18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In response to a question which I asked the Minister for Immigration some time ago, the honorable gentleman laid on the table a statement which set forth the terms and conditions under which it was proposed that displaced persons who have come to this country as migrants shall be employed in the coal-mines and at the iron and steel works at Newcastle and Port Kembla. Can the Minister now inform me what progress has been made in the negotiations between the Government and the industrial interests concerned?
– Proposals to employ displaced . persons in heavy industries have been discussed by representatives of the Government, the trade union and the employers concerned for some months. In its efforts to safeguard the industrial security of its members, the union representatives laid down the conditions under which displaced persons should, in their opinion, be employed. These conditions have been placed before the employers, and I am now able to inform the House that on Wednesday of this week the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited agreed to the following terms : - The company will give an undertaking that no unnaturalized displaced person will be taken on the operation staff and that displaced persons will he engaged on those jobs that are least, attractive to Australian workers. This means that wherever practicable the company will take advantage of the introduction of displaced persons to arrange transfers of Australian workers to jobs for which they are suitable and which they prefer. In other words, they will give Australians the “ pickings “. The company states that it cannot do anything to transfer those Australians who are working onlyshorttime at
Lysaghts to the steel “works because that is a matter which must be left to the initiative of the Australian workers. However, the company will be only too pleased to employ, in preference to displaced persons, any Australian worker who does take the initiative.
The company will accept displaced persons on the terms and conditions which have already been discussed between myself and the Federated Ironworkers Association, and which I have already outlined in this House. The company is quite prepared to agree to the appointment of a committee of reference to deal with individual problem cases, which will be composed of Senator Arnold, Mr. Marsh, of the Commonwealth Employment Service, and a representative of the Federated Ironworkers Association. Those undertakings by the company meet all the points raised by the association.
Victorian Legislative Council Election - “ REPORT to the Nation “ - Facilities for Party Leaders - Australian Music.
– In view of the statement by the Minister representing the Postmaster-General that he proposes to ask the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to inquire into the circumstances connected with the expenditure of £50 by the Victorian branch of the Liberal party on a broadcast by the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Hollway, will the Minister also request the board to inquire into and report upon the following matters : - (1) How many commercial broadcasting stations in the Macquarie network take the Prime Minister’s broadcast each Sunday evening, and what would be the cost of same per annum at normal station charges?
– Did I understand the honorable member to say that the Premier of Victoria had broadcast for something like fifteen minutes over seventeen stations for a charge of only £50 to the Liberal party?
– No; the Minister himself said that.
– No; I said that the cost was between £500 and £1,000 and I believe that to be nearer to the amount.
– I thought the statement was authentic when the Minister made it.
– The honorable member cannot even guarantee the authenticity of his own question. If the honorable member wishes, I shall get the board to check the cost, and I shall refer the other parts of the honorable member’s question to the Postmaster-General, so that he may discuss with the Prime Minister the generous offer of the Macquarie network to provide the Prime Minister of this country, whoever he may be, with an opportunity to report weekly to the nation. Afterwards, I shall give the honorable member all the information I can. On the initiative of a former honorable member for Parramatta, who did not want station 2CH, in which he was interested, to have to accept liquor advertisements, or other advertisements which he regarded as objectionable, the Broadcasting Act was amended to remove the obligation upon stations to accept for broadcasting any matter offered to them. Now, the management of broadcasting stations can decide whether matter for broadcasting will be accepted. Therefore, there is no obligation on 3XY, the Young Nationalists’ station in Melbourne, to which the Lyons Government gave a licence that had been taken from the returned soldiers, or on 2KY. 3KZ or any other station, to accept advertisements.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission is required by legislation to broadcast a certain percentage of Australian music in its musical programmes ? Has that requirement been complied with ? Is “ Advance Australia Fair “ taken into calculation in arriving at the proportion of Australian music broadcast?
– Under the Broadcasting Act 1943, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and all commercial broadcasting station-owners are obliged to broadcast at least per cent, of their music from amongst Australian compositions. I believe that that figure has long since been exceeded. I was a member of the Gibson committee which brought in the recommendation that that percentage be fixed in legislation. We had asked the commercial stations if they could broadcast 10 per cent, of Australian musical items in their musical sessions. 1 think that since 1943 the figure has been increased until it is considerably more than 2£ per cent. The figure given officially as the percentage of Australian compositions broadcast does not include the playing of “Advance Australia Fair “, which, of course, is a very good Australian anthem.
– Can the Minister for Post-war ^Reconstruction say whether the E. E. Turner estate, which is near Cummins, in my electorate, is to be acquired for the settlement of exservicemen ?
– Yes, the estate to which the honorable member has referred has been approved for acquisition as a part of the Commonwealth war service land settlement scheme. It consists of about 1,600 acres, and will be a mixed farming proposition. When it is acquired, it will bring the total acreage acquired in South Australia for land settlement purposes to about 500,000 acres.
– Is the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in a position to tell me whether the Dunrobin, Levrington, and Harwood estates in Tasmania have been acquired for the land settlement of ex-servicemen ? They are in the electorate that I represent, and are very good properties indeed.
– Yes. The three estates that the honorable member has mentioned have been approved for acquisition and inclusion in the Commonwealth war service land settlement scheme. The Dunrobin estate covers an area of approximately 24,000 acres, but a very large proportion of it is unsuitable for land settlement and more than 10,000 acres will be disposed of to the Tasmanian Forestry Commission. The remainder will provide four mixed farming properties for ex-servicemen. The Levrington estate covers approximately 9,000 acres, and it will be used for wool and fat lamb production. The Harwood estate covers about 1,400 acres, and it will be subdivided into five units for dairying and mixed farming. The Commonwealth has now approved of the acquisition of a total area of 250,000 acres in Tasmania for the land settlement of ex-servicemen. Its total expenditure on the scheme in that State will be about £1,000,000.
– Will the Minister for Works and Housing say whether the loss on the manufacture of bricks at the Canberra brickworks increased from £2,171 in 1946-47 to £10,923 in 1947-48 ? Did the net loss for the year also increase from £3,900 to £14,209, and did this include a loss of £2,559 on the brickworks hostel? Did the receipts in connexion with the hostel total £1,468, and were the costs £4,027? Art these losses still continuing? Has any attempt been made to put the project on a business basis? If so, with what result?
– I cannot say whether the figures cited by the honorable member are correct. It is true that a loss was sustained last year on the operations of the Canberra brickworks, the reason being that the price of bricks was kept down as a form of subsidy so that the cost of houses, and therefore of rents, would not be unduly high. It was hoped that, by increasing the output, the loss might be absorbed. However, the price of bricks was increased recently in order to avoid some of the loss. I was under the impression that members of the Opposition claimed that the Government should have continued the payment of .subsidies in order to keep down prices and costs. Yet when the Government, in an indirect way, subsidizes house-building operations in the Australian Capital Territory by keeping down the price of bricks, the honorable member complains. I shall ascertain whether the figures cited by the honorable member are correct.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been drawn to a press report to-day alleging that he has refused to allow the production of flour for export in Queensland ? According to the report, one result of this refusal has been that wheat is going to waste, and consequently, badlyneeded by-products, including bran, cannot be obtained in Queensland. The report adds that although millers in the southern States are shipping large, quantities of flour overseas, the Minister has refused to allow Queensland to export any at all, in spite of the approaches that have been made to him. I ask the Minister whether there is any truth in that statement, and if not whether he. will deny it..
