18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr.. T. J. Clark), took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers:.
Mr. L. 0. HAYLEN, M.P.
Mr. DALY. - I direct the Prime Minister’s attention to a paragraph which appeared in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph under the heading “ Town Talk “, a column that is written by David McNicoll. The paragraph states -
The case of Hirohito Haylen’s ethics will break in Canberra to-day - with the Prune Minister taking an active part.
The paragraph then proceeds to state the finding of the ethics committee of the Australian Journalists Association in regard to certain actions taken by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) in this House, which, in itself, is a breach of Tule 54k of that association, which forbids publication, of the reports of the ethics committee: I ask the Prime Minister: Is ‘ not’ David McNicoll the Daily
Telegraph columnist who last August was unanimously found guilty by the federal executive of the Australian Journalists Association of “ having acted detrimentally to the interests of the Australian Journalists Association and its members, and in a manner discreditable to the profession of journalism “, and was fined £50 for an offence which amounted to journalistic blackmail and stand-over tactics-
Mr. Spender.. - I rise to order. If reflections are made on an honorable member by a newspaper, I submit that the honorable member’s complaint must be treated as an alleged breach of privilege, and that any question couched in the style of that now being asked by the honorable member for Martin, which is not concerned with the administration of any government department or the transaction of public business, is out of order and an abuse of the processes of the House.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER.- When honorable members contend that attacks upon them constitute a breach of privilege their complaints must be dealt with as the Standing Orders provide, and should not be made the subject of questions to the Chair. It is not for the Chair to determine matters of privilege, except insofar as it is necessary to decide whether or not they are urgent and on that ground should take precedence over all other business. In the circumstances, I think that the matter should be left where it is.
Mr. DALY. - I seek your guidance in the matter, sir. My question is mainly concerned with the use of the word “ Hirohito “. The question that I desire to ask the Prime Minister is, does he not consider that the application of the term “Hirohito” to the honorable member for Parkes is a scandalous reflection on an honorable member of this House, who is an ex-serviceman with an excellent war record? Having in mind also the journalistic record of McNicoIl, and the nature of the reflections cast by him on the honorable member for Parkes, does not the right honorable gentleman consider that appropriate action should be taken against that individual under Standing Order 285 for a breach of privilege and for contempt?’
Mr. CHIFLEY- -The whole matter seems- rather too involved for me to bother very much about. I think that the honorable member for Parkes has been in the political arena long enough to be able to meet the kind of attack complained: of and to give back more that he gets. Although I think that such attempts by. some, not all, members of the press to dis-. credit members of the Parliament do not advance the principles of democracy, I do not propose, in all the circumstances, to take any action.
Overpayments to Relatives
– From time to time I. have raised in this House during question and on the motion for the adjournment the subject of deductions from payments due to the estates of deceased exservicemen who had been prisoners of war of the Japanese. But although the war has been over for more three years nothing has been done to put the matter right. In some instances the date of death was wrongly assumed by the service department concerned, which from then onwards ceased to pay the allotments to dependants and claimed refunds of amounts allegedly overpaid. Instances have come to my notice of the department having claimed hundreds of pounds from dependants of deceased ex-servicemen on this account. The amount of these alleged overpayments has been taken from the amounts due to the estates of the deceased exservicemen and in some instances only a few pounds or a few pence have remained. Will the Prime Minister examine the matter with the Minister for Defence and appropriate service Ministers and ensure that justice shall be done by refunding to dependants amounts wrongly deducted from payments due to the estates of deceased ex-servicemen?
– I know that the honorable member has raised this matter on at least one earlier occasion. I shall discuss his request with the Minister for Defence and the other Ministers concerned with a view to having it finalized, even though the decision may not be entirely satisfactory to the honorable member.
– In view of the assertion that an immigration agent had collected from migrants £4,000 for agency fees, apart from passage money, although his agency had no ships with which to bring the migrants to Australia, will the Minister for Immigration inform the House: (1) Whether the agent is a prominent member of the official Labour party and was previously appointed to several government positions by the present Government? (2) Whether the Minister was fully aware that the agent was operating and’ whether he actually conferred with the agent regarding his immigration plans on several occasions? (3) Whet’her the department encouraged the agent to go ahead with his plans to bring out Italian migrants and provided him with facilities to enable him to do so?
– The agent to whom the honorable member has referred may or may not be, a member of the official Labour party; I do not know. He did confer with me and although I wanted to help those people who had nominated relatives to bring their kinfolk to Australia, I told him that I did not agree with his charges. It was because I did not agree with the agent’s activities that I introduced the legislation at present before the House which will enable me to ensure that persons who have made payments to immigration agents in excess of their passage money shall have a substantial part of that money refunded to them.. I told 1 ie agent very straightly on those few occasions just what I thought about this and other matters. I do not know whether he is a member of the Lang party of the Australian Labour party (Non-Communist) under the inspired leadership of a certain gentleman, or of the official Labour party; but I do know that in past years be was the organizing secretary of the honorable member’s own party.
– Has the Minister for Immigration seen the report that was published in the Melbourne Argus of the 6th November concerning the immigrants who arrived in the Panamanian ship Derna? In particular, has he read the reported comments of Mrs. Maulics, formerly a lecturer at the University of Riga, who claimed that during the voyage to Australia two young Jewish passengers organized meetings and broadcasts over the ship’s public address system for the purpose of instructing immigrants in Communist theory and practice? Has he made any investigation of the allegations? Who sponsored those immigrants? What reports has the Minister received from investigation officers concerning them and other migrants of the Same kind who preceded them to Australia ? What security checks are made at ports of embarkation regarding immigrants sponsored by the International Refugee Organization? Are these Communists to be allowed to remain in Australia? What action does r,hp Minister propose to take in relation to them?
– I have received a report upon this matter. I did not see the Argus story, but I did hear that criticism had been expressed by some persons. One of the persons who inspired the criticism is a Lieutenant-Colonel Hershaw, who is an International Refugee Organization escort officer. Persons with whom he was associated made the charge that certain people had indulged in Communist propaganda. Hershaw has an unsavoury reputation. Had he done in Australia the things which he tried to do on the ship, he would have been sent to gaol for a long term. He was one of the first to start the story about Communist activities aboard Derna.
Mr. Gullett interjecting,
– I shall answer the question in my own way.
-Order! The honorable member for Henty has asked a question, and should not attempt to answer it. He must extend to the Minister the courtesy to which he is entitled, that of being heard in silence.
– Lieutenant-Colonel Hershaw seems to be of the fascist type, of whom far too many are around to-day. I asked my officers to make a complete check, and I received a report from Major Weale, the Aliens Registration Officer of the Department of Immigration in Melbourne who was a member of the Commonwealth Investigation Service during World “War II. and is a most reasonable and responsible officer. He conducted the fullest possible investigation of the allegation of Communist activities aboard Derna and learned that some people who had sung folk songs in the Ukranian language had been regarded by other passengers as having sung .Soviet national songs. The honorable member for Balaclava and the honorable member for Henty may sigh at that statement; they appear to desire to place their own interpretation on the situation. The immigration officers, whom I regard as reasonable persons, reported that there was not the slightest justification for any of the charges that had been made. Major Weale stated that he had interviews with the captain of Derna, and with many passengers. He reported as follows : -
The captain said that Hershaw came to him with a report about allegations of communist activity aboard the ship and asked him to sign the report.
Hershaw had prepared the report. Major Weale’s statement continued -
The captain flatly refused to do so as there was no such activity among the passengers that he had noticed or that was brought to his notice by any of his officers.
Discussing the general conditions aboard ship, the captain said he had a very long and tiring voyage due to the bad coal. He had to restrict fresh water supply as the passengers were wasteful and he had to take necessary precautions not to run out of fresh water.
In conclusion, I would like to state that there is no truth in the allegations of communist activities on the part of some of the passengers but it is obvious that once these passengers felt they were free from European police supervision, they naturally discussed among themselves various topics including European politics, -which to a person looking for trouble, could easily be misinterpreted as propaganda.
If I have to decide between accepting the report of some lady professor from Riga and the report of a responsible officer of my own department, I shall back Major Weale’s opinion at any time.
– Will the Minister for Immigration say what percentage or proportion of “white descent” a person of mixed blood must have before he may be regarded as a white man under the Immigration Act? If a person primarily of white descent was passed for migration by the Australian Consul in Ceylon, why should that person be refused entry to Australia, apparently because of some proportion of colour in his descent, and why should he be told that the certificate of the Australian Consul in Ceylon counts for nothing? Is this, in fact, the position? If so, should it not be made clear that the Australian Consul in Ceylon has no authority to pass the applications of persons wishing to migrate to Australia, as, in the present circumstances, persons may be put to considerable expense in coming to Australia before finding out that they are unwelcome ?
– It has been the rule since the inception of federation that a person, in order to be regarded as eligible to enter Australia under our immigration laws must be substantially of European origin, or descent. The term “ white “ has never been used in any of our legislation or regulations, and if a person could prove that he was 51 per cent, of European origin or descent, he would be accepted. We cannot get down to that fine degree of certainty without going back about eight or nine generations. All persons of 75 per cent. European origin or descent are admitted. In the specific case to which the honorable member has referred, delegated authority, which is sometimes given to Australian diplomatic or consular representatives, was not exercised very carefully and the delegation was withdrawn. Certain persons who were 75 per cent. Asiatic were given landing permits from Ceylon and all were required to leave Australia. Those who did not go back voluntarily had their passages paid by the Commonwealth. The immigration laws while they stand must be administered as they stand. I am not referring specifically to the honorable member when I say that if any honorable member wants to alter the immigration laws, the Standing Orders of this House provide every opportunity for the submission of a private member’s bill for that purpose. While the laws remain as they are, the custom that has been followed for a very long time will continue to be enforced as it is at present. I say to honorable members opposite, who are sniggering, that if they do not at least submit private bills to alter the immigration laws with which they disagree, they are out of court entirely and have no ground for criticizing the administration of those laws.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration what is being done to direct immigrants to outlying parts of Australia, such as north Queensland, where more people are urgently required to develop the country, and what is being done to encourage people so directed to remain at the places to which they have been sent.
– There are two classes of immigrants. The first consists of British immigrants, whom we Jo not direct into employment or to any. particular locality and who have all the rights of British subjects including the right to go where they please in Australia and to engage in any occupation they choose. The second class consists of immigrants who come to Australia under the displaced persons scheme and are bound by an agreement to serve for two years in any locality and in any occupation to which they are directed by the Australian Government. Many Baltic immigrants have been sent to Queensland, about 900 of them to assist in harvesting the sugar crop this year. Most of them worked in the area from Ingham to Cairns, which is a very large part of north Queensland. Many others have gone into the timber mills of north Queensland. A cement works is being established at Townsville and the Government has promised to assist that undertaking by providing labour from among displaced person immigrants. A brick works is being established at Cairns and a similar promise was made that labour would be provided there. The Government is in every possible way working in collaboration with State and local government authorities and is helping to ensure that the more remote portions of Australia shall be at least as well served as the city areas. In some instances they are better served. We do not want any immigrants to settle in the city areas unless we can provide the necessary hostel accommodation for them. We employ them in the city areas where we have such accommodation, so that they may be employed in the manufacture of bricks, tiles, and cement, as those industries constitute the fundamentals of house-building. Otherwise we do not encourage their employment in the city areas. About 5,000 displaced person immigrants are now at sea on the way to Australia and they will be employed in a number of industrial undertakings in Queensland.
Mr. Edmonds interjecting,
– The honorable member for Herbert has been most interested in the affairs of his electorate and has been keenly attentive to them, but the honorable member for Robertson holds a special place in this Parliament at the moment because he was the leader of a parliamentary delegation to north Queens! a nd-
– Order I The honorable member for Robertson has asked a question and the Minister is entitled to answer it at length if he so desires, but he must confine himself to the answer and not deal with other matters.
– I welcome the question of the honorable member for Robertson, as he led a parliamentary delegation to north Queensland. He promised the Premier of Queensland and other authorities in that State that he would do his utmost to help to develop north Queensland. I assure him that the Government is doing everything possible in that direction and welcomes the opportunity to do so.
– Because of conflicting statements in the Tasmanian press about the future of the aluminium industry in Australia, I ask the Prime Minister the following questions: - (1) Is it correct that British interests desire to join the Australian Government in establishing the aluminium industry in the Commonwealth at a cost of £12,000,000? (2) Are those interests backed by the British Government? (3) Have we any guarantee that if the Tasmanian Government allows the British interests to take over its half interest in the aluminium project, the industry will still remain in Tasmania?
– The British Aluminium Company is interested in participating in a scheme for the production of aluminium in Australia and adjacent territories. So far as I am aware, those interests have not the direct sponsorship of the British Government; but, naturally, that Government desires that, wherever possible^ all essential requirements shall be produced in the Dominions in order to avoid having to obtain them from dollar areas. I understand that, in common with other longterm projects, the British Government would give its blessing te a proposal for a big development of the production of aluminium within the British Commonwealth of Nations or the sterling area generally. Certain inquiries have been made, and discussions have taken place between representatives of the British Aluminium Company and officials of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, and between some of the directors of the company and myself. It should be distinctly understood that no arrangements can be made without the consent of the Tasmanian Government which is a party to the- present agreement. C have spoken to the Premier of Tasmania about the matter, and he has pointed out that any new arrangement must provide for at least the same degree of industrial development in Tasmania as that envisaged under the present agreement. So that the Premier of Tasmania may have an opportunity to study all aspects of the scheme, one of the directors of the British Aluminium Company will arrive in Australia either this week or next week, and I have asked the chairman of the commission to prepare for him a complete statement indicating where any larger scale development might take place, and what possible effect that might have on Tasmania. Both the chairman of the commission and the Minister for Supply and Development have assured me that no matter what new scheme may be implemented, industrial development in Tasmania will be at’ least equal to, and probably greater than, that proposed under the original agreement. When I have ascertained all the facts, I shall place the proposals before the Premier oi Tasmania in writing, and in the meantime I assure the honorable member that nothing can be done without the consent of the Tasmanian Government.
Loss of Aircraft “Lutana”’.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation state whether the court of inquiry into the loss of the airliner Lutana has completed the taking of evidence? Is it true that the court has adjourned sine, die? If the inquiry has been completed and the court has adjourned, will the Minister request Mr. Justice Simpson, the chairman of the court of inquiry, to furnish its report and findings to him : as early as possible, and before the rising of the House for the Christmas vacation, so that the Parliament may have an opportunity to discuss the subject prior to that vacation?
– The .answer to the first question is “ Yes “. The court has finished its inquiry and has adjourned sine die. Its report has not yet reached me, and I shall not be prepared to take any further action until I have received and examined it.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation received a report that a fully-loaded Trans- Australia Airlines Convair aircraft, John Forrest, bound for Melbourne on Wednesday, the 3rd November, was, at about 3 p.m. on that day, forced to turn back to the Kingsford Smith aerodrome, Sydney and landed with . one engine functioning? If not, will the Minister order an inquiry into the occurrence- and make a short statement in the House so as to allay fears in the public mind regarding aircraft of this particular type?
– I know of no anxiety in the public mind regarding the Convair type of aircraft. I do not consider that there is the slightest justification for any anxiety, and any suggestion of the kind is completely without warrant. Not only Convair aircraft but also other types have had to return to an aerodrome occasionally with only one engine working, the other having failed. That is the proper course of action for a pilot to take, rather than run any risks by attempting to proceed. I am satisfied that Convair aircraft will give good service and that there is no justification for ordering an inquiry or making a statement on this incident.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel concerning the desperate water supply situation in Townsville. Recently I asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to use every endeavour to expedite the delivery by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited of pipes that had been ordered for the new water supply project at Townsville. The Minister very kindly informed me, as the result of his inquiries, that some of the pipes ordered from the company are now- ready for delivery and that the full order will be ready by the end of the year. I now ask him to request the Minister for .Shipping and Fuel to do his utmost to ensure that shipping will be provided to lift the pipes as they become available for delivery. The progress of the Townsville water supply scheme depends almost entirely upon the availability of shipping for this purpose.
– I shall be pleased to discuss the matter with the Minister for Shipping and Fuel. I know that he will do his utmost to ensure that ships will be available to load the pipes as they are delivered from the works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I remind the honorable member that the Australian 1 Government no longer controls interstate shipping. There is some responsibility on private enterprise, in this instance the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which owns ships, to ensure that its products shall be taken wherever they are required. Nevertheless, I am sure that the Minister for Shipping and Fuel will do whatever fie can, either by urging the company to provide shipping space for the pipes or by means of some effort on the part of the Government, to expedite the transport of the pipes to Townsville.
– In view of the report which appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail of the 5th November indicating that the Royal Australian Air Force was preparing an Australian-manned base at Manus Island where an advance party had already arrived, and stating that the initial force would prepare quarters, demolish camps and assemble surplus building material for shipment to Australia to ease the shortage in this country, I ask the Minister for Air whether, if the report be true, he will allocate to Darwin first priority for those materials so that the acute shortage of buildings in that city may be alleviated ?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable member has referred. I understand that a party is being sent to Manus Island, and that the Royal Australian Air Force will be represented in that detachment.
– The party is already at Manus Island.
– The allocation of materials from buildings demolished at Manus Island will not come within my jurisdiction, but I undertake to acquaint the appropriate authorities of the honorable member’s wish that some of those materials should .be sent to Darwin.
– The Prime Minister has just announced details of a trade arrangement with Japan. As the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs is aware, imports from Japan require that the importer shall be granted an import licence. I ask the honorable gentleman whether arrangements will be made for applications for import licences to he dealt with promptly. In the past, applicants have met with delays of three, four and five weeks, with the result that when the licences were issued the goods that they wanted to import were no longer available. Production in Japan is at a comparatively low level and a considerable demand exists for such goods as are available.
– It is quite true that an arrangement has been made in connexion with trade with Japan and that licences are necessary to import goods from that country. I will convey to the Minister for Trade and Customs the terms of the honorable member’s question and intimate te him the honorable member’s desire that applications for licences shall be dealt with promptly. I agree that they should be. The honorable member will realize, however, that sometimes considerable investigation of applications is necessary and that many difficulties have to be contended with.
– When legislation to grant tax consessions to people living in isolated areas and in bad climates was being considered, I suggested the inclusion of King Island within its scope. According to information I have now received from the Municipal Council of King Island, the isolation of that district has been accentuated by the cancellation of air services on account of the shortage of petrol. In view of that will the Prime Minister reconsider his decision to exclude King Island from the operation of chat legislation?
– When the honorable member previously asked that King Island should be brought within the zone in which the particular tax rebate to which she has referred is allowed, [ examined the matter and came to the conclusion that there was no warrant for making the special concession apply to the residents of that Island. Whilst there is little likelihood of this matter being reviewed immediately, I shall look into it in the light of the honorable member’s claim that the area is now more isolated than previously, when the law is again under review.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that commercial broadcasting stations in Sydney are proposing to broadcast a feature entitled “ The strange silence of Mr. Chambers -
Why is the Australian Army Minister afraid to speak out concerning our national defence?” Will the Minister arrange for an examination of the script of the proposed broadcast, so as to ensure that it is not calculated to do any harm to our defence and security measures?
– I shall ask tho Postmaster-General to consider the matter raised by the honorable member.
– Why not put it into the waste paper basket?
– That is where most of the speeches of the honorable gentleman who has interjected ought to go. Under the Australian Broadcasting Act the Postmaster-General is empowered to protect the security of the nation. I am not at .all sure that the people who broadcast in the interests of the Liberal party are worried in any way about the security of the nation, judging by the broadcasts that already have been made. I shall suggest to the Postmaster-General that he have a look at the script. If it contains objectionable features from a defence or security point of view, doubtless he will delete them. At present honorable members opposite, and their press and radio supporters, are entitled to tell as many lies as they like, and to misrepresent the position as much as they like, but after the bill that is now before the Parliament becomes law, radio announcers will not be allowed to impersonate honorable members. They will not be entitled to say, for instance. “ This is the Minister for the Army speaking “, and then attribute to the Minister words that he has never uttered, and express sentiments that he absolutely repudiates. If they wish to tell straight lies, no matter how malicious or vicious, they will be entitled to do so, but they will not he permitted to continue to endanger the security of this country.
– Why does the Minister not answer the question?
– The Minister should make his answer of reasonable length.
– I am being interrupted continuously-
-Whilst 3 dislike interrupting the Minister when he is answering a question, I am obliged to inform him that he must keep his answer reasonably within bounds. In my opinion he is indulging in too much argument. Honorable members are not entitled to introduce argument when asking questions, and the Minister is not entitled to do so in his reply. I ask him to be reasonable in this respect.
– I was endeavouring to explain matters relating to the last part of the question asked by the honorable member for Cook about security aspects. Honorable members opposite and radio commentators will not be precluded from saying anything they like in their broadcasts provided that the security of the nation is not likely to be endangered; if it is, they can expect that the investigation officers, or officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will take action to prevent such broadcasts.
– As nearly ten weeks have elapsed since I asked the Minister for Repatriation a question regarding statements published in Smith’s Weekly concerning ex-servicemen in State mental asylums, and as the Minister promised to expedite a reply, will he now inform me of the reason for the delay in making the reply available? “What is the reason for all the “ hush-hush “? Will he let me have the information ‘ without further delay?
– I discussed the matter raised by the honorable member with the chairman of the Repatriation Commission in Melbourne last week and [ expect to receive a reply from him within the next few days. When it comes to hand I shall make it available to the honorable member.
– I address the following questions to the Minister for [mmigration relating to a man named Savage, in respect of whom I asked a question last week, and I should be glad if the Minister would give me a short answer to them : Was there a passport in Savage’s possession which had a cur rency that had unexpired? Was he recalled from Korea, or some place in that area, at the request of the Government? If so, who was responsible for his recall, and what were the reasons for recalling him?
– I shall please myself whether I give the honorable member a short reply, a long reply, or no reply at all. I shall accept no reflection from any honorable member upon the nature of my replies.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! I ask honorable members to observe the Standing Orders strictly and to behave decently when addressing questions to Ministers and when Ministers are replying. If a Minister is interrupted by purely propagandist interjections, it is natural and excusable that he should introduce similar matter when he is replying. A Minister is entitled to be heard in absolute silence, and should honorable members interrupt him when he is replying he should refuse to answer the question.
– On other occasions I may take your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to refuse to reply to questions in the circumstances you have indicated, but despite the acrid nature of the question I shall now give the honorable member for Warringah a full reply in respect of this matter, which he also raised last week. It has been ascertained that Edward Patrick Savage was issued with a passport, No. A227768, at Brisbane on the 29th August, 1945, to enable him to proceed to the islands of the Pacific for employment with the American Red Cross. On the 5th August, 194S, I directed that the. Australian Consul-General at Manila should press for the return of men, as well as women, employed by the United States authorities. I have previously explained to the House that Australians proceeding abroad, during and shortly after the war, for employment with United States authorities were granted travel facilities on the basis of definite agreements with the United States authorities that the latter would return the Australians at the end of specified periods. I have sought to have these agreements carried out in respect of all Australians, both men and women, and it is quite likely that, as Mr. Savage is said to have claimed, he was returned to Australia by the United States authorities in fulfilment of their agreements. Mr. Savage did return to Australia quite recently, and now that he is back in this country I suppose that everybody is quite happy.
– I have received from the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The very serious reduction in the quantity of ment which will he available to the Government to fill the terms of the contract nf sale to the United Kingdom; the very serious financial losses which have already been incurred and which will further full upon primary producers through the lengthy strike of export slaughtermen in Victoria, and the negligence of the Commonwealth Government in failing, as an interested party and in the public interest, to act and endeavour to bring about resumption of slaughtering and end the chaos prevailing during the height of the Victorian meat export season.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– Owing to a strike of slaughtermen in Victoria, 500,000 lambs that were due to be slaughtered have not been slaughtered, and to that extent a serious loss of meat that was available for export has been incurred. It is the most serious loss that has befallen the producers of export meat in this country, and the United Kingdom Government has sustained the most serious loss of meat imports from Australia since the disastrous strike in Queensland, which occurred approximately a year ago and involved beef exports.
The Australian Government made a contract, which was recently renewed, to sell the export surplus of Australian’ meal to the United Kingdom. It did so without consulting the producers whose commodity was to be disposed of, and it fixed the contract price at a much lower figure than that which was contained in the contract that had been made a little earlier between the Governments of New Zealand and the United. Kingdom. The Government undertook to sell the whole of our available export surplus of meat to the United Kingdom and now that industrial trouble is preventing livestock from becoming available for export as carcass meat, it must concern itself with that situation, lt may be asked whether the failure to kill lambs entails a loss of meat. In reply to a question, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) said that the lambs would be available for slaughter later. No one who has a full knowledge of the meat industry will deny that a large proportion of the sucker lambs which are not killed when they are ready for slaughter do not become available at all for slaughter as lambs. A sucker lamb is ready for slaughter for only several weeks of its life, that is, when it has grown big enough, but before it has to be weaned from its mother and before grass seeds can mature, because, if they get into its skin, they prevent it from becoming available for slaughter as sucker lamb.
Victoria is now in the midst of its meat export season, which commenced in September and will continue until approximately December. Although this disastrous strike is in its sixth week, the Government, so far as I know, has done nothing to indicate that it accepts its share of responsibility for the settlement of the dispute. Five parties are concerned in the dispute. The first party consists of the producers, who appear to receive the least consideration ; the second and third parties are the employees and the proprietors of the export meat works; the fourth party is the Government, which has contracted to sell to the United Kingdom all the available surplus meat: and the fifth party is composed of the people of the United Kingdom who become consumers of meat sent to that country. Of those five parties the Government is obviously the party on which rests the initiative to end the present disastrous state of affairs, and the Opposition parties have supported the motion ih at I have made because they desire ro focus the attention of the Government n.nd the people o:u the Government’s obligation.
By way of contrast with the Government’s inactivity in this matter, I remind the House of the feverish efforts that it made last week to settle the strike in the coal mining industry. A continuance of that dispute would have imperilled the prestige of the Government, and the result was that its members were as active as a colony of ants whose bed had been disturbed. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and senior Ministers scuttled around in aeroplanes and motor cars to terminate the coal strike. Similarly, when a strike that had occurred in the sugar industry of Victoria recently threatened to embarrass the Government by causing widespread unemployment in the area affected, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) lent his good offices to bringing it to an end. However, although the meat industry strike is in its sixth week, and the harm done may be irreparable, because the exporting season lasts for only four months, the Government has shown no indication of any desire to intervene in it.
It is not clear, either to me or to any of the primary producers, where the boundary of demarcation lies between the functions of the Victorian wages board which makes awards for the meat industry and the authority of the conciliation commissioners of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. It is well known that although the State instrumentality concerned, the wages board, dealt with the matter Conciliation Commissioner Kelly has also concerned himself with the dispute by convening a conference of the parties and varying the award. Having in mind the assurance given by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) last year that our arbitration and conciliation machinery was to be “ streamlined “, to use his own words, by the appointment of fifteen additional conciliation com- missioners, surely the present dispute presents an ideal opportunity for the application of that streamlined machinery. However, I remind honorable members that as yet we have seen no evidence of its having functioned effectively.
The seriousness of the effects of the strike upon primary producers is so apparent that it hardly requires the production of any evidence. Nevertheless, in order to impress upon the House the disastrous consequences of the strike, I propose to read some excerpts from Stock & Land, a Victorian journal thai is non-partisan and non-political and is concerned solely with the welfare of the livestock industry. In the issue of that journal of the 27th October, the following statement appears: -
Lambs are becoming available in almost every district. During the last three week> numbers have banked up to such a degree that the degeneration of quality will prove disastrous to the producers. Many growers are nowforced to accept prices below production costs. Although competition was extended last week, it was not sufficient to absorb the increased supply, which was also aggravated by the inclusion of lambs from exporting companies. These lambs did not prove of any benefit to the market.
The last statement means that, in accordance with their normal practice, the exporting companies that had bought large numbers of lambs in all parts of the country, supplemented them by purchasing more lambs at auction. Because of the strike those companies found that they had no option but to sell their lambs on the open market, in competition with the producers. The newspaper goes on to point out the degree to which the price of lambs has fallen, and its reflection in a weaker demand for mutton sheep. The article then states -
The market for store sheep, particularly crossbreds, has received a setback because of the meat dispute. Large numbers of lambs must come on to the market at country centres.
Last week I received from producers in Shepparton, a meat-selling centre in my electorate a telegram in which it was stated that at one sale alone the prices bid for 2,000 lambs yarded had fallen by as much as 5s. a head, and that in consequence the producers in that district had lost £500. Shepparton is, of course, only one country centre, and the amount lost there represents only a drop in the ocean in comparison with the general losses that will be suffered by meat producers generally because of the strike. I do not think that anyone has contended that the price charged to purchasers of export lambs, which forms a part of the contract that was recently negotiated between he Governments of the United Kingdom and Australia, is more than fair to the producers. That being so, any reduction in price must involve the producer in substantial loss. The contract is based on an agreed price per lb. for carcass meat, but as every one who has any knowledge of the industry understands the only practicable method of selling livestock on the hoof ready for slaughter is by auction. One has only to read the statements concerning auction sales that have appeared in the press recently to know that while the strike has been in progress the price of export lambs has fallen continuously. Values have progressively declined by 3s., is., 5s., 6s., and 7s. a head. One hundred thousand lambs have been sold each week during the last five or six weeks. This will give honorable members some idea of the tremendous losses that have been sustained not only by the graziers and the meat industry generally, but also by the Australian economy. Yet no action has been taken by the Government to end a state of affairs that is disastrous alike to the producers and to the people of the United Kingdom, who are dependent on the delivery of Australian meat to supplement their meagre ration. [ should like the Minister to indicate whether the Government accepts any responsibility in this matter. If it does, the honorable gentleman should tell the House quite clearly what it is doing or what it proposes to do to end this unfortunate strike. From the standpoint of the producers the strike is alarming enough, but what alarms them more than anything else is the apathy of the Government and of responsible authorities. If the coal-miners could be ordered back to work I see no reason why the slaughtermen also should not be ordered back to work. Slaughtering is not a very pleasant occupation. I have killed and dressed many sheep and I know how dirty and unpleasant the slaughterman’s task is. I approve of the payment of reasonably high rates of wages to all people who are employed in dirty and unpleasant work. ] do not want any misunderstanding about where I stand on that matter. Under the recently amended Victorian wages board award covering slaughtermen, employee;in the industry are paid on a piece-work basis. By agreement reached between the employees and the employers slaughtermen employed in the exporting works have been allotted a quota of 80 lambs a day, arid those employed in the Melbourne City Abattoirs a quota of 60 lambs a day, payment being made on a piece-work basis. I have been informed that under a recent award of the Victorian wages hoard a slaughterman killing the full quota of beef earns no less than £13 5s. a week, and that a worker of average skill is able to kill his quota in 22 hours. I have also been informed that slaughtermen engaged in killing mutton are able to earn £13 15s. in a working week of from 35 to 36 hours. I do not claim that such wages are a penny too much, but I do contend that when such an award is granted some obligation rests on the men to observe it and to remain at work. At a mass meeting of slaughtermen held at Flemington on Saturday last, an open vote was taken and the men decided by an overwhelming majority not to return to work until all their demands had been granted. [Extension of time granted.’] I thank the House and the Minister for their courtesy. The men had demanded a 20 per cent, increase in their rates of pay, but the conciliation commissioner and the Victorian wages board after having several conferences with representatives of employers and employees awarded a 14 per cent, increase of the previously existing rates. I do not know whether or not that increase was reasonable. That is not for me to say. At least it seems to be reasonable and in conformity with increases granted to employees engaged in other industries. Whether it is reasonable or not, the award constitutes the law of the land. If, under the law, employers may be compelled to give their employees a 14 per cent, increase of pay, surely the Government should use its influence with the unions 10 persuade the men to go back to work and to put an end to the disastrous losses that I have recounted to the House. I have been informed that Mr. Randall, the chairman of the Victorian wages board, said last week that any person, who pays or receives an amount higher than the award commits a breach of the Commonwealth law. If that be so, the Commonwealth authorities certainly appear to be brought into this dispute. In the Manual of Defence Transitional Legislation I find that regulation 16 of the National Security (Industrial Peace) Regulations, which deal with the status, authority and activities of conciliation commissioners. reads as follows : -
Where a Minister is of the opinion that for the Court or a Conciliation Commissioner to obtain cognizance of an industrial dispute in any other manner prescribed by the Act or by these Regulations might result in a delay that would be prejudical to the interests of industrial peace, lie may direct a Conciliation Commissioner forthwith to hear and determine the industrial dispute and the Conciliation Commissioner shall thereupon have cognizance of the industrial dispute. [f that provision means anything, it means that this Government may authorize a Minister to direct one of the conciliation commissioners to recognize the existence of this industrial dispute, and to bear and determine it forthwith. [ invite the Government either to act under the terms of that provision or to state why it cannot or will not do so. The Minister should tell us whether he proposes to do anything at all about this dispute which is already having disastrous effects and which will have more far-reaching repercussions in the future. The delay in weaning lambs which has occurred as the result of this dispute must have undesirable repercussions next year. I do, not propose to go into the technicalities of live-stock breeding. Those who know anything about the subject are aware that any interference with the mating of ewes for the drop of lambs next year must have disastrous effects on the fat lamb industry. Having undertaken the sale to the United Kingdom of the whole of our exportable surplus meat, the responsibility rests on the Government to take appropriate action to end this dispute. I have referred to the action taken by the Government to end the coal strike in New South Wales. Other instances have occurred in which Commonwealth Ministers have successfully intervened in industrial disputes. I appeal to the Minister to tell the House frankly what the Government is doing or proposes to do in this matter.
