18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.’
– I ask the Prime Minister what action the Government has taken apart from providing the gum of £20,000 on a £l-for-£l basis to the Government of New South Wales to provide relief’ for distressed persons following the recent floods in the Hunter Valley and in other parts of northern New South Wales? Has any relief been provided in the form of clothing, blankets, &c, for distressed persons in those areas?
– I have discussed the matter raised by the honorable member with the Premier of New South Wales. In calamities of this kind it has been the practice for the Government, particularly through the services departments, to render whatever assistance it can to persons who are left homeless or in distressed circumstances. At this juncture, I am not able to give details of the assistance already rendered, but the Government has arranged to provide assistance apart from providing the sum of £20,000 on a £l-for-£l basis to the Government of New South Wales. I shall ascertain from the services Ministers the information sought by the honorable member.
– by leave - I appreciate being granted leave by the House to make a statement on the coal crisis because it is not the usual practice to intervene at question time with a statement. I do not desire to make a statement of a contentious kind, but it is desirable that it should be put on record at the earliest possible moment after the meeting of the House to-day that there is a very grave state of emergency developing in Australia as the result of the stoppage in coal production that has already occurred and of the threat which is held out of a general strike in the coal industry. Those circumstances produce a state which can. be described quite moderately as a state of national emergency, which, if it develops, will involve many hundreds of thousands of people in Australia in tragic unemployment and in the gravest form of hardship. There seems to be very little doubt, having regard to the history of this matter, and having regard to such remarks as the Prime Minister himself has addressed to; us, that this represents an attack upon thecommunity by the Communists. This is a Communist-organized threat following upon a Communist-organized stoppage. It could be described, therefore,, quite’ accurately as a threat of war against the community by a small militant minority in the community. On this side of the House and, I daresay, on both sides of it, because I do not imagine that there will be much difference of opinion about it, it is felt that the position is that the community ararat defend itself against any attack of this kind. It is, we believe, our duty in. this Parliament to defend the community to the limit of our powers, by all available means. There are, of course, means already in existence. We axe not defenceless. Also, if it becomes necessary to create new means, we must then create new means. If it turns out that the existing laws of this country are inadequate, then I take leave to remind the Government and the people that there has already been, in the coal industry, joint action by the Commonwealth and by the State of New South Wales, each acting to the limit of its own constitutional powers and authority. As a result of that joint action we have the Joint Coal Board. As a result of that joint action we have also the Coal Industry Tribunal. Indeed, it is in defiance of the jurisdiction of that tribunal that these present threats have been. made. I say, on behalf of the Opposition, that if it should turn out to be true - and the position should disclose itself very quickly - that further legislative powers ought to be taken by joint action of the sarnie kind, then, by all means in our power, we shall facilitate the introduction of any necessary legislation, and also facilitate its discussion. I do not mean by that that we waive in advance any right to discuss the details of any proposal put forward, but insofar as a parliamentary Opposition may do so we are prepared to facilitate the introduction of any necessary law and the discussion of that necessary law. I add that apart altogether from the invoking of old or new legal machinery in this fight, there is nf necessity, or there will be of necessity in a certain event, a very great effort of organization that must be made to defend the interests of the community, and should it be within the power of His Majesty’s Opposition to co-operate in any way in the establishment of any such organization, it will do so. I add, too, that it transpired in the last report of the Joint Coal Board that our production of coal in Australia was 1,500,000 tons less, even at the figure at which it then stood, than our requirements. That suggests very strongly that, in addition to internal measures that should be undertaken, urgent consideration ought to be given to the- importation of coal into this country. I say with great respect to the Prime Minister that we must not approach this matter in too orthodox a way, because the employment of perhaps 1,000,000 people depends- upon how it is handled. The normal standard of living of more than 1,000,000 people will depend upon how we handle it. The Opposition sees this as a great national emergency, and 1 therefore- have not approached it with any contentious statement or any statement designed to be provocative, .but merely with the desire to express our sense of the emergency, to indicate what I have indicated to the Government, and to say that we are prepared to collaborate in any resolute action that might be taken to defend what is the paramount interest of this country, the interest of the ordinary men and women in it.
– by leave - I do not propose to deal with this matter at very great length to-day. In consultation with the Premier of New South Wales I issued a public statement concerning this matter, which has, I understand, been reported very fully in the press; in fact, it has received much more publicity than I had expected. That statement expresses the views of the Australian Government and of the Government of New South Wales concerning the crisis which has arisen in the coal industry. To be brief, we have made it absolutely clear that a special authority was established to deal with disputes of this kind. That authority is the Coal Industry Tribunal, which was established, as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, by joint legislation introduced by the Australian
Government and the Government of New South “Wales. That tribunal was established, at the request of the miners’ federation, to solve industrial problems that arise in the industry, particularly in New South Wales. As adjuncts to it, and to ensure that difficulties which arise in the industry are dealt with promptly, reference boards and industrial officials were appointed. The issues in this dispute are simple - at least, they are very easy to understand. As I have already pointed out, special provision ha3 been made by the Australian Government and the Government of New South Wales for the settlement of disputes in the industry, whether they arise from action on the part of mine-owners or miners, and the Coal Industry Tribunal is the only authority which the two Governments will recognize in the settlement of disputes such as the present one. As that aspect of the matter has been dealt with at some length in the joint statement made by Mr. McGirr and myself, I do not propose to amplify the points that were made in it. Indeed, I did not propose to make any statement on the matter to-day. I hope that, upon reflection, the miners will realize that they are not only doing a grave injustice to their own interests as individuals, as citizens and as members of the miners’ federation, but that they are also seeking to impose on the people of this country an intolerable hardship, which is completely unjustifiable. I hope that, upon reflection, those who direct the executive affairs of the miners’ federation will realize that they should not proceed with their threat, as the Leader of the Opposition termed it, to call a general strike on Monday. While I am speaking on this matter, I take the opportunity to say that if the arbitration machinery that was established especially for the coal-miners is to be treated as it has been treated by them, the Government will have to consider seriously whether it is worth while to retain that machinery. That machinery provides a most complete system of arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes in the industry, but if the coal-miners prefer to disregard the Coal Industry Tribunal and resort to the law of the jungle in the settlement of their disputes, I am sure that both the Government of New South Wales and my Government will have to consider seriously whether it is worth while retaining that machinery. If the machinery were removed, the miners would, of course, have to go back to the Arbitration Court, under whose jurisdiction they operated originally, when they complained that their troubles were not dealt with expeditiously. In conclusion, I repeat my hope that the miners will realize that the action which they are threatening to take is unjustifiable and will be calamitous both for themselves and for the community. They will do their own cause untold harm if they proceed with their threatened action. I am sure that the majority of miners possess some sense of responsibility to the community. They are the people who dig the coal, and, after all, they are the only ones who can provide coal for the community. Despite statements which have been made to the contrary, I believe that the miners have a sense of responsibility to the people of this country, and they must realize that the action which they propose to take is completely unjustifiable. Finally, I assure the House that I am maintaining close consultation with the Government of New South Wales, whose interest in the settlement of this dispute is as real as that of any citizen. If I can make any statement that will be of information as the situation develops I shall do so.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say whether, in view of the grave dislocation of mail services in northern New South Wales from the Hunter River to the Queensland border as a result of disastrous floods and the reduction of the number of trains due to coal shortage, the Postmaster-General will maintain the carriage of first-class mail matter by the various air services which function along the North Coast route? By way of explanation, I point out that, as a result of representations which I made on Sunday last, the Postmaster-General’s Department agreed to have mails carried by air during the next two or three days. I now ask that the air services be continued for the full period of the present dislocation.
– The Postal Department has met the present emergency in its customary efficient manner by utilizing air services provided by the Butler Air Transport Proprietary Limited, Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited, and the Oceanic Plying Company. A close watch will be kept on any developments which may arise as a result of the announced cut in rail services, and sympathetic consideration will be given to any proposals designed to ensure that residents of the area mentioned are provided with as full a service as is possible.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture received a report from the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee which recently reviewed the costs of production in the dairying industry? On a previous occasion, the Government gave full effect to the recommendations of the committee. Is there any impediment to the Government again giving effect to the recommendations of the committee that the price of butter be increased?
– The Government has received the report of the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee which inquired into the movement of costs as compared with last year, and the report will be forwarded to the State Premiers. The honorable member will appreciate that when the committee reported previously on production costs, the Commonwealth was able to give effect to its recommendations. Now, however, because of the defeat of the Government’s referendum proposals in regard to price control, power over prices no longer resides in the Commonwealth, but rests with the States. This Government can do nothing but await the decision of the State governments on the committee’s report.
– In view of the report that an increase of the price of butter has been recommended by the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture take up with the United Kingdom Government the question of applying the increase to export butter which is the concern of the Commonwealth and not of the States?
– The question of a review of the existing contract, for which provision is made in the contract itself, has already been taken up with the United Kingdom Government. A decision will be announced as soon as practicable.
– I address a question to the Minister for Works and Housing in relation to the very unsatisfactory state of affairs which exists in regard to certain State housing projects at Ermington and Rydalmere in my. own electorate. Some houses built by the New South Wales Housing Commission have for a long time been unsatisfactory because of faulty construction and defective drainage, and representations to the commission have produced no results. As the Commonwealth is the financing authority for State housing projects, can the Minister say whether the Commonwealth is prepared to intervene to ensure that the people who occupy houses erected by the Housing Commission have suitable and comfortable accommodation? If the Commonwealth has at present no legal power to intervene, is the Government prepared to bring down legislation to ensure that people are satisfactorily housed ?
– The honorable member’s question is couched in general terms. He has made no specific charge that any groups of houses are in a bad state of repair. Not all the houses built by housing authorities in the States which are parties to the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement necessarily come under that agreement. Apart from the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, each State had its own housing authority functioning under State legislation. They are known as workers’ homes boards, or State housing commissions. In Western Australia for instance there is a workers’ homes board. South Australia is not a signatory to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, and the South Australian Housing Trust continues to function under State law. Although the greater proportion of the homesbuilt to-day by the various State housing authorities are built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, some of the State authorities are also carrying out schemes of their own. The Commonwealth exercises certain authority over all houses built under the agreement, but it has no control over purely State activities. To ensure that certain standards of construction shall be adhered to a Commonwealth officer in each State inspects houses that are being built under the agreement. There have been cases in all States in which contractors have found themselves in financial difficulties, and the State housing authorities have had to complete unfinished houses, but that is inevitable in any housing scheme of this magnitude. Generally speaking, the Commonwealth is satisfied with the work of the State authorities, which is subject to Commonwealth supervision and inspection.
– Will the Treasurer provide me with a statement of all the moneys, including away-from-home allowances, paid to Mr. Healy and Mr. Roach, as members of the Stevedoring Industry Commission?
– -Recently, the honorable member for Reid asked for a statement of fees paid to certain individuals for their services as members of boards, commissions, &c. I shall ask the Minister for Shipping and Fuel to ascertain what information can be provided. I imagine that the Treasury will have a record of all such payments.
Mb. E. O. Elliott
– I ask the Prime Minister whether a passport has been issued to Eliot Oalans Elliott, the Communist general secretary of the Seamen’s Union, to enable him to attend a Communist conference in Italy? Will the right honorable gentleman indicate the countries that Elliott has been given per mission to visit, and the text of the official endorsement on the passport? Is Elliott still a member of the Maritime Industry Commission, and has he been granted leave of absence by the commission to attend the conference? What steps are being taken to ensure that information that has been made available to Elliott in his official position will not be taken out of this country? Will the Registrar of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration be asked to ascertain what union funds are being expended on the trip ? Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to Elliott’s statement that he had proposed to visit the United States of America on his return journey but that he had been refused a vise by the United States Consulate? Will the right honorable gentleman state whether the Government is providing funds abroad for Elliott, who has only arranged for a one-way air passage?
– The honorable gentleman has asked a number of questions. It is not possible to answer them in detail now. I have explained on previous occasions that any Australian citizen who applies for a passport to enable him to visit other countries is given a passport unless there is some legal reason for refusing the request, such as failure to pay taxes or a debt. In addition, all Australians who propose to go overseas must obtain the permission of their wives or other persons who are dependent upon them before a passport can be issued. If those conditions are complied with, a. passport is issued. I can assure the honorable gentleman that the Australian Government is not providing any funds for Mr. Elliott. With regard to Mr. Elliott’s entry into any other country, the practice has been that if a country makes a request that a passport be not issued to an individual to enable him to visit that country effect is given to the request. That has been done by India and some other Eastern countries. If, for any reason, a country does not desire to admit a person holding an Australian passport it is entitled to refuse to do so. That is a matter for that country to decide. I shall examine the matters to which the honorable gentleman has referred and answer them fully in a written reply.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to a report in the Melbourne Argus of the 20th June that Queensland sugar-growers are seeking another increase of the price of sugar.
– The last increase was only a restoration.
– According to the report, Mr. Hanlon, the Premier of Queensland, is expected to discuss the matter with the Prime Minister. “Will the right honorable gentleman say whether the report is correct? If he proposes to confer with representatives of the sugar industry and other persons regarding an increase of the price of sugar, will he arrange for at least one representative of the domestic consumers to be given an opportunity to take part in the discussions. “Will the right honorable gentleman endeavour to protect domestic consumers not only against an increase of the price of sugar but also against a shortage of sugar for jam-making next summer, as such a deprivation has affected the housewife most cruelly in recent years?
– I was not able to hear the first portion of the honorable member’s question. Apparently, some persons in this chamber observe the principle of equality of the sexes, because they have interrupted her as much as they interrupt some honorable gentlemen. No representations have been made to me recently for an increase of the price of sugar. However, as the honorable member probably knows, representations were made to me some time ago for that purpose, and I think that an increase of one farthing per lb. was granted. The honorable member for Moreton, by interjection, has stated that that increase merely restored the amount by which the price of sugar was reduced during the regime of the Lyons Government. 1 have heard rumours that representations for an increase of the price of sugar are likely to be made to me. I understand that the honorable member has asked that when those representations are being considered, I shall provide an opportunity for consumers to be represented at the discussions.
– Domestic consumers.
– The Prime Minister, himself, is a consumer of sugar.
– I should be a very good representative of the consumers if I were present at such a conference. I shall consider the honorable member’s representations, but it is most unlikely that a member of the general public would be included in discussions between the Government ;and official todies about the price of sugar. However, I shall ensure that the representatives of consumers have an opportunity to submit their case very fully against any claim foi1 an increase of the price of sugar.
CONVAIR and Constellation Aircraft - Dollar Provisions - Williamtown Aerodrome.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation explain why it is practically impossible to obtain a booking on Convair aircraft without less than a week to a fortnight’s notice? Will he take action to correct tthat disability? Can the honorable gentleman inform me when the fifth Convair will arrive in Australia? Can he make arrangements for Convairs to call at Canberra on their inter-capital city flights, so that members of the Parliament, may travel by those aircraft, should they so desire?
– One reason why many people cannot get reservations on Convair aircraft is that seats are booked out well in advance. These aircraft are carrying an average of 82 per cent, loading, which is a higher rate of loading than has been achieved by any other aircraft. The fact that it is almost impossible to obtain seats on Convair machines unless bookings are made well beforehand indicates their popularity. I wish we had ten of them instead of only five. The fifth machine will arrive either to-day or to-morrow. That is the one that met with a mishap in Iceland. When it goes into service I shall ask the chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, Mr. Coles, to consider the use of Convair aircraft between Canberra and Tasmania and other places so that honorable members will be able to enjoy the privileges that are at present available to a public that is thirsting for first class, fast air services.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation how many times in the last , twelve months Constellation aircraft have been obliged to return to aerodromes shortly after taking off because of defects that have suddenly developed? What is the nature of the maintenance .and inspections that are made before the machines leave an aerodrome? What is the explanation of the many defects that have apparently occurred, compelling them to return?
– Constellation aircraft are being used in many parts of the world with considerable success. One of the most recent orders placed with the manufacturers was for twenty Constellations, which will be operated by TransWorld Airlines. They are regarded as being the best aircraft available for long distance services. There may be a difference of opinion about that; but I remind honorable members that whenever new types of. aircraft come into use - and the Constellation No. 749, is a new typo, difficulties occur in the process of operational flying. There have been a number of delays with Constellation aircraft, and [ am not at all happy about that. However, it is far better to have delays than it is to have accidents, and I am glad that those who are in charge of flying operations insist that aircraft must return for repairs immediately defects occur. The honorable member must know quite well that I could not hope to tell him precisely the number of such incidents. A great deal, of publicity is given in the press to every incident of that nature. Somebody uses radio apparatus and intercepts signals sent from the aircraft by their pilots before returning. That is arranged for by the newspapers so that they can publish the stories to the detriment of government airlines. I say quite frankly that I should like the number of these incidents to be reduced, but I assure the honorable member that a close watch is kept on Constellation machines. The engineering establishment of Qantas Empire Airways Limited is one of the best in the world. Everybody knows that the reputation of the airline as an overseas operator is equal-
– Its operational hours are about the lowest.
– I remind the honorable member that it is one of the few overseas airlines that is showing a profit as the result of its operations. If the honorable gentleman had had an opportunity to travel overseas he would know that Qantas Empire Airways Limited has a reputation as good as any other overseas airline in the world. In addition, its engineering establishments are considered to be of a very high class. Nevertheless, in order that the latest information may be available, arrangements had been made for a high officer of the Curtiss Wright organization, which provides the engines for Constellation aircraft, to come to Australia to give every assistance in the maintenance and inspection of engines with a view to avoiding as far as possible any delays or returns to airports.
– I ask the Treasurer, how high a priority is given to the operators of internal and external airlines of Australia in the allocation of dollars to obtain spare parts for the operation of their airlines? Is there any instance of aircraft companies in Australia asking for spare parts to assist in the maintenance of their airlines coming up against the dollar problem and not being able to get them?
– Despite the dollar stringency, the importation of plant and equipment essential to the community is allowed. That applies to tractors, motor cars and aircraft. Dollars are provided for all essential spare parts needed to carry on essential services, provided that a proper case is made out in support of applications for import licences. Applications for the importation of new aircraft and new plant are dealt with on their merits.
– Will the Minister inform the House whether it is correct, as stated by the Newcastle Herald, that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited hae been granted permission to use the Royal Australian Air Force aerodrome at Williamtown, Newcastle, on north-south journeys. Is it correct, also, that the time-table already worked out has been agreed to by the Department of Civil Aviation ?
– Although statements have appeared, in both the Newcastle and Melbourne press to the effect that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has been granted permission for its aircraft to call at Newcastle, that is not correct. Up to the time that I inquired yesterday afternoon, after reading the statement in a Melbourne newspaper, no application for such permission had been received, although I understand that an application has since been received. The Williamtown Aerodrome is a Royal Australian Air Force aerodrome where Mustang and Vampire aircraft are based and training in high speed flying is carried out. It is the only aerodrome that is suitable for use by large-sized aircraft in the Newcastle area. Consequently, the Royal Australian Air Force is rightly reluctant that permission should be granted for civil aviation authorities to use it. Personally I am reluctant also that that aerodrome should be used extensively by civil aircraft. Following representations by the honorable member for Newcastle, the honorable member for Hunter, Senator Arnold and the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce, I personally inspected the aerodrome at Newcastle to see the position that might arise if permission were granted. As a result of that inspection it was agreed to permit very limited use of that aerodrome by civil aviation authorities. The New South Wales Government is very reluctant to agree to the Australian Government giving permission for the operation of air services which would conflict with fast first-class rail services provided by the New South Wales Government.
– Where are first-class rail services provided in New South Wales?
– The rail service between Newcastle and Sydney is a fast first-class service. I can understand the honorable member’s inquiry as he probably travels by car, which is apparently more convenient for him. In view of that first-class rail service only a limited air service to Newcastle has been permitted. This is merely another example of interested people arranging for certain statements to be pub lished in the newspapers at Melbourne, Sydney and other places, and then posing as injured persons when authority is not granted for services of the kind they desire. I object strongly to this practice. The East-West Airlines attempted to use that practice. They actually commenced and ran one service, but it is unlikely that that service will be maintained.
– I ask the Minister for Air a question relating to a Convair aircraft which, while on government order, crashed in Iceland and only recently arrived in this country. How long ago is it since the aircraft left the United States of America ? Who salvaged it ? What was the approximate cost of the salvage, and to what department will that amount be charged? Why was not the aircraft shipped to Australia in order to save expenditure ?
– The aircraft to which the honorable member has referred left the United States of America about the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, due to the lighting having been interfered with at Keflavik, it met with an accident at that airfield. As it was so severely damaged and its repair involved considerable expenditure, the vendors of the aeroplane arranged with a firm of aircraft engineers to undertake the work. The job was successfully completed; and the aircraft is expected to arrive in Australia to-day. It would have been much more expensive to have shipped the aircraft from the United States of America to Australia. Offhand, I cannot say what the cost of repair was. I believe that the honorable member already has that information. I shall ascertain what that cost was. I imagine that it would be charged to the Australian National Airlines Commission which made arrangements some time ago for the purchase, of this very modern aircraft.
– In his “ Report to the Nation “, on Sunday night, the Prime Minister said, if my memory serves me right, that the Australian Government had spent £14,000,000 on the land settlement of ex-servicemen in Australia. L ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction how many ex-servicemen have applied for land settlement and how many have actually settled on the land?
– I am not in a position to say how many ex-servicemen have applied for land settlement, because applications are made, in the first instance, to the State Governments. The honorable member could obtain the information he seeks more easily from the Government of Victoria, but I shall ask it to provide him with the figures relating to settlement in Victoria.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement in the Sydney Daily Telegraph to-day headed, “ Red Ban Cuts Tea Supplies which is attributed to a Commonwealth official and the effect of which is that tea rationing could end immediately but for the ban on Dutch shipping? I ask the Prime Minister whether it is true, as stated, that rationing of tea could end immediately but for the ban on Dutch shipping, which prevents tea from coming into the country from Java in almost unlimited quantities? If so, will the Prime Minister immediately direct the Communist-controlled Waterside Workers Federation to lift the ban that it has maintained on Dutch shipping, and advise the federation that it is determined that its direction shall be enforced ?
– I have not seen the statement referred to by the honorable gentleman. Official figures of tea production in Indonesia have been supplied from time to time to the Minister for Trade and Customs, under whose aegis the Commonwealth Tea Controller operates. Those figures indicate that tea production in Indonesia is improving but that it is not adequate to meet all demands upon it, unless the demand were restricted entirely to Australia. That is not likely and I do not think that it is likely that the authorities there would be prepared to supply only Australia. The quantity of available tea to Australia has increased considerably, but, as the honorable member for Wentworth must remember, tea is substantially subsidized. A representative of the tea merchants some time ago requested that the price of tea to the consumer be increased to 4s. per lb. and that it be unrationed. I think that there has been a move lately to make further representations to reduce the subsidy that the Government is paying on tea, and increase the price to the public. There would be some justification for the statement that tea supplies from the Netherlands East Indies have improved very greatly, but I do not think that the statement that the Netherlands East Indies could supply all our needs is correct. It certainly is not correct on the figure supplied to me. The figures may have related to supplies from all Dutch sources. If rationing were withdrawn and there was an increase in the amount of tea consumed it would involve the Government in a very much larger subsidy. We feel that in relation to a nationally consumed commodity such as tea, it is advantageous to the public that the payment of the subsidy should bc maintained.
