20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie. Cameron) tank the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to intimate t;> the House, before question time begins, chat any questions in regard to hospital benefits and such matters must be placed on the notice-paper.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask on what grounds your decision is based?
– One base is that a question concerning the matter is on the notice-paper for to-day. Another base is that, in my opinion, the_ subject has already been well canvassed in questions without notice.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question relative to the Government’s decision in respect of an application for the allocation of dollar currency to the New South “Wales Government for the purchase of certain electrical power equipment. Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether the decision is based upon the fact that the requirement asked for is to be made in dollar currency, or on the fact that to accede to the request would mean that the allocation made to New South Wales as h result of the decision of the Australian Loan Council would be exceeded?
– I think that perhaps one: useful way in which to answer the question would be for me to table the letter that 1 received from the New South Wales Premier and the letter that I sent to him on behalf of the Commonwealth, in which these matters are discussed. I have not that correspondence with mo now, but I shall table it later. I am able to inform the right honorable gentleman, however, in advance of the tabling of these documents, that the New South Wales Premier asked for dollars for the purchase of certain electrical equipment, and at the same time indicated that he wished left open the question whether any dollars made available were to be within, or beyond, the State’s normal loan allocation,, with the strong indication that ir was desired that any dollars made available for this purpose, should be additional to the loan allocation made to New South Wales by the Australian Loan
Council. The reply by the Commonwealth pointed out that we could not, and for very obvious reasons, agree that the provision of dollars should be an addition to the loan programme, because the adoption of such a course would at once reopen the whole of the loan programme, would inevitably evoke demands from other States for additions to the programme and would mean, therefore, a complete tearing up of the financial arrangements that have been made. On the question of whether dollars should be made available within the loan programme, we indicated that it was, and had been, our principle that dollars, which are very hard to come by, should not be made available for the purchase of plant if such plant were available from nondollar sources. That principle applied during the regime of the previous Government. Investigations in this matter led us to the conclusion that these particular goods could be secured from nondollar sources. We added to that the fact, which is worth emphasizing to the House, that as Australia is not at present a net earner of dollars, but, in fact, on net balance draws on the dollar pool, we would, in effect, if dollars were expended for the purchase of this equipment in America, be securing dollars from the United Kingdom in order to enable the purchase of dollar goods that United Kingdom manufacturers themselves are willing to supply. That, as I pointed out in- my letter, would be a most supremely ironical thing to do. The statement that the Premier of New South Wales has since made indicates quite clearly that he was interested in this matter as an addition to that State’s loan programme and not as a part of it, because, unless he has been misrepresented in the press, I gather from what he has said that New South Wales cannot afford to find the requisite sterling for this equipment. If it cannot afford to find the requisite sterling, it is obvious that it cannot afford to pay for the requisite dollars. Therefore, what it has asked for is an addition to its loan programme; and that is, a fact to which the attention of each of the other Premiers might usefully be directed.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that representatives of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development who visited Australia recently expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which the 100,000,000 dollar loan has been expended, on the ground that some allocations of dollars from the loan were made for other than essential productive and developmental purposes? Will the right honorable gentleman table a list of the dollar import licences that have been issued since the loan became available, so that honorable members may examine the manner in which the loan moneys are being expended?
– To my knowledge, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development has not at any time made a criticism of the kind indicated by the honorable member. Had there been such a criticism, I think I should have heard of it, because I was closely involved in the negotiations for both of the dollar loans that we have received from the bank. Therefore, I think he may disabuse his mind of that suggestion, t am not prepared to say offhand that a complete list of those who have obtained dollars, as individuals, ought to be tabled. I shall discuss that aspect of the matter with the Treasurer. There will, however, certainly be no difficulty in Supplying the honorable gentleman with a sub-division of the total of the various kinds of commodities in relation to which dollars have been made available.
– That has already been supplied.
– I thought it had. If the honorable member wishes a copy of that list there will be no difficulty in letting him have one.
– I direct a question to the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration that relates to the tragic fire that recently occurred at the Somers immigration camp. Has he received any reports that would indicate that adequate fire fighting equipment and facilities were available at the camp and could be used at the time the fire occurred ?
– The honorable member mentioned this matter to me on Friday and I am able to inform the House that at the time the fire .occurred at the Somers camp there were available an SOO gallon fire tank with both manual and power pumps and also hoses, thirteen hydrants and 36 hoses with fittings.
– I rise to order. As the subject of the question to which the Minister is now replying is to be the subject of a coronial inquiry in the near future. I submit that it is sub judice.
– I was not aware that the matter is the subject of a coronial inquiry; but if it is, it is sui judice.
– The matter has not yet been made the subject of a coronial inquiry.
– It is not sub judice until such an inquiry begins.
– That is so. _ Furthermore, these are facts which come within .my administration and they do not prejudice the verdict of the coroner and, therefore, I should be in order in stating them in any circumstances. In addition to the equipment that I have mentioned there were available at the Somers camp at the time of the fire 25 knapsack sprays, 167 chemical extinguishers and a large number of buckets. There was also at the camp a voluntary fire unit which is under the supervision of an Australian officer who is experienced in fire fighting duties. That unit trains weekly and it was, in fact, on the scene of the fire within two or three minutes after the alarm was given. In addition, officers of the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade inspect the equipment at such centres every six months and such an inspection was made at the Somers camp as recently as July last. Finally, whilst over 200,000 immigrants have passed through this camp, this is .the first serious fire that has occurred at any of these centres, and is also the first occasion on which loss of life has been suffered.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr. Speaker. What authority, if any, has the AuditorGeneral over officers of the House? Has he any authority to act independently of the Speaker in relation to any expenditure incidental to the running of the
Parliament? Has the Auditor-General in any way failed to adopt proper procedure in his official dealings with officers of this House? Will you prepare a statement clarifying the whole relationship of the Auditor-General with this Parliament ?
