to speak of political matters. My object is to seek a fair deal for the wheatfarmers of Australia, and the clause with which we are now dealing is the key to the whole bill, because it fixes the price of wheat for this year at 6s. 3d. a bushel. That is the basis upon which any future variation, upwards or downwards, will be made. When one is about to build a house, one has to be quite certain that its foundations are sound. There is the gravest doubt about the soundness of the foundations upon which this price of 6s. 3d. a bushel has been based. It is founded on the recommendation of a committee which was set up by this Government to establish the cost of producing a bushel of wheat. As the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) said the committee did not seek to establish what would be a fair return for the toiling farmer who works not a 40-hour week or even less as is the case in some industries, but whose hours of labour are fixed only by the light of day. He works from dawn to sunset striving to wring a pittance from the soil. That is the man whom we, in the Australian Country party, represent in this Parliament, and it ill behoves honorable members opposite including a Minister to suggest that the working conditions of the man on the land who is the very backbone of this Commonwealth, should be reduced to those of European peasants. I heard the Minister say that he had yet to learn that peasants did not earn an adequate living. If the Minister had fought and travelled in European countries as I have done he would know the sort of life that peasants live. It is a hard cruel life, and the Minister did not service to his party or to his country by suggesting that he supported the policy laid down .by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) for the destruction of all “ little capitalists “ in this country. Apparently the Minister does not want the wheat-farmers to own anything at all. Let us examine some of the methods by which the committee reached its conclusions. We have heard during the past week considerable criticism from members of the Government of gallup polls. We have been told that those polls, which had come to be regarded as so reliable throughout the world, are entirely unreliable, and that no heed can be paid to them as has been shown by the result of the recent presidential election in the United States of America. It is rather surprising, therefore, that the Government should have taken what was virtually a gallup poll of the wheatgrowers of Australia on the cost of producing wheat. Lest I be accused of being unfair, I shall take my figures from the interim report of the committee itself. According to that report, there are approximately 64,000 wheat farms licensed with the Australian Wheat Board. Originally, it was decided to issue 5,020 questionnaires “ on a stratified random selection in the following manner “. I do not know what a “ stratified random selection “ is. It is beyond the comprehension of the ordinary human being, but apparently it is a phrase that is known to the economists. Then, apparently, the committee decided to issue 1,000 more questionnaires when the response to the original ones was so poor. Finally, only nine replies were received from Queensland, so that that State was eliminated for consideration altogether. In all, 851 replies were received. Then the committee did some culling and cut out 216, bringing the total down to 635 wheat-farmers in the whole of Australia, out of the 64,000 licensed by . the Australian Wheat Board. Upon the information supplied by those wheat-growers, the committee based its recommendation on the cost of producing wheat. Not even the gallup poll of America was worse than this. That was under 1 per ,:ent. of the total wheat farmers in Australia. The committee came to the conclusion that the farmer was entitled to have an income of £6 10s. a week and that was brought in as a component to fix the price of wheat at 6s. 3d. a bushel. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully)-
– He is a good man.
– He was a very good man for New Zealand ; he sold our wheat to them at 5s. 9d. a bushel. He was not such a good man for the wheat-farmers of Australia. He said the £6 10s. a week was only a basis, but the people who wrote the report did not say that. This is what they said -
The committee is of the opinion that it is not called upon to decide what is a fair remuneration to a farmer for his own efforts, but inasmuch as some cash wage must be used in formulating the cost of production, Six pounds ten shillings (£6 10s’.) per week has been allocated for this purpose.
Although honorable members on the Government side of the committee may argue this matter until they are blue in the face, the Government cannot get away from that fact, because that is what the report states.
I have farmed a lot in my life, and despite the allegations that have been made against me to-day, I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I have had to work hard on the land and still do so. I contend that the £6 10s. a week that the farmer is to get for his skill, remembering the long hours of work that he has’ to spend on his farm, is a poor and inadequate remuneration as compared with £7 17s. a week that a leading hand in the dairying industry gets for his work. The farmer, who is a man of skill, and who has to take the risks of the seasons, is to get less than the hired hand in the dairying industry. He suffers all the vagaries of the seasons and takes all the risks of his farming, and is to receive a problematical £6 10s. a week. Then the committee gave an explanation of its generosity. Honorable members can see through this report. There is evidence throughout the procedure in connexion with this matter that the Government is belting down the price to be guaranteed to the toilers and to the workers of the soil. The bureaucrat who is paid wet or fine for toiling here in Canberra, does not suffer like the farmers do to produce the food for those who are clothed in greater glory than even Solomon was. The farmers are being forced down to the level of peasants in the European countries. The committee went on to give its reasons for deciding on this magnificent sum of £6 10s. a week. In doing so it used these words -
He seldom pays rent, as his house is pari of the property on which he lives and works.