Mp. POLLARD. - I read a report in to-day’s Canberra Times relating to the flour-milling position in Queensland. I have not personally prevented Queensland flour-millers from exporting flour. The responsibility of deciding from which States flour may be exported rests entirely with the Australian. Wheat Board, which has complete jurisdiction over the export of flour from this country. So far, I have not considered it necessary to interfere with the board’s decisions. The position is, however, that the local demand for flour in Queensland is sufficient to keep Queensland flour mills operating continuously with two and a half shifts, whereas in the other States,, local demand is sufficient only to warrant the working of one and a half shifts. In these circumstances, it would be unfair to require mills in the southern States which are already operating with less than two and a half shifts to further reduce their output to enable Queensland millers to export flour. The difficulty is: accentuated by the slackening demand for Australian flour.
– I address a question to the Attorney-General arising out of the widespread coal industry stoppage yesterday in defiance of a direction by the Coal Industry Tribunal. Has the Government considered using the disciplinary powers that are available to it, or to the Coal Industry Tribunal, under existing legislation ? Is it true that disciplinary action can be taken -only on the motion of one of the coal companies? If so, will the Government give consideration to amending the existing legislation to provide that the Coal Industry Tribunal, or the Government through the Attorney-General, may initiative disciplinary action ? If, on the other hand, adequate power already exists, will the Attorney-General say what action the Government proposes to take to enforce the disciplinary provisions that are now available to it?
– The Government and the Commonwealth Crown Law authorities are in close touch with State officials and with the Coal Industry Tribunal. The order in question was made at the instance of certain coal companies, and information that we have received this morning indicates that certain action is. contemplated by those companies. The matter is one in which the Commonwealth, whether or not it has any direct power, is very vitally concerned. I shall consider the other matters mentioned by the honorable member. If there is any need for reconsidering the legal position or the statute that also will be done by the. Government.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation seen any reference to, or has he any information about, operations being performed by two Sydney surgeons on neurosis cases among young exservicemen which have been very favorably reported on in Sydney? Will the honorable gentleman investigate these operations and their success in treating nerve cases, and will he give all possible assistance to young ex-servicemen who desire to undergo such operations,, including those who are in. institutions under the control of the Repatriation Department?
Will the Minister ask the repatriation medical officers to co-operate with these surgeons and ascertain whether the operation constitutes a cure with some genuine attributes, rather than allow the impression to be created that this is a strange and marvellous remedy which, after investigation, proves to be of no value? Will he investigate its possibilities for the sake of our unfortunate sufferers from neurosis.
– I know something about the latest surgical developments in the treatment of psychiatric cases. The departmental medical officers are working in the closest possible co-operation with all the leading medical practitioners in Australia on this as well as other problems. I shall obtain particulars of the operations to which the honorable member has referred and let him know the latest developments in regard to them.
Accident at Bilinga Aerodbome.
– In the absence of the Minister for Civil Aviation, I address a question to the Prime Minister relating to the air accident at Bilinga, near Coolangatta, in which 21 persons were burned to death. As the Minister for Civil Aviation has refused to conduct a public inquiry into that great tragedy, and as it has been claimed that the accident was caused by the incorrect loading of the aircraft, will the Prime Minister lay on the table of the House the departmental report from which the Minister for Civil Aviation quoted, so that honorable members may peruse it?
– When the honorable member asked a question on this subject yesterday, the Minister for Civil Aviation gave him a very full answer, indicating that the investigations already made had definitely established the cause of the accident. The Minister also made it, clear that in the circumstances there was no need for a public inquiry. I understand that it has since been stated that the report is incorrect.
– May we be permitted to read the report?
– If the honorable member will be good enough to await my answer, I shall proceed. All I can say is that his question on this subject yesterday was fully answered by the Minister for Civil Aviation, who made the direct statement that be did not propose to table the report. The honorable member has raised the matter afresh, probably in consequence of some further public statements having been made.
Aborigines - Dr. V. H. Webster
– Will the Minister for the Interior state what wages arc paid to aborigines employed on cattle stations in the Northern Territory.? In most instances, are the wages of the natives paid to the Natives Affairs Department? Are aborigines working on stations in the Northern Territory employed under duress? Have the police or other “ protectors “ the power to assign natives to pastoralists? Are schools provided for the children of those who are so employed? Is an allocation of rice made in respect of these natives? If it is, do they receive it? Do they receive the butter for which butter coupons are issued on their account?
– Recently, as a result of conferences held in the Northern Territory, an industrial agreement relating to the working conditions of natives employed on cattle stations was negotiated. The wages are to be paid on a sliding scale. Speaking from memory, they range from approximately £3 10s. a week downwards. Higher rates are to be paid to natives employed by drovers on overland trips. Certain accommodation must be provided by pastoralists. Many natives do not thoroughly understand the value of money, and, for their own protection, it has been agreed that the payment of their wages and the handling of their money shall be supervised by officers of the Native Affairs Department. I admit that this agreement has many shortcomings, but it is the first agreement of its kind to be negotiated in Australia. We are endeavouring to ensure that natives who are employed on the cattle stations shall be properly treated and adequately paid for the work that they do. In many instances, natives have a number of relatives living with them in the accommodation provided by the pastoralists. That is some times taken into consideration and a fair adjustment of the wage is made. I do not know whether butter coupons are issued in respect of natives. If they are, T have no knowledge of the way in which they are used. I shall cause inquiries to be made and shall inform the honorable member of the position.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the fact that the Government’s nominees in the Northern Territory Legislative Council, including Mr. W. S. Flynn, the Crown Solicitor, and Mr. Leydin, the Government Secretary, had all supported the unanimous request for an open inquiry into the dismissal of Dr. V. H. Webster, M.L.C., from his post in the Northern Territory medical service? Because of the unanimous request, and of the view expressed by Mr. Leydin that there was no justification for Dr. Webster’s “dismissal, will the Government now grant an open inquiry? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the Minister for Health had stated- previously that Dr. Webster was dismissed to make way for a permanent officer? Is he now aware that Dr. Webster is being replaced by a temporary medical officer from Alice Springs, thus depleting the staff there? In these circumstances, will the right honorable gentleman ascertain who was responsible for such misleading information being conveyed to this House in a written reply to the question of the honorable member for Henty?
– I have been informed by the Minister for the Interior that although reports have been published in the newspapers, no official intimation or reports in connexion with this matter have yet reached him. Until we hear something further-
– There is a telegraph line there.
– Apparently some body has not used it, or if they have done so they are not officials. There are many aspects of the honorable member’s question. This matter was covered Fully recently when, on a formal motion for adjournment, every opportunity was given to honorable members on both sides of the House to ventilate their views. The honorable member sug gests that some misleading information has been supplied in a written answer to a question. I shall examine that aspect of the matter to ascertain what may be the particular point involved.
– In a number of magazine articles passing references have been made to the allegation that foreign diplomats accredited to the Soviet Government are confined to Moscow and may not go elsewhere in the Soviet Union. Can the Minister for External Affairs say whether Australian diplomats in Moscow are so confined? If they are, have any steps been taken to ascertain from the Soviet Government the reason for this restriction ?
– I have no information upon this matter. I know that Australian Ministers who were in Moscow prior to the present ambassador were certainly not confined to that city and moved to other parts of the Soviet Union. I shall look into the matter and give the honorable gentleman an answer after inquiries have been made from our ambassador in Moscow.
Recruitment - Compulsory Military Training
– My question is prompted by the recent statement by the Minister for Defence that he is perfectly satisfied with recruitment for the armed forces. Will the Minister for the Army inform me of the target figure for recruitment to the Citizen Military Forces and of the actual number of men who have enlisted? Has the number of members of the Citizen Military Forces attending parades decreased very sharply during the last few months? What steps does the Government propose to take to make its own system of defence a workable one?