– I shall be very happy to prepare such a statement, and ] shall supply it as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state the amount of Joint Organization profits that still remain to be distributed, and when they will be distributed? As I understand that a case at present before the High Court of Australia is holding up the distribution of profits, ‘ can the Minister state the position in that regard ?
– The profits held by the Australian Wool Realization Com’ mission and regarded as distributable amount to approximately £42,000,000. That sum is additional to £50,000,000 which has already been distributed. That amount has to be distributed to wool-growers whose wool was acquired during the war or who were contributor!) to the war-time wool acquisition scheme. The policy of the Government is that the wool-growers who left the industry before the recent range of high wool prices - which has been taken to be before August, 1949 - will be paid their entitlement of profits in full as soon as the exact measure of their entitlement has been decided. That will be decided by the verdict of the case at present before the High Court, known as the Poulton case. We are expecting the decision of the High Court on that matter at any time. Notice has already been given, to this House of legislation to deal with the distribution of profits, and ] hope to move for the second reading of the bill perhaps within a few days. Those entitled to share in the distribution who have now left the industry will receive their money as soon as their entitlement is clear in law. The other wool-growers will (be paid their entitlement of profits in three approximately equal annual instalments, commencing about March of next year.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration how many assisted Italian immigrants in the various hostels and immigrant camps throughout Australia are unemployed? What money has the average individual at his disposal each week, what number of persons is under contract in Italy or on the water, and what measures are proposed to ensure that productive work, especially rural work, will be made available for these unfortunate people? Will, the Minister consider making a statement about this matter ?
– I could answer offhand some of the honorable member’s questions, but I could not give him all the figures that he has asked for. The most convenient way for me to deal with the matter will be to examine the questions and supply him with a complete answer.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister and has regard to the atomic tests which are to take place at the Monte Bello Islands. I realize, of course, that there are many important aspects of the tests that must necessarily remain top secret. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether, if there are any photographs, or any general information regarding the tests which could safely be made available to the Australian public without giving any vital information to a potential enemy, such photographs and information will be made available to the public, as was done in the case of the Bikini tests?
– I take it that the honorable member is referring to photographs that may be taken at the time of the tests. The extent to which photographs or descriptive material or anything else will be made available to the public will be in the first place a matter for the closest expert advice and examination, because I am sure the honorable member will agree that it is of vital importance that matter of high secrecy from the point of view of security should not be disclosed even by inadvertence. Subject to that, the matter will be fully examined at the relevant time.
– Will the Minister in charge, of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization inform the House of the degree to which t,he scientific research service of the organization is being availed of in the development of Australian secondary industries?
– In the early stages of the existence of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which is now known as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the organization concerned itself almost entirely with problems of primary production. However, during the last fifteen years it has devoted increasing attention to problems of secondary industries. My mind has been exercised for’ a considerable time by the question whether the expenditure of public funds on the problems of specific industries is justified without adequate., or in many instances, any, payment being made by those industries in return for the assistance of the organization. I have held discussions with high officials of the organization in recent months in order to determine whether the. present system should be continued or whether, instead, it would be better to encourage the establishment of research associations for particular industries to work in conjunction with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization under an agreement for the sharing of costs. The bread industry and the leather industry are notable exceptions to the general run of secondary industries because they already maintain independent research organizations. I commend their example to other industries in the hope that it will be emulated. Unless such industry research organizations are established, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization may be forced to curtail, if not discontinue, the research work that it is doing on behalf of particular secondary industries.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether the United States of America has debarred Great
Britain from taking part in the Pacific security treaty organization, generally known as the Anzus Council, of which Australia and New Zealand are members? Has the Australian Government consented to the exclusion of Great Britain, even to the point of preventing that country from sending observers to conferences of the council? If so, does this mean that the Government is dishonouring its debt of gratitude to our Mother Country in order to lean on our wealthy American cousin? I should like the right honorable gentleman to give a clear answer to my questions because 95 per cent, of the people of Australia are of British stock and resent the Government’s action.
– I have stated on a number of occasions, both in this Parliament and elsewhere, that the Anzus treaty is a regional treaty agreed to by the United States of America, New Zealand, and Australia. There are good reasons, which I shall not delay the House by recounting in detail, why the three governments concerned consider that the treaty should be confined, for the present at any rate, to the original signatories. If anybody should be under the misapprehension that this entails any drawing away from the Mother Country, I repeat the assurance, which I have given previously in this Parliament and elsewhere in public, that no such movement is intended or, in fact, has taken place. Our adherence to our Mother Country, Great Britain, to the general British connexion, and to the Commonwealth generally, is precisely what it always has been. It is generally acknowledged that the hard core of democracy for the future must be found in the closest possible relationship between the British peoples and the American people. The Anzus treaty is only a local manifestation of closer British-American relations. To my mind, it is not by any means necessary that every self-governing member of the Commonwealth should be a party to every treaty or arrangement entered into with the United States of America. Tho Anzus treaty is a geographical, regional arrangement, and I hardly believe that it is necessary for me to repeat that the limitation of this treaty to the original three partners carries no evidence whatsover of any slackening of our interest in, concern with, and affection for the Mother Country.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Interior. At the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers which is to be held in the near future, will an opportunity be given to the States to discuss the financial provision for the war service land settlement scheme? If New South “Wales, Victoria and Queensland, which are known as the principal States, desire, or if any one of them desires, to become an agent State under the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act 1945, will the Minister recommend to Cabinet that they be accepted as such? In those circumstances, will ex-servicemen who have settled on the land in Victoria in accordance with the terms of an existing agreement, preserve the right to obtain a freehold title?