I have yet to learn that the wages of a man who is working under an industrial arbitration award in this country are cut down because he happens to own his house. There is no means test for the workers in the factory in the city, yet because the farmer owns a house, his remuneration is to be cut down. The report continues - 1
Local government rates are defrayed by the business of the farm-.
The rates on a house belonging to a city worker are defrayed by the person who owns it. The report continues -
The water supply is part of the farm and where water rates are payable these are included in the farm’s costs. lt must be remembered that pipes and windmills have to be paid for. The committee also stated -
Fuel for the house is usually provided from the farm.
We do not concede that the farmers must put in his Saturday afternoons chopping wood and bringing it into the homestead in order to provide fuel for the coppers for washing day on Monday and fuel stoves for the rest of the week. Fuel is net like manna from heaven ; it does not fall down into the stove in the home. Why then should the farmer not be allowed remuneration for cutting and carting it? The report continues -
In the majority of instances many commodities are provided from the materials produced from the farm, particularly dairy produce, eggs, poultry, meat (or at least mutton and sometimes pork) and in most instances, for at least part of the year, vegetables.
Then there is the matter of interest on capital. This interim report of the committee states that the farmer should be’ allowed a. reasonable rate of interest on the equity he has in his farm, but it fixed that rate at 3£ per cent. It probably had another look at the matter in the ensuing few weeks and no doubt the Minister said in effect, “ You cannot let the farmer have 3$ per cent.; that is too much altogether “.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It would be impossible for any member of the so-called Australian Country party to start or finish a speech without resorting to misrepresentation. I shall refer first to misrepresentation by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). A short while ago the Minister said that he could not see anything objectionable in the use of the term peasant. I say that it is the Minister and his predecessors who have saved the farmers from being reduced to such a position. I was a farmer under an anti-Labour government and I shall not forget my experiences. The honorable member for New England is acting in the interests of the speculators whom he has always served so well. The second misrepresentation to which 1 shall refer concerns a statement that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) is supposed to have made about two years ago and it has been taken right out of its context. I refer to the use by the Minister of the expression “ little capitalists “. Perhaps the honorable member would like to be one of the great barons of Europe. Perhaps he would like te keep the farmers in the state from which the present Government has rescued them. Let us look at recent history. I shall quote some extracts from The South Australian Wheat-grower of 19th December, 1946. That journal warns the people to beware of going gack to the old days of depression, bankruptcy, unemployment, poverty, indebtedness, and serfdom. It stated -
During, the eleven years from 1930 to 1940. 3,270 South Australian primary producers, the bulk of whom were wheat-growers, went bankrupt - an average of 298 a year.
– That was during the regime of the Scullin Government.
– How could they help it?
– The honorable member for Gippsland was actually one of the victims and at that time he stumped the country telling his fellow farmers all about monetary reform and about the financial organization of this country. He would be called a Communist if he made such remarks to-day. That is what this Government has rescued the farmers from. The honorable member’s conscience pricks him.
The farmers to-day at least have a foundation to work on. When a farmer sows his seed he knows that for the next five years he will get at least 6s. 3d. a bushel for his wheat.
– That is only the cost of production.
– That is what he will receive for the proportion of his wheat that is exported. Added to that he will have the payment for the home consumption proportion and in addition will receive any increase recommended by the committee. The farmer knows what he will get. When wheat-farmers bought land at £30 an acre in the earlier times to which I have referred, they did not know that within two years they would receive only ls. 6d. a bushel for their product. That occurred in the days when the Opposition parties were in office. Farmers went bankrupt in those days and the banks took over their actual physical assets. The farmers have never recovered from that disaster. When the Opposition parties were in office they made an attempt to do something, but what they did only provided a guarantee to the mortgagees. The anti-Labour Government of the day said in effect, “ We will borrow from the banks to lend to the farmers.” So the banks got it both ways. The Government of that day called that procedure debt adjustment. The South Australian, Wheat Grower stated on this point -
The number of farmers in the Commonwealth under the debt adjustment schemes, by the middle of .1943, totalled 10,188. .Of these, 1585 were in South Australia.
