20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. FULLER presented a petition from certain electors of the division of Hume, praying that the House direct the extension of the subsidizing of the new price of stock-feed wheat to all primary production dependent upon such wheat for existence.
Petition received and read.
Mr.ROBERTON- Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture able to say whether the Government’s intention to make the freight payable on wheat transported to Tasmania and Queensland a charge against the wheat-growers is likely to be reconsidered! Is there any sound reason why the disastrous drought in Queensland or the cereal growing limitations of Tasmania should be an exclusive charge on the rest of the wheatgrowers of the Commonwealth? Are not the disabilities suffered by Tasmania rightly the responsibility of the Commonwealth Grants Commission? Are not droughts a national calamity which should be relieved, where relief is necessary, by the community as a whole 1 Why does the Government, in order to correct a wrong which was perpetrated by the previous Government with respect to stock feed wheat, want .to impose a condition which is a flagrant injustice of a type which -was successfully resisted by the Australian Wheat Board when it was imposed by the previous Government?
– My question relates to the answer given by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a few moments ago about the successful negotiations that he has conducted in regard to stock feed wheat prices. I have been informed that in view of this arrangement having been made there is a likelihood of Hackmarket prices, for stock feed wheat persisting for a few weeks. Therefore, I ask the Minister whether he will carefully watch stock feed wheat prices, and whether he will request the Australian Wheat Board to do likewise in liaison with the five State Ministers concerned in order to prevent such black marketing?
– I give the honorable member an assurance that stock feed wheat prices will be watched very closely, but it must be remembered that new prices of wheat for sale for all purposes in Australia should operate from the 1st December. I have no doubt that they will do so. I have recommended acceptance of the guaranteed prices, in the terms of the resolutions, of the State Ministers for Agriculture, and I expect, in a day or two, when I receive the replies that I am awaiting to announce the new guaranteed prices for wheat for human’ consumption. In view of the short time between now and the 1st December there will be very little scope for black marketing, but that matter will be watched.
– Can the Treasurer yet give the House any information about the result of the Fourteenth Security Loan?
– I cannot give precise results of the loan. It has been subscribed, but certain remittances are in transit and the loan has not been completely finalized.
– In view of the fact that pensions of Australian war widow; resident in Australia and war pensions that are payable to United States and Canadian war widows resident in Australia are exempt from Australian income tax, I ask the Treasurer whether the Government will grant a similar exemption to war widows of British servicemen resident in Australia ?
– My recollection is that the matter has been investigated but that a difficulty has arisen because of the lack of a reciprocal agreement with the United Kingdom Government. However, I shall investigate the matter and will supply an answer to the honorable member.
– On Wednesday, I asked the Minister for Supply whether he could arrange that contracts be let to Australian manufacturers for woollen textiles and knitted goods in order to help them to overcome certain difficulties which both manufacturers and workers in the textile industry are at present experiencing. Can the Minister state whether he has examined the matter and can he give some further information regarding it?
– I appreciate that the matter that the honorable member raised is of some importance to manufacturers of woollens and textiles. I examined the figures yesterday and discovered that in the last twelve months the Department of Supply has let contracts, many of which are still current, as follows: - For the manufacture of khaki and woollen cloths, 3,250,000 yards; for cotton materials, 3,250,000 yards; and for the manufacture of cloths and materials into no less than 2,250,000 items of military clothing.
– The department also let some contracts to Japan, too, did it not?
– It did indeed, and thereby managed to get material which was not obtainable anywhere else.
– It is now.
– Wherever it is obtainable we shall get it. Contracts are now being arranged as follows: - For cotton piece goods, about 19,000,000 yards, a good deal of which will be imported; woollen piece goods,” 1,250,000 yards, which will all be obtained from local mills. In addition, we are arranging contracts for the manufacture of about 6,000,000 items of military clothing. I think that the honorable member was particularly concerned about blanket cloth, because blanket factories appeared to be in difficulties, and included in the last-mentioned figure are 218,000 blankets, for which we have had a heavy response in tenders as blanket factories appear to be in need of orders. All of these contracts will be by public tender, and they will afford firms which are short of work an opportunity of keeping their factories in operation, as the honorable member indicated. Having regard to the great number of public tenders we are getting at present, I form the .conclusion that manufacturers are using those tenders to counteract their shortage of orders.
– I direct to the Minister for Territories a question which relates to the copra stabilization fund in New Guinea. Will the Minister inform the House of the amount that that fund is in hand at the present time ; the purpose for which the moneys are being used and for which it is intended to use them in future ; and whether it is possible for the dependents of people who have paid into the fund to have money repaid to them from the” fund when their association with the copra production industry completely ceases ?
– I cannot say from memory the exact total of money in the fund, though at the moment it is in the vicinity of £1,300,000. This fund was accumulated as a result of commitments made in relation to the export of copra before any exact rules for the operation of the stabilization fund had been drawn up. So there are no set rules to. guide us in regard to the application of the money that has been accumulated. At the present time my department, in consultation with the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, is examining the matter of the preparation of rules satisfactory to all concerned, under which the stabilization fund will operate in the interests of the copra industry. At the present time there is no possibility open to us to return to contributors any of the money which may have been accumulated in the fund. I shall have the point raised by the honorable member further examined.
– Having regard to the number of passengers killed in air disasters involving aircraft of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and the fact that TransAustralia Airlines has not lost a single passenger life since its inception, I ask the Prime Minister whether he will guarantee that the Government will not do anything to affect adversely the present high standard of service given to passengers by Trans-Australia Airlines. I ask him to assure the House that in particular nothing will be done that will have the effect of impairing Trans- Australia Airlines’ existing safety provisions.
– This is the second question put in two days which obviously exhibits a desire to conduct propaganda against Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. This propaganda has been of the most scandalous kind. The purpose of this question and the one which fell from the honorable member for Hume yesterday was to create in the public mind an idea that craft operated by Australian National Airways .Proprietary Limited are not airworthy. That suggestion is a grave reflection upon the Civil Aviation Department and on the standard of the test through which all aircraft have to pass. The Government will maintain the present high standards of air-worthiness and I should like to say to the public that there is no foundation whatever for the scandalous partisan suggestions that have been made.
– Will the Minister for Health consider extending the free medicine and free medical benefits scheme to superannuated persons? Many aged persons come within that category, being in receipt of superannuation payments from government and private sources. As their fixed incomes do not allow them much money to pay for medical treat ment, will the Minister soften his heart a little and try to extend the benefits of the free health plan to such persons?
– Such a softening of the heart might have an adverse effect on the present arrangements that have been made with the doctors of Australia who are willing to help age pensioners because they are subject to a. means test and are easily identifiable through the social services organization. I have stated several times this week that we are considering what can be done for old folk. We have been in contact with various insurance organizations and we are exploring every avenue through which something may be done for such people. The whole matter is very complicated. Labour governments did nothing about it for eight years, but we are doing everything that we can to help such people.
– My question to. the Treasurer relates to transferred officers who came into the service of the Commonwealth at the inception of federation. The Treasurer will remember that I raised this matter on an earlier occasion, and that he pointed out that complementary State legislation was necessary to deal with it. Such legislation has now been passed by theWestern Australian Parliament, and I ask the Treasurer whether he can give an assurance that similar legislation will be brought before this Parliament before the end of the session?
– Yes, 1 hope to give notice on Tuesday of the introduction of a measure on the lines mentioned by the honorable member.
– In view of the necessity for adequate supplies of superphosphate to increase Australia’s food production, and of the recent reduction of the amount of sulphur available to us from the United States, can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House when it is expected that the first sulphuric acid made from iron pyrites in Australia will be available ? Where will the iron pyrites be obtained 1 Is tie Minister expediting the manufacture of sulphuric acid bv every possible means ?
– The Government is aware of the problems associated with increasing the production of superphosphate, and of the fundamental relationship between the availability of superphosphate and food production in this country. It has succeeded in securing additional supplies of sulphur for the production of sulphuric acid for use in the manufacture of superphosphate in Australia. Those supplies will be adequate for current purposes. But, as we have realized for some time, a state of affairs will develop in which our demands for superphosphate will outstrip the availability of sulphur. For some months, the Government has been in consultation with the State governments, with the owners of iron pyrites mines and with superphosphate manufacturing companies with the object of achieving an arrangement with the consent of all those parties under which sulphuric acid will be produced, not from imported sulphur but from indigenous ores. I believe that, as the result of a recent conference of all parties other than the State governments, we have reached the stage at which a final agreement can be made which will enable us to look forward with confidence to the availability of adequate supplies of sulphuric acid produced from indigenous ores.
– -Some months ago, I directed the attention of the predecessor to the present Minister for the Navy to complaints that adequate accommodation was not available for members of the armed forces, especially naval personnel, on leave in the capital cities. The honorable gentleman’s predecessor said that a” statement would be made to the House about that matter. It has not yet been made. Will the Minister say whether satisfactory arrangements have now been made for the accommodation of servicemen who are on leave in the capital cities ?
– I am sorry to say that the provision of accommodation for servicemen who are on leave in capital cities will always present difficulties. The Department of the Navy is con stantly on the look-out for additional accommodation. I shall inquire whether the statement to which the honorable gentleman has referred has been prepared. If it has been prepared, I shall make it available to him.
– I direct the attention of the Treasurer to a recent announcement that restrictions on the sale of gold at world premium prices have been lifted. Will the right honorable gentleman say whether all such restrictions have been removed, or whether some are still in force that will deny to goldproducers an opportunity to obtain the full market price for their product? Is any restriction imposed upon the quantity of gold that may be sold at the full market price?
– Details such as those to which the honorable gentleman has referred still have to be worked out with the gold industry. In the near future, a conference will be held to consider the machinery that will need to be established to achieve the objective of permitting the Australian gold industry to sell the whole of its output on the open market for dollars.
– I preface my question, which is directed to you, Mr. Speaker, with the statement that frequently, prior to putting a motion to the House, you say that you propose to dispense with reading the terms of the motion in full if there be no objection to that course. If an honorable member asks that a motion be read, are you or the Chairman of Committees, who may be in charge of our proceedings, obliged by the Standing Orders to comply with that request? Is there any standing order that permits either yourself or the Chairman of Committees to put two or more amendments to the House or the committee for decision by one vote ?
– I rise to order. I refer the honorable member to Standing Orders 222 and 223.
-So far as I am concerned, the Speaker has no interest in proceedings that take place in committee. That is none of my business. So far as proceedings in the House are concerned, if any honorable member desires that I should read the whole of a motion that is before the Chair before a vote is taken, that will always be done. On occasions I have thought it desirable to ask whether the House wished that I should read a motion before I put it; and in those instances in which no honorable member expressed such a desire, I did not read it. But if, in such circumstances, any honorable member should desire that a motion be read from the Chair, I assure the House that the motion and, if necessary, amendments to it too, will be read before a vote is taken. Normally, two amendments would not be put together. I cannot recall any occasion on which that has happened. If the honorable member knows of such an occasion, I should like him to refresh my mind about it. I repeat that under the Standing Orders proceedings in committee are not the business of the Speaker.
– I ask the Chairman of Committees to give honorable members his interpretation of the Standing Orders which cover the circumstances that were referred to a few moments ago by the honorable member for East Sydney.
– My interpretation of the matter is based on Standing Order 222, which reads as follows: -
In reading the clauses of a Bill it shall be sufficient to read the number and marginal notes only.
It was obviously impossible to read an amendment which covered about three pages of type. Copies of that amendment were circulated about a week before it was considered by the committee, but evidently some honorable members were too indifferent to read it.
– I realize that this matter cannot be decided now, but I point out that the position is covered by Standing Order 84 as well as Standing Order 222.
– Order ! I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will appreciate my position. The matter concerns a happening in committee, and I remind him that proceedings in com mittee may not be discussed’ in the House. The matter should be decided in the committee of the whole House itself, which committee has complete control over its own business.
– I merely intervened because of the intervention of the Chairman of Committees.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Supply to the fact that financial restrictions are affecting buyers to such a degree that many manufacturers are unable to sell the whole of their output and will be obliged to dismiss numbers of their employees. In most instances, such manufacturers are able and willing, in accordance with the Government’s policy, to change over to the production of more essential goods, but they are unable to obtain the requisite information about how they should proceed. Will the Minister consider appointing a special committee to study thi? matter and also to act as a liaison between manufacturers and government departments in effecting this necessary changeover in production?
– The matter that the honorable member has raised is under consideration at all times by the Supply Planning Section of the Department of Supply. Recently, an industrial survey was instituted throughout Australia. It has not yet been completed, but it is being proceeded with all the time, and manufacturers, particularly of products that are likely to be used for defence purposes or by government departments that are served by the Contract Board, are invited to fill in the survey form and thus make available to the department the requisite particulars concerning their organizations. I do not think that any good purnose would be served by the appointment of a special committee for the purpose that the honorable member has suggested, because the Supply Planning Section of the department is aware of the position generally. However, I shall have a look at the matter. If the honorable member knows of industrialists who are placed in the position he has mentioned, I suggest that he should encourage them to write to the department which would take up the matter with them.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government is aware that, so far, nothing has been done in Australia in order to protect this country against attack by atomic weapons in the event of Australia being involved in a major war in the future. This is a serious deficiency in our defence preparations A dozen atom bombs that might be fired from submarines, or dropped from aircraft, could well-nigh eliminate the populations of our capital cities and destroy most of our vital industries. There is also the possibility of bacteriological warfare. In view of these facts, will the Government set up a committee within the Department of Defence to work in conjunction with Professor Titterton, of the Department of Nuclear Physics, within the Australian National University in order to plan defence against atomic attack along lines that have been adopted in other countries ?
– It is not proposed to set up a committee of the kind that the honorable member has suggested. All these various aspects of defence and possibilities that arise in respect of defence are considered by the defence authorities and are reviewed by the Government and committees of the Government from time to time. I do not propose to say anything further on the matter.
– Does the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider that there is any reason why Queensland sugar cane-growers should continue to be called upon to deliver sugar tq wheat-growers in New South Wales, and, for that matter, to those in other States, especially when they are suffering from drought conditions at the present time ? If the honorable gentleman agrees to the request for the abolition of the principle which provides that a small part of the cost of wheat grown in New South Wales and used in Queensland by stock-owners in drought-stricken areas, will he agree to the extension of the principle to sugar cane-growers in Queensland who are suffering from drought conditions but who are supplying sugar to capital cities, and through them, to the rest of Australia?
– I should not like to compare the sugar industry and the wheat industry. The honorable member for Wide Bay has accurately stated the arrangement in respect of sugar, which is the outcome of an agreement between the sugar industry, the Government of Queensland and the Commonwealth, and has been regarded as acceptable for many years. I believe that the wheat-growers will recognize that they are better off by manY millions of pounds as a result of complying with the requirement that their industry, for the balance of the stabilization period, shall bear the cost of freight than they would be if the original stabilization plan which was introduced by the Labour Government had not been altered, and they had been obliged to sell all wheat for stockfeed purposes at the local guaranteed price.
– Recently, I asked the Minister for Air a question about the use of Royal Australian Air Force aircraft for spotting bush-fire outbreaks, and for reconnaissance purposes. Will the honorable gentleman inform me whether it is a fact that the Royal Australian Air Force provides aircraft in peace-time to assist in an emergency when lives are endangered and property is menaced? Does not the Royal Australian Air Force search for and rescue persons who are lost on land and at sea? If those operations are a part of the normal duties of the Royal Australian Air Force in peacetime, can the Department of Air make aircraft available to spot outbreaks of bush fires? I point out that the bush-fire danger has been mose serious during this week, and is expected to be acute tomorrow. Can the Royal Australian Air Force assist to combat that terror?
– The Royal Australian Air Force provides aircraft for fire-spotting purposes at the request of the Victorian Fire Commissioners, the New South Wales Forestry Commission and the Queensland Rural Fire Board. Several aircraft are at present carrying out such duties. I think that the honorable member knows that remarkably good work has been done by the Royal Australian Air Force in this connexion during the last few weeks. It will carry out similar tasks whenever it is requested to do so by the various State governments. It also participates in mercy missions for rescue purposes if it is requested to do so by the State authorities, and on frequent occasions helicopters and other aircraft have been made available to transport injured or sick persons in need of hospital treatment. The Royal Australian Air Force has also made fire tenders available to the New South Wales Government in recent weeks. I assure the honorable member that it will co-operate fully with State governments at all times.
. -by leave - I inform honorable members that Lieutenant-General Sir Horace Robertson will address members of the Parliament in the Senate club room at 7 p.m. on Tuesday next.