– I rise to order. I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the honorable member’s question deals with a matter that is the subject of the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1952, which was debated by the House last night and no doubt will be further debated this afternoon.
– Order ! Only the first part of the question is in order.
– I am not aware that a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers i3 to meet in the near future, but I understand that a request has been made for a meeting of the Australian Loan Council before the end of the year. It would be entirely wrong for a Minister, in reply to a question, to say what he would or would not put before Cabinet, or what Cabinet would or would not submit to a meeting of the Australian Loan Council. I am afraid, therefore, that I. cannot answer the question, although I am very interested in its contents.
– In view of the recently repeated statements of the Prime Minister about what he expects of the
Australian people regarding the amount of money to be expended on defence, is the right honorable gentleman’s conscience ever affected by what the people think of him and his Government?
– Order ! Did I hear the word “ conscience “ ?
– Yes, I used that word.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must confine his question to a matter of administration for which the Prime Minister is responsible.
– I am dealing with the general administration of the Government. Does the Prime Minister still retain the high ethical standard that prompted his resignation in 1941 because the press and the people had lost confidence in him? If he retains that high ethical standard, does he not regard the results of recent by-elections in New South Wales and Victoria as an indication of a loss of confidence in his Government, or is he awaiting the result of the Flinders by-election before he considers whether he should resign from his office?
– Order! The results of State by-elections are outside the affairs of thi3 Parliament.
Question not answered.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture any control over the supply of nitrate of soda to primary producers? I ask this question because a large acreage in my district, and in many other districts, has been submerged by flood waters for a number of days in recent months, and the nitrogenous elements in the soil have been dissolved. Is there any way in which the Minister can help primary producers to obtain supplies of this element as quickly as possible and by the best means available?
– The practice of the Government is to ensure that adequate supplies of nitrogenous fertilizers are available in Australia, by procuring all the fertilizer that is produced in the Government ammunition establishments and all that is available as a by-product of gas works, steel works and other industries and. supplementing them by purchases overseas of nitrate of soda and ammonium sulphate. By far the largest proportion of nitrogenous fertilizers is in the form of ammonium sulphate. The Government has followed the practice of averaging the price, because there is a disparity between the price of the Australian products and that of those procured overseas. The price is averaged and reduced by means of a subsidy. In the budget, £500,000 is provided for that purpose. I can assure the honorable member that a substantial supply of nitrogenous fertilizers is available in Australia, and I believe that it is adequate for the demand. If he will inform me of the requirements of his own locality, I shall do my best to see that ir is supplied.
-I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether ihe nest of traitors is still in the Public Service?
– The question has been asked and answered on a number of occasions. There is no new answer.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been able tr secure more substantial quantities of galvanizing substances, such as lead and zinc, for the manufacture, for example, of fencing material? If his answer is in the affirmative, will the Minister confer with the Minister for National Development to ensure that full advantage is taken of the supplies so that sufficient fencing materials for rural production will be available? Can the Minister estimate how soon there will be adequate quantities of fencing material available foi all rural activities?
– Over a period of two. and a half years, I have been trying to make arrangements for ample supplies of zinc and lead to be made available to Australia. Disputes between the producing companies and the States prices authorities have been involved in the negotiations. Quite recently, the State prices authorities approved an increase in the Australian selling prices of .lead and zinc. That increase was based on a principle proposed by this Government that the price should be related to the cost of production of the metals. As an outcome, zinc will be available to Australia at. the rate of 60,000 tons a year and lead at the rate of 50,000 tons a year. In the caseof zinc, there will be an increase of 8,000 tons a year. I am informed that this will, provide adequate supplies of zinc for galvanizing for all essential purposes in, Australia.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Army regarding a matter to which I have directed his attention on two previous occasions. I refer to the damage that is being done to homesin the East Hills-Panania district by bombing and artillery practice at Menai,. Holdsworthy and other military establishments on the south side of George’s River in New South Wales. By way of explanation, I point out that plaster ceilings and walls have crumbled and young childrenhave been upset by blasts and vibrationsand that shift workers have been unable to sleep because of this practice. Has theMinister any plans to shift such necessary military training farther away from the centre of dense population?
– If the honorable gentleman will inform me of the placesin which it is alleged that homes have been interfered with, and also of the names of the individuals concerned, I shall be pleased to have each case investigated by the appropriate officers. Afterhe raised this matter for the first time, I caused detailed inquires to be made into his allegations, but the reportsfurnished to me did not bear them out. I now ask him to give me the names of the people concerned.