Those were the conditions then existing and they are the reason why the wheatgrowers and their organizations have fought for the stabilization scheme ever since. Honorable members of the Australian Country party took the most prominent part in opposing stabilization. They laid down all kinds of smoke-screens, but now that stabilization has been achieved by a vote of the wheat-growers themselves they have not the courage to oppose it or vote against it in this Parliament. They are, instead, still trying to claim some of the credit. The South, Australian Wheat Grower continues -
In 1935-36, the number of holdings utilized for wheat growing in Australia was 51,529, so that approximately 20 per cent, of the wheatgrowers of the Commonwealth were forced to seek the refuge of debt adjustment legislation. The debts settled amounted to £20,620,000. What a magnificent recommendation for open marketing.
One of the greatest opponents of stabilization is the present Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr.
McEwen). I do not know how he has reached his present position. 1 can understand the attitude of recently elected honorable members who are members of the Australian Country party. I do not think that they know much about the matter and I am convinced that they are sub-normal. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) must be sub-normal or sub-concrete or sub-something. I can understand the attitude of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) and that of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton), but the honorable member for New England said that the committeewas deliberately appointed to bring thewheatfarmer down to the level of earning £6 10s. a week. He probably thought that some farmers would believe him although I do not think any one would.. Anyone who listened to the honorable gentleman could be excused for thinking that it was the Minister himself who had! determined the cost of production figure. We know what interest rate is included in the calculation. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) dealt with that aspect very effectively. I mentioned recently the percentageof farmers who had money in the bank at that time. Forty per cent. of them had no banking account, about 20 per cent; had lessthan £5 in the bank, and only about. 11 per cent, had more than £100 on deposit. Yet we now hear this tarradiddle about how the Government by this bill is bringing the farmer down to the status of a peasant. I know that the honorable member for New England owns broad’ acres but he has a very narrow mind. The bill will make no difference to him but probably he would be the first to object toit. He talks a great deal about returned soldiers, but he would want the last farthing for any land that he sold to a returned soldier. At least the Government can say to returned soldiers whointend to enter the wheat-growing industry that they will find more security in it than their fathers did. They will have a guarantee for at least five years. Wheat-farmers have never had that before and until the present Government took office such a guarantee had neverexisted in any primary industry. Our- dairy-farmers were probably not so misled by the Opposition and were better organized than are the wheat-farmers, and they have already received the benefit of the cost of production index. There is a floor price for wool. None of these advantages existed until the present Government came into office. It is sheer humbug to talk about the Government bringing the farmers down to the status of peasants.
.– Thehonorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) said, referring to my statement that the executive of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation had agreed to the guaranteed price of 6s. 3d. a bushel, that I should at least be up to date in my references. The honorable gentleman referred to a statement that was made in February by representatives of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, and I suggest that he should keep himself up to date. The statement to which I referred was made at a meeting between the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) and the executive of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation which took place last July, or some months after the statement was made to which the honorable gentleman referred. He said further that at the present time wheat-growers cannot obtain cornsacks from any source other than the Australian Wheat Board. That is incorrect. The purchase of wheat sacks can still be effected through merchants, as was done previously, because the merchants act as agents for the board.
When the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) criticized certain findings of the Wheat Costs of Production Committee they criticized the findings of the farmers’ own committee. Two of the members of that committee were representatives of the farmers, two were representatives of other interests, and the chairman was a Supreme Court judge. The honorable member went on to say, in effect, that throughout the whole of the report there is to be found the dead hand of the Treasury official. He was endeavouring to mislead the people of Australia into believing that the Australian Government had appointed a Treasury official as a member of the committee for the purpose of having the cost of production assessed at as a low a figure as possible. There was no representative of the Treasury on the committee at all. The chairman was Mr. Justice Simpson. The members were Mr. Browne, a consulting accountant, Mr. Connelly, a former member of the Metropolitan Land Board of New South Wales, and Mr. Marshman and Mr. Walker, who are wheat-growers. The statement that one member of the committee was a Treasury official and that the dead hand of the Treasury is noticeable throughout the report was not only misleading but also entirely untrue.