– I wish to make a personal explanation that arises from misrepresentation last night by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). Speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House, the honorable member said that, in instituting certain motor car transport concessions for exMinisters and private members of the Parliament, I had taken advantage of the concessions for the purpose of spying, as he called it, upon ex-Ministers and members by requiring drivers to prepare special reports on the use of vehicles for submission to me. I say that the assertion was completely false. Drivers of Commonwealth motor cars have always been required to keep records of their trips, and those records have always been available for perusal by the appropriate Minister. I have looked at them periodically, because I consider that I have a duty to ensure that abuses are not taking place. For the information of the honorable member for East Sydney, I propose to continue to do so. At present, it is necessary for me to examine motor car transport records for another special reason. Certain members of the Parliament are pressing me to vary theconcession that was recently granted so that, when they travel on parliamentary business early in the morning or late at night, they may be met at, or delivered to, the appropriate aerodrome instead of the city terminal as was originally arranged. I am considering that proposal and the system of sharing motor cars, which was a part of the concession that was originally granted, in order to determine how the suggested arrangement would work out and what additional calls it would impose upon my department’s transport facilities. The Government instituted the concession which provides that ex-Ministers with a certain number of years of ministerial experience should be transported from their homes to appropriate aerodromes on parliamentary sitting days, not for the purpose of exercising any supervision over them, as the honorable member suggested, but solely as a result of strong representations that were made to me by members of the Labour party. I emphasize the fact that those representations were made only by members of the Labour party. Some of them are elderly, and I was asked to give the concession to them. I thought that the request was not unreasonable, butI thought also that I could not grant the concession to a few individuals only, as that would expose the Government to claims by other ex-Ministers that they were equally entitled to it. Therefore, I tried to put the concession on some grounds of principle by giving it to exMinisters who have three years’ seniority in the same way as certain rail concessions are granted to such persons. The honorable member said that it was ridiculous that he, as an exMinister, should enjoy this concession. I agree that in his case it is ridiculous, but, if I had not granted it to him, he would have charged me with discrimination. He has said that he does not need a motor car, but I have noticed that he continues to use the service that is provided for him.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, because I have been misrepresented by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale). The honorable gentleman said that there was no basis for the complaint and the assertions that I had made. He said that drivers of Commonwealth motor cars always had been required to keep the records that I had mentioned. Such is not the case.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. This is not a personal explanation. The honorable member is introducing a new argument.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney will continue.
– The need for my personal explanation arises from the fact that the Minister said that my statements were completely false. The records that were kept by the transport authorities in the days of the Labour Government’s regime merely stated the name of the person who was in charge of each motor car and the destination to which it went. No records were kept of the individual members of Parliament who were carried in the vehicle. The Minister tries now to excuse-
– I rise to order again, Mr. Speaker. In making my personal explanation, I took great care to ensure that I referred only to the assertions that had been made by the honorable member for East Sydney. Now the honorable member, under cover of the pretext that he is making a personal explanation, is delivering an entirely new speech and making a new attack.
– That is entirely a matter for the Chair to determine. The Minister was allowed fairly wide latitude in making his personal explanation. As this is a matter of importance to the whole House, I propose to allow the honorable member for East Sydney to proceed and to hear what he has to say. I remember that he was once the Minister for Transport and, if my recollection is correct, he was then in charge of the Commonwealth motor car pool.
– No, he was not in charge of the pool.
– The Minister said that the records were kept merely so that he could determine whether there should be a further extension of the travel concession to other members of the Parliament. It would not be necessary for that purpose for him to know who travelled in each motor car. All that would need to be known would be the home addresses of members who were affected so that an exMinister using a Commonwealth vehicle could pick up at the airport members who lived in the same district or direction as himself. The Minister suggested, because requests for the concession had been made by members of the Labour party, that they were responsible for abuses. I challenge the Minister to tell the House exactly what has happened in relation to the transport of members of this Parliament. He can go back as far as he likes into old records. I challenge him to tell all the facts to the Parliament.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are extending beyond the scope of a personal explanation.
– The Minister stated that I had said that it was ridiculous thatI should be granted the concession. I made no such statement. I believe that it is quite proper that members of the Parliament who are travelling from their homes to an airport, or from an airport to their homes, should be provided with adequate and appropriate transport. What I said was that it was ridiculous that I, as an ex-Minister, should have the sole use of a motor car to take me to my home from an airport when other honorable members who lived in the same direction could also be transported in the same vehicle. If there have been any false statements, they have been made by the Minister.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Repatriation Bill 1951.
Wheat Industry Stabilization (Refund of Charge) Bill 1951.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without requests -
Appropriation Bill 1951-52.
Without amendment -
Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill 1951-52.
FORMAL Motion for ADJOURNMENT
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have received from the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The problem of food production in Australia; and in particular the failure of the Government to formulate an effective policy to stimulate food production; the acute shortage of certain vital foods; the threatening calamity resulting from the decline in the production of food; and the necessity to stimulate food production ‘ for defence, for the increase of food exports and to meet obligations to the United Kingdom and South East Asia.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– In moving this motion, I am conscious of the fact that the matter of food production in Australia is, to a very large degree, the responsibility of a number >f authorities. In the first place the respective State governments, through their Departments of Agriculture and other departments, have a great and, indeed, a direct responsibility in respect of food production. It is not necessary for me to outline now the particular scope of their activities. The Commonwealth has also a very direct responsibility because it controls export marketing policy, import policy, financial policy through the Loan Council and taxation. In respect to marketing contracts overseas it has an exclusive responsibility. We realize that we are faced with a problem of great complexity.
It is with some regret that I find myself faced with the necessity of having to admit that the volume of our food production is now at the same level as it was in 1939. That is a most extraordinary fact. It is quite true that during the war period, because a huge number of men had been withdrawn from primary production and enlisted in the armed services, and because of other difficulties attendant on war, primary production faced grave difficulties indeed. But since the cessation of hostilities we have had six years in which to repair the gaps and the deficiencies that inevitably resulted from the war. During the war period and for four years afterwards a Labour administration was in office, but for the last two years we have had an anti-Labour administration in office. While its members were in opposition they claimed that if they were put into office they would correct what they alleged to be the exceedingly parlous position of primary production. They have not corrected the position that they alleged existed. The immediate post-war period was difficult, because it was a transitional period, but at least the Labour Government took initial steps to meet the position. Plans were laid and many schemes were implemented that gave to the farming community some degree of faith in the future. That faith has been blasted by two years of comparative inactivity on the part of the present administration. Worst of all, it has been blasted by the fact that in two years most of the promises made by honorable members opposite to the electors have not been fulfilled.
One problem, though not the only one, that confronts primary producers to-day and affects food production, is the great element of doubt that has been created in their minds about the future of their industry. Let us examine the reason for that element of doubt. In the first place, members of the present Government told the people, particularly the primary producers, that the Labour administration’s taxation policy was a deterrent to increased production. In addition, they told the primary producers that the decline in the purchasing power of money was disastrous, and that unless it was arrested there could be no secure future for primary producers. The Government has completely failed to keep its promises to reduce taxation and arrest the decline in the purchasing power of money which were dangled out as baits for the primary producers. Everybody knows that not only has taxation on primary producers been increased but that primary producers have been selected by the Government for special and unfair treatment. They were singled out last year from among 500,000 taxpayers in private industry, for a special form of victimization which was called the wool sales deduction scheme. They have also been singled out for special attention in this year’s budget through the modification of the averaging system, under which they will make an advance tax payment to the Government of £47,000,000.
In addition to those actions, which are deterrents to production, we find that the Government, the members of which, when they were in opposition, were always harping about what they claimed to be the bad policy of the Chifley Government in relation to funds held in trust, is itself holding large sums in trust. The business activities of the great Joint Organization which operated in relation to the wool industry have been practically finalized. We know that there is legislation on the statute-book, put there by the Chifley Government* to permit the distribution of the excess profit of the organization to people who have holdings in the funds. The Chifley Government distributed £25,000,000 of that excess profit, and an amount of £63,000,000 remains to be distributed. Of course by virtue of the existing legislation it is legislatively, and also administratively, possible for the Government to make an interim distribution to wool-growers from the fund. The fact that a case is pending in the High Court about the matter need not prevent the Government from making such an interim payment. It is true .that the Government would be required, and wisely, to keep in reserve a sum sufficient to meet the claims of wooldealers, in the event of them winning their case before the High Court. The Government is also holding £47,000,000 which must be paid to the wool-growers as a result of the defeat of its proposals in the ballot on the wool stabilization scheme.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting outside the subject of food production. Wool is not a food.
– It is closely bound up with the production of meat.
– Order! I shall not allow a discussion of wool on this motion.
– I was making only a passing reference to it.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman has been passing for a good while.
– Very well, I shall pass on to other problems. We have the additional fact that when honorable members opposite were in opposition they clamoured continually for the retention of subsidies, and were very critical of the Labour administration for its abolition of the subsidy on superphosphate. They had no sooner taken office than they removed the superphosphate subsidy. I do not argue that in the present comparatively prosperous condition of the primary industries primary producers cannot pay the full price for superphosphate, but I believe that of all subsidies that have been paid in this country the one that gave the most beneficial return to the Commonwealth was the superphosphate subsidy. I would even argue that it would almost pay the Commonwealth to make superphosphate and other artificial fertilizers available to primary producers free of cost, subject to certain safeguards. The increased revenue from railway freights, taxation and other sources would very largely recoup the expense of such an arrangement and there would be an increase in production for home consumption and export.
The restriction of loan moneys has affected reconstruction and rehabilitation and has prevented primary industries from functioning with complete efficiency. Primary producers have been forced to have their products transported by road because of the lack of railway trucks, locomotives and coal. This places substantially increased costs upon them, not only in the transport of their products but also in the transport of equipment and materials to their farms. Tractors and agricultural machinery are transported hundreds and even thousands of miles by road, whereas before the war they were transported by the railway system. The railway systems of Australia are almost in a state of decay. Australia has a greater mileage of railways per 1,000 population than any other country in the world. The rehabilitation of this great transport system has been retarded by the lack of material which has been used by the Government for excessive defence stock-piling. The Chifley Government’s defence policy provided for the expenditure of £50,000,000 a year.
-Order! The honorable member is not speaking to the terms of the motion.
– I am only making a passing reference to defence. The shortage of agricultural machinery is another difficulty which has confronted the primary producer and it has also been caused by excessive stock-piling of such items as iron and steel. Piping and galvanized iron are in short supply. Because of the curtailment of loan funds irrigation systems cannot be developed in accordance with the plans of the various State governments.
In the Northern Territory, which supplies beef for Australia and the United Kingdom, the Government’s expenditure is to be reduced. The following article appeared in the edition of the Age which was published in Melbourne to-day: -
Northern Territory Fears Cut in Finances.
The severe cut in Government expenditure in the Northern Territory is threatening to close important developmental projects and cause a wave of unemployment. Government officials believe development of the Northern Territory would be retarded for many years and beef production for Britain would suffer severely. It is considered impossible for Australia to meet its obligations under the British Australian Heat Agreement unless more Government money is made available for the Northern Territory. Government departments would have to abandon several major developmental projects such as sinking of bores, construction of new roads, and other works under the present estimates. The Northern Territory has the jitters because a large number of residents is dependent on Government money for their jobs. The curtailed expenditure which the Government required of all Australia involved close scrutiny of the impact on development of the Northern Territory and its immediate potential as a producer of beef.
The control of costs and the reduction of the purchasing power of the £1 is one of our major problems. In the same issue of The Age Mr. H. D. Howie, the chairman of the board of management of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, is reported to have issued a warning concerning the future of the dried fruits industry. Mr. Howie is reported to have said that costs of production in Australia were rising alarmingly; that since February they had risen by 20 per cent, and he feared that the end was not yet in sight. What increased production does Australia require? At the moment I shall deal only with the requirements of Australia itself because I have not time to speak on the requirements of SouthEast Asia and the United Kingdom. In 1S43 the then Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, the late Mr. J. B. Chifley, was responsible for the appointment of the Rural Reconstruction Commission to report on rural policy. That commission reported that if the population of Australia were increased by 1,000,000, 23,000 more farmers would be required. That statement did not take into consideration
-Order! The honor, able gentleman’s time has expired.
– The matter which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has raised for debate is one of prime importance to this Parliament and, in view of Australia’s status as a food-producer, it is of prime importance to the world. I welcome the motion, because it has made possible a debate on this subject. But I consider that the honorable member who was my predecessor in office has done little credit to himself or to the Labour party by concentrating about 90 per cent, of his criticism on his political opponents and failing to make constructive suggestions
– If I had been given an extension of time I would have done that.
– The honorable member did not ask for an extension of time. I concede that the Government and Opposition members are on common ground in desiring to stimulate Australian food production. But we do not agree with their political thinking. This Government has concerned itself, not with examining what the Labour party did or failed to do, but with the factors which used to be considered in order to bring about an increase of food production. What are those factors? Criticism will not increase food production. More fencing wire would help. Assurances to the primary producers that they shall be free to plan their own affairs would help. More superphosphate would bring about increased production. Higher prices for primary products would act as an incentive. These are objectives to which the Government has been devoting itself instead of engaging in criticism.
The Government came to office four years after the end of the war. It found the agricultural industries in a sorry plight, largely for unavoidable reasons such as shortages of materials which neither the Labour party nor any other political party could have provided during the war. But surely as soon as the war was over, in fact before it had finished, the Government should have planned to make good some of the shortages. The honorable member for Lalor said that Australia is short of fencing wire, bore casing, steel posts and galvanized iron. Although’ Australia could not produce enough of those commodities it could have imported them. But a duty was maintained against the importation of those materials until six weeks after this Cabinet took office. It remained for this Government to admit fencing wire and steel posts duty free under by-law on the 17th February, 1950.
– That is not true.
– The officers of the Department of Trade and Customs say that it is true. The honorable member can argue it out with them.
Heavy equipment is necessary to prepare land for development and to bring new land into production. Great- bulldozers are essential for these purposes, but we did not have any. We cannot build them and we cannot buy them from sterling area sources. Such was the phobia of the Labour party against overseas borrowing of any kind, that it would not entertain for a moment the thought of the only way in which we could obtain this essential equipment in order to increase our food production. It remained for this Government to raise a 100,000,000 dollar loan and immediately to allot one-third of it to the purchase in dollar areas of otherwise unobtainable agricultural developmental equipment.
In the realm of immigration the Labour Government produced a magnificent plan to introduce thousands of immigrants into Australia. But no proper correlated plan was introduced to increase our food supplies so as to feed the great numbers of new Australians who were to enter this country. The Labour Government produced plans to build thousands of houses. Houses were certainly not built in thousands, according to plan, but there were large numbers built in the cities. The Labour party completely forgot about houses on farms. There was no plan to produce houses for farmers.
The Labour Government produced grandiose plans to standardize the Australian railway system; plans that were calculated to throw into confusion and uncertainty all the State railways departments. Nothing was done about those plans, and the existing Australian railway system decayed into its present unhealthy state. This is the record that we inherited in regard to the physical requirements of the country which are essential if we are to increase agricultural production.
Superphosphate is a necessity. God bless my soul! If committees could improve the production of superphosphate we would have enough to bury Australian agriculture. We inherited from the Labour Government enough committees in all conscience, but we inherited a deficiency of superphosphate itself. As .1 was able to say in reply to a question asked of me to-day, this Government has now been able to procure enough additional sulphur to allow superphosphate manufacturing concerns to arrange with the owners of iron pyrites mines to make plans that are soon to be put into effect which will result in an increase of the production of superphosphate.
The Labour Government obtained its jute needs on a catch-as-catch-can basis. Without jute we cannot package our wool or grain. All our jute requirements must come from India. To-day, thanks to this Government, we have an intergovernmental signed arrangement between India and Australia, under which India has allotted 120,000 tons of jute to Australia, which fills all our requirements. I could continue to indicate further neglect of the needs of this country by the Labour party, and of the constructive manner in which this Government has dealt with all these matters.
Apart from all that, the food producing industries of Australia under Labour administration lived within the shadow of socialism. They lost control of their own affairs. Every food producing industry in this country came under the control of a board, behind which stood the socialist Minister. They took control of the farmers’ products and sold them without consulting the owners. That is the way in which the Labour party dealt with that most notably independentminded section of the community, the primary producers. Agriculture cannot be improved and encouraged unless the primary producers receive an assurance that they will be allowed to plan their own businesses. Moreover, there can be no increase of production unless we have a willing food-producing community.
This Government has returned the control of the primary industries to the primary producers themselves. There is no ministerial dictatorship over the Australian Wheat Board ; that board is able to do its own business directly with the owners of the wheat. Let us now consider the record of the Labour party in its dealings with wheat. Under the Labour plan, the wheat industry up to date has been required - but this system will operate only until the 1st December next, I hope - to supply all Australian live-stock industries with wheat at less than half its realizable value. The unlimited availability of dirt-cheap wheat to all livestock industries has been the greatest single factor in delaying the accumulation of fodder reserves in this country. Why should sheep, cattle or pig owners endeavour to grow their own produce when the Labour Government arranged for them to get unlimited quantities of the wheatgrowers’ wheat at half its value? It remained for this Government to alter that system, and the wheat-growers from now on may look forward to the prospect of justice and a fair price for the wheat that they sell to their fellow primary producers in this country. We have done that because it was necessary to stimulate the production of wheat. Our wheal acreage fell disastrously because of the policy of Labour governments. .