– In accordance with the Government’s five-year defence plan, a target figure of 50,000 has been set for the Citizen Military Forces. At present, enlistments in the Citizen Military Forces number approximately 15,000. The strength of the Australian Regular Army is 15,000. In my opinion. we have every reason -to be satisfied with the rate of enlistment. In a little more than twelve months, 15,000 men have joined the Australian Regular Army and in slightly less than twelve months a similar number have joined the Citizen Military Forces. Tie rate of enlistment for the Citizen Military Forces has improved considerably during the last fortnight, since the end of the annual camp period. As the Minister for the Army, I am satisfied with the position. The enlistment of 30,000 men in the Australian Regular Army and the Citizen Military Forces in approximately twelve months is a fine achievement.
– The strength of the forces is lower than it lias ever been in 30 years.
– That is not so. In 1937, when Hitler was marching on some of the countries of Europe, the strength of our permanent forces was only 2,000, and in 193S, when war was imminent, those numbered only 4,000. To-day, after the Government’s defence plan has been in operation for twelve months, we have every reason to be pleased with the strength of the Australian Regular Army and the Citizen Military Forces.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the fact that the Prime Minister of New Zealand is leading a referendum campaign in that country for the introduction of compulsory military service ? Is it a fact that a mutual defence pact exists between Australia and New Zealand? Has the Prime Minister’s attention been directed to the statement of the Prime Minister of New Zealand that it is necessary to introduce compulsory military service in that dominion because of its defence needs? Is the Prime Minister aware of a potential threat to New Zealand that would not likewise affect Australia ?
– I have no official information from the Prime Minister of New Zealand about the intention of the New Zealand Government to amend the law relating to military service. I understand that the newspapers have published the statement that a conference of the Labour party in New Zealand decided to allow the New Zealand Government to hold a referendum on the introduction of what is called conscription. .So that the honorable member for Richmond may be perfectly clear on the matter, if be wants to know whether the Australian Government proposes to amend the law relating to military service or to bold a referendum on conscription-
– I have not asked “that question.
– Well, if the honorable gentleman wants to know, the answer is “No”. The honorable gentleman asked me if I knew of any -potential threat to New Zealand that would not also affect Australia. Australia and New Zealand are on the outer perimeter of the Pacific and would be equally affected by any hostile developments in the Far East, or, . as it is to us, the near north. This Government is quite capable of making up its mind with relation to defence policy. The matter raised by the honorable member is entirely a matter for the New Zealand Government. We do not want to interfere with that Government in any way whatever.
Reconstruction Training Scheme
– I address to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction a -question relating to the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. Can the Minister inform me how many persons have completed their training, low many are still in training and how many have been accepted for but have not yet commenced training?
– Reconstruction training is of three main types, namely, university, technical and rural. The figures that I shall give will be approximate. Nine thousand persons have completed the university type training, 36,000 have completed the technical type training and 3;000 have completed the rural type training. Approximately 15,000 persons are at present undergoing the university type training, 134,000 persons are undergoing the technical type training, and 1,000 persons are undergoing the rural type training. The total number of persons at present undergoing training is approximately 150,000. Some 11,000 persons in the three types are still awaiting training. The total expenditure by the Commonwealth on reconstruction training is £33,000,000.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs prepare a statement disclosing the total cost to the Commonwealth of the recent goodwill mission that -was led by Mr. Macmahon Ball to the countries of South-East Asia ? Will the right honorable gentleman include in that statement the cost of scholarships, “bursaries, &c, that the mission -was empowered to offer to students in those countries?
– I shall answer the honorable member’s question because I dealt with the matter as Treasurer and as Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs at that time. Speaking from memory, I believe that the total cost of the goodwill mission was approximately £3,500. Mr. Macmahon Ball was accompanied by two officers. One of them dealt with the provision of certain medical supplies to the countries of South-East Asia, and the other was an education officer who was associated with the granting of scholarships, tenable in Australia, to students in those countries. The figure of £3,500 that I mentioned would be correct to within £50.
– I direct ,a question to the Treasurer concerning the recently announced policy of the Commonwealth Bank towards advances by the Australian trading hanks. Can -the Treasurer say whether the cautious tone of the direction issued to trading banks in connexion with advances -for industrial enterprises represents ‘an intention to tighten up policy in relation to the granting of financial assistance to -persons wishing to ‘establish new industries? In view of the restraining effect that such a policy might have, particularly upon small business men wishing to open new businesses or establish new industries, does not the action of the Commonwealth Bank follow the lines of the action allegedly taken by the banks at the -time of the 1929 depression, which has been criticized so often by supporters of the present Government? What encouragement can the Treasurer give to the small man who wishes to operate a new business that he will not be debarred from developing it by his own initiative and enterprise as the result of the lack of bank support caused by Government policy?
– Banking policy has been broadly enunciated in a fairly lengthy statement that I have issued to the press, and comprehensive instructions have been issued by the ‘Commonwealth Bank to the trading banks for their information. I never know what honorable members mean when they refer to “ the small trader “. The fact is that a trading bank is not required to refer to the Commonwealth Bank any loan or advance up to an amount of £1,000. Therefore, there is nothing to prevent a “small” person from obtaining an advance, except the policy of the trading bank itself. Should a private bank refuse to make an advance, the applicant would still have the power of reference to the Commonwealth Bank. Apart from that, certain rather lengthy general instructions designed to prevent inflationary trends in non-essential industries have been issued to the banks. Some industries, of course, may fall midway between the classifications of essential and nonessential and yet be treated as desirable projects. The position is that anybody who has a grievance or considers that he has been unjustly -refused an advance by a private bank on the ground of the policy enunciated by the central reserve bank has the ‘right of direct approach to the Commonwealth Bank to have his claim examined. The method by which central banking is conducted to-day has no precedent in this country. The Commonwealth Bank keeps a close watch on monetary policy and gives the trading banks instructions or information on its general policy. I think the trading hanks generally agree with the system, because they realize the grave dangers of inflation and deflation, which, in the depression years, when the policy of deflation was applied by the banks, caused thousands of Australians to lose their livelihood. The present policy is directed at keeping the economy stable and preventing excessive inflation.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the Federated Clerks Union is pursuing coercive measures, amounting practically to compulsion, to force employees of semi-governmental Commonwealth departments and large business organizations to join that union? Will the right honorable gentleman inform both this union and other unions that the use of coercive measures conflicts with the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights, which provides for full employment, irrespective of a person’s associations? Will he also undertake that the general public will be fully informed of its rights under that declaration ?
– As the honorable member’s question relates to several departments, it is desirable that I should prepare a written reply for him. I therefore ask that the question be placed on the notice-paper.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purpose of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund sums for the purposes of financial assistance to the States of South Australian and Tasmania.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Dedman do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to provide for the payment of additional special grants of £600,000 to South Australia and £100,000 to Tasmania respectively in the current financial year, 1948-49. These payments were recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in a report dated the 27th May, 1949, which was recently tabled for the information of honorable members. Under the States Grants Act 1948, provision was made for the payment of special grants amounting to £6,750,000 to the States of South Australia, “Western Australia and Tasmania during 1948-49. These grants were made in accordance with the recommendations contained in the fifteenth report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The grant paid to South Australia was £2,250,000, made up of an amount of £1,656,000 based upon the audited figures of the State for the financial year 1946-47 and an advance payment of £594,000 which, under the procedure of the commission, will be taken into account in assessing the grant payable in the year 1950-51. The grant paid to Tasmania was £900,000, similarly made up of an amount of £717,000 based upon the audited figures of the State for the financial year 1946-47 and an advance payment of £183,000. Subsequently, applications for additional financial assistance in 1948-49 were received from South Australia and Tasmania.