– My question isaddressed to the Minister for Social Services. In explanation, I state that I am asked frequently to take up cases on behalf of constituents who have applied’ for age pensions but have not received them three or four months after they havelodged their applications. How long. should the Department of Social Services take to grant an age pension when there are no factors present that would cause delay? Are delays caused by insufficient staff? If so, will the Minister consider increasing the staff of the department so that it will be able to handle its work?
– We have received complaints about delays .in granting age pensions. When the complaints have been investigated, it has been discovered, in most instances, that the delay has been caused by peculiar circumstances, which have involved examination of property and so on. Quite frequently, applicants for pensions are not very clear about the information that they should supply to the department in relation to their assets. If the honorable member has in mind any case in which there has been undue delay in reacting a decision and will give me the details of it, I shall do my best to ascertain the cause of the delay.
– During the debate on the Social Services Consolidation Bill, no mention was made of compensation payments to members of the Civil Constructional Corps, Civil Defence workers and persons suffering from war injuries. Will the Minister say whether consideration has been given to an increase of these payments? If so, when will the increases come into operation?
– Compensation payments to members of the Civil Constructional Corps, Civil Defence workers and to persons who suffered war injuries have been considered. The Government has decided to increase the payments by 7s. 6d. a week. The increased payments will be made when the Social Services Consolidation Bill 1952 has been passed by the Parliament and has received the Royal Assent.
– Will the Treasurer say whether it is a fact that the present bankrupt financial position of some shires and municipalities is due to the Government’s financial policy and the directives issued by the Treasurer to banks and other lending authorities? If that be a fact, will the right honorable gentleman give urgent consideration to a complete reversal of the Government’s financial policy, in order to permit shires and municipalities to borrow-
– Order ! Shires and municipalities are not the responsibility of any Minister in this House.
– I take it that, owing to the Government’s financial policy-
– Order! If the question relates to Government policy, it must be placed upon the Notice Paper.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether his department has made any progress in the provision of a suitable water supply for the new national service training camp and the school cadets camp at Greenbank, Queensland? I visited the camp some time ago and found that the water supply was inadequate at that time, but the commanding officer assured me that everything was being done to obtain a suitable supply as soon as possible.
– The camp at Greenbank, which is used primarily for the training of Citizen Military Forces personnel and cadets, has an adequate independent water supply of its own, in a very substantial dam which will meet it3 requirements for many years to come.
– In view of the statement of the Minister for the Army to the House yesterday that the water supply of a section of the Holsworthy military camp is inadequate and that the position cannot be corrected for some time, I ask him whether he considers that the conditions that exist in that camp are satisfactory and are conducive to good health? If he does not, will he make arrangements to evacuate the national service trainees already quartered in the camp and close the camp until such time as an adequate water supply has been provided and other causes of complaint have also been removed ?
– The honorable gentleman’s question is based on false premises, and is designed primarily to do an injustice to national service trainees and to arouse anxiety in the minds of the parents of the boys in that camp. I repeat the statement that I made yesterday, which was that the supply of water at the camps at Holsworthy and Ingleburn is adequate except at a period when the boosting system is over-strained. That situation is met by the provision, in advance, of an independent water supply by means of water carts, which is used to flush the cisterns in the camp. The present water supply does not constitute a danger. Yesterday t gave the honorable gentleman the considered opinion of the Director-General of Medical Service, Major-General Kingsley Norris, which was a completely convincing answer for anybody who wished to be convinced.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that the attitude of the Department of Trade and Customs in relation to the issue of licences for the importation of rubber tyres is having a prejudicial effect on the Australian tyre industry and on employment in it? Is he also aware that the practice of the department has resulted in the dumping of imported tyres on the Australian market to the detriment of sales of the locally produced article? Is he further aware that it is reported that one Sydney importer who received an import licence for 3,000 tyres is offering them to the trade in parcels of 50 at a price that is 50 per cent, lower than the price of the locally produced tyres ? “Will the Minister have this allegation investigated with a view to a cessation of the issue of import licences for those commodities, which can he produced locally in a quantity sufficient to meet Australian requirements ?
– The honorable member’s question concerns a matter that comes within the ambit of two departments. The Department of Supply advises the Department of Trade and Customs with regard to certain matters that the honorable member has mentioned. I shall confer with my two colleagues and ensure that the honorable gentleman will receive a satisfactory answer.
– Can the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation make a statement in relation to the nature and extent of the mishap, which is reported to have occurred at Fairbairn aerodrome this morning? Can he also inform the House which air service was involved in the mishap ?
– I shall bring this matter to the notice of the Minister who is acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation, and see that an answer is supplied to the honorable member.
– I direct to the Minister acting for the Minister for ‘ Civil Aviation a question supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Darebin. I ask the Minister whether a mishap occurred to the 7.40 a.m. Trans-Australia Airlines aeroplane from Melbourne on its arrival and landing at Fairbairn aerodrome. Is it true that the aircraft was caught in a cross wind while landing and was swept through three fences and across a roadway into an adjoining paddock? Is it also true–
– Order ! Is the honorable gentleman asking a question or giving information?
-I am asking a question.
– I have not heard the question up to date.
-I ask the Minister whether it is true that no passenger of the aircraft sustained injury?
– The Minister may answer the question if he chooses.