– There are some peculiar features of the Victorian slaughtermen’s strike about which honorable members should be informed. I agree with the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) that it is regrettable that this dispute has occurred; hut T do not agree with him that all the blame for it rests upon the employees. The honorable member told us something of the conferences that have been going on in relation to the dispute and in the next breath asked if anything is being done. In accordance with normal practice, before the slaughtering season began the union representatives approached employers for the determination of adequate rates of pay for the ensuing season. Those who know this particular industry are well aware that the employers and employees have very close relations. They have numerous conferences and settle most issues by agreement. On this occasion, there would have been not trouble had the employers been loyal to each other and had they not “ black-legged “.
In the first place, the union sent a letter to the employers’ representatives - Sir William Angliss and Mr. Ogilvie, the secretary of the exporters group - and asked for the usual conference. That letter was written in the first week of October. . The reply was to the effect that the employers did not think that any good purpose could be served by holding a conference. Slaughtering had not then begun.
– That was during the first week in August.
– The honorable member may be right. The employers were not in a hurry. Nobody seemed to be perturbed about slaughtering being held up. Finally, the employees stopped work in order to impress upon the employers the need for a conference. Probably it was intended to be only a oneday stoppage. As a result of that action, the State wages board was convened later. There was no objection to that. When the board met, the employers moved for an adjournment for a fortnight, saying that they were not. in a hurry to effect a settlement. The Australian Government was worried and, during the adjournment, did exactly what the honorable member for Indi said, that it ought to have done. It inquired whether it could take action under any of its regulations to intervene in the dispute as a matter of urgency even if it were a State matter, as it was. The adjournment appeared to be a waste of time, and as the slaughtering season was drawing near, the Australian Government did intervene. It requested Mr. Conciliation Commissioner Kelly to investigate the trouble and call a compulsory conference of the parties in order to settle the dispute. Mr. Kelly made investigations and reported that the dispute was a State matter, as the wages board had met and had merely adjourned. He suggested that the parties should meet again without his intervention because he was not sure whether he had jurisdiction. However, the Australian Government eventually arranged for him to call the parties together.
When he had practically achieved a settlement, a strange event occurred’ which is responsible for the present holdup. Mr. Kelly convened a conference on the 15th October, and the parties then agreed to an increase of 14-J per cent, on the existing piece-work rates. It appeared certain then that a recommendation to that effect would be accepted by the unions but, while the conference was still in progress, some of the employers called another conference with representatives of their employees and agreed to the full demands of the men, who went back to work. The result has been that about half of the men employed in the industry, all those who are slaughtering for local consumption, have been working since then. Representatives of those employers, of which the largest company is Norman Smorgon and Sons Proprietary Limited, met representatives of their em- ployees behind the backs of the federal officers of the union, who were in conference with Mr. Kelly and representatives of the other employers, W. Angliss and Company (Australia) Proprietary Limited, and agreed to a separate settlement.
– Was that legal?
– No decision had been made then at Mr. Kelly’s conference. That action may have been legal at the time. It was an unusual occurrence.
– The chairman of tha wages board says that it was illegal.
– He may be right.
– But the Minister should know.
– The matter will have to be tested. When that agreement became known, I spoke to the representatives of the employees personally. They said, “How can we recommend that half of our men accept something lower than has been given to the others by the employers “ ? Obviously, the proposition that the men should adopt the agreement reached as the result of Mr. Kelly’s efforts would have been entirely unacceptable to them. As the result of that state of affairs, negotiations broke down completely. Ever since then conferences have been held almost weekly. Mr. Kelly has met the representatives of the men three or four times. He met some of them at Ballarat yesterday, and he is in Melbourne’ this morning. He has had talks with officials representing the parties to the dispute, and the conference that he has arranged for this morning will in all probability bring about a settlement. I hope and believe that it will do so. All the blame for the prolongation of this trouble is not on one side. I am certain that, if the wages board had not adjourned for a fortnight but had originally granted the increases that were agreed upon later, there would not have been any trouble. The employers were responsible for that adjournment. When the conference convened by the Commonwealth conciliation commissioner reached a decision, the employees’ representatives were to report the agreement to mass meetings that night and submit a recommendation that it be accepted. But, before the conference had broken up, the news arrived that Norman Smorgon and others had met and agreed to grant a 20 per cent, increase to employees. How can Mr. Kelly be expected to reach a settlement without agreeing upon the rates that were fixed by some of the employers behind the backs of the conference? He is in a very difficult situation, as are the union representatives. [ do not know of any previous case of that nature. The blame does not lie entirely with the union.
This trouble is chiefly due to the manner in which some of the employers negotiated with their employees. There was a lack of unity among the employers. Had they allowed the case to be put for all of them in the proper way, as they had always done previously, the matter would have been settled in the early stages. The honorable member for Indi did not charge the Government with neglect but, by asking what it had done, he implied that it had been inactive. It is wrong even to suggest that the Government has not intervened. As soon as it learned that the wages board had been delayed, it called upon a conciliation commissioner to examine the case in order no determine whether he had any jurisdiction. The State authority actually had the dispute under its control, and it would have been very difficult for the Commonwealth conciliation commissioner to intervene at that stage Therefore he suggested that the parties should meet again and achieve a settlement. When they did not do so, he called thom together aud. was in process of making a settlement, which I am certain would have been satisfactory to everybody concerned, when he learned that a section of the employers led by Mr. Norman Smorgon had acted separately. But for that action, the long delay in ending the dispute would not have occurred. The honorable member for Indi suggested that the dispute may have caused a loss of some thousands of pounds. I am not expert enough to judge that, but I know that many people associated with the parties to the dispute do not seem to be very concerned about it. The change of weather has caused a growth of new feed, and therefore the employers are not concerned about whether slaughtering begins or not.
– There will be cheap lambs when killing is resumed. Producers will need to rush hundreds of thousands of fat lambs to the abattoirs.
– I have stated some of the reasons why the dispute has not been settled. My greatest regret, and I believe that the honorable member for Indi shares it, is that the dispute has delayed the export of fat lambs to the United Kingdom. I do not desire to say too much, about the matter to-d:ay, because a conference is sitting at this moment to deal with the dispute. I have had a conversation with the conciliation commissioner this morning. He has already spoken to some of the officials. Yesterday he visited Ballarat and to-day he is in conference with the parties. 3 hope that a decision will be reached that will satisfy all the parties to the dispute. We have had our finger on the matter ever since the dispute began. In the initial stages, we had some difficulty in taking hold, as it were, .because the dispute arose out of a decision by a State wages board, and, therefore, was really a. State matter. When the State authorities failed to effect a settlement, we considered that the dispute would interfere with the new contract arrangements for the supply of fat lambs to the United Kingdom, and were anxious for -the difficulty to be settled as quickly as possible. We must not overlook the fact that the regular practice is for the representatives of employers and employees to confer before the beginning of each slaughtering season. The exporters nearly always review the rates for piecework, and the number of men to be engaged in gangs, and discuss whether any “ green “ men shall be employed in the gangs. The honorable member for Indi stated that, during the fat-lamb season, slaughtermen earned between £12 and £13 a week. I remind the House that the season extends over only two or three months of the year, and the employees work hard indeed. If they can help it, they will not add “ green “ men to their teams1 because all of them are experts and they fear that an inexperienced man will be a handicap to them. Few men in Australia and New Zealand can work as fast as the gangs employed in slaughtering fat lambs, and I am r> ure that the employees are entitled to every penny that they receive.
About a month ago, the men heard that the new meat contract with the United Kingdom provided for an increase of approximately Id. per lb. in the price payable to producers, and, naturally, they considered that they were entitled to receive a fraction of that increase.
– I am sure that the producers have no objection to that, as a principle.
– I agree with the honorable member. The employees asked the employers to discuss with them changes of circumstances in their employment. The employers, headed by Sir William Angliss, refused the request. I have sit at conferences with Sir William Angliss on hundreds of occasions, and never before have I known him refuse to meet the employees. According to the report which has been submitted to me, _ Sir William Angliss replied that no good purpose would be served by holding the conference. I emphasize that the proposed conference was the conference which was regularly held before the beginning of the slaughtering season. The wages board met to deal with the employees’ claims, and, on the motion of the representative of the employers, adjourned the hearing for a fortnight. Therefore, I do not accept the statement that all or even one-half of the blame for the long delay is attributable to the employees. The employers, by their conduct, are largely responsible for it.
. -This dispute is seriously disturbing large numbers of people who have no association with the fat lamb producers or the slaughtermen. From unexpected quarters, I have heard numerous complaints about the dispute, because it is delaying the export of meat to the United Kingdom, where it is urgently required. Many Australians send food parcels to friends and relatives in Great Britain and whilst that has my complete approbation, I point out that food parcels will not solve the problem of feeding the hungry people of the United Kingdom. They urgently require hundreds of
Thousands of tons of food. Australians returning from a visit to the United Kingdom report that the people of Great Britain are displaying apathy and listlessness, which are directly attributable to lack of food. Meat, of course, is a most important item of diet and the weekly ration available to Britons is extremely small. This dispute has prevented tinexport to the United Kingdom of hundreds of thousands of fat lamb carcase?.
The fat lamb season in Victoria is now at its height. The loss which the industry is sustaining as the result of the strike would have been much greater but for the intervention of providence. Earlier, the season looked as if it would develop quickly into summer, and grass on the hills and in the flats was becoming dry. Then rain transformed the whole situation for thousands of fat lamb raisers. Who is responsible for the dispute? In my opinion, this strike is one of the most despicable in our industrial history because it is preventing the export of urgently needed meat to the people of the United Kingdom. Australians arc well fed. Everywhere in the country we see evidence of prosperity, which is attributable principally to the high price? for our export commodities, and to the abundance of produce resulting from the excellent season last year. The next season should also be most satisfactory. However, the people of other countries are not in the same fortunate position as Australians. They lack food. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) stated that the Governmen has had its finger on this dispute almost from the beginning. If that be so. it has made haste slowly.
The present situation should never have arisen. The Minister’s account of the history of the dispute was not completely correct. I shall relate the facts. Last August, before the fat lamb season began, the union served on the meat exporting companies a demand for a conference, and, in addition, claimed a 20 per cent, increase of wages and an improvement of certain working conditions. It was obvious at the time that the employers could not accept the union’s demands, and so they replied that if the union made the demand for increased wages mandatory, it should submit its proposals to the wages board. The employers considered that the union’s demand for a 20 per cent, increase of wages was excessive, but stated that if the wages board ruled that that increase should apply, they would abide by it. There were no developments until the end of September, when the conciliation commissioner. Mr. Kelly, was called in to handle the dispute. At that stage, I contend the dispute became a Commonwealth responsibility. The conciliation commissioner stated that the matter should be referred back to the State wages board. That was done. The wages board began its hearing early in October, and the employers gave a guarantee that in order to avoid any delay, they would make the determination of the wages board retrospective to the 4th October. The wages board, in its determination, provided for an increase of wages by 13 per cent. The employees were not satisfied, and remained on strike.
The next development was that the conciliation commissioner, Mr. Kelly, again intervened in the dispute, which obviously had become a Commonwealth responsibility. A few days ago, he made an award providing for an increase of wages by 14 per cent. Again, the men were not satisfied, and stated that they would not return to work until all their demands had been granted. That kind of conduct should not be permitted in this country. “What would be the reaction of honorable members opposite if the export price of fat lambs seriously declined, industrial conditions became difficult and there was an abundance of labour offering in the slaughtering industry, and the employers said, “ “We propose to reduce wages. Those are our terms, and to hell with the law “ ? Such conditions should not be tolerated. The fat lamb season, which is comparatively short, begins at a definite time each year, and there is ample opportunity to conclude negotiations about wages and conditions before the slaughtering commences. If employers and employees are unable to reach an agreement at a round table conference, the arbitration machinery should be invoked to determine the issues. The employees had the opportunity to submit their claims to the State wages board and, later, to a conciliation commissioner who possesses wide powers under theCommonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. There is no need for a stoppage in any branch of industry. The three political parties which are represented in this House are in agreement on the. principle of arbitration and conciliation. The situation has been allowed to drift. As I have said, had it not been for seasonal conditions, the position would be much worse. In most parts of Victoria, there is a little more latitude than usual because of rain; but that does not mean that the Government should delay any longer action to secure a settlement of this dispute. Even if the dispute ended to-morrow morning, there would still be a bank-up of lambs awaiting slaughter, which would lead to congestion towards the end of the year. Quite a lot of lambs will have to be’ shorn. If they cannot be killed in the weeks just prior to Christmas, they will lose condition unless they can be sent to irrigation areas and fed on lucerne and other such fodder. It may be that there have been, faults on both sides, but I am convinced that the union is largely blameworthy. The union has laid down terms that the employers cannot accept, and which the wages board and the Commonwealth conciliation commissioner have, so far, regarded as exorbitant, because they have granted increases of only 13 per cent, and 14 per cent, respectively. Last week, when a coal strike threatened this country, the Australian Government acted promptly. On this occasion, too, action will have to be taken by some government to ensure the observance of industrial law in this country, otherwise the Australian people will lose all regard for that law. When the coal strike appeared imminent, representatives of the Australian Government, and of the Government of New South Wales, told the miners that firm action would be taken unless the strike was called off. Had the Australian Government shown the same firmness some weeks ago in handling the strike of slaughtermen in Victoria much of the loss that has occurred since that time would have been avoided. If it shows firmness now, the even greater losses that would occur in the near future will be avoided. During October, November, and December, lambs normally pour into the stock markets in thousands.
There is one other point that I should like to make. It is true that certain smaller firms have agreed to pay the 20 per cent, increase sought by the slaughtermen. In doing so, they are breaking the law. I point out, however, that that agreement was reached on the understanding that when the industrial tribunal made its determination, the slaughtermen would accept the rates fixed by that authority. Therefore, it is not correct to say that some firms have given in to the men completely. They agreed only to meet the slaughtermen’s demands pending the hearing of the dispute by the wages board. The situation is urgent and I trust that the Government will make an early move to settle the trouble.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Speaking to his motion, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) showed commendable restraint, and I hope to follow his example, because the situation to-day is such that ill-conceived words may very easily prolong an already difficult and unfortunate dispute. The plain fact is that, as the honorable member for Indi himself pointed out, there are quite a number of people involved in the dispute. The honorable member said that the parties involved numbered five, namely, the producers, the exporters, their employees, the Australian Government, and the Government of the United Kingdom. He studiously refrained from mentioning any responsibility on the part of the State Government of Victoria. Undoubtedly that Government has some responsibility, particularly as the men have been working under State awards. C speak from personal experience. My mind goes back to 1931, when a dispute occurred in the meat industry in Victoria. The men were then working under State awards, and I was Minister assisting the Minister for Agriculture. The then Premier, Mr. Hogan, asked me to do my best to get the parties together and see whether any formula could be devised which would result in a satisfactory settlement of the dispute. I interviewed the union officials at the Melbourne Trades Hall, and what was then known at the “ rank and file “ committee. I communicated with various exporting firms and eventually a conference was arranged. Sir “William Angliss presided, and after hammering at the problem for a couple of hours, a settlement was reached due almost exclusively to the conciliatory attitude shown by Sir William Angliss. On that occasion the State Government did not endeavour to place upon the Commonwealth all responsibility for the strike. The dispute was settled through the efforts of the State Government, and I regret that the honorable member for Indi has not pointed out that some responsibility for the present state of affairs must be shouldered by the Victorian Government. Unfortunately some of the present trouble is due to the fact that the workers engaged in this industry are most conscious of the fact that, recently, contract prices for the supply of meat to the United Kingdom were increased. They believe that they have a fair and reasonable claim for an increased remuneration for their work, which as the honorable member for Indi has pointed out is unpleasant and repugnant, and, in fact, would not be performed by most people. Those factors must be taken into consideration. A complication has been caused by the fact that some firms are paying their employees the increase that they have sought. That makes the position most serious and difficult.
– They are breaking the law.
– The honorable member for Bendigo says that they are breaking the law. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) said that the strike was most despicable. Such remarks do not assist a settlement of the dispute. I recall that in 1946 when there was a hold-up of meat supplies in Melbourne, not one word of condemnation was uttered by the honorable member for Deakin or the honorable member for Bendigo. The workers were not at fault on that occasion. They were not involved in the matter except, of course, that they lost their employment. The hold-up was due to the decision of the meat producers to withhold supplies because of the ceiling prices that had been fixed. In effect, the producers went on strike; but the honorable member for Deakin and the honorable member for Bendigo did not condemn them. There was no mention of a despicable strike. In fact, the honorable member for Bendigo aggravated matters by making a provocative statement. According to the Melbourne Age of the 6th March, 1946, he said that graziers should withhold their stock until they received justice. That is the attitude of the men on this occasion. They are withholding their labour until they receive what they consider to be justice.
– The primary producers were not breaking the law in 1946.
– If they did not break the law technically, at least they did so morally. On that occasion also, the then Acting Premier of Victoria, Mr. McDonald, assured producers that the Australian Country party would give them 100 per cent, support. As everybody knows, Melbourne was deprived of meat for a long period on that occasion. It was only because this Government adopted a conciliatory attitude and endeavoured to meet all the parties concerned in the dispute that a settlement was eventually reached. The Melbourne Sun-Pictorial, on the 27 th February, 1946, contained the following report : -
A leading stock and station agent (Mr. M. McNamara) told producers and operators at Newmarket yesterday that his firm had not lodged any orders for fat-stock trucks for next creek’s Newmarket sales and did not intend to do so until further notice. It is understood other agents have also advised clients they are not ordering trucks for next week.
Now we have a similar situation. The honorable member for Deakin says that it is a despicable state of affairs, but on that occasion he made not one condemnatory statement about the action of the agents and the graziers. The reports of his speeches in Hansard at that time prove that. But I want to be conciliatory. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the -gander. The nien were not set a good -example in 1946. Their position is much more difficult than that of the graziers because in many cases they work- only three or four months a year, spending the rest of the time travelling from place to place. They have problems like that to contend with. I admit that the situation is difficult. We can solve it only by being reasonable. The Government of Victoria should make an effort to bring this unfortunate strike to a conclusion. My colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), has used his best endeavours. Commonwealth concilia tion commissioners are endeavouring to effect a settlement. I ardent ‘ hope that all the parties concerned will respond to the efforts of the Minister for Labour and National Service and get together in a conciliatory spirit to settle the dispute. I trust that lambs will soon be slaughtered again foi the British market and that the employee.and the producers will again be happily working together with justice done on both sides.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) definitely misrepresented what I said.
– Order! The honorable member has not yet spoken in the debate. A personal explanation therefore requires the leave of the House.
– I made an interjection, to which the Minister replied.
– Order! The interjection was disorderly. Is leave granted to the honorable member for Bendigo to make a personal explanation?
Motion (by Mr. Scully) proposed-
That the question be now put.
– If I said something
– Order ! The Chair asked whether leave was granted. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) immediately moved, “ That the question binow put “. That clearly indicated that, leave was not granted, because, under the Standing Orders, one dissenting voice is sufficient to deny leave.
Question put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr, j. j. clark.)
Majority . . 5
Mr. Davidson having moved from the Government side to the Opposition side of the House,
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 9th November (vide page- 2682).
Clause 5 (Guaranteed price).
.- There are several features of the clause with which I definitely disagree. Oneof those is the power which is to be vested in the Minister. Under this clause the Minister may, without consultingany one other than the relevant Ministers of* the States concerned, who have no power to direct the Minister or affect his final decision, either raise or lower the fixed price of wheat for home consumption whether the wheat-growers’ organization or the Australian Wheat Board agrees with his decision or not. I consider that that power is quite unreasonable. This clause seriously undermines the stabilization scheme and will constitute a very serious brake on the security which the act, it is stated by the Government, will give to wheat-growers. Some very strange statements have been made during the debate on this clause. One of them to the effect that the wheat-growers could make a living trapping rabbits, was made by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod). Of course, that honorable member is one of the fortunate wool-growers who receive up to 100.per1b. for their wool. They do not worry about rabbits, and the unfortunate farmer who grows wheat often has to put up with the rabbits that enter their properties from other places and destroy their crops. These unfortunate wheat-farmers might even consider that it would be better to make a living by destroying rabbits than by growing wheat. Because they are so affluent at the present time, many wool-growers do not even think about destroying rabbits. The same principle applies inthis clause as in the clause which gives the Minister dictatorial powers over the Australian Wheat Board, seven members of which are representatives of the wheat-growers. That clause allows the Minister, at any time, to change the whole economy of the wheat industry. I consider that the Minister should amend the clause so as to ensure that those who own the wheat will have a reasonable say in its disposal and in the price that they will receive in remuneration for their work.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed, to.
Clause 7 - (1.) The Board shall consist of -
.- Under this clause the Australian Wheat Board will consist of a chairman, a person engaged in commerce with experience in the wheat trade, a finance member, a representative of the flour-mill owners, a representative of the employees, two elected wheat-growers representatives from New South Wales, two from Victoria, one from Queensland, one from South Australia and one from Western Australia. I consider that Western Australia should have more representation on the board and therefore I move -
That in sub-clause (1), paragraph (j), the words “ one wheat-grower “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof thewords “ two wheat-growers “.
The effect of the amendment would be to provide Western Australia with two grower representatives. I pointed out during the debate on the second reading that over the past ten years Western Australia had produced almost as much wheat as Victoria did. Over that same period it also exported far more wheat than did either Victoria or New South Wales. To substantiate that statement I shall quote from the wheat summary issued in May of this year by the Commonwealth Statistician, which shows that the quantities of wheat exported from various States in certain years were -
It is estimated that in1948 New South Wales will have for export 9,595,000 bushels; Victoria, 6,900,000 and Western Australia, 9,689,000 bushels. Honorable members will see that over the whole of that period Western Australia has in every year mentioned provided more than one-third of the surplus wheat that was exported and in some years about 50 per cent. of it. Admittedly, there is a difference in the figures of flour exports, but as the duties of the Australian Wheat Board will be concerned mainly with the export surplus of wheat available in Australia as well as with the purchase and disposal of jute goods, the wheat statistics I have given are the really relevant basis on which to consider my submission. By the direction of the Minister the Australian Wheat Board may have to dispose of wheat in a certain manner so as to assist Australia’s economy. It must be admitted that as Western Australia provides so much of the wheat that will be sold overseas to assist the country’s economy that State is at least entitled to the same representation on the board as is any other State, particularly as some of the other States concerned have provided less wheat for export than has Western Australia. We find that the Australia Wheat Growers Federation, to which the Minister has made some flowery allusions during this debate, has advocated ever since the discussions between its representatives and the Government took place, a plan for control by a board the majority of whose members should be elected by a ballot of licensed wheat growers in each State, the board to comprise two grower members each from New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, and one grower member from Queensland. Unfortunately, the Minister has not seen fit to accept that proposal. I know that this matter was dismissed during the debate on the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill 194G. I recall that during that debate my colleague from Western Australia, the present Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), although he supported the measure in an ambiguous manner, definitely voted against it. As reported in Ilansard, volume 1S7, at page 2752 he said -
However, I suggest to the Minister that, should this matter at any time come up for review by the Agricultural Council, an attempt should bc made to reduce the total number of representatives on that board. I -do not think that it is necessary to have two representatives from Victoria and two from New South Wales.
That does not say that Western Australia should have the same representation. I take it that he is of the opinion that Western Australia should have equal representation. It is a most ambiguous statement. Western Australia only use3 about 20 per cent, of its wheat for home consumption, and makes the remainder available for export, thereby contributing greatly to the economy of this country. Western Australia is entitled at least to equal representation with New South Wales and Victoria.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) seems to have a great capacity for trying to study my speeches. As usual, he has quoted a very small portion from a speech that I made and has said that I was in favour of a reduction of the number of members of the board. Although I have not read the speech that I made then, I hold the same view now as I did then. That view is that every time another member is appointed to this board, particularly a member from a distant State, the additional cost is passed on to the wheatgrowers themselves. The only reason why T supported increased representation of New South Wales and Victoria was to ensure the retention of the principle of having a majority of operative growers on the hoard. Furthermore, although that principle has always been enunciated by honorable members opposite when in opposition, they have digressed from it when in office. When the party of which the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) is a supporter was in office, it gave a majority of representation to the merchants. There are some humbugs in the Opposition who say one thing when they are in opposition, and do exactly the opposite when their party is in office.
When the honorable member for Swan and other honorable members were on the hustings during the campaign prior to the last general election, they made much of the fact that I had refused to support the proposal that two Western Australian members should be appointed to the board. I think it was the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) who moved an amendment along similar lines, no doubt in the hope that it would embarrass me. The fact is that in the wheat section of Western Australia I polled just as well in 1946 as in 1943, when I won the Forrest seat. Although honorable members who move these cheap little amendments thereby get some advertisement, I contend that we should adhere to the principle of grower-majority. The honorable member for Swan made great talk about the quantity of wheat produced in Western Australia, and pointed out that it represented one-third of Australia’s wheat production. I shall now refer to the actual number of operative growers who obtain their living from the production of wheat. There are 15,971 in Victoria, 15,S31 in New South Wales, 7,460 in Western Australia - and only 2,006 in Queensland. Therefore, if we were to approach this matter on a purely percentage basis, the proportional representation would be two from Victoria, two from New South Wales, one and a half from South Australia, one from Western Australia, and a half from Queensland. If we regarded as a basis the number of individuals getting a living from the industry, that would not be completely unfair. The whole principle embodied in the bill ensures majority control by operative wheat-growers. The Government has never said that the majority should come from a specified State. All wheat-growers who are operating in the industry are entitled to a fair standard of living for themselves and their families. Tins provision of the bill is satisfactory to me.
– 1 support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton). It is extraordinary that the right of Western Australia to have equal representation with the other States and the Commonwealth on the Australian Wheat Board should be stressed by only one Western Australian representative in this chamber - the Australian Country party representative. That shows what ineffective pawns the other members from Western Australia are in the great game of political chess. We have to turn «. to the “King”, the honorable member for Swan, on the political chess table to find that it is left to him to try to win the battle for the rights of the Western Australian farmers. I was astonished at the weak, apologetic remarks of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon). He said, that it had to be remembered that every time an extra member was appointed to the board, additional, costs would have to come out or” the pockets of the wheat-growers. The extra cost that would be involved in sending an additional representative from Western Australia would be infinitesimal. What hypocrisy it is for the Minister to make such a reply, when time and again he has supported the action of his colleague, the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), who sacrificed the wheat-growers of Australia when entering into the agreement for the sale of Australian wheat to New Zealand.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– The Minister for Works and Housing referred to “ these cheap little amendments “. Perhaps, when he returns to Western Australia he will tell the wheat-growers in that State that they are only cheap people and that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan to protect their rights was only a cheap amendment. Not only the wheat-growers but primary producers generally in Western Australia have not been given adequate representation on the various Commonwealth marketing boards. Only yesterday the honorable member for Swan referred to the injustice being done to poultry-farmers in that State.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair. If he again endeavours to evade the ruling of the chair he will resume his seat.
– The Minister for Works and Housing said that the Government was concerned only with the principle of majority grower representation on the Australian Wheat Board. However, this legislation involves another principle of representation which the framers of the Constitution recognized when they provided for equal representation of the States in the upper chamber of this Parliament. The logic of thai provision is clear, and it is equally logical that the wheat-growing States should be represented on the Australian Wheat Board on a State basis. In that respect the argument advanced by the honorable member for Swan is irrefutable. Yet, he has been assailed by the Minister for Works and Housing, who has described this important amendment as a “ cheap little amendment “. No honorable member for Western Australia who has the interests of that State at heart will oppose the amendment. I have always fought in defence of the rights of the States both inside and outside the Parliament. As a member of the royal commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, before I was elected to the Parliament, I recommended that Western Australia be given a special representative on the Commonwealth Bank Board. I based that recommendation . on the principle that the special interests of the outlying States must be protected.
– I do not propose to deal with the ill-timed and ill-judged comments that were made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) prior to the suspension of the sitting. I support the proposed constitution of the Australian Wheat Board, which, in my opinion, will be a very well-balanced body. The clause reads as follows: - (1.) The Board shall consist of -
Sub-clause (3) (a) would apply to Western Australia.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has been advised that in practically every State there will be a State wheat board. The board that now operates in Queensland is a most efficient one, which has rendered yeoman service. When I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I much appreciated the work that it did, and at no time did I attempt to disturb its operations.
In my opinion, the clause provides for a fair and equitable representation on. the board of the wheat-growers of each State. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) represents one of the largest wheat-growing areas in Western Australia, and I can say without fear of contradiction that the honorable gentlemanis one of the best-informed members of the Parliament on wheat matters. For many years before his election asa member of the Parliament, he was a very active member of South Australian wheat-growers’ organizations, and on many occasions he visited Canberra to put forward the views of the organized wheat industry of that State. The honorable gentleman has at all times been the champion of the small wheat-growers, and speaks with unrivalled authority on the wheat industry.From the standpoint of the number of wheat-growers in each State, the board will be a wellbalanced body. The number of wheatgrowers in New South Wales* and Victoria is practically double the number in Western Australia and South Australia. It is proposed that New South Wales and Victoria shall each have two wheat-growers’ representatives, and that South Australia and Western Australia shall have one each. There are several thousands of wheat-growers in Queensland, and it is proposed that Queensland also shall have one wheat-growers’ representative. Every practical wheat-grower knows that wheat production in Western Australia has almost reached saturation point, while Queensland is only on the threshold of the full development of its wheat-growing potentialities. There will be a rapid and vast expansion of wheatgrowing in that State, and in the not very far distant future it will rank among the greatest wheat-producing States of the Commonwealth. Considering thematter from the point of view of the number of registered wheat-growers in each State, it seems to me that the proposed representation on the board of the growers of each State is just and equitable.