– I refer to the difficulties being experienced by many people who wish to send fat to Great Britain. In view of the shortage of tin-plate will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider amending the present regulations which restrict the weight of fat in a parcel to 2 lb.? Has the British Government indicated to the Australian Government that it is prepared to reduce the rate of postage on gift parcels? If not, will the Australian Government approach the British authorities to see whether a reduction can be obtained of postage rates on such, parcels?
– I shall be glad to investigate the position again regarding the quantity of fat that may be packed in food parcels for the United Kingdom. However, I have an idea that the same objections previously put forward still hold good. The pate of [postage of food parcels to the United Kingdom is a matter for the Postmaster-General. I shall see that that matter also is examined, and furnish a reply to the honorable member as early as possible.
Murder of Australian’ Officers
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs relating to a matter which I have raised in the Parliament and in correspondence with the Minister over a period of years. Lt concerns the murder in Indonesia of three Australian officers, two of whom left dependants in this country. Previously, the Minister undertook to take whatever steps were possible to secure compensation from the Government of the Indonesian Republic for the widowed mother, in one instance, and the widow and an orphaned child in another instance. As those men were murdered nearly three years ago, I should like to know how long it is since those representions were made to the Indonesian Government to provide further compensation, in addition to the payment of £500 in each of the two instances I have mentioned.
– Speaking from memory, f understand that after the honorable member raised this question on a previous occasion compensation was made to the relatives of the men, who were treated as having been killed in action.
– A sum of £500 in each case.
– Whatever the amount was, it was the full sum payable under the existing legislation. Later, the honorable gentleman raised the question of a further claim being made upon the Indonesian Republic. That claim was made. The Indonesian Government assented to it in principle, but, as the honorable member knows, the situation in that country has been one of great confusion. At present that Government is not at its capital. As the honorable member has again raised the matter, I shall ascertain the facts and inform him of them as soon as possible.
Hospital Committees - ‘Legislative Council.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health yet able to supply an answer to the request I made last week that hospital committees should be set up at Tennant Creek, Alice Springs and Darwin in order to give to the people in those areas an opportunity to control the administration of their own hospitals?
– I referred the ‘ honorable member’s question to the Minister for Health. It involves a question of policy affecting the Northern Territory generally. The Minister for Health is looking into the matter, hut I have not yet been able to obtain an answer to the honorable gentleman’s question.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether it is a fact that one of the Government’s nominees recently appointed to the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory resigned after having been a member of that body for only one day, because he considered it to be his duty to vote according to the Government’s wishes on all matters that came before the council, and he objected to the fact that certain other Government nominees on the council had voted in favour of the holding of an inquiry into the dismissal of Dr. Webster, formerly the Government medical officer at Tennant Creek? Is the Minister also aware that Mr. Lucas, the Director of Works in the Northern Territory, has resigned from the Legislative Council?
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is giving a great deal of information rather than asking a question. Does he desire to ask a question ?
– I am asking a question.
-Order! If the honorable member will study the Standing Orders he will discover that he is not entitled to ask a question in the manner in which he has been doing so.
– I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that Mr. Lucas, the Director of Works in the Northern Territory, resigned from the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory because he considered it his duty to exercise his independent judgment on matters that came before the council? Does the Government give directions to its nominee members of the Legislative
Council regarding how they shall vote? If so, of what use is the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory?
– It is a fact that Dr. Gunson recently resigned from the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. The only information that I have received is that he has resigned. No information has been tendered to me on the reasons for his resignation. I think it might be presumed that he resigned because of the fact that other Government nominees on the Legislative Council had supported a resolution that was opposed to Government policy. It is also a fact that Mr. Lucas, the Director of Works in the Northern Territory, resigned, and there again I have no information about the reason for hia resignation. I only know that Mr. Lucas suggested that he should not be confined to any definitely prescribed policy. The Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, as the honorable member knows, was first established with an assurance, made with the approval of this Parliament, that the Government would have a majority of nominee members. Otherwise the Government could not function in the Northern Territory.
– Must the nominee members always vote “ by the card “ ?
– The same provision was made in connexion with the establishment of a legislative council in another centre. That provision was made to ensure that Government policy would at least obtain the support of the Legislative Council. Otherwise it would be impossible for this or any other government to ensure that effect would be given to its policy in respect of the Northern Territory.
– Then the Government’s appointees are only rubber stamps.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration. Has he read the report in yesterday’s Sydney Daily Telegraph of a Russian broadcast made on Saturday night last in which it was alleged by the Moscow radio that he had taken 20,000 displaced persons from Europe to Australia?
– . The honorable member has a full knowledge of the Standing Orders. He knows that he is not permitted to stand with a newspaper in his hand and read from it while purporting to ask a question. The honorable member must .frame his own question; otherwise it will be disallowed.
– I have not read anything from a newspaper.
– Order !
– Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the text of a broadcast made from Moscow radio on Saturday night last in which it was alleged that some 20,000 displaced persons had been brought to Australia and did not know they were being brought here to prisons; that such persons were being used as white slaves ; and that the Australian Commonwealth was concentrating on the importation of children from Europe because child labour can be more easily exploited? Does the Minister propose to ignore the broadcast, or does he propose to get his colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, to make suitable diplomatic representations to Moscow and assure Moscow that the only slaves in this country are those who subscribe to the Communist philosophy?
– I read the text of the broadcast made over Radio Moscow alleging that the people who were brought to Australia as displaced persons were enslaved and were being treated very badly. As usual, I took immediate action on the matter.
– The Government should put the Minister in charge of the coal crisis.
– If it did, I would not have the honorable member as an assistant because he would spoil my effort. I prepared one of my usual descriptive and completely factual replies. I issued it to the press last evening. If the honorable member will consult to-day’s issue of the Melbourne Age he may read it in full, but he will look in vain for it in the columns of the Melbourne Argus or the Melbourne Sun-News Pictorial. I do not know how the other newspapers treated my reply; but I assure the honorable member that it was a complete answer to the rantings of Moscow radio.
People in displaced persons camps and in employment in Australia as displaced persons have themselves repudiated the statement by Moscow radio. The Melbourne Age has given publicity to a declaration by the representatives of seven nationalities in Western Australia which tells the complete story of their life in Australia. As is usual, the Department of Immigration in this instance has co-operated with the Department of External Affairs. Our relationships are complete and happy, and the Department of External Affairs will take such action as is necessary to safeguard Australia’s best interests in this as in all other matters.
– -When the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture released the report on the egg industry on the 18th May last he stated that an approach had been made to the United Kingdom Government to persuade it to agree to an upward trend in the price that it would pay for eggs under its contract. Has the Minister had any word from the United Kingdom Government with respect to that aspect of its agreement ? If not, what stage have those negotiations reached?
– No decision has yet been received from the United Kingdom Government. As I informed another honorable member some time ago an immediate announcement will be made as soon as a decision is reached.
H.M.A.S. “ Shoalhaven
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether it is a fact that H.M.A.S. Shoalhaven has returned to Australia from Chinese waters? What was the reason for that ship’s return at a time when Royal Navy ships are en route to China because of possible threats to Hong Kong? Was the use of Shoalhaven offered for collaboration with the Royal Navy ships before it was ordered to return to Australia? If not, why not?
– I have no information regarding the movements of Royal Navy vessels. Shoalhaven has returned from Japanese waters where it has been for the past five months in accordance with the policy regarding the occupation of Japanese territory. It was replaced by H.M.A.S. Balaan, a “Tribal” class destroyer now in Japanese waters.
– by leave - In the statement which I made to the House on the 7th June, I read to honorable members the text of the telegram which I had despatched to the Premiers of all States following the announcement of the High Court decision which invalidated the National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations. In that telegram, I informed the Premiers that because of the present acute dollar shortage and our obligation to the United Kingdom to play our part as a member of the sterling area in keeping dollar expenditure to a minimum, it would be necessary to continue to limit oil imports to about the present level. I added that is my view it was therefore most important that the States should immediately consider instituting an effective system of petrol rationing as soon as possible.I asked the Premiers to give the question immediate consideration and let me have their views. Following the receipt of these telegrams by the Premiers, the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McGirr, took the matter up with the other State Premiers, who unanimously agreed that a conference of State representatives would be desirable. At Mr. McGirr’s suggestion I convened this conference in Canberra on the 17th June.
In order to assist the Premiers to consider the issues raised by the High Court decision, I had a number of documents prepared, and I wrote a letter to each of the Premiers which set out briefly the essential aspects of the problem as the Australian Government sees them. I feel that the information provided to the Premiers should also be made available to honorable members, and I therefore lay on the table the following documents : -
Honorable members will note from the document dealing with the dollar element in petrol and other petroleum products that since my previous statement was made the United Kingdom Government has agreed to disclosure of the facts that: (a) the net dollar sales of American companies to the sterling area and to British-controlled companies is running at an annual rate of about fotg.40,000,000, or about 160,000,000 dollars; in addition, there is a substantial dollar element in so-called sterling oil; (&) the total net dollar cost of oil to the sterling area is running at an annual rate of well over £stg.l00,000,000, or about 400,000,000 dollars.
At the request of the Premiers I took part in the full session of the conference last Friday afternoon, and discussed with them at some length the general background of the sterling area dollar position and the need for restricting the consumption of petrol and petroleum products in the sterling area in order to relieve the drain on the gold and dollar reserves of the United Kingdom. I also took the opportunity to deal with the offers from Caltex Oil (Australia) Proprietary Limited, Ampol Petroleum Limited, Alba Petroleum Company of Australia Limited and H. C. Sleigh Limited to import petrol from Bahrein against payment in non-convertible sterling. As honorable members are aware, I dealt with this matter in some detail in the course of a statement which I made to the House on the 16th June, when I quoted the full text of a written statement on the subject which had been provided by the United Kingdom Treasury and the United Kingdom Ministry of Fuel and Power. That statement established quite clearly that, although payment for oil supplied from Bahrein is initially made in sterling, the Bank of England subsequently has to provide dollars to meet the dollar obligations incurred by the supplying company, the Bahrein Petroleum Company Limited, bo that petrol supplied from Bahrein is, in fact, 90 per cent, dollar petrol.
Although no formal decisions were recorded, I think it is a fair statement to say that all the Premiers recognized the gravity of the over-all sterling area dollar position, and that they also recognized that any substantial increase of Australia’s imports of petrol and other petroleum products would inevitably impose an additional drain on the gold and dollar reserves of the United Kingdom, which are also the central reserves of the sterling area.
A private meeting of Premiers was held on Friday evening to discuss the matter further and at the conclusion of this meeting, Mr. McGirr informed me that; while it had not been possible to arrive at any unanimous decision regarding future action, all the Premiers had undertaken to place the information supplied to them by the Australian Government before their respective Cabinets. Mr. McGirr also told me that the Premiers proposed to hold a further meeting to be called by him at a later date. In the meantime, the Premiers requested that the Aus tralian Government should examine the practicability of controlling the distribution of petrol through its import power. On this latter point the proposal put forward by certain Premiers was that the Commonwealth should become the sole importer of petrol and should use the oil companies as agents of the Commonwealth in the distribution of petrol and in its rationing to the ultimate consumers. Following discussion of the matter with the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), I have to-day despatched a letter to each of the State Premiers setting out the legal position as the Australian Government sees it. For the information of honorable members, I also lay on the table a copy of that letter.
To summarize the Government’s view of the position, it is necessary, because of the seriousness of the general dollar position, to continue to place restrictions on the quantities of petrol and other petroleum products that may be imported into Australia. This can be done by the Australian Government, but in view of the High Court’s decision, the constitutional position is now such that action to ensure equitable internal distribution of the limited supplies available can be taken only by the States. In the statement that I made on the 7th June, I said that companies and retailers engaged in the distribution of petrol and other petroleum products would be acting in their own interests, as well as in the interests of the community at large, if they confined sales to normal quantities and continued to ration available supplies as equitably as possible. I should now like to make a direct appeal to consumers to limit their purchases to the quantities towhich they would have been entitled if the Commonwealth rationing scheme had remained in operation. In the absence of any compulsory rationing scheme, it is evident that excessive demands must in the long run result in dislocation in the operation of essential industry and essential services. I might add that since the documents for the conference with the Premiers were prepared, some further deterioration in the dollar outlook has become evident. Honorable members will have seen published references to a statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the 16th June in which he said that Britain’s dollar difficulties were becoming greater as theworld emerged from a period of acute shortages. Although they must be greatly increased if the dollar problem is to be solved, the volume and value of sterling area exports to the dollar area have been falling off over the last few months. There is, therefore, nothing in the present outlook which would in any way justify a relaxation of existing measures to conserve dollars.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill deals with the amendment of the Post and Telegraph Rates Act 1902- 1941 to adjust certain postal and telegraph charges in order to give an equitable return for the services provided under present costs and conditions. The existing rates for letters, letter-cards and post-cards will not be increased, but the war postage of1/2d. an article, which was introduced in December, 1941, will be included as part of the normal rates for all classes of postal articles. Commonwealth and State Hansard will continue to be carried at the existing concession rate of l1/2d. for each 12 oz., andparcels will -also be conveyed at current charges. The rates for other postal articles will be increased in some respects, namely -
Commercial papers, patterns, samples and merchandise. - The existing rate of l1/2d. for the first 2 oz. will be continued, but the charges for each additional 2 oz. will be increased from1d. to l1/2d.
Printed matter, that is, printed papers, circulars and catalogues, and also books, newspapers or periodicals not registered for transmission as such. - The existing rate of lid. for the first 4 oz. will be continued, but the rate for each additional 4 oz. will be increased from1d. to l1/2d.
Books, registered for transmission as such, and also newspapers and periodicals registered for transmission but not posted in bulk. - The existing rate of l1/2d. for the first 6 oz. will be continued, but the rate for each additional 6 oz. will be increased from1d. to l1/2d.
Publications registered for transmission as newspapers and posted in bulk. - The existing rate of 2d. for each 20 oz. will he increased to 21/2d. for each 16 oz.
The bulk rate for publications registered for transmission as periodicals will continue at 21/2d. for each 16 oz. Braille and Moon postal articles are conveyed with outcharge under the provisions of section 8 of the act. Other articles for the benefit of blind people, such as special recordings, are now available, and it is proposed to amend the act to provide for the transmission, free of charge, through the post of such other articles for the use of the blind as are prescribed.
Increases in existing registration fees and express delivery charges are also proposed, but these services are covered by the Postal Regulations, which will be amended suitably. The base registration fee will be raised from 3d. to 6d. and the amount of compensation for loss or damage will be increased from £2 to £5, with corresponding adjustments in higher fees. The express delivery charges will be increased on the basis of a minimum fee of 6d. instead of 4d. Minor revisions in the postage rate to Empire countries and Ireland, and to foreign countries, will be made, the former to correspond with the proposed domestic rates and the latter to meet the requirements of the Universal Postal Union of which Australia is a member. Those adjustments will be effected by Executive action.
As I have said, it is proposed to increase the bulk postage rates on registered newspapers from 2d. for 20 oz. to 2£d. for 16 oz., thus bringing them into line with the charges for registered periodicals. The new rates will still represent a valuable concession to the publishers of newspapers and will be far below the costs incurred by the Postal Department in handling and distribution. It is difficult to determine the difference between modern newspapers and periodicals for registration purposes, and the one rate will represent a more equitable basis of treatment. Few other countries extend bulk rate concessions, and in the United States of America, where a lower charge operates, a loss of about 150,000,000 dollars yearly is being incurred by the Postal Department under the bulk rate system.
The bill also makes provision for increasing the base rate for ordinary telegrams not exceeding fourteen words from 9d. to ls. 3d. where the offices are not more than 15 miles apart, and from ls. to ls. 6d. in other cases. No increase will be made in the rate of Id. for each additional word. The practice of charging double the ordinary rates for urgent telegrams will be continued. The rates for press telegrams concerning parliamentary, executive, departmental and. other Commonwealth proceedings will not be disturbed, but the charges for other press telegrams will be raised by 50 per cent. The rate for lettergrams, referred to in the act or letter telegrams, will be increased from ls. 3d. to ls. 6d. for the first 30 words, but the present charge of id. for each additional word will be continued. The bill does not cover telephone rates, which are to be increased. The adjustments in the existing charge schedules will be effected by amending the Telephone Regulations. Telephone subscribers’ rentals will be raised on a sliding scale ranging from 5s. yearly at small rural exchanges to 15s. in Hobart, £1 2s. 6d. in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, and £1 5s. in Sydney and Melbourne; the unit fees for local calls Will be raised by id. in country districts and by Jd. in the metropolitan areas; the charges for trunk-line calls will be increased according to the direct distance between the terminal exchanges; the special night rates which now apply between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. will be abolished, and the intermediate rate extended to embrace that period ; the “ particular person “ fees on trunk-line calls will be raised on calls exceeding 15 miles; the charges for miscellaneous items, such as extension telephones, private lines, block type entries in the telephone directories and extension bells and the like, will also be increased.
No increase in the fee of 2d. for a call made from a public telephone is proposed. During the present period, when the department is unable to meet all requests for subscribers’ services, public telephones are more important than ever from the stand-point of the general community, and as they are being used to an everincreasing extent it is felt that the call fees should not be disturbed.
The proposal to discontinue the half rates on trunk-line calls after 8 p.m. will probably be criticized by some people, but it should not be overlooked that a concession rate equal, as a general rule, to three-quarters of the day rate will be applied after 6 p.m. In most overseas countries only two rate periods are in operation, and in adjusting its tariff schedule to provide for two periods, instead of three as at present, the Australian Postal Department will follow international practice. The concession night rate was introduced in the Commonwealth twenty years ago when trunkline channels were idle during the late night and early morning hours, but this state of affairs does not now exist. The elimination of the night rate will spread traffic more evenly, reduce the volume of late night calls, and thus assist in providing staff during peak periods at a time when it is not possible to secure an adequate supply of suitable girls.
The “ particular person “ fees aTe being increased on calls over distances exceeding 15 miles, but the new rates will still be less than those justified on a service cost basis. The additional trunk line time involved in securing the attendance of « particular party on a trunk-line call is appreciable, as a general rule, and in other countries the fees are much higher than those proposed in Australia.
It has been the policy of the Government to provide postal and telecommunication facilities in country districts at the lowest possible rates, and public necessity and convenience, rather than the financial aspect, have been the determining factors. This principle is being followed in connexion with the present revision of the charges, and the additional costs will be distributed appropriately with due regard to the need for applying specially low rates in country areas. As I have already told honorable members, the increase in telephone rentals will be only 5s. a year at rural exchanges. The extra mileage charges on lines beyond 2 miles from an exchange will not be raised, and there will be no increase in the rentals for additional telephones connected to services which are wholly or partly owned and maintained by subscribers. With these facts in mind, surely it cannot be argued seriously that the new rates will press unduly on country subscribers.
The combined additional revenue which it is expected will be received from the revised postal, telephone and telegraph charges is in the order of £5,500,000 yearly, this representing a net increase of about 16 per cent, in the total earnings of the Postal Department. It will be agreed that this is a moderate increase, bearing in mind the steep rise in costs of labour and commodities since the end of the war and the fact that the overall effect of the 1941 and the present adjustments involves an increase of less than 25 per cent.
The Government has given careful consideration to the proposal to increase Postal Department charges, and much has already been said concerning the reasons for adjusting the rates at this stage. For the benefit of honorable members, I will show why the adjustments are necessary and inevitable, despite the utmost care, economy and sound management which have been exercised by the department. As a business undertaking the Postal Department necessarily prepares its accounts on a commercial basis, and includes full credit for the value of services rendered to other departments, such as the transmission of nearly 4,000,000 meteorological telegrams yearly, the payment of pensions and child endowment, and so on.
Surpluses shown in the Treasury accounts, which relate only to cash receipts and expenditure for each year, are not as large as those recorded by the Postal Department under its commercial system. The chief reasons are that a smaller adjustment is made for services to other departments, some of which the Postal Department is required by legislation to render free of charge; and that a charge is made for sinking fund payments on loan moneys spent on Postal Department works. Since the Labour Government assumed office, profits have been recorded in the Postal Department commercial balance-sheets totalling £35,914,646 for the six financial years ended the 30th June, 1947. The surplus of £6,674,595 in 1944-45 was almost double the greatest pre-war profit of £3,625,371 recorded in 1938-39. It must not be overlooked, however, that the profits in the war and first two post-war years included about £14,000,000 from surcharges introduced in 1941 to obtain additional revenue for general war purposes, and as a business concern the Postal Department was not justified, in the strict sense, in regarding this amount as normal earnings. Then again, the deferment of maintenance works to enable the department to concentrate on war demands, and the release of 8,000 employees for war service, contributed greatly to the increased profits, but only at the cost of a reduction in the standard of service, the accumulation of huge arrears of maintenance and the absorption of plant reserves. Following the cessation of hostilities and the transition from war to peace-time conditions, the Postal Department profit fell from £5,103.886 in 1946-47 to £1,849,781 in 1947-48. The estimated deficit for the current financial year is £3,500,000, and a loss of £6,000,000 would probably occur during 1949-50 if existing charges were maintained.
Reference has been made by some honorable members to the fact that the annual report of the department for the financial year 1947-48 has not been presented to Parliament. It is regretted that, due mainly to printing difficulties and the general shortage of staff, the report is not yet available, but as I have already mentioned, the results of the operations of the Postal Department on a commercial basis for that year show a surplus of £1,849,781. The change from a handsome profit in 1946-47 to a much lower one in 1947-48 and a substantial deficit this year calls for explanation; so let us examine the underlying causes, which are definite and clear-cut. Prior to being placed on a war footing in 1939, the Postal Department had attained a high level of efficiency and was providing facilities with reasonable promptitude. Due, however, to the parsimonious attitude of non-Labour governments, the department had not been given sufficient money in past years to enable it to erect all the buildings and to provide the plant and facilities required to meet development, with the result that there was little long-range planning, and the Postal Department was more or less existing on a hand-to-mouth basis. During the war, a comprehensive programme of special defence works had to be ‘ implemented quickly and effectively. Supplies of equipment of all types were diverted to the communication needs of the Australian and Allied fighting services, and the contribution that was made in this connexion evoked the high praise of the leaders of those forces. Not only did the Postal Department staffs provide postal, telephone and telegraph services of an amazing magnitude, but they also supplied special facilities, such as radar, radio transmitters, switchboards, and millions of pounds worth of technical equipment which was manufactured in the department’s workshops. In these circumstances, it was inevitable that normal maintenance and developmental work had virtually to cease, the attention of the Postal Department as the war proceeded being focused more and more on providing effective communications for the Services. Naturally, a good deal of the work done was of little value for civilian use, either then or now, but the urgency and necessity to furnish services for military use will not be disputed. The diversion of labour and equipment to meet war needs meant an ever-increasing strain on plant, equipment and personnel and, what is important to remember, developmental and replacement works, which are normally carried out each year for civil needs, had to be suspended, with the result that reserves in underground cables and telephone exchanges, for example, were used up, and relief plant could not be installed.
Let us examine the position facing the Postal Department when the war ended. It had -a depleted staff, because such large numbers of its key men and technical employees had joined the Forces, or had gone to assist the war effort in other spheres. Normal reserves of indoor and outdoor plant of all types had been absorbed, and building accommodation for essential facilities was lacking. Coupled with this, the Postal Department was faced with a record demand for services to meet the growth of industries and the requirements of the returning servicemen as they were rehabilitated. In short, the department was confronted with the problem of meeting a heavy increased demand for facilities which it was unable to supply because of depleted reserves. Due to the inevitable results of a long war in which the nation was an active participant, the standard, of service had deteriorated seriously, facilities available were overloaded, and the staff was far below the minimum requirements. Certainly, some replacements of staff were made during the war years, but it could not be expected that the men and women who came forward would possess the skill and experience of officers who had been with the department for many years. The Postal Department did not lack vision or courage to .meet what can be truly said was the greatest emergency in its history. With the backing of the Government, and under the leadership of a Postmaster-General who is a keen and able administrator, the department initiated a special rehabilitation programme covering works to the value of £42,000,000 over a three-year period. It placed orders on a long-term basis for millions of pounds worth of badly needed equipment and materials; it re-organized and decentralized activities; it streamlined practices and procedures, and it adopted the latest developments in mechanical aids and techniques.