– I have no direct information in relation to the matter, and I consider that it would be far more satisfactory to the House if an answer were given in concrete and definite terms rather than by way of mere guesses.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question regarding coal supplies. In view of the fact that at present we have 1,000.000 tons nf coal at grass and that our supplies .of coal, with the exception of gas coal, more than meet local demands, will the right honorable gentleman consider the advisability nf seeking new markets for our coal so as to maintain full employment in the coalmining industry and at the same time augment our export trade and improves our national income?
– The possibility of overseas markets for coal of a type that is not in overdemand in Australia is being explored. We have recently had quite precise inquiries from .Pakistan in relation to coal. I know from discussions with the Minister for National Development that he is taking a direct personal interest in that matter.
– Will the Minister for Health give consideration to sending an officer of his department to Newcastle and the coa.l-fields districts for the purpose of explaining his hospital contribution scheme to people in those areas ?
– I shall be very pleased to do so.
– I ask the Treasurer whether his omission from the delegation that is to attend the Commonwealth Economic Conference to be held soon in London is a result of the widespread criticism that was voiced, by many sections of the community, and especially by Government supporters, following the unhappy economic results of his last visit to Great Britain, or is it because there is not among the other members of the Cabinet a person suitable for the office of Acting Prime Minister?
Question not answered.
– Does the Minister for External Affairs consider that a threat, or potential threat, to the security of Australia is inherent in the fact that the French Government has reached a tentative agreement with the Japanese Government for the sending of 2 000 Japanese indentured workers to New Caledonia, which is 7^0 miles from the coast of Queensland ? Has not the system of indentured labour been outlawed by the International Labour Organization and other organizations connected with the United Nations? Does the Minister consider that this is a stage in the southwards march of the Japanese, and is a situation of urgency? Will he make u statement to the House on this matter at the earliest opportunity?
– The answer to the first question is “ No “, and the answer to the second is that we are keeping in close touch with the situation, which hanot reached a definitive stage, so that there is no matter on which I could yet give the House any positive information.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) - by leave. - agreed, to -
That Dr. Donald Cameron be a member of the Joint Committee appointed to consider such matters concerning foreign affairs as are referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs.
That the foregoing resolution be communicated to the Senate by message.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1930- 1951, as amended by the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1.952 and by the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act (No. 2) 1952, and for other purposes.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In June, 1950, honorable members were asked to consider a bill for the amendment of the Tariff Board Act. That bill contained provision for a grant to members of the Tariff Board of annual leave for a period not exceeding fifteen days in each year, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. It is now considered desirable that a further grant of leave in the event of illness be made to them. As members of the board are not usually young men and as they are appointed for a period which may vary from one. to three years with the possibility of re-appointment, it is thought appropriate that the provision should be sufficiently flexible to authorize the Minister to approve such sick leave as he may deem necessary in the circumstances. The bill has been drafted accordingly.
Mi’. CALWELL (Melbourne) [3.18].- The Opposition offers no objection to the passage of this measure, lt is purely a machinery bill that makes provision for sick leave, in certain contingencies, for members of the Tariff Board which is an important body of public servants who, at present, are working very hard. I trust that none of the officers involved will need to take advantage of the provisions that are contained in the bill hut will continue to enjoy good health and retain the capacity to proceed with the good work that they are doing.
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.
Debate resumed from the 16th September (vide 1502), on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The object of this measure is to empower the Government to raise moneys to be made available to the three agent States to enable them to proceed with the war service land settlement scheme. As my colleagues have pointed out in the course of this debate, land settlement is one of the most urgent needs in this country at present. I shall not labour that point. However, the Government appears to be completely unmindful, of its responsibility in this matter. Apparently, it is prepared to make party political capital at the expense of the principal States rather than to make a real and constructive approach to this problem. Even the work that has been done under the scheme in recent years in the agent States has not been completely satisfactory. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Grayden), for instance, drew attention to a practice which he considered to be bad in principle. He complained about the failure of a Liberal-Country party government in Western Australia to make provision for appeals against decisions of acquisition authorities.
However, the broad matter to be considered is the urgent need of vast development in land settlement. As the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) pointed out, more farmers are required in order to enable us to maintain even our present rate of production. Recently, the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, Sir John Teasdale, stated that unless more land is sown to wheat, sufficient wheat will not be produced to enable Australian flour-mills to work to their full capacity. That is evidence of a desperate state of affairs. At the same time, vast areas of land in good rainfall districts are not being fully utilized. Yet, large numbers of ex-servicemen and other persons are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to go on the land. What is the real obstacle to the promotion of a vigorous land policy at present? An almost insatiable demand exists for foodstuffs not only in this country but alsothroughout the world. The only thing that is preventing us from making a maximum effort in primary production is the failure of the Government to face up to its responsibilities in this matter. It is clearly the Australian Government’sresponsibility to institute a Commonwealth plan to fulfil its repatriation obligations to ex-servicemen. The Opposition is of the opinion that the Government has been indicted and found guilty of failure satisfactorily to shoulder that responsibility. ‘ The system of agent States and principal States is causing delay and confusion, but the complete failure of the Government’s loan policy has brought Australia to its present sorry financial state. That policy has been responsible for denying the money to the principal States that they need to promote an active scheme of war service land settlement. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) said that either 4,000^000 or 2,000,000 acres, in any case it was a vast area of land, had been gazetted for acquisition in New South Wales but that its acquisition could not be proceeded with. He appeared to blame the New South Wales Government for that state of affairs. It is clear that it is not the New South Wales Government’s lack of desire to develop farms within the State for ex-servicemen that is holding up the scheme. It is its inability to finance acquisition projects. This Govern nien t stands condemned because of its inability to supply the money required by the States for the land settlement of ex -servicemen.