Now let us consider meat. 1 inherited from the former Labour Minister a system under which he had contracted to sell our meat to the United Kingdom merely in the hope that we would get a higher price when costs rose, but with no provision for any price increases. Eighteen months ago all that the British Ministry of Food had to say was, “ You are obliged to deliver to us all your surplus meat according to the contract, but we are not obliged to give you a penny more - and indeed we won’t “. And they did not. For eighteen months we delivered our lamb at, the previous year’s price under the terms of the tontract that this Government inherited from the previous Labour Government.. lr. was only after nine months of persuasion that we induced the Ministry of Food to give to us a higher price. For the next. sixteen years the live-stock industries of this country will be assured of a full market for all the meat that they may produce, no matter how great it might be, at prices that will be adjusted year by year. Apart from that, during the whole time they will be paid profitable prices for their product. At present the system provides for government-to-government sale, but that may change to tradertotrader sale if the two Governments agree that that is necessary and desirable. If it does so revert, the producers will still be protected by the obligation on the British Government to ensure that the producers shall be no worse off than they would have been if the governmenttogovernment contract had continued.
The previous Labour government entered into a contract for the sale of dried fruits at a certain price for a period of two years. That was done while we were suffering from the effects of inflation, and the price for the fruits was fixed. Because of rising costs disastrous consequences to the dried fruits industry followed that action of the Labour Government. Last year, on behalf of the present Government, I approached the Ministry of Food in Great Britain, and arranged price increases for dried fruits which ranged from 56 per cent, to 96 per cent. I suggest to the Labour party that that is the way to get a greater production of dried fruits. Production is increased by assuring to the growers a reasonable market price, and not by pegging the industry to unprofitable levels. The previous Labour Government pegged this industry to a low level of prices, because under its contract the prices for dried fruits for Great Britain could not be increased by more than 7-i per cent. It so happened that the growers’ costs increased by more than that. In fact Great Britain did not have to increase prices by 7^ per cent. The contract merely laid down that the price could not be raised by more than 1 per cent. As in. the case of lamb, the Ministry of Food did not increase the price of dried fruits for nine months. Later this Government was able to secure a variation of the terms of the contract, .and the price paid for eggs was increased by 25 per cent.
The record of the Labour party is more deplorable in respect of the dairying industry than in respect of any other industry. The dairying industry was stabilized by Labour. The prices of dairy products were guaranteed for five years, but the guaranteed prices were based upon costs of production which were calculated upon the basis that the dairy-farmer worked a 56-hour week, received £6 10s. a week plus cost-of-living adjustments, and was entitled to interest at the rate of 3-J per cent., not on the capital invested in his farm but on his equity in the farm at 1942 values. It was left to this Government to say, “ That is a crazy arrangement. It is destroying the dairying industry. We shall see that the dairyfarmer shall receive £800 a year as a fair reward for his labour. . We shall see that he shall get fair prices for his products “. But the Labour Governments of New South Wales and Queensland blocked us for months.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has made a magnificent speech, but, unfortunately for him, the facts provide a devastating answer to it. Although the policy of the Government for stimulating food production and increasing exports of foodstuffs is magnificent, our production of food continues to decline and our exports of foodstuffs are falling off. Those are facts. This is a government of lullabies and alibis - lullabies when the situation cannot be concealed, and alibis when the facts become so patent that all that it can do is to make excuses. The Minister’s speech sounded like a pre-1949 election speech.
Shortly after the Government assumed office, it entered into certain internation::! obligations, to which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) made reference in intimating his intention to propose this motion. Those obligations are closely parallel to obligations into which the Labour party entered when it was in power. The Government took the initiative in entering into an obligation to South-East Asia. The terms of the Colombo Agreement with respect to food and many other things are reported in Keesings Contemporary Archives, as is an account of the initiative that was taken by the then Australian Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Spender. He indulged in large talk in relation to an agreement which, in Ceylon and India, is now known as the “ AH talk, no do “ agreement. Keesing’s Contemporary Archives contains the following passages : -
The “ recommendations for the furtherance of economic development in south and southeast Asia “… were presented by Mr. Spender, strongly supported by Mr. Senanayake It was understood that Mr. Spender had urged a programme involving the increased provision of consumption goods to South-East Asia to maintain and improve their standard of living.
These are the promises that were made by the then Australian Minister for External Affairs -
On January 30th, the Australian Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) had announced that the Australian Government had offered nearly £4,000,000 for technical assistance in the region, and had agreed to contribute about £31,000,000 towards general economic development.
That was done in conjunction with Canada, which promised to supply 25,000,000 dollars worth of wheat. That agreement has not been honoured. The total sum that Mr. Spender offered to make available for that kind of assistance is closely parallel to the £32,500,000 worth, of exports that we sent to Unrra and the gifts aggregating £35,000,000 that we made to Great Britain. I remember how, prior to the general election of 1949, the welkin rung with cries about food for Britain. The sequel to the Food for Britain campaign, which was indulged in primarily by the Australian Country party, is a fall in the exports to Britain of wheat, butter and other vital protective foods.
The Minister said that the Labour party’s immigration policy has aggravated our food difficulties. I have not the least doubt that what the Minister said is perfectly true, and that the increase of our population has aggravated our food difficulties. But the Minister did not go on to say that the Government, having become aware of that matter, is now altering its immigration policy. The immigrants who are coming to this country are, in many instances, people from peasant areas who have experience of market gardening. If the Minister had been able to say that many foreign communities in this country are supplying vegetables and foods of that kind to the Australian community and that the Government is making small plots of land available to them with the object of increasing the production of scarce vegetables, his criticism of the Labour party’s immigration policy would have been unanswerable. But, despite the fact that experience has proved that in one respect that policy was wrong or maladjusted, the Government does not propose to alter it.
The Minister made some criticisms of the actions of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Whatever might have been wrong with the honorable member’s wheat programme, while he was in office it can be said that 13,000,000 acres was under wheat compared with 10,000,000 acres to-day. Although it suits the Minister to pretend that the present acreage is a consequence of some aspects of the Labour party’s policy, he knows very well that it is largely a consequence of the conversion of arable land into pasture because of high wool prices. Obviously, under the law of supply and demand, that transference of land to the wool industry will continue. The Government has not engaged in any publicity campaign to stress the importance of wheat production.
The Minister spoke about certain minor industries using wheat for stock feed purposes. Not very long ago, we heard a great deal about the production of grain sorghum in Queensland and of the attempts of the Queensland Government to increase supplies of feed for animals. Has the Government a programme for increasing the production of grain sorghum? Has it made any representations to the States on that matter? Maize is a feasible feed for poultry, and many areas of Queensland are suitable for its production. Has the Government made any representations to the Queensland Government upon that matter? It could well have done so. All that the community wants to know is what has happened. I agree that this is an extremely vital matter that ought to transcend party politics.
The Minister mentioned food agreements with Britain. In the statements that the Government has made ad nauseum upon defence, very little, has been said about the role that food production is expected to play in that connexion. The Government has not said whether Great Britain, the most vulnerable part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, is to be the recipient of extra quantities of wheat in order that . it may stockpile. Britain would be extremely vulnerable in the event of a renewal of air warfare. None of those matters has been touched upon by the Government. I do not complain because the Minister did not touch upon them this morning, but I do complain about the fact that the Government, although it has issued a great many statements upon defence, has remained silent upon them.
One of the many enormities that the honorable member for Lalor committed, according to the Minister, was to ban the consumption of rice in Australia. The Minister might have mentioned that, by so doing, the honorable member enabled Australia to honour certain obligations to South-East Asia. To-day, the rice that is produced in this country is consumed in this country. I make no complaint about that, but the rice is treated, or maltreated. When it is to be eaten it is polished rice. It has been established scientifically that polished rice is a devitalized food. It adds additional starch to the Australian diet, which is already excessively starchy. The consumption of that rice in this country has prevented exports to South-East Asia of a vital and life-giving whole grain. This Government made grand promises through the mouth of the former Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Spender, to South-East Asian countries; but, in respect’ of rice, it reduced exports, so that we could have useless starch added, to our diet, and, at the same time, denied rice to countries in which that commodity is the staff of life. There would be no ground for criticizing the Government in this matter if it had not entered into obligations under that extremely foolish agreement, which is rightly known in Asia as the “ all talk and no do “ agreement. I hope that the Government’s policy will prove to be as successful as the Minister now imagines that it will be. But if we are to continue to have only all talk and no action, the quicker the Government is thrown out of office the better will it be for Australia.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The House has just listened to a discourse on agricultural policy from the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) in which he showed that he has no knowledge whatever of agriculture. For that reason the whole of his argument collapsed. He alleged that the Government has not increased production during the short period that it has been in office. He does not realize that as was said in this chamber recently, it takes as long to fatten a bullock as it does to build a battleship. Agricultural policy must necessarily be of a longrange character. Consequently, downward trends do not become apparent until some time after the causes of them have begun to operate ; and, conversely, upward trends are delayed until some considerable time after mistakes have been remedied. I propose to deal with this matter dispassionately, because it involves the most difficult problem that’ confronts not only Australia, but also almost every other country. Historically, it is true to say that practically every civilization that has broken down has collapsed because of its failure in agriculture. As civilization has become more sophisticated and more efficient, persons invariably have tended to withdraw from the production of foodstuffs and to enter more attractive urban industries and pursuits. We must face that problem and find a solution of it; otherwise, we shall repeat the experience of Babylon and Rome, which failed in that respect and left eroded and denuded fields behind them.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) put his finger upon the principal fault in this matter. I have been farming for a long time. Unfortunately, I took up farming of types which, during the recent war, a socialist administration brought completely under its control.
– Apples, for instance?
– I shall refer to the apple industry because it provides a typical example. The acreage of apple orchards has decreased from 108,000 to 86,000 acres. That decrease has not occurred since the present Government came into power. It resulted entirely from the socialist experiment that was made in this country during the early days of the recent war.
– Is the honorable member referring to the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board?
– Not entirely; but that industry was completely controlled during the time that that board existed. The reaction of growers to that socialist experiment was to refuse to enlarge their orchards. Consequently, the acreage under cultivation diminished. In every instance in which the control of an industry has been taken from those engaged in it and placed in the hands of government hoards, production ha3 decreased. That observation applies particularly to the dairying industry, which was given a father and a mother of a belting when the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The Labour Government made a party plaything of the industry, because the prices of dairy products were an important factor in the fixation of the basic wage. The dairy-farmers were not permitted to obtain a fair return and, consequently, the industry ceased to be attractive and production decreased.
The honorable member for Fremantle referred to the lure of wool. I do not believe that that is a permanent deterrent to the adequate production of foodstuffs. Such production will be not only maintained but also increased so long as the dairy-farmer is allowed the complete freedom to run his farm and to trade in his own way that other members of the community enjoy in their respective pursuits.
The honorable member also claimed that the Minister had condemned the Government’s immigration policy on the line that it was not in line with its policy of increasing the production of foodstuffs. Actually, up to the present, our immigration policy has not been of very great value in that respect; but a change for the better has already become apparent. Recently, Dutch farmers have entered the dairying industry in my electorate, some of them as owners of farms and others as workers on such properties. Only to-day, I received letters from Poowong and other places in which I was advised that two families in Holland and one family in Northern Ireland are waiting to emigrate to Victoria with a view to going on the land in that State. That trend is increasing. The inhibitions of primary industries did not encourage immigrants to help to take up the slack in the production of foodstuffs. If those industries had been completely free and had obtained agreements, such as that which was recently concluded for the sale of meat, under which they would have been assured that they would receive fair and just prices for their products, they would have had an incentive to increase production.
The honorable member for Fremantle referred to the rice industry. If ever there was a case of socialist interference in industry in Australia it was apparent in the rice industry, which was tied up by acts of parliament which prohibited growers from cultivating more than three or four acres of land within certain boundaries and prevented growers in other States from selling rice in Australia. Could one imagine a more effective way of restricting an industry? I am convinced that under the Government’s policy of ridding primary industries of the incubus of controls and of giving to producers the final voice in determining the prices that shall be fixed under agreements, production will be increased. Effective steps have already been taken in that direction. I am sorry that the honorable member for Fremantle did not wait for a sufficient period to elapse for the effects of that reversal of policy to become apparent before he voiced his criticism. However, by freeing primary industries of the incubus of socialism, the Government will achieve the results that its policy is designed to achieve.
.- I support the motion. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) acted wisely in moving for the adjournment of the House for the purpose of directing attention to the chaotic conditions on the food production front in Australia, and to the failure of the Government to increase production. The reply by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) was a virtual saga of failure. He admitted that the Government had not done this, and could not do that, and he appeared to be unable to indicate whether the Government had any proposals for increasing the production of essential commodities. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) is a member of the band of timid mourners that has been organized by the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), whose conscience is so shocked by the failure of the Government to increase food production that he wishes to lead a palace revolution against the Minister. However, his revolt has not gone beyond the establishment of a band of timid mourners, who have no policy, and whose views have no effect upon the Government.
To-day we are not able to ensure production at a level that will meet the requirements of our own people, and maintain exports. Australia has a responsibility not only to its own people but also to those of the over-populated countries. Australia has great agricultural resources, and we have to justify our possession of this land by utilizing those resources to the fullest degree. It has been suggested that we may be compelled to import food in the near future. Such a forecast, when applied to a country that should be a land of plenty, is ridiculous.
Five major points are associated with this motion. We must endeavour to assist the harassed housewife to obtain the food that she requires for her family. Many commodities are in such short supply to-day that they cannot be obtained for the table in the ordinary Australian home. The Government appears to take a serious view of the importance of defence preparations. Food production should be one of the principal factors in them. If war were to break out tomorrow, Australia would be called upon to play a part similar to that played by this country in World War II. During that conflict, Australia became the food basket for South-West Pacific Command, and for its own troops in many parts of the world. Considerable quantities of food were also supplied to British and American forces. The Government cannot organize a defence programme successfully unless the production of food is increased.
Food for the United Kingdom, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), is a most important factor. Members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party, when they were in Opposition, alleged that the Labour Government failed to provide a reasonable quantity of food for the people of Great Britain. They conveniently overlooked the fact that substantial gifts of food were made to the United Kingdom when the Chifley Labour Government was in office. This Government has seriously fallen down on its job to increase the production of food, and has failed to keep its contract to supply food to Asian countries. Australia relies upon the proceeds from the export of primary products to establish a sound trade balance with other countries from which we wish to purchase manufactured goods. The dollar shortage is almost critical. Our principal sources of income are wool and food. This primary-producing country, if it fails to maintain a large volume of exports, will be seriously embarrassed with an adverse trade balance. It is the responsibility of the .Government to ensure, first, that Australia’s own food requirements shall be adequately met, and, secondly, that at least some of the needs of other countries shall be supplied.
Recently, I received a letter from the sister who is in charge of a rail-car baby clinic that travels the lines in the far west of New South Wales. She complained that mothers in that part of the State found it impossible to obtain dried and concentrated milks for their infants. It is a sorry condition of affairs, and a disgrace to this Government, that Australia, which has such wonderful resources, is not supplying sufficient dried and concentrated milks for the young. The House can well imagine the alarm of mothers in the far west of New South Wales who are unable to obtain those essential foods. I appeal to the Government to take a more serious view of the problem of food production in this country.
Before the limited time that is available to me expires, I wish to discuss the decline of production. Some honorable members attempt to attribute the present shortage of food to the rapid increase of population. Surely we are not to expect that if our population is doubled, our food supplies will be halved. With an increase of population, we should be able to increase the production of food. The Government has been advised that, on the basis of the estimated population in 1960, the production of the whole range of essential foods must be increased as follows: - Beef and veal, 36 per cent.; mutton, 54 per cent.; lamb, 21 per cent.; pig meats, 74 per cent.; potatoes, 40 per cent.; eggs, 28 per cent.; sugar, 25 per cent.; and milk, 34 per cent. The production of food has declined considerably since this Government has been in office, and honorable gentlemen opposite cannot blame the Labour Government for that position. In the five-year period 1933-34 to 193S-39, butter production averaged 195,000 tons per annum but, during the five year period 1945-46 to 1950-51, the average was only 159,000 tons, a reduction of 36,000 tons. Egg production, which was 123,000,000 dozen in 1946-47, declined by 16,000,000 dozen in 1950-51. The manufacture of milk products has declined, and milk production in 1950-51 was less than that in 1949-50 by 40,000,000 gallons. In the same period butter production declined by 8,000 tons, cheese by 200 tons, processed milk by more than 1,000 tons, lamb by 39,000 tons, mutton by 42,000 tons, and pork by 900 tons.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- It is fortunate that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has raised the subject of food production because he has given to Government supporters an opportunity to pin the responsibility for the present sorry condition of affairs very properly upon the shoulders of the preceding Labour Government. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) has pointed out that agricultural production is dependent upon a long-term arrangement, and that production cannot be increased overnight. The Labour party was in power for eight years during the war and the immediate post-war period, and our primary industries are now reaping the bitter fruits of its maladministration. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) replied effectively to the statements the honorable member for Lalor made about the various agreements with other countries for the sale of Australian primary products that were in force when the present Government was elected to office, and he explained how the honorable gentleman, as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Labour Administra tion, had let the country down. The honorable member for Lalor was responsible for the conclusion of the agreement that provides for the sale of Australia’s exportable surplus of butter. Under that contract, we lose 7 1/4d. on every pound of butter that we ship abroad. Furthermore, as costs are steadily increasing and as the contract will not expire until 1955, *th** loss will become progressively greater with the passage of time.