Let us consider the matter from the stand-point of the quantities of wheat that are produced in each State. There is very little difference at any time between the quantities of wheat that are produced in South Australia and Western
Australia. The huge Victorian wheat crop is more than double the size of the wheat crop of the neighbouring State of South Australia. Last year, the New South Wales wheat crop amounted to over 100,000,000 bushels. If the matter were to be decided upon the basis of the wheat production in each State, New South Wales and Victoria would each have three representatives of the wheatgrowers on the board, while the other States would have only one. The clause provides for the fair representation of the growers of each State, and it meets with the approval of all those who have the interests of the wheat industry at heart. For political propaganda purposes, some honorable members opposite are asking that some States be allowed more wheat-growers’ representatives on the board, but no honorable member who represents a wheat-growing area in New South Wales or Victoria has asked that the number of wheat-grower representatives allowed to these States should be reduced. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), who delivered a blatant and boisterous speech this morning, is the faithful mouthpiece of the huge land monopolists and big city interests whom he represents in the Parliament.
– To what clause is the honorable gentleman speaking?
– I am speaking to the clause which concerns the interests of small wheat-growers. Of course, I realize that it is always difficult to confine the honorable member for Indi to the subject-matter of any measure. To return to the clause under discussion, I particularly commend the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for having included in the measure the provisions contained in clause 7. That clause embodies the spirit of the entire measure, which is intended to protect the interests of all legitimate wheat-growers. For that reason the. measure should commend itself to all wheat-growers. A few years ago when that great champion of vested interests, the honorable- member for New England, and his colleague the honorable member for Indi, were members of an anti-Labour administration, they did no.t concern. themselves with the plight of the small wheat-growers, for whom they profess so much solicitude now. What did Labour find when it assumed office in 1941 ? The only machinery provided by the preceding anti-Labour governments for the wheat industry was a board, which was cluttered up with the representatives of big business interests which had battened on the unfortunate wheat-growers for years and had grown fat on them. To-day, the survivors of the anti-Labour government which formerly controlled that board have attacked the Minister for Works and Housing, who has given his life to the interests of the small wheat-growers of Western Australia. We have only to focus the searchlight of reason on the activities and background of the Minister, on the one hand, and on those of the honorable member for New England and the honorable member for Indi, on theother hand, to see who is telling the truth. I. commend the clause.
– Although the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) criticized members of the Australian Country party because he alleged that they do not fight for the small wheat-farmers, he,, has himself, opposed the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton), the purpose of which is to improve the representation of the small wheat-growers in an isolated part of Australia. I need hardly remind honorable members that the people of Western Australia regard themselves as isolated.
– They are compelled to adopt that point of view.
– Quite so, and on some occasions Western Australia has threatened to secede from the Commonwealth, a happening which must not be allowed to occur. It is the duty of members of the Parliament who represent constituencies in other States to help the people of Western Australia tofeel that they are part of the Commonwealth of Australia. The clause under discussion provides that New SouthWales and Victoria shall have two representatives each on the proposed board, and that Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia shall each have only one representative. If the adjacent wheat-growing areas in the three States could be lumped together they might be regarded as having five representatives, and it might be possible, in certain circumstances, for the representatives of the three States to combine to make joint representations on behalf of contiguous areas. However, no such possibility exists for the wheat-growers of Western Australia, ‘because the nearest wheat belt is located in South Australia approximately 1,000 miles away. I have always advocated decentralization in the belief that it will make available to the settlers in remote centres opportunities to share in the amenities enjoyed by city dwellers. For that reason it seems to me that some encouragement should be given to the isolated wheat-growers of Western Australia by permitting them to have an additional representative on the proposed board. For that reason I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton). Of course, in discussions on uniform taxation and other matters of concern to all States, the Government has stated time and again that it favours decentralization and that the farmers of Australia should be encouraged to grow more wheat. Acceptance of the proposed amendment would indicate that it is honest in its professions. I do not agree with the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who contended that the production of wheat in Western Australia has almost reached saturation point. From my knowledge of that State, I should say that it. offers wonderful opportunities to those who desire to gran wheat. However, as the representative of a Victorian constituency, I support the amendment, which accords with my aims, and I shall leave the honorable member for Swan to expound the possibilities of wheat-growing in Western Australia.
.- The introduction of this measure marks th: first occasion on which the present Government has made any attempt to afford reasonable representation to wheatgrowers, and I consider that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) should give serious consideration to accepting the amendment. Western Australia is in some degree iso lated from the rest of Australia, and, because of its geographical position and small population, it tends to export a larger proportion of its wheat than do other States, which consume a great deal of the wheat which they produce. The bill is mainly designed to deal with the sale of” export wheat, and growers whose wheat is to be exported are entitled to reasonable representation on the proposed board, I certainly do not consider that the board; would become lop-sided by the appoint’ ment of an additional growers’ representative. I do not agree with the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) that saturation point has been almost reached in the production of wheat in Western Australia, nor do I think that the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) would agree with that contention either.
– I was referring to the acreage of wheat in Western Australia.
– I visited Western Australia about fifteen months ago, and I consider that a large part of that State which is at present covered by scrub and timber could be cleared and that that area would then afford an opportunity for expansion of the wheat industry. Although I represent a constituency in an eastern State, I support the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton), and I trust that the Minister will give serious consideration to it. In any event, I trust that the Minister will permit the proposed board to operate with a minimum of interference. Of course, I realize that in some respects there must be ministerial control, and that the Government must have some authority, because it is responsible for ensuring that sufficient wheat is retained for the manufacture of flour and for stock feed in this country. A certain amount of wheat must also be retained in Australia as a safeguard against droughts, which may occur without warning, and, in a matter of weeks, change the entire outlook for wheatgrowers. The proposed membership of the board meets with fairly ‘general approval. I trust that the Minister will allow the board to operate without undue interference on his part or on the part of his satellites,, including the half-baked economists who are always so eager to tell people what to do and how to do it, and who tell wheat-growers how to grow wheat when they themselves could not even grow a thistle.
– I oppose the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton). If I could have found any merit in the honorable gentleman’s proposal I should have proposed such an amendment myself for South Australia. If the amendment were agreed to the membership of the Australian Wheat Board would be so increased as to make the board even more unwieldy than the bill now provides. The appointment of two wheat-growers representing wheat-growers in each of the States of New South Wales and Victoria gives to the growers the majority representation on the board. If. it were not desirable that the wheat-growers should have majority representation on the board I should prefer that the representation of the growers in each State be limited to one representative. A board consisting of twelve persons is. likely to prove unworkable enough without increasing the number still further. Do honorable members opposite believe that when the board meets the representatives of the wheat-growers in New South Wales and Victoria will be more concerned with the interests of the growers in their cwn State than with the problems that will confront the board from an Australian stand-point? As the board is planned the interests of the wheatgrowers will be well looked after in comparison with those other sections of the industry. It has been suggested to me that the board might include in its composition representation of ‘the employees. Apart from those actually engaged in the growing, harvesting and handling of wheat there are many employees in associated industries who may have no representation at all on the board. There is a strong feeling among different sections of employees in the milling and allied industries that their interests may not be represented at the meetings of the hoard. However, if adequate representation were given to every section of employees in the wheat and allied industries we should have to appoint a very large board which would be completely unwieldy.
– Why did not the honorable member raise this matter in caucus’?
– Because I did noi desire that the membership of the board should be increased. In my view the appointment of- one representative of the wheat-growers from each State should be sufficient to meet the requirements of wheat-growers generally. With seven direct representatives the wheat-growers already have the majority representation on the board. I do not think it matters which of the States have two representatives.
– I support the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton). The Government hatnot approached the stabilization of the wheat industry in a scientific way. Wheat-farming in the dry areas of Western Australia and in the marginal areas of the other States is totally different from wheat-farming in areas of assured rainfall. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) queried figures cited by the honorable member for Swan in regard to the disposal of the Western Australian wheat crop. Honorable members will recall that the honorable member for Swan had stated that SO per cent, of the Western Australian crop, which I think amounted to approximately 34,000,000 bushels last year, was exported. The Minister let down his own State by opposing the proposal that an additional representative of the wheat-growers should be appointed to represent the interests of the Western Australian growers. When 1 grew wheat in Western Australia in 1912. farmers were working completely different types of land. The Minister for Works and Housing stated that as there- are 15,000 wheat-growers in Victoria, 15,000 in New South Wales,, and only 7,000 in Western Australia, and 2,000 in. Queensland there wa> no justification for the proposal Submitted by the honorable member for Swan. Had the honorable gentleman done his duty by his own State he would have said that of all the wheat-growing States in tin-
Commonwealth Western Australia possessed the greatest areas of land in which farmers could grow wheat only and were compelled to plant a single crop. I should have thought that the Minister being a Western Australian would have seized on that very point. I am not so much concerned about the wheat-farmers in the safe rainfall belt starting at Moora and extending down to the Bannister River, just off the jarrah belt, and through Williams to Kojonup and further south to the west of the Great Southern, who can plant dual crops or turn their wheat lands into grazing areas for the production of fat lambs.- I am more concerned about those engaged in the Three Springs and Geraldton areas, and in the Pindar, Mullewa and other areas round about Gnowangerup and Kondinin who are compelled in the main to undertake single cropping. As the farmers in those areas cannot undertake a diversification of cropping they deserve special consideration when the Parliament is considering the composition of the board. The Minister stated clearly in this chamber some time ago that he had no time for boards. When discussing another matter, he said that he did not wish to have as many as five members on any board operating under his administration because the fewer members there were, the more work was done. He did not want to have any board cluttered up with numbers. There may have been some truth in his assertion that the final decision of a body of that nature does not necessarily represent the cumulative knowledge of all members. In this instance, however, I consider that Western Australia and Queensland are entitled to be represented by two growers each. 1 have explained Western Australia’s need. Queensland is becoming a great wheatgrowing ‘State. In the days of horseploughing, the area on the Darling Downs around Dalby arid Macalister was not a profitable wheat-growing area because of the lack of regular winter rainfall. But improved farming methods, involving rapid ploughing and seeding with mechanical equipment, now enable farmers to take advantage of the limited storm rainfall in the winter, and that region is now coming into its own as a wheat-growing area. It is an extremely rich belt which needs no manure, and, with modern methods, it is possible to grow wheat over an area of 90 per cent, of the .Darling Downs which once was regarded as uneconomic for wheat farming. I ask the Government to accept the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) so that Western Australian wheat-growers may be represented on the board by two members.
.- I support the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton), I arn amazed, not at the refusal of the Government to accept the amendment but that the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) should feel able to justify its refusal. His justification was based on extraordinary grounds. The principal argument that he used was that the appointment of an extra representative for Western Australian growers would cost money that the wheat-growers would have to provide. The bill provides that wheat-grower members of the board shall be paid £500 a year each. Therefore, the Minister would deny to the wheat-growers of his own State the right to have an additional representative on the board merely because the appointment would cost £500 a year! That is an amazing statement from a member of a Government which has produced a budget providing for the expenditure of more than £500,000,000 in a year, and which has disposed of millions of pounds of the wheat-growers’ money by selling wheat cheaply for dog biscuits and for consumption in New Zealand. As I am reminded by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), this Government pays appearance money to waterside workers for not doing any work. Yet it will not spend £500 a year to enable Western Australian growers to have an additional representative on the Australian Wheat Board.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The committee is not discussing waterside workers. The honorable member must address his remarks to the clause and the amendment, that has been proposed by the honorable member for Swan.
– The wheat industry in Western Australia is peculiarlysituated. If any State needs an additional representative on the board, it is Western Australia. As the honorable member for Swan has pointed out, most of the wheat which it produces is exported and, in these days when the destination of wheat is often the subject of argument, Western Australia ought to bc adequately represented upon the board so that the point of view of its wheatgrowers can he properly presented. The ratio of wheat sold for export to wheat sold at concessional prices within Australia has a very important effect upon the financial returns to the wheat-growers of that State. As the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has said, the percentage of farmers who cannot produce other crops is bigger in that State than anywhere else in Australia. I have travelled through the wheat-growing areas of Western Australia, where I have seen substantial areas of unfenced land on which wheat is grown because the farmers are not able to engage in any other form of agricultural production. The Minister must know of that circumstance. The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) has declared that the Minister for Works and Housing possesses an extensive and intimate knowledge of wheatgrowing in Western Australia, but that honorable gentleman’s speech certainly concealed that knowledge much better than it revealed it. The Minister has said that he favours the appointment of two representatives of the growers from each of the States of Victoria and New South Wales only so as to ensure that there shall be numerical superiority for the growers on the board, and not because he considers it to be essential that they should have two representatives each. Wheat-growers from distant States are not always free to attend meetings of the board, and the adoption of the amendment would ensure that the growers of Western Australia would always be represented at meetings of the board. I noticed that the Minister for Works and Housing was not able to make his speech without completely misrepresenting his political opponents. He said that the proposed constitution of the board is good because it provides that *a majority of members shall be growers’ representatives. That is true. But he also said that, when the Opposition parties were in office, there was always a majority of merchants on the Australian Wheat Board.
– That is quite right.
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) represents a wheat-growing electorate, but he reveals an ignominious ignorance of the wheat-growing’ business and the constitution of former boards, just as did the Minister for Works and Housing.
– The honorable member was a Minister when the first board was appointed. He should be ashamed of himself.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.Order !
– The Minister for Works and Housing and the honorable member for Wannon, both of whom represent wheat-growing constituencies, have repeatedly declared that there was a majority of merchants on the Wheat Board that was appointed by a former government of which I was a member.
– Quite right, too.
– I have here specific information about the board that was appointed in 1941 by the Menzies Government.
– What about 1939?
– Never mind about 1939.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.Honorable members may later controvert any statement made by the honorable member for Indi, but, for the time being, they must remain silent.
– They _ may avail themselves of the opportunity to speak, but they cannot successfully controvert what I am saying. It is completely untrue to say that a board appointed by the Menzies Government, or any other nonLabour government, had on it a majority of wheat merchants.
– It is quite right.
– When the Labour Government came into office in 1941, it found in existence a board upon which there were seven representatives of the wheat-growers.
– Who were they ?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.Order !
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has asked who those representatives were. I do not mind telling him. The information which [ am now giving was obtained for me by the library staff within the last hour. Besides the seven representatives of the wheat-growers, there were on the board two representatives of wheat marketing pools. I remind honorable members that only two wheat marketing pools were entirely controlled by the growers themselves through representatives whom they elected. There were also on the wheat board three representatives of the wheat merchants. In April, 1941, which was before the Labour Government came into office, the representation of the wheat merchants was reduced to two. Also, on the board, there was one representative of bulk handling authorities, and one representative of flour mill owners. Thus, on a board numbering fourteen members, there were three representatives of the wheat merchants, yet the Minister for Works and Housing, whom the Vice-President of the Executive Council has declared to be one of the best-informed representatives of the wheat-growers in the Parliament, declared that the board appointed by the Menzies Government had on it a majority of wheat merchants.
– What the honorable member is saying is not true.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council may go on yapping that it is untrue, but let him try to convince the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I can understand that it may be embarrassing for the Minister for Works and Housing that the Government should have appointed to the Australian Wheat Board only one representative of Western Australia, which is an important wheat-growing State, whereas two other wheat-growing States have each two representatives on the board. I believe that Western Australia is entitled to the same representation as is Victoria or New South Wales. It remained for my colleague, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton), to draw attention to the failure of the Government to give proper representation to the Minister’s own State of Western Australia. It is not necessary to canvass the matter now. I have no doubt that a division will be called for on this issue, and we shall then see where the Minister for Works and Housing stands.
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has said that, when a division is called for, it will be seen where I stand. I shall be found where I have always stood - on the side of the truth. I have always told the truth, something which the honorable, member for Indi has never been able to do since he first found himself wriggling in frustration on the Opposition side of the chamber. The honorable member said tha.t he would prove that I was wrong when I said that it was not until the Curtin Government came into office that the wheat-growers obtained a majority on the Australian Wheat Board. He said that he obtained his information from the library, but when he was challenged to give the names of the members of the board, he failed to do so. I now propose to place the truth on record. From the time that the board was appointed in 1939 until the Labour Government came into office in 1941, there was never a majority of growers’ representatives on it. They did not have a majority until after the Curtin Government came into office. The board was created in 1939 and all the members of it, including the chairman, were appointed by the Government. Not one member was elected by the growers. The membership consisted of three’ representatives of the wheat merchants, two of the pooling interests, one of the bulk handling authority, and two of the wheat-growers. That was .the constitution of the board which the honorable member for Indi says included a majority of growers’ representatives. Then, on the 22nd November, 1939, the Menzies Government which, according to the honorable member for Indi, was always trying to help the wheat-growers, appointed another representative of the millers. In December, 1940, two more growers were appointed to the board, but still the growers did not have a majority. They did not have a majority until November, 1941, . when the Curtin Government appointed three more growers to the board, and reduced the representation of the merchants to two. As the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) pointed out, the statements of the honorable member for Indi merely serve to indicate the depths to which he is prepared to descend in order to score a miserable point in debate. He tried to bluff his way out by saying that he had obtained certain information from the library, and suggested that Government supporters were not intelligent enough to tap that source of information. Such behaviour makes it >plain that the honorable member for Indi, and those who support him, ought never again to be trusted by the people to control the affairs of the country. I have now stated the actual position so that it may be recorded in Hansard.
.- For the second time we have heard the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) say that he favours majority representation of growers on the Australian Wheat Board. He took the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) to task for something that happened in 1939. He accused me of political trickery in quoting only a portion of his speech, to which I retorted that the rest of the speech was not fit to quote. However, so that there may be no doubt of my sincerity, I (propose to quote the whole of the Minister’s speech as recorded in Hansard, at page 2752, volume 187. It reads as follows : -
– It is not possible to accept the amendment because of the arrangements which have been made with the States. However, I suggest to the Minister that, should this matter at any time come up for review by the Agricultural Council, an attempt should be made to reduce the total number of representatives on that board. I do not think that it is necessary to have two representatives from Victoria and two from New South Wales.
Air. Archie CAMERON - Then why is thi> honorable member supporting the clause?
– 1 support it because it it based on an agreement between the States and the Commonwealth, and until the parties agree to reduce the number of representatives on th, board I shall continue to support the present proposal. The purpose of having State repre sentatives on the board is that they may brim? to its deliberations their particular knowledge of the industry in various parts of Australia For this purpose, one representative from each State would be sufficient.
That speech occupied three minutes. Today, the Minister reaffirmed his support of the principles which he had previously enunciated, and added that he was in favour of grower control. How can grower control be maintained if the Minister is prepared to reduce the representation of New South Wales and Victoria to one member each ? If that were done, the board would consist of five representatives of the growers and five representatives of the trade.
I have now proved conclusively that the Minister’s claim to favour grower control on the board is insincere. He also stated that the appointment of another representative of Western Australia to the Australian Wheat Board would impose an additional financial burden on wheat-growers. I have calculated that thcost would be l/960th part of 1 per Cell of the value of the wheat. Therefore, the cost is a minor consideration. In rather scathing terms, the’ Minister for Works and He-using said that Western Australia, on the basis of the number of growers, was not entitled to the same representation on the board as are New South Wales and Victoria. I shall reveal the fallacy in that assertion. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has often stated that there are 70,000 wheat-growers throughout the Commonwealth. Last May, the Commonwealth Statistician issued a publication entitled Australia: Summary of the Wheat Situation, and on page 5 of the document there appears a table with the heading “ Number of Farms Growing Wheat for Grain on 20 Acres and Upwards “. The Minister for Works anc Housing knows the conditions in Western Australia as thoroughly as I do. I ask him to say whether any persons in Western Australia, are registered a.« wheat-growers who are producing wheat on a paltry 20 acres. Although the number of growers in Western Australia may bc smaller than the number in New South Wales and Victoria, our wheat-growers do not produce on such small areas. According to the Commonwealth Statistician, the number of growers in the various States in 193S-39 and 1946-47 was as follows : -
As I have stated previously in this debate, the production of wheat in Western Australia is comparable with the production in New South Wales or Victoria, and Western Australia exports considerably more wheat than dc those two States. The Minister stated that he strongly favoured a:rower representation, and that Western Australia should have increased grower representation on the board. I am in complete agreement with his opinion. Speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House last night, I pointed out that poultry interests in the eastern States are allowing themselves to be controlled by an organization in Sydney to the detriment of Western Australian producers. I know perfectly well what is happening, and that is why I have directed attention to the matter. I cannot understand why the Minister is not prepared to support my submission in favour of the appointment of an additional representative for Western Australia to the Australian Wheat Board, so that it may have equal representation with New South Wales and Victoria.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council, who was formerly Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, has stated that Western Australia has almost reached saturation point in the production of wheat. I strongly dispute that view. Admittedly, Western Australian growers are not producing as much wheat as they are capable of growing, for the simple reason that they are not able to do so. Last Monday, the West Australian newspaper published details of the shortage of machinery in that State. The information had been compiled from replies to a questionnaire which had been circulated. The cause of that shortage may be traced to “the industrial troubles in the eastern States, and until recently, the Labour Government has not lifted a finger to stop them. Almost every clay disputes occur in the shipping industry. Yesterday, although the stoppage on the coal-fields of New South Wales was supposed to have ended-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member’s references to the poultry industry and to industrial troubles are not relevant to the clause under consideration. I ask him to direct his remarks to the constitution of the Australian Wheat Board, and his proposed amendment.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council has stated that Western Australia has almost reached saturation point in the production of wheat. As the honorable gentleman was formerly Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, he should be better informed than he is about the position in Western Australia, and I have been endeavouring to enlighten him, and prove to his satisfaction that Western Australia has not reached saturation point in the production of wheat. Farmers in Western Australia have been prevented from producing as much wheat as they are capable of growing.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council has stated that Victoria grows twice as much wheat as Western Australia does, and therefore is entitled to an additional representative on the Australian Wheat Board. I propose to read some figures which relate to wheat production during the period when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– I referred to wheat production last year.
– The honorable gentleman did not mention last year. At any rate, I shall place the figures on record. On page 3 of the summary, to which I have already referred, the following table appears: -
Obviously, Victoria does not grow twice as much wheat as does Western Australia. I admit that in 193S-39, Victoria probably suffered from the effects of drought.
– Victoria suffered a disastrous drought in that year.
– I am not criticizing wheat production in Victoria, but am pointing out that the Vice-President of the Executive Council has made an incorrect statement. His assertion that Victoria grows twice as much wheat as Western Australia grows is a complete fabrication. In 1939-40 Victoria produced 45,054,000 bushels of wheat and Western Australia produced 40,S61,000.’ In 1944-45, which was a bad year, New South Wales grew 17,134,000 bushels, Victoria 3,49S,000 and Western Australia 15,929,000 bushels. I could quote further figures. Probably the VicePresident of the Executive Council will explain that drought caused the reduction, but as the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has frequently pointed out all the States do not suffer from drought at the same time.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council has accused me of introducing this matter for purposes of political showmanship. I do not adopt such tactics. I hope I shall never attain to the heights of political showmanship that the honorable gentleman attained in negotiating the wheat agreement with New Zealand, He left the Australian farmers to carry the liability.
– Order! This clause does not contain any reference to the New Zealand wheat agreement.
– With respect to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I claim that in negotiating the New Zealand wheat agreement the Vice-President of the Executive Council attained extraordinary heights of political showmanship. I have not raised this matter in an endeavour to gain a political advantage. I have done so because the wheat-growers of Western Australia have said ever since the 1946 measure was introduced that they are entitled to equal representation on the board with Victoria and New South Wales. I shall stick to my attitude although I realize that it is almost impossible to convince the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture or the Government that the amendment should be accepted.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton), have made speeches about the representation provided for the wheatgrowers on the Australian Wheat Board. Their remarks had no real relevancy and were not based on sound logic or a proper consideration of the principles of this measure. The objective of the board is the orderly and organized marketing of the Australian wheat crop. The board w ill ensure that every wheat-grower in Australia, wherever he lives, shall receive for his wheat the same return a bushel less freight and that that return shall be as high as it is possible for him to receive. To suggest that geography is an important factor in the constitution of the board is an example of completely bad reasoning. As a matter of convenience, in the absence of a Commonwealth-wide wheat pool, the growers will be represented on a State basis. The honorable member for Swan pointed out how conditions in the wheat industry varied in different districts. The honorable member for the Northern Territory showed the variations in the wheat areas in Queensland. Other honorable members have indicated the variations in their States. Our chief desire is to appoint a body of men who will ensure the carrying out of the purpose that I referred to. The honorable member for Swan said that Western Australia exported more wheat than it consumed locally. What of it? The board will include two representatives each from Victoria and New South Wales and one each from Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. It is futile to argue that Western Australia should have more representation. The policy of giving the smaller representation to the smaller States has been applied by nonLabour administrations in creating other boards to handle other primary products. “Regardless of where they themselves have lived, most members of those boards have worked efficiently in ensuring the welfare of the producers whom they represent. Soon after taking office, this Government decided that no such authority as this one should consist of more than twelve membet’s. The board will consist of the chairman, a person engaged in commerce, with experience of the wheat trade, a finance member and representatives of the flour millers and the employees as well as the representatives of the wheatgrowers. That makes it impossible to give equal representation to each State. The course we have chosen is one of convenience, but it gives rough justice, as it were. All this hullabaloo is unnecessary. Honorable gentlemen opposite, in their time, did as we are doing now. The members of the board will not be there merely to serve State interests. The representative of the Western Australian wheat-growers will be as national and rational in his outlook and equally as effective as will be his colleagues from the other States. An equally effective board could be created by the appointment of only one nominee of the wheat-growers in each State, but that would destroy the principle of giving the growers majority representation on the board. The Government is not prepared to accept the amendment.
. -The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has given an extraordinary reason why the Government, will not accept the. amendment, which would give -the Western Australian wheatgrowers representation on the Australian
Wheat Board equal to that of Victoria and New South Wales. It was extraordinary in that he said that all that the board would do would be to sell the Australian wheat crop, equalize charges and make the same returns to all the wheatgrowers. On that reasoning, we may as well get down to one-man control and be done with it.
– I did not say that.
– The same kind of logic could be applied to representation in this Parliament. We should have one representative each of members of the working class and of the other class, and those two men could speak for the whole of Australia regardless of states or districts. The theory could be applied to all our systems of representation. The remarks of honorable gentlemen opposite are designed to extricate the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) from an extremely ignominious situation. He is a representative of Western Australia, and it was expected that he, of all honorable members in this chamber, would have endeavoured to secure for the growers of his State the representation that they have sought for a number of years past. I spoke on this subject when the matter was under debate in 1946. On that occasion, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon), who is now Minister for Works and Housing, spoke in favour of the suggestions now being advanced from this side of the chamber, and later he voted against them.
– That is entirely incorrect.
– In view of assurances that the Minister has given on other matters, I should like to see evidence that what I have said is incorrect. The Australian Country party believes that the growers of all States should have their due representation in this matter. While we on the Opposition side of the chamber do not all represent wheat-growing areas, we support fully the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton), who, without, the support of other honorable members from New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland would not be able adequately to present his case. Other honorable members representing Western Australia have failed to support him. I believe that there is validity in the arguments that have been put forward in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan. If the argument put forward by the Minister a while ago is valid, that it is immaterial whether a representative on the board comes from Western Australia, Victoria or New South Wales and that in point of fact all that the board has to do is to adjust the receipts from the Australian wheat crop and disperse them amongst the wheat-growers of Australia, there is substance in the argument that there ought to be only one representative from each State and that all the States should be on an equal basis. The Minister cannot have it both ways. He said that it does not matter to Western Australia where the representatives come from. If Western Australia and the smaller States accept that point of view, they would be left in an inferior position in the Parliament in nearly everything affecting the interests of their States.
.- This is another sham fight by the members of the Australian Country party. They are not concerned about increased representation for Western. Australia, if they were consistent, they would have included South Australia in their submissions. Let us look calmly at this point. We have in this bill, for the first time, provision for a majority representation of growers. That is all that the wheat-growers have asked for. Irrespective of which State they live in, they will have majority representation. -No thanks for that is due to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton), who moved this amendment, or to his party. The honorable gentleman claims that he is not indulging in political showmanship. As a matter of fact the honorable member is a very poor showman. The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. McEwen) has made a belated attempt to come to the rescue, no doubt thinking that we have forgotten his activity in the past. When he was a Minister, and I think the honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat was also a Minister-
– A very good one, too.
– The board included only one representative of the organized growers. The Deputy Leader of the Australian country party tried to sidestep the matter by saying that we set the course in 1941 whereas the first hoard was established at the outbreak of war in 1939 by the Menzies Government. Majority control bv the growers has been the theme of honorable members opposite. The board appointed by. the Menzies Government included one grower from the organized body of wheat-growers, and one from the unorganized wheat-growers. 1 do not know how the latter representative was selected. The majority at thai time were merchants. The honorable member made a gallant attempt to try to bluff his way out, thinking that we had forgotten his past, but we had not forgotten it. We do not forget. The Opposition is merely beating the air The growers have got what they have fought for over the year.-!. Although it has been said that the Minister is against his own State, it does not matter whether a wheat-grower representative comes from Victoria, South Australia or any other State. All of the appointees will be Australians. They will be selected by other wheat-growers, because of their ability, and each, will be interested in getting the most that he can for the farmers. This is merely political propaganda by Opposition members, in an effort to conceal their murky past. One more representative of Western Australia would not result in any additional benefits to that State.
Question put -
That the words proposed to he left out (Mr.
Hamilton’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chaikh an - Mb. H. P. Lazzarini.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.
Clause 10- (1.) The Board may appoint any number of its members to be an Executive Committee, and may delegate to that Committee such of its powers and functions as the Board, subject to any direction by the Minister, determines.
– I move -
That the following proviso be added to subclause ( 1 . ) : - “ Provided that a direction by the Minister shall be given only when the funds of the Wheat Prices Stabilization Fund subscribed by wheat-growers have been exhausted (such exhaustion of funds having been certified by the Auditor-General) and the Government is meeting the requirements of this Act from Consolidated Revenue.”.
The principle that I am attempting to establish by means of this amendment is that there shall be no interference with the control of wheat by the Australian Wheat Board in consequence of the Minister issuing directions about what the board shall do until the Government is actually supplying funds to it from Consolidated Revenue owing to the exhaustion of the Wheat Prices Stabilization Fund. In all the primary products marketing legislation introduced by this Government and the Curtin Administration, there is a facade of grower control, but in fact, owing to the power vested in the appropriate Minister to give directions to the boards, the members are merely marionettes. Their actions are determined by the strings that the Minister pulls, and they are not free to look after the commodities for which they are acting as trustees for the owners, who are the producers. Honorable members on this side of the chamber believe that the rights of producers must be protected and that we must combat the growing tendency of Governments to believe that they are the owners of, in this instance, the wheat, and that they can do whatever they please with it, regardless of the wishes of the growers.