Tho argument that revolved about the vh 1 nations of land by the New South Wales Government dealt with merely another part of the same problem. The first part of the whole problem of war service land settlement is to provide sufficient money to acquire properties, and the other is to resolve a difference of opinion between the sovereign governments of the States and the Australian Government. The Labour Government in New South Wales is entitled to determine the fair valuation of property, and it is then responsible for its actions to the electors of the State. The New South Wales Government has no responsibility to this Government. Its responsibility is to its own electors.
– The New South Wales courts recently decided the matter of the valuation of land.
– The courts decided that the New South Wales Government was able to resume land at its own valuation.
– The last case before the New South Wales courts decided that a fair price must be paid for the land.
– I do not know about that. If the Minister’s statement is correct it may alter the situation, but the earlier legal proceedings showed that the New South Wales Government’ was within its rights in acquiring land on its own terms. The whole matter of reasonable valuation is one for the courts and the Labour Government of New South Wales. The New South Wales Government must recognize its responsibility to the electors of that State. I repeat that that Government has no responsibility to this Government, and if this Government seeks to force the hand of the States it will import a foreign element into the matter. The Australian Government has been unable to get sufficient money from the public to finance war service land settlement and other schemes. Consequently, a large part of New South Wales cannot be used for the settlement of exservicemen, and the large areas to which the honorable member for Wannon referred cannot be devoted to agricultural purposes. That has occurred because this Government is either unable or unwilling to provide the money required. If money is earmarked for war service land settlement but used for certain other projects, this Government has a certain responsibility. It has to approve acquisition schemes recommended by the various State governments. It has to consider the value of land, the areas that will provide a living, the soil classification of properties and so on. That is the extent of the Australian Government’s responsibility in relation to the money that it is supplying to the State governments. If the New South Wales Government expends upon what it regards as more urgent works a lesser amount than the amount given to it, that is completely within its own province. To deny that principle would be to deny the efficacy of the whole federal system of which honorable members on the Government side have been the most heated champions.
If the Government provides the necessary money the States will ensure that the war service land settlement scheme will proceed, but if the Commonwealth does not raise the money that the States require then it alone will be responsible for the lag in Avar service land settlement. It is clear that this Government has made no effort to raise the money required. In fact the Government has gone out of its way to ruin the loan market, for some reason best known to itself. As honorable members on the Government side are so often anxious to point out, there are greater deposits in the savings banks, and savings are spread more widely throughout the community than ever before in our history. Moreover insurance business is at record high level. It is clear that great sums are available if the public can be convinced that this Government has a sense of responsibility, and can be trusted not to sacrifice the capital invested. It is pointed out in to-day’s press that the public has been divesting itself of Commonwealth bonds and that the only support forthcoming for Commonwealth loans is from the Commonwealth Bank and the National Debt Sinking Fund. The net holding of public securities has been lessened in recent times. That is in sharp contrast to the record of Commonwealth loans for many years past. “When the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) launched the recent loan he said that the Australian public had been magnificent, in its support of Commonwealth loans. He said, “ Not only have they been filled, they have been heavily oversubscribed “. That was true until recently, and then the Treasurer clearly used his influence to issue a loan at a discount. Through his privileged and powerful position the Treasurer forced the State governments to agree to a general increase of interest rates. It followed that the capital invested by subscribers in previous loans immediately depreciated. The public is now unwilling to subscribe to Commonwealth loans because it fears the loss of capital that has often been accumulated through many years of serious sacrifice. The Government has, deliberately or through ignorance of the consequences, brought about the present depression of the loan market, and it is making no effort to rectify that position. Even to-day there are rumours of still higher interest rates.
– Order ! The honorable member should direct his attention to the contents of the legislation, which deals with treasury-bills.
– It deals not only with treasury-bills, but also with inscribed stock. Surely inscribed stock is a government investment. There is no doubt that the money to be borrowed under the terms of this bill will be obtained by the issuing of inscribed stock and treasury-bills.
– Will the honorable gentleman point out the relevant clause to me?
– Yes. Clause 8 states -
The Treasurer may, from time to time, under the provisions of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-1946, or under the provisions of any Act authorizing the issue of Treasurybills, borrow moneys
Clearly, the bill provides for the issuing of inscribed stock.
The Government’s policy on interest rates is the major reason for the introduction of this measure to provide for a regularizing of the issue of treasurybills. Nevertheless, even now the Government will not make any firm pronouncement on interest rates. It appears that the general rate may rise even higher than its present level. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said in a recent debate that the obvious course to take was indicated by the experience of State governments. Those governments have floated loans at increased interest rates and have obtained the money that they need. The various interest rates fixed by State governments and instrumentalities have produced differing results. This has caused much confusion and uncertainty and the indications point to a further increase of the ordinary bond interest rate. As one financial journal has pointed out, although the Government will not fix a new rate, the market has fixed the rate at some figure over 4^ per cent. Obviously, if people expect a new loan to be floated at 4£ per cent, they will not invest in government bonds at the present rate of interest and risk a loss of capital value in their investments. Until the Government, as the leading member of the Australian Loan Council, the organization to which the State governments look for guidance, makes a firm declaration on interest rates, efforts at public loan flotations in Australia will be unsuccessful ; no responsible financial adviser will encourage people to invest in government bonds at their rar price of issue while the present state of uncertainty continues. Government loans will be under-subscribed; and it will not be possible to finance the war service land settlement scheme or to promote the maximum use of Australia’s resources in the great works that are awaiting completion.