The honorable gentleman has said that we are endeavouring to peg the manager or the owner of a farm to a mere £6 10s. a week. That criticism has been effectively dealt with, and I do not propose to refer to it again. He went on to say that the Government is trying to tie farmers down to conditions of serfdom. What was the position when the honorable gentleman was a Minister? The Australian Wheat Growers Federation was created to work to obtain security of tenure for the farmers and to ensure that the first £150 of a farmer’s income should be regarded as a living allowance for him and his family. In spite of all the knowledge and skill that farmers must possess, £150 was the miserable living allowance that was then suggested. That was the situation when the Australian Wheat Growers Federation was founded. The Wheat Growers Union of Western Aus-, tralia was formed by people who broke away from the Primary Producers Association, which was then the official body of the Australian Country party, because they were dissatisfied with the conditions that then existed. Some members left that organization and formed the Wheat Growers Union of Western Australia, under the leadership of Mr. I. G. Boyle, who was later a member of the Western Australian Parliament and was, at the last genera] election, a Country party candidate foi1 the Senate. When he was president of that union, Mr. Boyle formed the Australian Wheat Growers Federation and became its first president. Throughout the Commonwealth, farmers were being sold up by the merchants and the banks, and as a result these organizations were created. They were born in the poverty of the wheat industry and they came into being to further the principle of security for farmers. There was no argument about whether the farmers should get 4^- per cent, or o£ per cent, interest on their equities. The royal commission that inquired into the position of the farmers at that time found that 80 per cent, of them had no equity at all. The committee that inquired into the cost of production of wheat recently, on the other hand, found that their equity at the present time is two and a half times the borrowed capital of the industry. When the royal commission was appointed, SO per cent, of the farmers of this country had no equity at all, but now their equity is 250 per cent, of their borrowed capital. That is the way in which we have lifted the industry. Improved conditions have given the farmers a large equity. Having regard to that fact, the Wheat Costs of Production Committee recommended that they should be allowed interest of per cent, on their equities. The farmers had no equity when honorable members opposite were in power, as the report of the royal commission showed, but to-day the Government proposes to allow them 3$ per cent, on an equity that is 250 per cent, of the borrowed capital of the industry. Is it any wonder that the Australian WheatGrowers Federation has accepted this magnificent bill? The honorable member for New England, and the honorable member for Indi, particularly the latter honorable gentleman, have criticized every part of this bill. Why have they not the backbone to vote against it? They are the greatest hypocrites that have ever walked the floor of this chamber. When the wheat-growers were in poverty and were offered a miserable 2s. 6d. a bushel by the Menzies Government, Western Australian growers took round the hat to send their representatives to Canberra to ask for a miserable additional 3d. a bushel.
– Did they get it?
– The honorable member for Indi came into this Parliament as a roaring radical. He was going to clean up the banks and the merchants and get justice for the farmers, but when our representatives asked him for 3d. worth of assistance he replied, “ I am not going to embarrass my Government “.
– He is a friend of the farmers !
– Now that the growers have voted in favour of the Government’s scheme he tells us how badly they have been done by, and says that when the Opposition parties again assume office they will do this and that for the farmers. I often wonder what would happen, should the Opposition parties ever be returned to office again. Although I hope that the test will never be applied. I am prepared to say that if those parties again assume office the first thing they will do to the honorable member for Indi - because no member of the Liberal party has ever made the extravagant promises he has made - will be to get rid of him. Probably, they will appoint him to a commissionship. They will put him on the skids, and “ Herr Hess “ will take his promises away with him.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I take this opportunity to raise a matter of considerable importance to poultry producers in Western Australia. Some time ago Lieutenant-Colonel Fitzgerald, of Singapore, was able to arrange through distributors in Western Australia, with the consent of the Egg Marketing Board in that State, for the supply of 5,200 cases of eggs to the Royal Army Service Corps at Singapore. The period of the contract which was six months, will expire next February. The contract called for the supply of 13^-lb. pack. The Australian Egg Board reluctantly approved the contract, although the eggs are of the same pack as that supplied to the United Kingdom Government and to the Royal Navy at Singapore. So satisfied were the people in Singapore with the eggs supplied under that contract that recently they requested producers in “Western Australia to double the original quantity supplied to the Royal Army Service Corps and, in addition, to supply 50,000 eggs a week for the Malaya Command. The Egg Marketing Board in “Western Australia advised that these eggs could lie supplied almost exclusively in 13-lb. pack and the balance in 15-lb. and 17-lb. packs subject to the approval of the Australian Egg Board. However, that body refused to grant permission to “Western Australian poultry-farmers to supply the additional quantity, although it was advised that freight and other necessary arrangements could be made. There is a surplus of 12-lb. pack available in the eastern States, and the Australian Egg Board requested the Royal Army Service Corps at Singapore to negotiate with producers in those States for the supply of the additional eggs which the corps requires. The board claimed that the 12-lb. pack is acceptable to the Royal Army Service Corps at Singapore. Poult ry -farmers in “Western Australia are puzzled to understand how the 12-lb. pack would be acceptable to the Royal Army Service Corps at Singapore when the British Ministry of Food will not accept eggs below 13^-lb. pack quality for civilian consumption. They cannot understand how the British Ministry of Food would allow 12-lb. pack eggs to be supplied to British troops in Singapore. The egg marketing authorities in the eastern States knew that “Western Australian poultry-farmers had been receiving better prices from Singapore than those prescribed under the United Kingdom agreement. It is clear that those authorities wish to unload their surplus 12-lb. pack at the higher price.