I propose to refer to some measures that are now on the statute-book to show that in the past the appropriate Minister did not act on his own initiative, but on the recommendation of the board that was established. Section 34 1 of the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924 provides that dairy produce shall not be exported save in accordance with the determination of the Dairy Produce Control Board. The present bill does not provide that the Minister shall act on the recommendations of the representatives of the growers or of the flour-milling industry on the wheat board but that he shall direct them as to what they shall do. In his second-reading speech, the Minister said that the marketing authority would be a board similar in most respects to the present war-time organization, and that, although provision was made for other representation, it would be predominantly representative of the growers. He made no reference to the directions that he may give to the
Australian Wheat Board. This clause of the bill provides that the board may appoint any number of its members to be an executive committee, and may delegate to that committee such of its powers and functions as the board, subject to any direction by the Minister, determines. No similar provision appeared in the Meat Export Control Act of 1935. The Australian Meat Board was given full power to appoint an executive committee and to delegate to it whatever the board might decide. The Government obviously intends that everything shall be kept in the hands of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The elected representatives of the wheat-growers and the men chosen to represent the flour-millers and the employees of the wheat industry are to be by-passed. They will be marionettes, who will administer the legislation in accordance with the Minister’s desires. How dangerous and how bad: this is was very well exemplified by the action taken by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) when he as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture negotiated the iniquitous sale of Australian wheat to the New Zealand Government. Details of that sale were withheld for as long as possible, not only from the people of Australia, but also from the representatives of the owners of the wheat. The existence of the New Zealand Wheat Agreement was denied, not once but many times throughout the honorable member’s electorate and throughout Australia. On every poultryfarm in the Commonwealth the cocks crowed thrice, and many more times, while the Minister was denying his responsibility in this connexion. In that instance the Minister acted not through the Australia Wheat Board but on his own initiative. Let us look at another example of ministerial direction. On the 11th February, 1946, because of the acute shortage of wheat and wheat products resulting from drought conditions, and becauseof the need of the people of Great Britain of all the wheat it could obtain from Australia, the Australian Wheat Board issued an order that wheat could only be supplied to the priorities of livestock, pigs and laying hens and pullet chicks. Within three weeks of the issue of that order, the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the honorable member for Gwydir, without consultation with the board, instructed the board that wheat was to be made available for the manufacture of clog biscuits for racing greyhounds.
– Nothing of the sort.
– I hold in my hand a copy of a letter signed by Mr. G. A. H. Holborow, State superintendent of the Australian Wheat Board, addressed from 16-1S O’Connell-street, Sydney, and dated the 4th March, 1946, which reads as follows : -
We have now to advise that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has made available 50.000 bushels of wheat for the manufacture of dog biscuits from the 1st March to the end of the present ration period.
Mr. Holborow says that this action was taken on the order of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Consequently we believe that there is great danger in adding to the Minister’s power of direction. In this instance it is proposed to add to the powers of the Minister a further one in regard to the executive committee of the Australian Wheal Board. To an ever increasing degree thrcughout the legislation brought down by this Government, the wings of marketing boards are being clipped by the insertion of provisions giving the Ministers’ directive powers. The Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1942 contains th< following provision : - 13a. The Board may -
That was the first inkling we had of the Labour Government’s intention to extend the directive powers of Ministers. As the years went on Ministers were given more and more directive powers. Section 13a of the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1942 further states-
The Board may . . .
with the approval of the Minister take, or arrange for the taking of, either on its own behalf or in collaboration with any other board or authority an action which, in the opinion of the Board, is likely -
tolead to the improvement of the quality of dairy produce……
There was the first beginnings of the amoeba which has proved so destructive of the rights of the owners of primary products. I ask the committee to accept the amendment. It is designed solely to prevent the Government or the Minister from interfering in the appointment, functions or activities of the executive of the board until such time as the moneys standing to the credit of the Wheat Prices Stabilization Fund have been exhausted and the Government has been called upon to make contributions from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in order to finance the scheme.
– I support the amendment proposed by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) and I trust that the Government will accept it. The Government has no right to control the product of the wheat industry as long as the industry is able to finance its own stabilization. The justice of that will surely be admitted by every fair-minded person in the community. In the unlikely event of the Treasury being called upon to make contributions to the Wheat Prices Stabilization Fund, some justification may exist for ministerial control , of the functions and operations of the board. For the all too brief period during which this Government proposes to attempt to stabilize the wheat industry there is only one chance in a million that the Treasury will be called upon to provide financial assistance to enable the scheme to operate. In my view, before the end of the period of operation -of the plan substantial sums will be placed to the credit of the fund. It is of no use for honorable members opposite to say that our fears are groundless. During the regime of this Government, and of the Government which preceded it, led by the late Mr. Curtin, the wheat-growers of Australia had a very bitter experience. As the result of the interference of this Government and its predecessors, the wheatgrowers of Australia received at least £100,000,000 less than the world parity value of the product which they have produced. They were quite happy to supply wheat for human consumption in Australia at the cost of production, plus a reasonable margin of profit, and during the war they were prepared to supply wheat to our allies on a similar basis; but they pointed out that it was unjust to expect one section of the community to carry the whole of the burden. After the war had ended they were prepared to supply wheat to our kinsfolk in the Mother Country who had suffered greatly from the devastating effects of the war. Not one of them complained about that. But the time came when the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Government decided, for political reasons, to supply wheat to the New Zealand Government at a fantastically low price for a period of five years, notwithstanding that that dominion is perhaps the sole country in the world that enjoys a better standard of living than we do. The Government sacrificed the Australian wheat industry in the interests of, and for the purpose of bolstering up the decadent Labour Government of New Zealand. Under pressure, it decided that the loss resulting from this iniquitous sale should be borne by the whole of the- community. Up to date the taxpayers of Australia have been called upon to provide approximately £5,000,000 to make up the deficiency resulting from that sale. Therefore, we have a strong argument for advocating that, while the wheat industry is able to finance its own stabilization, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture should have no legal right to interfere with the policy of the board to be established under the provisions of this bill. The fact that a former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture decided to make 50,000 bushels of wheat available to the manufacturers of dog biscuits at a time when hundreds of thousands of children were starving in Europe makes one wonder whether his action was not dictated by a desire to benefit his friends in the racing greyhound industry in which the honorable gentleman has acted as a judge on many occasions. The wheat-growers of Australia were given only approximately one-half of the value of that wheat. The vagaries of Ministers in the past has proved extremely expensive to the wheatgrowers of Australia. I urge the Minister to accept the amendment, which is reasonable and is designed solely to grant a measure of justice to the wheat-growers of this country.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment. I point out to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) that whether or not an organization such as the Australian Wheat Board be established under this legislation, the Customs Act 1901-1935, which has been administered by all governments since 1901, vests in the government of the day absolute control over all export wheat. At any tick of the clock, irrespective of who may be buying or exporting wheat, the Government has absolute power to prevent the export of wheat, or to direct export wheat to any destination it may think fit, to determine the conditions under which wheat may be exported and to decide to whom it may be supplied. During the long period of years since 1901, no endeavour has been made to alter that power vested by the Customs Act in the Minister and the government of the day.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for New England and honorable members who supported him were heard in silence. I insist that the same courtesy shall be extended to the Minister.
– The only difference between this Labour Government and the Curtin Labour Government and the previous anti-Labour governments is that we have been completely frank and honest about the powers that we intend to use, should necessity demand their use in order to protect the people of Australia and of the United Kingdom. At all the conferences I have had with State Ministers for Agriculture I have told them decisively that notwithstanding that the State governments passed the requisite complementary legislation to enable this scheme to operate, the Australian Government in any Commonwealth plan would continue to exercise ministerial authority when necessary. I have been equally frank in my discussions with representatives of the Australian Wheat Growers Federa tion. In spite of that, the wheatgrowers have said, “ We want this legislation “. The State governments, irrespective of their political complexion, are now in the course of enacting legislation complementary to the measure now before us. What humbugs honorable members opposite are! Let us consider what happened in connexion with this question of ministerial control when they were in office. On the 22nd October. 1947, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), speaking on the Dairy Products Export Control Bill, admitted that boards which he had established had been subject to ministerial control when he said -
I have already said that the conditions existed in regard to this board and other boards of the kind which gave Ministers a’ power of control similar to that which they exercise over their own department.
In fairness to the right honorable gentleman I must admit that he added -
That power is different from the power now sought by the Minister.
A very fine distinction ! The principle of ministerial control was also applied by the tory Bruce-Page Government. Section 13 of the original Dairy Produce Export Control Act, which was passed while that Government was in power, provides as follows: -
The Board may -
make recommendations to the Minister in relation to the making of regulations for the purpose of controlling the export, and the sale and distribution after export, of Australian produce.
That legislation provides the Minister with sufficient power to take produce out of the hands of the producer. Section 15 (1) of the act states -
Where the Governor-General issues a proclamation in pursuance of thelast preceding section, the Minister or any person thereto authorized in writing by the Minister may grant to any person desiring to export dairy produce from the Commonwealth a licence to do so.
Thus, under that provision, the Minister had complete power to prevent some persons from exporting dairy produce, while others were allowed to do so. Let us now turn to Western Australia. Some time ago, the Government of Western Australia introduced legislation dealing with the wheat industry, because it was not at that time sure just how far the Commonwealth had progressed with its stabilization plan. The Government of Western Australia is a coalition government, and Mr. Wood, the Minister of Agriculture, is a member of the Australian Country party. The Leader of that Government is the Honorable Eoss McLarty, who is a tory, being one of those who, in these days, is generally known as a Liberal. Section 27 of the Wheat Marketing Act, which was passed by the Parliament of Western Australia in 1947, reads as follows : -
With the consent of the Minister, the Board may make or arrange for advances on account nf wheat delivered or any payment made on account of the wheat maybe made at such time or times and on such terms and conditions and in such manner as the Board may think fit.
Thus, if the Minister does not see fit to consent, no advance can be made to the growers. What a. shocking and arbitrary example of ministerial control ! What arrant humbug is talked b.y honorable members opposite ! They condemn minis- terial control, while their colleagues in Western Australia protect themselves, and rightly so, by taking power such as that provided in the section I have just read. Section 17 of the same act states -
The Board may appoint any number of its members to he an Executive Committee and may delegate to that committee such of its powers and functions as the Board, subject to nny direction by the Minister, determines,
Thus, the Minister may determine who shall be the executive members of the marketing board. The representatives of the good old tory party in this Parliament talk with their tongues in their cheeks, but their colleagues in Western Australia have been doing the very things which honorable members opposite condemn. Section 16 of the Western Australian Act reads as follows: -
The Board shall not put into operation any resolution of the Board when the member nominated by the Minister under section seven sub-section (4) paragraph (a) sub-paragraph (ii) of this Act notifies the Board that in his opinion to put the resolution into operation will be reasonably likely to result in -
jeopardizing the repayment of any advance. . . .
the charging to consumers of wheat in the Commonwealth of Australia of a price for wheat greater than -
export value for Western Australian wheat, or
the price for wheat fixed or reasonably likely to be fixed pursuant to any Act passed or reasonably likely to be passed enabling the price fixing of wheat.
What sort of shadow sparring are honorable members opposite indulging in? They ought to be ashamed of themselves. The Victorian Wheatgrower, of the 2nd September, 1948, accused the Australian Primary Producers Union of issuing a pamphlet “ entirely misleading in its disregard of facts “. The following passage occurred in the pamphlet: -
The plan vests complete control of the wheat industry in the hands of a Commonwealth Minister of Agriculture, meaning nationalization of the industry for the next five years.
Commenting on this statement, the Wheatgrower said -
How can the Australian Primary Producers Union justify this assertion? The plan requires complementary legislation, and is therefore not wholly in the hands of the Federal Government. Even in State legislation - the classic example is Western Australia - a great deal of control is vested in the State Minister.
The pamphlet issued by the Australian Primary Producers Union further stated -
The plan takes from the wheat-grower the right and wish to control his own industry.
To this, the Wheatgrower replied -
How can this be when the grower retains the right to control his own industry right to the point of marketing?
Although actual control by the grower ceases at this point, the Austraiian Wheat Board under the plan will have majority representation of growers.
Tho Board has already demonstrated its ability to protect the growers by its insistence on full parity in the New Zealand deal, and its determined bargaining in the United Kingdom deal.
This protection is not evident under open marketing as growers’ equity ceases as soon as wheat is delivered to the merchant.
Under the stabilization scheme, the growers will not lose control of their wheat as soon as it is delivered to the board. What happens to the wheat after delivery is of great importance to the growers, and from that point on the Government will stand as a guardian protecting the interests of the growers and the consumers alike. It was different in the evil days between 1921 and the outbreak of the last war. During that period, the growers kissed their wheat good-bye as soon as it was delivered to the merchants. There was no Minister in a benevolent government to protect them and their interests.
– Who is the benevolent Minister now?
– There was certainly very little benevolence about the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) when he was Minister for Repatriation, and turned hundreds of returned soldiers out of their homes.
– That is a brilliant retort !
– Well, the honorable member stuck his neck out, so I let him have it. Not long ago, I introduced a bill providing for the reconstruction of the Meat Export Control Board, ‘ and members of the Opposition then advanced the same kind of arguments against ministerial control as they are advancing now. After the bill became law, and the hoard had been appointed, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), no less, approached me, and pointed out that in a certain district a man had bought meat works which were very suitable for the killing of meat for export, but the Meat Export Control Board had refused to give him an export licence. The honorable member asked me to look into the matter. I reminded him of his previous attitude on the subject of ministerial interference, and I asked him if he would agree to my interfering with the board if I believed that an injustice had been done to an Australian citizen. The honorable member asked me to act and, at my request, the board supplied me with its reasons for not issuing an export licence. It seemed to me that, an injustice had been done, and I directed the board to issue a licence.
– The board drove the man out of business, all the same.
– If that is so, the honorable member did not put up much of a fight. He had the right to approach me again. If I had thought there was a good case I would have taken further action.
– The board took so long about issuing the licence that the man went “ broke “.
– On another occasion, I found that the Egg Export Control Board had entered into a contract for the sale of a consignment of eggs to Singapore. I thought such action unjustified, and I passed the word along that I would not endorse the contract The other day, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) said that an injustice had been done to Western Australian exporters who desired to send eggs to Singapore. I want to be fair. He did not ask me to interfere with the administration of the board, but he asked me to make inquiries. However, the implication was that if I decided that an injustice had been done, I should direct the board to act as I thought right, and that I should deal with it summarily if it refused to obey the direction. These incidents show that the Government is justified in retaining a measure of control over marketing arrangements. Under the stabilization scheme, the Government has undertaken to make a first advance to growers of £50,000,000, and up to the time the advance is to be made not one bushel of wheat will have been sold, and not Id. will have been received by the Australian Wheat Board with which to recoup the Commonwealth Bank for advances. It is certainly an advantage to the growers to receive an advance of this kind, and it may be that, in return for such an advantage, they will have to accept some disadvantages.
During the debate on the International Wheat Agreement, a foul allegation was made by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) that I had not consulted the Australian Wheat Board about a contract entered into with the United Kingdom for the sale of 80,000,000 bushels of wheat. At the time, I produced correspondence between me and the board which proved conclusively that I had consulted that body, and had asked for its opinion on the terms of the contract. The correspondence also showed that months of delay had taken place during negotiations between the board and the Government of the United Kingdom, which was becoming desperate because it seemed that the contract would never be completed. At that stage, the Australian Government took the matter out of the hands of the board, and the contract with the Government of the United Kingdom was completed. Do honorable members say that, in the circumstances, we were not justified in acting as we did? Our own kith and kin in Great Britain needed the wheat, but the deal was being held up because of arguments between the Australian Wheat Board and the Government of the United Kingdom over the matter of ls. or ls. 6d. a bushel. In the meantime, there was danger that arrangements which had been made for the shipping of wheat would fall through. If any honorable member doubts this, let him look up the speech that I made during the debate on the International Wheat Agreement. If he needs further proof, [ shall make available the cables which passed between the Australian Government and the Government of the United Kingdom on the subject. Such a realist as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) knows, and has said in this chamber, that the Government must retain control over a commodity regarding which it has entered into heavy financial commitments. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) has adopted a similar attitude. Even though other members of the Liberal party have been dumb, those two honorable members have been courageous enough to say that they stand for the principle of government responsibility and control. Members of the Australian Country party take the opposite view. I hope that if a division is taken on this clause, members of the Liberal party will vote in accordance with their own beliefs, and demonstrate that they are not so partisan and blind to the wishes of the wheat-growers and the public as to endeavour to defeat the protective provision which is incorporated therein. If a further contribution is required from me on this subject, I shall be able to cite examples ad infinitum on the issue, and remind honorable members opposite of what Administrations which they supported have done in the past. This issue has arisen only because the Government has been completely honest with wheatgrowers and the respective States governments.
Honorable members opposite pretend that during World War II., the Australian Government deprived wheat growers of a mythical sum of £100,000,000. What are the facts? In 1943, wheat was banked up in Western Australia and the Government financed the farmers. .Shipping was not available to enable us to export the grain. The then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. Scully, obtained the consent of Cabinet to guarantee to growers 4s. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels and 2s. a bushel for all their wheat in excess of that quantity. In order to encourage the consumption of wheat within Australia, because we did not know whether we would be able to dispose of the surplus Western Australian wheat, we granted to the poultry industry a concession of 6d. a bushel. The poultry industry for years had asked anti-Labour administrations to grant that concession, but had never been able to obtain it. The concession was later increased to 3s. 6d. a bushel, and the cost was met from Consolidated Revenue. All local requirements are supplied at the Australian economic price, as accepted by the State governments and Australian wheatgrowers.
The honorable member for New England has “blah blahed” about dog biscuits. He does not seem to have a mind above dog biscuits. During the war, the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture acted wisely in allowing manufacturers to continue to make dog biscuits. The all-important consideration is that the availability of dog biscuits not only for greyhounds and the poodles of the associates of the honorable member for New England in exclusive social circles in Sydney, but also for sheep dogs and utility dogs, enabled substantially greater quantities of meat to be supplied to the United Kingdom. Does the honorable member for New England suggest that during the war, all dogs should have been exterminated because they ate meat? Does he consider the Government would have been able to police the supply of meat for greyhounds and poodles belonging to his associates who move in exclusive social circles in Sydney? The then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture did the sensible thing in allowing manufacturers to continue to make dog biscuits. This saved meat for the United Kingdom.
Employees in munitions establishments and the poorer sections of the community needed their sport and recreation just as much as did the exclusive set who patronized the horse-racing clubs. Race horses consumed large supplies of oats and other feed which were needed for stock. This miserable attempt to score a paltry point at the expense of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), because he allowed manufacturers of dog biscuits to obtain wheat at the internal consumption price then ruling illustrates the confined and concreted mind of the honorable member for New England. I consider that the amendment should be rejected out of hand.
. -It is a well-known fact that if a speaker loses his head in a debate his remarks cannot be regarded so seriously as they would be if he were speaking coolly and logically. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard; was perfectly calm at the beginning of his speech, but towards its conclusion, he became almost incoherent and, consequently, we know that his remarks were not his well-considered views, and we cannot accept them as being logical. His concentration on the theme that dog biscuits were fed to sheep dogs demonstrates that he does not know much about the pastoral life of .Australia.
– The honorable member himself does not know much about the pastoral life of Australia.
– Any person who tries to justify the feeding of clog biscuits to greyhounds by saying that they were also fed to the lap dogs of society ladies does not know much about what is required in this chamber. The Minister has urged the committee to reject the amendment on grounds that are totally different from the circumstances that will prevail if the amendment is accepted. He referred to primary production boards which had been appointed by a former Minister for Commerce, Sir Earle Page, but he overlooked the fact that at that time the wheat-growers’ money was not involved in the deal. The government of the day had complete control. In such circumstances, the remarks by the
Minister had nothing to do with the amendment.
I shall now outline our objectives in supporting the amendment. At the present time, conditions are vastly different from those which existed before the outbreak of World War II. In those days, successive Ministers for Commerce might have possessed the powers to which the Minister has referred, but they acted in a co-operative way. They did not attempt to dictate. By this amendment, we are endeavouring to prevent the Minister from becoming a dictator. In his secondreading speech the Minister said -
The farmer’s job is to produce, and he does that job well.
The Minister believes that the farmer’s job is to produce, but that his function should cease at that point. When he has produced the wheat, some one else should control its disposal. Honorable members opposite will contend that the Australian Wheat Board will be the marketing authority and will protect the interest* of the wheat-grower. They will claim that the growers have a majority of representatives on the board. Those assertions will be perfectly correct. At this point. L should mention that the Minister appears to blow hot and cold about the value of the Australian Wheat Board. On one occasion, he praises it, but on another occasion he says that it cannot fulfil its functions. The Australian Wheat Board has a majority of growers’ representatives, but what will that avail if the Minister can override its decisions as he has done in the past? 1 support the amendment, because I believe that as the money involved belongs to the wheat-growers, their representatives should be able to determine the terms and conditions of the disposal of their product. Other members of the board will be representatives of the Government, and the Minister will appoint them. They will be able to express his views, but the producers will have a majority. I also support the amendment because the Minister is a socialist, and I fear that if he had his way the principles of socialism will enter into negotiations on behalf of the wheat-growers. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) has stated that the nationalization of banking cannot be separated from the wheat industry stabilization scheme. The nationalization of banking is a step in the direction of socialism. Will any member of the Labour party state that he is not pledged to support all proposals for the introduction of socialization? Will any honorable member opposite deny that the wheat industry is a valuable asset to control as a steppingstone towards the introduction of socialization? The Australian Country party is anxious that the Minister shall not be in a position to use the wheat industry as a stepping-stone to complete socialization to the detriment of the producers of the golden grain. The purpose of the amendment is to achieve our objective in that respect.
– I desire to reply to some of the statements by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard). I remind the honorable gentleman of the famous remark by Lord Acton -
All power corrupts; but absolute power corrupts absolutely.
That is evident in the Minister’s speech. He and the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), just as the cheese mites do are trying te eat up the whole cheese. During the last few years, they have endeavoured to secure greater ministerial control of primary production boards. The Minister has referred to various acts to show that in the past, Ministers for Commerce have had power to do the same things as he will be able to do under this bill. The Minister has a poor case when he must build it on false foundations. He has twisted the words in. various acts. He says that the negative power of veto is the same, in effect, as the positive powers contained in the bill. In some of the acts which he cited, there was only a negative power of veto. The Minister of the day had power to veto a decision of the board, but he did not have the power to direct the board to take certain action, or to take out of its hands the marketing and disposal of the products of the growers. In the past, a Minister has not had the authority to define the powers of an executive committee constituted by mem bers of a board to control the business of a board between the sittings of the full board. Many of the bills which nonLabour governments introduced stated distinctly that the Minister should not have power to direct the board concerned to take certain action. I refer specifically to the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924, in order to illustrate my contention. The act provided for the formation on an executive committee of the hoard. Sub-section 1 of section 11 provided -
There shall be an Executive Committee of the Board consisting of the Chairman of the Board and four members of the Board to be elected annually by the Board.
Sub-section 2 provided -
The Executive Committee shall have such powers and functions of the Board as the Board thinks fit.
But sub-clause 1 of clause 10 of the bill now before the House states -
The Board may appoint any number of its members to be an Executive Committee, and may delegate to that Committee such of itf powers and functions as the Board, subject to any direction by the Minister, determines.
The non-socialistic government gave wide powers to that board, but all the powers of this board are neutralized by the words “ subject to any direction by the Minister Behind the exterior of this “ grower-controlled “ board will lie the band of the Minister pulling the strings and preventing the growers’ representatives from doing as they wish, even in such a small matter as the appointment of an executive committee. The Minister made a most curious speech, in which he talked about poodles, bulldogs and all sorts of dogs, and, as usual, became personally abusive. A curious feature of his speech lay in his remarks to the effect that whenever an injustice was done to a citizen the Minister would take up the case and direct the board as to what it should or should not do. What qualities has a Minister of the Crown, excellent though he may be, to set himself up as the judge to decide the affairs of citizens of Australia? He cited a case in which the Australian Meat Board refused to issue a licence to a man to operate a meat works, and said that he had directed the board to issue the licence. But the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr.
Rankin) explained that that man was not financially sound enough to operate the works. Possibly, therefore, the board was perfectly correct in its decision, because, in the event of the lack of finance of the man concerned, all the value of the commodities in the freezing works might have been lost by the producers. A bullheaded man like the Minister should not take upon himself the granting or denial of justice in making spot decisions. A citizen should be given by legislation the right to seek and receive justice in the courts. If a man thinks that in being refused a licence he has been denied justice, he should be able to appeal against the decision of the board concerned in the quiet atmosphere of the courts. He should not be dependent upon the unilateral justice or lack of justice of the Minister, who might hear one side of the case and give his verdict without hearing the other. A court of law would hear evidence from both sides, and ensure that justice was done. So we most strongly object to the proposal that the power should be taken from the board and given to the Minister, especially when it may be exercised as it was exercised in such matters as the granting of 50,000 bushels of wheat for the manufacture of dog biscuits and the sale of wheat to New Zealand behind the back of the board. Now the Minister wants the power to direct the board itself and its executive to do whatever he thinks they should do. We are attempting to ensure that justice shall be done and that powers shall not be filched from the board. What the Minister proposes reminds me of the biblical quotation, “ The voice is Jacob’s voice but the hands are the hands of Esau “. The bands that may do wrongful things may be the hands of the board, but the voice directing the doing of those things may be the voice of the Minister, who will remain unseen in the background. The attempt to take the power from the board and to put it in the hands of the Minister should be blocked at every point. We are attempting to block it at this point.
Question put -
That the proviso proposed to be added (Mr.
Abbott’s amendment) be so added.
The committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman - Mr. T. P. Burke.) Ayes . . . . . . 25
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 -
The Board may, subject to the approval of the Minister, enter into an agreement with a person, firm, company or governmental authority in a place outside Australia providing for that person, firm, companyor authority to act as the agent of the Board in respect of such matters and for such remuneration as are provided in the agreement.
– I move -
That the following proviso be added to the clause: - “ Provided that the approval of the Minister shall only be necessary when the funds of the Wheat Prices Stabilization Fund subscribed by wheat-growers have been exhausted (such exhaustion of funds having been certified by the Auditor-General) and the Government is meeting the requirements of this Act from Consolidated Revenue.”.
This clause provides that the board may enter into agreements with overseas agents, subject again to ministerial direction. Everything I said about clause 10 applies equally to this clause, which is another effort to take power from the hands of the elected representatives of the primary producers and put it into the hands of the Minister. I remind the committee again that the previous Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was so completely ignorant of commercial practice that he made the New Zealand Wheat Agreement and altered the orders of the Australian Wheat Board in regard to the supply of wheat in the form of dog biscuits for racing greyhounds. We want the control of the board to be kept in the hands of the people chosen by the 64,000 wheat-growers of Australia as the most suitable to control the affairs of their industry. I have little doubt that the Minister will be pleased to accept the amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 13 (Powers of Board).
.- This clause confers on the Australian Wheat Board certain powers relating to the purchase or acquisition and the Bale or disposal of wheat. What power does the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) propose to exercise under his authority to direct the board to ensure the provision of wheat for the poultry industry and stock-raising industry of Australia at reasonable prices? Hitherto, wheat has been made available at concession prices. The subsidy has fluctuated between 6d. and 3s. 6d. a bushel. At one period, the price of wheat for human consumption was 5s. 2d. a bushel, but to-day, under this measure, it is to be 6s. 3d. a bushel. What is the Government’s policy in connexion with tha provision of wheat at a reasonable price for the breeders of poultry, calves and pigs? If the Minister has no policy in this connexion, he should say so. When the price was 5s. 2d. a bushel, substantial concessional payments were made by the Government to enable the industries to which I have referred, particularly the poultry industry, to obtain wheat at a reasonable price. Does the Government propose to subsidize wheat in these instances? If not, will the Minister explain why? Many people, particularly ex-servicemen who have gone into the poultry-raising industry, are finding the costs of every commodity they require excessive, and 6s. 3d. a bushel would be a crippling price for them to have to pay for their stock feed. If the Government proposes to grant a subsidy I should like to know the amount that it is proposed to pay. Will the Minister also give a clear indication of the Government’s policy in this regard? Those engaged in the poultry industry and other industries which depend on wheat are entitled to a clear statement from the Minister on this matter.
.- This clause reads - (1.) The Board may, subject to any directions of the Minister, for the purposes of the export of wheat and wheat products, the interstate marketing of wheat in the Territories of the Commonwealth, or for the purposes of, or purposes incidental to, any international agreement to which Australia becomes a party - -
In a word, this clause means that the board may acquire wheat and related products. Obviously this clause is intended to deal with concessional sales throughout Australia. As pointed out by a senior Minister in this Parliament during the second-reading debate on another measure, the Government’s interpretation of the meaning of “ may “ is that it means “ shall “ in legislation introduced into this Parliament. The Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) placed that interpretation upon the word “ may “ We may take it, then, that clause 13 means, in effect -
The Board shall, subject to the approval of the Minister . . .
The Australian Wheat Growers Federation has pointed out to governments repeatedly that the wheatgrower is not opposed to the selling of wheat at a concessional price, that is, the cost of production plus a reasonable margin of profit for human consumption in Australia in the form of flour. However, the wheatgrowers, over the years, have been opposed to wheat being sold to other branches of primary industry at a concession. In principle, they are not opposed to those industries getting wheat at a reasonable price if those industries are essential to the economy of the country, but they contend that it is unjust that any one section of the community in Australia should have to shoulder the whole of the financial burden involved in -inch transactions.
Prior to the recent war, stock feeders used about S,000,000 bushels of wheat annually. The price then was on allfours with the ‘prices of other commodities. After the outbreak of war, however, the price of wheat rose. According to the May, 1948, Summary of the Wheat Situation, issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, the consumption of wheat as stock feed in 1942 was 14,700,000 bushels; in 1943 it was 20,300,000 bushels; in 1944, 40,700,000 bushels; in 1945, 44,900,000 bushels; in 1946 it dropped hack to 24,400,000 bushels; last year it was 22,200,000 bushels; and this year the estimated consumption under this heading will be 25,000,000 bushels. With the exception of last season, stock-feeders have been able to buy wheat at 5s. 2d. a bushel, f.o.r., ports, out of which the farmers received altogether 4s. Id. a bushel. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and other members of the Government, a3 well as other advocates of this scheme, have said all along that we should look after these other industries. Whilst I agree with that in principle, it should not be done at the expense of any one section of the community. Tn L939 heavy bacon pigs were sold at 75s. to S5s. By 1945 their price had risen to 140s., and this year it is up to 200s. During practically the whole of that period the price paid to the wheatgrowers for stock feed was only 4s. Id. a bushel at siding. The whole of the loss was borne by the wheat-growers. Whilst it is admitted that we cannot do without the poultry-raisers, the pig-breeders and the dairymen, and that they are necessary to the economy of this country, the whole of the taxpayers should bear the burden of supplying them with wheat at a price cheaper than the price which is ruling on the open market, which, we admit, is too high for those industries to carry.
The federation, as the mouthpiece of the farmers, suggested to the Minister that up to 15 per cent, of the available exportable surplus, should be made available for stock feed in this country at the concessional price. That means that out of 100,000,000 bushels of wheat the farmers were prepared to allow 15,000,000 bushels to go to the smaller industries at the guaranteed price, in addition to the wheat consumed for flour. That is a. very reasonable proposition, to which consideration should be given. The Government would not accept that proposal, as it considered that the quantity of wheat for export from Australia has to be determined by it under its constitutional powers. We have learned this afternoon that thai power is contained in the Customs Act. Although the Minister has criticized the Opposition for not having remedied various anomalies when its members comprised the government of this country, I point out that that act has been in operation since 1901 and the Minister has made no attempt to correct it since this Government has been in office.