There are many ways in which war service land settlement could be expedited. Machinery should be used to hasten the development of farms for the settlement of applicants. Only last week-end in Perth, the Midland Railway Company of Western Australia Limited offered at public auction a large area of light land that had been reserved previously for the purposes of the war service land settlement scheme. I do not know whether the land had been re-examined and found unsuitable for the scheme. However, I know that it was thought to be suitable after a preliminary examination had been made. I ask the Minister to state whether the land was examined and rejected by officers of the Commonwealth. I sincerely hope that its potentialities were carefully considered before it was made available to persons other than ex-servicemen. The scheme appears to be lagging for a variety of reasons. In many instances, the cost of clearing land and the time taken to prepare it for settlement is keeping applicants out of primary production at a time when we are badly in need of all classes of primary products. Furthermore, delays mean that prospective settlers are losing the opportunity to establish themselves in production during a period of good prices. The Government should exert itself to the utmost limit of its ability in order to ensure that the greatest possible number of exservicemen shall be settled on the land and the greatest area possible brought into production at the earliest possible date.
The State governments are eager to assist, and the fact is that, notwithstanding the recriminations that have been exchanged in relation to land valuations and delays, this Government is the authority that bears the malor share of responsibility for the conduct of the scheme and has the power to hasten its implementation. In the first place, it has a responsibility, as the government in charge of repatriation, to provide for the settlement of exservicemen on the land. It cannot escape that responsibility, and I do not think that it wishes to do so. In the second place, it has the power to promote the quickest possible use of available land for the settlement of ex-servicemen. It should not engage in lengthy and heated disputation with the State governments but should arrange for a conference at which the bare facts can be considered with a view to ironing out all the problems that hamper the settlement project. One of the problems in Western Australia is that, in the south-western region of the State, the trouble and expense of clearing heavily timbered areas are severely handicapping the scheme. This Government should endeavour to help the State Government to overcome that difficulty. It should also have retained for the purposes of the scheme the light land owned by the Midland Railway Company of Western Australia Limited, to which I have referred, unless that land was found to be unsuitable. It was regarded for a considerable time as being eminently suitable for the purpose. Why was it released for sale by public auction? I am not intimately acquainted with conditions in the other States. However, the Government should co-operate with the State governments, irrespective of their politics, in order to remove the obstacles that are preventing land that has been selected for the purposes of the scheme from being put to its proper use as quickly as possible. If the Government accepts its responsibility, it will make a major contribution to the expansion of food production, which is of great importance, not only to Australia, but. also to other countries.
– One would scarcely imagine, after listening to honorable members opposite, that the House was debating a bill to provide £6,000,000 for the purposes of war service land settlement during the current year. Honorable members opposite have spoken as though this Government had not carried out its obligations under the terms of its agreements with the State governments. The truth is that the Commonwealth has acknowledged its obligations to ex-servicemen from the inception of the scheme. It has provided for the discharge of those obligations by the enactment of the Re-establishment and Employment Act and subsidiary legislation that provides for the assistance of ex-servicemen in many ways, including their settlement on the land. The Commonwealth undertook to finance the training of ex-servicemen and to help them to purchase houses, to provide agricultural loans, re-establishment allowances and living allowances, to pay for the work of land development, and to help ex-servicemen in many other ways. The legislation that I have mentioned also authorized the making of agreements with the State governments for the purposes of the war service land settlement scheme. This bill is a corollary to that legislation and is designed to finance the scheme for 1952-53.
Honorable members opposite have spoken as though the Government had done something wrong which had prevented three of ihe six States from entering into agreements with it for tho settlement of ex-servicemen. That criticism has been voiced freely by members of the Labour party. It is a curious anomaly that those honorable gentlemen supported the Chifley Labour Government, which introduced the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Bill in 1945. Three of the six States refused to sign agreements.
– No. they signed agreements.
– They did not sign this one. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was a member of - the Chifley Labour Government which was responsible for the drafting of the agreements, but in his speech last night, he severely criticized them. Opposition members claim that something wrong has happened in the war service land settlement scheme. All that was done was that the States were invited, under the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act, to become parties with the Commonwealth to certain draft agreements. Some of the provisions of the agreements are most interesting. The Commonwealth undertook to provide the money necessary to acquire and develop the lands of the States and to make advances to the settlers for stock, plant; improvements and working expenses. I am not a supporter of the Labour party, but I believe that basis of the agreements is fair. Under the provisions of the act, a State, could carry out the detailed administration of the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land, but the Commonwealth was to retain a voice in the general policy. Since the scheme has been in operation, the ‘Commonwealth has made available to the States the substantial sum of £25,000,000 for the acquisition and settlement of land..
Three States refused to sign the agreements that were submitted to them by the Chifley Labour Government seven years ago. But the Liberal party and the Australian Country party should not bo held responsible for the conditions that were rejected by those States. In my opinion, the terms of the agreements are not harsh, but are honest and necessary. Therefore the spectacle of Opposition members kicking an act for which the Chifley Labour Government was responsible, amuses me considerably. New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland refused to sign agreements, and the progress of war service land settlement in those States makes an interesting comparison with the progress in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, which are agents of the Commonwealth. Very little has been accomplished, at any rate in Queensland, since 1945. It is difficult to obtain any information about the expenditure that has been incurred by the Queensland Government upon the war service land settlement scheme, but the amount is not substantial. The settlement of exservicemen on the land should be given No. 1 priority by any government, in the interests of the ex-servicemen concerned, and the food production programme.