The honorable member for Lalor must bear full responsibility for the dangerous situation that has arisen in the dairying industry. Dairy production has been discouraged. This Government has taken the intelligent step of re-introducing the system by which representatives of primary industries are able to give advice and exercise a measure of control in relation to the sale of their products on overseas markets. The Labour Government, in its eagerness to socialize primary industries, excluded representatives of the producers from negotiations for the sale of primary products. For that reason, as honorable members are well aware, it committed the colossal blunder of contracting to sell Australian wheat to New Zealand for 5s. 6d. a bushel when wheat was worth 17s. a bushel overseas. That contract was kept secret for twelve months before the wheat-growers became aware of the act of treachery. Another feature of the Labour party’s administration that reacted to the disadvantage of Australia was the Scully wheat plan, which was introduced during the early part of the war for the purpose of restricting the acreage of wheat in Australia. Under the plan, the guaranteed price for wheat was paid only in respect of the first 2,000 bushels of wheat produced by each grower. That restrictive plan did more to reduce the volume of wheat production than any other act that was committed by the Labour Government. Those historical facts discredit the Labour Administration.
The needs of our primary industries must be considered from a long-range point of view. When World War II. broke out, the Australian Agricultural Council was operating effectively under the chairmanship of the Minister foi Commerce and Agriculture of that day.’
But the Labour Government later set it aside because it wanted to have complete control of our primary industries. For the same reason, it discontinued the system of consulting representatives of the producers who could have advised it of the best methods of protecting and developing those industries. That Government was obsessed with the idea of imposing socialism on our primary industries, and the result of its misguided activities was to discourage almost every form of primary production. To-day, the number of men engaged in primary production is 70,000 fewer than the number that was so engaged in 1939. Yet, the rate of production per capita is 50 per cent, higher now than it was in 1939. This improvement of productivity has been brought about by the extra efforts that these men are making, notwithstanding the great difficulties with which they have to contend. The first call for men to join the armed forces at the outbreak of war caused a rush of volunteers to the colours from country areas. Later the system of calling up young men for compulsory service was so badly organized that hundreds of young Australian;?’ were drafted into the forces without the slightest consideration being given to the need for food production. The primary industries were almost strangled, although the Labour Government must have been fully aware that a high rate of food production was essential to our war effort.
Eventually, when hostilities ceased, many young men intended to return to primary production. But the Labour Government, lacking any accurate appreciation of the national value of our primary industries, acquiesced in the introduction of the 40-hour working week. The shortening of the working week immediately established a demand for approximately 300,000 additional workers for Australia’s total labour force. Those men could not be found overnight. Thus, the Labour Government caused a manpower shortage in every Australian industry. It is obvious to every body that employment will find its own level and that workers will be drawn to the industries that offer the most attractive conditions. The result was that many young exservicemen were diverted to secondary industries, which offered far greater inducements than could be offered by primary industries, with the result thai primary production was left almost entirely to elderly workers. What is needed most in our rural areas is an infusion of young blood that will impart a stronger driving force to production. But there is little incentive for young men and women to engage in primary production to-day. One great drawback is the shortage of vital materials and equipment. Although the Labour Government forecast great results from the introduction of the 40-hour week in secondary industries, production of essential farming machinery has fallen far short of requirements. In 1944-45, we manufactured 16,000 ploughs, but by 1948-49 output had decreased to 8,400 ploughs. Over the same period the production of cultivators fell from 16,000 to 12,000 and the output of harrows fell from 37,000 to 23,000. Production of drills and combines’ remained constant at 3,600, and production of harvesters and threshers increased slightly to 1,128. How can we expect men to settle on the land when they cannot obtain essential equipment ? One of the first actions of this Government, when it realized the situation that had been caused by the maladministration of the Labour Government, was to arrange for a dollar loan that made possible the allocation of 28,000,000 dollars for the purchase of farming machinery from the United States of America.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Gullett) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mk. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Me. Deputy Speaker - Mr.c. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harbison) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Customs Act 1901-1950, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the bill is to make to the Customs Act amendments which are considered essential in order to remove doubts about the validity of certain sections of the act and regulations issued thereunder. Section 5 of the act provides that the penalties referred to at the foot of sections of the act indicate that any contravention of the section shall be an offence against the act. Since the enactment of section 5, references to penalties have been stated in certain instances at the foot of sub-sections. As there is doubt about whether section 5 is applicable to such cases, it is proposed to amend the section to provide for its application also to penalties stated at the foot of sub-sections. This will bring the section into line with section 41 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1950.
The form of seal to be used by the Department of Trade and Customs is specified in section’ 13 of the Customs Act, c id was embodied in the original act passed in 1901. At that time the seat of Government was located in Melbourne. Since the transference of the seat of government to Canberra the position has arisen that the Customs Act makes no provision for a seal for use by the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs at Canberra. The proposed amendment provides for a seal for the Comptroller-General. The question of the advisability of replacing the Royal Arms on the seal by the Australian coat-of-arms, which was proclaimed unci gazetted in 1913, has also been raised. In view of the fact that the Australian coat-of-arms was instituted for use on all official occasions that call for the use of such a symbol, and that the Royal Arms is changed on the accession of a new sovereign, thus rendering invalid all seals in use by the Department of Trade and Customs, it is considered appropriate that the Australian coatof.arms shall appear on all seals used by that department.
An important amendment proposed in the bill is that relating to section 112, which gives the authority for prohibiting the exportation of goods from Australia. Certain regulations which provide for exportation contingent on the approval of either the Minister or a department were based on sub-sections of section 112 which at present call for the exercise of an opinion by the Governor-General. The Crown Law Authorities consider that some regulations made under the section, as at present constituted, may be invalid. It is essential that goods vital to the Australian economy shall not be permitted to be exported to the detriment of Our defence requirements and our national economy. It is advisable, therefore, that the exportation of such goods shall be subject to either ministerial or departmental approval as the case may be. It is therefore proposed to amend section 112 to provide for the prohibition, by regulation, of the exportation of goods. This is parallel with the provision which already exists in section 52 in regard to imported goods. As some time would elapse before new regulations could be prescribed under the proposed new section 112, a clause has been included in the bill rendering valid all’ existing regulations which prohibit the exportation of goods from Australia.
Section 11 2a contains power to impose restrictions on the movement interstate of goods which are prohibited exports. The Crown Law Authorities doubt whether regulations made under this section could be enforced in view of the possible infringement of section 92 of the Constitution. Regulations under section 112a have not been, and will not be, made and it is therefore desirable that the section be repealed. The necessity for the proposed amendments will, I am sure, be appreciated by honorable members, and I therefore commend the bill to them.
.- In general, the Opposition approves this measure. “We approve, in particular, the provision for the new seal to be used by the Department of Trade and Customs. I am glad to see the Government indulging in a piece of Australianism in that respect by proposing the use of the Australian coat-of-arms on the seal. There was a time in this country, of course, when such a suggestion would have been taken as an indication of a desire to cut the painter that ties us to Great Britain.
The bill contains one provision, however, that I consider requires considerable examination and more explanation than the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has furnished in relation to it. Clause 6 proposes the repeal of section 112a of the principal act. The Vice-President of the Executive Council said that the reason for that proposed repeal is that it is doubtful whether section 112a would be declared valid if it were tested at law. I do not concede that doubt about the validity of a particular section of an act provides any real justification for its repeal. Section 112a - which, I understand, contains power to impose restrictions on the movement interstate of goods that are prohibited exports - must have been incorporated in the Customs Act for some particular reason, and I consider that the House is entitled to know for what reason it is now to be repealed. It must have been included in the act because it was thought desirable that the Commonwealth should have power to restrict the movement interstate of goods that were prohibited exports. Perhaps a time will come when it will be desirable for the Commonwealth to endeavour to utilize that provision for the protection of the country and the people. There is no reason in the world why the Commonwealth should not, through legal processes, endeavour to use the provision. It seems extraordinary that the Government should seek its repeal merely because there is doubt about its validity. I suggest that when the bill is at the committee stage the Minister should advance a more substantial reason for this proposed amendment than he has hitherto given.
– in reply - I give to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who is in charge of the opposition to this bill, an assurance that I shall have the matter that he has raised thoroughly investigated, and if I find that there is any substance in the contention that he has advanced I shall ensure that it shall be raised in another place.
Question resolved in the affirmative. .
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 12.47 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a, second time.
The purpose of this bill is to introduce a number of amendments to the Defence Act, the majority of which are of a drafting or minor nature. A number of these amendments are consequential upon the passage of the National Service Act 1951. Others relate to administrative requirements of the services. I shall invite the attention of honorable members to particular clauses of the bill.
Clause 8 contains provisions which relate to native forces in territories administered by the Commonwealth. Both the Navy and the Army are raising volunteer native forces in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and it is necessary to make special provision for the regulation and control of such forces. Sub-clause (1.) provides that a native force raised in a trustee territory shall not be required to render service except as permitted by the Charter of the United Nations. Sub-clause (2.) will permit the making of regulations for the control and discipline of a native force.
Clause 11 of the bill exempts certain diplomatic and United Nations officials from liability to serve in time of war under the provisions of Part IV. of the act. The exemption of the United Nations officials is in accordance with certain international conventions to which Australia has subscribed. Parallel exemptions are to be found in the National Service Act in respect of liability for training under the provisions of that act.
Clause 12 repeals sections 62 and 62a, which comprise Part V. of the Defence Act and relate to compulsory service in junior and senior cadets. Compulsory training of cadets was suspended in 1929, and has since been carried out on a voluntary basis. The clause gives legislative effect to this principle and provides for an Australian cadet corps on a voluntary basis, consisting of persons under the age of eighteen years.
Clause 16 of the bill relates to the supply of intoxicating liquor at military canteens, camps, and depots. The existing section 123a of the act relates only to compulsory training under the old Part XII. of the act, which was repealed following the passage of the National Service Act. The clause repeals the existing section 123a and provides that & person shall not sell or supply intoxicating liquor at any military canteen, camp, or depot, or other establishment to a person under the age of 21 years who is rendering service required by the National Service Act. It also provides that no such person shall be in possession of intoxicating liquor, except by direction of a duly qualified medical practitioner. The clause further provides that, in other cases, liquor shall not be sold or supplied to, or be in possession of, a person in any military canteen, camp, depot, or other establishment, except in accordance with such conditions as, subject to the approval of the Minister, the Military .Board determines.
Clause 18 is designed to insert a new section 123f in the act, which provides that a person shall not be permitted to serve in the defence forces if he las been convicted of a crime which, in the opinion of the Naval Board, the Military Board, or the Air Board, is such as to render him unsuitable for service in the Defence Forces; or if the service of that person in the Defence Forces might, in the opinion of the appropriate service board, be prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth. The Government considers that there should be adequate safeguards in regard to the character and reliability of members of the services.
Clause 19 contains a regulationmaking power in respect, inter aiia, of the declaration as a prohibited area of a place used or intended to be used for a purpose of defence, the prohibition of a person entering, being in, or remaining in the prohibited area without permission, and removal of any such person from the area. It is considered necessary that there should be a clear power in the act to make regulations to provide for the essential security of areas or places in which defence activities are proceeding. This clause also contains a regulationmaking power in respect of the prohibition of the use, except as prescribed, of a word, group of letters, object or device, which is descriptive or indicative of a part of the forces or a service or body of persons associated with the defence of the Commonwealth. . This will enable permanent regulations to be made .in respect of these matters. Protection is at present afforded by war-time regulations continued under the provisions of the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 16th November (vide page 2244), on motion by Mr. McBride (through Mr. Francis) -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is an important bill, although that fact may not be apparent from a glance at its contents. Although it “has been introduced by the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride), it deals with a number of matters that have little or nothing to do with defence. No doubt the Minister las introduced the bill because the Government has allocated it to the defence portfolio. The bill raises some questions of general principle. On the face of it, it extends the operation of regulations, orders and other instruments under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act for twelve months from the 31st December. No one could realize the effect of this bill by reading its provisions. It simply sets out three recitals and provides for the extension of the powers contained in the act until the 31st December, 1952. But the law which is concealed behind the curtain of this bill affects such matters as apple and pear acquisition, employment in the coalmining industry, economic organization regulations, and very important regulations which deal with the rates of interest payable, not only in connexion with banking transactions, but also in connexion with all types of business. It deals, too, with the subject of the evidence that may be taken in cases under the general regulations which originally were passed under the National Security Act. These cases are most varied in character and concern articles in the possession of executive authority, the acquisition of land, payment of compensation and other matters. The bill will affect industrial peace regulations which, during the period of operation of the National Security Regulations, governed the whole sphere of conciliation and arbitration. Other regulations deal with industrial property, maritime industry, medical benefits for seamen, shipping co-ordination, staff of war-time authorities, war service moratorium, &c. There are, in addition, some important orders, such as the one which imposes important restrictions on trad1* in jute goods. I mention them in order r.o show the disparate and varied character of the matters dealt with in the bill.
– Members of the present Government used to condemn controls and regulations.
– That is so. When the Chifley Government brought down legislation to continue war-time regulations and controls, it was severely criticized. Now, in November, 1951, six years after the fighting ended in World War II., it is proposed to continue the regulations on the legal theory that we are still passing through a transitional period from war to peace. I have no doubt that the Parliament would be prepared to approve many of the regulations if they were introduced separately in the form of legislation, but we are being asked to sign a blank cheque.
– As has been done for years.
– Yes, and the Minister for Defence seems to think that, because something was done during the war, and during the period immediately after it, we should go on doing it forever. A government which came into power pledged to get rid of controls should re view these regulations, and bring down legislation from which we could learn, clause by clause, the net operative effect of the regulations embodied in the legislation. The Parliament would then have an opportunity to review and revise those provisions, and the people would be able to learn what was being done. That is what the members of the present Government advocated in 1949 when they were in opposition. The then Minister for Defence, Mr. Dedman, got rid of many war-time regulations, and asked for legislative authority to keep others in force. Last year, it was said on behalf of the Go,vernment that it was proposed to embody in permanent legislation a great part of the remaining war-time regulations, and I agree that that is the only satisfactory way to deal with the matter. In order to understand the effect of this bill, it would be necessary for a person to study carefully and in detail a whole list of regulations. Now. so long after the signing of the armistice, and the coming into power of the present Government, the House should demand the fulfillment of the undertakings given by the Government. We speak of regulations, but they ure really laws. The enactments which this bill proposes to continue are just as much laws as is legislation solemnly passed by the two Houses of the Parliament.
Some of the regulations under discussion were first introduced under the National Security Act passed in 1939, when the first Menzies Government was in office. They were continued by the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government. At the end of the fighting in 1945, we were advised that many of the regulations would have to be continued during the period of transition from war to peace, but that was six years ago. This Government is under a special obligation to determine which of the regulations are needed, and why they are needed. If that were done, there would be no captious criticism from us of any law that is related to the defence of the country. The speech of the Minister for Defence, when he introduced this bill, was almost the same as that delivered last year by his predecessor in office.
– And a very good speech, too.
– It was good last year, but this year it is not quite so good. Last year, we accepted the undertaking that permanent legislation would he introduced, but that has not been done. “We insist, insofar as an Opposition can do so, that the law, as embodied in an act of Parliament, should be discoverable. When the Labour Government introduced defence transitional legislation, under which many war-time regulations were dropped, we produced a manual which set out the regulations that were to be continued. Nothing of that kind has been done since. I know there are difficulties in the way of doing so, but they do not relieve the Government of the obligation to set forth in a clear form what this bill proposes to do. So involved is the position now in regard to regulations that the law of the land must remain unknown, not only to the layman, but also to the legal practitioner, unless he has made a special study of the subject. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) pointed that out even during the critical period of the war.
There can be no objection to some of the regulations. For instance, the regulation which deals with the winding up of claims for compensation must remain, but it should be embodied in a -bill. It is not sufficient merely to say that regulations 9, 4, 29 and 36 are continued. The powers sought in the bill refer to entirely unrelated matters. The first two recitals discuss regulations that are concerned with the gradual and orderly return from war conditions to the conditions of peace, but the third recital touches upon an entirely different matter. It states that the bill is for the further purpose of assisting to meet the increasing defence requirements and commitments of Australia. Regulations that might be relevant to one purpose can have no relation to the other. If regulations are needed for the purpose of defence preparations, surely they should be made under the Defence Preparations Act. The legal considerations applicable to the first purpose, transition from war to peace, are quite inapplicable to the second purpose,preparation against the possibility of future war. The considerations, both political and economic, that are applicable to one purpose have no relation to the other. The power to make regulations during a transitional period has been considered very carefully by the High Court. It is a limited power. The power to make regulations for the purpose of preparing to defend Australia against future peril is also a very limited power. It gives rise to constitutional questions completely different from those to which the other power gives rise. The Parliament should consider these matters separately. If certain regulations are connected with defence preparations, we should deal with them on that footing.