– I have no intention of doing so.
– In past years there was not even a tendency towards socialistic principles, and that section of the act was never applied.
Clause 13 provides, inter alia, that the board may - sell or dispose of any wheat, wheaten floursemolina, corn sacks, jute or jute products purchaser! or otherwise acquired by the board; and if the Minister so directs, they shall dispose of such acquisitions. In thi* clause, is it intended by sub-clause (a) that the wheat-growers of this country will have to finance the purchase of all requirements of jute for this country? Must they foot the bill for potato sacks, sugar bags, and bags required in other industries? According to this provision. there is no other way out. The clause also provides that the board may - purchase or otherwise acquire any wheat, wheaten flour, semolina, cornsacks, jute or jute products. [n essence, that means that the board will use the wheat-growers’ money for the purchase of jute goods for any purpose in this country. The clause further provides that the board may, subject to the direction of the Minister - for the purposes of, or purposes incidental to, my international agreement to which Australia becomes a. .party . . . <lo certain things. If it should be necesary to secure a quantity of sugar bags from India, for instance, the board may have to enter into negotiations to sell wheat to India at below world parity, but if that should become necessary for the economy of this country, one section of the community alone should not have to foot the bill. Whilst I do not want to dwell on the New Zealand wheat agreement, it was only after continued agitation by honorable members in this corner that it was eventually admitted that such an agreement, which operated to the detriment of the farmers, was in existence. Eventually the matter was rectified, for which I give the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture due credit. He realized that an injustice was being done, and saw fit to correct it. In order to prevent a scheme of that nature being embarked upon in future, and the wheat-growers being asked- to foot the whole bill, I move, as an amendment -
That the clause be postponed, as an instruction to the Government - to provide that, in the event of any direction being given by the Minister to the Board to sell or dispose of any wheat at a price lower than that which, in the opinion of the Board, is u fair marketable price therefor, the Government shall pay to the Board the difference between such lower price and such fair marketable price.
That is in keeping with the recommendation of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. It was put to the Minister in plain words. The federation did not ask for anything which was outrageous, unjust or unreasonable. It Was merely suggested to the Minister that the Australian Wheat Board should not be subject to ministerial direction in the exercise of its power to sell wheat to the best advantage, unless the board was to be reimbursed in respect of sales either internally or externally. I cannot see anything unreasonable in that, and I do not think any fair-minded person could regard that as unreasonable. The farmers produce the wheat which is necessary to the economy of this country. If that wheat is to be sold at lesthan a fair marketable price to any country under an international arrangement in order to gain an advantage for the whole of the taxpayers of this country, it is up to the whole of the taxpayers, through the Government, to re-imburse the board the difference in price, so that it may be returned to the wheatgrower.who worked hard to produce the crop.
.- Whilst I do not desire to detain the committee on this matter, I should like some explanation by the Minister (Mr. Pollard) of the policy of the Government with regard to the provision of wheat as stock-feed for the poultry industry. As the Minister is quite aware, over the past four or five years the poultry industry, in particular, has made big bounds forward, and it is now one of our most important industries. The Minister is also aware that the .price of wheat materially affects costs of production in this industry. At one time, wheat was supplied to poultry-farmers at concessional prices. That concession wai* withdrawn, and they now pay the homeconsumption price. What, does the Government propose to do in the future’? Does it intend that wheat for the poultry industry shall continue to he supplied at the home-consumption price? If that price rises, as it may well do, will the industry be expected to pay the increased price, or can it expect some concession from the Government?
.- The Australian Wheat Board and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) have a monopoly of the handling and selling of wheat in Australia, and anybody who wishes to purchase wheat for any purpose must obtain it from the board. That being so, there is an onus upon the board and the Minister to see that purchasers are supplied with a product of a reasonable quality. Some merchants and poultry-farmers in tuy electorate who use wheat for poultryfeeding purposes have complained to me of the quality of the grain that has been foisted upon them. They showed me some samples. The wheat was mouldy and withered looking, and I should say that it was of very little value for stock or poultry feed. Many farmers have refused to use it, and are making do as best they can. I emphasize that they have no source of supply other than the board. Therefore, it is important, if the powers vested in the Minister are to be exercised for the protection of the community, that the honorable gentleman should ensure that the board does its duty to the community by supplying a product of reasonable quality. If the wheat that is supplied is second, third or fourth grade wheat, it should be so described. If produce merchants and poultry-farmers are told that they must take or leave the wheat that is offered to them by the Australian Wheat Board, and they have no alternative source of supply, the Minister is the only person to whom a complaint can be made and from whom redress can be sought. I hope, therefore, that the honorable gentleman will issue instructions to the board in regard to this matter.
.- As this clause deals with the sale and control of wheat both locally and overseas, it is appropriate to ask the Minister whether he will give the committee some information about the operations of the International Emergency Food Council, which controls the export of foodstuffs, including wheat, from Australia. In the handbook of the Empire Economic Union, the following quotation from the United Kingdom Hansard appears : -
The International Emergency Food Council’s function is to form plans for making the best use of world food resources in the present emergency. It has no executive powers, hut makes recommendations to member governments on the supply of and distribution of food. . . . [. contend that it has neither executive nor statutory .powers. I should like to know who is the Australian representative on it.
An examination of the statistics relating to food exports reveals an alarming state of affairs. During the last financial year, the largest proportion of Australia’s wheat exports went to New Zealand, the next largest to Britain, and the next largest to Palestine. I do not think that any Australian will dispute that the greatest proportion of our exports of wheat should go to Britain, the country that bore the brunt of the war and that is now in great need of food. However, many of our cargoes of wheat and otherfoodstuffs are dispersed in many directions. Doubtless there are good reasons for that in many instances, but I think that we should be informed of those reasons. The Digest of Statistics published by the United Kingdom Government, shows how Britain has been expending dollars upon the purchase of foodstuffs in hard currency areas, such as the United States of America and Canada. It reveals how badly Australia appears in the scheme of things. The value of foodstuffs exported from Australia to the United Kingdom was £72,000,000 in 1938, and £97,000,000 in 3947. The comparable figures for New Zealand are 46,000,000” and 90,000,000 ; for Canada, £79,000,000 and £230,000,000; for the United States of America, £117,000,000 and £295,000,000; and for the Argentine, £38,000,000 and’ £130,000,000.
Britain is in a difficult position. The loan of $1,000,000,000 that was obtained from the United States of America was expended more rapidly than was anticipated. That was largely due to increased food prices and to the fact that Britain had to buy foodstuffs from hard currency countries. Australia is in the sterling area. It is part of an Empire, the disintegration of which would cause civilization to suffer a severe setback. It is, therefore, appropriate to ask the Minister whether he will use his best endeavours to ensure that Australian cargoes are not unduly dispersed. If the Australian Government receives an order from the International Emergency Food Council to send Australian wheat to Jamaica, Bolivia or any other country, it should satisfy itself of the soundness of the reasons for so doing, and the Parliament should be informed of them. Britain is expending dollars from a pool upon which Australia must draw frequently. We know that the Prime Minister recently visited the United Kingdom on a mission that was said to he concerned with economic matters. Australia has sterling balances in Britain, lt will be to our benefit to trade within the Empire as far as possible. “We must examine the operations of this nebulous body, the International Emergency Food Council, which seems to control much of the trade of the world, because it is necessary to safeguard our exports for Britain’s sake.
– The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) desires to know the policy of the Government in regard to the supply of wheat to the Australian poultry industry. Lt has been clearly intimated to the State Ministers for Agriculture and the Australian wheat-growers that the policy of the Government in regard to our internal requirements of wheat is that those requirements must be satisfied with wheat supplied at the Australian price. Some honorable members opposite contend that the Australian wheat-growers should receive the world market price for wheat that is supplied by them for stock and poultry feed. If that policy had been in force recently, the poultry farmers would have paid 37s. a bushel for wheat, although the home consumption price was fixed at 6s. 3d. a bushel. Honorable gentlemen opposite have suggested that the difference between 6s. 3d. and 17s. a bushel should be met by means of a subsidy. Let us examine that proposition. If that policy is to be applied in relation to wheat,, what policy should be applied in relation to pig-iron, which is used to make galvanized iron, fencing wire, wire netting, and many other products that are sold in Australia to-day at a price substantially below the world market price? Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is now selling pig-iron in Australia at a price from £5 10s. to £6 a ton, hut it could be sold in the United Kingdom and the United States of America for approximately £12 a ton. Is it suggested that the taxpayers of the Commonwealth should be asked to pay the difference between £5 l’Os. and £12 a ton? Zinc is now being sold on the Australian market for £22 10s. a ton, but the world market price is over £100 a ton. If honorable gentlemen opposite want to be consistent, they must say that the Australian taxpayers should subsidize the difference betwen the home-consumption prices and the export prices of all. commodities. They are only indulging in a popularity hunt. If the Government were to implement their suggestions in relation to iron, steel, lead, zinc, wheat and other products, they would complain of a lack of soundness in the subsidization policy. Because of the frightful burden that was being placed upon the Australian taxpayers by the adoption of such a principle, they would demand that we should face realities and return to prices that were more in line with the Australian internal economy.
Under this plan, the wheat-growers are required to supply the Australian market with wheat at the guaranteed homeconsumption price of 6s. 3d. a bushel, which may be altered from time to time by variations in the cost of production. If the price of wheat fell to 3s. or 2s. a bushel, would honorable gentlemen opposite argue that the Australian wheatgrowers should sell their products to the poultry-farmers at that price? Owing to the policy of the Labour Government in selling wheat to poultry-farmers at concessional rates for a number of years, the poultry industry has been put on a sound economic basis. Poultry-farmers can afford to pay the present homeconsumption price, and the industry provides a valuable market for Australian wheat. If the price of wheat falls to 3s. or even 2s. a bushel, as it conceivably could do, the wheat-grower will still be protected. This is not a one-way agreement. It imposes obligations upon the wheat-growers, the taxpayers and everybody concerned. I assure the honorable member for Flinders, who is vitally interested in the poultry industry, that every possible effort will be made to supply the legitimate wheat requirements of the Australian poultry-farmers. I emphasize the word ‘“legitimate”. There are other grains that they can use with advantage to themselves and to other primary producers. It was proved recently that a mixture containing 40 per cent, of oats is very suitable for the feeding of poultry. While there is a great world demand for wheat as at present, poultry-farmers should use a reasonable proportion of oats in their poultry foods. The same applies to sorghum. The whole of the burden of supplying cereals and grains to the poultry industry should not rest on the wheat industry.
– The fowls will not listen to such arguments.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) is always advancing foul arguments. My arguments, on the other hand, are clean ones. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) made a heart-rending appeal on behalf of the poultry-farmers of his electorate. The honorable gentleman is concerned because poultry-farmers have to take second grade, and even third and fourth grade, wheat to feed their fowls, because it is the policy of the Australian Wheat Board to export f.a.q. wheat to overseas markets, where the higher grades of wheat are needed for human consumption. He complained with some justification of the quality of the wheat that is being sold to poultryfarmers and said that it was not of the standard that it should be. He implied that the price is too high. He appealed to me, in effect, after other honorable members opposite had expressed their opposition to the vesting of any power in the Minister, to ensure that poultryfarmers get a “ fair go “.
– It is a question of appealing to the board.
– Suppose the appeal to the board falls on deaf ears, am I to stand idly by if I consider that a foul injustice has been done to the poultry industry ? That is one of the reasons why the Minister is required to have power to ensure that justice shall be done to all sections of the community. For some time, I have been perturbed by a fear that the poultry-farmers were being rather badly treated in respect of the price they had to pay for second grade wheat. I have seen some of the wheat -supplied to poultry-farmers. The only -concession which the wheat industry is making to the poultry-farmers is in the supply of second-grade wheat, which in normal times would not he worth ls. 6d. a bushel, at 6d. a bushel less than the home-consumption price. 1 have been inclined to interfere in this matter before, but I have been fearful that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) would criticize me, and say that I had been unfair to the wheat industry. I have refrained from taking any action in the past, but I may have to take, some action in the future in order to protect the poultry industry against the supply of wheat of inferior grade. I have ascertained that the board “has made arrangements whereby any storekeeper or poultryman who queries the quality or price of wheat supplied to him may appeal to the board. I am not altogether satisfied that the poultry-farmers are getting a fair deal. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) may rest assured thai this Government is deeply concerned about the welfare of the poultry industry. We have recently entered into a contract with the United Kingdom Government for the supply, over a number of years, of 105,000,000 dozen eggs. We expect thai this contract will result in the continued expansion of the poultry industry and of the egg output in this country. The industry is a valuable one. It has grown tremendously since the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, provided for wheat to he sold, to the industry at a concessional price. Some time ago, we negotiated a contract with the United Kingdom Government for the supply of top quality eggs at 2s. Id. a dozen. Notwithstanding that that agreement was still in existence, I persuaded the United Kingdom authorities to increase that price to 2s. 4d. a dozen. The poultry-farmer will receive the benefit of that increased price. The United Kingdom authorities could have held us to the terms of the original agreement, and may have done so but for my efforts on behalf of the poultry industry. If honorable members opposite will examine the statistics relating to egg production compiled by the Victorian Department of Agriculture at its egg production trials at Burnley, and by the New South Wales Department of
Agriculture at the Hawkesbury Agricultural College, they will find that the margin of profit derived from each hen this year is greater than it has ever been in the past, notwithstanding the existing higher feeding Costs: Before long, however, that margin may not be sufficient, [n order to ascertain the true position of the poultry industry, I recently requested the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to make a survey of the cost of production in the commercial poultryraising and egg industries. Any assistance of a reasonable kind that we can give to the poultry industry, without detriment to the wheat-growers, will be gladly given. There can be no misapprehension about the policy of the Government on this subject. It has been clearly laid down in this bill. It has also been clearly stated at meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council and at conferences with representatives of the wheat-growers. I have consistently said that the Government conceives it to be the duty of the wheat-growing industry to make wheat available for the consumption in Australia, at an Australian economic price. The same policy is applied to the products of the lead, zinc, galvanized iron and other industries supplying the wheat-growers’ requirements.
– Where is the galvanized iron going?
– If the honorable member for New England is so blind, deaf and dumb that ho is unable to ascertain for himself that the production of galvanized iron in Australia to-day is back to pre-war levels, it is not my fault. People like the honorable member, who owns about 20,000 acres of magnificent land, will find that, due to the Government’s determination to honour its promises to ex-servicemen, priority in the supply of galvanized iron, wire netting and barbed wire is extended to ex-servicemen who have been settled on blocks varying in area from 500 to 1,000 acres.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order ! The Minister is engaging in a very interesting discussion, but it is rather wide of the clause.
– I leave it at that.
.. - I protest strongly against the policy stated by the Minister for Commerce and< Agriculture (Mr. Pollard). I had nol. intended to speak on this clause but I am impelled to do so by the Minister’s statements. The honorable gentleman’* reasoning is completely out of focus. Doesthe honorable gentleman contend that thegalvanized iron industry and other industries which supply the farmers’ requirements receive no profit? The galvanized iron industry, which is one of tb biggest monopolies in Australia, earntmagnificent profits; but no matter how high world parity prices for wheat maysoar, the wheat-growers receive only their cost of production for that portion of” their wheat that is sold for stock feed. Surely the Minister does not believe thai the people will regard his remarks asreasonable. The honorable gentleman has frequently said during this debate that the Australian Wheat Grower*Federation agreed to a guaranteed priceof 6s. 3d. a bushel. Does he contend thaithe federation also agreed to supply wheal in unlimited quantities for stockfeedingpurposes ?
– The representatives of” the federation certainly did not agree tothat.
– Did they not say to the Minister, “You must limit theamount of wheat made available forstockfeeding purposes at the concessional price?” Did they not say, “If you sell over a certain number of bushels of” wheat to the poultry-farmers and others, at a concessional price, should not the difference between the concessional price and the world parity price be met by a contribution from Consolidated Revenue?” No honorable member of this chamber has been able to say why wheat-growers should haveto continue to subsidize the poultry and stock raising industries. I agree that thepoultry industry is very important and that everything should be done to assistit; but I do not believe that the wheatgrowers should bear the cost of subsidizing it. The quantity of wheat sold in Australia for stock-feed purposes out of the No. 10 wheat pool was 22,235,000 bushels. That wheat was sold at 4s. lid. a bushel.
– In what year?
– The No. 10 pool covered the wheat season from the 1st December, 1946, to the 30th November, 1947. During that period the average price of wheat overseas was los. 8d. a bushel. Thus, the wheat-growers of Australia sacrificed 10s. 9d. on every bushel of wheat sold to the stock-feeders and poultry-raisers. On a rough estimate that concession cost the wheat-growers in one year no less than £12,000,000. The subsidization of other industries in that way cannot be continued. The irony of that arrangement is that the price of 4s. lid. a bushel at that time represented only the bare cost of production. Yet the Minister refers to the galvanized iron industry. Could any comparison be more ridiculous? The wheat-growers of Australia have had enough of this Government’s wheat policy. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) proposed his amendment solely in an endeavour to ensure that justice should be done to this great basic industry; but there appears to be no reasonableness, let alone justice, in this Government. I enter my emphatic protest against the Minister’s attempt to explain away away the Government’s failure to deal justly with the wheat industry by attempting to draw an analogy between it and the galvanized iron and other industries. The Australian Wheat Growers Federation suggested that a limit of 15 per cent, of the total quantity of wheat exported be placed upon the quantity of wheat made available for stock feeding purposes. The wheat-growers were prepared to agree to that.
– Nothing of the sort.
– That .percentage was mentioned by the representatives of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation.
– It was mentioned by the representatives of the federation, but that is very different from the honorable member’s claim that that percentage was agreed to by the wheat-growers.
– I have not claimed that the Minister had agreed to that percentage. T merely said that the wheat-grovers representatives had agreed to it. I am well aware that the Minister would not accept the suggestion of the wheat-growers’ federation of the limit to bo fixed. The Minister cannot successfully lay at my door the charge that I have tried to misrepresent anything that he has said. If I have done so at any time, I have done it unintentionally. The Minister has consistently refused to impose a limit on the quantity of wheat to be made available for stock feeding. If in any year, we do not harvest a very big wheat crop, the whole of the crop may be consumed in Australia. That has occurred in the past and it may well occur again in the future, and if it occurred when wheat was selling overseas at 12s. 6d. a bushel the wheat-growers in Australia would obtain only their cost of production. The greater the quantity of wheat consumed in Australia the less the wheat-growers will receive under present conditions. There was a time when the home market was the best market for the wheat-grower; but any advantage that the wheat-grower may have gained from the home price in the past was repaid with interest in a few months after the rise in prices. I protest against the decision of the Minister not to limit the quantity of wheat that may be sold for stock feeding purposes at concessional prices to be borne by the growers.
.- 1 again ask the Minister to furnish information relative to the International Emergency Food Council and to give an undertaking that the bulk of our food exports will go either to the people of Great Britain or to countries within the British Empire.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked for information about the Internationa] Emergency Food Council. That body was established during the war economically to control the disposal of the foodstuffs produced by member countries and to control the disbursement of moneys arising from their sale among the allied countries concerned. Australia became a voluntary member of the organization, and is still a member. Thus far, the decisions and allocations of the International Emergency
Pood Council have been reasonably satisfactory, and all parties, so far as I know, have honoured them. The council has now largely vacated the field, but Still exercises some authority, on a voluntary basis, in regard to wheat. Australia’s representative on the council is, and has always been, Mr. Garside, a very competent officer, who is stationed at Washington. His association with the Department of Commerce and Agriculture hae always been most satisfactory. The honorable member for Balaclava is anxious, as is the Government, that Australia should supply Britain with as much food as possible. Last year, Australia sold to the United Kingdom 50,000,000 bushels of wheat, but of this only about 40,000,000 bushels actually went to the United Kingdom. The Government of the United Kingdom made it clear, when the contract was entered into, that its own requirements would be only about 40,000,000 bushels, and that the balance would go to what is known as the London Food Council, which sent supplies to such countries as Ceylon, Hong Kong, Palestine, Cyprus and Malta. Therefore, when newspapers speak of the diminution of supplies of Australian food to the United Kingdom, they very often reveal misunderstanding of the situation. It often happens that food sold by Australia to Great Britain is sent, at the direction of the Government of the United Kingdom, to other destinations.
– We should resist the diversion of our produce to Egypt and Palestine.
– The honorable member has an aversion, born of antisemitism, to the sending of food to Palestine. It should be remembered that, up to a very recent date, the United Kingdom had in Palestine a large garrison which it had to supply, and it was also interested in the civil population of that country.
– I said Egypt, too.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Government should not have acceded to the request of the United Kingdom to supply wheat to the people of Palestine? The United Kingdom .may not always be prepared to buy Australian wheat. Canada and the United States of America are much nearer to the United Kingdom than is Australia. Before the war, conservative governments in the United Kingdom bought’ wheat from Russia, because it was cheaper than Australian wheat. It is desirable that Australia should maintain contact with markets other than the British market, so that we may be able to dispose of our surplus wheat should the Government of the United Kingdom, for economic or other reasons, cease to buy wheat from Australia. We wish to retain the British market, but there are other and nearer markets with which we should also keep in contact. When the contract was made with the United Kingdom for the sale of 80,000,000 bushels of wheat, we were asked to consider supplying substantial quantities of wheat to India, a fact which shows the great consideration which the Government of the United Kingdom has for other countries. In present circumstances, that Government would probably wish us to supply wheat to Pakistan if required. Indeed, seeing how dependent the Australian wheat industry is upon jute goods from India, it is desirable that we should trade with India as far as possible.
– Does the Government ever question the directions given by the Government of the United Kingdom?
– Surely the honorable member does not suggest that I should not accede to the requests of the British authorities in the circumstances I have mentioned. I generally try to meet the wishes of the Government of the United Kingdom. If that Government, after having contracted to buy Australia’s entire surplus production of butter, says that it wishes us to send 500 tons to Canada on its behalf, I would not question the request. We have worked in perfect harmony with the Government of the United Kingdom, although it is true that the contract for the sale of the surplus from last year’s wheat crop was held up for a considerable time because of delays in the negotiations between the Australian Wheat Board and the Government of the United Kingdom. I repeat that when we see it blazoned in the newspapers that Australia has dropped back to fifth place a3 a supplier of food to Great Britain, it does not necessarily mean that our exports of food under contracts of sale to the Government of the United Kingdom have diminished.
.- The clause which is before the committee contains the words, “ The Board may “. I take it, therefore, that I am permitted to discuss the constitution of the board. Earlier this afternoon, I discussed the manner in which the Australian Wheat Board was constituted when the Menzies Government was in office, and I was shown to be wrong in what I said. 3 now wish to point out that I had asked an official in the library to find out from the Department of Commerce and Agriculture how the board was constituted when the Menzies Government was in office. Perhaps, because of a misunderstanding, I was given information which was not correct.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - The constitution of the board was properly discussed during the consideration of a previous clause. It may not be further discussed now.
– It is decent of the honorable member to correct his previous statement.
– Naturally, I wish to correct my mistake. I was given wrong information due to a misunderstanding on somebody’s part.
– The honorable member himself should have known better.
– Since midday today, I have been asking the Department of Commerce and Agriculture for the facts. If I was ignorant, then I was in good company, because the department, over a period of five hours, was not able to obtain the information. The Australian Wheat Board, under the present proposals, will not be constituted as it was previously, nor will the authority of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture be exercised in the same way as when a government representing the present Opposition was in power. Because of these differences, my colleague was impelled to prepare the amendment which he has foreshadowed, and which I support. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture was not able to obtain in five hours the information which I sought, but I have obtained it from Hansard, volumes 167 and 168. The constitution of the Australian Wheat Board during the regime of the Menzies Government was as. follows: Sir 0. McPherson, chairman; Messrs. H. G. Darling, J. S. Cameron, J. Gatehouse and E. W. Walker, representatives of millers and merchants; Messrs. R. G. Tilt and J. S. Teasdale, representative* of the growers’ pools; Mr. R. Hamblin. farmer representative of the bulk handling authority; and Messrs. E. E. Field. D. L. Clark, F. J. Cullen and J. W. Diver, representatives of tb* growers.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- The honorable member is trying to get roundmy previous ruling. He may refer to the functions of the board, but not to its membership.
– Very well. I wat going to say that there were on the board at that time seven representatives of the growers as against four representatives of the wheat merchants, so that the growerswere in a majority. However, I shall not refer further to that. The amendment seeks the postponement of clause 13 as an instruction to the Government -
To provide that, in the event of any direction being given by the Minister to the boardto sell or dispose of any wheat at a price lower than that which, in the opinion of the board, is a fair marketable price therefor., the Government shall pay to the hoard the difference between such lower price and suchfair marketable price.
The amendment, as every one who isinterested in the wheat industry must know, has been made necessary by the action of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and his predecessors in> Labour governments, in overriding the authority of the board. The board wascompletely ignored when contracts for the sale of vast quantities of wheat were entered into, as in the sale of wheat to New Zealand. It has been proved thaithe Government had contracted to sell huge parcels of wheat, although the Minister for Commerce and Agriculturedenied to the Parliament and to thegrowers that any such contract had been made.
– That is a lie.
– The record in ilansard belies the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully). Behind the board’s back the Government sold a big parcel of wheat to New Zealand, and ;also arranged for the sale of Australia’s entire export surplus for five years. We are seeking to protect the growers by inserting in the bill a provision that, if this or any other government should consider it necessary in the public interest, or as an act of policy ; to sell wheat below the current world price, as for instance when it sold wheat to New Zealand for 5s. 9d. a bushel when the export price was 12s., the wheat-growers shall not hear the loss. Although the Vice-President of the Executive Council had denied the existence of the wheat agreement with New Zealand, we were able to reveal that the secret contract had been signed. In the light of that experience, we desire to provide, not a fortuitous, but a statutory protection so that if the Labour Government, or, for that matter, any other government in future desires to sell wheat cheaply in accordance with national policy or its own political party, the wheat-grower shall not be required to bear the loss. That is the purpose of the amendment. 1 cannot understand the Minister’s contention that the amendment is unreasonable and unjust. He has tried to pull the wool over our eyes by asking whether the Opposition suggests that the Government should make good to the producers of lead, zinc and pig iron the difference between the price in Australia and world parity. No member of the Opposition has made such a suggestion, because there is no basis of comparison between the sale of wheat, and the sale of lead, zinc and pig iron. For instance, lead, zinc and pig iron are not compulsorily acquired but, under this bill, wheat will be compulsorily acquired. The large companies which engage in the production of lead, zinc and pig iron, which the Minister has mentioned in defending his (policy, know that they must supply local requirements at the Australian price, but when those requirements have been satisfied, they are permitted to sell their surplus production at world parity.
– The honorable member knows that the companies are compelled to meet Australia’s requirements of lead, zinc and pig iron.
– I do not deny that.
– The local requirements of lead, zinc and pig iron must be sold at the Australian price.
– Exercising its power to restrict or prohibit exports, the Government ostensibly forbids the export of lead, zinc and pig iron until the local requirements have been satisfied. In my opinion, that policy is not unreasonable. However, I defy the Minister to find a primary producer who believes that the Government gives effect to that policy. Lead, zinc and iron products are exported, and the primary producers are unable to obtain sufficient quantities of galvanized iron, fencing wire, steel fencing posts and the like. It is impossible to buy water piping and bore casing. Obviously, the Government permits the export of lead, zinc and pig iron before local requirements have been satisfied. I have lodged orders with my pastoral supply company for wire, sheet iron and steel posts-
– Order! The honorable member’s remarks are not relevant to the clause under consideration.
– Although I lodged my orders for wire, sheet iron and steel posts about seven years ago, I have not been able to obtain supplies. The export of lead, zinc and iron products is one subject to which the Minister should not refer. The overseas price for lead is nearly £100 a ton, but the Government has not compulsorily acquired lead in the same way as it proposes to acquire wheat. The Government does hot deprive the lead producing companies of the difference between world parity and the Australian price, and retain the money in a so-called trust fund, to be repaid to them later should world parity fall below the Australian price. The Government allows the millionaire producers of non-ferrous metals to receive world parity for their exports, and, in addition, their employees at Broken Hill receive a substantial bonus on the production of lead.
– Order ! The honorable member must relate his remarks to the clause.
– I realize that my remarks are causing the Minister to feel uncomfortable. He spoke .at considerable length about lead, zinc and pig iron, and I shall have extraordinary difficulty in replying to his contentions if I am not permitted to refer adequately to his remarks. However, I do not desire to pursue that matter, other than to say that the Government is preventing wheatgrowers from receiving more than the cost of production but is allowing millionaire producers of non-ferrous metals to receive world parity for their exports, and their employees at Broken Hill to receive a bonus of approximately £10 a week on the production of lead. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that if the Labour Government makes a bargain with the Labour Government of New Zealand or ony other such authority for the sale of wheat at a cheap price, the Australian wheat-grower shall not be called upon to bear the cost.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I support the amendment. This clause is the most vital provision in the bill, because it deals with the powers of the Australian Wheat Board. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) probably would not have submitted his amendment had the board not been subject to ministerial direction. The clause ostensibly gives certain powers to the board, but its authority will be rendered abortive by the words “ subject to any directions of the Minister “. The powers of the board are emasculated, and members of the board will not be free agents to purchase and sell wheat, and acquire cornsacks, jute or jute products. In the final resort, those powers will be exercised by the Minister. Consequently, we arrive at an extraordinary position. The board must accept the direction of the Minister as to how it shall use its powers to purchase or dispose of wheat and cornsacks. Sub-clause 1 of clause 13 provides that the board may purchase or otherwise acquire any wheat, wheaten flour, semolina, cornsacks, jute or jute products. I direct attention to the fact that jute products include not only cornsacks but also woolpacks. In a normal year in Australia approximately 3,000,000 woolpacks are purchased. When the wool yield is exceptionally high, as many as 3,500,000 woolpacks may be bought. In other words, approximately 16,140 tons of woolpacks are imported annually, and the cost at present day values is between £2,000,000 and £2,250,000. All those packs may be purchased by the Australian Wheat Board with some of the proceeds from the sale of Australian wheat which has been disposed of at the direction of the Minister and at any price which he may like to arrange with the Government of India, having regard to our purchase of the jute products, and. in particular, woolpacks. In the negotiations about the price our best plan will be to inform the Government of India that we are experimenting with substitutes in order to decrease the great demand for jute goods. The Minister is doubtless aware that experiments are being conducted at the present time with substitutes for wool bales. We must protect the wheat-growers against the unfair disposal of their wheat, probably at a low price, to the Government of India, in return for jute goods, including woolpacks. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton), who has displayed considerable ability in protecting the interests of the wheat-growers, has moved an amendment which provides that the difference between the price which the Australian Wheat Board can obtain and the price at which it is forced to sell at the direction of the Minister to, say, the Government of India, shall be paid to the wheat-growers. Australian farmers naturally remember the notorious and wicked secret contract with New Zealand for the sale of their wheat at 5s. 9d. a bushel when world parity was more than 10s. a bushel. They know that once the tiger has tasted blood, it remains a “ killer “. It is easy for the Government to be generous at the expense of the wheat-growers. If this amendment is accepted, the Government will not be able to negotiate an agreement on terms similar to the secret agreement which the VicePresident of the Executive Council negotiated with New Zealand for the sale of wheat at a price far below world parity. I am gratified that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has entered the chamber. He will remember how the watchdogs or bloodhounds of the Treasury sniffed out the New Zealand wheat agreement when the Government has to make up the difference to Australian growers. As the result of that agreement the Treasury was robbed to the extent of 5s. a bushel, and I am sure that the right honorable gentleman has shod many a salty tear when he has considered that wicked contract, and how the unanimous demands of Aus- , tralian wheat-growers forced him to disgorge from the well-filled coffers of the Treasury the difference between the contract price and a fair price. The wheatgrowers should never have been asked to bear that financial loss.I t is to save the Prime Minister increased anguish in the future that I ask the Government to accept the amendment, which is designed to prevent menlike the Vice-President of the Executive Council from negotiating such disastrous secret contracts as the wheat agreement with New Zealand. That honorable gentleman is interjecting vigorously. Whenever he speaks in this chamber, I invariably treat his remarks with silent contempt, and never interject. He keeps up a continual rapid fire like a machine gun firing blank charges. He criticizes members of the Opposition when they try to save the Treasury from the results of such obligations as that which he incurred when he negotiated the wheat agreement with New Zealand. The Government should accept the amendment in order to protect the Treasury against such stupid commercial arrangements.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has not answered the vital question whether, if the Government sells wheat to another country for economic reasons at a lower price than the Australian Wheat Board considers fair, the wheat-growers will have to shoulder the burden or whether the difference will be made up to them by the taxpayers, as was done wheal it was discovered that the price at which wheat was sold to
New Zealand was less than it should have been.