Both the Commonwealth Grants Commission and the Government consider that there are objections of principle to a system of additional special grants paid to States towards the close of a financial year. Such a system might tend to undermine financial responsibility on the part of the recipient States. Nevertheless, the commission has recognized that from time to time, it may be necessary to recommend additional grants to States to meet special circumstances. The matter is bound up also with the problem of the time lag between the year of review upon which the commission bases its assessment of the relative financial needs of States and the year in which grants are paid. This problem has been intensified by the retrogression which has occurred during recent years in the financial circumstances of the claimant States, mainly because of rising costs. A great deal of attention has been given to this problem by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the Government and the claimant States themselves in an effort to find a satisfactory solution.
The requests by South Australia and Tasmania for additional assistance this year and the recommendations by the commission upon these requests are related essentially to this problem of the time lag and the underlying financial difficulties of the claimant States. As already mentioned, the Commonwealth Grants Commission, in its September report, recommended a grant of £2,250,000 for South Australia in 1948-49. This was based upon an estimated deficit for that State, in that year, of £3,317,000. After taking the grant into account, there remained a balance of £1,067,000 which represented the “ margin of safety “ allowed by the commission for possible improvements in the States’ finances during the year, and also for adjustments that might later be made, according to the commission’s methods, on account of such items as standards of social services, severity of taxation and charges of business undertakings. Information submitted to the commission at the Canberra hearings in May suggested that there had, in fact, been seme improvement in the financial position of South Australia since the commission made its fifteenth report. It appeared that the balance of £1,067,000 that I have mentioned would be reduced to £800,000. Moreover, South Australia has recently increased its railway freights and fares by 10 per cent., and to the extent that this affects the finances of the State in 1948-49 an adverse adjustment will not be necessary, when the financial results of this year become the basis for the assessment of grants payable in 1950-51.
Beyond these factors, however, the Commonwealth Grants Commission now considers that further improvements in the finances of South Australia during 1948-49 are unlikely and that a safety margin of £200,000 will be sufficient to cover any adjustments that may have to be made later. Accordingly, it recommends that a supplementary grant of £600,000 be paid to South Australia in 1948-49. Following the procedure of the commission this amount will be regarded as an addition to the advance payment already made this year and will be taken into account when 1948-49 becomes the year of review.
Similarly the grant of £900,000 recommended by the commission for payment to Tasmania this year was based upon an expected deficit of £1,479,000. After deducting the grant there remained a balance of £579,000 which represented the commission’s margin of safety.
There has since been some improvement in the financial position of Tasmania also. It is now expected that the balance of £579,000 that I have mentioned will be reduced to £442,000, an improvement of £137,000.
Having reviewed the position the commission now considers that an amount of £342,000 will be sufficient as a margin of safety for this financial year. Accordingly, it recommends an additional payment of £100,000 to Tasmania in 1948-49, this amount to be added to the advance payment already made and to be adjusted in 1950-51. After fully considering the recommendations by the commission the Government has decided to seek authority from the Parliament for additional payments of £600,000 to South Australia and £100,000 to Tasmania in 1948-49.
Debate (on motion by Dame Enid Lyons) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 16th June (vide page 1155), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Judging by the speeches that have been made during this debate by members of the Australian Country party who claim that they represent the primary producers, including the wheat-growers, I take it that they are violently opposed to the ratification by Australia of the International Wheat- Agreement..
– Has any member of the Australian Country party said so?’
– Members of the Australian Country party have said so very plainly. It will he a pity if those honorable members do not take advantage of the opportunity to have a vote on the matter and thus submit their sincerity to the test.’ I shall give a few reasons why I support the agreement. Any one who knows the history of the Australian wheat industry should have some reason to advance for his support of or opposition to this measure. I consider that any reasonable man will agree that in the present circumstances ratification of the International Wheat Agreement is desirable. The position of the wheat industry to-day is much similar to what it was twenty years ago- during the boom period that followed World War I. I remember the bitter history of that period when privations were- forced on the wheat-growers, and I say to the members of the Australian Country party, that if they have the general welfare of the wheat-grower and the wheat industry at heart there are many reasons why they ought to support this agreement. When the price of wheat fell to 2s., and even to ls. 6<L, a bushel,, and wheat-growers had to suffer so many bitter experiences,, it was too late to introduce stabilization.. Other wheat-growing nations as well as Australia suffered, when the bottom fell, out of the world’s wheat markets, and, like ourselves, they have, decided to profit from their experiences. That is why an international stabilization scheme has been evolved by all the major wheat-growing nations, with the unfortunate exception of Russia and Argentina. Those nations which have to buy wheat from, the wheat-growing nations realize now that the successful functioning of their own economy depends to a considerable degree upon the ability of the wheat-growing nations to obtain a reasonable price for their produce. If the- price of wheat is too low, the nations which produce that commodity simply cannot afford to purchase goods- from thewheatconsuming nations, and this adversely affects the economic stability of those countries’. Therefore, maximum and minimum prices of. wheat must be fixed by international agreement. Those facts are so well known and appreciated to-day that I should not have mentioned them were it not for the attitude adopted towards wheat stabilization by members of the Australian Country party. I should have thought that every one who had at heart the interests of our primary producers would applaud the introduction of a scheme that is designed to protect the interests of the wheat-growers, particularly in bad times. We know that in the past the prevailing economic conditions have compelled, wheat-growers to walk off their land, and we do not want that to happen again. So far from applauding the introduction of the Government’s stabilization scheme, the Australian Country party has reverted to its old policy, which was, “ sell on the openmarket, and let the- devil take the hindmost “. Every one knows- that without some form of control, slumps, like booms, get out of hand, and ruin, inevitably follows.
Let us review the attitude adopted by the- Australian Country party towards our proposals since the Government first announced its’ intention to do something for the wheat industry. When ‘ legislation was introduced some time ago to overcome the constitutional difficulties in the way of introducing stabilization, and’ parliamentary authority was sought to enable the wheat-growers of this country to express their opinion of the Government’s proposals at a ballot, members of the Australian Country party supported the Government’s proposals. The only exception amongst them was the honorable member for Barker’ (MrArchie Cameron), who openly and fearlessly stated that he did not- believe in the proposals’, and, alone of the members of his party, voted against the measure. Later- on, when the ballot was to be taken, members of the Australian Country party advised the farmers to vote- “ No “ to theGovernment’s proposals-, which revealed their inconsistency and hypocrisy very clearly. Notwithstanding the charge that they have made in the- Parliament that Labour is out to- rob the farmers, it is incontrovertible that our party isthe only one that has done anything to advance the interests” of th& wheatgrowers. I remind our friend’s opposite that it was an anti-Labour administration which sold wheat to Japan before the war, and, for which, incidentally, it never received payment.
– That is untrue.
Opposition members interjecting,
– The truth hurts, apparently. For the benefit of the primary producers of this country and to test the sincerity of members of the Australian Country party, I shall mention a few more facts. Consider the composition of the board that was appointed by our friends opposite to control the wheat industry when they were in power. Although almost every interest associated with the industry was adequately represented on that board, the wheat-growers were given only two representatives, one of whom represented the “ organized “ growers and the other represented the “ unorganized “ growers. That meant, of course, that the wheat-growers had virtually only one representative on the board. Contrast the composition of that board with its present composition. In October, 1941, just after Labour had attained office, it altered the basis of representation to provide that the board shall contain seven representatives of the growers. Furthermore, wheat-growers were given the opportunity, for the first time, to elect their own. representatives, which was done at a properly conducted ballot. I also remind members of the Australian Country party of the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), the deputy leader of that party, when he. was a member of an anti-Labour administration. He was asked by a deputation of wheatgrowers to extricate the wheat-farmers from the plight in which they found themselves at that time by increasing the minimum price of wheat by 3d. a bushel. Not only did the honorable gentleman refuse to consider their request, but he virtually ordered the members of the deputation to get out of his office.