Now let us look at the factors which have contributed so greatly during recent years to the costs of operating the Postal Department. Since the beginning of 1947 the increase in direct labour costs immediately attributable to the cost of living rises and the upward movement of wages, coupled with the 40-hour week, have advanced the department’s annual wages bill by more than £7,000,000, apart altogether from the wages of new staff. The 40-hour week itself is not the major cause of the increase in labour expenditure, since it represents only 15 per cent, of the extra wages bill. Increases in prices of materials used in enormous quantities by the Postal Department have also added greatly to costs. Let me quote a few examples: The price of copper has soared by 150 per cent., lead by 75 per cent., cable by 250 per cent., automatic switching equipment by 100 per cent., certain telephone instruments by 145 per cent., and paper for telephone directories by 275 per cent. In fact, there is not one commodity in general use by the department which has not risen sharply in price. In the light of these increased costs, the change from substantial war-time profits to the expectation of an equally substantial deficit for 1949-50, is neither surprising nor inexplicable. Indeed, it would have been amazing if this were not so, and what is really surprising and is a tribute to the competent manner in which the Postal Department services have been operated, is the ability of the department to meet the position by making such a moderate overall increase in charges - only 16 per cent., remember - in a period of eight years. Can any honorable member cite any other industrial or business undertaking which can say that over the past eight years .it has a similar record ?
Before deciding to revise the Postal Department’s charges, every possibility of rectifying the financial position was examined carefully. No concern in Australia, public or private, exercises closer scrutiny of its expenditure or applies more scientific methods to staff recruitment, training and its general operations. The most modern mechanical aids have been adopted, both in the field and internally.
Procedures have been streamlined, decentralization effected, and delegations extended to enable responsible officers to act speedily and effiectively and, coupled with these, there is an overall scrutiny of all items of expenditure to make sure that each passes the test that it is essential in present circumstances. Since the department exercises such a prudent control of its economy, and the Government has every confidence in the controlling officers of the Postal Department in this respect, the only courses facing the Government in the light of the inescapable increases in costs were -
The first course had to be dismissed in the public interests. The withdrawal of facilities and the restriction of services at a time when the demand for an expansion of these facilities is at the highest level in history, would give rise to justifiable nation-wide criticism and retard national development which the Postal Department has always actively assisted and promoted. The operation of the department at a heavy financial loss would place an added burden on taxpayers generally, whereas an increase of charges for the services rendered means that the users of these service will make the necessary increased contribution. Equity demands that the last course be followed. Of course, savings in expenditure could be secured by reducing the supply of materials or cutting the wages bill, either by sacking men or lowering wages. If materials supplies were reduced appreciably, the plans to restore Postal Department services to a reasonable grade of efficiency would have to be thrown overboard. Thus, an essential public utility would be deprived of the opportunity to play its full part in developing Australia, and many workmen, the majority of whom are ex-servicemen, would be dismissed after they had been trained for special work of vital importance to the whole community. A cut in wages could not be effected by the Government because officers of the Postal Department are paid in accordance with Arbitration Court awards. In any case, does any honorable member seriously take up the attitude that any members of the community should be singled out for discrimination in the matter of salaries because they have elected to serve a great national enterprise rather than go to private industry ?
A good deal has been said in previous debates by some honorable members regarding the so-called inefficiency of the Postal Department, and one honorable member even alleged that two letters entrusted to the department had been opened before delivery. I am assured definitely by ‘the Postmaster-General that the Postal Department does not open letters, other than those dealt with in the Dead Letter Office, which handles postal articles that cannot be delivered, generally through the failure of the sender to address an article correctly or even to address it at all. In any case, let us view the efficiency of the Postal Department, not from isolated cases where a postal article or a telegram or a telephone call is unduly delayed or mishandled, but in the light of the huge volume of transactions which is conducted by the department with efficiency and despatch. An organisation which handles yearly more than 1,300,000,000 postal articles, nearly 1,000,000,000 telephone calls, and 34,000,000 telegrams to the satisfaction of the public, excepting in rare cases, cannot be rightly charged with being inefficient, and I am confident that most honorable members will share this view. The Postal Department is the largest commercial undertaking in Australia, and it has an obligation to serve all areas, whether they be in cities, townships or outback settlements, with prompt and dependable services. The department is doing this effectively in accordance with the traditions of a great national enterprise.
As I have said, the world war severely checked the normal expansion of the Postal Department, which has now adopted the latest developments in techniques and procedures and has set out vigorously to restore all its services to the highest state of efficiency possible. Cer- tainly, there are imperfections at present, but these were unavoidable as the result of the war, and, even in its present condition, the Australian Postal Department is providing services equal to those available in most other countries of the world ; and what is also important, these facilities are made available at costs which compare favorably with those operating overseas. The Postmaster-General and the controlling officers of the department are realists, and they are fully alive to their responsibilities and the importance of improving and developing the postal and telecommunication facilities of this country. The great body of the staff are imbued with the ideal of service to the public, and are naturally resentful of remarks, which have no basis in fact, regarding their alleged inefficiency. Once again I say, efficiency is the keynote of the Postal Department, and the department will press on with its task of providing prompt and dependable services at costs which do not debar any member of the community from enjoying the benefits which modern post office facilities supply.
In considering the value of the services furnished by the Postal Department, the many and varied tasks which are performed for other Commonwealth departments should not be forgotten. It is true that these services do not come directly within the scope of communications, but it is fortunate for the community, from, the standpoint of both economy and convenience, that they can be carried out by an organization which serves every town and village in the Commonwealth. The post office is the focal point for the public, and in the majority of cases it can perform work for other departments without involving additional staff. There is no doubt that if other departments were compelled to set up separate establishments or agents for the payment of, say, pensions and other social benefits, the overall cost to the taxpayer would be greater than it is to-day. Can any one honestly say that the Government, the Postmaster-General and the controlling officers have not taken every possible measure since the war ended to restore and expand the services of the Postal Department? As I have pointed out, millions of pounds have been voted for works programmes, huge orders’ have been placed for materials, staff has been recruited and trained as rapidly as possible and, for the first time in its history, thanks to the enlightened policy of the Government, the department has been able to plan its capital works on a long-term basis. There is no short road to overcoming the effects of the war years on the postal services any more than in other establishments which diverted much of their organization and facilities to war purposes at the expense of normal progress. Hard work and energy are necessary to restore and expand the Postal Department services, and the vast amount of work that has been done since the end of the war is adequate testimony to the vigor and enthusiasm with which the department has approached the job.
Let me quote a few figures showing what has been accomplished by the department since the beginning of 1947: 107 new buildings have been completed and 124 buildings are under construction; 62 buildings have been remodelled or extended, and 60 similar works are in hand; 146,000 telephones have been added to the system; 240,000 miles of cable have been laid; 1,100 public telephones have been installed ; 115,000 miles of trunk line channels and 25,000 miles of telegraph channels have been provided ; 51 automatic exchanges have been established in metropolitan areas and rural districts, and seventeen automatic exchanges are being installed at the moment. The plans for next financial year, 1949-50, provide for a greater amount of works, consistent with the accelerated deliveries of equipment. To mention one instance only, 46 automatic exchanges in metropolitan areas and 150 rural automatic exchanges are to be installed. At the same time, more liberal conditions have been introduced in relation to mail services, housetohouse letter deliveries, letter receivers and so on, in conformity with the progressive policy of the Government. The rehabilitation programme of new works which was set in hand two years ago is to cost well over £42,000,000, of which £36,000,000 will be spent during the first three years. Up to the present, about £20,000,000 has been spent under this programme, and expenditure so far has been financed from Consolidated
Revenue. If this expenditure had been financed from loan moneys, annual interest and sinking fund payments would have been increased by nearly £1,000,000 a year. Even if all the profits of the Postal Department in recent years had been set aside as a reserve for financing the capital works of the department, the amount would not have been sufficient to meet the cost of the initial three-year programme. Moreover, honorable members must not overlook the fact that thi* programme will have to be extended from year to year until the huge arrears of essential works have been overtaken.
The loss shown by the Australian Postal Department is not unique, since the United States Postal Department is budgeting for an increase of 250,000,000 dollars in postal charges alone to assist in meeting a deficit of 30.0,000,000 dollars. The increase of little more than £500,000 in postal revenue in Australia is small by comparison with the colossal rise in the United States. Other administrations throughout the world have raised their charges substantially in recent years, and the rates proposed for Australia generally compare favorably with those operating elsewhere. For example, a telegram of fourteen words may be sent from Brisbane to Perth at a cost of ls. 6d., whereas to transmit the same telegram from New York to San Francisco would cost 12s. A telegram from Sydney to Melbourne would also cost ls. 6d., but a wire from New York to Chicago would cost 5s. 6d. The proposed Australian rates for telegrams are also cheaper than those operating in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and South Africa. It has been stated in some quarters that the .letter rate in Great Britain was recently reduced from 2£d. to 2d. This is not the case, and charges operating from the 1st May of this year have increased substantially the United Kingdom rates for printed matter, commercial papers and registration fees.
Telephone charges in the United States of America have been stepped up in recent years and a government tax of 10 per cent, applies to rentals and local call charges, while a 20 per cent, tax operates on all trunk calls exceeding 20 cents. In Canada, also, telephone charges have been increased recently, and a Government tax of 15 per cent, applies to all trunk calls exceeding 20 cents. A telephone call from Melbourne to Sydney will cost 7s. 6d. under the new rates, hut a call for a similar distance would cost 9s. 5d. in the United .States of America and 16s. 7d. in Canada. The local call fee also compares favorably with that operating in other countries. For example, under the new rate schedule a subscriber in Melbourne or Sydney may call over a 15-miles radius at. a cost of 2d., but a similar call in London would cost 6d. sterling. The fact that the Australian Postal Department should be able to meet the position, provided no unforeseen rise in costs occurs, by increasing its overall charges by only 16 per cent, is an indication of the efficiency of its organization, particularly when allowance is made for the difficulties with which the department is faced in serving a relatively small population scattered over a wide area. These factors naturally influence costs and, in themselves, they would provide ample justification for making the charges higher than elsewhere. Fortunately for the community, however, this course has been avoided by prudent management and economical and businesslike methods.
After listening to my remarks, which I have endeavoured to make as brief as possible, honorable members will recognize these main facts: (1) Operating costs have increased to such an extent that revenue on the existing tariff basis is insufficient to meet them; (2) large arrears of maintenance, due chiefly to war-time conditions, have to be overtaken when costs are at a peak and these increased costs -more than offset financial savings on maintenance during the war period; and (3) an extraordinarily large programme of works has to be carried out to enable the Postal Department to meet the greatly expanded demands of the community for postal and telecommunication services.
I have given honorable members an outline of the conditions which have led to the proposal to adjust postal rates in harmony with prevailing costs. An unanswerable case has been presented, and if honorable members will approach the matter dispassionately and objec- tively, not only will they support the bill but they will also commend the Government for the economical and efficient way in which the Postal Department is being conducted; the progressive policy which is being followed to improve and expand services; the equitable manner in which the tariff adjustments are to be spread over the community; the special consideration which has been given to the rural areas and the moderate increases which are being made in the rates in comparison with rises imposed by business undertakings generally. With those remarks, I commend the bill to honorable members on both sides of the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harbison) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 17th June (vide page 1179), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Whenever this House considers the subject of wheat, the name of Mr. J. S. Teasdale, the representative of Western Australian wheat-growers on the Australian Wheat Board, almost inevitably arises in the debate. About, a week ago, when we were discussing the sale of Australian wheat to the United’ Kingdom, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) and the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) made statements to the effect that Mr. Teasdale was not, in fact, a wheatgrower, and that he was delivering only three or four hags of wheat a year. At that time, I interjected in an endeavour to correct any wrong impression that might have been created by those assertions, and I now take this opportunity to place on record Mr. Teasdale’s own explanation of his position as a wheatgrower. His letter appeared in the West Australian on the 11th June last. I shall not read to the House his remarks about what he termed “ the tirade of abuse “ against him, but his explanation is as follows : -
When it became necessary for me to take up duty on the Australian Wheat Board it was obviously impossible to attend a fortnightly meeting of the board in Melbourne and conduct the physical work involved on a wheat farm 160 miles from Perth and so 1 entered into a share partnership with my brother on the customary terms. Owing to the fact that two of his boys went on active service as soon-‘as they reached that age, coupled with the shortage of labour, the arrangement could not be continued. However, my next-door neighbour, Mr. Perry, was anxious to prepare for the return of hi« son - then a prisoner of war in Germany - and he asked me to facilitate this process by a working arrangement between his two sons and myself.
Sharecroppig arrangements between nextdoor neighbours are notoriously liable to cause difficulties between the parties and to obviate this, and to continue the good relationship between Mr. Perry and myself, which has existed for many years, it was decided I should retain a nominal interest in the crop, namely the proceeds of one acre assessed at 12 bushels, plus a cash payment. The arrangement has a few years to run and has maintained the mutual friendship which has existed for so long. Moreover, it has permitted me to concentrate on the fight for a just price for my fellow wheat-growers without having it cast up against me that I am merely trying to put money into my own pocket.
Et ill became the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Minister for Works and Housing to attempt to belittle Mr. Teasdale by stating that he delivered only three or four bags of wheat annually. At least one of those honorable gentlemen must have been aware of the facts.
Last Friday, before the debate on this bill was adjourned, I was analysing the degree of protection that the International “Wheat Agreement will give to Australian wheat-growers. I emphasize that the only protection that they will have is that during the next four years they will be certain to receive the minimum price for 80,000,000 bushels of wheat. Honorable members will recall that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) expressed the opinion than even that degree of protection was doubtful, and I agree with him. However, before I deal at greater length with wheat in this International Wheat Agreement, I desire to direct attention to the position of the Australian flour-milling industry. The International Wheat Agreement provides that an importing country shall import wheat and/or wheat and flour. Flour-milling in Australia is a most important industry, and if importing nations aTe to be permitted to receive the whole of their wheat requirements in grain, instead of continuing to purchase some flour from us, tragedy will overtake this industry. Last year, when this House was considering the previous international wheat agreement, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is reported in Hansard as having said -
In the case of markets equidistant from Canada and Australia - e.g. Shanghai, when Canada is shipping out of Vancouver - it would be necessary for us to be able to come down to such a price in order to compete with Canada on a c.i.f. basis in those markets. However, where countries such as India, New Zealand, Java, Ceylon and Malaya want wheat, or flour, they will naturally come to Australia for it and pay the Canadian f.o.b. prices - converted, of course, to Australian currency.
Last Friday morning, the Minister, in an answer to a question, said that Australia’s export trade in flour was falling off. That statement is undoubtedly correct, and we should endeavour to ascertain the reason for the decline. Prior to the last twelve months, India had not been importing wheat from countries through the London Food Council. Singapore is no longer working under that authority, and recently, Malaya announced that after the 1st September next it would not make purchases through it. Why have those countries in the Indian Ocean area reached that decision. They have announced, in unmistakable terms, that bloc-to-bloc sales, or government-to-government sales, are so clumsy and awkward that they prefer to conduct their transactions on commercial lines. We are amazed to find that American interests, as the result of their activity and business acumen, have been able to worm their way into those markets and supplant Australian exporters.
The reduction of our flour exports, which the Minister has admitted, will be detrimental, not only to the wheatgrowers, but also to the flour millers and to many people who are employed in the milling industry. Hundreds of thousands of men are associated with the industry, and their livelihood will be seriously affected if the export trade continues to fall away. The decline of flour milling will also affect the poultry industry. Australia has a contract with the United Kingdom to provide a certain quantity of eggs. When that contract was prepared, it was hoped that Australia’s bird population would be increased by some millions within a few years. How can farmers increase their flocks, or even maintain the present supply of eggs to the United Kingdom, if the flour milling trade falls away, causing a decrease of bran and pollard production? Disregarding recent increased prices of those two commodities, what will be the ultimate effect of reduced flour milling upon our commitments with the United Kingdom for the supply of eggs? Another industry that is largely dependent upon flour milling is the dairying industry. Everybody who has had anything to do with dairying knows that milk supplies will fall off if dairy-farmers cannot get adequate quantities of bran. Decreased milk production will have an effect upon the supply of butter to the United Kingdom.
- DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. lazzarini). - Order! The honorable member should return to the subject of the International Wheat Agreement.
– I am dealing with the agreement, which does not contain any provision that importing countries must take a proportion of flour as well as wheat.
– That is why the honorable member is out of order.
– I cannot agree, sir. Flour is mentioned in the agreement.
– The honorable member had better return to the hill.
– The bill provides for the export of flour. We must not be unmindful of the fact that the Australian Wheat Growers Federation is very concerned because, under the terms of the agreement, importing countries will be able to import only wheat from the exporting countries and will therefore be able to expand their flour-milling industries to the detriment of the Australian flour-milling industry. Unfortunately, it seems that the representatives of the Australian Government who took part in the negotiations were not concerned about that fact. In reply to our protests, the Minister has said that the Australian Wheat Growers Federation agreed to accept the agreement. That is true in respect of prices. The honorable gentleman said in his second-reading speech -
Both the Cabinet and myself were very loth to accept a lower maximum than two dollars, which was the figure in last year’s agreement, but after examining all the circum-stances and after consultation with the executive of the Australian Wheat Grower* Federation, it was decided to do so. The executive had advised me that although it was not satisfied with the maximum rate it considered that the Government should accept the range of prices proposed with the lower maximum.
That is certainly true, but the Minister has not stated all of the facts. The federation agreed to accept the agreement subject to a proviso, which is indicated by the following resolution that it sent to the Minister: -
The Australian Wheat Growers Federation has no alternative but to re-affirm its protest on the forcing down of world prices of wheat as envisaged under the International Wheat Agreement. We agree that if India and other nearby purchasers of Australian wheat and flour become signatories to the agreement, Australia has no other course available but to remain in the agreement in accordance with the Australian Wheat Growers Federation decision made in Melbourne on 17th March. 1949.
In the light of that resolution, I claim that we are free to criticize the methods that were adopted by the Government in accepting the agreement. What will happen if agreement cannot be reached concerning the quantities of wheat, or of wheat and flour, that importing countries must take? The International Wheat Council is the only body that will be able to take any action in such circumstances, and the only sanctions that it will be able to apply, after investigating all aspects of the trouble, will be to deprive the importing country concerned of its voting power or expel it from the agreement. But what good would that do? Any importing country would be able to import as much wheat as it needed from countries not included in the agreement, because there is more wheat in “ free “ countries than there is in tb, countries that are covered by the agreement. I base that statement on the figures used by the Minister, and I am prepared to accept their accuracy Russia wants importing countries to buy their wheat from exporting countries that are not parties to the agreement. We hear a great deal of talk about the danger of Russia flooding the world’s markets with wheat. I point out that Russia has taken such action only when prices have been low or when there has been chaos in the wheat markets. The very nature of the government of that country prescribes that it must add chaos to chaos and I am sure that, while any agreement exists, the danger of heavy selling by Russia will be ever-present. Should Russia pour great quantities of wheat into the world’s markets in times of bountiful harvests, I am sure that the international agreement would not last for long. Russia desired an export quota of 100,000,000 bushels if it came into the agreement. Furthermore, China, which is being over-run by the ‘Reds” Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, which demanded compensation from Great Britain because it used Egyptian territory so that it could protect Egypt and the Egyptians, El Salvador, Guatemala, Ireland, which remained neutral during the recent war, Israel, Bolivia, and Mexico have very little standing amongst the nations.
– Have they not?
– They have not. [f the Minister studies history he must know that those countries have denounced agreement after agreement, and I am certain that, if they are pushed outside the agreement through any default they will not have to go far in order to obtain, all their requirements of wheat. That is what Russia particularly wants to happen in connexion with the international agreement, and that is one reason why members of the Australian Country party consider that they should have the right to criticize the agreement. It contains no provision for sanctions against offending member nations. What is the good of making an agreement that contains no penalty clauses to which the contracting parties must subscribe? The wheatgrowers are seriously concerned because Argentina is not included in the agreement. We have heard a great deal about the movements of Argentina’s surplus commodities recently, yet that nation is kept outside the agreement. One of the main reasons for its non-acceptance was the fact that it could not obtain any agreement upon reciprocity from the im porting countries. That is a serious fact to which the growers must give earnest consideration. Did this Government make any demand upon India, for instance, for the pegging of the price of jute? None at all. At least we have never been informed of such a demand. The price of jute is rising all the time. If it is good enough for a country that wants to import considerable quantities of wheat to have the price of the commodity pegged, it is fair and reasonable that we should ask for reciprocity in pegged prices of goods that we buy from it, but, so far as we have been told, neither the Minister nor his representative took steps to ensure that reciprocity. In his second-reading speech, the Minister said -
A very important question is “ Will the world trade in wheat continue during the next four years at the present volume?” The evidence suggests that it will not. The pre-war net annual demand was around 550,000,000 bushels. It is true that since then the import requirements of certain countries have risen. In some coses - India is an example - the increase has been considerable. Other importing countries may be prepared to reduce production and increase foreign purchases when prices fall from the present high level. However, taking an overall view, it does not seem likely that the world import demand will remain permanently at the current very high figure, although an immediate contraction is not expected.
The Minister knows as well as does every one else who knows anything about the industry that, before 1930, 550,000,000 bushels of wheat was being imported annually by the wheat-importing countries. No cognizance has been taken of the increased population of those countries. The Minister, in one instance, suggested that the markets for wheat would not maintain themselves and, in another said that he could not foresee an immediate contraction. Nor can any one else foresee an immediate contraction. Sir John Boyd-Orr, on his retirement from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, told people how stupid they were not to exploit to the full the rural areas for the production of food, of which cereal is one of the most important items, because he visualized that, within a limited period, with the population of the world increasing at the rate of .75 per cent, per annum, which is a conservative estimate of the rate of increase, they would find themselves short of food. Yet the Minister endeavours to create a panic in the minds of the wheat-growers by saying that their markets will decrease very soon, or, in other words, that the evidence that he has does not show that there will be no contraction.
I turn to the International Wheat Agreement itself. Paragraph 1 of Article IV. provides -
The Council shall keep records for each crop-year of those transactions and parts of transactions in wheat which are part of the guaranteed quantities in Annexes A and B to Article III.
Whether those reports will be made available to any one is not mentioned. I ask the Minister to ascertain whether those records will be made available to the Australian Wheat Growers Federation which represents and is the mouthpiece of the wheat-growers. Paragraph 6 of Article XVII. provides -
The Council shall, each crop year publish an audited statement of its receipts and expenditure in the previous crop year.
I ask the Minister to ensure that the federation shall be supplied with copies of that report. Paragraph 2 of Article XIII. provides -
Each exporting country and each importing country shall be a voting member of the Council and may be represented at its meetings by one delegate, one alternate and advisers.