I can illustrate my point by referring to the question of the control of interest rates. No one could tell from this bill, which has not a schedule-
– It is only an amending bill.
– It is an amending bill, but it will extend the period of operation of orders and regulations by twelve months. At a time when the transitional defence power is disappearing, it is proper that honorable members should’ be able to look at the whole position, especially as they are being asked to agree to renew certain regulations and orders. I wonder how many honorable members know that the Government’s power to control interest rates is derived from the National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations, only Part IV. of which remains in force? Part IV. is set out in the Manual of Defence Transitional Legislation, which was published as long ago as 1948. The information that I have received is that only Part IV. of those regulations is in force, and I accept that that is so. Part IV. deals with the fixation of interest rates, the power of the Commonwealth Bank in that connexion, certain shares in building societies that are deemed to be deposits for the purposes of fixing interest rates, and certain exemptions. It confers upon the Government a very important power. On what ground is the Parliament asked to agree to the continuation of the control of interests rates? Is such control considered to be necessary for the purpose of winding up our war effort of World War II. ? That was not the reason given by the Minister for the Army (Mr.
Francis) in the second-reading speech that he delivered on behalf of the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride). He said that power to fix interest rates was necessary for defence preparations. In my view, an important matter such as this, which affects the economic life of the community rather than defence preparations, should be considered separately by the House.
The Jute Goods Order is another illustration of my point. Paragraph 3 (1.) of the order reads as; follows: -
Except with the consent in writing of the Controller a person shall not -
manufacture or treat jute goods; or
Sell, use or consume jute goods.
I ask the House to note the restrictions that are imposed by that order which is, after all, only an appendix to a regulation: The House is being asked to continue the order in force; but, from the bill, very few persons would appreciate that it imposes an important restriction upon trade which should be considered in the light of present circumstances in order to decide whether it is reasonable, relevant or necessary. It is not fair to the Parliament or to the people that important economic regulations should be continued in force unless they have been considered by this House with a full knowledge of their provisions. Many, perhaps most, of the regulations could be justified by the Government if they were considered separately.
Honorable members opposite said last year that the Labour party should not complain about the continuance in force of these regulations and orders because they are controls and, therefore, should be accepted by the Labour party.
– Most of them are controls that were imposed by a Labour government.
– That is right.
– Now the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is admitting that they are bad.
– That is not my argument at all. Apparently the Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) is prepared to argue that any regulation that was considered necessary during World War II. must be continued in force for ever.
– No ; but we are still at war.
– My case is that these matters should be embodied in legislation that the House can study and upon which it can express an opinion. Regulations and orders should not be continued in force by a bill such as this. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has directed my attention to a report of some remarks that were made upon this matter in 1947 by the present Minister for Defence Production. I have not read the document, but I can guess what the Minister said. When he was in opposition, he upbraided the Chifley Government for continuing regulations in force. He said that controls should be abolished and he led the electors of New South Wales to believe that if the Liberal party were returned to power all controls would be abolished. I want to make it clear on behalf of the Labour party that we do not subscribe to a policy of control for control’s sake. That could not be the policy of any political party.
– Socialism is control in itself.
– The Minister for Defence is not embarrassed by a special knowledge of the platform of the Labour party, or, indeed, of the regulations to which he desires the House to give a blanket endorsement. Perhaps he will listen to me while I read what is said about controls in the platform of the Labour party. It is as follows : -
The Australian Labour Party proposes socialization or social control of industry and of the means of production, distribution and exchange, such socialization or social control to be achieved to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other anti-social features of industry and of the processes of production, distribution and exchange.
If the Minister for Defence Production and the Minister for Defence object to that part of the platform of the Labour party, they declare themselves to be in favour of exploitation and anti-social features of industry and of the means of production, distribution and exchange. It is false to say that the Labour movement subscribes, either in theory or in practice, to the ridiculous notion that restrictions and controls are good because they are restrictions and controls. That is the inaccurate contention on which the
Minister for Defence Production gained votes from the people. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) and the Acting Premier of Queensland, Mr. Gair, were responsible for the restatement and declaration of Labour’s policy of socialization in relation to exploitation only a year or so ago. Every piece of legislation that imposes restrictions on the people must be carefully examined in order to ascertain whether it is socially necessary for the prosecution of a war, or to wind up a war effort. That the Government has not made that careful examination is evidenced by the Minister’s speech which was almost identical with the speech thai he delivered on this subject twelve months ago. The Government promised that certain national security regulations would be made permanent by legislative enactment, and although it has been in office for two years it has made no attempt to carry out that promise. Regulations such as those necessary for the control of certain industries to which r referred by way of illustration, should be embodied in separate measures. We would support the translation of such regulations into permanent enactments, but we refuse to accept this legislation. Not one valid argument has been advanced in justification of this bill and it would be completely wrong for the House to accept it.
.- This bill has become necessary in order to continue certain national security regulations. Originally, a total of more than 160 regulations -were passed under the National Security Act. Most of them were passed during the period of the administration of Labour governments. Those governments introduced many controls which, no doubt, were very useful in time of war but which, in time of peace, are unnecessary. The Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act which was passed in 1946, after the termination of the war, retained about 60 of the 160 or more regulations that were then in operation. After the war ended there was no immediate cessation of many war-time controls, that had been imposed by Labour governments. It did npt suit Labour’s purpose to abolish controls because it is its policy to bring about socialization, and controls are necessary to the achievement of that objective. During the war, the defence power was very wide, but with, the coming of peace it narrowed very considerably. Because of that narrowing of the defence power, Labour was reluctantly compelled to abandon some of its war-time controls. As the years have gone by the number of regulations that were continued by the 1946 act has gradually diminished. Now, fewer than twenty of them are still in operation and their severity has been considerably lessened.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) neglected to point out that the regulations that exist to-day are very different from those that were introduced by the Government of which he was a member. There is something to be said for the contention of the Leader of the Opposition that it is difficult to discover what regulations now exist. The right honorable gentleman’s contention that the law should be discoverable is shared by every honorable member. It is not the desire of honorable members on this side of the House that regulations shall be continued longer than is necessary. When a similar measure was introduced last year, certain orders, awards and determinations that had been made under National Security Regulations had to be continued, and accordingly they were embodied in it. In regard to others, we were told that legislation was being prepared with the object of giving them the force of legal enactment. This year a similar policy has been pursued. The Minister for Defence has reminded us that certain regulations may be continued under the Defence Act instead of under this bill. The Tea Importation Bill, which was passed by the House this week, continues certain regulations to govern the control of tea which were formerly embodied in the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act. I join issue with the Leader of the Opposition on the subject of regulations for the control of jute goods. In an endeavour to support his contention that they are still in force, the right honorable gentleman quoted an order which, he said, had been issued under the regulations. According to my reading of the legislation, the regulations have been repealed. The right honorable gentleman has also contended that the recitals in the bill are inconsistent with one another. All honorable members are aware that the sole purpose of the inclusion of the recitals is to seek to safeguard the constitutional validity of the measure. The regulations covered by the bill are declared to be in force not only because war conditions have not yet fully abated but also because of the state of war that at present exists. There is nothing whatever inconsistent in the recitals of the preamble. Obviously, they have been inserted in the act specifically for the purpose that I have mentioned.
However, I urge the Government, in future, to deal with the subject-matter of these regulations under specific bills and to discontinue this method of providing for their continuance under which it is difficult to sort them out and to ascertain -which of them remain in force. The Leader of the Opposition produced a manual of legislation that was published shortly after the principal act came into force in 1946. It would be very difficult, indeed, for the department now to produce a similar manual setting out just how many of the regulations are in force to-day. Such a task would involve hours, and probably weeks, of close study. Clearly, from the standpoint of the public, particularly of persons who practise in the law courts, it is not desirable that the law should be made discoverable only with the greatest difficulty. I hope that the Government will not continue to follow this procedure. It should cease to rely upon old regulations whose provisions it wishes to continue in force, and should enact those provisions under specific measures.
.- The Government is guilty of sloppy thinking in introducing a bill of this kind. For the last twelve months it has known that the Parliament would have to deal at some time with these regulations, but during that period it has done practically nothing to translate any of them that it regards as being of a permanent character to the statute-book. It may, of course, have had reasonable grounds for its inaction. When Mr. Dedman, the former member for Corio and, as Minister for Defence at the time, introduced the last Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill for which the Chifley Government was responsible, he at least paid the House the courtesy of enumerating at the end of his speech all of the regulations and orders which it was proposed to continue in force beyond the 31st December, 1949, and all of those that had been removed after the passage of the 1946 act and up to the 1st January, 1947. I have compared the list as it stood in December, 1949, with the list that this Government now proposes to retain, and I have found that during the two years that the Government has been in office not more than two, or three, regulations have been repealed. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) said that only twenty regulations are to be continued in force under this measure, but I point out that these regulations are practically the same twenty for which provision for continuance was made in the act of 1949. On that occasion supporters of the present Government who were then in opposition, did not agree that those twenty regulations should, be continued in force. The present Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) then said -
It ia somewhat anomalous that, four years after the end of the war, the Government is still relying upon the defence power of the Constitution. I warn the Minister that if some of the regulations that are sought to be continued in existence by this bill are challenged in the courts they may be declared to be invalid on the ground that they are outside the scope of the defence power. It is the duty of the Government to prepare against that eventuality.
That honorable gentleman is now a member of a government which proposes to continue in force regulations about whose validity he expressed doubts two years ago.
– Honorable members opposite do not care about whether they contradict themselves.
– And neither do they care about what they do. The Opposition is now trying to establish some consistency in ministerial policy, and it is completely justified in asking supporters of the Government to reconcile the protestations that they made against these regulations when they were in Opposition with the attitude that they are adopting on this occasion. We object to this loose method of continuing these regulations because it is clear that only some of them need, to be made permanent. We could be content merely to say, “ It does not matter. We shall let the Government continue all these regulations for another year.” But if the Government survives office for that period, it will again come along with the same sort of argument. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) had much to say about these regulations as far back as 1947. Of course, he was then sitting in opposition.
– And what he said was very well said at that time.
– If what he said was justified at that time, it has added justification to-day. I direct the attention of honorable mein,bers to statements that the and also the present Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) made in 1947, and I ask those Ministers to do me the courtesy of hearing the playback of the record. Speaking in this chamber on the 3rd December, 1947, the present VicePresident of the Executive Council said -
This hill is designed to amend the Defence (Transitional .Provisions) Act 1946, and for other purposes. Immediately two points present themselves. The first is that this bill is designed to continue in operation for ti. period of twelve months certain regulations promulgated under the National Security Act for the control of certain aspects of our economy. The second point is: Should these controls at this juncture, in these days of peace, be continued for a period of twelve months? If so, in what manner should they be continued? Should they be continued by way of regulations which, I remind the House. were designed during the war period, or should they be implemented by way of legislation ? These are very important points which this House should consider.
They are more important now, four years later; but the Minister has a habit of forgetting what he has said on earlier occasions.
– Will the honorable member quote from the speech that he himself made on that occasion?
– Yes ; if I made a speech on that measure. Although I have been a member- of the Parliament for eleven years, none of my political oppo nents has been able to find in Hansard any contradictions in the statements I have made in the Parliament during that period. I know that supporters of the Government waded through page after page of Hansard in order to find, out whether, on a previous occasion, I had said anything that was in contradiction to what I said with respect to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill which the House passed a few days ago. However, their search did not produce the result that they desired. On the occasion to which I have referred, the Vice-President of the Executive Council continued -
A great number of subjects are still shrouded in the semi-darkness of the regulations which continue to be applied under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act.
The same subjects are still being shrouded in the semi-darkness of regulations by the Government of which he is now a leading member. He continued -
In seeking power to continue to impose government-by-regulation upon the people, the members of the Cabinet ure flouting the Parliament and the people. They are, in fact, seeking to retain power and to vest it permanently in the hands of individuals whom we have described as bureaucrats.
Is not the Government doing precisely the same thing under this measure?
– No; it is doing something that is totally different.
– Now that they are in office, honorable members opposite do not worry about being inconsistent.
– That is so. What they regarded as sinful when they were in opposition they now regard as virtuous because they are in office. That idea could not be sold even to members of the Australian Country party in the electorate of Gippsland. In 1949, the Labour Government gave an assurance that it would wind up the regulations.
– But the honorable member’s party was washed up itself.
– The honorable gentleman will be wrung out himself in less than two years from now. Mr. Dedman gave an assurance to the House in 1949 that the whole process of winding up the regulations incidental to the conduct of the war was under way and that the Government would not bring down another bill in 1950. That was a cabinet decision. This Government, which was always opposed to regulations when the Chifley Government was in office, has not only continued the same regulations for two years, but wants to continue them for another year. The Opposition offers the strongest objection to that proposal. The present Vice-President of the Executive Council also said in 1947-
– Why does not the honorable gentleman make a speech of his own?
– I am comparing the experts’ views with the opinions that they expressed in other days and I am finding them guilty to my own satisfaction.
– The honorable gentleman is not convincing anybody else.
– I would not try to convince the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) because, theologically speaking, he is the victim of invincible ignorance. The Minister whom I am quoting said in 1947 -
The questions we should consider are whether these controls or any of them should be continued and, if so, whether they should be exercised by the Commonwealth or the States and for what period. At this juncture the Opposition might be prepared to agree to the retention of certain controls if the Government made it clear that within the next twelve months it would restore such controls to the State parliaments.
That I repeat was in 1947, but the honorable gentleman who made that statement asks the Parliament now to give this Government the right to continue, for a further period of twelve months, the very things about which he complained then.
– A trustworthy government.
– The Gallup poll does not indicate that too many people in Australia trust it and I am prepared to leave the decision to the people. The Opposition registers a strong and emphatic protest against the passage of this bill. It urges that an end be put to such sloppy thinking and to the sloppy practice of pretending to use regulations that were designed for the proper conduct of World War II. for the purpose of anticipating the possible outbreak of a third world war. If the Government wants to continue these regulations, let it gazette them under the Defence Preparations Act. At least that would be consistent, but to ask the Parliament to continue World War II. regulations when there is a better method of dealing with the matter is entirely wrong. Perhaps the Government does not want too strong a challenge on its Defence Preparations Act. That is another question.
The Opposition will fight against the bill because it does not agree with continuing any of the controls by regulation for another year. In present circumstances the Opposition seeks specific legislation so that everybody will know the. laws under which they live. The Opposition does not want regulations that can be amended from time to time by the Executive Council. As the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) have pointed out, even lawyers have difficulty in knowing what regulations are in force. The Minister or some other Minister on behalf of the Government should incorporate in Hansard a list of the regulations that the Government proposes to continue. The Opposition will not offer any objection if leave is sought to do that.
.- This short debate has been one of the most extraordinary to which I have listened in the two years that I have been privileged to sit in this House. It is extraordinary because I find the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) expressing objections generally to legislation by regulation with which I and other members on this side of the House are in complete accord. When honorable members examine the motives of the honorable gentlemen, and judge their sincerity by their past behaviour, it will be learned that they are trying to persuade us that the leopard has changed its spots. I cannot believe that that is so.
– Honorable members on this side do not change the name of their party.
– It might be as well if a number of things about that party were changed. There is a matter of internal harmony, for example, which might receive attention, but that is not the point just now. The Leader of the Opposition has stated that government by regulation should not be continued any longer than is necessary and he opposes the bill. What time has there been to clean up the mass of regulations which remained in force after the second world war? This Government has been in power for two years. The Parliament sat almost continually in the first year of its life. There were only two months of that year when the Parliament was not in session. In the second year of the Parliament the sessional periods have been only slightly shorter. A great legislative programme has been carried out. In its first year of office this Government was faced with the activities of a hostile Senate which blocked every piece of important legislation that it brought forward. The Labour members of the Senate opposed the Government’s work and the policy for which it was elected and they did so- under the direction of the Labour caucus. Now, Labour supporters have the effrontery to say that the Government should have cleaned up this mass of regulations. How could it possibly have given the necessary attention to these matters when it was continually obstructed in the first fifteen months of office? The Opposition itself has denied the Government the time and opportunity to do very necessary things such as clearing up the remains of the war-time regulations.
The ‘Leader of the Opposition analysed the recitals of this bill. The first two recitals refer to the fact that the past state of war required’ the regulations to remain in force. The third recital refers to the state of tension to which Australia must look forward. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) has pointed out that there is no inconsistency whatever in that. The -third recital merely states the constitutional basis on. which the Government relies. It is indeed a very good illustration of the unhappy fact that this country is still in a state of war and cannot yet look forward, to continuing peace.
The honorable member for Melbourne made the very interesting, statement that the Chifley Cabinet had decided that the regulations were not to be continued in 1951. I challenge the value of that statement, not because I do not think that the decision was made, but because I know that such decision, if it had been made, could not have been implemented. The honorable member for Melbourne must know that that was so as well as I do. Let me examine for a few moments the diversity of the regulations which remain in force. One deals with shipping coordination, under which the whole scheme of management of Commonwealth-owned ships, and vessels chartered by the Commonwealth, is continued. A second deals with the staff of war-time authorities. A third deals with a matter which is totally removed from the first two, which is the command of naval, military and air forces acting, together.