– I am not preparedto accept the amendment.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed ( Mr. Hamilton’s amendment).
The committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman - Mr. T. P. Burke.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 14 to 18 agreed to.
Clause 19 (Unauthorized dealings with wheat).
.-I am not sure whether the pointthat I desire to raise can be raised on this clause or whether it should be raised on clause 20, the marginal note of which is “ Price to be paid for wheat “. It concerns premium wheat.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - That matter would be more properly dealt with on clause 20.
.- 1 should like to learn from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) what the position will he of a wheat-grower who wishes to sell wheat held by him to a neighbour for use as stock feed or seed.
– He must obtain the consent of the Australian Wheat Board or its agent.
– It seems foolish to make that provision. Many farmers would not bother to ask a bureaucrat for permission to enter into such a transaction, and the result might be that farmers who urgently require wheat for stock feed or seed because of adverse circumstances, would be denied the right to buy such wheat conveniently and probably more cheaply than they would be able to buy it from the board.
.- Some wheat-growers are keener than others and are willing to pay high prices for sufficient pedigreed wheat to sow 20 or 30 acres that will provide them with extra clean seed for the next sowing. They are the men who fallow well and work their land properly. They buy the seed sometimes from neighbours and at other times from experimental farms. Their good practice may be discouraged if all wheat must go through the hands of the Australian Wheat Board. Equally discouraged will be men who grow such wheat for sale to other farmers for use as seed. The Minister should give considera-tion to the suggestion of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) that an exchange of seed between two farmers should be allowed. Probably the position could be met by a regulation providing that the farmer shall make application through the board. The seed must be kept in reasonably good condition. The farmers cannot continue to hold on to seed because of the risk of deterioration.
Mr. POLLARD (Ballarat- Minister for appreciate the point that has been raised by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin). The greatest flexibility will be provided in this regard. It i* essential, of course, to have protection against black marketing. The board will be composed of sensible men, and every care must be taken to ensure that facilities will not be available for evasion “by such transactions in the future as have been engaged in in the past.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 20 (Price to be paid for wheat)
.- 3 am fearful of the fact that to-day there is such a small quantity of premium wheat grown and that, if the f.a.q. system be continued, the time will not be far distant when we shall find it necessary to maintain prices with other parts of the world and we shall definitely be up against it because we shall not have the class of wheat available which is specially required overseas. The growing of premium wheat is an aspect that the Minister should consider in due course. I should like his assurance that he will give consideration to it and encourage the farmers to grow such wheats.
– If the honor able member will look at sub-clause 3 he will find that provision is made therein for the payment of a premium on certain wheat.
– I do not know what is’ the usual custom in regard to premium wheat in Western Australia, but I can say that the production of such wheat i9 increasing. In the north-west of New South Wales the best premium wheat in Australia is grown. The Australian Wheat Board, as well as the millers, not only in New South Wales, but also in Victoria, have given every encouragement to farmers to grow premium wheat.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 21 to 36 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment: report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 26th October (vide page 2072), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That, in lieu of the charge imposed by (vide page 2071 )
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Pollard and Mr. Lemmon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Pollard, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 10th Sep tember (videpage 397), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. -This bill will repeal the Wheat Tax Act 194(5, and provide for the refund to the wheat-growers of money raised under the act, and for other purposes. The bill provides for the return to the wheatgrowers of approximately £11,000,000 -that was collected as wheattax on the 1945-46 and 1946-47 crops. Up to just a minute ago, under the act which is to be repealed, the Government was holding over £25,000,000 of the wheat-growers’ money without being under any legal obligation to refund it. This bill, providing for the refund of that money, has been held up pending the passing of the bill that was passed by the House a minute ago. I take it that this bill will authorize the refund of the £11,000,000 that I have mentioned, but I point out th~t the bill that has just been passed gives the Government the right to continue to hold a further £15,000,000 of the wheat-growers’ money that is in hand. It will be seen that the Government kept a firm hold on that £15,000,000 by another bill, before it submitted this bill to authorize it to pay back to the wheat-growers their own money. In his second-reading speech the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) asked honorable members to endorse this repayment to wheat-growers, and assured the House that the repayment is fully justified. Whilst I do not on many occasions agree with the Minister, I agree with him that this repayment is thoroughly justified. The point that I wish to make is that this £11.000,000 should not have been taken from the wheat-growers in the first place. They should never have been deprived of the use of their money. It should have been in their possession all the time. When the Government brought down the Wheat Stabilization Bill in 1946, it was holding some millions of the wheat-growers’ money. That is one reason why I objected in 1946 when the existing legislation was before the House. Whenever this Government intends to collect money, the measure is made retrospective, but the reverse is the case when a bill is being introduced to authorize the repayment of money. The Government will not listen when members on this side of the House ask for retrospective payments in such matters as pensions. There is some doubt in the minds of wheat-growers about the amount that they shall receive. Of course, the Minister has made it fairly clear that from the 194.5-46 wheat pool approximately ls.1½d. a bushel will be refunded, whilst from the 1946-47 wheat pool10½d. a bushel will be refunded. The tax was only made on the wheat that was exported. In making the repayment, it would be better to spread it over the whole of the crop that was delivered by the growers. The Minister has given an assurance on this matter. Being somewhat disturbed about when this payment would be made, I asked the Minister the following question on the 21st September : -
Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me when wheat-growers are likely to receive the refund of the money paid by them in wheat tax ? The refund of this money, which amounts to about £11,500,000. is provided for in the Wheat Tax Repeal and Refund Bill 1948.
The Minister replied -
In accordance with the promise which the Government made some months ago to the Australian Agricultural Council and to the
Wheat Growers Federation, wheat-growers will receive the refund for which the bill makes provision. The 1945-46 tax, amounting to approximately ls. 1½d. a bushel, will be paid on a date prior to December next, though I cannot indicate the exact date. The honorable member may rest assured that the Government will honour that promise.
That will not he very long now. The Minister also said that the balance of the money from the 1946-47 tax would be refunded at a time to be determined by the Government. As the ls. 1-Jd- a bushel is to be paid to the wheat-growers before December, why is not the Minister paying the whole lot back to them at the same time? It has been said that the wheat-growers do not want money. One grower has written to me and asked when this money is going to be repaid. I told him of the Minister’s promise. The farmer then wrote to me again on the 5th November in these terms -
I received your letter dated 25th October, for which I thank yon, and I also note the contents, and it is to be hoped that payment will soon be made. Also I would like to bring under your notice that 2s. a bushel has been approved by the Federal Government.
The letter continues -
I would like you to push Mr. Pollard for payment immediately, as harvesting equipment isn’t like it used to be. Everything has to be paid for in cash, even to our bags, and many of the farmers haven’t the money to do it with. Thanking you for .your prompt reply, and hoping you every success in the matter.
Many people are pushed for payment, but we cannot push the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture around too much, but I, too, hope that I shall meet with some success on this occasion. I do not propose to push the Minister, but I should like him to make a definite announcement on when the wheat tax of 10-Jd. a bushel on the 1D-16-47 crop will be repaid and to explain why it is not proposed to repay it at the same time as the tax on the 1945-46 crop. Surely the wheat-growers have been deprived for long enough of this large sum of money, which the Government is holding without any justification. The Government’s previous wheat stabilization plan was rejected by the growers, and it had to be abandoned. The Government knew at least twelve months ago that it could not proceed with that scheme, but it retained the money that had been taken from the growers and col- lected a further £15,000,000 under the authority of the Wheat Tax Act 1946. It is now proposed to collect the wheat tas under the authority of other legislation, which will also have retrospective effect. I do agree with that proposal. If a government proposes to stabilize thi wheat industry, it should levy tax, if necessary, on the first crop that is harvested after the commencement of the legislation, and should not go back into the past. This money should have been paid hack to the growers long ago. I fail to see why a government should be able to force legislation through the Parliament, to take money from the proceed* of wheat crops and to pay it into a fund with the purpose of which the wheatgrowers do not agree, and which has noi been established by constitutional action I thoroughly approve of this bill. The Minister said that repayment of this money is justified, and I agree with him in that regard. It should not have been taken from the growers and should not have been withheld from them when the Government realized the situation is which it was placed.
– Does the honorable gentleman not believe in stabilization?
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) makes ridiculous remarks at inopportune times, and I shall disregard his interjection. I want to know whether the Government will refund to the growers before the end of this year the taxes that were levied on both the 1945-46 and 1946-47 crops. If there is some reason why the refund of taxes on the 1946-47 crop should not be made at the same time as the refund on the 1945-46 crop, will the Minister say when will it be made? The honorable gentleman said that the refund would be made at a date to be decided by the Government. Has the Government yet decided the date on which the payment will be made? If it has not done so, what is the reason for the delay? Why does the Government desire to retain the wheat-growers’ money for any longer than is necessary?
.-] agree with everything that has been said by th” honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull). This bill is neither more nor less than a measure to do justice to the wheat-growers by paying back to them money that . was taken from them by this Government, lt would be very curious if the Opposition did not support the bill. This money should never have been taken from the farmers. The taking of it imposed hardship on thousands of Australian wheat-growers after the 1945-46 drought, which was one of the most devastating droughts that they had known. The Australian Country party protested at the time that it was unjust and illegal to withhold from growers who had just harvested one of the most meagre crops in recent history the millions of pounds that are now proposed to be repaid to them. We still have good reason to believe that it was illegal to withhold this money from the growers. The observations that were made by the judges )f the High Court in a recent case have probably led the Government to conclude that the money is too hot to handle. What the Government proposes to do by means if this measure is to pay back what is colloquially known as “ hot “ money. When the 1946 so-called stabilization plan was before the Parliament, honorable members on this side of the House protested at the withholding of these moneys, and moved an amendment to the bill. The Minister .for Commerce and Agriculture and other Ministers declared that it was right and proper to withhold these millions of pounds from the growers. Chey said that it was unreasonable and wrong of us to suggest that the growers should be allowed to retain their own money and to move amendments designed te have that effect. They said that they could not entertain the idea. When the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill 194S vas before the House, I pointed out >;hat the Labour party had only adopted he most important principles in it after years of education by the Australian Country party. This measure is another illustration of the fact that the Labour party is two years behind the Australian Country party. Two years ago honorable members on this side of the House tried by force of advocacy and by moving amendments to persuade or force the Government to do what it is now doing. It would be a sad day for this country if an articulate Opposition in the Parliament was completely suppressed. If the Australian wheat-growers did nol enjoy the protection that is afforded them by a minority of the members of the Parliament exposing unfair, unjust and sometimes illegal actions or attempted actions of the Government, many more injustices would be imposed upon them. In the debate on the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill, it was made clear that the Government’s intention is that, while there shall exist an Australian Wheat Board that will satisfy the growers-
– The honorable gentleman is not entitled to refer to a debate on a bill that has just been dealt with by the House.
– While the Government feels that it is satisfying the growers by having a wheat board upon which the representatives of the growers are in the majority, it is clear that it intends, through the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, to exercise absolute authority ever the board, so that its members will be nothing but a group r.f puppets.
– Order ! This bill has nothing to io with the Australian Wheat Board.
– I merely wish to say-
-The honorable gentleman must not try to evade my ruling. If he persists in discussing the Australian Wheat Board, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I do not propose to say anything further about the Australian Wheat Board. If there were not absolute ministerial control the growers would not be deprived of a sum of £11,000,000 for years. In addition to the £11,000,000 that is now proposed to be repaid to the growers, a sum of £15,600,000 was taken from them in respect of the last crop. I do not know by what process of reasoning the Government justifies the repayment of the taxes levied on two crops and the continued withholding of those levied on a third crop. It has probably worked upon the basis that it can repay the money in respect of two crops because the amount involved is only £11,000,000, but that if it carried this act of justice to its logical conclusion it would be obliged to repay a further £15,600,000. This bill is, of course, a sign of the Government’s reaction to public opinion. The Opposition has succeeded in arousing public opinion to such a degree that the Government has been forced to give this meagre justice to the growers, but unfortunately we have not yet been able to arouse it sufficiently to force the Government to do full justice to the farmers. To that extent, we have failed in our task. We have done our best to expose injustices, but we have not been fully successful in our endeavours. I believe that as long as absolute ministerial control is exercised in regard to the vast sums that flow into the hands of the Government through the medium of wheat control, the grower will be in danger of similar injustices.
Whenever the subject of wheat is discussed in this House we are reminded by honorable members opposite of the tremendous losses that were sustained by wheat-growers during the depression years, which they choose to describe as the years when we were in office. The Labour Government was tossed out of office in 1931, and the parties that are now in Opposition assumed responsibility for cleaning up the mess. It is true that the wheat-growers sustained tremendous losses in those years. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) referred to the indebtedness of farmers as being £500,000,000, and he said that a great deal of that sum represented the indebtedness of the wheat-growers. In 1934, a competent authority calculated the indebtedness of farmers at that time as being £500,000,000. A great deal of that sum represented actual loss of capital. Unfortunately that is the fate of those who engage in these precarious primary industries. Right through the ages, in every country in the world, the primary producers have been subjected to the exigencies of seasonal conditions and unpredictable contingencies. From time to time they have sustained tremendous losses.” All parties in this House have cooperated in an endeavour to formulate a scheme designed to minimize, if not completely to avoid the recurrence of such losses. If it be admitted that the wheatgrowers have sustained tremendous losses in the past, due to a combination of low prices and adverse seasonal conditions, surely when the wheel of fortune turns and they experience a combination of high prices and good seasons they should be permitted to recoup their losses. This Government, however, has made it clear that whenever it gets a chance it will grab the wheat-growers’ money. To-day. pending the passage of this legislation, it is holding nearly £27,000,000 of the wheat-growers’ money. If the wheatgrowers had been allowed to enjoy the money that has been withheld from them they would have been better able to meet the losses which they sustained in the sad depression years. I wholeheartedly support the proposal to repay to them £11,000,000 of the money now standing to the credit of the fund. It would, however, have been very much better had th Government, having half heeded th,advice of the Australian Country party, and half responded to the pressure of public opinion, proposed to repay the whole of the £27,000,000 now withheld’ from them, instead of repaying to them only £11,000,000 of their money.
.- Does the Government propose to repay to the wheat-growers the money owed to them plus interest accrued during th<period in which the money has been withheld from them? In many instances the wheat-growers who own the money have been forced to pay interest to the bank-5 on overdrafts, and to pastoral companies on advances. In common justice interest should be paid for the period during which the money has been withheld from the growers.
– in reply - I listened attentively to the remarks of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). For queer reasoning I have never heard the equal of the case submitted by the honorable member to-night. In order to expose the honorable member’s queer reasoning, it is necessary for me to relate briefly the history of the tax imposed in respect of the 1945-46 and 1946-47 wheat crops. In the first place, the tax was imposed .by this Parliament and not as the result of the exercise of ministerial authority.
The honorable member attempted to mislead honorable members, and, through the pages of Hansard, the people, by saying that this tax was collected as the result of the exercise of ministerial authority. The tax imposed in respect of the crops of those two years was collected under the provisions of a legislative enactment by this Parliament acting within its consitutional powers.
– And on the initiative if the Minister.
– It was not imposed its the result of the exercise of ministerial authority, as the honorable gentleman veil knows. A meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, consisting of memhers representing every political party in Australia, decided that a wheat stabilization scheme should be introduced. A wheat scheme was duly introduced into this Parliament in advance of the complementary legislation to be introduced into the State parliaments. The State governments undertook to introduce the requisite complementary legislation, but they failed to do so. The position is not very much different to-day. This Government is always a step ahead of the Opposition, and more than a step ahead of the honorable member for Indi, who, in spite of his protests, will vote for the imposition of further taxes on the wheatgrowers, notwithstanding that no State parliament has yet passed the essential complementary legislation to enable the wheat stabilization plan to operate. The honorable gentleman will not dare to do otherwise, because the wheat-growers have spoken, and because the State governments have pledged themselves to introduce the requisite complementary legislation. All the talk indulged in by the honorable member about this tax having been collected as the result of the exercise of ministerial authority, and about the alleged illegality of the Government withholding the money from the growers, and about the money having been improperly collected in the first place, is only so much hocus pocus, designed to delude the people into believing that the Government has acted unconstitutionally. The imposition of a tax on wheat is a perfectly constitutional act, the validity of which has been upheld by the High Court. In these circumstances, whether the complementary state wheat stabilization legislation be passed or not, the constitutionality of the Government’s action in. collecting the tax still stands. For inconsistency and sheer illogical reasoning it would be difficult to find an equal of the honorable member. He claimed that this money should never have been taken from the wheat-growers and that the Government has illegally withheld it from them. On the 3rd September, 1946, his leader, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), referring to the tax imposed on the wheat-growers for the stabilization of the wheat industry said during his policy speech -
Fifty per cent, of the excess realized over the guaranteed price will be paid to the growers and the balance will bc paid to the stabilization fund.
Had a government supported by honorable members opposite been returned to office in 1946 a great deal more of the returns from the 1946-47 wheat harvest would have been paid into the fund than was paid under the tax imposed by the Labour Government. It is time that the honorable member stated facts instead of fallacies. This Government has always believed, that the stabilization of the wheat industry would eventually be accomplished. It had no doubt about the constitutionality of its action in retaining in the stabilization fund an amount sufficient to initiate a stabilization scheme. Unfortunately, largely owing to the opposition of the honorable member for Indi, the stabilization of the industry has been delayed until now. Because of the buoyancy of wheat prices, the Government decided last July to repay this money to the wheat-growers. I trust that the people will take no notice of the wild reasoning and inconsistency of the honorable member for Indi. Honorable members opposite who have complained that the Government had no right to withhold this money will, within the space of one hour, vote for the taking of more money from the wheat-growers in order to finance the stabilization fund, notwithstanding that the State governments have yet to pass the requisite complementary legislation to enable the wheat stabilization plan to be given effect to. They will do so because they realize that this plan will benefit the wheat industry generally.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked whether interest will be paid on the amounts standing to the credit of growers in respect of the 1945-46 and 1946-47 pools. I assure the honorable member that interest will be paid on those amounts. That money is held in a trust fund and is earning interest. That interest will be passed on to the wheatgrowers. The statements of Government spokesmen in regard to the return of this money to the growers have been clear and unequivocal. We have promised that in respect of the 3945-46 pool the money will be paid before Christmas. That promise will be honoured. As soon as Cabinet considers it fit, and as soon as the investments of the trust fund make such a course convenient, the Government will repay that money collected in respect of the 1946-47 pool to the wheat-growers. No specified date will be indicated at this stage. I assure the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), however, that the repayment will not be delayed long enough to enable him to parade the country making political speeches against the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Disposal of moneys by board).
– This clause deals with the moneys to be repaid to the wheat-growers by the Australian Wheat Board. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) invites people to show him where he make mistakes. All people make mistakes at one time or another and I am always prepared to make allowances for them. The Minister, however, endeavours to create the impression that he never makes a mistake. When I asked the honorable gentleman when this money would be repaid to the growers, he stated definitely that a repayment of ls. 1½d. from the 1945-46 pool would be made before December.
– That promise will be honoured.
– In replying to the second-reading debate, the Minister said that the amount would be repaid before Christmas.
– I reiterate that it will be repaid before December, which mean* that it will be repaid before Christmas
– That reply show* how the Minister changes his words te suit the occasion. I hope that the amount will be paid as soon as possible. I rose, chiefly to refer to a news item which appeared in the Melbourne Age on th, 13th September last, relating to the repayment of the money. I do not know whether the Minister was responsible foi the article, but the editor must have gol his information from some official source., because it is fairly accurate. Under the heading “ Christmas Box for Wheat men “ the article reads -
Wheat-growers will get a pleasant Christmas box and a New Year’s gift worth fi 1,000,000
On behalf of the wheat-growers, I protest against untrue publicity of that kind.
– Do not hold me responsible for that.
– The mere repay ment of money owing to the wheatgrowers does not constitute a Christmas box or a New Year’s gift. Obviously, the purpose of the newspaper announcement was to indicate to the people of the country that the Government, in its generosity, proposed to give £11,000,000 to the wheat-growers of Australia. 1 shall cite an example to indicate the generosity of the Government. When the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to make a special gift of £5 each to all pensioners during the Royal visit, the right honorable gentleman said he could not agree to such a suggestion. I do not’ charge the Minister with being responsible for the newspaper article to which I have referred. I merely say that the people should be told the truth, which is that the payment represents merely the return to the wheat-growers of money which the Government has held for nearly three years. It is not a Christmas box or a New Year’s gift.
– I agree with the proposal to return to the wheat-growers a part of the money collected from them in respect of the 1945-46 and 1946-47 wheat harvests by means of a retrospective tax imposed after the crops had been grown, sold, and practically delivered. That action followed two years of drought in Queensland, which was one of the reasons why I opposed the retrospective provision. I make no bones about supporting a stabilization scheme, and I merely point out that it was the pressure which we brought to bear on the Government which forced it to make these repayments, which never should have been taken from the growers in the years 1945-46 and 1946-47. The retrospective provision prevented the growers who supplied wheat to the No. 9 Pool from making up the losses incurred luring the two previous years.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 8th Septemoer (vide page 274), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill he now read a second time.
.- This bill is designed to bring. the Social Services Assessment Act into line with the Income Tax Assessment Act in so far as it affects the undistributed profits of private companies. The bill contains only two clauses of importance. Clause 2 authorizes the Commissioner of Taxation to communicate essential information for the purpose of the law relating to pensions, allowances, endowments or benefits. It is similar to a provision in the Income Tax Assessment Act, and it is clear that the provision is necessary for purposes of administration. Clause 3 relates to the assessment of social services contributions on the undistributed income of private companies, and is similar to a provision in the Income Tax Assessment Act. Honorable members should understand that no social services tax is levied on public companies, but it is levied on private companies. The Opposition does not object to the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the Sth September (vide page 271), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That, notwithstanding anything contained in section five of the Social Services Contribution Act 1.945-1.047 . . . (vide page 270).
.- The effect of the resolution will be to reduce the rate of social services contribution payable by persons on the lower incomes. The cost to revenue, we are told, will be in the neighbourhood of £S,000,000. The present contribution begins at 3d. in the £1, and increases to as much as ls. 6d. in the £1 on an income of £250 a year. The resolution provides that contributions will commence as hitherto at 3d. in the £1, but the maximum rate of ls. 6d. will not apply until an income of £350 a year is reached. The result of the adjustments will be that a single person, with an income of £2 a week, will not contribute at all; neither will any contribution be made by a man on an income of £4 a week, who has a dependent wife, or by a man on £5 10s. a week, who has a dependent wife and one child, or by a man on £6 a week, who has a dependent wife and two children. On these proposals I desire to make some observations which, I think, are of importance. There is in Australia a progressive tendency to shift financial responsibility for social services benefits. That may be all very well in the eyes of the Government, but it is disturbing to those who have given thought to our social services. In the first place, there is a great difference of character between income tax and social services contributions. The revenue derived from income tax goes to provide the general services of the State, which are enjoyed by persons as members of the community, and not as individuals. On the other hand, social services benefits are enjoyed, subject to such conditions as the means test and the like by persons as individuals. Whilst all citizens have their rights, they also have obligations to themselves and their families. The basic principle of any social service should be to help people to help themselves, rather than to give thom something for nothing, so that they cease to be responsible for their own welfare and the welfare of their families. That is a condition of affairs which we are tending more and more to forget. The nation is providing a great deal in the way of social benefits. It provides age and invalid pensions, sickness and unemployment benefits, maternity allowances, and free medicine. Shortly, we are to have free medical benefits as well for all members of the community. Thus, those services which, in the past, were the responsibility of the individual are now to be provided free, not for all people, but for a very large number. No longer will they be obliged to look after themselves and their families. They will be able to rely upon the goodwill, the charity, if you like, of the community as a whole.
– The honorable member will admit that the trend throughout the world to-day is in the direction of giving the less fortunate sections of the community some security in life.
– I agree, but it seems to me that to-day we are going too far in that direction. I believe that what we are doing is having an unhealthy effect on the nation, and on the individual members of the community. If we are to give to everybody free medicine, which is not essential-
– In a broad sense, it may sometimes be regarded as essential.
– It cannot be claimed to be essential when considered in relation to the people as a whole. If we are justified in giving the people something which is not essential, why should we not give them something which is really essential, such as bread or meat? We are by degrees approaching the state of affairs which existed under the Roman Empire, when the authorities provided impecunious citizens with free bread, and., eventually, free circuses.
– It was not a bad thing either for the average person. - more bread, and some circuses.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) may think so, but in the end the Roman Empire crumbled and fell because of the sloth engendered among the people by such practices.
– The Roman Empire fell because of the rottenness at the top. not because of what was underneath.
– If the Prime Minister were to read that excellent history The decline of and fall of the Roman ETn.pf.rr written by Edward Gibbon-
– I have read it.
– He would see that the rottenness which caused the fall of the Roman Empire was present, not only al the top of the social structure, bur, at the bottom, also. In Australia, the State if now putting a premium on security, while individual responsibility is at a discount. This must in time lead to a deterioration of the moral standards of the people. Indeed, I believe that this deterioration is very evident already. More than anything else, we need to encourage individual responsibility and initiative now. We should encourage a spirit of enterprise, but we are. instead, following a path which leads in the opposite direction. Australia is, ] believe, the only country in the world in which individuals do not contribute towards the cost of the social benefits which they obtain from the State. The Government of New Zealand has introduced a social services scheme, which is not basically different from our own, in that the people are obliged to pay a social security tax. Every adult male must pay a registration fee of £1 a year and every junior 5s. a year. In addition, every person, with the exception of those in receipt of a very low income of approximately £.100 a year, pays a flat rate of tax of ls. 6d. in the £1 on his earnings. In other words, in New Zealand, nearly every member of the community makes a contribution towards the social benefits which, one day, he may require.
– By making that contribution, an individual establishes his right to participate in the social benefits.
– I shall come to that point in a few moments. The United Kingdom Government has introduced a tri-partite scheme. Every individual in the community, except those on the lowest range of income, contributes to the scheme. In Australia, however, the Government is continuing a system, and is malting it even more definite than it was in the past, of relieving people of the lower ranges of income of the obligation to contribute to the benefits which, one day, they may receive. I have studied many of the social services schemes in operation throughout the world, but I do not know of any scheme, even those in operation in the Scandinavian countries, which does not compel the individual to make a substantial contribution out of his income towards the general fund from which he will receive benefits when he needs them.
The Australian social services scheme rests on an insecure basis. There is no contractual basis between the recipients of the benefits and the Government itself. The Government, at its will, may raise or lower the amount of the benefits, or increase, decrease, the amount of the contributions or it may discontinue altogether the provisions relative to contributions. In such a scheme there is no real element of safety, and no contractual basis between the individual and the Government. The Australian social services scheme depends largely on a condition of fictitious prosperity. The scheme is largely financed by what may be termed the people in the upper ranges of income. One-quarter of the people contribute three-quarters of the amount of money received by the National “Welfare Fund. Three-quarters of the people contribute only one-quarter of the amount in the National Welfare Fund. Should the prosperity of the country decline, the amount of money received from persons in the higher ranges of income will diminish to such a degree that sufficient money will not be available to pay the benefits when they are required. I state that ‘fact because, as honorable members are well aware, we are living on an income derived very largely from the high prices received from the sale of our export commodities overseas. The amount which we obtain every year from that source is between £300,000,000 and £400,000,000. If the overseas prices of our primary products decline, our incomes will be largely reduced, and tax receipts will not be nearly sufficient to meet the large amounts that will be required for social services. As the days pass, the amount of money required for those benefits must increase. A few days ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) stated that he was looking forward to the time when expenditure on social services would reach £100,000,000 a year. 1 believe that when the right honorable gentleman made that estimate he was being most optimistic.