The federation has asked the Minister to allow it to be represented by one adviser, but I understand that the Minister has not yet signified his willingness to allow that. If he has decided against it I ask that he reconsider the matter. The wheat to be disposed of under the International Wheat Agreement is owned by the wheat-growers. It will be taken from them by the Government and handed to other people to dispose of. But, it is the wheat-growers’ wheat. They have sown the crops and reaped the harvests in pursuance of their livelihood. Their products should not be taken from them and dealt with arbitrarily by the Government without their having a say. They are entitled to be represented on the council by an adviser appointed by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. I have received from the federation a letter
Mr. Hamilton. conveying to me a resolution carried by it at a conference in the following terms : -
This Conference records its strong disapproval of the Federal Government action in refusing to allow the A.W.F. to be represented on the International Wheat Council as an Adviser.
We believe that other exporters will have their advisers on the Council, which will mean that Australian wheat-growers will be without a voice.
We must bear in mind that during the negotiations leading up to the agreement, the Canadian wheat-growers had their representatives present. When the agreement has been ratified and accepted by the signatory countries, it will remain unchanged, except, perhaps, for minor amendments that may become necessary from time to time. Amendments, of course, would have to be ratified by the various signatory countries. So the council will carry out the terms of the agreement, and it is natural that the Australian Wheat Growers Federation should have a representative at the meetings of the council in order to tender advice. What better representative could the Australian wheat-growers have than one selected by their own federation or a representative of the Australian Wheat Board, which this Government, under other legislation, has entrusted with the handling of the wheat, up to a certain point, without ministerial direction? I support the principle of the International Wheat Agreement and deplore statements by some honorable members opposite that honorable members on this side of the chamber, in criticizing the agreement, have shown themselves to be opposed to an international wheat agreement. We have come to a sad state of affairs if the Australian Parliament is to be deprived of its right to criticize an agreement that has been made on its behalf by the Government.
– in reply - The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), in debating the second reading of the International Wheat Agreement Bill announced that he spoke for both Opposition parties and that they supported the principle of an international wheat agreement. He reminded us that these parties, when governments, were the first Australian political parties to attempt to achieve an international wheat agreement, in 1933. Not a word, of course, of their failure to achieve success ! Attempts are creditable, but successes are admirable and reside with the Labour Government. The Opposition parties, when governments, had from 1917 to 1941 to stabilize the wheat industry, on both the home and the international front, and on both they failed miserably. After an affirmation of support of the principle of an international wheat agreement, the honorable member for Indi said that any controversy on the agreement could be only as to whether it was in the public interest or not, or in the interest of the 60,000 wheat-growers and the scores of thousands dependent upon the industry. He informed the House that there were two tests that should be applied to the proposal. I assume that a test of anything is to assess whether it is good, bad or indifferent, and that, after the application of such tests, a rational party, or individual, would either accept or reject ; hut the honorable member announced no decision as to the outcome of his tests. We know, following his form on last year’s International Wheat Agreement Bill, that he and his party lack the courage to try to reject the bill. The first test so flamboyantly applied was whether the agreement was drawn in terms of legal enforcement. The honorable member answered that test himself by saying that it was not capable of being enforced. With that viewpoint I am in complete agreement, for this agreement can work successfully only by the exercise of good faith and international honesty. In this spirit the agreement will be accepted by the ratifying nations. To believe otherwise is to reject the whole concept of international co-operation. The honorable member was well aware of this when he boasted that the Opposition parties when in office attempted to achieve an agreement. These attempted agreements were no more capable of being enforced in the legal sense than is this particular agreement. It seems shameful that on a measure of this kind the leader of the debate on behalf of the Opposition should be the first to throw doubts upon the honesty of other nations which are parties to the agreement, and all the more astonishing in view of the fact that he went on to say that he had no doubt that whatever party governed this country during the next four years, the spirit of our obligations, and therefore the physical implication of the agreement, would be honoured. The honorable member for Indi considers that our honour in the field of international agreements is beyond doubt, yet others suspect us. .Surely that is a strange and warped viewpoint !
– I said that our obligations were easily workable, whereas others were not.
– The honorable member should not quibble.
– The Minister is quoting words out of their context.
– Although Opposition parties knew of the absence of socalled enforcement measures did they suggest any way or method of solving this problem? No; they adopted a purely negative attitude.
– Is the Minister reading his reply?
– I am speaking from copious notes. They are as extensive as the notes that the honorable member for Indi read so excellently during his contribution to the debate. The Opposition knew of the absence of enforcement measures in last year’s agreement. It also knew of the absence of enforcement, in the legal sense, in this year’s agreement, because the second-reading debate on the bill took place some weeks ago. Yet it did not suggest a method of overcoming the trouble. The absence of enforcement provisions did not deter the Lyons Government from introducing and ratifying the 1933 International Wheat Agreement. In any case what practical enforcement measures could be imposed? Is it suggested that the Australian Government either individually, or in cooperation with other parties to the agreement, could take military, naval or aerial action against a defaulting nation? Is it contended that if a defaulting nation had assets in Australia, those assets should be frozen as a means of enforcing compliance with the terms of the agreement, or that economic sanctions of any kind could be imposed? If these suggestions were practicable, it is quite obvious that there could have been no agreement. This agreement, like many others, whether they be individual, national or international, depends upon the good faith of the participating countries, all of which regard as important the respect in which they are held by other nations. If the Australian Government ratifies this agreement, following a debate in this Parliament, it will honour its undertaking, and will expect other contracting parties to do likewise. The second test that was applied by the honorable member was whether the agreement is in the interests of the wheatgrowers. The honorable member evaded the answer to his question by asking whether the wheat-grower would get more or less without the agreement. He answered that second question by saying that the wheat-grower is to get less forthwith. Of course that is an answer based on the assumption that the price of wheat will be greater than the International “Wheat Agreement agreed price in the world’s markets on the 1st August, and that India will not have lifted its quota of 32,750,000 bushels before the 1st August. The honorable member also asked whether the acceptance of a lower price would offset the risks of perhaps a serious decrease of prices in the later years of the agreement. In this instance there was no answer by the honorable member. He “ passed the buck “ to the wheat-growers by saying that he would leave the answer to them. What do the wheat-growers say? Unlike the honorable member for Indi, I will answer that question, and not leave it to somebody else to do. On the 10th March, 1949, Mr. McCarthy, our delegate at the conference, advised that all importers except Australia were agreed about the maximum price of 1 dollar SO cents. On the following day I telephoned Mr. Stott, secretary of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, and asked him to meet me in Melbourne to confer about the International Wheat Agreement. On Monday, the 14th March, I conferred with Messrs. Stott and Evans, secretary and president respectively of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. I read to them the contents of cables that had been received from Mr. McCarthy, informing us that the United States and the United Kingdom were prepared to accept 1 dollar
SO cents as the maximum price under the agreement. I also read to them cable? from the Australian Government to Mr. McCarthy in Washington, informing him that in no circumstances would Australia accept a maximum of less than 2 dollars, and that he was te endeavour to hold the conference, which was on the point of breaking up, until we had consulted the executive of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. The cable from the Australian Government to Mr. McCarthy on the 15th March reads -
Question of Government’s attitude to nev proposal namely four year agreement with ceiling of one dollar SO cents and floor one dollar 20 cents was submitted to Cabinet to-day. It was decided that you adhere to present instructions pending consideration of the proposal at meeting of the Executive of the Wheat Growers Federation which will probably take place on Thursday 17th instant 1 add that the instructions to Mr McCarthy regarding the 2 dollar maxi mum were the same as those issued when he left Australia for Washington I suggested to the president and the secretary of the federation that they call their full executive together and convey to me. if they saw fit, their views whether we should accept 1 dollar 80 cents as a maximum or the obvious alternative of no agreement at all, or face the possibility of an international agreement between America, Canada and Russia. The federation called a meeting of its executive. There was a full attendance of delegates from all States, including the Wheat Growers Union of New South Wales, but the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, also an affiliated body, although it was invited, failed to send a representative to that meeting. On Friday, the 18th .March. I received the following telegram from the secretary of the federation: -
After considering a full report of the General Secretary on the International Wheat Agreement and the information supplied this conference has cause to believe that an Inter national Wheat Agreement may be arranged by the other exporting nations: -
That in any agreement so arranged between Canada, United States of America and Russia, Australis could not afford to remain outside as India and other nearby markets would be partially lost by Australia to the other exporting signatories.
That we are seriously perturbed at the attitude of United Kingdom in forcing down world prices of wheat to a ceiling limit of one dollar 80. The Australian Wheat Federation to cable the protest to the representatives of United Kingdom at Washington on this point.
That there appears to be no alternative but to remain in an agreement.
The Australian Wheat Growers Federation holds the opinion that a reasonable ceiling would be two dollars. However, we point out that we are forced to accept a ceiling of one dollar 80. We do so on condition that the greater proportion of the nearby markets to Australia are preserved to Australia under the quota.
The Australian Wheat Federation demand that it be kept in touch with every phase of the proposed International Wheat Agreement and further we demand a representative of the Association be sent to Washington forthwith and the Commonwealth Government be requested to pay his expenses.
That should answer all the talk by honorable members of the Opposition about the Australian Wheat Growers Federation offering to pay the expenses of its own delegate. I have no recollection of any proposition of that kind having been made. In any event, it would not have affected the Government’s view on that point. The telegram continued -
Honorable members will notice that the words “ under protest “ about which the honorable member for Indi had much to say, do not appear in this telegram conveying the views of the federation.
In addition to consulting the federation’s executive, the Government went further. As on the previous occasion it met the full executive of the federation at Parliament House on Monday the 23rd May. At that conference the federation had an opportunity to advise against ratification. On the contrary, it recommended acceptance of the agreement, although it is true that a small group representing the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales indicated their dissent. At the close of that conference, the president of the federa tion, Mr. Nicholls, of South Australia, said -
The proposal for an international wheat agreement was beyond question the most important matter discussed, and as far as I can sum up the situation it could protect our Treasury against a disastrous fall in wheat. It can underwrite our stabilization scheme and therefore we wish it and the stabilization plan the greatest of success. It naturally is experimental, but a start has to be made here. May it come to fruition and may both prove to be to the benefit of the wheat-grower, which we anticipate they will be.
It is quite clear, therefore, that the wheatgrowers’ representatives were amply consulted, and that they took their courage in their hands and in no uncertain manner expressed their consent. Nothing like the same degree of courage was shown by the honorable member for Indi. He did not have the courage to vote against the 1948 agreement, and he will not have the courage to vote against this agreement. It is quite true the Australian Wheat Board was not consulted. The Wheat Growers Federation was considered to be a more representative body.
The rejection of the request of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation for representation at the conference has been raised. The Government considered that no good purpose could be served by any adviser from the federation being at Washington, because no individual adviser at Washington would be in a position to interpret correctly the point of view of Australia’s 60,000 wheatgrowers. The conference, so far as voting delegates were concerned, was on a strictly government-to-government basis, and the Government must accept full responsibility for decisions made in the sphere of international agreements. It is worthy of note that when the Opposition parties were in office the Australian Wheat Growers Federation delegates were not invited to attend international conferences.
The honorable member for Indi also asserted that the ratification of last year’s agreement would have the legal effect of varying contracts already made for the sale of huge quantities of wheat with the result of reducing, arbitrarily, the return to wheat-growers by from £12,000,000 to £13,000,000. He also said that this agreement involves a further loss to wheat-growers by a similar varia-tion of contracts already made. No sum of that magnitude was involved under the last International “Wheat Agreement, and no such sum will be involved in the ratification of this agreement. The best answer to loose talk of that kind is furnished by the reference to international wheat agreements in the report of of the Royal Commission on Wheat Marketing and Stabilization, Western Australia, in May, 1947. Mr. J. S. Teasdale was chairman of that commission. Referring to the prospects of an international wheat agreement, the members of that’ body over the signature of Mr. J. S. Teasdale said in paragraph 24 of their report -
We do affirm our belief that the avoidance of booms and slumps, which characterize wheat markets would be of great benefit to producers.
That, of course, implies a possibility under any stabilization scheme, local or international, of lower prices at some periods with the compensating advantage of steady prices overall. The commissioners further stated in paragraph 64 of their report -
At the outset your Commissioners wish to make the assertion that neither they nor any one else can speak dogmatically about future wheat prices. There are uncertainties of today which become factors in the determination of wheat prices to-morrow, but which are unpredictable at the moment. ‘Wheat prophets are no more dependable that weather prophets.
I reiterate that despite these risks of at times losing something, the federation when assembled at Canberra prior to the ratification of the 1948 agreement, and after a full explanation of its terms, did not furnish advice to the Government or to the Opposition as to the attitude the Parliament should adopt towards the agreement. On this occasion, notwithstanding the extravagant losses prophesied by the honorable member for Indi and his colleague, Mr. Teasdale, the federation indicated acceptance. It is interesting to note that I have received very few letters of protest from wheatgrowers opposing ratification of this agreement; and of all primary producers, wheat-growers probably are the most conscious of their long-term welfare. Yet, the honorable member for Indi went so far as to say that on the ground alone of inability to enforce the agreement as drafted, it stands condemned. Brave fellow! I now challenge him and the Opposition generally to call for a vote against the agreement.
I come now to the reference made by the honorable member for Indi to Canada’s position under the agreement insofar as Canada’s current four-year contract with the .United Kingdom Government ending 1949-50 is not affected by the International Wheat Agreement. The facts are that for the first two years the price was one dollar 55 cents a bushel and it was agreed that in December, 1947 the price for 1947-48 should be negotiated, and in December, 1948, that the price for 1949-50 should also be negotiated. It waa further agreed that in fixing the prices for these two years regard should be had to prevailing world prices over the course of the agreement. The price for 1947-48 was 2 dollars a bushel and in December last it was agreed that 2 dollars a bushel should also be the price for 1949-50, with the condition that if an international agreement were entered into the price of 2 dollars a bushel should be continued until the close of the four-year agreement, even if the international agreement pries were Jess; and, if there were no international agreement, that the 2-dollar price be reviewed with the object of a higher price being fixed.
These circumstances are in no way comparable with those of Australia. Australian sales to the United Kingdom were on a year-to-year basis and the prices were based on prevailing world prices. Canada made a four-year contract. I require to make one clear cut comparison only. Last year Australia sold its wheat to the United Kingdom at 17s. a bushel whilst Canada sold at 12s. 5d. a bushel. Australia’s negotiations for the sale of the 60.000,000 bushels to the United Kingdom this year were undoubtedly influenced by two factors - the falling market and the possibility of a reduction of price under the international agreement. The world price in December last averaged 15s. a bushel. To-day it is 12s. 2d. a bushel, Canada.
The Australia-United Kingdom Agreement for 60,000,000 bushels from this year’s crop was concluded after the terms of the international agreement were known and Australia, if the United Kingdom had been willing, could have bargained itself out of an association of the contract with the terms of the International Wheat Agreement. That of course, could have meant a refusal on the part of the United. Kingdom Government to agree to the Australian Wheat Board’s proposition of 13s. 8d. a bushel to endofMarch delivery 1949, and 12s. 10£d. a bushel for deliveries to end of July, with subsequent negotiations to be entered into in respect of deliveries as from the 1st August. It is noticeable that the board, when it made its counter offer with the approval of the Australian Government on the 7th April, 1949, made no suggestion or recommendation for the exclusion of the United Kingdom contract from the terms of the International Wheat Agreement. The board apparently was conscious of the counter-bargaining which could follow. As a matter of fact it is still quite open for the board and the Government, when negotiating the final terms for the delivery of wheat after the 1st August, to provide for some of the 60,000,000 bushels to be inside the agreement and some outside. That is a matter for mutual agreement.
Let us turn now to the question of ministerial interference and ministerial authority, of which so much play was made in this Parliament on the occasion of the debate on the last International Wheat Agreement, and also when the honorable member for Indi spoke in this debate last week, and seized upon the opportunity to magnify and distort the facts regarding ministerial powers in relation to the operations of the Australian Wheat Board.
The facts are that at its meeting held on the 28th December, 1948, the board gave consideration to the request of the United Kingdom Government to the Australian Government for large supplies of wheat. On the 30th December the board informed the Australian Government that it recommended a figure of 14s. a bushel for supplies to the United Kingdom Government. After full consideration of this recommendation, and taking into consideration the falling market and the magnitude of the quantities involved, the Australian Government informed the United Kingdom Government by cable on the 30th December that supplies would be forthcoming at 13s. 8d. a bushel. On the 28th January, the Government cabled the United Kingdom Government and requested a decision.
– Deliveries were still being made then.
– Would the honorable gentleman have held up deliveries to the United Kingdom simply because the price factor had not yet been determined and was the subject of negotiations that were still continuing between the Australian Government and the United Kingdom Government ? Honorable gentlemen opposite hypocritically talk about this matter. I point the finger at the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) who talks about aid to Britain and about producing more food for Britain, but would not ship wheat to that country in the absence of an agreement on prices. I have demonstrated the. facts, which are that on the 28th January the Government cabled the United Kingdom Government and requested a decision. We were still at that time delivering wheat, although the price to be paid had not been determined. On the 2nd February, the United Kingdom cabled a counter offer of lis. lid. a bushel. As the Australian Wheat Board did not meet again until the 10th February, that counter offer could not be considered by it until then. But an officer of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture attended the board’s meeting on the 10th February and all cables that had passed between the two Governments were made available. The board, after full consideration, approved a price of 13s. 8d. a bushel to the United Kingdom. From that date onward cables continued to pass between the two parties to the negotiations, until on the 31st March, 1949, I conveyed to the board a further United Kingdom offer of 13s. 8d. a bushel for supplies to the end of March and 12s. 9£d. for April-to-July supplies, with prices to be negotiated for later deliveries.
On the 7th April the board met, four grower members being absent. The United Kingdom’s counter offer was considered and the hoard resolved to offer wheat at 13s. 8d. a bushel to the end of March, 128. l01/2d. to the end of July, the price from the 1st August to be decided in June. On the 8th April the Prime Minister cabled this offer to the United Kingdom Government and on the 24th April the United Kingdom Government accepted it. It will be seen from those facts that all the nonsense that has been talked about undue ministerial interference with the board cannot be sustained, and that the prices finally resolved on tallied with the board’s own recommendations. It would be relevant here, perhaps, that I retrace my steps and make startling disclosures regarding the financial outcome of the United Kingdom 1947-48 wheat contract, about which the honorable member for Indi last year raised a simliar hullabaloo regarding ministerial interference.
– He seems to be on the Minister’s mind.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) is only a secondary consideration compared with the honorable member for Indi. The figures that I am about to give the House indicate that ministerial interference has some value, and in regard to the 1947-48 contract with the United Kingdom, such intervention saved the Australian wheat-growers from £6,500,000 to £7,250,000 compared with the returns that would have been received had the then Australian “Wheat Board’s recommendation in connexion with the contract been insisted upon and approved by the Australian Government. Here are the facts-
Mr. McEwen interjecting,
– Order !
– The facts that I am about to relate will be very unpalatable to honorable members opposite. No interruption or display of spleen will deter me from furnishing the House and the country with this very startling revelation.
Mr. Holt interjecting ,
– Order !
– These facts are of some importance and I crave the decency of the Opposition so that I may be able to give them without interruption, and so that honorable members opposite may be able, at their own time, and the honorable member for Indi, after going into a huddle with Mr. Teasdale, to reply to the statement that I am. . about to make. The facts are that on the 30th October, 1947, the general manager of the Australian Wheat Board informed me that certain decisions had been made by the board. Those decisions were -
Wheat Price. - The board raised its price to 19s. 6d. per bushel bulk basis f.o.b. as from 24th October, 1947. This was for the purpose of keeping in line with Canadian and United States prices.
Export Commitments. - We have reserved 75,000,000 bushels (wheat and flour combined) for United Kingdom and other areas supplied by the United Kingdom Ministry of Food This is in conformity with the Government’s decision.
In accordance with the board’s policy,we propose to make contracts in advance for each quarter’s shipments.
For the first quarter, we have offered to the Ministry of Food the following: -
Offered to the United Kingdom Ministry of Food - 250,000 tons of wheat (9,500,000 bushels) shipment to United Kingdom, December-February at 17s.6d. per bushel bulk basis f.o.b. 200,000 tons of flour (10,500,000 bushels wheat equivalent) based upon that wheat price if shipped to United Kingdom and upon 18s.6d. if shipped elsewhere.
Note. - Our general price war 18s.6d. per bushel when the offer was made, and as you know, we allow a discount of1s. per bushel for shipments to United Kingdom to cover freight margins. 35,000 tons of wheat (1,250,000 bushels) to Eire, shipment December-February on the basis of 18s. 6d. per bushel bulk.
That was in fact, the actual offer made by the board to the Government of the United Kingdom in October, 1947. I emphasize that the board announced at that time that its policy concerning the fixing of prices was determined in accordance with Canadian and United States prices. The offer which it made to the United Kingdom Government was based on quarterly deliveries of certain quantities, and, in accordance with its general policy, a discount of1s. a bushel was to be allowed to the United Kingdom to cover so-called freight margins. The board’s note to me stated that the price of 19s. 6d. a bushel had been fixed because the board wanted to aline the price for Australian wheat with that charged by Canada and the United States of America. The Canadian price for commercial export, No. 1 northern grade wheat, for the week ended the 25th October, 1947, averaged 333£ cents a bushel, which was the equivalent of 20s. 8£d. in Australian currency. The board’s price f.o.b. Australia based on the Canadian price was 19s. 6d. a bushel at the end of October. Those figures form a commencing point from which to assess the loss or gain which would have resulted from the board’s decision to sell to the United Kingdom the entire 1947-48 wheat harvest, of approximately 80,000,000 bushels, at 17s. a bushel f.o.b. I have previously quoted correspondence to show that the board’s policy was to fix a price in advance to the United Kingdom each quarter until the entire crop was delivered. I have also quoted from the minutes of the board to show that it decided to allow the United Kingdom a discount of ls. a bushel on wheat shipped direct to that country. Over 50,000,000 bushels were sent direct to the United Kingdom, which represented a discount of approximately 8d. a bushel for the entire crop. If Canadian prices at the commencement of the several quarters during the period of delivery of the 1947-48 crop are converted to Australian currency on the basis set out in the board’s note of the 30th October, 1947, and allowance is made for the board’s policy of granting a discount to the United Kingdom, it will be realized that the Government’s intervention resulted in a substantial gain, instead of a loss, from the sale of the full quantity at the firm figure of 17s. a bushel. The board’s actual prices for export, calculated on its own basis, would have been 19s. 6d. a bushel for the first quarter, 15s. 5d. for the second quarter, 15s. 4id. for the third quarter, and 13s. 9 1/2 d. a bushel for the fourth quarter. Prom the proceeds the discount, which amounted to an average of 8d. a bushel, would have had to be deducted. Acceptance of the board’s price would have resulted in a higher return being received for the wheat shipped during the first quarter and a lower return for shipments made during the succeeding quarters, than that fixed by the Government. So that the figures may be recorded for purposes of subsequent comparison I have prepared a table showing Canadian prices and their Australian equivalents during the period October, 1947, to November, 1948, which is as follows : -
I emphasize that had the board’s offer to supply 20,000,000 bushels for the first quarter been accepted the contract into which the board desired to enter would have been based on the Canadian price which was ruling at that time, less ls. a bushel for freight concession. Of course, no such contract was entered into. The United Kingdom Government stated that it did not want a quarterly contract and it appealed to the Australian Government to intervene in the negotiations. The Government then took the matter out of the hands of the wheat board, and thereby saved the wheat-growers of this country a sum estimated at from £6,000,000 to £7,000,000. Had a contract been made on the basis of the board’s original proposition, which would have entailed the sale of 20,000,000 bushels each quarter, the wheat-growers would have gained ls. lOd. a bushel for the first quarter over the price that was actually fixed by the Government, which would have resulted in a gain of £1,830,000. However, in the second quarter they would have lost 2s. 2d. a bushel, or a total amount of £2,250,000. In the third quarter the wheat-growers would have lost 2s. 34d. a bushel, which would have amounted to £2,290,000; and in the fourth quarter the loss would have been 3s. 10 1/2 d. a bushel, and would have amounted to £3,875,000. However, the agreement made by the Government with the United Kingdom made a profit for the growers of about £6,500,000, not a loss as alleged by the honorable member for Indi. Indeed, that calculation is rather generous to our opponents, as it is very doubtful whether the board could have sold 20,000,000 bushels each quarter. As is well known there was transport trouble at the time, and the rate of delivery for the first half year fell 10,000,000 bushels short of the estimated rate of delivery. In December, 1948, at the end of the season, 12,000,000 bushels still remained undelivered. The world price for wheat declined by ls. 4d. a bushel on the price for the March quarter, which was 4s. 3d. a bushel less than the price quoted by the hoard at the opening of the season. In other words, the Government, by disregarding the recommendation of the wheat board, for which it has been denounced by the Opposition, saved the Australian wheat-growers probably £7,250,000, or £750,000 more than indicated in the conservative estimate which I mentioned a few moments ago. The figures given by the board at the time it made its proposition assumed that it would be able to ship 20,000,000 bushels each quarter. I again point out, however, that transport and shipping difficulties prevented the board from shipping that quantity. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
- by leave - I am glad to have an opportunity of dealing with international affairs, especially in relation to the work of the United Nations, with particular reference to the completion of the work of the recent General Assembly. The two things cannot be separated - the international situation generally, and the work of the United Nations in all its branches, consisting, as the House knows, not only of the General Assembly of 59 nations, but also of the Security Council with a membership of eleven, including the five permanent members; a Trusteeship Council, consisting equally of those nations holding trust territories and those nations which do not hold trust territory; and last, but by no means least, of the Economic and Social Council, of eighteen members. Of those four bodies, Australia is at present a member of three, and was earlier a member of the Security Council. What I have done to assist in the consideration of this matter by the House is to prepare a very full and elaborate report of the work of the Assembly, annexing to it all the relevant resolutions adopted in the Assembly, together with other relevant matters. I shall finish my speech to-night by moving that the paper be printed so that all these matters can come up for discussion in the ordinary way, and I shall make available to each honorable member a copy of the report fully documented.