– Another one deals with the disposal! of dead bodies.
– I am indebted to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) for having supplied another illustration of the diversity of the regulations. Another regulation deals with powers of attorney executed by members of the forces under 21 years of age. Yet another regulation prohibits the construction of works near aerodromes. Obviously, such a regulation is still necessary. Opposition members have not forgotten how ‘ they obstructed the Government’s programme when the Labour party had a majority in the Senate during the first fifteen months this Government was in office, yet they have the effrontery to claim that it has had time to clear up’ all those matters.
– That is so. We are entitled to ask the Government to do something to give .effect to its pre-election promises. “
-Order! I ask the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) to remain silent.
– The practical answer is that in wartime it is necessary to- legislate by regulation for a great diversity of matters. The years that followed the end of World War II. caused a state of affairs in which some of those regulations had to be continued, although others could be repealed. There still remains a large body of war-time regulations which cannot be allowed to lapse. The Government has not yet had time to sort them out, and embody them permanently in legislation. I agree with the principle enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition that legislation by regulation is an unsatisfactory method, but I suspect that I believe in it far more wholeheartedly than he does. The real point of this debate is that the Opposition if trying to show that, because we criticized the Labour Government for legislating by regulation, our attitude at that time was insincere, seeing that we propose to continue certain regulations. That is the purpose of honorable members opposite in opposing the bill.
I shall now examine the kind of matter that the Labour Government covered by regulation. The House will know what I mean when I say that socialism and government by regulation go hand in hand. Socialism must inevitably end in the abandonment of parliamentary government. The intermediate period before parliamentary government is abandoned would be a period in which the powers of the Parliament are handed over to the Executive, and exercised by regulation. That state of affairs was reached in this Parliament during the latter stages of the Chifley Government.
Mr. Bryson interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) is keeping up a running fire of comment. If he does not desist, I shall name him.
– I ask the House to consider the number of controls which were exercised by the Chifley Government by regulation, and promptly abandoned by the present Government when it assumed office. Petrol rationing and butter rationing are two instances that immediately occur to us, but many other controls were also abandoned. This Government has a most creditable record in respect of the abandonment of controls, and the return to proper parliamentary government. The Labour party, which criticizes the necessary continuance of certain regulations by the Government, was most adept at governing by regulations. Sometimes, its regulations reached heights of absurdity that had not been thought of before. I am indebted to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) for having directed my attention to an interesting illustration of the sort of nonsense which was embodied in some of the regulations issued by the preceding Labour Government. I remind the House that the Leader of the Opposition, who was then the Attorney-General, was responsible for the drafting of those regulations. I refer particularly to a national security (prices) regulation Order 2146, passed in 1946 and entitled “Eggs in Shell”. It defined the limitations of the order, and contained the following definition : -
In this Order unless the contrary intention appears, first quality eggs means in relation to eggs in shell :
It does not mean first quality eggs, but “ in relation to eggs in shell “. The definition goes on -
– Very funny indeed !
– I direct the attention of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) to the next words, which are as follows: - and are not thin or misshappen ; and
– Nonsense !
– I agree that it is nonsense. The definition of first quality in relation to eggs in the shell continues - and the air cells of such eggs are slightly tremulous and not more than a quarter inch in depth.
That regulation was the work of the present Leader of the Opposition, when he was the Attorney-General in the Labour Government, yet he now castigates this Government for proposing to continue to legislate by regulation. Of course, government by regulation is a characteristic of socialist governments. I refer the House to another regulation to which the Vice-President of the Executive Council has directed my attention.
It was promulgated by the Attlee Labour Government in England, and related to ground-nuts.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) has referred to national security regulations which were abolished years ago, and he now proposes to quote a regulation promulgated by the Attlee Government. Do you, Mr. Speaker, consider that his remarks are relevant to this bill?
– This bill is entitled the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill 1951-
– The regulation on ground-nuts is a good illustration.
– Order! The Standing Orders provide that honorable members shall remain silent when Mr. Speaker is on his feet. I should like the Vice-President of the Executive Council to examine the relevant standing order if he is in any doubt about the procedure. The Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill 1951 obviously covers a very wide field, and whilst I do not encourage references to overseas matters in a debate of this kind we have had a number of instances in this chamber in which such excursions have been made. However, I ask the honorable member for Evans to keep his remarks somewhere near the bill.
– If the honorable member quotes nuts, can he quote May?
– I beg your .pardon.
– I referred, sir, to May’s Parliamentary Practice.
– If the honorable gentleman desires to quote a passage from May, I shall hear him.
– I am the last person in this House to attempt to introduce irrelevant matter in defiance of the ruling of the Chair, and as my proposal to quote a regulation promulgated by the Attlee Government has been challenged, I shall show that it is relevant to this debate. The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) have criticized this Government on ,the ground that it is governing by regulation. They have castigated its pro posal to continue certain regulations. I can point, with perfect relevance and justice, to certain regulations promulgated by Labour governments in the past. The system of legislation by regulation is inherent in the methods of a socialist government. I shall read a regulation which continues the line of thought which I was pursuing before the honorable member for Parkes rose to order. That regulation is an illustration of the sort of nonsensical stuff that is promulgated by a socialist government under the system of legislation by regulation. The Attlee Government issued the following order in relation to ground-nuts: -
In the nuts (unground) (other than groundnuts) order, the expression “nuts” shall have reference to such nuts, other than groundnuts, as would, but for this amending order, not qualify as nuts (unground) (other than ground-nuts) by reason of their being nuts (unground)
In deference to the wishes of the honorable member for Parkes, I shall allow those things to be buried.
– I think I can now appreciate the reference by the honorable member for Parkes to May.
– The Opposition’s objection to legislation by regulation suggests an attempted defence of the principles of parliamentary government. 1. should like to protest strongly at the insincerity of any such defence by an Opposition the members of which, when in government, showed greater contempt for the principles of parliamentary government than has been shown by any other government that this country has had the misfortune to elect. Last week we were reminded by the chance, and I think inadvertent, utterance of the honorable member for Melbourne that “ Our executive has decided . . .” of the fact that no Labour government really governs this country because all such administrations are themselves governed by an outside body, elected by the left wing of the trade union movement.
– Order ! The honorable member is getting away from the bill.
– I conclude by saying that, in principle, I agree completely with the objections stated by the Leader of the Opposition to government by regulation, but I am appalled by the hypocrisy of the criticism of this measure that has been offered by the Opposition. This is a necessary and temporary measure. I was glad to hear from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) of the Government’s intention to embody the regulations in legislation in the near future, and I accept completely the explanation that the Government has not yet had time, owing principally to the obstructive tactics of the Opposition, to bring down the necessary legislation.
.- After listening to the industrious squirrel-
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, but it seemed to “be appropriate to the context of the remarks of .the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), who is able to make even unadulterated nonsense about nuts sound like a High Court judgment. The reason why Government supporters have been so’ acrid in this debate is that the introduction of this measure has proved the falsity of a major feature of their political propaganda. Incidentally, I remind them that, in this connexion, they can deal with themselves under National Security (General) Regulations No. 73, which provides that persons who make false statements may be indicted. In the forefront of their election platform was the promise that the national security regulations would be abandoned and that their leader, like a pied piper of Hamelin, would lead the Australian people over the hill to salvation. But now we find that that promise had a secret escape clause. “We are told that the Government has not had time to examine all the regulations. Do honorable members opposite expect the people of this country to believe that this shambles of a bill has had any serious consideration at all? The regulations that it will validate for another twelve months are like something that has been left at the bottom of a barrel that nobody has bothered to scrape out. For instance, there is a regulation which deals with the disposal of dead bodies. Perhaps honorable members opposite are considering in voking that regulation for the dissolution of their own parties. Other regulations deal with the requisitioning of property other than land, the making of false statements, and the prohibition of” work near aerodromes. The’ Government wants to abolish the 40-hour week, but here we have a regulation which prevents anybody from doing any work at all near an aerodrome ! Surely there is nothing secret about aerodromes now. Then we have regulations which deal with charges improperly made by contractors. Theunlawful retention of ration tickets isalso involved. That takes our minds back a long way. Surely if the Government has been as industrious in its review of regulations as the honorable member for Evans would have us believe it to have been it would have caught up with that one. Other remaining regulationsdeal with documents which belong to certain powers, the disposal of unclaimed goods and sentences imposed on airmen overseas. All those matters are out of date.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said that he had no objection to the continuance of certain regulations for which legislative provision could not constitutionally be made,, but surely now is the time for the Government to implement the promise that it made from the hustings to straighten out all matters that are the subject of regulations. If there is constitutional authority for embodying a regulation in legislation we shall support such action but, as the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has said, this is a sloppy bill which deserves to be thrown out because of the slip-shod manner in which it has been presented to the House. I regret that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has now left the chamber, because I had something to say to him particularly. He pops in and out of the chamber like a predatory bear looking for some one to gag. He continually says to the Opposition, “ You did this” and, “You did that”. We accept the compliment that we were model statesmen ; but the Minister cannot claim to have had full knowledge of what was in the Labour Government’s mind. We realized that regulations were necessary during the transitional period, tart our intention wasto” scrub “ them whenthe need for them had passed. Now, this Government isattempting to hang this raggedremnant of Labour statesmanship around our necks. The only reasonthat has been advanced for the retention of theseregulations is footling and nonsensical.
The honorablemember for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) was honest enough to say that national security regulations should not be allowed to continuebut, as a loyal party man, he attempted to justify what the Government is doing. The sincerity of the Opposition’s criticism of this measure cannot hequestioned. We didnot oppose the passage of similar legislation in 1950, because we conceded that the transitional period had perhaps not expired in relation to all matters, but, in view of the fact that, since that time, the Govern- ment has retained in the forefront of its policy the promise to abolish all wartimeregulations, we cannot agree that there is any need for this bill. Government by regulation is surely the last thing that the people expect of this Administration. As I have pointed out, regulation No. 73 deals with false statements. I do not know whether the Minister for the Army will prosecute the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for his failure to implement his election promise, but we can all see the Gilbertian situation that has developed. The issue is simple. This legislation is a sloppy attempt to deal with the remaining national security regulations. Furthermore, it is a complete negation of the Government’s policy as we have read it. The contention that because there is a war in Korea ration tickets must not be retained, and people cannot buy jute bags for wheat without control is ridiculous. The regulations should be rationalized, and nobody realizes this more clearly than do the members of the Government parties. The members of the Australian Country party as usual want to be socialists in times of difficulty and profiteers in times of high prices. These regulations are dangerous. The Labour Government realized that it was playing with dynamite, but it had to use regula tions extensivelybecause ofthe war-time emergency. We have been abided about the definition of anegg,but at least the egg was fresh when it wasdisposed of under the Labour Government’sregula- tions, whichis more than can be said of the policyof this Government. It is allvery well tolaughaboutaBritish departmentaldefinition of ground-nuts, butthe fact is that theUnited Kingdom Government instituteda£50,000,000project which, although it failed, was intended to provide food for the British people. It is juvenile and stupidto snake fun of a regulation of that sort.
The regulations involved in the passage of thisbill should have been vetted, and many of them shouldhave been eliminated before the bill was brought to this House. By permitting them to continue to exist as regulations instead of embodying their provisions in legislation, the Government completely nullifies all the promises that it has made on this subject. It has fallen into the lazy habit of saying that what was good enough for the Labour Government is still good enough for it.The Labour Government’s intention was to cancel the regulations as soon as they became outmoded. This Government has betrayed its ineptitude by preserving regulations that are so out of date as to be ludicrous. It should withdraw the bill at this stage and submit a useful piece of legislation in its place. The Opposition would warmly support half a dozen regulations of a useful character, but it will not have anything to do with this gaggle of nonsense that deals with all sorts of subjects from deadbodies to birdseed.
– I do not know whetherthe insincerities or the sinceritiesof members of the Opposition are the more displeasing. Their insincerities are patent. They, the arch makers of regulations, the believers in the socialistically regulated State, the individuals who are spiritually pledged to the establishment of an economiccouncil to control an Australian soviet, now denounce the idea of government by regulation ! The insincerity is obvious, and therefore I do not think that it is of much consequence. Everybody can see through their pretence. But their sincerities are perhaps of more consequence. As I listened to the speeches of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), I was struck by the fact that they really believed that there had not been any change in the international situation since 1949. They told us that there was no need for controls or mobilization because there was no danger. I fear that some honorable members opposite really believe that that is the case. That is a tragedy for . Australia. They have been so conditioned by the political atmosphere in which they have developed that they are Unable to believe in anything more powerful than a King’s Cross push or more wicked than a gutter mob. But the power and wickedness that exist in the world to-day transcend the kind of thing on which they have been brought up and which they fear. [Quorum formed.] It is terrifying .to realize that members of the Opposition believe, to some degree at any rate, what they say. Some of them believe that there is no inherent danger in the present world situation. Therefore, now as in the past, the policy that they espouse is one that would endanger the life of the Australian people. They are utterly incompetent to speak for Australia, and it is frightful to think that they represent a little less than one-half of the number of Australian electors. However, I believe that, when the electors realize that these honorable gentlemen have been conditioned in such a way as to make it impossible for them to keep Australia safe if they were in power, they will represent a considerably smaller proportion of the population.
The honorable member for Parkes derided the war in Korea. Perhaps the men who are fighting in Korea may not feel the same detached derision for the events that are occurring there. Does the honorable gentleman not remember that, altogether apart from Korea, there are troubles in Persia, Egypt and other places? Perhaps he does not believe, because that is the party line, in the paramount menace of Moscow. It may be laughed at by honorable members opposite, but it is real nevertheless. The trouble is that, under the cover of their laughter, the
Moscow front is advancing. Moscow requires the help of just such dupes as they are in order to advance its policies. 1 return to the fact that there is some truth in some of the statements that honorable members opposite have made. 1 think it was Blake - no doubt honorable members opposite will correct me if 1 am wrong- who wrote -
A truth that’s told with bad intent Beats all the lies you can invent.
The present tangle of regulations thai thrives on the fertile mulch of the Chifley Government’s past can be thinned out considerably. I am thoroughly in favour of the view that has already been expressed from this side of the House that we should codify, simplify, and, if necessary, repeal redundant regulations. As the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) has suggested, a special committee might be able to make the regulations more intelligible so that they could be more easily understood by persons who have to go into the courts or who wish to keep out of them hy obeying the law. It is not always easy to obey the law when it is difficult to find out exactly what is the law. We should codify and simplify the regulations, and, where they are redundant, repeal them. I believe that there is work to be done along those lines. Where it is necessary to retain regulations, they should be kept within the narrowest possible limits. Unfortunately, because of defence needs and stresses, we have to envisage, for the time being, a degree of control which none of us on this side of the House likes. Let us admit that some controls are necessary, but let us try to keep them within the narrowest possible compass. I believe that we could, with advantage, consider whether we should limit the power to make regulations that’ is at present contained in a number of acts of the Parliament. I hope that, at the appropriate time, honorable members opposite will show their sincerity by supporting such a move. In particular I wonder whether it might not be possible to tighten the section of the Acts Interpretation Act which deals with the making of regulations so that the House will have a more effective control over them. The Government differs from the Opposition, in .that it honestly wants to keep regulations within the narrowest possible compass. Legislation along the lines that I have indicated should at least be considered.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has stated that I derided the war effort in Korea, and that probably a substantial number of soldiers would not share the view that I had expressed. I take exception to that statement. It was a deliberate and callous misrepresentation of what I said, and it comes very ill from the man who blew up the bridge at Cronulla and set fire to French’s Forest.
– Order ! The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) may develop a defence, but a counter attack is out of order.
– Naturally, having been in the infantry, that is the only means of defence with which I am acquainted. That unwarranted attack on me by the honorable member for Mackellar was continued in further references. Whilst I make allowances for the dementia praecox of the honorable member, I consider that he should withdraw his remarks and apologize.
– I accept the honorable member’s apology. I am glad to hear that he did not mean the things that he said, because honorable members on this side of the House believed that he did mean them.
– What gross untruth !
-The honorable member for Parkes has suggested that the honorable member for Mackellar should withdraw and apologize for having made certain remarks in regard to his reference to Korea. That would be quite in order.
– The honorable member for Parkes did say that he considered that the Korean campaign was just an incident, which did not justify-
– I rise to order! The honorable member for Mackellar is merely aggravating his offence. I ask you, sir, to take appropriate action.
– I put it to the honorable member for Mackellar very mildly, that as the honorable member for Parkes had taken exception to certain of his remarks, he should withdraw them, and might apologize for having made them.
– I should be loath to hurt the feelings of the honorable member for Parkes. If I have placed on his words a construction that he did not mean, I withdraw my remarks and apologize.