– Order! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– As no other honorable member has risen to speak, T shall take my second period of fifteen minutes now. Our annual expenditure on social services is approximately £80,000,000, and the Government has yet to introduce its free medicine scheme, which, at a moderate estimate, will cost at least £20,000,000 a year. Experience in the United Kingdom and New Zealand has shown that expenditure on social services benefits, including free medicine, have exceeded enormously the original estimates. What has applied in the United Kingdom and New Zealand will certainly apply in Australia. As we introduce new social services, we shall find that our commitments will increase, because a larger number of people will apply for and receive benefits. In 1928, the number of age pensioners was 139,000. Twenty years later, the number had increased to 302,000. According to figures which I have received from the Commonwealth Statistician, the number of age pensioners in 1960 is likely to be 500,000. If the existing means test is operating in 1960, 6.25 per cent, of the total population will be receiving the age pension. In other words, every five occupied persons will have to support one age pensioner. All honorable members believe that the means test should be abolished, and I believe that it is bound 10 disappear in the not distant future. When that occurs, no fewer than L,130,000 persons will be eligible for the age pension. There will be one age pensioner for every 2.S occupied persons. The taxpayers will then be bearing a great ‘burden. I have cited those enlightening figures because we must realize the great burden that social services are likely to impose upon the nation’ within the years immediately ahead. That thought brings me back to my original remark that I believe it is impossible, if we are to carry on our social services scheme, to finance it by the present method. All honorable members ‘believe that the scheme should be continued, but we must broaden the basis of contributions and make every person who is above the breadline, as it were, pay his fair share to the National Welfare Fund. I have raised this matter because I believe that honorable members should give serious attention to it. As I have indicated, our present system is morally and financially unsound. Social services should not be a matter for party politics. Honorable members may hold different views about ways and means of financing social security schemes, but we all believe in the fundamental principles of them. I have given considerable thought to this subject. I was a member of the Social Security Committee for four years. Every member on this side of the chamber believes wholeheartedly in social security schemes. It is because I feel so strongly about the matter that I have taken this opportunity to bring the salient facts to the notice of honorable members, and to the members of the Government, because I hope that action will be taken to place our social services on a sounder footing before long.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Dedman and Mr. Lemmon do pre- 1’iire and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 8th September (vide page 259), on motion by Mr Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Th. purpose of this bill is to make a grant of £2,150,000 to Western Australia for the development of water supplies. I wholeheartedly support the bill, because Western Australia cannot carry out itf developmental programme without considerable assistance from the Commonwealth. As this bill will provide money for that purpose, it is in keeping with the views which I have held for a number of years, particularly in regard to water supply schemes, that the Commonwealth should bear one-half, the State onequarter and the primary producers the remaining one-quarter of the cost of such developmental projects. The area oi Western Australia is nearly 1,000,000 square miles, but for various reasons, one of which is the comparatively low rainfall in certain districts, only the south-western section of the State, comprising approximately 60,000 square miles, has been developedThe small population of Western Australia, its isolation from the eastern States and the interpretation placed upon certain sections of the Constitution have left its secondary industries very much undeveloped; but great progress has been made in the field of primary industries. Contrary to the statement earlier to-day by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) that saturation point has been almost reached in Western Australia in the .growing of wheat, the 60,000 square miles that will be reticulated under this scheme will then be capable of great production. But natural disabilities, including the lack of water, must be overcome. For the benefit of honorable members who are not full, acquainted with the geography of Western Australia, I point out that parallel with the coast, and approximately 20 miles inland, is the Darling Range The rainfall -on the western side of the range is considerable. A. great many people in the eastern States, including, perhaps, some honorable members, will be surprised to learn that Perth has a greater annual rainfall than has Melbourne, where it is supposed to rain on 364 days of the year and. where wintry conditions prevail almost continually. From the rainfall point of view the winter climate on the Perth side of the range is severe. During the growing period on the eastern side of the range the rainfall is equal to that on the western side, but the months from October to May are dry and the supply of water is deficient. After World War I., in the decade from 3920 to 1930, great areas of land were cleared on the eastern side of the range and primary production made its greatest strides in the history of Western Australia. However, with the clearing of the land, some of which can only he described as wanton clearing, the streams turned brackish. Western Australia is described as the State of wide open spaces. Miles and miles of country was denuded of timber, and, as every one who studies soils, especially soils of the Australian type, knows, if timber is cleared from land, the streams tend to become salty or at least very brackish. To have a successful farming community engaging in wheatgrowing and other primary pursuits, plenty of good water is needed. So it is necessary to devise a scheme whereby the rain that falls so plentifully on the western side of the range may be stored for pumping to the eastern side. So that honorable members shall have an idea of the colossal task involved, I refer them to the pipeline from Mundaring Weir to Kalgoorlie, which is known as the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. Gold was discovered at Kalgoorlie in the nineties, but, in the absence of a water supply, although some development of the gold-fields was accomplished, proper development could not be achieved, and Lord Forrest, a man of great vision, became renowned for saying to the engineers when he was advocating the provision of a water supply, “You provide the scheme and I will provide the finance “. Had we men of similar vision in our midst to-day, the puny efforts at development that we are making would give way to gigantic projects. Lord Forrest got a great engineer named C. Y. O’Connor to put his vision into concrete form. O’Connor built the Mundaring Weir and planned the pipe line to the gold-fields. Unhappily, he was so persecuted by the press that he committed suicide on the bank of the Swan River just before his great work was completed. Speaking from memory. I think that 4,500,000 gallons are stored in the Mundaring Weir. The water is pumped 300 miles to Kalgoorlie. When that feat was accomplished it was regarded as one of the wonders of the world. The water took 29 days to reach Kalgoorlie. Lord Forrest and his engineers were there to witness the triumph. The taps were turned on and the spectators booed when no water appeared. After what seemed an eternity, but was really only a matter of minutes, until the air was forced from the pipes and the water gushed forth, the jeers turned to cheers. Such schemes are necessary foi the full development of Western Australia’s natural resources. That scheme cost £5,900,000. That was a big load on a small population, and the scheme has noi yet been paid for, but it has repaid itf cost in many ways, for, apart from making possible the development of the goldfields, it has been of immeasurable value to a wide district, because many towns and farming communities along the pipeline and at fair distances from it are supplied from it. Some years ago. the Government of Western Australia, in order to keep many farms in production, found it encumbent to provide other water supplies. It tried bores and wells and then decided on what is known as the No. 1 Water Scheme. Under that scheme, water from rock catchment? was dammed and reticulated to the farms in the adjacent areas. But the drought in the early ‘thirties forced us tr ask the State Government to take other steps to enable the farmers running stock to maintain them, because the dams wen going dry. So the dams were connected with the Mundaring Weir and to-da* we have a continuous supply of water in that area. As clearing went on, it- became evident that another step must be taker to provide water for farms in the north eastern area, and in the Great Southern where, as the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) knows so well people have suffered a lack of sufficient water for many years. Something had to be done to keep people on the land. The Labour Government, which was defeated a couple of years ago, devised what was. known as the £10,000,000 scheme, ft was a comprehensive project. I do not say that I agreed entirely with it. Nevertheless, the idea was good. It was designed to impound 15,000,000 gallons of water behind the Mundaring “Weir and to impound the water of the Collie River in the Wellington Dam to provide for the southern part of the State. At the request of the Australian Government, a committee went to Western Australia to inquire into the proposal. It recommended that the proposal of the State Government be not proceeded with, and a scheme to cost about half of that contemplated by the State Government was recommended. The committee reported -
These inquiries made it clear that only in certain portions of the area covered by the Western Australian Government’s original scheme was a reticulated water supply necessary for reasonably complete agricultural development. In no sense could the original scheme be regarded as economic. There would have been a heavy annual loss and no evidence was available to indicate that a reticulated water supply would have had any material effect on production over considerable portions included in the original scheme. For a considerable part of the whole region a reticulated water supply was not a vital factor in the standard of living. [ do not entirely agree with those conclusions. A national undertaking like the provision of water should not be conditioned by such circumstances as seem to weigh with governments .and their advisers, one of which is that such a scheme must be paid for within a specified period, sometimes as short as 25 years. I regard that approach of the economists as entirely wrong. A scheme for the .reticulation of water will last a lifetime. Why should people have to pay for it within such a short period when it will return revenue for generations. The Kalgoorlie scheme is better than ever. It has been improved, I concede. The pipes have been changed. It is a monument to the memory of Lord Forrest, lt has lasted for almost 50 years already. It has stood the test of time. Other such schemes will do so too. I repeat that I do not agree that the users of such a scheme should have to pay for it in their lifetime. Those who come after them will benefit from the schemes and should be required to make their contribution to the capital cost involved. Another reason advanced by the investigators against the State Government’s proposal was that certain people disagreed with the charges that would be levied on them. There was a way out of that difficulty. They could have been given remissions of taxation in respect of their payments in the same way as people who build vermin-proof fences on their properties receive remissions in respect of the expenditure on such fences. Anyway, if men have adequate water supplies on their properties, they should not be charged £32 15s. a year merely because the water runs past their farms. They should be charged only a small rate, pending the time, should it ever arrive, when they find it necessary to take advantage of the availability of the water. As to the committee’s remarks about the reticulated water supply not being a vital factor in the standard of living, apparently it was not acquainted with the first report of the Commonwealth Rural Reconstruction Commission issued in January, 1944. That body, under the, heading “ Irrigation and Water Supply “, expressed ite views as follows: -
In the broad view of future agricultural development in Australia, irrigation and water supply must take a prominent place. The stability which can be added to a farming enterprise by the capacity to irrigate a small part, say, .10 per cent., of a holding is most beneficial. Many irrigation projects are already in existence and in most cases they have amply proved their value. As population increases the need for more irrigation will also increase and it is not too much to say that in the long run water supply will be the limiting factor in Australian expansion. Australian agriculture will in time need all the water which it is possible to conserve. It follows that the wise use of our streams is of the utmost importance. In most States the broad details of these plans have already been prepared; but there is need for co-ordination in some eases where water crosses State boundaries. The commission considers that the long view should be taken in all such cases and the water used in areas where it can do most good. In view of the relative importance of water to Australian agriculture very careful consideration should be given to any proposals for the diversion of water which might, be ultimately required for agriculture.
Water is a vital factor in farming activities. If water is not available the farmer cannot remain on the land. _ In some instances the entire populations of areas have migrated to the cities, with the consequential troubles resulting from over-population in cities.
Some time ago this Government made available to Western Australia and other States certain moneys for the rehabilitation of farming areas. I shall refer to the North Mount Marshall area. I was away when the Commonwealth made provision in respect of that area and unfortunately did not participate in that rehabilitation. When the Government knew that it had expended money in this direction, surely it should have arranged for an inquiry into the comprehensive water scheme envisaged by the Western Australian Government and its application, to these areas. Unfortunately no such inquiry was made. That area is in the northeastern portion of the Western Australian wheat belt. The scheme embraces the North Mount Marshall area, the North Koorda area and the North Mukinbudin area. Probably the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) has heard of the mayor of Mukinbudin. That area is just outside the fringe of the pressure water supply laid down by the Western Australian Government, and known as the No. 1 water scheme. It would not cost very much to construct a 4-in. pipeline for a distance of 30 miles from Mukinbudin to Moondon Hill and build a reservoir there. The whole of the water could be reticulated so as to fit in with the scheme that the Western Australian Government proposes to undertake with the assistance of the Commonwealth, and so serve the settlers on the Kulja eastward railway. This is the area in which farmers were paid 12s. an acre by this Government for not growing wheat during the war period. The average area put under crop on those farms was reduced from about 400 to 150 acres. In view of such a curtailment of productive acreage, it would be reasonable to expect that wheat production in that area be very small, but the figures that have been supplied to me by the co-operative bulk handling organization in Western Australia show that during the years 1941 to 1948 a total of 900,000 bushels came from four sidings along that line. I shall not weary honorable members by reading the figures, but when it is considered that there has been a drift of the population from those areas, those that have remained, with their areas restricted to 150 acres, have done well. I think those honorable members who know anything at all about wheat will realize that a total production of 900,000 bushels of wheat over four years in those circumstances, is quite a good return. When the farmers were precluded from growing wheat, they turned their attention to sheep. Many of those farmers are endeavouring to obtain supplies of water by sinking bores. On the 30th December, 1941, the settlers there had on those properties 40,528 sheep. By the 31st March, 1947, they had 67,400 sheep on their properties. In the areas adjacent to the four sidings that I have mentioned, where considerable sums of money were expended by the Government in rehabilitating the farmers who still remained there, the wool clip increased from 293,642 lb. in 1941 to 576,140 lb. in 1947. The average weight per fleece increased from 7.2 lb. in 1941 to S.5 lb. in 1947. In ignoring that particular area, after so much Commonwealth money has been expended there, a grave injustice was done to the farmers and to Western Australia. I mention these facts because I think that this House should know them. I appreciate the fact that this Government has at last realized that Western Australia cannot carry out major developmental projects unaided, and it is incumbent on the Australian Government to assist the Western Australian Government to the greatest degree possible. I wholeheartedly support the bill.
.- I am reluctant to take up too much of the time of the House in discussing this particular bill, but at the same time I regret that so little interest is being displayed by the Government in a matter of such importance to Western Australia. There are in the House to-night on the Government side only the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) and two other honorable members. I -wish to make some observations which concern the future of this country, which I believe I may do under this measure. I agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) that water should be the first and foremost consideration in long-term planning for the future of Australia and E support this measure which has been introduced by the Government, because I believe that it is a step in the right direction, as it concerns the reticulation )( water and the irrigation of areas in Western Australia that so desperately need water.
I have had the opportunity of seeing other countries, particularly the southern States of the United States of America. The diversion of water through arid areas in Colorado, Texas and Arizona has resulted in strange and extraordinary fertility becoming evident in lands that otherwise would be regarded as completely sterile. I applaud the Government’s proposal to advance to Western Australia the sum of £2.150,000 for the purpose envisaged in this bill. I shall seek to connect some observations about this scheme with the larger problem of water conservation in Australia. I shall not occupy the time of the House for long, but I hope that some consideration vill be given to what I have to say. I believe, as firmly as I can believe anything, that although we are going th rough a period of monetary prosperity at present we must look further ahead. If we are to hold this country we must do in every State in Australia what is being done in Western Australia. We must spend as must money as we possibly can upon the development of our water resources. Under this particular scheme it is proposed to dam the waters of the Collie River, to direct water to certain inland towns, and to reticulate that water in order to irrigate the wheat areas adjacent to the western coast of Western Australia. We must extend the whole of our water reticulation system and harness all our water resources for the benefit of the country. There an be no doubt that water conservation is bound up directly with the problem of soil erosion in Australia. Unless we can bring water to the in-
Mr. Spender. land areas of this country it is inescapable that more and more will our people be driven from the inland. Whilst I see that the Minister is smiling and that the subject does not interest him at all, 1 believe that this is a problem of first class importance to this country.
The debate on this comparatively small measure gives me the opportunity to draw attention to what I believe to be one of the greatest problems with which Australia is confronted. On the 24tl August, the National Works Council, s body in the formation of which I am very glad to have been associated, approved of 6,24.5 works projects, estimated to cost £569,000,000. Of that amount. £64,000,000 was for the construction of clams, reservoirs and weirs. Of these, 34.4 per cent, of value and 41.2 per cent, of volume were works that could be commenced if we had the manpower to commence them. We have ample rainfalls in various areas in thi? country. Our problem is to conserve the rain that falls and direct the water to areas in the country where it is needed. In passing I wish to refer to schemes such as the Burdekin River project, where it is proposed ‘to build a dam at a site 99 miles north of the Burdekin River : the Ord River in Western Australia, where a dam is to be constructed where the river goes through the Carr-Boyd Ranges; the Snowy River scheme, where we have the alternative of directing water to the east coast or to the Mumimbidgee River, which would involve the driving of a tunnel 22 miles through the eastern Alps; the Hunter River Valley and Clarence River projects, with which thi right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has been so intimately associated over the years. These are only a few of the schemes to harness the water supplies of this country and to divert them into the two great basins, the Murray-Murrumbidgee basin and the Lake Eyre basin. By such schemes it is - hoped to give fertility to country which at the moment is sterile. If the life-blood of water can be provided t> tho.=e areas they will he able to support large populations, with consequent increased prosperity. I make no apology for speaking of these matters tonight because it seems to me that this will be the only opportunity I shall have to do so during the life of this Parliament. In fact it is the first opportunity I have had to debate the subject, ft is of paramount importance that we should make use of the millions upon millions of gallons of water that now flow into the ocean. Years ago, when. I was Assistant Treasurer, I made the acquaintance of Dr. Bradfield, who. as we all know, was the engineer responsible for designing the North Shore Bridge, and Mr. lon Idriess, a man. who has contributed a great deal to the knowledge of this country by his well-informed literature. Those two gentlemen placed a plan before the Government relating to the water which dows into the sea from areas in northern Queensland. A rainfall of 160 inches a year is not unusual in north Queensland. They sought to show how water could be diverted through the Great Dividing Range, in order to replenish rivers such the Diamantina and the Georgina, and Cooper’s Creek. The plan was placed before the Government. I know that shortly after that, war broke out and there was little time in which to consider it. I know also that for years past urgent requests have been made by men who have some knowledge of our inland problems that consideration should again be given to the plan or plans, since in truth, each had his own plan which each shared many common features. [ do not suggest that if it were approved much could be done to implement it in a short space of time, but unless we exercise vision in respect of our water supplies and realize that soil erosion is gradually taking place in the inland areas of Australia the problem of maintaining an increasing population will become more and more difficult of solution. We need to attract large numbers of people from overseas. Australia is a white island in a coloured sea. Its 7,000,000 people are surrounded by more than half of the world’s coloured people. This country must be so developed that it will support a greater population, but we wall fail in our efforts unless very many more schemes such as the one that is referred in this bill are put into operation.
I appreciate that at the moment man-power is the key to the problem. We have spread the jam totthin and too widely. Owing to th*. fact that our resources of man-power are limited, it will probably be found again, as it was found last year, that appropriations of money for the project that is the subject of this bill and for other approved works projects cannot be expended. It is necessary, therefore, to ensure greater efficiency. AVe must direct our attention to water conservation, the reticulation of water when it is conserved, soil erosion and afforestation, because they are fundamental to the solution of the problems that confront us.
I have spent a great deal of my life in advocating the need for the development of secondary industries in Australia. If is, however, important to bear in mind that secondary industries must not be allowed to get out of balance with primary industries. I believe that we may be in danger of encouraging the idea that we can develop any secondary industry in this country, irrespective of how it detracts from our ability to develop our primary industries. It is as true today as it was 20 or 30 years ago that Australia depends for its standard of living and its prosperity mainly upon primary production. For that reason, I hope that the question of water conservation will attract greater attention. I am convinced that unless we direct our attention to it now we shall be faced with greater problems in the years to come.
One difficulty is to prepare a blueprint for the future. Our man-power is now fully occupied, but I know that the National Works Council is considering a plan for public works, involving an expenditure of £64,000,000 on dams, reservoirs and irrigation schemes, which is to be put into operation in the event of a recession or a depression occurring. That is a policy that I have been advocating for many years. I wish only to add that I believe that it is essential that we should deliberately budget for a surplus iti times of prosperity. I do not believe that in times of monetary expansion all money other than that which is needed immediately for governmental purposes should he returned to the people, t am convinced that it is important at the present time, when we are suffering from the pressure of many inflationary factors, deliberately to budget for a surplus and to immobilize that surplus. To allow it to filter back into the hands of the community through Government expenditure and thus increase the present inflationary tendencies, would be very undesirable. I believe that we should direct our attention now to what we can do when we face the recession, as we inevitably will do, and immobilize millions of pounds now so that we may use them when our export markets do not return to us the amount of money that they now return. One of the questions that we must consider is whether economic development can wait until there is a surplus of labour seeking employment. [ do not think that it can. We must give more consideration to many of the projects that are now being developed in this country. The Government is encouraging many projects that will eventually be found to be uneconomic, and important developmental works are being retarded owing to the employment of man-power upon these projects. Another question that must be considered is whether these vast governmental works are of such a nature that the surplus labour force that will be available in a recession is fitted to be employed on them. I am not certain that that is so. History shows that it is usually the inefficient individuals who are the first to be thrown into the ranks of the unemployed, and I do not believe that they are the persons who are always best fitted to undertake the construction of great national works.
Another problem is whether sufficient capital is available in Australia. I believe on balancing the factors for and against, that if, by offering sufficient inducements, we can encourage the movement of overseas capital to this country, it will be to our ultimate benefit. That involves questions of immigration, national economy and so on. I am 3ure that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) will agree that we are suffering from a shortage of the technical staff that is necessary for technical planning.
– The Government will not pay them enough.
– I do not propose to deal with that aspect of the matter. ] am concerned only with the technical staff that is available in this country. 1 urge, as a serious contribution to this debate, that we should make a special effort to attract from other countries men who can engage in forward planning. High prices are now being paid for our exports. I need not refer to the tremendous increase of their value in the last ten years, because it is known to the Government. It seems to be inevitable that, sooner or later, and it may occur sooner than we anticipate, our export markets wil I suddenly contract. There is no doubt that our internal economy is mainly dependent upon those markets. If out receipts from overseas shrink suddenly, that will inevitably effect every man and woman in Australia. I want to see forward planning. I realize the economic limitations of the Government at the present time, but I want to see forward planning so that if our export markets contract we can proceed with the development of essential national works along ordered lines. I suggest to the Government that special consideration should be given to attracting technical men to Australia. I know that some persons with such qualifications have come here, but, having been in Europe comparatively recently, I feel that much more could be done in that regard if we were to engage in a special campaign to attract first-class technical men.
I direct my attention at the moment solely to the subject of water conservation, with which is bound up soil erosion and afforestation. In the northeastern parts of this country there are areas, such as those around Innisfail, where the annual rainfall is 160 inches. Mr. Hoover, an ex-President of the United States of America, said that every gallon of water that flows into the ocean is a gallon of water lost. When Dr. Bradfield and Mr. Idriess advanced their plans for water conservation, they were criticised by men who said that projects such as were being advocated could not be successful. I do not pretend to express any technical opinion upon the matter, but, just as O’Connor and Lord Forrest, as he subsequently became, were ridiculed because of their pioneer efforts to carry water to Kalgoorlie and, indeed, O’Connor finally committed suicide because of the ridicule to which he was subjected, so these men of our own. day who have similar breadth of vision have been criticized by lesser minds. I was associated personally with Dr. Bradfield, who was many years older than myself. He was a comparatively poor man and so he died. I learned to respect him deeply as a man of great mental stature, and one who firmly believed that we could do the things which he suggested if only we directed our attention to them. I am not foolish enough to believe that, even if to-morrow these plans were found to be technically capable of achievement, they could be accomplished except after the passage of a period of years. I am making a special plea to-night that the Bradfield plan, which I know is in the archives of the Government, should be carefully examined and, indeed, approved in principle. “We must start sometime. “We must plan, maybe 25 or 30 years ahead, so that when our resources permit these schemes to be undertaken they may be put in hand without delay. The Burdekin, the Ord and our other great, rivers, the tremendous valleys of the Murrumbidgee and the Murray rivers, and the great rivers in Queensland have been surveyed. Men like Dr. Bradfield have surveyed our dried-up river beds and have determined that it is possible to drive the water from our east coast. I believe that these projects should ultimately be undertaken. Although I have read rather deeply on this subject my views are purely those of a layman. The problem of water conservation and reticulation which this Government is partly tackling in this bill is of prime importance to the future of this country. Although it can win no votes for any of us it is of the greatest importance that every man in this Parliament should advocate the establishment of a planning committee to prepare detailed plans of these works in advance. May I draw the attention of honorable members to the third report of the Commonwealth Rural Reconstruction Commission, dated the 30th June, 1944, which stated the problem in these terms -
The people of Australia as a whole do nol realize -
The extent to which soil erosion it a very real menace to the future of large sections of their country;
that if a national calamity is to bf averted drastic action is necessary within the next decade. “Within the next decade! As honorable members know, ever increasing areas of land in Australia which are now capable of development are receding to the east because of wind storms, so extending the areas of marginal lands thrown up by the thrust of soil erosion. The report states that the people of Australia as a whole do not realize -
that failing better methods of land utilization, the menace will spread to even greater areas than are a< present affected.
These observations are supported by the Office of Education which, in its Bulletin No. 13, drew attention to this important problem.
– The honorable member agrees, then, that the Office of Education does issue some good publications.
– I do not criticize all of the bulletins. The Office of Education has drawn attention to the fac! that in New South “Wales 60,000,000 acres - a very large area - are affected by erosion. Most of this area, as indeed most of the area of inland Australia, would be highly fertile if only water could be brought to it. The Bulletin issued by the Office of Education, to which I have referred, states -
Most of this area is highly fertile and enjoys a good rainfall. As evidence of this, it produces virtually the whole of the State’s agriculture and carries two-thirds of its livestock. Erosion over half this area is in the early stages only; but in the case of 30,000,000 acres, the erosion is serious and requires urgent remedial action. In the words of the New South Wales Water Conservation Service, “ Erosion is accelerating rapidly over all these lands, and control measures are becoming more difficult and more expensive every day “. In Victoria erosion in varying degrees has been reported from areas totalling 5,000,000 acres, while in other States the problem is also serious, although, the actual extent of the damage is not known through lack of detailed surveys.
The prevention of soil erosion is bound up with water conservation. Water evaporated by the processes of nature in turn affects the formation of dew and the fall of rain. The control of soil erosion and the institution of water conservation schemes form part of the most important developmental projects that can be undertaken in this country. By the restlessness of some honorable members on the Government benches, I appear to be wasting their time. I have taken advantage of the opportunity to speak on this bill to deal with one of the greatest problems that confronts this country.
– The greatest problem.
– I do not care what Government tackles it so long as the work be put in hand. There should be established a sufficiently strong trained technical staff to undertake the preliminary work. We cannot expect to continue for all time to enjoy the prosperity which we now enjoy in terms of money. To the degree that we can bring our present resources to bear on the problem we must do so, and we should do it as quickly as possible. If we are to become truly a nation - we are at present little more than a handful of people - we must direct our attention primarily to the important problems which I have brought to the notice of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– I mould not have spoken on this bill but for the testy opening remarks of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). It is rather a pity that the honorable member should have spoilt an otherwise excellent speech by showing ill feeling at the commencement of it. The reason why Government members did not intend to speak on this bill is because there is general agreement as to its merits. The need for water conservation is fully realized by all honorable members. The existence of this problem has been appre- ciated for many years. That great Australian poet. Henry Lawson, advocated water conservation in the early days. 1 recall to honorable members the following lines from one of his poems : -
The rain comes down on the western land and the rivers run to waste,
While the townsfolk rush for the special tram in their childish, senseless haste,
And never a pile of a loch we drive - but a few mean tanks we scratch -
For the fate of a nation is naught compared with the turn of a cricket match.
Bight throughout the early days of. the settlement of this country the need for water conservation schemes was fully realized. Unfortunately, however, in the past, governments of all political complexions have been hampered in their efforts to initiate water conservation schemes by the lack of the requisite finance. At present we have the necessary finance but the requisite manpower and materials are not available to carry out the schemes in full. We have seen in recent years that if the manpower and materials are available, the money can be found. All governments should remember that fact, not only in their own interests but also in the interests of this nation.I listened with close attention to the speech of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) on this subject. The honorable gentleman traced the history of the development of Western Australia and gave us an interesting outline of the agricultural and physical features of that State. He spoke with the experience of a. man who knows the back country where water is at a premium. If water could be supplied in the outback areas the lives and comfort of those who live there would be entirely different. The provision of an assured water supply would as he pointed out, make a major contribution to the productivity of the rich north-eastern portion of the wheat belt of Western Australia. I join with the honorable member in expressing regret that the larger plan originally envisaged by the Government of Western Australia was not proceeded with. Legislation to give effect to that plan which was introduced into the State legislature was amended or defeatedin the upper house. Objection to the plan came from many of the residents of the areas proposed to be served with water. They believed that they could supply themselves with water at much less cost than that involved in the ambitious scheme contemplated by the State Government. I regret that the’ more ambitious plan was rejected. I do not agree with the contention of the honorable member for Swan that those who desire to do so should be able to contract out of the scheme. The cost of schemes of this kind should not bear too heavily on the people they are designed to serve. If the farmers and other people in the areas proposed to be served were allowed to work out their own schemes they would be far too prone to take a risk, believing that everything would eventually turn out all right. There is a tendency among farmers to trust in providence and this leads them to endeavour to avoid the reasonable financial commitments involved by providing their own water supplies with the risk of failure at critical periods. Physical factors may prevent this work from being undertaken at an early date.. My principal purpose in rising to speak was to draw attention to the statement of the honorable member for Warringah in the latter part of his speech. The Deputy Director of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Western Australia told me recently that, whether the Governments decide to proceed with the scheme now or to delay it for twelve months, as far as he can see there will not be a sufficient man-power force available in Western Australia to carry out the work in the near future. Therefore, [ believe that the Commonwealth should help Western Australia to get the labour, machinery and other supplies needed to put the scheme into effect as early as possible. The .governments of Australia should place in the forefront of their programmes major works for the conservation and reticulation of water. Even those areas which are popularly regarded as desert could be converted into fruitful land if water were brought to them, as is proved by the fact that they respond so readily to such rain as falls. Under the present scheme, it is proposed to convey water only to the boundaries of farms. That may be sufficient in the case of farmers who have money to spend on the reticulation of their properties, oi who are able to raise money easily. However, I believe that it should be the policy of the Government, either to reticulate the farms as a part of the general scheme, or to make money available to the farmers on easy terms so that they may do the work themselves. It would be a short-sighted policy for any government, merely in order to save a few pounds, to stop short of providing a scheme that would confer the maximum benefit on the farmers and the community generally.
In carrying out water conservation schemes risks must be taken. The great Bradfield scheme and the Great Boomerang scheme would probably be risky undertakings. They might be regarded by some folk as physically impossible, but that was once said, of the Mundaring scheme for conveying water by pipeline to Kalgoorlie. Nevertheless, the work was done, and it might be said that Australia at that time led the world in conveying water over long distances. It is necessary that the Commonwealth and the States should take risks with water conservation schemes in the interests of national development, and in order to encourage the population of remote areas. I commend the bill because it is an example of Commonwealth and State co-operation, and I hope that the example thus set will be followed in the future.
.- I rise to support what has been said by other honorable members on this subject. I think I can say on behalf of the Opposition that we can speak with unanimity. Australia is a dry country, and water conservation is its greatest need. In the past, the problem has not been tackled properly. Something in a nature of a general staff is needed in order to develop Australia on the right lines. When the Bruce-Page Government was in office, we had a Supply and Development Commission. Such an authority might not be suitable for ‘present conditions, but something might be done by bodies like the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission in Victoria, and the engineering services of the various State Governments the representatives of which should confer frequently. Associated with water conservation is hydro-electric development. As a Victorian, I can say that the prosperity of Victoria is hound up with water conservation. Alfred Deakin, when a young city man, travelled abroad, and saw something of what was being done in the way of water conservation in other countries. He brought to Australia two Canadians, the Chaffey brothers, to examine the possibility of applying irrigation to what was then a rabbit-infested area along the River Murray. His proposal at first met great hostility in the Parliament, but it proved to be the beginning of the development of the Mildura district. We need not go to the Tennessee Valley in the United States of America in order to see what can be done by means of water conservation, [n Victoria, we have the Mildura irrigation scheme under which great quantifies of dried and citrus fruits are grown. l t should be borne in mind that so well established is it that the Mildura district was not affected by the economic depression. The scheme has since been extended to such centres as. Redcliffs, in Victoria, to Waikerie, Berri, and other centres in South Australia. Indeed, in many respects, the development of the Murray irrigation districts may be likened to the Tennessee Valley project. We know that much of the land in Australia is useless, but there is a great deal that might be made fruitful by the application of water. Honorable members should read a book entitled Water into Gold, a classic piece of literature by Ernestine Hill, an English woman who readilly appreciated the importance of water to Australia. What has been accomplished in the irrigation areas on the Murray and the Mumimbidgee can be multiplied a hundredfold, and it is for this Commonwealth Parliament to see that it is done, ft is better to expend revenue on schemes that will provide prosperity for posterity than to fritter it away on schemes of a socialistic kind. Admiral Cresswell, in a treatise called Australia’s Inland Coastline, pleaded for the development and use of the Murray Valley. Those of us who travel by air between Melbourne and Canberra pass over a great sheet of water stored in the Hume Dam, which work could be duplicated at other places along the Murray, and also on the Murrumbidgee. We have in Australia many engineers and experts possessing the necessary knowledge and initiative, hut while developmental projects are the separate responsibility of six States we cannot hope to progress as we should. As Kipling put it, migration, administration, transportation and irrigation are the great needs of the nation, and to no country does that apply with greater force than to Australia. I hope that the Government will do everything possible to encourage the development of water conservation schemes throughout Australia.