The outstanding fact in the world situation as it exists to-day is that the tension which was very acute at the beginning of the General Assembly in September of last year, and which, indeed, became aggravated during the course of the Assembly, has eased considerably. That is evident to all who study the international situation, even in the most cursory way. But for a considerable portion of the session held at Paris, that tension was not only maintained, but also accentuated, by the Berlin situation, many persons being most pessimistic about the outcome of the situation, and believing that it would lead to hostilities. Curiously enough, as I endeavoured to explain to honorable members when I reported to this House at the end of the Paris session, the United Nations was blamed by some critics, who held themselves out as critics, at any rate, for the situation in Berlin, solely because that situation was brought to the attention of the Security Council by the Western Powers, there being acute disagreement between the Western Powers and Russia. After consideration of the matter, the Security Council being unable to reach agreement on the Berlin situation, and the dispute - because it was a dispute, with three great powers on one side and one power on the other - remaining unsettled, the critics, looking at the superficial situation, were inclined to blame the United Nations for what was a Great Power disagreement begun outside the United Nations, continued outside the United Nations, and only reaching the United Nations as a last desperate resort in order to avoid a still more serious situation. The Berlin dispute is a good example in many respects of the kind of superficial analysis made of the United Nations. The United Nations is certainly the one world organization with authority to deal with questions of international peace and justice on a world basis, but the superficial observer tends to say : “ The situation in this part of the world is troublesome. The United Nations should be able to prevent that “. What is almost always forgotten, and always forgotten by the type of critic I have mentioned, is that the United Nations organization was never established in order to make peace at the end of World War II. It was always contemplated, and the charter makes this evident, that the Great Powers would make peace independently of the United Nations, and that the United Nations organization, especially the Security Council, would maintain peace.
That has not been done, and all the tensions, all the difficulties, of the last few years have been due, in the main, to this outstanding fact of great power disagreement, which has become so difficult in the last twelve months that every dispute, every situation, has been affected by it. To-day, it is right to say, I think, that the position, is greatly changed, because at Paris the representatives of the four Powers have reached such a stage, in their discussions at any rate, that a very important area of great power agreement is at least highly probable .in relation to the Austrian peace treaty and the German situation, with particular reference to Berlin. Undoubtedly, the United Nations has, both through the General Assembly, and through the Security Council, played an important part in the re-opening of .these questions as between the great powers. The difficulty in September, October and November of last year was due to the fact that the great powers were not meeting to consider the question further. The gulf between them was considered to be unbridgable. The Berlin position was intolerable. A blockade of Berlin was imposed by Russia, contrary to the purpose of the Potsdam Agreement, and there the situation rested, hanging like a cloud over all the deliberations of the Assembly. Although the Security Council could not, in the absence of four-power agreement, because each of the four powers has the right of veto on every question of substance, solve the difficulty, the United Nations brought the dispute into the open, and points of view were put forward openly. There was strong criticism of the points put forward. The matter was brought to public attention, and the area of agreement was ascertained. Not only that, but the General Assembly itself intervened, and through a resolution sponsored by Mexico, and adopted unanimously by 58 nations, the great powers were requested to proceed with the major task of preparing the peace treaties, because it was thought that on that basis, the work and progress of the United Nations would depend, and they agreed to do so. Therefore, even if, as I gather from the latest messages I have received, the present procedings among the four great powers at Paris, require confirmation or clarification in one or two respects, there is no concealing the fact that the vital business of peace settlement delayed for so long is now being resumed. That is good news for the peace of the world. It is good for the United Nations. The United Nations has helped to bring about that result, but the greater part has been Drought about by the four Powers themselves. I ask honorable members to consider the report to which I have referred as supplementary to the earlier report that is already before the House. At Paris, very important decisions were made on certain matters, especially in relation to the social and economic side of the organization. For instance, there is the very important convention against the crime of genocide, which is the systematic extermination of people on the ground of race or religion. A bill (providing for the adoption by Australia of that convention will be considered during the present sessional period, and, in fact, is already on the table of the House. Then there was the important Declaration of Human Rights. During the recent meeting of the Assembly at New York, a further step of importance in the same area of the work of the United Nations was taken in connexion with the Draft Convention for the International Transmission of News. The full text of the convention is in the written report, but I can sum it up by saying that it aims at safeguarding the right of foreign correspondents engaged in the gathering and the international transmission of news from a country. A signatory to that convention must undertake to permit all news despatches by correspondents of other contracting States to enter its territory and reach news agencies on a non-discriminatory basis. A qualified international right of correction is given to a contracting State under which a State adversely affected by a report may submit its version of the facts to the government of the country in which publication has taken place, whereupon that government releases the correction to the agencies and correspondents through the customary channel.
– “Will the sending out of the original news be permitted?
– Yes. Compulsory publication of corrections is not required by the convention, because it is assumed that information agencies will follow the ordinary professional practice and accept the duty of correcting misstatements of fact. In regard to that matter, the Australian delegation was assisted by a very distinguished editor, Mr. Campbell, of the Melbourne Aye, who played a prominent part in the preparation of this convention. The delegate, and the Australian Government would like to acknowledge publicly the service that Mr. Campbell performed. I shall not refer again to this matter in detail because it is fully covered in the written document. Other important matters raised at the New York Assembly are also referred to in detail in the report. They include the question of voting in the Security Council. That is the old question of the veto - the right of each of the five permanent members, namely the United Kingdom, Russia, the United States of America, France and China to veto any decision, except on matters relating purely to procedure, which, of course, rarely cause dispute in any case. For all practical purposes, each of the five permanent members possesses an individual right of veto. That matter was dealt with by the General Assembly, and recommendations were adopted very much on the lines of the proposals originally put forward at the San Francisco conference by a number of nations, including Australia. The proposals were not acceptable at San Francisco, and, looking back on the reports of the debates in this House that followed the San Francisco conference, I find that quite a number of speakers expressed the view that it would be useless to attempt any modification of the veto. However, world opinion has hardened on that point, and the General Assembly at New York suggested for the first time that a number of matters that were regarded as being subject to the veto should no longer bc so subject. That, I believe, is an important step forward. Another matter that was discussed was the alleged breach of fundamental human rights in Hungary and Bulgaria in the treatment of certain church leaders by the governments of those countries. Honorable members will recall that, in Hungary, Cardinal Mindszenty of the Roman Catholic Church and a bishop of the Lutheran Church were imprisoned, and in Bulgaria, fifteen Protestant pastors were brought to trial. That matter was put on the agenda of the Assembly, not because those individual cases would normally be of international concern, but because it was felt strongly that, in the guise of administering criminal law, actually what was being attempted in those States was interference with fundamental freedoms - in this instance freedom of religious worship. That matter was dealt with in the manner indicated in the printed report, a manner which, I consider, calls attention most strongly to the need for the closest investigation in the interests of the protection of the fundamental rights of all.
The Indonesian problem, too, was discussed at the General Assembly. That matter is not unfamiliar to the House. The Assembly supported the motion of the Security Council which had initiated a conciliation group in connexion with Indonesia, to try to settle finally the differences between the Republic of Indonesia and the Netherlands Government. The action of Australia and India in advocating conciliation in that dispute won the approval of an enormous majority of members of the General Assembly. Australia and India were publicly thanked by the representatives of other British Commonwealth Governments, including the Government of tha
United Kingdom itself. The treatment of Indians in South Africa, also came up for discussion in a form which is detailed in the written report. One aspect of the relationship between Greece and its three northern neighbours, Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, was dealt with, again, from the point of view of conciliation. Another question considered was the admission of a fifty-ninth member, the new State of Israel. The proposal for the admission of Israel was adopted. Spain was dealt with in the manner indicated in the printed report; and finally, the whole question of the Italian colonies was discussed. The manner in which this problem came before the Assembly is rather remarkable. At the peace conference in relation to Italy held in 1946, it was agreed that if the Great Powers could not agree upon a final settlement in relation to the Italian colonies, that function would be performed by the General Assembly of the United Nations. In the period of dissension to which I have already referred, no agreement was reached between the four Great Powers concerned, and the matter was listed for consideration by the General Assembly. Although no final settlement was reached, the manner in which the problem was considered, gave promise that a solution would be found at the next meeting of the Assembly. The great question upon which the Assembly was divided was the precise nature of the settlement over Tripolitania. The broad method of dealing with the problem of the Italian colonies as proposed to the Plenary Assembly, was that, in relation to Cyrenaica, Great Britain should be the trustee of that territory for the people for a period of ten years, after which self-government should be granted. France was to play a like role in relation to Fezzan. In regard to Tripolitania, the proposal was that Italy alone should be the trustee for a period of ten years. Eritrea was to be incorporated in Ethiopia and Italy was to be the trustee for Italian Somaliland. The settlement as proposed was rejected by only one vote in the General Assembly, largely because of the feeling of the minority - a sufficient minority - that the delay in granting self- government in connexion with Tripolitania was too long. I have very little doubt that there will be a modification of the proposal that was rejected by so narrow a margin and that when the General Assembly reconsiders the matter, as it is bound to do at its next meeting, it will reach a satisfactory settlement in connexion with the Italian colonies, based upon the principles of the Charter, those principles being the encouragement of self-government in all cases where peoples are fit for self-government and not merely in accordance with power or strategic considerations. All these matters are dealt with in detail in the written report.
What has happened in connexion with the General Assembly is worthy of some study. It is a very interesting result of Great Power disagreement. One result of Great Power disagreement is to give to the General Assembly a role far more important than that which was visualized when the Charter was drafted at San Francisco. Certainly at San Francisco a number of countries succeeded in broadening the powers and the functions of the General Assembly. All matters of real international concern within the wide scope of the Charter, including all its purposes and principles, the substitution of conciliation for force, the substitution of the principles of justice and law for those of power and expediency, the provision of machinery designed to secure better standards of living throughout the world, and the protection of the peoples of dependent territories, were brought within possible review by the General Assembly. That was a very considerable extension of the draft that was put before the San Francisco Conference at which the Charter was drafted. It is just as well that the powers of the General Assembly were drafted in so broad and comprehensive a form, because Great Power disagreement has imposed special responsibilities upon it. A fact that is often pointed to by way of criticism of the United Nations is that there has been no agreement between the Great Powers in the Security Council in connexion with the placing of military forces at the disposal of the council. Honorable members will recall that the giving of physical force to the Security Council in order to enforce its decisions was supposed to be one of the chief features of the Charter, as indeed it was, but there has been no agreement between the Great Powers in that resp-ct. I am not sure whether that has been a disadvantage. I cannot imagine that an attempt by the Security Council to use force in the difficult situations that have arisen during the last few years would have assisted the United Nations in the carrying out of its general objectives. It is very doubtful whether it would have been possible to get agreement as to the use of force, even if there had been agreement between the Great Powers on other matters.
– What was Australia’s attitude to that question?
– Australia, not being a permanent member of the Security Council, could adopt no attitude to it. It was purely a Great Power agreement, or rather an attempt to secure Great Power agreement on that matter. I am pointing out something that is quite different. The absence of physical force at the disposal of the Security Council has imposed greater responsibilities upon the General Assembly in certain respects. The real difficulty has been the individual veto that is possessed by each permanent member of the Security Council, which has in many instances precluded the possibility of agreement in the council, even in relation to a matter of conciliation as distinct from the possible solution of a dispute which might be enforced by military forces placed at the disposal of the council. The fact is that the continuance of Great Power disagreement has blocked decisions in the Security Council both in relation to the agreement to place physical force at the disposal of the council and in relation to the general problems of disarmament and atomic energy. Therefore, since 1945 the role of the Security Council has never included the use of force, but has been limited to adjudication on disputes in cases where a veto has not been exercised and the function of conciliation in cases where a veto has not been imposed. I emphasize that point. The Security Council is debarred from deciding to conciliate in regard to international disputes or situations if any one of the five permanent members of the council has raised a positive objection to that action by the use of its veto. It cannot conciliate in a dispute or a situation, and still less investigate the facts o’ a dispute for the purpose of adjudicating and giving judgment upon it, except subject to the veto. Yet the Security Council has, under the Charter, primary responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security. In the situation that has developed during- the past three years the only organ of the United Nations that could act in these difficult situations has been the General Assembly. In my judgment, it is very fortunate that the Charter gave to the General Assembly a concurrent jurisdiction in all cases where there is an international dispute or a dispute affecting international peace and where the use of force is not in question, subject only to one qualification that 1 need not mention now. The General Assembly has exercised jurisdiction in matters of peace and security in cases where the use of the veto by a permanent member of the Security Council or a failure to obtain a majority in the council has prevented the council from making a decision. Let us take the case of Greece. That matter originally came before the Security Council, but the proposal to appoint a commission to go to Greece, examine the position at the border and report back to the council was vetoed by Russia. At that point nothing could he done in the United Nations jurisdiction by the Security Council. Accordingly, the General Assembly itself, exercising its concurrent jurisdiction in regard to the matter, decided to do exactly what had been proposed in the Security Council. The United Nations special commission to the Balkans was appointed. I think that the general view of all those who have studied the question fairly ib that that commission has rendered invaluable service in limiting the area of the dispute between Greece and its northern neighbours arid preventing what was certainly occurring at the time when the commission was appointed, that is, the giving of aid to the rebels in Greece, especially by Yugoslavia. A similar position arose in regard to Korea. The General Assembly itself had to act in order to hold the position as far as South Korea was concerned in relation, to North Korea. The Security Council could not act because of the veto that was threatened to be exercised, and the General Assembly acted. That is one type of matter in which General Assembly action has been successful when the Security Council could not act at all. When any decision under the Charter is called for, the General Assembly is empowered to deal with the matter. It is perfectly true that it cannot enforce its decision, as a court of justice can do internally, but there is no veto in the General Assembly. Therefore the majority rules, and, in important cases, there must be a twothirds majority. Consequently these matters find their way to the General Assembly, although some of them start in the Security Council. The result is that to-day, as for some time past, the General Assembly has been doing work that, in its primary aspect, was intended to be performed by the Security Council. But the . Security Council has not been able to perform that work because of disagreement among the Great Powers.
I shall now deal with the matter of conciliation, because one of the most important aspects of the last twelve months has been the attempts by the General Assembly to use the process of conciliation in connexion with disputes. For the reason that I mentioned a few moments ago, that would not have been possible, in many cases, through the Security Council. If the Great Powers disagree outside the Security Council, they are not likely to agree inside it. But in the General Assembly, where there is no such question of an individual veto, where each of the Great Powers has one vote and one vote only, and where there is a substantial majority in favour of taking a certain course, oven important subjects requiring a two-thirds majority can be decided. Some of those activities are listed in the detailed report; but all matters arising from the social and economic activities of the United Nations through the trusteeship system which is operating and which, in my opinion, is successful, and from the relationships of the United Nations with associated international bodies, such as the International Labour Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization and the
International Monetary Fund reach the General Assembly and give to the General Assembly the authority and status to look at all those questions of international co-operation from the point of view of the great objectives of the Charter. The fact is that the General Assembly, in case after case, has exercised most extensively functions which, in the first instance, could have been performed by the Security Council, but which, for some reason or other - mainly disagreement among the Great Powers - have found their way into the jurisdiction of the General Assembly.
The veto itself, by the initiative of the General Assembly in discussing the matter, by criticism of its use in a particular case, by criticism of the veto as a general principle, and by an appropriate recommendation, has come to be used far less frequently in the last eighteen months than it was in the first years of the United Nations. I do not think that the veto has been exercised in more than two instances in the last eighteen months. One case was in connexion with the Berlin situation. That is a remarkable fact. In my opinion, it is due to the General Assembly taking the initiative in criticizing the use of the veto in individual cases and acting, when the veto has been used, as in the instances that I have given. But the undoubted fact is that to-day the veto is used less than it was up to some two years ago. That is a triumph for world opinion, as expressed in the General Assembly particularly. The undoubted fact is that these discussions, criticism, suggestions and recommendations by the General Assembly do affect all the Powers represented in that body. Another matter, I consider, which is of equal importance is that the conception of the Australian veto itself in the Security Council is being altered in practice. Under the Charter, as honorable members will see if they read it literally, the mere abstention from voting by a permanent member would be regarded as sufficient to negative a proposal. The actual provision in the charter requires the assent of the five permanent members before the vote of seven in the Security Council of eleven can be deemed effective. In effect, the Security Council has agreed to an unwritten practice by which the abstention from voting by one of the five permanent members is not to be treated as a veto. That is a most important development. The Great Powers themselves have agreed upon this modification of the veto in practice by a liberal and a very unexpected construction of the Charter itself.
I believe that the responsibility of the General Assembly is well illustrated by its dealing with some of the individual eases that are set out in detail. One of the best illustrations is provided by the problem of Palestine. The British Government decided to give up the mandate in 1947, and referred to the General Assembly the whole question of the future of the government of Palestine. The General Assembly first of all appointed a special commission to go to Palestine, hear the evidence and make a report on the best way of solving that most difficult question. The commission was appointed and was directed to report back to the second annua] session of the Assembly in 1947. At its meeting in that year, the General Assembly resolved upon a decision in favour of the partition of Palestine and the establishment of a Jewish State as one State in Palestine. It was done, not by any pressure of power groups, but simply by an adjudicating committee that went to Palestine, heard the views of both sides, and reported, I think fairly, justly and impartially, on the whole problem. The General Assembly had to fill the vacuum that was left by the termination of the mandate, and, step by step, with all the difficulties that had encompassed the problem of Palestine, the United Nations has held to a steady course, through both the General Assembly and the Security Council. When_ the decision was given in favour of partition in 1947, two Arab States openly defied the decision of the General Assembly. War commenced, attacks were made, and the matter reached the Security Council. That body appointed its conciliator, and, although there were many difficulties, through the patience and fairness of the United Nations conciliators - Count Bernadotte, who lost his life in the cause of the United Nations, and, subsequently, Dr. Bunche - finally peace was negotiated between the warring countries in relation to Palestine. No doubt, that was an avoidance of something that could have turned out to be a complete catastrophe not only for the Middle East but also for the peace of the world.
I shall not enter into a discussion of the pros and cons of this most difficult problem, because honorable members are familiar with the position. The point that I desire to make is that the General Assembly of the United Nations looked at the problem purely from the point of view of what was the just solution in the interests of the people of Palestine. It had no other aim or object. That wa? certainly the aim of the delegation representing this country, and of the great majority of the delegates to the Genera”; Assembly. The position with the Security Council was similar. By patience and fairness, they were able to bring peace to Palestine. Now, Israel has become the 59th member of the United Nations.
The problem of Palestine is not settled. A commission of the United Nations is still endeavouring to make satisfactory arrangements for two things which are equally necessary and most important in connexion with the future government of Palestine. Israel is not the only country affected. There is also the Kingdom of Trans-Jordania, now called the Hashemite Kingdom, which lies to the wes* across the Jordan. The two matters which must be dealt with by the United Nations and in respect of which we look for maximum assistance from both Israel and the Kingdom of Trans-Jordania are, first, the repatriation of the Arab refugees, and, secondly, and more important, the question of the internationalization of Jerusalem in order to have permanent protection for all the holy places, because, in Jerusalem and Palestine, there are centred the deepest feelings, not only of Jews, Arabs and Moslems, but also of the whole Christian community of the world. The United Nations is about to undertake that task - -
– Does the Minister expect Israel to accept the internationalization of Jerusalem?
– I expect Israel to carry out the undertakings that it gave when it applied for admission to membership of the United Nations, and I think that it should carry out the internationalization of Jerusalem. Some objection was raised that that should be done before, and as a condition of, the entry of Israel into membership. I think that that was the wrong view to take. 1 do not think d at membership of the United Nations should be made conditional upon the performance of obligations in that way. I think that it is quite proper to accept the undertakings of these countries to carry out United. Nations decisions, and one of the United Nations decisions is to carry out the internationalization of Jerusalem. I think that we should expect, not only from Israel but also from its neighbour across the Jordan, readiness and willingness to carry out the United Nations decision in relation to inter n a tion aliization
– Could they not validly plead that Jerusalem is a domestic matter ?
– There are other aspects of the subject that I cannot deal with at the moment. The situation has altered to some degree. In my opinion, the principle of internationalization can be carried out now and should be carried out now. I have already referred to Greece and Korea in relation to General Assembly jurisdiction. There the work of the Assembly has been successful, I think, for the reasons that I have already given. One action taken by the General Assembly was the creation of a body called the Interim Committee of the Assembly. That is a further illustration of work done which would not have been necessary had Great Power agreement been maintained in the Security Council. Many matters of peace and security that would normally have gone to the Security Council have been dealt with in a preliminary way by that committee.