– That is a lie!
– It is not. I have heard that statement made in the House too often.
Mr. McEwen interjecting,
– It is all very well for the honorable member and his friends to accuse Labour of having plundered the wheat-growers,, but he cannot deny the truth of the statements that I have just made. On the occasion that he refused to entertain the wheat-growers’ appeal, he told the members of the deputation that he would not embarrass the then Prime Minister by making such a request. It is just as well for the primary producers to know where the honorable member and his friends stand in these matters.
I shall deal now with the assertions made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) in the course of the debate last night, when he challenged me to say exactly what Labour proposed to do for the wheat-growers. I think that some of the statements which he made in the course of that speech show exactly where he stands in this matter. “We now know what is in their minds. What the honorable member for Bendigo said about the proceedings at the international wheat conference was untrue. The United States of America and Canada agreed to sell wheat at 1.8 dollars a bushel but Australia’s representative, Mr. McCarthy, held out for 2 dollars. The negotiations continued for weeks, and the conference nearly broke down because- Australia would not agree .to the smaller amount. Finally, when the figure of 1.8 dollars was agreed to, the proposal was put by the Australian Government to the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, which accepted it. The honorable member for Bendigo described Sir Stafford Cripps as a traitor, and said that the socialist government in Britain had dragged down the price of wheat to the Australian farmers. The fact is that Australia’s representative at the conference was the last to agree to a price of 1.8 dollars. It is easy to understand now why members of the Australian Country party are antagonistic to Great Britain. They are not concerned over the hardships of the British people. They are quite prepared to starve the people of Great Britain in order to punish them for electing a Labour government. The honorable member for Bendigo charged Sir Stafford Cripps with profiteering against Australia, and he mentioned the price of motor cars. However, neither he nor any of his colleagues offered one word of protest when a former Australian government agreed to sell our wool to a Conservative government in Great Britain for lOd. per lb. The ordinary man in the street in Britain derived no benefit from that deal, but enormous profits were made by the great textile firms in England. The agreement provided that Australia was to receive half the profit derived from the re-sale of greasy wool, but the textile companies had the wool spun into tops, which was sold in the United States of America at 2 dollars per lb. Great Britain is now fighting for its existence economically, and the economic welfare of Australia is bound up with that of Great Britain, which is our best customer. Australia is profiteering on Great Britain, if it comes to that. We sold our wool to Britain for lOd. per lb. in 1939, whereas the average price to-day is 50d. For some wool the price is much higher, and some growers have received as much as 10Od We are getting 191s. a cwt. for the butter we sell to Britain, and the honorable member for Bendigo is waxing fat on it.
– The honorable member for Bendigo is not present.
– No, and why is he not here ? He knew that I was going to reply to him, but he was not game to stay and hear me. As a matter of fact, most of the members of the Australian Country party have run out because they cannot take it. The International Wheat Agreement will be to the mutual benefit of Australia and Britain. Honorable members opposite claim that, but for the agreement, we would be able to get more for our wheat. Surely, they have the sense to see that the tendency is for commodity prices to fall. The agreement provides a maximum price of lis. 3d. a bushel, and a minimum price of 7s. 3d. The first new seasons wheat to be delivered under the agreement will not be available until December next, and by that time the world price may be well below lis. 3d. Prices may decline rapidly. Wheat is a sensitive commodity, and Russia, France and Germany may increase their wheat acreages to such an extent that there will be a surplus of wheat. Yet members of the Australian Country party say that the Government has dragged down the price of wheat, and that Sir Stafford Cripps is a traitor. As a matter of fact, he is one of the great men of the Empire. I remember reading somewhere that he had sacrificed an income of £30,000 a year in order to serve his country.
Mr. McBride interjecting,
- Sir Stafford Cripps has set an example which the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) might well follow. I wonder whether the honorable member would be prepared to give a few hundred acres, out of all the acres he owns, to a returned soldier. Does the honorable member for Bendigo say that Sir Stafford Cripps was a traitor for negotiating with Argentina for a little more meat? On that topic, let me quote the following from a London publication, Cavalcade, dated 28th May, 1949-
All but vegetarians will rejoice that the fresh meat ration is to be maintained at ls. Id. for some time to come. This is the most welcome announcement the country has had from Food Minister John Strachey for a long time.
The Food Ministry has been quietly building up stocks of meat during the protracted negotiations with the Argentinos. Increased deliveries from Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and small purchases from the United States, have been secretly hoarded while President Peron and his economists were busy putting Britain on the spot.
I place the honorable member for Bendigo in the same category as General Peron. The report continues -
When a critical stage in the Buenos Aire* negotiations were reached, and the British delegates began to pack their bags for home, the Food Ministry threw down this trump card and took Peron’s ransom trick.
Genera] Peron was holding Great Britain, up to ransom. The honorable member for Bendigo - “Rankin of Ransom “ - has adopted a similar attitude. He does not like the Government of the United Kingdom just because it is a Labour Government, but I remind him that it has been elected by the people of Great Britain. The honorable member apparently is prepared to let the British people starve. He wants to extort their last penny from them. The British people were prepared to reduce their weekly meat ration by another 5d. rather than pet into debt with Argentina. I am with them whole-heartedly, because years ago I, myself, refused to buy things if it meant getting into debt and I suffered for that principle. What applies to individuals also applies to nations. The British people are not prepared to put shackles on unborn generations. In the mutual interest of all countries concerned there should be an international wheat agreement.
– The honorable member is too dense to understand. He -would not know wheat from oats. He is only interested in selling a few bullocks to some squatters in my electorate. He does not know anything about the Mallee districts in his own electorate. He is against the international wheat agreement, but for what reason he does not know. I hope .that the agreement will be ratified by all the nations concerned, because I sincerely believe that only by the making of such agreements can world trade be given some measure of stability for the mutual benefit of all countries.
.- The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) is entitled to his opinions, but whether they are right or wrong is another matter. He should be more careful, however, when citing figures. In his diatribe against the Opposition he made two obvious misstatements. The first was that a previous government had sold wheat to Japan and had not been paid for it. That is completely inaccurate. That wheat was paid for up to the last penny. His second misstatement was that an anti-Labour government had sold wool to Great. Britain for lOd. per lb. The price was 13-£d. per lb.
M!r. McLeod. - Well, that is lOd. sterling.