– I am very pleased that the House is discussing such an important subject as water conservation. About five years ago, I was in Western Australia with a body which was taking evidence on housing, and I visited many of the towns with which honorable members from Western Australia are well acquainted. I was then impressed with the need for water conservation if Western Australia is to be developed. We sometimes speak of Western Australia and South Australia as the smaller States, but though they are small iD population they are great in area, and certainly much land there is not being used to its greatest capacity. I listened attentively to the honorable member for Warringah. (Mr. Spender), who spoke of bringing experts and technicians to Australia, but our great fault has been out failure to utilize our own national resources. Most of the country between Port Augusta and Whyalla, in South Australia, is practically a desert for lack of water, particularly in dry years. With the help of the Commonwealth, water was brought from the Murray, at Morgan, over the ranges te Whyalla. Am one who travels between Port Augusts and Whyalla through the parched countryside, which is almost bare of vegetation except for stunted bushes, is amazed when he comes suddenly upon the dairy farm conducted by the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited near the town of Whyalla. A large area of country is covered with succulent feed by virtue of the water which has been conveyed over a distance of 200 miles. I agree with other honorable members that some of our richest land is in those districts where the rainfall is very low. Having seen what has been and is being achieved with the use of water from the pipe line between Morgan and Whyalla, I am able to realize the possibilities of such projects in “Western Australia. The Commonwealth, in working hand-in-hand with the States by assisting them to finance water supply schemes, is adopting a very wise policy.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) has objected to the rating on land adjacent to the proposed pipe line. A similar position arose in South Australia. Many settlers on land adjoining the Morgan-Whyalla pipe line became liable to pay a rate, because the pipe line passed through their properties and they objected to the rating system. Speaking from memory, I think that the value of land for a mile on either side of the pipe line was increased, and the new valuation was taken as the basis for the rating system. The proposed new pipe line in Western Australia will increase the value of the land in the areas which it will serve. I agree with the view which the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) has expressed that it will not be desirable to allow the owners of property adjacent to the pipe line to contract their way out of the obligation to pay rates by not using any of the water, [n my opinion, the Government has adopted a wise procedure. One honorable member has stated that a risk with water supplies is always worth while, even though the scheme may ultimately fail. L’ cannot recall any instance of a water scheme being a failure.
– Only when the land has been unsuitable and salt has risen.
– That will not occur with the proposed scheme in Western Australia, where the water will be required, not so much for irrigation, as for ordinary needs. Water which has been pumped for long distances cannot be used for irrigation because the cost is prohibitive. When the pipe line was built from Morgan to Whyalla, the owners of farms in adjacent areas which had been established for 50 or 100 years, applied for permission to take water from the scheme. They had never had suffi cient water to satisfy their requirements. I recall my own experiences which I had with 100-gallon tank on a spring dray. Each night after I had finished my work, I had to cart water for my stock for the following day. Therefore, I have a knowledge of all the difficulties that arise from a shortage of water. Since the provision of the pipe line to Whyalla, constant requests have been received for services of townships and farms a considerable distance from the line. Consequently, the water supply scheme, which was provided for a specific purpose, is now serving townships and settlers foi miles on either side of the pipe line.
A statement has been made that sufficient labour is not now available for water supply schemes. Again, I shall cite South Australia as an illustration. About twelve months ago, the authorities experienced severe difficulty in obtaining sufficient labour to lay pipes to meet the needs of the outer suburbs of Adelaide. Ultimately, they obtained Bait labour for the work. Within the last few weeks, the needs of the metropolitan area of Adelaide for increased water supplies have become so imperative that the authorities have determined to proceed immediately with a scheme to lay 30-in. or 36-in. pipes to enable water to be pumped from the River Murray over the Mount Lofty Ranges to the city. The authorities in South Australia are not waiting until other labour-absorbing jobs have been completed. They consider that the need for water is so urgent, and that such considerable benefits will be derived from the scheme, that they should undertake it at once. I can conscientiously say that I believe that the proposed water scheme in Western Australia should be undertaken at the earliest possible moment. The pipeline will not only meet present needs but will also make possible an increase of production and will create a feeling of greater contentment among the settlers. I hope that the assistance which the Commonwealth is granting to the Government of Western Australia will not be an isolated instance. Other water supply schemes should be planned in the eastern States, which enjoy a more regular rainfall and have greater water “supplies than other parts of Australia, and in the western part of the continent. Every possible assistance should be given to the States to make water available to meet present needs and to make possible an increase of production.
.- I support the bill. I believe that water is the most important subject that we can discuss. I am prepared to support the provision of water conservation schemes in any part of Australia. I congratulate the Government of Western Australia on having planned this project and the Commonwealth on providing £2,150,000 to assist that State to carry out the work. Water conservation schemes are urgently required in most parts of Australia for domestic purposes, mixed farming and irrigation. Compared with the considerable advantages which certain agricultural areas in Western Australia will derive from, the proposed new water supply, the cost is a minor consideration.
I have always advocated that Australia should follow the example of progressive countries such as the United States of America in developing water supply schemes. Australia has more to fear from drought than from any other adversity, [n Queensland, hundreds of thousands of cattle have died as the result of the drought which is menacing the great Barkly Tablelands and the country west of Rockhampton. Sheep and cattle are being lost at a time when their value is greater than it has ever been. Had we shown foresight in developing water conservation schemes years ago, as other progressive countries have done, we should have been able to save our stock. The United States of America owes a great deal of its wealth to water supply and hydro-electric schemes. The greatest scheme in the world is in the Yangtse Valley, in China, which is ten times greater than the Boulder Dam in America in respect of reticulation, agricultural possibilities and hydro-electric power. Queensland sadly lacks adequate water conservation schemes and hydroelectric power.
Reference has been made to the development of Mildura as the result of irrigation. Similar development may be seen at Griffith in New South Wales. Both Victoria and New South Wales have embarked upon splendid irrigation schemes, and so has South Australia to a lesser degree, but Queensland, unfortunately, has no comparable projects. Although that State has great possibilities, it requires money and enthusiasm, and the support of those in authority to develop such projects. We should regard to-day as the dawn of a new era u) water conservation. I sincerely hope that the proposed expenditure of £150,000,000 on the standardization of railway gauges will be diverted to water conservation and power schemes in the States which urgently require them. Perhaps the principal benefit of the standardization of railway gauges will be that travellers will not be put to the inconvenience of changing trains at such points as Albury, Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie, but the provision of water conservation schemes will lead to such an increase of production that the resultant wealth will defray the cost of a programme of standardization of railway gauges and other works of greater value in the future. I congratulate most sincerely all those persons who are associated with the proposed water supply scheme for the agricultural areas in the north-eastern portion of the main mixed wheat and sheep belt of Western Australia. I earnestly hope that the assistance which the Commonwealth is granting the Government of Western Australia on this occasion is only the forerunner of ‘ other grants to assist the States to undertake water conservation. I refer particularly to Queensland in this regard. By such means, we shall be able to combat droughts and greatly increase out production.
.- I shall support any bill relating to the provision of water conservation and irrigation. I wholeheartedly endorse the remarks by previous speakers on both sides of the chamber about the value of water conservation, because from time to time I have witnessed the disasters caused by droughts in New South Wales. I have seen the development of the Goulburn Valley as the result of irrigation. From early childhood, I have seen thousands of head of cattle and sheep lost through drought. Those losses could have been prevented had the State of New South Wales undertaken water conservation schemes many years ago. The outstanding illustration of the benefit of water is provided by the Murrumbidgee area in my electorate. Years ago, it was only a sheep walk. Then Mr. McCaughey installed his own plant at Yanco station and proved conclusively to settlers in the district the value of an assured water supply. The Murrumbidgee area owes its position as one of the most flourishing parts of Australia wholly to water conservation. Generally speaking, the soil of Australia is so fertile that it will produce crops, provided an adequate water supply is available. We cannot calculate in pounds, shillings and pence the loss to the nation, apart from the loss to individuals, that has reresulted from the lack of water conservation schemes. During the financial and economic depression of the 1930’s, governments in Australia should have embarked upon water conservation and irrigation schemes instead of having thousands of men on the dole but at that time they were told that money was not available for that purpose. Such works would have conferred the greatest possible benefit on the people. Since that time, governments of all political beliefs have come to realize the advantages of water. I give some credit to the Labour Government of New South Wales, which has prepared plans for water conservation. I am personally awaiting anxiously for the report on the diversion of the Snowy River waters, countless millions of gallons of which have run into the sea in the last 40 or 50 years. Only in the last few years have we realized that its waters should be conserved for the western part of New South Wales. It is remarkable that there should be State jealousy over the diversion of the water. Countless more millions of gallons of water run to waste into the sea from the Murray River. That water should be conserved for use in the areas where it can be used. The back country of New South Wales is entirely dependent on the water in the Murrumbidgee River of which there is insufficient to meet all needs.
If the water of the Snowy River is diverted into the Murrumbidge*River, as I hope it Avi.ll be, the position will be saved. Only a few years ago, during the war, when our troops in the Islands needed rice, the rice crop in the Leeton-Griffith irrigation area almost failed. Its failure would have been a calamity. As most people are well aware, rice-growers are utterly dependent on plenty of water. Rice cannot be grown unless water is continually available. Speaking from memory, I think the ricegrowers were saved from a calamity and our troops from being short of rice by only a day. The rice-growers were told that water would have to be cut off from their rice-fields on the next day, because the level in the Burrinjuck dam was too low to allow its supply to be continued. The situation was saved by heavy rains in the catchment area. The rice-growers’ plight, had they been denied water, would have been like that of wheatgrowers denied superphosphate. The diversion of the Snowy River water into the Murrumbidgee would ensure adequate water for the growing in western New South Wales of not only rice but also lucerne, wheat and other crops and for the rearing of thousands of sheep and cattle in years of drought. It would be the salvation of the - people from the Riverina to the South Australian border. The security of that part of New South Wales is dependent on the diversion of the Snowy River waters into the Murrumbidgee. I hope that interstatejealousies will be forgotten in the national interest and that the advocates of the Murrumbidgee instead of the Murray as being the river into which the Snowy should be diverted will win the day.
The conservation of water is a national matter that should be looked at from a national point of view. I hope that theState governments, regardless of their political colour, will set aside their State point of view and decide to make the best use of the water available. Great men who were not in politics, like Dr. Bradfield and Sir Sidney Kidman, have shown the Australian people that water must be conserved if the country is to prosper. I have no need to tell honorable members and” the Australian public that Dr.
Bradfield waa the author of the plan for the diversion of the eastward-flowing rivers westward into the dry heart of Australia, or that Sir Sidney Kidman in seamons following the years when heavy falls of rain were experienced was able, to drive fine cattle thousands of miles along routes that were in most years as bare as a rock. Although never politicians, Dr. Bradfield and Sir Sidney Kidman bad the minds of statesmen. The lessons that they and other far-seeing men have tried to drive into our minds should be learned. It is better late than never. As ato. example of what can be accomplished by water conservation I refer honorable gentlemen to the CorowaDeniliquinBerrigan scheme. In the 1902 drought, I carted fodder from Deniliquin 70 or SO miles west to save stock. Owing to the development of the scheme that part of the country is now very prosperous. The scheme to which I have just referred is not yet complete, but I hope that is soon will be completed. “Water conservation is the most neglected enterprise in Australia. I trust that all the governments in Australia will realize that the provision of water, water and more water is a necessity to us. “Water will bring prosperity to Australia, not only for our own benefit but also for the benefit of the generations that will follow as. I hope too that there will be no quibbling about the cost of conserving water. Whether the cost is a few thousands of pounds or hundreds of millions, it is money well spent and creates great assets. With a properly developed scheme of water conservation, Australia could become a garden of Eden. Our soils are responsive to water. The gentle slope from east to west makes the irrigation of any part of Australia an easy matter. It would require little expenditure by landholders throughout the country to make their land suitable for irrigation. “We must be guided by experience. We suffer droughts periodically. We had droughts in 1902, 1914, 1927 and 1945. In the intervening years, water that should have been trapped and -stored against the dry years was allowed -to nin to waste. If only Ave save the water that falls from the heavens and runs down the rivers to the sea Ave shall be able to tide ourselves over dry times and we shall have an even greater country.
– I support this bill the purpose of which is the appropriation of money from the Consolidated Revenue for the development of a water supply scheme in Western Australia. I first congratulate the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) upon having raised the subject to-night. I also congratulate other members who have shown interest in the bill. But particularly do I congratulate the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) who, to use hi.own words, spoke as a layman, with only a superficial knowledge of the technicalities of water supply systems, made an outstanding speech that showed him to be not nearly so little informed on the subject as he professed to be. He displayed x national outlook in his statement of th subject. I hope that his advice will be accepted by the Government. I am pleased to see that words that I have uttered periodically in the 14 years since I made my debut in this Parliament have at last borne fruit, because the honorable member for Warringah said that he desired the establishment of a national planning committee in Australia. ] have, always advocated that. I have advocated an economic survey of Australia. I regret that my advocacy fell on deaf ears during the regimes of the conservative Lyons and Menzies Governments. I trust that now tha’ the honorable member for Waringah has supported me, it will noi be long before the national planning authority is set up. I do not mean h committee consisting of graduates cf the London School of Economics, because such committees are the curse of Aus tralia. The economic survey thai I have in mind would be made by technical men whose attention would be particularly directed towards water conservation.
It is a particular pleasure to me, as a former resident of Western Australia, to see that at long last that State has been taken seriously in other parts of the Commonwealth. When I went there at fourteen years of age to finish my schooling, most people in the other States regarded it as more or less useless. Of course, there were exceptions. The Chaffey brothers, on their arrival in Australia from America, examined the potentialities of the State.
– No; I advise the honorable member for the Northern Territory to re-read his history.
– I challenge the honorable member’s opinion. The Chaffey brothers went to Western Australia ; but, for some reason, turned it down and directed their attention to . the Murray River. The honorable member for Balaclava shakes his head, but I advise aim to check my statements, because, if he does so, he will find that they are correct. Large areas of Western Australia are semi-arid and the jarrah country is bard to develop, but now that country is coming into its own. The first development started with the completion of the gold-fields water supply scheme, for the success of which we commemorate the engineer, Mr. C. Y. O’Connor. There are three pumping lifts in that scheme. After a lot of travail and pressure on the State Government, water from the scheme, which was originally intended to be used only for the development of the gold-fields, was allowed to be tapped for other purposes, especially the development of primary industries. The Mukinbudin and Wyalkatchem schemes referred to by the honorable member for Swan ought to be given extra support. The. honorable member would not recommend special treatment for those areas without good reason. Another potentiality requiring attention is the Harvey River. The land in that area is eagerly sought after. Immigrants from Yugoslavia and other eastern Europe countries will pay twice as much as anyone else for farms in that area because they know its potentialities. I come now o the head of the Collie River. I have never actually been in the town of Collie. [ know something about it, however, because, as a surveyor in Western Australia, I made surveys and took levels for the delivery of water from the Collie River to Narrogin. I understand that the Wellington dam has been built at the back of Collie. It was conceived by an engineer from Victoria.
That brings me to the important fact That we must pay our super-engineers high salaries. I point to the Canning Weir, from which Perth is supplied. That was the conception of Mr. Dumas. Western Australia cannot thank him enough for his advice. I hope that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) is making use of his advice in regard to the Ord River in the Kimberley district in the Northern Territory, and in. Queensland in an advisory capacity on the Northern Australia Development Committee. My reference to Queensland leads me to warn people against letting their minds run away with the fantastic idea that western Queensland can be irigated from the Diamantina River. I have not in my possession the relevant documents, but I have beer> verbally informed that Mr. Nimmo has scotched the Bradfield scheme by pointing out that Dr. Bradfield did not have sufficient information about levels and contours when he formulated it and that its development is not feasible. I think it is the duty of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to obtainthat information from the Queensland1 Government at the earliest possible opportunity. The Queensland Government wasfurnished with information by pastoralists and not engineers in theChannel country, which showed that a> garden of Eden could be made bydamming the Diamantina River and flooding the country when necessary.. Scientific information was later supplied which showed that the water which comes down from the Selwyn? near Cloncurry about every five years floods the country in that” area better than could be done by man. These schemes should he examined by qualified engineers before they are pur into operation. We should not look askance at the proposed schemes for theClarence and Dumaresq Rivers. I wasborn near the latter river, and the schemefor that river should be one of the mostoutstanding projects in New South Wales. Although honorable membersrepresenting Queensland electorate, should know a. great deal about theBurdekin scheme, they have not supplied any information about it to the House. I was sufficiently interested, when, coming down from the Northern Territory a few months ago, to go into the- whole of the Burdekin Baver scheme with Mr. Kemp.
– The honorable member should confine his remarks to the bill before the House. Whilst he is entitled to make passing references to other matters, in the main he should keep to the measure being debated.
– The bill under discussion provides for a grant to Western Australia. As other honorable members were allowed to roam over a wide field when speaking on this measure, surely, before concluding my remarks, I should be permitted to refer to the Northern Territory, which is well worth development. However, in view of your ruring Mr. Deputy Speaker, I can only assume that the House does not wish to hear the comments of one who has a vast knowledge of that area. I refer, of course, to myself. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) sent a letter to me the other day after I had delivered to him a full report on the Northern Territory scheme. His letter, which reached me only this morning, is one of despair; it is something that his adviser should be ashamed of. Of what good is it for the Government to provide for the relief of an arid area in Western Australia, while it ignores the pressing need of the Northern Territory where it is only necessary to dam flowing rivers? The territory requires such a scheme in order to tide the settlers there over the dry periods. I ask the Minister not to forget that the rivers in the Northern Territory have an appointment only with the ocean. They are capable of being diverted for the purpose of watering lands which are suitable in every other way for the growing of some crops.
– I do not propose to detain the House very long. There are, however, one or two points which were raised by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) that should be replied to. When speaking on this bill to provide for water conservation and reticulation in Western Australia, the honorable member told quite a long story and dealt with for ward planning in regard to national works. The fact is that to-day forward planning is first approved by the CoordinatorGeneral of Works in the Department of Post-war Reconstruction Proposals are then handed over to the National Works Council, which arranges a reserve of works on precisely the lines suggested by the honorable member. Therefore, he brought forward nothing new.
– But the Government is short of technical advisers.
– The fact is that technical officers are being trained under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. There will be technical officers available in due course for certain engineering works. quantity surveying and other work necessary for the purpose of preparing and having ready many major national works such as water conservation, road construction, and other projects of a similar nature. Only recently I sent an officer of my department to the United Kingdom for the purpose of recruiting technical officers capable of carrying out works of this nature, and preparing estimates and quantities.
– Why not give qualified Australians an attractive salary? They could do the work.
– Arrangements have been made for more than 130 technical officers to come to this country. This Government is well alive to the problems associated with the future developments of Australia, and is taking practical steps in the matter. . The honorable member for Warringah should know that at present surveyors are in the Australian Alps endeavouring to ascertain the availability of water there for the generation cf hydro-electric power. That is a joh which may take up to 30 years to develop. It could not possibly be completed within a couple of years. That if typical of the position in regard to major developmental works in this country.
I shall now come a little closer to the work for which this bill is to make financial provision. This projects is not for the purpose of irrigation as was suggested by the honorable member for Warringah. Because I smile, he made a sarcastic remark to the effect that I was not interested. I smiled because he was giving us a dissertation on the irrigation scheme for “Western Australia. This is not an irrigation scheme at all.
– It is an irrigation scheme for the north.
– The honorable member referred to it as a great irrigation scheme and delivered a dissertation on bow it would prevent soil erosion.
– I said nothing of the sort.
– The honorable gentleman became concerned because I smiled at his nonsense. This is a scheme for domestic stock raising in the northeastern part of “Western Australia. When the scheme has been completed, ample water will be available to the settlers in a large portion of the north-eastern part of Western Australia for domestic use. The second half of the scheme envisages the development of the “Wellington Dam in the Collie area for the purpose of conserving water in order to supply some southern towns in Western Australia. It is a. scheme for supplying water for stock and domestic use in the north-eastern portion of the State and to country towns in other parts. There are two main reasons why the Government has stood behind this proposal. The first is that it will ensure greater stability in regard to stock raising and farming generally. The supply of ample water for stock and domestic use will result in an increased livestock carrying capacity for the area to be served. In addition, there will be an important social aspect for the people there, because they will be assured of additional domestic water for their homes. In the lower area where water will be supplied to southern towns, assistance will be accorded to the decentralization of some of the smaller industries. Some of those towns have become practically static. One of the reasons for that is the severe limitations placed on them because of the Government’s inability hitherto to guarantee to them anything like an adequate supply of water. When Western Australia asked the Commonwealth for a contribution towards the scheme this Go- vernment made an investigation and acceded to the request. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) stated that the committee which we sent to Western Australia to investigate this scheme had recommended a smaller scheme, and for that reason the Government was deserving of censure.
– The Minister is misinterpreting my statement.
– The honorable member referred to two schemes. He said that there was a larger scheme which the Commonwealth committee had not recommended and then he said that the committee could have inquired into a scheme for the north-eastern area. Whilst the committee reported upon a smaller scheme, the State Government is in no way limited in respect of any scheme it wishes to undertake. When Western Australia submitted its plan to the Commonwealth and asked for a contribution of some millions of pounds this Government appointed that committee to examine the proposal. That committee could only examine the scheme developed by the State Government, because no Commonwealth committee would have any right to inquire into all the water schemes under consideration by any State. If it did so, the State concerned would probably tell it to go about its business. The fact is that the Commonwealth committee, which was under the chairmanship of the Director-General of Works and Housing, examined the scheme which the State Government submitted for the consideration of the Commonwealth, and that scheme has no relation to the scheme to which the honorable member for Swan referred. The committee conducted investigations in all the country towns in the area concerned extending over a distance of 450 miles, and discussed the project with towns people and farmers in the area. It recommended that this scheme be undertaken not on economic but on social grounds, because it believed that the scheme would help to stabilize settlement in that area. It recommended a scheme of reticulation in the northeastern area.
– Does that not mean irrigation too?
– No ; irrigation means the provision of water for the irrigation of land for the purpose of producing crops, whereas this scheme was a scheme for the reticulation of water for stock-raising and domestic use. I suggest that the honorable member should consult the dictionaries to ascertain the distinction between the two words. Tho committee recommended a reticulation scheme for the north-eastern area. The scheme suggested in respect of the southern area was abandoned mainly as the result of the hostility of farmers in that area to the proposition. lt included ti provision that they should meet a charge of £32 per annum. However, the committee recommended thai water should be made available from the Wellington Dam to feed the great southern towns.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) informed me that the committee had reported that the scheme in the southern portion was uneconomic.
– As a matter of fact, both schemes are uneconomic, but the scheme covered by this measure will be undertaken on social grounds in order to stabilize settlement in the area concerned. Eventually, it may become an economic scheme. The committee reported that those towns should receive water from the southern scheme, and, after further consultation, an agreement was reached to lay a 30-in. pipeline from the Wellington Dam, to the Great Southern area so that should the farmers in that area want reticulation the pipeline would be of sufficient capacity to meet their needs. The reticulation scheme for the southern area was not defeated by any action taken by the committee, That proposal when submitted to the Western Australian Parliament was defeated in the Legislative Council by one vote. I understand that a Mr. Roche, a member of the Country party in the State Parliament, voted against the proposal. The Commonwealth committee could act only in an advisory capacity. Ultimately, it will be the responsibility of the State Government to decide where the water will go and by what method it will be reticulated, as well as what charges shall be imposed.
– The Premier of Western Australia agreed that the proposal embodied in this measure is a fair proposal.
– I point out that this money is being made available purely as a grant to Western Australia. There will be no tags whatever to this grant, and it will be a matter for the State Government to decide what schemes will ultimately be brought into being.
I take this opportunity to reply to the statement published in a leading article in the Narrogin Observer of the 29th of October last in which that newspaper blamed the Australian Government for the delay in the implementation of this scheme. The fact is that on the 6th April last the Prime Minister informed the Premier of Western Australia that the grant which the State had asked for had been approved and the money was available as from that date. The State Government asked for the sum of £2,150,000 and the Commonwealth Government granted that sum. Therefore, the Government of Western Australia must accept responsibility for any delay in the commencement or completion of the scheme.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 5, which deals with the basis of payment. No money is to be paid for alteration of the Mundaring Weir or the Wellington Dam. To reticulate this water in Western Australia, we shall require large quantities of pipes, which will be mainly manufactured in the eastern States. This scheme is urgently required. Honorable members have read in the press of special trains being employed to cart water overgreat distances to supply the people in these areas. Unless the Government ensures that industry functions properly., that ships are turned round as quickly as possible and that coal is mined to produce the steel to make these pipes, this scheme instead of being of great benefit, may eventually become a curse. Weknow that the money is available and- that there is sufficient man-power to do the job, although not as quickly as we could wish. If, in those circumstances, the scheme is delayed because the necessary materials can not be supplied, it will he a sad reflection upon the people of the eastern States and great hardship will be caused to the people for whom the water is required. I urge all those who can assist to do all that is within their power to ensure that industry functions properly and provides the materials that are necessary if this scheme is quickly to be brought to a successful conclusion.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 8th September (vide page 260), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I see no objection to the transfer to the War Gratuity Trust Account of certain moneys which it is no longer necessary to hold for the purposes for which they were raised. The only matter that I want to impress upon the Government is that the bill illustrates dearly the difference between the handling of trust funds by the Governments and by private individuals. The War Gratuity Trust Account is to receive £4,000,000 from the Import Procurement Suspense Account, £4,500,000 from the Marine War Risks Insurance Trust Account, £3,000,000 from the Overseas Shipping Trust Account, and £5,500,000 from the War Damage Fund. That simply means that the Parliament is exercising its power, as it may do again in the future, to devote trust moneys to purposes other than those for which they were raised. Because money is put into a trust account, it does not follow that it will be used for the purposes for which it was originally set aside.
I do not think that there is anything further that I can usefully say, except to point out that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) is conforming to the time- honoured custom of his predecessors since it was discovered that it was not wise or expedient to pay to the State’s the surplus revenue to which, under the Constitution, they are justly entitled. In that connexion, the right honorable gentleman is neither better nor worse than his predecessors. He has a surplus of £1,420,430. If it were not for the application of money to other trust funds, notably the National Welfare Fund - that monstrosity which, according to the Treasurer, is to swallow about £100,000,000 this year- the amount available for distribution to the States would be much greater than it is. Any State that in future, regardless of what government is in power, banks upon the distribution of surplus funds to it, , will be disappointed.
.- In my opinion, this bill is a very wise one. and there can be no objection to it. However, when the House is considering an appropriation it must have regard to the purpose for which the appropriation is to be made. Clause 2 (2) of the bill roads as follows: -
Money standing to the credit of the War Gratuity Trust Account shall be applied to the payment of war gratuities under the War Gratuity Act 1045-1947.
That act gave rise to one or two anomalies. The existence of the anomalies is due, not to the wording of the act, but to the curious way in which certain of its provisions have been interpreted. One anomaly arises from the decision on what constitutes overseas service in the case of certain classes of personnel. I refer particularly to the personnel of Overseas Headquarters, Royal Australian Air Force,
– That has been dealt with by the committee.
– If the right honorable gentleman means that it has been dealt with favorably, I have no desire to say anything further. Am I to understand from the Prime Minister that it has been dealt with favorably?
– The committee dealt with it, and the report of the committee will be tabled in the House shortly.
– It would be of great assistance to me if the Prime Minister could indicate the nature of the report.
– The honorable gentleman is entitled only to discuss the establishment of a war gratuity trust account. He is not entitled to deal in detail with the question of war gratuity.
– If we are discussing an appropriation of money, surely it is in order to discuss the purposes to which the money is to be applied.
– That is not dealt with in the bill.
– With great respect, sir, 1 submit that it is dealt with in clause 2 (2), which states that this appropriation is to be applied in the payment of war gratuities under the War Gratuity Act 1945-1947. I am concerned about the interpretation which is to be placed on certain provisions of the War Gratuity Act.
– The title of the bill shows that the measure is intended -
To establish a War Gratuity Trust Account, to provide for the payment of moneys to the credit of that account, and for other purposes.
– I bow to the ruling of the Chair, but I should appreciate a reply from the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- The bill states that its purpose is -
To establish a War Gratuity Trust Account, to provide for the payment of moneys to the credit of that account, and for other purposes.
I should like to know what “ other purposes “ are contemplated?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - The “other purposes” are those connected with the bill.
– Do they not refer to the purpose for which the money is to be used, which is the payment of “ war gratuity?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member will realize that the bill is intended to provide for the payment of war gratuities in accordance with the present legislation. I think that the honorable member is really inquiring whether- the method of payment is to be varied by some recommendation which the committee may make. However, that is not a matter for the committee.
– Only a few days ago- a bill which had been passed through nearly all stages but did not include the words “ and’ for other purposes “ was amended in committee by the addition of those words. In this instance the words “ and for other purposes “ have been included, and T think that the committee is entitled toknow what those other purposes are. I do not know whether the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) is endeavouring to qualify as an inmateof a blind, deaf and dumb institution, but he is completely dumb at present. Thelast clause in the bill is an appropriation clause, and when the committeeis considering such a measure it is entitled to know the purposes for which the money is to be appropriated. Therefore, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) is quite within his rights in. asking the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to’ disclose to the committee the- “ other purposes “ to which the money is to be devoted. I point out that the measure does not deal only with theamounts referred to in clause 3, but it may also cover other amounts which have been appropriated in a previous sessional period or even during a previous Parliament.
.- The present discussion involves the meaning of the words “ and for other purposes “. The preamble to the bill states -
And whereas it is desirable that the moneysin excess of the requirements of the said accounts shall be made available for the purpose of the payment of war gratuities under the War Gratuity Act 1945-1947.
Since that appears in the bill, I think that the committee is quite entitled toknow what amounts are to be paid and” to whom they are to be paid.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- The Chair has pointed cut that the War Gratuity Act 1945-1947 is already in operation, and that sub-clause 2 of clause- 2 of this bill therefore refers to that legislation. Whether or not the Minister will reply to the honorable member’s inquiry is another matter.
– I rise to order. The words “ and for other purposes “ are used in the title of the bill. If the effect of your ruling, sir, is that the committee cannot discuss the subject of war gratuities at all on this measure I intend to make a motion of dissent.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Let me make my ruling quite clear. The Chair has indicated that the Minister may, if he wishes, reply to the debate. As I understand the honorable member for Flinders, he desires to know whether the terms of the War Gratuity Act 1945- 1947 are to be varied, because that legislation defines the people who are entitled to receive certain benefits. I have ruled that the honorable member is not entitled to discuss that matter during the debate on this bill. The honorable member for Balaclava may continue.
– Since the words “ and for other purposes” appear in the bill, I assume that the Chair agrees that it is competent for the Minister to reply. I point out that in the War Gratuity Act 1945-1947 an absurd discrimination is made between certain ex-servicemen and the effect of that discrimination is that certain ex-servicemen who served overseas are regarded as having served only in Australia.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! That is the point upon which the Chair has ruled.
– Does the Minister propose to say anything on the point?
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Railways Act - Report on Commonwealth Railways Operations for year1947-48.
National Fitness Act - Commonwealth Council for National Fitness - Report of Tenth Session, November, 1947.
Vorfolk Island - Report for year 1946-47.
House adjourned at 11.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Local Government Elections: Petrol for Candidates.
n asked the Minister for Information, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are a.- f ollows : -
n. - On the 5th November the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) asked a question concerning the allocation of petrol and kerosene to primary producers for the harvesting season. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information: -
A basic motor spirit ration is made available to all user* by means of a licence which authorizes the holder to draw petrol tickets representing a predetermined quantity of moto spirit at monthly intervals. Although a temporary departure from this principle will be permitted so far as the December, 1948- January. 1949, issue is concerned, I am satisfied that this procedure enables the Controller itf Liquid Fuel to properly regulate the consumption of motor spirit, at a time when petrol supplies are critical. The practice should not prejudice the ability of primary producers to obtain motor spirit, the system has in fact operated throughout petrol rationing. The honorable member is concerned probably with the supplementary rations which may be obtained .by primary producers when harvesting and other seasonal requirements demand it, and I can assure him that the various State liquid fuel boards are aware of the necessity to treat any such applications a» urgent. Insofar as power kerosene is concerned, sales quotas have been allotted to oil companies to meet anticipated demands. The quotas take full account of the requirements >>f. primary producers to undertake harvesting and no difficulty ii anticipated in meeting normal needs.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 November 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19481110_reps_18_199/>.