Most important of all, of course, was die General Assembly’s intervention in relation to the Berlin dispute. The remarkable feature of that from the point of view of conciliation and the action of the Security Council was that, instead of the Great Powers asking the lesser powers to come together and settle a dispute between themselves, we had the extraordinary spectacle of; the lesser powers bringing the Great Powers to gether in the Security Council and, to a certain degree, in the General Assembly in order that the differences between the Great Powers might be conciliated. That was a remarkable thing and a very good development. It has shown that, instead of the United Nations being simply a Great Power organization, every one of the 59 members can play its part, not as a passive spectator, but actively in the work of the Assembly. I have seen this thing working. I have said before and I repeat, because it is true, that there is no power in the Assembly so great that it does not attend to the opinion of the majority of the Assembly and the criticisms publicly uttered in the Assembly. Equally, there is no power so small that it cannot influence the decisions of the Assembly. I have seen ‘representatives of some of the very smallest of countries stand in their places in the Assembly and make contributions that had a telling effect upon the deliberations in committee and in plenary assembly. The fact is that the organization is working. Make no mistake about that! It is there to stay. Nothing can stay its progress now that Great Power disagreement has been lessened and the area of Great Power understanding is gradually being extended.
I bel:eve that the United Nations Assembly has rendered a very great contribution to the maintenance of peace, especially during the last two or three most difficult years. Further, and what 1 consider to be very important, as was illustrated very clearly by the cases that I have mentioned from Bulgaria and Hungary, the General Assembly has come to be a tribunal to which important matters in connexion with human rights may be ‘brought when manifest injustice having international significance has occurred in any part of the world. I regard this as very important. Several illustrations are contained in the report. They deal not only with Bulgaria and Hungary but also with other cases to which honorable members will refer. I claim this for the General Assembly of the United Nat’ ons, in respect of which I am mainly speaking to-night-
– Hear, hear!
– In respect of which I am mainly speaking to-night! I think it proper that I should report-
– Why not speak as an Australian ?
– Order ! The honorable member must remain silent.
– I should not care if the honorable member did not remain silent, Mr. Deputy Speaker. He has asked me: “Why not speak as an Australian ? “ I have never spoken in any other way. Australia’s contribution to international affairs has been made, to a large extent, through the United Nations. When on any occasion has the delegation of Australia not stood up for Australia and all the things that we value in this country? I challenge the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), who made that not very valuable or helpful interjection, to point to one matter in which the vote of Australia was, in his opinion, given wrongly over the years. I do not confine that challenge only to this year; I shall take him right back over the last four years. I do not want this general criticism any longer. I want specific criticism. Our critics will not talk about Indonesia any more because the Indonesian solution advocated by Australia and India - conciliation - was accepted by the General Assembly. Therefore, we shall not hear much more about Indonesia. Let us see, then, where the shoe pinches, if it pinches at all. I claim that the international policy of Australia is largely founded upon unwavering and unfaltering support for the United Nations because the Charter of the United Nations lays down a code of conduct that all nations should endeavour to follow. This country, internationally, has endeavoured to follow it. We have the support in that respect of all members of the British Commonwealth and also of the great United States of America.
I claim for the General Assembly in particular that during the last three or four years it has gradually been establishing for itself a position analogous in international affairs to the position that was developed in Great Britain during the long years of struggle by the House of Commons in relation to the executive, treating the General Assembly as corresponding to the popular ‘body and the Security Council as corresponding to the executive. The fact is that every report of every United .Nations organ and agency comes to the Assembly for critical review. Security Council reports come to it, .and are often under fire by the General Assembly. The Assembly has the power of the purse in relation to United Nations affairs. It has the power to say whether money is to be expended, just as the House of Commons has that power, so that gradually each organ is looking to the General Assembly - that is, to world public opinion - for guidance in those difficult international problems that arise so frequently and come to the agenda of the Assembly. Those of us who fought at San Francisco for greater powers for the Assembly hoped that it would become gradually a world forum. In the first draft of Dumbarton Oaks, the powers of the Assembly were very seriously truncated. They were gradually extended at San Francisco, and they are now contained in the Charter. I think that that work was done well and that it will turn out to be in the best interests of the United Nations and of international peace. The future of the General Assembly will depend upon the continuance of the same spirit of constructive criticism and independence of its membership. That, -in turn, should help to reduce the power of blocs, because, in the General Assembly, you do have a great deal of bloc voting. One safeguard against that is the two-thirds majority, which is required by the Charter on important questions; but an even greater safeguard, in my opinion, will be an increasing membership of the General Assembly, looking ultimately towards universality of membership. At the present time, there are a large number of countries awaiting admission to the United Nations. These are some of them : Ireland, Finland, Austria, Italy, Portugal, Ceylon and Transjordan, now the Hashamite Kingdom of Jordan; and belonging to the, if I may say so, other group, or second group, of powers : Outer
Mongolia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Roumania and Albania.
– What about Spain?
– What about Spain? There has been no application by Spain. No doubt, that will come ultimately, because the ultimate objective of the United Nations is universality. No doubt, applications will come from Germany and Japan, but those things have to take their time and be dealt with in the proper way. The point is that twelve or thirteen nations, whose applications are not accepted at present, either because of the veto of one member of the Security Council, because the Security Council must recommend membership, or in other cases where there had not been a veto, through the failure of those countries to get the necessary majority in the Security Council.
– Why is Ireland not admitted?
– Because Russia has vetoed the application.
– Can the right honorable gentleman not solve that one?
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) does not often enter into the realms of humour, even Irish humour. If he can solve or suggest a method of solution of that one, I cannot. The fact is quite clear that the exclusion of those twelve or thirteen countries is due to disagreements between the Great Powers. The General Assembly carried a resolution that the whole question of membership should be reconsidered from the point of view of universality, and I hope that that will be done. The present membership is 59 nations. No doubt, when the additional members are admitted, the considerably increased number will make for stability and minimization of the power of blocs in the Assembly. The fact is that the General Assembly has even held the fort for the Security Council during these years of disagreement between the Great Powers; but it cannot surrender its role in the future as the supervisor of all the United Nations’ organs and activities. I say, too, not by any means limiting my observations on the General Assembly, that it has had success in cases which have been dealt with individually and have been forgotten; because, when there is a solution and they cease to be news, they are not reported any longer. It is forgotten ‘that the United Nations contributed to the positive solution of the problem in Iran in 1946 and 1947. The Kashmir matter has not been finalized, but the United Nations’ intervention has been most important. We are confident that ultimately it will be successful. I have referred to Palestine. In Indonesia, the United Nations Good Offices Commission for Indonesia has rendered enormous service in limiting the combat and in bringing the parties together. Other cases like those of Greece and Korea I have also mentioned. However, the long delay in making peace with Germany and Japan has very considerably handicapped the smooth functioning of the United Nations. It was always based on the hypothesis that those peace settlements would be made.
That brings me to the situation that exists to-day throughout most of the countries known as the Far East, which are to the north of Australia. The general picture is one of unrest and instability, and, as such, is most disturbing to Australia. There has been a growing influence of communism throughout the area and the tendency is to attribute the instability solely to that cause. Communism has played an important part, but the theory that it is the exclusive cause over-simplifies. It is true that all countries of South-East Asia have organized Communist movements whose objectives are the same as those of communism everywhere; but the strength of these movements, and the extent to which they are acting in unison, are apt to be exaggerated. This is a most important fact that I ask honorable members to consider. Communists have identified themselves with nationalist movements which have mass support and have taken on great vigour since the Atlantic Charter, in 1941, and since the end of the war. The fact is that the majority of genuine nationalists in most countries of South-East Asia are not Communists; there is plenty of evidence that they resent being identified with communism and are embarrassed by Communist activities that are carried on in the guise of progress towards freedom and independence. These genuine nationalists know well enough that they must look to the established democracies, in this part of the world, including Australia, for help in developing their industry and agriculture and improving the lot of their people. In the great majority of these cases, they are trying to the best of their ability to ensure that no Communist movement shall take control of the nationalist movement. I think one of the best illustrations of that is Indonesia. It has been said in the press and by some people that the Republican movement in Indonesia is Communist. That is clearly not so. The factual reports negative that. No doubt, there are other parts of South-East Asia where the division is different, but it is important to remember that the nationalist movements in those countries are not to be identified with the Communists movement, simply because Communists adhere to them and that the capacity of nationalism to check or to neutralize the growth of communism will depend on the help it gets from outside. Unless it gets that help, real stability and order cannot be expected, and the process of peaceful transition from colonial to independent status, in many cases, will be interrupted. Then we get to the situation that one immediately calls to mind, that is the situation in China. Events in China have placed the Government of China in the position where it cannot any longer exercise effective control in a great part of the territory of China. ‘I think it is very easy to over-simplify the position in China. Predictions about what will happen in China are always liable, perhaps certain, to be wrong. China is a country that is able to suffer tremendous cataclysms and shocks and to recover from them and absorb them, the situation becoming, after a time, completely changed. Therefore, dogmatism about the present situation in China is, in my opinion, dangerous. It is hard to see how the present Chinese Government can prevent the Chinese Communists from extending their hold over the greater part of China within the next year. The common assumption is that the Communist Government of China will follow a policy closely in line with that dictated by the Soviet Government, the implication being that China will withdraw from all contact with western democracies and integrate its economy solely with that of the Soviet Union and those countries that are within the Russian orbit. That assumption should not bo accepted without many qualifications. First of. all I do not think that we should be dogmatic in relation to the future of China, and I submit for consideration the view that it would be tragic if, through any failure or neglect on the part of the democracies towards the Chinese, an honorable and longestablished association with the freedomloving peoples should be abruptly terminated. If, at this stage, we were to give the Chinese Government of the north, the Chinese Communists, any ground for thinking that they can never expect international co-operation from the West in the future, that very declaration might lead them to adopt an extreme course and to sever all their traditional contacts with the democracies. A realistic approach to the position in China will take account of that. It would be unreal to regard the large area of China, already under Communist occupation, with its population of many millions, as a complete international vacuum. There is much to be gained by trying to regain practical working relations with whatever local authority is in de factor control throughout the area, and the great channel through which these local relationships can be maintained and fostered is that of commerce and trade. The old established British and American business houses have hitherto carried on a large proportion of the normal trade of China through Hong Kong, and the cities of the Chinese eastern seaboard provide a ready instrument for that purpose. That, in China, can be a great stabilizing force in the present situation. There seems every reason why they should be encouraged to carry on their activities, so far as that is physically possible, and I was glad to see statements to that general effect made both in London and in Washington recently by responsible government authorities. I do not say that this by any means indicates any solution of the problem of China,, but it would be wrong, and might even be disastrous, if complete contact with, what have been called breathing points for China, should be lost by failing to maintain contact at every possible point. Of course the great hope of all of us is that the internal differences of China can be settled as quickly as possible, with a minimum of bloodshed, so that the Government of China can turn its attention to the welfare of the Chinese people. If a settlement can still be reached by agreement with the existing Government of China so much the better. All of us would like to see this great and traditionally friendly country resuming its original place in the family of nations. If there is a threat by the Chinese Communist Government to the territorial integrity of any of its neighbours I think that United Nations intervention is certain, and it would have every chance of success. The Chinese position is, of course, closely related in some respects to that of Japan, to which I shall refer in a moment, but let me turn more particularly to the economic aspect of this problem, which bulks so much in South-East Asia, in China and Japan. In that respect the record of the United Nations in the economic field is very impressive, because the original Dumbarton Oaks draft of the Charter made little provision for economic development. It has always been the view of this Government and. I think of all parties here, that there can be no lasting peace without high living standards for all people. Since Unrra, and through the United Nations organization, there have been very real contributions to living standards, both in immediate relief to peoples in need, and in international cooperation designed to secure greater economic stability on a long-term basis, and a greater use of the world’s resources. On the emergency relief side the best example is the Children’s Fund, which is the one large-scale organized relief that has always been maintained on a nondiscriminatory basis. There the record of Australia is already outstanding, and the recent Government contribution by Australia is shortly to be followed by a further voluntary appeal to the people of Australia. The Australian Government’s total contribution has been £2,700,000 and the people of Australia have voluntarily contributed an extra £600,000. Except for the United States of America, with its munificent contribution to this, as to all other measures of relief, this makes Australia the highest contributor, without exception in the world, to the Children’s Fund. Relief, however, is only a temporary measure, and the United Nations agencies, the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the educational organization known as Unesco, the International Labour Organization, and the Economic and Social Council itself - and I have already referred to the International Monetary Fund - are all contributing to long-term stability and improved living conditions. If, which we hope will never occur, the situation economically in the rest of the world appears to indicate mass unemployment, I believe thai the nations of the world will turn to the recommendations of the Economic and Social Council, and all these other related agencies, and the United Nations will, on that side, contribute to the prevention of the tragedy of another world depression and unemployment throughout the world. Certainly Australia has carried out itf pledge under the Charter, which is to maintain full employment and a high standard of living in this country. We cannot be sure of that position being maintained if things get out of hand in other parts of the world, especially in the United States of America or Great Britain. Recently, as a result of President Truman’s interest and progressive thinking, the United States Government has taken the initiative in an expanded programme of international economic development. The agencies to which 1 have referred are all firmly established. Their administrative machinery is operating, and now they have reached such a stage on the economic side that results should be obtainable. The time has come, therefore, to bring a greater degree of co-ordination into their activities and, at the President’s direction, there will be a concentration now of technical advice and assistance to all countries which have not had the health, economic and educational facilities of the more developed countries. It can be assumed that Australia will take a most active part in President Truman’s economic development programme, which, is, at the moment, under discussion and will be the subject of special consideration at the next meeting of the Economic and Social Council, to be held next month. Australia has a particular interest in this form of United Nations activity.
I return to the problem of SouthEast Asia. What is the thing which separates us most from the countries of South-East Asia? There are greatly differing standards of life; the effect of the standard of life there is, from Australia’s point of view, practically unbearable. In these countries there are 1,200,000,000 people close to our shores. The basis of our relationships with these countries will depend upon two things: The full development of their independent political institutions and advances on their side in their living standards. In co-operating with other members of the United Nations in the economic development programme Australia will have a particular interest. We must have a particular interest in making available all of the help and experience, technical and other, that we have, so far as the peoples of that country are concerned. I referred briefly in my opening remarks to-night, as I did in the course of the last debate on international affairs in this House earlier this year, following the meeting of the General Assembly in Paris, to the causes of this acute eastwest disagreement. On that occasion I ventured to quote from a remarkable speech delivered by Mr. Churchill in the House of Commons in December last, when he quoted a letter which he had written to Stalin away back in 1945. The important passages of that letter are worth remembering because they are true, and they apply as much to-day, in 1949, as they did in 1945. This is what Mr. Churchill then said -
There is not much comfort in looking into a future where you and the countries you dominate, plus the Communist parties in many other States are all drawn up on one side and those who rally to the Englishspeaking nations and their associates or Dominions ave on the other. It is quite obvious that their quarrel would tear the world to pieces and that all of us leading men on either side who had anything to do with that would be shamed before history. Even embarking on a long period of suspicions, of abuse and counter-abuse and of opposing policies would be a disaster hampering the great developments of world prosperity for the masses which are attainableonly by our trinity.
I believe that that is the approach, which was made by the foreign Ministers at .their recent conference in Paris. I submit that it is not sufficient to say that this country is dominated by Communist ideology, that its objectives are completely different from ours, and, therefore, we cannot work together. Churchill’s letter was written from the very opposite hypothesis. The recent war was conducted from the opposite hypothesis. Communism existed just as much before the war as it does to-day. Everybody in the struggle against Hitler-ism. knew that .the Russian Government was based on the Communist philosophy. But does that exclude practical co-operation in international affairs between east and west? Any but a negative answer to that question would be a counsel of black despair, and Mr. Churchill made that point very clear. Further, he is supported by the fact which we see evidenced in South-East Asia and in China, that Communist political and social philosophy and ideology can never be combated by force alone. It is necessary to adopt positive and constructive measures aimed at improving standards of living everywhere and encouraging democratic selfgovernment in accordance with the general principles of the Charter. The Charter aims at getting rid of the wretched conditions of life which hundreds, and even thousands, of millions endure in the world. That can be done by carrying out the broad principles of the United Nations Charter. Mr. Churchill’s thesis of 1945 was this : There is no reason why international peace cannot be maintained on a- basis of mutual respect without any trace of weakness, or appeasement. That was the position prior to 1939, and also prior to 1945 when the San Francisco Charter was agreed to. Nobody supposed in either case that the maintenance of peace with Russia involved any acceptance by others of Communist philosophy or that the acceptance of the practical working of the western democratic parliamentary system involved preparation for a struggle with Russia. One difficult aspect of that principle is that a serious problem has arisen in cases where political groups are organized in one country which, in relation to international affairs, acts merely as the propagandist of the international views of another. That applies everywhere, so far as I know, to the Communist party. That is a problem which must be solved if there is to be East- West co-operation on a permanent basis. What has been done at the Paris Conference is that the area of disagreement has been reduced. That is an advance ; but the problem lies deeper than that, and I shall refer to an important facet of it. However, I believe that the United Nations as a world forum will help to solve it. Further, I make this point so that it can be considered and debated : The problem of Russia cannot be separated from the United Nations. [ have endeavoured to show how closely connected the problems are. But the problem of Russia is also linked up with the problem of Germany and Japan. It is a fundamental mistake to have our policies in relation to Germany and Japan determined merely as a by-product of our relationship with Russia. The problem of Japan is also a separate problem, as is also the problem of Germany. The problems of France in relation to Germany are analogous to those of Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines in relation to Japan. It is quite a simple philosophy. You re-arm Japan and remove all the restrictions to which it agreed in the Armistice and so develop its war potential, and you are quite satisfied that in any future struggle in the Far East Japan will do the bidding of the western democracies. That is a fallacy. It is unlikely that that will occur. Therefore it is wrong to treat the problem of Japan as merely incidental to the problem of Germany or Russia. They are entirely separate problems. The problem of France’s relation to Germany has been expressed recently by M. Schuman. He said that France wants to see Germany’s productive capacity developed. He knows that Germany must make a great contribution to the future of Europe. The German people are industrious and their industries are of vital importance; but the stage can be reached very easily where the building up of Germany’s war potential, particularly in relation to its heavy industries, will make simple, or highly probable, the preparation for another European war. Exactly the same applies to Japan. All that is laid down in the decisions of the Thirteen Powers Conference in Washington is in the rebuilding of Japan, and in thus giving the Japanese a chance to make their contribution to the future of Asia, the greatest care must be taken lest Japan be also given a war potential which might be of significance to the future of the Far East and the Pacific. If we permit the building up of the war potential of Japan till that degree, we shall suffer for it. What I have said does not mean the adoption of a negative attitude towards Japan and Germany; but I put it to the House that it is completely wrong to regard the problem of Japan as a separate problem from that of Germany. There are already signs of Nazi resurgence in Germany. Make no mistake about that! One needs only to read the text-books which the German children are now reading to understand that that is so. There is not much alteration to-day in that respect compared with what those children were being taught prior to 1939. All these things must be considered and looked at, not merely from one aspect, but as a whole. The only body which can do that effectively in the interests of international peace and justice is the United Nations.
I put the following propositions as representing what Australia has done and has attempted to do in connexion with the United Nations and international affairs generally ever since the San Francisco Conference. First, steady and unwavering support for the United Nations and for the purposes and principles declared in the United Nations Charter. Secondly, advocacy of democratic methods and procedures in international conferences. Thirdly, joint action by the British Commonwealth of Nations to bring about peace in the world based on justice and better conditions of life for all people. Fourthly, recognition that war is best prevented by removing its underlying causes and that all international disputes should be settled by reference to what is just and right. and not according to what is expedient. Fifthly, active promotion of economic welfare and improvement of living standards throughout the world. Sixthly, as referring to this region of the world, active co-operation with the governments of the Pacific and of South East Asia, especially including the United States, to assist in the economic and political developments of these areas by means of regional arrangements and by means of direct technical, educational and material assistance. In all the activities of Australia in connexion with the United Nation?, at the conference at Paris we endeavoured to act in accordance with those principles. I say that the position of Australia in the councils of the world is no longer a question of opinion but simply a question of fact. [ say that it is because we have adhered to those principles that the reputation of Australia as a country is high in the international councils. Because we have adhered to those principles our relationships to-day with those countries could not be better. As far .as the British Commonwealth of Nations is concerned I believe r.hat what has been done in connexion with the recent conference of Empire Prime Ministers has reinforced that fact. The emergence of India, Pakistan and Ceylon as nations will have an enormous bearing, an enormous effect for good, not only upon South East Asia but also upon the problem of China and Japan to which they will bring special wisdom, special experience and special resources. We in turn are bound to hold them as joint members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Similarly with the United States of America. I suppose that we have heard the last of what took place a few months ago when it was suggested by tome honorable members that our relationships with the United States had deteriorated. We have not heard that repeated since. Nothing could be further from the truth. During the recent meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations I had the honour of visiting the President and Mr. Acheson, and I say that Australia’s relationships with the United States are as cordial and comradely to-day as they were throughout the course of the war, when General MacArthur was in charge of the American forces in this country. That also applies in connexion with all those nations whose names I need not mention individually, and in regard to which our position is a firm, steadfast and honorable one, because we have adhered loyally from beginning to end to the purposes of the United Nations, which are the simple purposes of endeavouring to obtain international peace, not peace at any price, but peace based on justice, fair dealing, decency and self-respect among nations.
I lay on the table the following papers : -
International Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 21st June, 1949; and
United Nations - General Assembly - Second Part of Third Session, New York, AprilMay, 1949 - Report on work of Australian Delegation and move -
That the papers be printed.
Debate (on motion .by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1212).
– When the debate on the International Wheat Agreement Bill 1949 was adjourned earlier in the day I had illustrated how, had the Australian Government not intervened at the request of the United Kingdom Government, in connexion with a decision made by the Australian Wheat Board regarding the supply to the United Kingdom Government of 80,000,000 bushels of wheat from the 1947-48 crop, the income of the wheatgrowers of this country would have been reduced by about £6,000,000 to £7,000,000. I have given the figures regarding deliveries and quotations over four quarters of the year 1947-48, based on equal deliveries of 20,000,000 bushels a quarter. I shall now quote a calculation based upon the actual deliveries of wheat during the five quarters over which it was delivered to the United Kingdom. Honorable members may like to know what the results might have been had this wheat delivery been based on actual shipments. The main point is that shipments were smaller in the earlier part of the season, and there were still 12,000,000 bushels of wheat held, which would have run into the fifth quarterly period and prices for that period, still working on the price basis shown by the board, would have been 13s. 4 1/2 d. a bushel f.o.b. Australia. Here again, the hoards’ proposals would have shown a gain for the first quarter’s shipments and then a loss on a succeeding four quarterly periods. The gain of £1,666,000 for the first quarter would have been wiped out by a loss of £1,150,000 in the second quarter, followed by losses of £2,300,000, £3,370,000 and £2,200,000 in the succeeding quarterly periods. Taking the actual shipments for the contract period therefore the contract shows a gain to growers of £7,300,000 as against the quarterly sales alternatives. The 1947-48 contract with he United Kingdom Government was a good business deal despite the criticism to the contrary, by members of the Australian Country party in particular. Australia sold a huge quantity of wheat when the market was near its top. That was better than the alternative of selling a small part of it at a higher price and 75 per cent, of it when the world market was sliding down. In fact the world market has been sliding down for more than fifteen months and last Friday the Canadian price for export wheat was 2 dollars or approximately 12s. 2d. a bushel f.o.ib. in Australian currency. The Opposition has stated that the Government has done badly, but the wheatgrowers have gained more than £7,000,000 from the contract compared with the alternative put forward by the Australian Wheat Board. Our wheatgrowers will take a lot of convincing before they believe there is anything wrong with receiving an extra £7,000,000. I want to say quite definitely that I attach no blame to the board - and I speak of the old Australian Wheat Board - in respect of the proposition that it made to the United Kingdom in October, 1.947. After all, selling wheat is a matter of pitting judgment against possibilities.