– Now the honorable member says that he meant lOd. sterling. E shall leave him to my colleagues of the Australian Country party to deal with. I am sure they will not have very much trouble in knocking over the Aunt Sallies that he has raised. I have not risen to oppose the ratification of the proposed agreement. I believe that the Government is justified in attempting to give some economic stability to the Australian wheat-growing industry. This is a matter which has caused considerable concern to the Australian governments over the years. As far back as 1938, the then Government entered into an international wheat agreement which was aimed at stabilizing the industry, but, unfortunately, on that occasion, one of the large contracting countries did not fulfil its undertaking. Last year, an agreement was ratified by this Parliament; but that, too, failed because it was not supported by a major wheat-producing country, the United States of America. I support wholeheartedly the Government’s attempt to bring some stability to the Australian wheat industry. However, whether or not the terms of the proposed agreement are completely to the Government’s liking or to the liking of the Australian Wheat Board, is another matter. Members of the Government, and particularly the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), are taking great credit to themselves for the part that was played by Australia in the negotiations for this agreement; but, so far as I am able to discover, our delegate was the last to agree, to an important part of the agreement, namely, the price at which wheat is to be sold. Consequently, I do not know whether the Government is in fact entitled to any great credit for the proposed agreement. It is well for us to realize that implementation of the agreement does not depend upon its acceptance or rejection by Australia. It depends primarily upon the support of the United States of America. We have heard a lot in this House about the alleged economic instability of that country and of growing unemployment there. The inference to be drawn from such statements is that the United States of America is unreliable and unstable under its present political administration ; but one has only to examine that country’s record since the beginning of the war to appreciate the magnitude of the assistance that that nation gave to the Allied cause, and is now giving to the war devastated countries of Europe. America’s assistance in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of broken Europe far exceeds anything that any other country could have done even if it had had the desire to do anything. That generous spirit has been extended to this wheat agreement. The agreement provides that America shall export 168,000,000 bushels of wheat annually; but it will have an exportable surplus of 500,000,000 bushels.’ To dispose of the exportable surplus in excess of 168,000,000 bushels, therefore America will have to find markets elsewhere in open competition with Argentina and other exporting countries. Only a comparatively small proportion of the American exportable surplus of wheat is covered by this agreement. In spite of the complaints that have been made by members of the Australian Country party, the agreement will assure Australia of a stable market for S0,000,000 bushels of an exportable surplus of perhaps 120,000,000 bushels. I think the figure of 120,000,000 bushels is an optimistic one, but in any event we shall have a stable market for the major proportion of our exportable surplus of wheat. It must be admitted that’ America stands to gain very much less than Australia does from the agreement. The only chance of the agreement being honoured by all of the nations that are parties to it is that the United States of -America has a hold on most of the purchasing nations by reason of the operation of the Marshall aid plan.
– If it has not got much of a hold on Russia.
– Russia is not a party to the agreement, nar is it a wheatimporting country. I have no doubt that the wheat-exporting countries will be glad of this agreement during the next four years, but the question that arises is whether the wheat-importing nations that are parties to it will honour their part of the bargain. That will be decided largely by the hold that the United States of America has on most of those nations by reason of the Marshall aid plan and the other forms of assistance that it is giving to them. I have not mentioned those matters in criticism of the agreement, but to remind the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Government that, whatever they have contributed to this agreement, it is infinitesimal when it is compared with what America has contributed and will contribute to it.
I agree that in international agreements of this >kind a common denominator must be used. In this instance, the denominator is the American dollar, which is probably the most stable currency in the world. I point out, however, that, under this agreement, the Australian wheatfarmers will be tied to the American dollar, and also, in an indirect way, to wheat prices at Fort William in Canada. For some time past I have been concerned at the fact that when the Australian Government has made sales of Australian primary products to Great Britain it has been paid for them in sterling and not in Australian currency. I do not know whether sterling will be depreciated. Many forecasts have been made, and it is becoming increasingly clear that some depreciation of sterling may occur. When a seller sells his goods, he is usually paid for them in the currency of his own country. When we buy goods from Great Britain, we pay for them with sterling, but Great Britain does not pay for Australian goods in Australian currency. I think that we should be justified in asking the Government or any other authority that negotiates the sale of Australian goods overseas to demand that we shall be paid for them in Australian currency. Most of the contracts that have been entered into by this Government, and in respect of which they take a great deal of pride, have been made in terms of sterling. We have heard a great deal of the benefits that the dairy-farmers and other primary producers of this country have received from those contracts, but it will be a very different story if sterling is depreciated and, in consequence, the Australian pound is appreciated. If that is done, the Australian farmers will be defrauded of a certain proportion and perhaps a substantial proportion, of the contract price for their goods. The businesslike way of negotiating contracts of that kind is to demand payment in the currency of the country in which the goods originated.
I am certainly not going to oppose this international wheat agreement. I think that the Government was right to .accept its terms and to ask the House to approve of them. I hope sincerely that the agreement will run for the full term of four years so that wheat producers may have, for that time at least, the stability that it will provide.
.- In this debate we have once again witnessed the members of the Australian Country party kicking the wheat-farmers and the primary producers around this country, as they have done right through the years. On ohe occasion I read in this chamber an extract from an article that appeared in the Ouyen Express, a conservative newspaper which circulates in Victoria. Although that article was written in 1945, it is just as appropriate in 1949 as it was then. I shall read it again. It is as follows : -
Desperate efforts are being made by members of the Australian Country party to discredit, not only the Scully Wheat Plan, but also the whole stabilization scheme, and with it orderly marketing, without which the wheat-grower is doomed.
Over a. number of years we have seen what’ portfolio-seeking politicians have done to the wheat industry. The grower has been used aa
We think that the daily prayer of such politicians must be: “Please God, give th* wheat-grower a short memory, and let us forget (publicly) what we did to him in the past”. This sudden concern for the poor wheat-grower is, to put it candidly, stinking hypocrisy. What did Mr. McEwen do for the j; rower when he had the chance? How much did the growers lose on the price of 3s. lOd. per bushel so graciously given by the Government which these men kept in power? What, indeed, has the Australian Country party ever done for any primary producer? Looking back over its sorry history all one may say is that it wept tears over him when it was out of office - and laughed his genuine need to scorn when it was in office.
Cupidity is an inherent vice in many men; and it is in this appeal to greed that the danger of disruption lies. These propagandists assert that millions have been stolen from the grower under the Plan. They give figures to prove their case; but ten minutes study of those figures proves that they have been manipulated to serve political ends - by men whose record shows that they were slowly but surely robbing the wheat-grower of even the barest existence.
Those statements were published in a conservative newspaper in Victoria, and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) represents an electorate in that State. When we read propaganda issued by the Australian Country party we must remember that it is merely a part of the campaign to discredit the Labour Government. The article continues -
We repeat that the propaganda is political - in the ugliest sense of the word. It seeks to wreck the Government (for which the Opposition cannot he blamed) ; but, at- the same time, it does not scruple to wreck the wheat industry and ruin the grower to attain its end. There arc critical months ahead for the wheat-growers, and it would be well for him to remember the old tag, “ I fear the Greeks even when bringing gifts”.
Those statements are equally applicable to-day as they were in 1945, when, the article was written. Yesterday, the honorable member for Indi played the same game of political football with the Australian wheat-growers. It is no wonder that the Australian Country party has been almost annihilated in a political sense. Indeed, only one member of the Australian Country party is present in the chamber now, although the International Wheat Agreement Bill, which is of vital concern to wheat-growers, is being debated.
– The Labour party is the true representative of country interests. That cannot he denied.
– I direct attention to the state of the House.
– I rise to order ! Only one member of the Australian Country party is present in the chamber.
– Wheat-growers will be interested to learn that during a part of the debate on legislation that so vitally concerns their interests, only one member of the Australian Country party waa present in the chamber. I emphasize that the Labour party is the real representative of country interests, and the people are aware of it. The Australian Country party, as a political force, has been almost annihilated. When speaking on the International Wheat Agreement Bill last year, I said -
In this Parliament over the last five years, members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party have criticized and voted against almost every measure which the Labour Government has introduced to help farm industries. They have distorted and misrepresented each measure as it has been brought down. Their main object has always been to frighten the farming community into believing that the Labour Government is actuated by a desire to injure farmers, destroy their livelihood, and take away their freedom. This type of stupid propaganda has been trotted out again in this measure. On this occasion, however, the Opposition appears most hysterical., due, I believe, to the fact .that vested interests in the wheat trade realize that the days of the speculator will end when the measure operates.