I emphasize that “Western Australian businessmen explored the market in Singapore and satisfactorily supplied it. They have now been asked to increase their supplies, and they are in a position to do so, but the Australian Egg
Board has refused to approve the arrangements. I also point out that Singapore is a natural outlet for “Western Australian poultry-farmers who have no market whatever in the eastern States. Poultry-farmers in Western Australia object to the fact that whilst they can supply 13^-lb., 15-lb. and 17-lb. pack quality eggs the marketing authorities in eastern States are endeavouring to upset the arrangement which I have mentioned so that they can get rid of their surplus of the inferior 12-lb. pack. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) to inquire into this matter. The Australian Egg Board will hold its next meeting on the 30th of this month and unless satisfactory arrangements are made within the next six weeks and the present contract is allowed to terminate, Western Australian poultry- farmers are likely to lose the whole of the Singapore market. I appeal to the Minister to investigate the actions of thi’ Australian Egg Board in this matter and to ensure that Western Australian poultry-farmers are given justice.
– m reply - I have listened attentively to the story told by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton). I remind him that when the Egg Export Control Bill was being considered in the Parliament some time ago, he and his colleagues took strong exception to the provision in the bill which empowered the Minister to interfere with the activities of the Australian Egg Board. I note that the honorable gentleman is not asking me to interfere with the board ; he is asking me to investigate its activities. I am willing to carry out such investigations. However, if, as the result of such investigations I should find that an injustice has been done to Western Australian poultryfarmers, does the honorable gentleman desire that I interfere with the operations of the Australian Egg Board? I shall investigate the matter to which he has referred, and with his support 1 shall interfere with the operations of the board if an injustice has been done to the Western Australian poultry-farmers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Common wealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Interior - J. Cassidy, S. H. Kyle-Little, J.Scherrenberg.
Labour and National Service - W. M. Hurley.
Stevedoring Industry Act - Orders - 1948, Nos. 17-31, 33.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
British Pacific Fleet.
Mr.Francis asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Has his attention been drawn to an article from London in a Queensland newspaper of Tuesday, the 19th October, in which it is stated that the British Admiralty was planning restoration of the British Pacific Fleet?
Has he received any official intimation on this vital subject; if so, is he in a position to give details to this House?
If not, will he inquire if the article has any foundation?
What will be the Australian Government’s attitude to such a proposal?
Will he indicate what would be the new fleet’s operational base and what would be the Australian Navy’s scale of co-operation?
Has the Minister any knowledge of the statement that the future strength of the British Far East Station, now based operationally at Hong Kong and with head-quarters at Singapore, is likely to include two aircraft carriers, three six-inch cruisers, a full flotilla of modern fleet destroyers, a complete escort group of frigates and a flotilla of the latest submarines with a modern parent ship?
When the two Royal Australian Navy destroyers now being built are commissioned what will be the full strength of the Royal Australian Navy?
Mr.Riordan. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Information received indicates - (a) that the title of Commander-in-Chief, British Pacific Fleet would be changed on the 15th September, to Commander-in-Chief, Far East Station; (b) that shore head-quarters and head-qnarters staff of Commander-in-Chief Far East Station, were to be moved to Singapore on the loth September, but that Hong
Kong would remain the operational and training base of the station; (c) that the Far East Fleet, at a later date, might be expanded.
No, since it can be expected that the Government will be kept advised by the United Kingdom Government of any developments.