– Against the Australian Wheat Board?
– I have illustrated, for the information of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), that when the Australian Wheat Board pitted its judgment against the possibilities of the future, that judgment, compared with the deal ultimately effected by the Government, was not half as good as the Government’s judgment, and in fact would have cost the wheat-growers £7,000,000. [Extension of time granted.’] The accurate estimation of future trends of the world’s wheat market? is as tricky as discerning the difference between kangaroos and wallabies. In order to demonstrate the hypocrisy of members of the Australian Country party in this chamber and their supporters outside when they complain of the exercise of ministerial authority in the conduct of the wheat industry, 1 shall quote some of the provisions of the legislation that was introduced by the Liberal-Country party Government of Western Australia within the last two years. That legislation was introduced because the Liberal-Country party, which is in office in that State and holds identical political views with the Australian Country party in this chamber, believed that the present Government might not be able to implement its wheat stabilization proposals and it wanted to have its own scheme ready. Section 27 of the Western Australia Wheat Acquisition Act provides -
With the consent of the Minister, the Board may make or arrange for advances on account of wheat delivered and any payment made on account of the wheat may be made at such time or times and on such terms and conditions and in such manner as the Board m»T think fit.
Section 37 provides -
The Minister may, with the consent of the Treasurer of the State, arrange with a trading bank or other financial institution for th» making by such bank or institution of advancer to the Board.
Section 17 states -
The Board may appoint any number of it* members to bc 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, deter mines, .’ . .
Paragraph, b of sub-section 4 of sec-tion 7 reads -
For the purposes of the provision of this Act relating to the election by growers of persons to be appointed to the Board, the expression “ grower “ means a person whose name is, with the approval of the Minister, included in the roll mentioned in the next succeeding section, . . .
That legislation imposes far more restrictions upon wheat-growers than Labour would ever have suggested, and it is clear that the anti-Labour parties have a firm and abiding belief in the power of governments to exercise control over the marketing of wheat. The anti-Labour Government of Western Australia was quite prepared to implement its restrictive legislation had the Australian Government not been able to introduce its plans for the stabilization of the industry.
I pointed out earlier that Mr. J”. S. Teasdale. who was the chairman of the committee which made certain recommendations concerning the Western Australian wheat industry, recommended the adoption of even more restrictive control than that which he has since attacked. Paragraph 35 of that report states -
We have to realize that when the government promises a guaranteed price for wheat, it pledges the public credit by the same stroke of the pen and that being the case the guaranteed fund (unless entirely provided by growers on an equalization basis) must be limited in total amount either by the guaranteed price being low or the bushelage restricted. As a rule both these limitations come into the picture. And just because Governments come and go, Parliamentary sanction for a policy dependent upon annual budgetary appropriations cannot be guaranteed for a lengthy period.
I also draw attention to paragraph 37, which is as follows: -
Your Commissioners consider that a claim for a guaranteed price for wheat can only be sustained to the extent it applies to the amount normally consumed within Australia in the form, of flour and other processed food for human consumption. There is little justification for the extension of the guarantee of the crop which is exported, either as wheat or wheat products. In this sphere the grower must endeavour to produce at a price the overseas buyer is prepared to pay. Farmers should not lose sight of the fact that when Governments give any form of guarantee to cover other than for local consumption, restrictions of one kind or another go baud in hand with the guarantee.
I emphasize that those are the recommendations which Mr. J. S. Teasdale and his colleagues made to the Government of Western Australia. Every one concerned in the industry knows that this Government’s stabilization plans are not nearly so restrictive as the proposals made by Mr. Teasdale and his colleagues.
In connexion with the exercise of the principle of [ministerial responsibility, I commend to the notice of the House the remarks made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) on the 11th December, 1940, which are reported at page 754 of Volume 165 of Hansard. The honorable rn.em.beT stated -
One truth that honorable members should fix firmly in their minds is that the people who pay the piper will call the tune. If an industry is subject to grower-control, there must also be grower-responsibility. The financial responsibilities under this bill will be borne not “by- the wheat-growers, but by Australian taxpayers. While they continue to find the money, it is a pretty piece of impudence on the port of the representatives of the growers to contend that the farmers should direct the operation of the scheme. No honorable member opposite would administer his farm on the same principle.
Although the honorable member for Indi professed to speak for the Opposition, the speech made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) was obviously a more valuable contribution to the debate. One wonders how much longer the Opposition parties and the country will tolerate the political meanderings of the honorable member for Indi. His attitude towards all such problems as that under discussion is influenced by a sense of frustration because of the fact that the governments of which he was a member or which he supported, neglected to make any effort to improve the lot of Australian wheatgrowers, although they had every opportunity to do something substantial for them. Those administrations inflicted a flour tax on the bread consumers of this country, left the wheatgrowers to the mercy of the speculators and dealers, and, in particularly bad years, handed out paltry subsidies of a few pence per bushel, which did not enable wheat-growers even to recover their costs of production. The honorable member for Indi said that a sum of approximately £17,000,000 was paid out to wheatgrowers by anti-Labour administrations of which he was a member or which he supported. I point out to the honorable member, however, that because of the miserably low prices which prevailed at that time the subsidies paid did not enable the growers even to recoup their costs. [ ask honorable members to contrast the alleged liberality of antiLabour administrations with the treatment extended by Labour to the wheats growers of this country in peace as well as during war-time. Labour has instituted a stabilization plan which ensures that the growers shall obtain for their wheat a price which is at least equal to the cost of production. Cost of production is determined by a competent body, whose recommendation is subject to endorsement by representatives of the Australian Agricultural Council and the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. That scheme has been applied to locally consumed wheat and an export quantity of 100,000,000 bushels. Cornsacks may be bought by wheat-growers on a costplushandling charge, which eliminates opportunities for the iniquitous speculation that was freely permitted before the war by anti-Labour administrations. The superphosphate subsidy which amounted to £14,000,000 to the end of 1947-48, is based on a payment at the present time of £2 15s. a ton in one State, and of £2 10s. in some of the other States. That is just double the amount that was paid under any anti-Labour administration. During the war this Government paid a jute subsidy amounting to £3,750,000 in order to help the farmers. It made a straight-out grant of £2,500,000 in drought relief for the seasons from 1944 to 1947. The farmers were given the money; it was not lent, as was the practice when antiLabour governments were in power. Finally, as its crowning achievement, this Government has brought down this International Wheat Agreement Bill. Let us compare the present situation with that which existed on the 29th November, 1940, as pictured by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), when discussing a wheat stabilization plan then under consideration. This is what he said -
Arising out of this stabilization plan, J hope there may develop some voluntary debt adjustment between debtor and creditor in the wheat-growing industry, where advantage has not been taken of the provisions oi the Farmers’ Debt Adjustment Act.
That legislation was intended to help the farmers settle their debts which had piled up through years of bad administration by anti-Labour governments. The right honorable gentleman continued -
Adverse conditions for many years have increased the debt obligations of a great number of wheat-farmers to such a degree as to place them in an impossible position. Now that there is some certainty of a reasonable annual return, many creditors will, no doubt, realize that it will be to their own interests, as well as that of their farmer debtors, to agree upon a plan of debt liquidation spread over future years. This will enable the debts to be paid and, at the same time, will give to the farmers a reasonable prospect of regaining their independence. If only this result were achieved I should consider that the stabilization plan had been justified.
But, of course, it never came into operation. No anti-Labour government ever implemented a stabilization plan, with a guaranteed price which would ensure the growers the cost of production, and the growers suffered in consequence. In the course of this debate, one honorable member opposite referred to the fact that Pakistan had offered to buy Australian wheat from the 1947-48 crop. Let us examine this alleged offer to buy 9,000,000 bushels of wheat at 16s. a bushel. [Further extension of time granted.] Pakistan applied to the International Emergency Food Council for a wheat allocation. In October, it was advised that off-grade wheat from Australia could be bought. Australia offered two cargoes of off-grade wheat, which Pakistan refused as unsuitable. Early in November, Pakistan applied to Australia for 9,000,000 bushels of wheat. At that time, no new season’s wheat had been received. In December, two cargoes were sold for shipment in December and January. They were shipped late in February to Pakistan at a price determined by the Australian Wheat Board. Meanwhile, negotiations were taking place with the United Kingdom and India, our chief permanent markets. These negotiations precluded the supply to
Pakistan of the quantity wanted, as the sale would have prejudiced our supply to the markets on which we always depend. Pakistan normally supplies its own requirements in wheat, as well as exporting a surplus to India. Under the terms of the International Wheat Agreement, Pakistan is not listed as an importer country which can be expected to take wheat on a continuing basis. In the circumstances, we did not rush the sale of wheat to Pakistan, because we believed that it would be best for Australia to continue to sell wheat to Britain and India. On the loth December, 1948, Pakistan asked for 1,500,000 bushels for January and February shipment. This could not be supplied. On the 3rd February, Pakistan asked for approximately 1,500,000 bushels for February and March shipment. The board offered three cargoes for early shipment on the 17th February, 1949, but was advised that Pakistan had obtained 5,500,000 bushels elsewhere - perhaps from Russia or some of the Danubian countries. Is any honorable member opposite prepared to say that we should have supplied Pakistan with 9,000,000 bushels of wheat,, thereby depriving ourselves of an opportunity to sell wheat to Great Britain, which will probably be our sheet anchor in the years ahead? Honorable members opposite cannot resist the opportunity to say that the whole purpose of the Government’s activities in connexion with the International Wheat Agreement and a guaranteed price is to use the growers’ marketing organizations as a means to further its programme of socialism. I have enumerated the benefits which this Government has conferred on the wheatgrowers, and if they represent steps in the direction of socialism, I am sure that a great majority of the growers will say, ‘’ Thank God for a Labour government. Thank God that it has taken another step along the road to socialism “.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) has said that, under the agreement, there was grave danger that Australia might lose its trade in flour. No doubt he is fearful of competition from the United States of America and Canada. As a matter of fact, there is no more danger to our flour trade under the International Wheat Agreement than there is under existing trade arrangements. The factors that influence the Australian flour trade are too numerous to deal with at present. The main consideration, however, is that Canada and the United States of America, owing to their immense milling capacity and also to the high prices ruling for by-products including bran and pollard in those countries, can under-sell Australia on certain flour markets. If we are to compete satisfactorily with the United States of America and Canada on the flour markets of the world - particularly on Eastern markets that we have held for many years - we shall have to be prepared to sell our export quota under the International Wheat Agreement at the agreement price, and to meet outside competition on the open market with whatever surplus we have available for export.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) wanted to know why Australia had not seized the opportunity given by the International Wheat Conference to secure from India a guarantee to supply to Australia a satisfactory quota quantity of cornsacks and jute. Surely that is a primitive approach to the problem which shows a complete lack of comprehension of the nature of the discussions. If every one of the exporting countries had adopted that attitude, and had sought to make private arrangements with the importing countries for the supply of say, jute, window glass, hemp, or twine, there would have been no possible hope of reaching an agreement. Action to break down world trade barriers and ensure a freer flow of goods can only be taken at conferences held for that specific purpose. For instance an attempt to reach that objective is being made at the International Trade Organization Conference, which started at Geneva, subsequently moved to Havana, and is being continued at Annecy.
I hope that honorable members have been impressed by the figures that I have given relating to the 1947-48 wheat crop. I repeat that, as the result of the Commonwealth’s intervention there has been a saving of from £0,000,000 to £7,000,000 to Australian wheat-growers. I trust that that has been made clear to the honorable member for Indi, who has been so critical of the exercise by the Commonwealth of its right to intervene in the interests of the Australian wheat-growers on the one hand, and of the vast body of consumers on the other.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
. -When the terms of this agreement were drawn up, China was set down as a guaranteed purchaser of 7,348,742 bushels of wheat a year. I remind the committee that, since that time, China has been overrun by Communists and that, in all probability, Communist China will prefer to purchase wheat from Soviet Russia, which is not a party to the agreement. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has not referred to this matter to-day, although I asked a question about it in the House recently. [ raise the matter again to give him an opportunity to inform the committee of the present position. The signatories to the agreement include, as I have said before, certain countries which are not held in very high esteem throughout the world, and which the British Commonwealth of Nations has had to assist in peace and war.
The main exporting countries under the agreement are Australia, Canada and the United States of America. The other two are of little account in relation to the agreement because of the small quantities of wheat which they expect to have available. Australia’s quota is 80,000,000 bushels, Canada’s quota is 203,069,635 bushels, and America’s quota is 168,069,635 bushels. The other two countries together will export only a little more than 5,000,000 bushels. The schedule also determines the voting strength of the importing and exporting countries. Together, the exporting countries have 1,000 votes and the importing countries have 1,000 votes. Votes are allocated to each country in accordance with the quantity of wheat that it will export or import. Of the 1,000 votes allocated to the exporting countries, Australia has approximately ISO, the United States of America 370 and Canada 450. That means that the dollar countries, the United States of America and Canada, will have a total of 820 votes, whereas Australia, a soft currency country, will have only 180 votes. Conceivably, differences of opinion between the hard and soft currency countries may have to be settled by voting. If so, Australia will be in a deplorable position against the combined strength of the two dollar countries.
According to Article V. of the agreement, if any exporting countries find difficulty in selling its unfulfilled guaranteed quantity for any crop year, it may request the help of the council in making the desired sales. Within three days of the receipt of such a request, the secretary of tho council must notify the importing countries that have not bought their full quota under the agreement of the unfulfilled guaranteed quantity of the exporting country which has requested the council’s help, and invite - I emphasize that word - them to offer to purchase wheat at the minimum price specified in the agreement. If the exporting country has not been able to sell its wheat within fourteen days of that notification, the council must decide the quantity, and also, if requested to do so, the quality and grade, of the wheatgrain and /or wheat-flour which it is appropriate for each or any of the importing countries to purchase from the exporting country for loading during the relevant crop year. Then each importing country that has been required by the council to make a purchase must, within 30 days of the date of the council’s decision, offer to purchase those quantities from the exporting country for loading during the relevant crop year at prices consistent with the minimum prices specified in the agreement. It seems to me that, under those provisions, the importing countries could, if they so desired, devise a scheme whereby they could buy wheat from the exporting countries at the minimum price. Possibly some of them would try to do so. Only a half of the wheat that is grown in the world will be sold and bought under the terms of this agreement. The exporting countries will be obliged to hold the wheat that they have contracted to sell until an importing country is prepared to buy it. An importing country could purchase its requirements of wheat for the early part of the year from wheat-growing countries that are not parties to the agreement. With regard to the rest of its requirements for the year, it could wait until the exporting countries called upon the council to assist them in making sales, and those sales would be made at the minimum price specified under the agreement. In the first year of operation of the agreement the minimum price per bushel will be ls. 10£d. less than the maximum price. In the second, third and fourth years of the operation of the agreement, the difference between the maximum and minimum prices will be 2s. 6d., 3s. ltd. and 3s. 9d. a bushel, respectively. The average difference for the four years will be approximately 2s. 6d. a bushel. If the importing countries acted in the way that I have described, they could buy from Russia, Argentina or other countries that are not parties to the agreement all their requirements of wheat for the early part of a year and not request wheat-exporting countries that are parties to the agreement to sell wheat to them, thus forcing these countries to appeal to the council. When the appeal to the council was made, the importing countries could buy wheat from the exporting countries at the minimum price. At one time I wondered why the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was so anxious to stress the fact that the minimum price of wheat under this agreement is greater than that which is provided in the agreement of last year. The reason is that it is probable that Australia will sell most of its wheat quota at the minimum prices specified in the agreement. That applies more to Australia than it does to the United States of America or Canada. The United States of America is demanding the right to supply wheat to countries that are receiving Marshall aid, most of which are wheat importing countries. That puts the United States of America in a good position. As far as Canada is concerned, this year Great Britain is under contract to purchase 140,000,000 bushels of wheat from that country. I do not consider that the schedule to the agreement is in the best interests of Australia. That is why 1 have claimed that the officials of the
Department of Commerce and Agriculture who represented Australia at the conferences at which the agreement was drafted should have had advice from wheat-growers. The Minister should have allowed representatives of the Australian wheat-growers to be present at the conference in an advisory capacity.
What I have just said represents my own thoughts upon this matter. I propose now to quote a passage from Wheat Notes that will be of interest to the committee. It is as follows: -
Many thoughtful and well-informed wheatgrowers see a danger under the International Wheat Agreement in having the maximum and minimum prices tied to the Canadian price for wheat, while the buying power of most importing countries is provided by the U.S.A. under Marshall Aid.
The U.S. has surplus wheat. The U.S. demands the right to supply Marshall Aid countries with wheat. As a result, Canada loses part of the wheat market.
Britain’s attempt to build an American market for motor cars is failing because Britain cannot find the money to buy the raw materials to make the cars, so she earns fewer dollars. That means less dollars for wheat. Consequently, nearly all wheat will have to be Marshall Aid or U.S. wheat.
Since January, the United States has not permitted Britain to use Marshall Aid dollars to buy Canadian wheat, yet Britain is bound to purchase 140,000,000 bushels of Canadian wheat this year.
Britain must find these dollars, and that may be partly responsible for increased dollar restrictions now in force in Australia. If this persists, there may come a general disruption of the Dominions exchange position as well as the Anglo-Canadian-U.S. arrangements.
The Minister has said nothing about what will happen if the exchange rate is altered. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said that there will he no change unless there is an alteration of the British position, but that may occur. It it does, it will affect the Australian wheatgrowers considerably.
The Minister should be able to explain to the committee why it will be possible under the agreement for the importing countries to buy their requirements of wheat from the exporting countries at the minimum prices. It is a matter of paramount importance not ‘ only to the Australian wheat-growers but to the whole of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) has made several pertinent points. First, he inquired about the position of China. I emphasize that the signing of the agreement does not commit a government to its implementation, because it cannot be implemented until it has been ratified by the parliament or government of each country that is a party to it. At the time when the agreement was signed China was under a government entirely different from that under which it is now operating. It may well be that the new government in China will not be prepared to ratify the agreement. Perhaps the old government would not have ratified it. However, on the assumption that the new government will require wheat just as urgently as, and probably more urgently than, the old government would have done because of the disturbed areas which the new government appears likely to control, there is a great possibility that the new government will accept the obligation of the old government and sign the agreement to purchase 6,000,000 bushels of Australian wheat.
– Is it not 7,000,000 bushels of wheat?
– The total is approximately 7,000,000 bushels of wheat. If the new government in China does not ratify the agreement, there are provisions, as the honorable member knows, for the appointment of that quantity among the signatories to the agreement. [ hope, and I expect, that the new government of China will take the allocation of approximately 7,000,000 bushels.
– ls it not possible that the new government of China, being a Communist regime, will obtain its wheat from Russia?
– The honorable member has asked a most pertinent question. The wheat-growing areas of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics are located in the Ukraine, which broadly speaking, lie between the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, thousands of miles from China. For a number of years, the Australian Government has had inquiries from Russia, despite reasonably good crops in that country, relative to supplying wheat to Vladivostock. The explanation is that because of the shorter distance by sea, it would pay Russia to buy wheat from Australia rather than haul vast quantities of grain across Siberia. The possibility of Russia supplying wheat to China is exceedingly remote.
– It was a silly question, really.
– I should not say that it was a silly question. The honorable member for Wimmera was seeking information, and, in doing so, asked a most pertinent question. Some little time ago, we had an inquiry from the Communist regime in China to ascertain whether we would be prepared to supply wheat to that country. Under existing conditions, we are committed to sell nearly all this year’s wheat to the United Kingdom and India.
– Did the Chinese Communists suggest a barter plan?
– A barter plan was suggested, indicating that the people of China, under the new regime, will be in an exceedingly difficult situation in regard to supplies of wheat. Because of geographical considerations, they are not likely to obtain supplies of grain from Russia.
The honorable member for Wimmera has also asked a question about the voting strengths of the respective parties to the agreement. It is true that Australia’s voting strength in regard to the apportionment of votes on a bushel supply basis is not so strong as are the joint votes of Canada and the United States of America. The council will consist of the three exporter nations, and approximately 36 importer nations, depending on the number that ratify the agreement. It will be in the interests of Canada and the United States of America not to do anything that would injure the interests of any other exporter nation that is a party to the agreement. There will be flexibility in the working of the council, and it can be accepted that a harmonious relationship will be established between the parties. If harmonious relations are not established between them, there is a possibility that the whole arrangement will break down. However, that possibility is exceedingly remote, because I consider the harmonious relation between Canada, Australia and the United States of America are unbreakable.
The honorable member has referred to the possibility of some countries evolving a scheme under which all the wheat may be bought at the minimum price. All that will happen under this agreement is that a maximum and minimum price will be set for the sale of wheat by exporting countries to importing countries. There will be a wide range of trading at values between the maximum and minimum prices, and at the maximum and minimum prices. The volume of trading that will take place from time to time, and the exact date of those transactions will be almost precisely the same as the trading that takes place between the buyers and sellers .of wheat to-day, and will depend largely on the. world supply situation. When wheat is scarce, the tendency will be for importer nations with obligations to snatch up their wheat as quickly as they can and at as favorable a price as they can get. But the selling countries will hold out to get the maximum or as near to the actual maximum price as they can.
– In other words, when wheat is plentiful it will be cheap, and when wheat is scarce, it will be dear.
– The Minister and I are in agreement again.
– -Exactly. When wheat is most plentiful, the importing countries, as honorable parties to the agreement, cannot escape their obligations to buy a specific quantity of wheat at not less than the minimum price. I have mentioned that when wheat becomes scarce there will be a rush to make purchases at values between the maximum and minimum prices. In most instances, the sellers will seek to obtain the maximum price. When wheat is extremely plentiful, there will be some hesitancy, but sellers will desire to get in out of the wet as quickly as they can, just as they do now, and they will try to persuade the importing nations which have obligations under this agree ment to buy the wheat at a minimum price, or above it. The sellers will make the best bargain that they can. The bargaining position will be very little different from what it is now. The world’s wheat trade will go on as hitherto, but a protective security will be given under the terms of the agreement. Although the agreement has not yet been ratified, Australia has received several requests to quote prices for wheat in the first twelve months of the operation of the agreement. In due course, when the agreement has been ratified, those inquiries will be referred to the Australian Wheat Board, and that body will quote the price that it considers it can extract from the prospective buyer which has an obligation to purchase from an exporter a specific quantity of wheat. That price may be the maximum, the minimum or a value between the two. I do not think I can elaborate that particular matter.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 17th June (vide page 1167), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– As a South Australian, I desire to take this opportunity to express my appreciation of the action of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) in providing this financial assistance to my State. The people of South Australia generally realize that the Treasurer is not the bugbear that the press and the opponents of the Labour party so often depict him to be.
– Such assistance to South Australia has been granted for years.
– I am aware of that, but, for some years, certain interested parties have claimed that, under the uniform income tax legislation, the States have lost the power of the purse and have thereby been deprived of some of their sovereign rights. The truth is that the employees of South Australian Government departments, for instance, are enjoying better conditions now than they did before the introduction of the uniform income tax. For many years teachers employed by the South Australian Education Department received salaries below those that were paid in other States. The State Government in those days had the power to increase taxation in order to finance higher salary rates for its public servants, as honorable members opposite say the Playford Government could do now but for uniform taxation, but it failed to do so. I recollect the severe depression period in South Australia when there was a shortage of money for public finance. I think that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was a fellow member of a committee to which I was appointed at that time.
– What coInmittee was that?