When the honorable member for Indi was speaking yesterday, I accused him of representing the speculators, and he threw back a silly reply. I now accuse him of being silly, and even dangerous. As the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) explained in his second-reading speech, the representatives of Australia who attended the international conference on wheat, held at Washington, made strenuous efforts to obtain a higher maximum price and a bigger export quota for the Commonwealth. They urged the retention of the maximum price and the export quota that had been agreed to under the proposed international wheat agreement last year. Unfortunately, their efforts were not successful. I understand that if those concessions could have been obtained, the Australian Wheat Board and wheatgrowers’ organization would have been completely satisfied with the agreement. They have expressed views to that effect. Under the proposed international wheat agreement in 1948, the maximum price was to have been two dollars a bushel for a period of five years. Under the new agreement, which will operate for four years;- the maximum price will be one dollar eighty cents. That price will yield approximately lis. to lis. 3d. a bushel at Australian ports, under the existing freight rates, compared with approximately 12s. to 12s. 3d. a bushel under the old agreement. The other disadvantage relates to the fact that, under the new agreement, provision is made for importing countries to buy 80,000,000 bushels of Australian wheat at the agreed price compared with 85,000,000 bushels in 1948. However, on the credit side of the new agreement, the minimum prices are ten cents higher in 1949-50 and 1952-53, namely, one dollar twenty cents, instead of one dollar ten cents, which waa fixed under the original agreement. That concession is most important, and I have no doubt that the Australian representatives played a prominent part in winning it. I am inclined to believe that the higher minimum price throughout is more important than the lower maximum. I am much more concerned about a higher floor price than about a higher ceiling price. I take that view because I know that the wheat industry will be very prosperous as long as prices remain near the ceiling price in the present agreement. Wheat-growers in my constituency have told me that they also hold that opinion. They also admit that they will have few financial difficulties if wheat for export remains at a price in excess of 7s. 3d. a bushel and production costs do not increase greatly. The growers’ real concern at the present time is to know how long those prices can be maintained. The object of the agreement, therefore, is to make those prices last as long as possible. It is remarkable how attractive the 1948 agreement now appears in the eyes of many wheatgrowers and in the eyes of honorable members opposite. When that agreement was before this Parliament, we were assured by Opposition members and their supporters outside the Parliament that it was a vile document such as only a Labour government would frame. Now it seems that it was a most desirable agreement. We are being told to-day, in effect, that the present proposal is no good and therefore will not have the support of the Australian Country party. In two or three years, when the agreement is about to expire, people who now condemn it will be urging its continuance. Amongst honorable members opposite, such inconsistency substitutes for statesmanship. The real opposition to the measure results from the fact that members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party are concerned about the interests of speculators, who do not favour the bulk handling or selling of commodities. When the Opposition parties were in office, they certainly showed no concern for the farmer. In Great Britain, as in Australia, speculators and trade interests were concerned with fluctuating wheat prices, from which they grew wealthy while thousands of farmers became insolvent. Such conditions will not prevail while the agreement with which this bill deals is in operation. It is a good thing that the farmers who survived those bad days vividly remember the failures of the Opposition parties in the pre-war years. The fact that farmers remember those days was made evident when they rejected the advice of the Australian Country party in their ballots on the wheat stabilization scheme. They voted “ Yes “ by an overwhelming majority, and thus informed the Australian Country party that it did not express their opinions. The situation is exactly the same in relation to this bill to ratify the international wheat agreement.
Most of the farmers with whom I have spoken are human enough to want to obtain the highest possible prices, but they are also sensible enough not to throw away a profitable deal in a vain effort to gain a little more money. Most of them realize that it would be foolish to reject a favorable opportunity to stabilize the world trade in wheat over a long period and gamble upon the length of time for which high prices would prevail in the open market. In the minds of those who criticize the bill there is a strong desire to get away from organized marketing and return to the conditions under which a few grew wealthy while a great multitude sweated for them. That is what the Australian Country party wants. My vote will be given in support of the bill, and I hope that the Government and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will continue their efforts to stabilize our export trade. They have already done a good job. We now have in operation a seven-years’ contract for dairy produce at payable prices, and a fifteen years’ contract for meat is being arranged. In addition, the Empire wool agreement, to which this Government is a party, is giving the wool industry its greatest era of prosperity. Our main primary industries, therefore, are in a happy position. The wheat stabilization legislation enacted in 1948-
– I rise to order, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. The honorable member for Hume is obviously reading a speech that has been prepared for him. I ask you whether that conforms to the Standing Orders of this House.
– The Chair is in a position to observe the conduct of honorable members in this chamber, and it takes the view that the honorable member for Hume is using notes.
– Whatever notes I have here I prepared for myself. I am not like the honorable member for Indi, who went from his own seat to’ the seat of the Leader of the Opposition and read every word that he uttered in this House yesterday. The wheat stabilization legislation that was enacted in 1948 provided for the organized marketing of wheat with a government guarantee that ensured the return to producers of profitable prices based upon production costs. In these circumstances, producers have stability in the farm industries beyond their wildest dreams of pre-war days. I have very great pleasure in supporting the Government’s policy in relation to the marketing of primary products. I remember when the honorable member for Indi visited the electorate of Hume, during the 1946 election campaign, in an effort to create a stampede. Hundreds of pounds were spent to mobilize the Australian Country party’s forces from the Victorian border to the Queensland border, in an effort to tip this Government out of office. The honorable member for Indi, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), and I think the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), visited parts of my electorate. I went to the same centres a few days later and told the electors that those honorable members were the very people who had put citizens behind barbed-wire fences during World War I. That is a fact, and honorable members opposite cannot successfully deny it. After that campaign I obtained one of the most overwhelming majorities that any candidate has ever obtained in tha heart of the wheat belt. When I visit my electorate, people ask me. “Who is this chap from Wimmera? Who does he represent in the Parliament? We have come to the conclusion that he represents vested interests”. In that respect, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr.
Turnbull) is lined up with the honorable member for Indi and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin). They have proved to Australia that they are anti-British.
– I rise to order, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. I should like you to give a ruling as to whether the honorable member, after finishing the reading of his written speech on the international wheat agreement, is entitled to engage in a tirade against other honorable members which is not relevant to the subject of the bill.
– The honorable member for Hume has made out his case in support of the bill, as other honorable members have done against it. He has not used any unparliamentary language. Had he done so, I would have checked him immediately.
.- One would think, from the concluding remarks of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), that he was endeavouring to arrange an election pact with the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) instead of discussing the International Wheat Agreement. Judging by speeches made by honorable members opposite, the bill gives us the opportunity to canvass all the ramifications of the wheat industry. Honorable gentlemen opposite have accused the Australian Country party of being opposed to the International Wheat Agreement. I throw that accusation right back in their teeth. Not one honorable member on this side of the House has said that he is opposed to the agreement. On the contrary, not one of us has failed to say that we believe in the principle of an international wheat agreement. In point of fact, an international wheat agreement is part of our platform. God help us, though, if we have reached the stage at which when an international wheat agreement has been reached, the Parliament shall be denied the opportunity to criticize it. Do honorable gentlemen opposite want Australia to be a totalitarian community ? Are we merely to sit down in our seats and say not one word in criticism of such an agreement? We have come to a sorry state of affairs if we are not entitled to express ourselves.
Before dealing with the agreement itself, I propose to reply to a few remarks made by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) said that the Australian Country party should support the agreement rather than oppose it. He also said that we were out of step with the wheatgrowers.
– Hear, hear!
– I tell the honorable member for Wannon, who has interjected, “ Hear, hear ! “, that he is out of step with the wheat-growers. The Australian Wheat Growers Federation accepted the agreement under protest. They had no choice in the matter, because the agreement was presented as a fait accompli by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) when he called members of the federation to Canberra early this month or late last month. The job had been done and the federation could do nothing but accept the agreement. At its own expense, the federation had wanted to send representatives to Washington to act as unofficial adviser* to Australia’s representative at the International Wheat Conference, but the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture would not even look at the idea. That shows how out of step with the opinions of the wheat-growers the honorable member for Wannon is. He said that we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for opposing a system that is likely to bring about orderly marketing. We do not oppose anything that is likely to bring about orderly marketing. We support orderly marketing. It was at the instance of the Australian Country party that the Australian Parliament put on the statute-book the first legislation providing for orderly marketing. The honorable member went on to say that the Australian Country party shared in the Government that appointed the first Australian Wheat Board, on which the wheatgrowers were not represented. That shows again how ill informed the honorable gentleman is, for this party was not represented in that Government. Then he said that all the nations had agreed to the principle of the agreement. He ought to have a look at the map of the world and see how many countries are not signatories to the agreement. The honorable member concluded his speech with an attack on the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), whom he accused of being anti-British. The term “ antiBritish “ is coming into common use by Government supporters.