.- I have been interested to hear some of the reasons that have been advanced by supporters of the Government to justify the retention of regulations that were introduced during war-time. I shall not deal very extensively with the propaganda that was disseminated by honorable members opposite during the last two general election campaigns about the evils of government by regulation. It is utterly foolish for them to say that during the two years that the Government has been in office it has not had an opportunity to do away with regulations that they considered were reprehensible. Take, for instance, the Apple and Pear Acquisition regulations. Surely the Government, which is committed to a possible expenditure of millions of pounds on the acquisition and disposal of the apple and pear crop, could have found time to validate what it has done, by giving to itself power to pursue its course by means of legitimate legislation. But what has become an established part of the Government’s policy in relation to the payment of subsidies to primary producers is still covered by regulation.
– No subsidy is paid on apples and pears.
– If there is no need for government marketing, the continuance of the regulations is not justified. If it were justified, surely the Government should have put legislative machinery into operation before now.
Much ha3 been said about compensation for the compulsory acquisition of land. The Government is always needing to acquire land for various reasons. This is another matter that the Government should have placed on a proper legislative basis. The power to requisition property other than land, also, should be on a firm basis. The Government’s power in relation to prohibition of work near aerodromes is very vague. Is it the real intention of the regulation to prevent the erection of buildings that might obstruct operations at aerodromes? As flying has become a firmly established means of transportation in Australia, the. Government should, before now, have brought forward legislation to deal with this problem, instead of continuing the war-time regulations. There is always the possibility of power under regulations being challenged. Even the validity of the Government’s legislation to deal with communism was challenged before the High Court of Australia, which decided- that there was not sufficient evidence of the imminence of war to- justify the legislation under the defence power of the Commonwealth. But now we find that, although there is no greater evidence of the imminence of war or of the necessity for the exercise of emergency powers, the Government is continuing the very method’s of government that its members have so- roundly condemned for many years- particularly at election times. If the Government considers- that it has- the power to- re-enact these regulations, and then, quite- regardless of whether theHigh Court- might determine that a state- of war or the danger of a state of war exists, surely the time has arrived when the power provided’ by the regulations should he put on a much firmer basis than is represented by regulations that: may be declared’ invalid by the High Court.
It is passing strange that the Government, which made- such, a fuss at the last general election about government by regulation, wishes to continue government by regulation for another year. I repeat that if it considers that it has the power to put the regulations into effect, it should long since have, given to them legislative form by putting them on the statute-book. I hope that the Government will see the wisdom of culling the regulations further, because I believe that regulations should not remain in operation for one moment longer than is necessary. I am convinced that, there being- no actual war in progress which, involves the danger of invasion of this country - .although a war is- in progress- in Korea - the correct way for. the Government to deal with these powers if it considers them to be necessary, is to put them on the’ statute-book.
.- The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), like the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), stated quite clearly that the Opposition takes noexception to the substance of the greater part of these regulations. The point that honorable members opposite seem to take is that the results which the regulations seek to achieve should be achieved by the legislative method. “We all are prepared to admit that. The Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) pointed out in his second-reading speech that that course eventually will be followed, but that it will take a certain time to arrive at that point. That being so, I am at a loss to- understand, the- reason for the length of time that this debate has- occupied andi the heat that the honorable member for Melbourne- (Mr. Calwell) managed to put into has remarks about the matter. Admittedly it is a. function of the Opposition- to oppose,, but surely there should be a morecareful selection of the, issues on whichit is prepared to fight and take up the time of the Ho-use. We have listened to a futile performance in the last two or three days,, with honorable members opposite objecting to every little matter and making a. great, disturbance as though vital principles were at stake, yet remaining silent in relation to more important matters. The reason for their silence on really important matters;, such as that raised by the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) on Tuesday night, and their disinclination to discuss them frankly and openly,, is that they cannot trust themselves to give: a united opinion on them.
The honorable member for Dalley referred to the decision of the High Court that the Government’s legislation to ban the Communist party was invalid and beyond- the power of this Parliament to pass. However that may be, I wish only to say that bow any court that consists of people, no matter how learned, who- are not elected representatives of the people, and are by no’ means representative of the people’, can set itself up to say that a responsible government is not the (best judge of the measure of a state of war or emergency, is quite beyond my powers of imagination to conceive. That it can do so indicates to me that there is something completely wrong with our Constitution as it stands.
The honorable member for Melbourne this af ternoon lashed himself into a positive heat of fury over this quite unimportant bill. He reminded me of the caricature that depicts an old girl searching her apartment hopefully for a burglar who is not in it. This is quite an unimportant matter, on which all honorable members are more or less agreed except in regard to the manner of putting it into effect. I have been criticized for having moved the frequency closure. On some occasions it has been a pleasure to perform that function, and I now bring to the notice of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who is in charge of the House, the fact -that I am most anxiously awaiting the call to do so on the present occasion.
Mr. PETERS (Burke) £4.1].- The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has said that this matter is most unimportant. It probably Ls to that honorable member and to other supporters of the Government, but I regard it as a most important matter. I consider that in a democracy, even in times of war, government by regulation should be carried out only as a matter of the utmost urgency and with the express intention of discontinuing it at the earliest possible moment. I know that honorable members opposite will ridicule the idea of government of the people by the people for the people. They believe in .government by an executive that consists of a few persons., in the interests of a few. But you, Mr. Speaker, are probably one of the few members of this House who will remember that in November, 1863, Abraham Lincoln made that famous speech at a ceremony on the battlefield at Gettysburg, which included the following words : -
Fifty years ago our fathers founded on this continent a new nation. It, too, was conceived in liberty and was dedicated to the proposition that every man and woman in the community should have an equal share in government and in the ultimate determination of the destiny of this country. The method of government by regulation not only ignores the decisions of the conventions that brought the Commonwealth of Australia into existence but it also is contrary to the ideals of men like Deakin who, unfortunately, called himself a “ liberal “, but had ideas of democracy that are foreign to the ideas that permeate every speech that comes from members of the Government.
– Is the honorable member announcing a new policy for the Labour party?
– I am not announcing a new policy; I am saying that in times of danger there may he some justification for government by regulation, but only with the proviso that the regulations shall be made as a matter of urgency, and that all government by regulation shall cease at the earliest possible moment. Some honorable members opposite have said to-day that they do not ‘believe in government by regulation. I think it was the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), a learned legal gentleman, who apologized on behalf of the Government when he said, as other Government supporters have said, “But, of course, everything cannot he done overnight. Home “was not built in a day”. This ‘Government has been in office for almost two years. Yet, whenever it is pointed out that the Government has failed to do -something, the short time that it has been in office is mentioned -as justification of the omission.
It is true that the issue with which I am concerned is not a wide one. The codification of laws amd the preparation of legislation are not big jobs and may be done in ,a short ‘Space of time. It is obvious that the members of ‘this Government do not believe in government of the people by the people for the ‘people. It is alao obvious that they do not believe in responsible government and the democratic ideals that animated those Australians who, 50 years ago, founded the
Commonwealth. To’day, this Government finds it necessary to buttress its legislation by means of regulations. I contest that conception. The foundation upon which democratic government is built is the provision that executives, bureaucracies and little coteries shall not have power to govern the country by means of edicts, decrees, declarations, proclamations or regulations.
– I join with honorable members on this side of the House in criticizing this legislation. As may be judged, from the nature of the bill and the short second-reading speech of the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) upon it, probably it is the most vague piece of legislation that has yet been introduced in this Parliament. Very few details have been given concerning its possible effect and the most meagre information is available concerning the nature and duration of the proposed regulations. The introduction of the bill represents an addition to the outstanding record of promises that have been broken by this Government. Possibly no government in our time had a record of broken promises such as this Government has.
Sitting at the table to-day is the Minister for Defence, who introduced this bill. Behind him is the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison). In days gone by, no two honorable members were more critical of the introduction of legislation of this kind than were those two Ministers. During the term of office of the Chifley Government, the Vice-President of the Executive Council frequently stated, in his most eloquent manner, that the regulations that had been made pursuant to legislation introduced by the government of the day were grinding the people into the ground. At that time he condemned the socialist regulations, as he called them, and forced divisions of the House in an endeavour to convince the people that if the parties that then composed the Opposition were elected to office such regulations would be repealed in the interests of the people. “When the Minister for Defence was in opposition he frequently told the people, in his most mournful tone, that legislation of this kind was one of the first steps towards the establishment of a socialist state. At that time the honorable gentleman stated that he would do his best to have such regulations repealed if and when the party of which he was a member was elected to office. When they were in opposition the honorable gentlemen had plenty to say about legislation of this kind. To-day, they are in government. Yet when vital issues such as this are being discussed, they and the members of the Australian Country party are. as quiet as rabbits suffering from myxomatosis.
The Opposition wishes to know what the members of the Government meant when they said that they would repeal regulations that had been made under legislation introduced by the Chifley Government. Apparently, the two Ministers to whom I have referred, like the rank and file supporters of the Government parties who sit behind them, do whatever the great white master, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), wishes them to do. The Opposition would like to know what the supporters of the Government meant when they gave undertakings to the people of Australia in 1949 and 1951 that certain legislation would be repealed. You said that you would remove the regulations-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will address me.
– The supporters of the Government said that they would repeal certain legislation and would ensure that our economy should be continued on the basis of free enterprise and without restrictions in any shape or form. Must we assume that those promises were idly given and that they were not meant to be honoured ? Is it to be taken that the regulations now in force, no matter how unnecessary and unjust they may be, will be continued indefinitely by this Government? I suggest that no Government back-bencher ha3 any chance to rebel against the continuance of such regulations. Apparently, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and the ‘ honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), who have previously stated that they are opposed to regulations of this kind, are prepared to vote for their continuance.
I suggest that this bill represents a complete negation and repudiation of the promises that were given to the people by the Government parties. I refer particularly to the promises that were made concerning government by regulation in a free society. The supporters of the Government have frequently referred to what they termed obstruction in the Senate during the previous Parliament. I suggest that as the Government now has a majority in both Houses of the Parliament, the opportunity exists for it to repeal any legislation with which it disagrees or which it considers tu be unessential. There has been no intimation by the members of the Government that they intend to repeal such legislation. As long as you can get along;-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will address- the Chair.
– I shall do so, Mr. Speaker. By means of this legislation, the Government wishes to fortify the power it already enjoys by virtue of the provisions of the Defence Preparations Act to which the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has referred. That legislation is far-reaching and extreme. It, too, represents a. complete negation of democratic rights. The enforcement of its provisions will place the people of Australia in a more regulated society than that which exists in the most socialized country of the world. Yet to-day you endeavour to continue-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will address me. I am not doing any of these things.
– By means of this legislation the Government intends to continue in existence regulations which are now; in many instances, not only unnecessary but also outmoded. I point out that regulations such as those that may be made under this bill are already provided for in the Defence Preparations Act, which embraces practically all the activities contemplated by this bill. I suggest that the Government would have done better had it relied on the provisions of the Defence Preparations Act and refrained from introducing this bill.
The Opposition appreciates that the Government must possess power to carry out certain peace-time and war-time functions. Irrespective of what Labour governments may have said or done in this connexion, at least they were honest with the people of Australia. The Chifley Government told the people where it stood as far as legislation, regulations, taxation and every other matter were concerned. The members of the Opposition, unlike the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who was elected to this Parliament under false pretences-
-Order ! The honorable gentleman will withdraw that remark.
– In deference to your wish, Mr. Speaker, I shall do. so.
– Order ! There is no question of deference at all. The honorable gentleman will withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw the statement. I suggest that the Vice-President of the Executive Council was elected on false promises to the electors of the country which he had no intention of carrying out. This bill is a further indication of the Government having been elected on false promises and of its insincerity on great issues. Opposition members told the people where they stood on great issues. The Government has introduced legislation into this Parliament which they promised to repeal, Mr. Speaker, and members of the Government-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman shall not address the members of the Government in conjunction with me.
– I can quite understand your feelings in the matter, Mr. Speaker. Prior to the general election, the Government stated that legislation of this type would be repealed if it was returned to office. This is not the time for excuses. The people are “ fed up “ with the actions of the Government, and they are particularly “ fed up “ with the introduction of bills such as this. Apologetic speeches will not convince the people of Australia that it is necessary to continue the enactment of legislation of this type. There appears to be no justification for the Government seeking to extend the period of operation of the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act, in view of the existence of the Defence Preparations Act. I stall be interested to hear the Vice-President of the: Executive Council and Government supporters place their views on this matter before the Parliament. As the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable memberforMelbourne (Mr. Calwell) have pointed out, these is nojus- tification for thecontinuance of the regulations that have been made under the. act. The wording of the bill is vague. Australiansare entitled to an explanation of the Government’s reasons: for continuing to repudiate the promises on which it was elected to office in this Parliament.
.. - in reply - I am sure that the Government and those who support it are extraordinarily pleased at the almost unanimous opposition that has been expressed during this debate to the principle of government by regulation. It is most unfortunate that it is necessary to continue for another twelve months some of the regulations that were promulgated by the previous Government during a period of war emergency and have remained in operation up to the present time. I made it clear in my second-reading speech that whilst most of the regulations would no longer be needed except for the purpose of completing action which has already been commenced, the exigencies of this period of cold war and rearmament, in some instances, made it undesirable to dispense with the surviving war-time regulations. Those regulations fall into at least three classes. There are some which may very well be abandoned at an early date. There are some which it is obviously necessary to retain for a period in order to permit the execution of the purpose for which they were promulgated. It would be futile to dispense immediately with regulations for which there will be a use for six or twelve months although they may no longer be necessary after that period hasexpired.
The apple and pear regulations provide an outstanding example of regulation’swhich it is necessary to retain. These regulations are not required for the acquisition of apples and pears because,asiswell known by those who are engaged in the industry, they have not been applied to theacquisition of apples and pears harvested since the 3lst December, 1948. However, a residual responsibility rests on the Australian Apple and Pear Board to pay compensation in respect of claims that were made during the operation of the regulations. There is a considerable volume of work of this nature which it is hoped the board will be able to complete during the period under review. The apple and pear acquisition regulations will then be no. longer needed and will be repealed. Some other regulations will, ofnecessity, have to remain in force for a longer period. The Government believes that a number of these regulations should be repealed expeditiously but, as is very clearly stated in the third paragraph of the preamble to the act, we are now living not in times of peace but in what has been called a period of “ cold war “. That “ cold “ war is very warm in certain places and there is no possibility of the Government being in a position to. repeal certain control’s which were exercised during the second world war.
In the course of the second-reading speech on this bill it was emphasized that certain economic controls would have to be exercised and, perhaps, intensified. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) spoke very glibly about the economic organization regulations and suggested that they should be introduced into this House in the form of legislation.. It is probable that the economic controls will be continued. The capital issues control which the Government instituted is at present under challenge in the High Court. Nevertheless, if the Government is to give effect to its economic policy of controlling inflationary pressure many of these controls will have to continue.
Under the act another class of control which relates to employment in the coalmining industry is being exercised. The coal-mining industry is controlled by joint legislation of this Parliament and the parliament of New South Wales. The Government is very anxious to have certain alterations made in that legislation but before they can be made they will have to be acceptable to the Government of New South Wales. Complementary legislation has also to be passed.
Consequently, the legislation under which the mining industry is controlled cannot be abandoned.
I am extremely pleased to find chat honorable members on both sides of the House arc opposed to the principle of government by regulation. It is rather interesting to find that honorable members opposite have been converted to that viewpoint. An example of. Satan damning his own was given by the Leader of the Opposition when he talked so precisely against controls. Probably more regulations were promulgated under his regime and at his instance than have been promulgated by any other government. The right honorable member says now that he is against control. It is obvious that anybody who subscribes to the theory of socialism must be in favour of complete control of the individual. Socialism connotes the absolute control of everybody and everything by the State.
The right honorable member advanced the old excuse of the Labour party by detailing once again what is known as the Blackburn amendment. The Blackburn amendment to the Labour party’s platform was submitted years ago, and was rejected by the Labour party. The people having recently shown their opposition to socialism in no uncertain way, the Labour party is trying to water down its socialistic platform, and so invokes the Blackburn amendment. The people are not so foolish as not to recognize the purpose of this line of argument. The Blackburn amendment was rejected when it was first proposed. The originator of it, the late Mr. Maurice Blackburn, was also rejected by the Labour party. It is sheer hypocrisy for the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), or any other member of the Opposition, to try to convey to the people the impression that they are not wholehearted socialists. They are not wholehearted socialists, of course, while they are in Opposition, because they know that the people will not tolerate the policy of socialism.
I have no doubt at all that if by some mischance, which I am sure if it ever does occur will happen in the distant future, honorable members opposite again find themselves on the treasury bench of this House they will forget the Blackburn amendment as they did before and will attempt to go ahead with the socialization of the economy and the people of Australia. I can assure the House, and also the people, that this Government is inherently against government by regulation. It is only under the stress and the pressure of the times through which we are passing that certain regulations have been retained and new ones promulgated.
We are extraordinarily pleased at the unanimity of opinion that has been expressed in the House to-day, and are gratified to realize that not only honorable members on this side of the House, but also at least some honorable members opposite, are against this form of government.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . … 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adoped
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 21st November (vide page 2405), on motion by Sir ARTHUR Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. MoMahon) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1947.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Parliament House - Tractors - Bush FREE - Wheat - Housing.