– The budget committee.
– I do not remember it.
– I think that the honorable gentleman was a member of that committee, which was formed as the result of a suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition in the State Parliament at that time that financial problems could be discussed more effectively by such a body than by means of argument in the Parliament.
– No. I was not a member of that committee.
– I was chosen from the government party as a member of the committee. The then Leader of the Opposition in that Parliament, now Sir Richard Butler, was very concerned about what he called the “ high salaries “ paid to officers of the Education Department. I mention that fact in passing in order to demonstrate that members of the anti-Labour forces in those days were very much opposed to the payment of adequate salaries to public servants. The costs of the South Australian Education Department are now practically double what they were a few years ago despite the fact that the State Government complains that it is not able to levy taxes on its own account. I am not satisfied that the increases that have been made, which I fully support, would have been made if taxing authority had been left in the hands of the State. Under the present arrangement with the Commonwealth, whenever the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania sustain a budget deficit, the Commonwealth comes to their aid. I am very appreciative of the fact that this Government is prepared to provide any extra money that is needed by those States. The Commonwealth Grants Commission has now seen fit to recommend the grant of an additional sum of £600,000 for South Australia. When the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) introduced this hill last week, he cited certain figures in order to show that even this amount might not be sufficient to enable the State to balance its budget. However, it may reasonably be expected to bridge the gap. I shall not deal with the amount of the proposed grant for Tasmania, because I am not intimately acquainted with the affairs of that State. The proposals provide evidence that refute the propaganda of those people who decry the uniform tax system and claim that it prevents the State governments from exercising their sovereign rights with regard to expenditure. The bill demonstrates that this Government is prepared to consider the needs of the less populous States. It will help them willingly if it is convinced that their losses have been caused by forces beyond their control and not by efforts to outbid other States that are not eligible to receive Commonwealth grants. The readiness with which aid is provided is an indication of the good spirit of the Australian Government, the Commonwealth Grants Commission and the Commonwealth Treasurer towards the States. I support the bill, and I trust that it will enable the Government of South Australia to place its public servants on an equal footing with those of other States.
– I should not have engaged in this debate but for the speech made by the honorable (member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson). Since the honorable member has applied so much ointment to his political soul in connexion with finance and the wonderful things that this Government has done for South Australia, it is only right and fitting that the case should be stated from the point of view of the Opposition. Subventions toStates were provided for in the original Commonwealth Constitution because the people who drafted the Constitution recognized that, under the tariff system which is was realized would undoubtedly be set up under federation, certain disabilities would be suffered by the weaker States. Payments in aid of the States were made from the very inception of federation. They were at first made under what was known as the “ Braddon blot”, and they have been made ever since with very few intermissions and without any regard for the political character of the government that happened for the time being to be in office in this Parliament. There is no political advantage to be gained for the Labour party from the payment of the money for which this bill provides. A certain code of rules has been laid down under which the Commonwealth Grants Commission considers the appllication of every State. An applicant State is not permitted to have a scale of payments for its civil service greater than the average scale for the whole Commonwealth without suffering certain reductions in its grant. There is no need to go into all those rules, because the honorable (member for Hindmarsh knows perfectly well what they are. It is true that he and I were members of the South Australian Parliament at the same time. J remember in those days seeing him on the opposite side of the State House of Assembly when the Hill Labour Government had behind it the greatest majority ever given to a government in South Australia. What happened? Teachers’ salaries were not increased according to my recollection. I do not remember anything about that, but I do remember-
– The honorable memlip.r wanted to decrease them.
– A decrease took place under a South Australian Labour government.
– I was one of the managers who went ito the Legislative Council building, that old rabbit warren in which the Council met in those days, and helped to give effect to the Premiers Plan. There were many things about the Premiers Plan that I did not like, but I shall not refer to them, now. However, it is a matter of fact that during the time when the honorable member was in the State Parliament, he supported a government that reduced the salaries of teachers. There can be no question about that. It is also a fact that teachers’ salaries were increased by a government against which he sat in opposition until he became a member of this Parliament. The Government of South Australia to-day is headed by the greatest leader that South Australia has ever produced. As long as he is prepared to lead the Government in that State, the Labour party has no more hope of defeating him than my old Persian cat has of going on a voyage to ‘the .moon. In discussing the proposed grant of £600,000, the honorable member for Hindmarsh referred to the present Australian Government as though it were some sort of bountiful fairy giving bonuses to South Australia. What is the position under the uniform tax system? South Australia was one of those States which appealed to the High Court against uniform tax, burt the High Court ruled that the system was the valid constitutional law of Australia. Therefore, whatever the Premiers may happen to think of the situation, the times when the honorable gentleman and I faced each other in the South Australian Parliament have gone and will never return. To-day, the less populous States have to depend on the Australian Government to provide for any shortage of revenue. Owing to the operation of the existing federal system of taxation deficits can be made up only by subventions from the Commonwealth Treasury.
– I take it from the honorable member’s remarks that he is in favour of the uniform tax.
– I did not say anything of the sort. The nature of the bill that we are debating does not allow me to discuss that matter. I mentioned it as a fact and the relevant legislation has been ruled to be constitutional by the High Court of Australia. The fact that I want to stress is that this Government, to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh refers in such glowing terms, has the record of being the greatest taxgatherer that Australia has ever seen. It has taken more out of the pockets of the people and put less into them than has any other government. Its rates of tax are greater than the tax rates in most British communities. I think that to get a parallel one would have to go back to the days of Louis XV. and Louis XVI. before the French Revolution.
-Order! I ask the honorable member to return to the bill.
– Yes ; I nm just giving a comparison. I know comparisons are always odious and that comparison will be, too. There is no special merit about the action of the Commonwealth paying its just debts to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania; there would be some demerit if it did not do so. Therefore, let us, without seeking party political advantage, accept the position and pay these debts. Such payments were provided for by the Constitution from the day of its inception. If the question of parties is to come into consideration - and that is the wicket on which the honorable member for Hindmarsh wishes to bat - I shall be in the other team.
.- I listened to both the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and if any one introduced party political matters it was the honorable member for Barker. No one on this side has discussed constitutional rights. The plain facts are that the States that are dependent on the Commonwealth still have the right to certain fields of taxation. They can increase the taxes levied in those fields if they so desire. The honorable member for Barker cannot dispute that. By granting this sum of £600,000 to my State of South Australia, the Australian Government has given it the opportunity of almost balancing its budget. That bears out the statement that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has made from time to time that he desires all the States of Australia to have a stable economy. He also pointed out in his second-reading speech on this measure that all the needs of the States should be taken into consideration and budgeted for, because, unless that were done, any State government could be encouraged not to manage its affairs efficiently and to apply for additional grants from time to time. We know where we stand on the matter of the uniform tax. The cry of State governments that they desire to have back the power to tax people amounts to the biggest sham fight ever waged, because they have never set out to increase taxes in the fields to which they have unrestricted and sole access. I fully believe that it is the responsibility of the tax-gatherers of the nation to ensure that the wealth of the nation shall be distributed as fairly and equitably as possible. There may be some truth in the claim of the honorable member for Barker that this Government is the greatest tax-gatherer that the country has ever seen, but it is also true that it has had to face bigger obligations and responsibilities than any other government has had to face. We must look at the complete picture. It is not merely a matter of seeking political party advantage. The Prime Minister is carrying out the very words of his guarantee to the people of Australia that they would have security, as far as it was possible to give them security, and that every State should have a stable economy. On the question of these grants to the States, the people in the major State of the Commonwealth could say : “ We are paying the major portion of the tax to enable this to be done and we do not desire it to be done “. I have pointed out in the House more than once that, in 1938-39, taxpayers in South Australia paid, in both Commonwealth tax and State tax, practically twice as much as they are paying to-day. If the State needed money to carry out undertakings to school teachers and to public servants that they would be given more amenities and the same rights as those possessed by their like in States such as New South Wales and the uniform tax were not in operation, the people of South Australia, who have been substantially relieved of taxes, would be very heavily burdened. There is nothing party political in this matter of grants to the dependent States. I agree with the honorable member for Barker about that, but the whole of his speech was based on a party political theme. This measure simply means that the Australian Government is giving the opportunity to two of the dependent States to balance their budgets and to have a stable economy. The Australian Government is to be commended for the way in which it has collected taxes and reimbursed the various States. I commend to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) particularly, not only for the tax rates that exist, but also for the stable economy that Australia is so fortunate as to possess.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) implied in his speech that if the States show anything like a deficit the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is kind enough to make a grant that will more or less make up for it.
– More or less.
– Yes, I am not trying to exaggerate the honorable member’s point; but the system has put the State governments, particularly the Government of Tasmania, in the curious position of having to budget deliberately for a deficit to get what they want. That produces phoney figures. Members of the State Parliament have complained bitterly about the position. This Government is attempting to get some kudos to which it has no right. The Prime Minister has about £500,000,000 a year by way of tax revenue and he should disburse to the States what they rightly deserve. It is incorrect to suggest that the Prime Minister is a good sort of Treasurer in that if a State shows a deficit he gives it enough to bring its figures somewhere near the point of balance, because, in fact, he puts the States in a position wherein they have to budget for that deficit.
to the effect that certain days had gone and would never return. The days he referred to were the days when the State governments, because they had complete control over the revenues they raised, could increase the salaries of public servants, school teachers, or do anything else. I interjected to say that I took it that he was in favour of the uniform tax. The uniform tax is imposed and it continues because of an act of this Parliament. That act could be repealed, by a government that might succeed this Government. So the logical inference is that if the honorable member says that those days are gone for ever, the uniform tax is now a permanent feature of our system of raising the revenue of this country. That means one of two things. Either the honorable member believes that an anti-Labour government will never be in office in the Australian Parliament again, or, if it is, that it will not alter the uniform taxation laws. That is the clear inference to be drawn from the honorable member’s ‘statement. All that I did by way of interjection was to suggest that the only correct interpretation of the honorable gentleman’s attitude was that he believed in uniform taxation. I think that it is about time the Opposition made its attitude clear on this subject. I challenge the honorable member for Barker, or the Opposition, to say through its leader that if it is returned to power it will abolish uniform taxation.
.- But for the intrusion of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) into this debate, this measure would have gone through speedily with a blessing of the Parliament. But Government supporters are endeavouring to win votes over the air. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) endeavoured to make political capital out of the hill. After he had referred to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) helping South Australia, he was exposed by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) who pointed out to him that he was a supporter of a government which constantly reduced the salaries of public servants.
This benevolence is really a disgorging of some of the excess money that the Treasurer has taken from the pockets of the people. As the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) has said, the Treasurer is extracting £500,000,000 a year from the people in this so-called golden age. The Treasurer is an austere man who boasts that he can live on the basic wage. Actually he is most prodigal with the taxpayer’s money. He is a most extravagant Treasurer, not unlike King John with relation to taxation collections and Ethelred the unready in relation to defence matters. This measure only provides for a disbursement to two States that have disabilities not suffered by the stronger States. The Minister saw what he thought was a grand opportunity to embarrass the honorable member for Barker by asking whether the honorable member believed in the policy of uniform taxation. He challenged the members of the Opposition to say whether they believed in it or not. I was overseas at the time that the measure was passed otherwise I should certainly have opposed it. The Minister is shortly to go into eclipse because he is to be opposed at the forthcoming general election by a very prominent man who will run him right off the track. He has thrown out a challenge in an ill-disguised moment of political sagacity, and has asked whether the Opposition will abolish uniform taxation if again elected to office. The Minister is a Victorian representative. Does he not know that Victoria is not getting a fair share under uniform taxation?
– The honorable member for Balaclava is not entitled to deal with that matter at length at present.
– It is ridiculous to say that the Opposition cannot deal with this matter when the Minister has already dealt with it during this debate. The Minister showed himself in his true colours. He did not think that any one would notice that he was condoning the robbing of the Victorian taxpayers under uniform taxation by asking whether the members of the Opposition approved of the system. By introducing this aspect into this debate he has helped to bring about his own downfall.
.- I shall not retard the passage of this measure. However, for reasons best known to himself, the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) threw into the ring the subject of uniform taxation. The Chair has just indicated to my colleague the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) that that matter cannot be debated at any length during discussion of this bill. I point out that the whole of the Minister’s speech, short though it was, dealt with this item and no other. We of the Opposition ask for a corresponding privilege. As the representative of a Victorian constituency, the Minister should be fully conscious of the circumstances in which that legislation was first introduced to the Parliament, the assurance given by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), who is also now Prime Minister, and the way that it has since operated unfairly against the citizens of Victoria. I shall make two references for the purpose of illustration. When the Treasurer introduced the legislation on the 15th May, 1942, he said that the Government was bringing about a single taxation authority for the period of the war and for one year thereafter, and that the bill would provide machinery for the temporary transfer to the Commonwealth of certain State taxation staffs. He repeated that pledge in his 1942 budget speech, and included a similar undertaking in section 16 of the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Act, which states -
This Act shall continue in operation until the last day of the first financial year to commence after the date on which His Majesty ceased to be engaged in the present war, and no longer.
This was the undertaking given at the time. We protested then that the impact of this legislation in that form would result in a serious injustice to Victoria. In 1945, the average increase of collections under uniform tax over the separate Federal and State income , taxes in 1940-41 in the four States other than Victoria and South Australia was 145 per cent. The increase in South Australia under uniform taxation was 198 per cent. The increase in Victoria was 231 per cent. That was an enormous difference. The people accepted the new arrangement at the time, because they were given an assurance that it was purely a war-time measure. Injustices to the people of Victoria will not be alleviated until the uniform tax legislation is repealed. The Minister, a Victorian ^representative, has asked what the attitude of the Opposition is on this subject. My reply is that any government drawn from this side of the House will review the uniform taxation legislation and see that a reasonable measure of justice is done to all of the States.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) was good enough to inquire where I stand on the subject of uniform taxation. I am prepared to give my views on that matter to the committee.
– Order! The honorable member will, not be in order in dealing with the subject of uniform taxation. He must deal with specific clauses of the measure.
– On the motion for the second-reading of the measure, the Minister dealt with uniform taxation, and I now wish to reply to him.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member cannot discuss uniform taxation at this stage.
– When this money is made available to the Government of South Australia that Government will not be obliged to do what a Liberal government in that State did some years ago, when it took action which was unprecedented in political history in this country.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– Under this measure, the sum of £600,000 is to be made available to the State of South Australia. I point out that some years ago, because insufficient money could not be obtained by the Government of that State to meet its commitments-
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. You have already ruled that discussion along the lines indicated by the honorable member’s remarks will not be in order.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh must confine his remarks to the hill.
– Under clause 3, the sum of £600,000 is to be made available to the State of South Australia. That is the only aspect of the measure with which I propose to deal; and I simply wish to point out that as the result of this assistance the Government of that State will not be faced with such a deficit as might oblige it to do what was done by a Liberal government in South Australia when it declared, in the terms of the relevant budget speech, that school teachers would have to be satisfied with 5 per cent, less than the wages prescribed under their award.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– I should like the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to explain what the Government’s position would be if, as provided by the Constitution, it paid all its surplus revenues to the States at the end of each financial year. I have in mind the large surpluses which this Government has paid into trust accounts in order to avoid making payments to the States which are their just due under the Constitution. Has the Minister anything to say on that aspect?
– As I should not be in order in dealing with surplus revenues at this stage, I suggest that the honorable member raise that point with me privately.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Health - E. U. Hipsley.
Hospital Benefits Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1949, No. 31.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Department of the Interior purposes -
Postal purposes - Port Augusta, South Australia.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1949, No. 30.
Services Trust Funds Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1949, No. 32.
Superannuation Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1949, No. 33.
House adjourned at 10.55 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
g asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y. - On the 18th May, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) asked whether any date had been fixed for the commencement of operation of the increases of allowances paid to the wives and children of certain pensioners, also whether the increases would be applied immediately or whether they depended upon the passage of appropriate legislation by both Houses of Parliament. Further to my reply to the honorable member on that date, I am now able to advise that a bill to amend the Social Services Consolidation Act to provide for increases payable to the wives and the children of invalid pensioners from £1 to £1 4s. per week and from 5s. to 9s. per week, respectively, will be introduced at an early date. It is hoped that the amending legislation will be passed by the Parliament and assented to in time to permit payment of the increases to be made available on the 30th June, 1949.
Broadcasting : Electoral and Controversial Sessions; Fees and Charges; Australian Broadcasting Control Board; Victorian Legislative Council Election.
l. - On the 14th June, the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) asked whether the Parliament would be informed concerning the conditions and rules that are likely to govern broadcasts of a controversial nature during the next federal election and whether the rules would apply equally to national and commercial stations. The Postmaster-General has now supplied the following information : -
Under section6k of the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942-1948, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is required to ensure that facilities are provided on an equitable basis for the broadcasting of political or controversial matter. In this connexion the board is thoroughly investigating this question with a view to determining the conditions which should apply to the broadcasting of political and controversial matter. In pursuance of the relevant provisions of the act, the board has already had discussions with representatives of commercial broadcasting stations concerning the problem. Parliament will be informed of any decisionsreached by the board in thisregard. Under sub-section 89 (1) of the act, the Australian Broadcasting Commission determines to what extentand in what manner political speeches or any matter relating to a political or controversial subject may be broadcast from national broadcasting stations, subject only to the restrictions imposed by sub-sections 89 (2.) and (3.) on the broadcasting of political matter during the two days preceding a federal or State election and the dramatization of political matter. Consequently, any conditions imposed by the board on commercial stations willnot apply to the commission.
– On the 10th June, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) asked a series of questions concerning licence-fees for commercial broadcasting stations, and the annual cost of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. In my reply, after disposing of the questions on the first subject, I undertook to furnish for his information an estimate of the annual cost of the board. In this connexion, I am informed that the board, which commenced operations on the 15th March, 1949, has submitted estimates for 1949-50 which suggest that its annual expenditure will be in the region of £125,000. This expenditure will be offset by savings which will be effected by the Post Office as the result of the transfer of certain of its broadcasting functions and several of its officers to the board. The board’s staff at present is comprised almost entirely of officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department previously engaged on broadcasting duties.
l. - On the 15th June the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) asked the following questions concerning a broadcast by the Premier of Victoria which was to take place over seventeen commercial broadcasting stations in that State on the night of the 16th June: -
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information : -
The Postmaster-General has informed me that, having regard to its statutory obligation to ensure that facilities are provided on an equitable basis for the broadcasting of political and controversial matter, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is thoroughly investigating the whole question of political broadcasts with a view to determining the conditions which should apply to the broadcasting of political and controversial matter.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
y. - The information is being sought and replies will be furnished as soon as possible.
Mr.Ryan asked the Minister for Com merce and Agriculture, upon notice -
What are Australia’s production figures for such primary produce as milk, butter, cheese, wheat, wool, eggs, lamb, pork and rice?
How do these compare with the production figures during the last three pre-war years ?
How much of Australia’s primary produce is available for (a) export and (6) local requirements?
Have Australian food requirements increased since the end of the war? 5.If so, what action has the Government taken to meet the new requirements, apart from plans to develop the Northern Territory?
d. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The production of the items specified in the last three pre-war years and in the latest year - 1947-48 - for which official statistics are available from the Commonwealth Statistician have been as follows: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Will he prepare a statement setting out the number or quantity, as the case may be, of the following items available for distribution in (a) Australia and (5) Western Australia, for the years ended 30th June, or 31st December, whichever is applicable, 1947 and 1948, and to the latest available date: - Tractors (wheel in horse-power groups), tractors (crawler in horse-power groups), headers, harvesters, seed drills, combines, fencing wire (plain and barbed), rabbit netting, sheep netting, steel posts, galvanized iron (corrugated and plain), galvanized piping ) inch to $ inch and 5-inch bore casing.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
A table of tractors distributed is given below -
The Government has no control over the interstate distribution of tractors from nondollar areas. This represents 70 per cent, of the total Australian supply and the distribution of these tractors is in the hands of the tractor trade, except in Western Australia where it is understood, the State Government exercises some control over distribution. Header Harvesters, Seed Drills, &c. - As distribution of these machines is a responsibility of the State governments, no figures are available.
Fencing Material, Galvanized Iron Piping and Bore Casing. - Distribution is a State responsibility and in Western Australia the supply of fencing material is drawn from the local production of the Western Australian Netting and Wire Company.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
With respect to (a) beef and veal, (6) mutton, (c) lamb, (<?) pork, (e) butter and (/) cheese, what were the quantities (in tons)
produced, (ii) consumed in Australia and (iii) exported to (a) Great Britain and (6) other destinations in iS48, and, if available, in the first quarter of 1949?
– The1 answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
Timber: Tasmania^ Shipping Belays.
n. - On the 14th June, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked a question concerning shipment of timber from Tasmania. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information: -
The Australian Shipping Board has seven vessels engaged in trade between Tasmania and the mainland, i.e., four D class vessels and three E class vessels, and of these three D class vessels and one 3D class vessel are operating between Tasmania and Victoria and South Australia. The “ river “ class vessels and chartered ships of the Australian Shipping Board are too large for the northern ports of
Tasmania which handle timber shipments, ‘and in fact when any such vessel tins Deen placed on a berth at any of these ports objections’ have been raised by the local interests to the effect that, whilst loading, such vessel monopolizes the port and prevents other vessels being worked. In addition the turn-round of such ships is naturally much slower, than the smaller vessels and consequently they would not in the long run succeed in shifting any greater quantity of timber. The position is not one of lack of shipping but rather that of limited facilities and labour at the timber ports. Together with the shipping operated by the interstate company, tonnage is being allocated up to the capacity of the ports concerned and therefore no advantage would be gained by attempting to introduce large oversea vessels into this particular trade.
NORTHERN Territory : Health and Medical SERVICES
– On the 16th June, the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) asked me a question concerning the question of tabling a copy of the report of the select committee appointed last year by the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory to inquire into three phases of Health Department administration in the territory. I find that the report of the select committee was presented in the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory on the 15th February, 1949, and was on the 16th February, 1949, ordered to be printed. Printed copies of the report are not yet available, but a few typewritten copies have been obtained from the Administrator. The report is a public document of the Legislative Council and has been available to any one interested. lt has been fully publicized in the press. It was tabled in the course of proceedings in another legislative body. It was for these reasons’ the Minister considered it was not appropriate that it should be tabled in this Parliament. I agree with this view. However, for’ the convenience of honorable members a copy of the report has been filed in the Parliamentary Library. The Administrator has been asked to forward more copies. When these come to hand additional copies will be so filed.
H.M.S. “ Amethyst “.
y. - On the 1st June, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked me a question concerning H.M.S. Amethyst. Further to my interim reply to the honorable member on that date, I now advise that so far as is known the H.M.S. Amethyst is still anchored in the Yangtse River near Chang Shau Chou Island. It is understood that no attempt will be made to move her until a safe conduct has beer guaranteed by the Communists. It was recently stated in the House of Commons that all the officers and men who were serving in H.M.S. Amethyst when she was shelled have been accounted for. Two ratings who had found refuge in a Chinese mission hospital, which has been taken over by the Communists, have returned to their ship fully recovered from their wounds. The casualties suffered were nineteen killed and 27 wounded.
g asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he have prepared - (a) a list of companies in which the Commonwealth has invested money in conjunction with private capital; (6) a statement of the total capital issued and the amount held by the Commonwealth; (c) a list of government directors in such companies; and (d) a statement of the amount of fees, allowances or expenses received by such government nominees!
– The information sought by the honorable member is being obtained and will be furnished as soon as possible.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 June 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490621_reps_18_202/>.