– To hide their own guilt.
– That is true. I thank the honorable member for Gippsland for that interjection. They use the term at every available opportunity, and last night, because the honorable member for Bendigo criticized Sir Stafford Cripps-
– He called him a traitor.
– The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) says that he is a traitor.
– On a point of order, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Swan has completely misunderstood me and misrepresented me.
– Order ! The honorable member for Wilmot may not interrupt the speech of the honorable member for Swan in order to make a personal explanation. He may make one later, if he thinks he has been misrepresented.
– The honorable member for Wilmot interjected that the honorable member for Bendigo had referred to Sir Stafford ‘Cripps as a traitor.
– Now, the honorable member is all right.
– I am going to try to prove that the charge that Sir Stafford Cripps is a traitor is correct. The honorable member for Wannon took the honorable member for Bendigo to task for having made that charge. I remind honorable members opposite, particularly the honorable member for Wannon, that Sir Stafford Cripps said on the 30th October last year that the policy of the Socialist party was. the complete liquidation of the British Empire.
– But Sir Stafford Cripps is not a member of the Socialist party. He is a member of the Labour party.
– He is Chancellor of the Exchequer in the British Socialist Government.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! The cross-fire of interjections must cease.
– I suggest that the honorable member for Swan is out of order, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, in referring to what Sir Stafford Cripps said, because that has nothing whatever to do with the International Wheat Agreement.
– Order! The Chair has not yet been able to hear what the honorable member for Swan is trying to say.
– The Minister objects to my remarks, but he did not object to those supposed to have been made by the honorable member for Bendigo or those made by the honorable member for Wannon. In his opinion it was all right for the honorable member for Hume to read his speech and read from a newspaper and to conclude his speech with an attack on the honorable member for Indi, which, as was very patent, had nothing at all to do with the International Wheat Agreement, but was merely directed to working off a personal grudge because the honorable member for Indi went into the Hume electorate in 1946. If honorable members opposite hand out that sort of stuff, we are entitled to answer it. To prove my charge against Sir Stafford Cripps, let me read from Current Biography, 1948. I admit that Sir Stafford Cripps has been what we may call a very benevolent gentleman. When he was elected to the House of Commons, he devoted most of his income to philanthropy and lived on his parliamentary salary, but all the good deeds that a man may do can be destroyed by one bad deed. Sir Stafford Cripps” bad deed was his advocacy of the liquidation of the British Empire.
– Order! The honorable member must connect his remarks with the bill.
– Sir Stafford Cripps wanted to organize a strike against the imperialistic war. He wanted the British people to join in a united front with the Soviet against an imperialistic war. All the good deeds that he has done have been undone by that bad deed. I have said enough about Sir Stafford Cripps to prove the truth of what the honorable member for Bendigo said about him.
The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry), in his speech on this bill, said that the Australian Country party wanted to turn the International Wheat Agreement down so that the wheatgrowers should be left high and dry. The agreement may well leave them high and dry, as I propose to show. The honorable member also condemned honorable members on this side of the House for not believing in the agreement. The honorable gentleman made deliberate misstatements, because not one honorable member on this side has said that he disapproves of an international wheat agreement. We have always favoured one based on equitable terms. But consider the terms of this agreement. The Government has taken unto itself the right to dispose of the wheat-growers’ product. It did not even have the decency to approach the Australian Wheat Growers Federation or the Australian Wheat Board to ascertain their views before the agreement was reached. That was negotiated on the other side of the Pacific by an officer of the department. Although the wheat-growers offered to send their representatives over at their own expense the Minister would not accept that suggestion. I point out that those people are elected by the wheat-grower3 to act as their representatives. When we are dealing with such a large quantity of their produce they should at least be consulted before agreements are entered into. Because the Canadian wheatgrowers’ representatives were at hand to advise the Canadian Government representative, they will come out of the agreement far better than will the Australian wheat-growers. The American wheatgrowers, also, will come out of it much better than will the Australian wheatgrowers. From Australia’s point of view, a seller’s market has been converted into a buyer’s market. The fact that Australia is the only exporting country in the sterling areas that could supply wheat has been ignored completely. Mention has been made of .Sir Stafford Cripps. His department negotiated the recent wheat deal for the United Kingdom.
Although there is a board to represent the farmers the commercial interests and the workers, due to government interference with their product the wheatgrowers stand to lose £3,333,000 on these block to block, government to government sales, following the recent deal. The Australian Wheat Board offered the wheat at 14s. 5d. a bushel reduced the price to 14s. a bushel, and then, at the request of the United Kingdom Government, reduced it still further to 13s. 8d. a bushel. We now find that one-third of the 60,000,000 bushels is to be sold at 13s. 8d. a bushel, one-third at 12s. 10d. a bushel, and the remaining third at between lis. and lis. 3d. a bushel, because the sale comes within the orbit of the international wheat agreement. Whilst these slow, bungling negotiation?’ were going on, there were customers waiting in the Indian Ocean area to buy our wheat at 16s. 6d. a bushel, but th, Minister would not permit sales to them.
Canada has an arrangement with the United Kingdom to sell 140,000,000 bushels of wheat to that country thi? year at two dollars a bushel. A special clause was written into the agreement to protect that deal. For this year, at least, the Canadian wheat-grower will receive two dollars a bushel for his wheat, equivalent to about 12s. 6d. Yet the’ Australian wheat-grower is asked to accept a maximum of lis. 3d. a bushel, and it is very doubtful whether he will get the maximum. If it was good enough to write such a clause into the agreement to protect the Canadian wheat-growers, why was not a similar clause written into our agreement with the United Kingdom? It is of no use honorable members talking about an antiBritish feeling. The Australian wheatgrowers were not even consulted about the matter.
The produce of the American wheatgrower will be sold for between 7s. 3d. and lis. 3d. a bushel. Everybody knows that that will not affect him, because under the American agricultural administration the American wheat-grower will be protected. He is paid 90 per cent, of internal parity. The system is based on the 1912 agreement covering the whole of the agricultural industries in the United States of America. Even if agricultural prices generally increased by 250 per cent, he would still be paid 90 per cent, of internal parity. That is based on the internal domestic policy. But what protection has the Australian wheat-grower? The only protection offered to him by this . measure is a minimum price for. the next four years. He stands to lose considerably by this agreement. It is of no use anybody saying that we are sure to get the maximum price, because there is no provision in the agreement for that price to be paid. Although the Government haggles about the floor price and the maximum price there is no binding clause to say that any proportion of that wheat shall be bought at a certain figure. This negotiation is bad in many respects. Thecomment that has been made by the Opposition during this debate will be useful if there are any discussions in the future to amend the agreement. The only enforcement that we can apply is that the importing companies will take 80,000,000 bushels of our wheat each crop year at the minimum price.
– That is so. Although the agreement provides that wheat flour also shall be bought, the quantity is not specified. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date. Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment - J. M. Tanzer.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquiredfor postal purposes- Lyndhurst,New South Wales.
Home adjourned at 12.43 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Theftsof Military Equipment.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 June 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490617_reps_18_202/>.