Motion (by M. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to bring a matter to your attention. Mr. .Speaker, in your capacity as deputy .chairman of the House Committee. I understand that it is intended to remove the post office, which every one agrees is an obstruction, from its present position in King’s Hall, to a position in the basement. Would it be possible for you to have that decision reconsidered by the House Committee ? I was a member of the committee when this matter was discussed on a former occasion, but not when a decision was reached. The original idea was to place the post office where there is now a lavatory behind the messenger’s box on the south side of King’s Hall. If it were there, employees working in the office would have the advantage of natural light through the front windows of the building, and the office would be conveniently situated for use by members of the Parliament. For those two reasons, it is desirable that the matter should receive further consideration. I understand that it is proposed to remove the post office to a position in the basement where there would be little natural lighting, and that when fixtures were placed in position employees would have to work for long periods in artificial light. The office would also have to be ventilated by artificial means. Those of us who have had experience of storing goods in the basement know that they require constant attention in order to prevent them from being damaged by dampness and by the unhealthy air, postal employees should not be asked to work where such conditions obtain. ‘ A further objection to the proposal may be taken by members of the Parliament whose rooms are on the top floor - or for that matter, on the other floors - of the wings that are remote from the place where it is proposed to put the post office. I am more concerned about the employees who would have to work in an atmosphere that ultimately would injure their health than I am about inconvenience being caused to honorable members. I am wondering whether it will be possible for you, Mr. Speaker, to raise this matter again before an irrevocable decision is made to transfer the post office to the basement of the building. I do not think that any great inconvenience would be suffered by anybody if it were re-erected on the site that was originally selected for it.
– I support the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). Some time ago it was decided that the post office in this building should be shifted from its present site. I agreed entirely with that decision. A new site for it was selected. It was on the main floor of the building, where advantage could be taken of natural light and a free circulation of air. The new proposal that the post office shall be moved to the basement of the building and placed in a position where the employees will not be able to enjoy the advantage of natural light and natural air is, to my mind, a retrograde one. When the Parliament is in session, the post office employees in this building are required to work very long hours in rendering a service to members of the Parliament. Therefore, it is essential that we ensure that they shall have reasonable working conditions. It would be most unfair to them to move the post office to a position directly under King’s Hall, in a part of the building that is used at the present time mainly for storage purposes. I do not think that any inconvenience would be caused if the post office were re-erected on the spot that was originally chosen, where the employees would be assured of reasonable working conditions. I urge that the decision to move it to the basement be reviewed.
.- A matter that concerns the Chamberlain Tractor Company I raise now because I shall not be here next week, having been chosen to represent this Parliament at the inauguration of the Papua-New Guinea Legislative Council at Port Moresby. The Chamberlain organization occupies a factory in Western Australia that was constructed in war-time for the production of ammunition. When the war ended, the building and plant were taken over by the State Government and then were leased to the Chamberlain Tractor Company, which has manufactured highly efficient tractors. Those tractors were of great assistance in meeting the demand in Western Australia and other parts of the Commonwealth when tractors were urgently needed. Now the organization has been obliged to dismiss 200 of its employees. The reasons given for the dismissals are contradictory. It has been said that the company has been forced to reduce its output, on the one hand because of competition from imported tractors, and on the other hand because it cannot obtain the materials it requires.
I ask the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) to refer this matter to the appropriate Minister and request that an investigation be made of the circumstances that have rendered it necessary for the company to take that step; also to ascertain what remedies are required to be applied and, if practicable, to apply them. The factory, apart from the fact that it is a. very valuable adjunct to a newly established charcoal iron industry and will be a valuable adjunct to the steel industry, which it is hoped will be established in that area within a few years, has a tremendous defence production potential. It could be converted very quickly to fulfil its original function, or it could be used for the production of heavy machines, of which we were extremely short in the last war and upon the production of which we shall be required to concentrate if the present international trouble reaches the stage of shooting. Therefore, it is essential that the factory be maintained in as efficient a condition as is possible.
This is a major problem that should engage the attention of the Government. The factory is of value not only to Western Australia but also to the whole of the Commonwealth. The matter that I have raised justifies a complete investigation being made and prompt action being taken to cure the trouble. Last year, the Tariff Board recommended that the tractor bounty be continued in operation; but, as far as I know, no legislative action has yet been taken to implement the board’s recommendation. Action of that kind might assist the Chamberlain organization to continue in full production.
.-I refer to the devastating bush fires that have occurred in the Coonamble district and other districts of New South Wales. Thousands of acres of country have been burnt. Homesteads, fences and other improvements on properties have been completely destroyed. Some graziers have lost a large proportion of their stock. 7 have received a letter from a prominent grazier in a district that has suffered severely from the fires. In the letter he has directed my attention to an anomaly to which the taxation laws give rise and from which some persons in the area will suffer- He has asked me to request the Government to give consideration to an* amendment of the appropriate act in order to give relief to those persons. My correspondent states that many graziers in the devastated area have been able to save a considerable number of stock, but that their fences have been completely destroyed. They will be compelled to sell the stock. Sheep may be sold at £4 a head. That price will probably represent a profit of £3 on the original cost, but the taxation authorities will demand from them tax at the rate of 10s. in the £1 on the difference between the buying and the selling price. In other words, they will have to pay in tax £1 10s. in respect of every sheep that they sell. When their fences have been restored and their properties have been sufficiently improved, they will restock them, but they will have to pay £4 or £5 a head for the new stock, and thus they will suffer a considerable loss. I ask the Minister to confer with his colleagues in Cabinet with a view to relief from taxation being granted to graziers who are compelled to sell their sheep as a result of a national calamity. I shall be pleased to make the letter available to the Government, because I am confident that it expresses very succinctly the difficulties that confront these unfortunate graziers.
.- Yesterday, I received the following telegram from the Australian Wheat Growers Federation : -
New wheat proposal include Wheat Board deducting freight from wheat to Tasmania other ports. South Australia now shipping wheat to Brisbane, freight is 4s. bushel this is bad principle should be deleted from bill. Tasmania docs not pay freight on apples coal or sulphide to mainland. Queensland wants hold maize and sorghum for high export prices and expects wheat-growers to pay freight on wheat on stock and flour. Tasmania suffering special disability and should state case for recovery this amount from grants commission. Urge you delete this clause from bill.
Whether or not all the information in the telegram is correct I do not know. I cannot say, from my own knowledge, for instance, whether Queeusland producers are holding stocks of sorghum and maize in the hope that they will obtain the higher export price payable for those commodities. Wheat-growers are entitled to the full price under the International Wheat Agreement for all wheat sold inside Australia, except that sold for human consumption. The Australian. Country party has advocated the payment of such a price for many years. It is anomalous that wheat-growers should be called upon to subsidize industries that have no connexion with wheatgrowing. There is no connexion whatever between, say, the poultry and pig raising industries, and the wheat industry except that fowls and pigs eat wheat. At present, if two men decide to engage in primary production, one as a wheatfarmer and the other as a poultry-farmer, the wheat-farmer is placed at a disadvantage, because he has virtually to supply the poultry-farmer’s stock-feed requirements at a price that is from Ss. to 10s. a bushel less than the price under the International Wheat Agreement. There is no reason why wheat-farmers should be called upon to subsidize other industries in that way. If the pig and poultry industries need assistance, it should be provided from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and thus the cost should be spread over the whole community. I replied to the telegram, as follows : -
Telegram received. Cannot see any justification growers paying freight on wheat to Queenslaud and Tasmania. Will continue to oppose this anomaly.
Irrespective of what government is in office, I shall continue to oppose that anomaly. Why should the wheatgrowers be called upon to bear the cost of freight from, say, Adelaide to ports in Queensland and Tasmania ? At present, Queensland, because of drought conditions, is not producing sufficient wheat to meet its own requirements. Why should wheat-growers in South Australia be called upon to suffer financial loss as a result of drought conditions in Queensland? Wheat-growers should not be called upon to pay freight on wheat shipped interstate. They should be paid the full export price for all wheat sold within Australia except thatsold for home consumption.
Mr. Bryson interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) must cease interjecting.
– Honorable members who represent the poultry and pig industries should not allow themselves to become over-excited. I have no desire to see those industries go to the wall. All I contend is that, if they are worth saving - and I believe that they are - the assistance needed by them should be provided at the expense, not of the wheat-grower, but of the taxpayers generally. In that way wheat-growers would pay only their just share of the cost. Incidentally, the wheat-grower is a big taxpayer. I have submitted a reasonable case, which should not give offence to any one. I simply claim that the Government should do justice to an industry to which the country must look for its future stability. At present, the wheatgrower is supplying, and is content to continue to supply, all the wheat that is required for human consumption at the home-consumption price of 17s. lOd. a bushel, whereas the International Wheat Agreement price is 16s. 6d. n bushel, and the price on the free market is approximately from 18s. 6d. to 19s. a bushel. We must always remember that the wheat industry is vital to our economy and has helped to keep it sound. In addition, the wheatgrowers have helped to keep the cost of living from rising to a greater degree than any other industry has done, by selling wheat for the manufacture of bread, which is the staple food of the country, at a price far below the export price or the world parity price. I again urge the Government to ensure that justice shall be done to the industry.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) has submitted proposals that contain great merit, and I shall direct the attention of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to them.
The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) knows that the Government is giving attention to the problem that he has raised. However, he should realize that the Government was left a legacy of difficulty by the Labour Government, which, for many years, exploited the wheat-growers. For that reason it has been physically impossible for the Government to rectify the position as a whole in respect of that industry during the short period that it has been in office. However, it has accomplished much in that direction. To-day, the wheat-grower is receiving the International Wheat’ Agreement price for all feed wheat.
.- In reply to a letter that I wrote to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) relating to representations that were made to me with respect to the financing of the building of houses under the co-operative scheme by the Canterbury-Bankstown Cooperative Building Society, the right honorable gentleman stated -
The Government has consistently regarded finance for housing purposes as having a very high claim to priority and under the Commonwealth’s credit policy no restriction has been imposed on the raising of finance by cooperative building societies. It has not been the practice of the Commonwealth itself, however, to advance funds to building societies which must arrange their borrowings from financial institutions prepared to lend for this purpose.
A Labour government established the Commonwealth Bank for the purpose of meeting the needs of the people; and it has always been the aim of the Labour movement that financial assistance shall be made available at a low rate of interest to all sections of .”the community, particularly for building purposes. Whatever might be said about the needs of wheat-growers, they, at least, have a roof over their heads, whereas thousands of people in this country have no home in which to live. When the Government suggests that co-operative building societies should finance their operations through private financial institutions it is prepared, apparently, to throw those societies to the financial wolves. Instead of making it easier for big financial institutions to lend money at abnormally high rates of interest, the Government should make advances to such societies at a reasonable rate of interest to enable them to finance their operations. I raise this matter because of the seriousness of the housing shortage. We hear much about what the Government claims to be doing to encourage building, but its activities are limited to the construction of war service homes and of houses in the territories under its control- Consequently, it has devolved upon State governments and organizations such as cooperative building societies to endeavour to overcome the housing shortage. Instead of merely advising those societies to obtain from private financial institutions the finance that they require, the Government should be only too ready to accede to the request that I made to the Treasurer.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) referred to the location of the parliamentary post office. I undertake to raise that matter again at the next meeting of the Joint House Committee and to place the views of those honorable members before it. I assure them that the matter has given the committee quite a lot of trouble. It decided not to transfer the post office to the site now occupied by the officials’ toilet on the Senate side of the building, because alternative lavatory accommodation could not be made available. In addition, officials of the Postal Department said that the area available at that point would not be adequate for departmental purposes. Although the committee recognizes the difficulties that will arise in transferring the post office to the basement, at least it can be said that at that spot sufficient space is available for the purpose of the office, including a minimum counter space of 22 feet. I shall raise the matter again at the next meeting of the Joint House Committee which, I think, will be held next week, and I shall advise those honorable members of its views in regard to their representations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5.12 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s. - On the 15th November, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) asked the following questions : -
Will the Prime Minister inform the House how the sale of plant and equipment will alter or condition the operational division of the Joint Coal Board or its subsidiary, the New South Wales Mining Company? Is it a fact that Parkinson Strip, an English company, is acting as consultant and contractor to the Joint Coal Board? Has the Joint Coal Board abandoned the practice of calling tenders for various works in connexion with its undertakings? Who will determine the price to be paid for the plant and equipment that is to be sold? Will the plant and equipment be sold at cost price less the depreciation or by tender? Finally, in view of the decision to sell the plant and equipment of the Joint Coal Board, will the right honorable gentleman say whether the reply that was given to me on the 24th October to the effect that no decision had been made to suspend any section or operations of the Joint Coal Board was in accordance with the facts?
I have obtained from the Minister for National Development the following answers to the questions asked by the honorable member : -
The reply given by the Minister for National Development on the 24th
October to the honorable member’s previous question was in accordance with the facts.
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are a? follows : -
Call to the Nation.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I was asked if I would be willing to sign the message. I said that I would only if other political leaders did so, as I thought the document ought not to have any party aspect. This course proved impracticable. Dr. Evatt and I subsequently expressed whole-hearted support of its objectives.
z asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable, member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The ultimate profits from the activities of the Joint”. Organization will not be known, until after the liquidation of that body. This win* necessarily take- some- time, moreover, there is a High Court ease1 pending at If resent which has a bearing, on. the basis of distribution.. Until, the position is clear it will not be possible to distribute the full profits to. either people who’ have left the industry or those still’ in the industry.
e asked the Minister for Commerce: and. Agriculture, upon notice. -
I’-. Is’ it a- fact that conclusions’ reached! as the result of discussions between an Australian trade delegation! and representatives of Pakistan provide for exports from Australia of processed milk amongst other commodities?
Does the.1 description “ processed “ milk include powdered milk?
I’s it a fact that a persistent severe shortage of powdered milk exists-,, particularly in, the territories and. in Western Australia, and that, in many rural, .pastoral and goldmining districts, and in the north-west residents, especially nursing mothers and children, suffer hardship consequent upon, this shortage?’
Is it a fact that milk in powdered form is the only practical method of making this indispensable nutritive commodity available in’ these areas?
Will he ensure that Australian, home consumption requirements of powdered milk are fully .provided, for and adequate distribution arranged- before permitting the export of any powdered1 milk te any destination1 outside Australia, and its territories?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The trade arrangement recently concluded with Pakistan provides for the licensed entry into Pakistan of Australian condensed or preserved milk, including milk cream, to the value of £70,000. However, there is no obligation, on. Australia to supply this item.
D asked the Minister for Commerce’ and Agriculture^ upon notice -
– The answers to- the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Me. Leslie asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Is it a fact that in the recent tradediscussions between Australia and Pakistan a conclusion was reached’ which provides for the export of machinery, among other commodities, from’ Australia to Pakistan ?
What is the nature of the machinery and is- agricultural machinery of any kind included?
Is it a fact that supplies in Australia of agricultural machinery of all kinds are inadequate either tomaintain or to permit an increase in agricultural production ?
Ifso, will he ensure that no export permit is granted for any agricultural machinery unless evidence is submitted that such machinery is not required for use by producers in Australia?
n. - Answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
on asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answers: -
n. - On the 16th October, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) asked a question regarding the Wool Textile Labelling Act. The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows
It is desirable that uniform textile labelling regulations should be applicable to both imported goods and locally produced goods. At the present time there is not uniformity between Commonwealth and State textile labelling requirements. Consequently, Commonwealth regulations are not being fully enforced as such action would impose on imports requirements which would be more stringent than those imposed on locally made goods. There is a proposal that a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers be held in the not distant future to discuss the possibility of establishing uniformity of textile labelling practice within Australia.
on.- On the 21st November, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) asked the following question: -
Will the Prime Minister inform me whether it is a fact that a150 highly trained customs officers have been dismissed in accordance with the Government’s policy of retrenchment and that such dismissals have caused a serious congestion of cargoes on the Australian water- . front? If this is a fact will the Government give consideration to immediately re-engaging these former customs officersin order that the irritating delaysnow occurring in clearing goods from the wharfs may be lessened?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following reply : -
It is not a fact that150 highly trained customs officers have been dismissed. Following the Governments direction to reduce the level of employment in the Commonwealth Public Service, the staff of the Department of Trade and Customs in all States was reduced by 148.No permanent officer was dismissed. It is not admitted that delays which occasionally occur in dealing with customs entries are a factor of any significance in the congestion of cargoes on the Australian waterfront. I would also direct the honorable member’s attention to the reply given the honorable member for Blaxland in connexion with a question concerning the delay in transit of goods through the Port of Sydney.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has lie seen an official report made by the Labour party stating that if Trans-Australia Airlines is sold or merged with a private company, the party will re-establish a Commonwealth airline with the most .modern and up-to-date aircraft and that they Wil not take over or acquire any aircraft now operating, which will bc obsolete in a year ot two.
s. - I have not seen the report’ referred to by the honorable member.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 November 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19511123_reps_20_215/>.