See reply to No.5. 5. (a) The operational and training base of the Fast East Station Fleet is Hong Kong. (b) The re-siting of the naval head-quarters of the Far East Station at Singapore and the continued use of Hong Kong as the operational and training base for the British naval forces deployed on that station has involved no specific Australian co-operation. Peace-time cooperation between the British naval forces of adjoining stations is normal. For instance,. H.M.A.S. Warramunga, now on passage from. Australia to Japan, will call at Hong Kong for fuel. The whole of the post-war defence plan is based on co-operation in British Commonwealth defence for which special machinery has been provided.
No. See reply to Nos. 2 and 3.
Full information regarding the naval programme is contained in a statement on post-war defence policy made by my colleague, the Minister for Defence, on the 4th June, 1947.
Mr.Chifley. - On the 5 th October, the honorable member for New England) (Mr. Abbott) asked me questions concerning the attitude of the Commonwealth Government to certain articles in the Draft Declaration on Human Rights. I now inform the honorable member as follows : -
The Australian Government adheres, and will continue to adhere, to the principles expressed in the Draft Declaration on Human Rights. The declaration, however, is not yet in final form, and when it comes into effect, it can only be a general guide to governments in their legislative and administrative practice. Cases must be looked at in the light not only of the general principles embodied in the declaration, but also in the light of other general principles of similar validity to those in the declaration. In regard to the reference made by the honorable member to Australian girls employed by the American forces overseas, it has already been explained that a request was made by the American authorities that permission be given for a number of Australians to proceed to Pacific areas for service with the American armed forces, until such time as American personnel could be trained for such work. The desired permission was granted on the express condition that the period of their service would be for a stipulated time only, at the expiration of which the Australians would be returned to Australia at the expense of the American Government. The stipulated periods of service have long since expired. The fact that the Australian Government has requested the American authorities to abide by the terms of the agreement, in regard to these Australians does not infringe the provisions of article 10 (2) of the Draft Declaration on Human Rights. The Government is not seeking to debar them from leaving the countries they are now in and on their return to Australia, if they again wish to proceed abroad, they will be eligible for the grant of passport facilities on exactly the same conditions as apply to other residents of Australia. The young Australian soldier to whom the honorable member referred has a long criminal record and was brought back from Japan to serve a sentence of six months’ imprisonment lawfully imposed on him. He appealed to the Quarter Sessions and was admitted to bail. He absconded to Japan while his appealwas pending. His conviction was confirmed and he was brought back from Japan to serve his sentence.
Broadcasting : News Service of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information: - 1 to 3. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has informed the Postmaster-General that the determination of the agreement with the American Associated Press was made with a view to economy and in view of the satisfaction of the commission that adequate world coverage is available to it at the present time by other agencies including the British United Press which is American controlled as well as Reuters and Exchange Telegraphs. 4. It is not the practice to indicate government policy in answers to questions by honorable members. airmail Services.
– On the 5th November, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) asked the following question: -
Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral inform his colleague about the most unsatisfactory position regarding air mails from Adelaide to Canberra? I have complained about late delivery to the depart ment on a number of occasions, but I still find that air mail letters from Adelaide take as long to reach here often as ordinary mails. . For instance, last Tuesday afternoon a letter was posted to me in Adelaide and reached me in Canberra yesterday morning: However, . Tuesday afternoon’s issue of the Adelaide News was on the file in the reading room of the Parliamentary Library yesterday afternoon: When people pay the surcharge to have their letters sent by sir mail they should receive the benefit of a rapid service and should certainly receive their correspondence more expeditiously than correspondence sent by ordinary mail.
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information : -
Air mails from Adelaide to Canberra close in Adelaide at 4.30 a.m., 12 noon and 4.30 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Subject to satisfactory flying conditions, these mails should bede livered to Parliament House by 3 p.m.onthe same day in the case of 4.30 a.m.closingand the next day in the case of the other closings Inquiries disclose, however, thatonseveral occasions, due to a delay in transportingthe mail from the aerodrome totothePostOffice. at Canberra, delivery to ParliamentHouse has not taken place on the sameday.Steps are, however, being taken toobviatethese delays in the future.
Anti-British Activities: Secret Session or the Parliament.
– The answers to the honorable .member’s questions are as follows : -
Canberra : Police Uniforms.
Tunica T. Cabas.
Fruit: Shipping Delays.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 November 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19481109_reps_18_199/>.