The three principal States have an obligation to make satisfactory progress with their war service land settlement schemes because they refused to become the agents of the Commonwealth. They preferred to finance and conduct their own settlement schemes. The Queensland Government has expended only £1,600,000 on war service land settlement since 1945. The House should hear in mind that most of the land in Queensland belongs to the State, and that when the lease of a large area expires, the land is often resumed by the Government. New South Wales and Victoria, which are by far the most populous States and have more ex-servicemen than the other States, have expended a total of £40,000,000 on war service land settlement schemes. Tasmania is one of the less populous States and has fewer ex-servicemen than New South Wales, Victoria or Queensland. But the Commonwealth, under the agreements that Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria rejected, has expended £4,000,000 in Tasmania. The expenditure by the Commonwealth on war service land settlement in South Australia, which has a comparatively small area of agricultural land suitable for the settlement of ex-servicemen, amounts to £8,000,000. The Commonwealth has expended no less than £12,000,000 in Western Australia on the acquisition of land and the settlement of ex-servicemen on it. In” all, a sum of £25,000,000 ha3 been expended by the Commonwealth on war service land settlement in the three less populous States, which agreed to become the agents of the Commonwealth. Honorable members may not be aware that the Commowealth has expended approximately £181,000,000 in the process of honouring its obligations to rehabilitate ex-servicemen.
The purpose of the bill which is now under consideration is to empower the Treasurer to borrow an amount of £6,000,000 for the promotion of war service land settlement in the three agent States. Objection has been taken by the Labour party to this legislation because the Treasurer may, if necessary, rais’,the required sum by treasury-bill finance. I point out to the Opposition that the money may be raised either by that means or by an approach to the loan market. However, the loan market, as the source of finance for war service land settlement schemes, may not provide the requisite sum, for the excellent reason that the States have already received so much loan money since this Government assumed office. Indeed, more than £600,000,000 has ‘been raised on the loan market or contributed from revenue in three years since the Menzies Government has been in power compared with £250,000,000 for a similar period when the Chifley Labour Government was in office. The loan market may not be prepared to provide £6,000,000 for the land settlement of ex-servicemen, and, therefore, provision is made in the bill for the amount to be met by treasurybills. War service land settlement is a No. 1 priority responsibility of a government, and any method that is used to raise money for that purpose should be regarded as proper. Even if the scheme is financed with treasury-bills, ex-servicemen in the agent States will continue to be settled on the land.
The three principal States have already received their allocations of ]oan money for the current financial year. At the meeting of the Australian Loan Council last July, the New South Wales Treasurer received an allocation of £53,000,000, which is the amount he expected. Last year New South Wales provided £6,000,000 for war service land settlement purposes but has reduced the allocation for the current financial year to £2,000,000, and has decided not to make additional advances on dwellings or vehicles owned by an ex-serviceman on the land. The New South Wales Government, by that policy, is “ settling “ the settler. Victoria proposes to make available £4,000,000 for its war service land settlement scheme during the current financial year, and even that sum is too little for such a populous State. No new land will be made available for the settlement of ex-servicemen in Victoria this year. The advances that Queensland proposes to make for war service land settlement are hardly known beyond the amount of £600,000.
The Commonwealth is seeking, under this bill, an amount of £6,000,000 so that it may fulfil its obligations to exservicemen, and I can see no objection to such a proposal. The Opposition apparently bases its criticism of the bill on the fact that the Commonwealth has an agreement with South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, and has no agreement with New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. However, the Chifley Labour Government was responsible for that situation. Perhaps the principal States are prepared to admit that they do not regard war service land settlement as the No. 1 priority job. If they hold that view, they should invite the Commonwealth to assume the responsibility for the land settlement of ex-servicemen, and I am confident that the Commonwealth, knowing .that ex-servicemen in those States are being neglected at the present time, would willingly accept it. The New South Wales Government gives No. 1 priority to the construction of new metropolitan underground railways, and to the financing of a deficit of £3,300,000 on the operations of its tramways. Consequently, war service land settlement, agricultural development, and the food production programme must starve as the result of a lack of finance. The sooner the principal States reach an agreement with the Commonwealth, the better it will be. In my opinion, the Commonwealth should control war service land settlement throughout Australia as soon as the principal States are prepared to . admit that they have failed the ex-servicemen.
.- The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) stated, unintentionally, that one of the worst handicaps suffered by the ex-serviceman who has settled on the land is over-capitalization. The honorable gentleman mentioned that a huge sum of money had been made available for war service land settlement. Unless care is taken the result will be to load settlers with a burden of debt that they would probably not be able to discharge in their lifetime. Most of the money has been spent on the resumption of land. In Queensland, the State Government owns about 80 per cent, of the land. Much of the land is held under lease over a period of 30 years and at the end of the period, it is open to resumption. Blocks that are being used for the raising of stud sheep and stud cattle are not resumed and the original owner of each area has the first claim to the homestead block, but when land becomes available for settlement, the policy, generally, is to give exservicemen an area that is capable of carrying 5,000 sheep. I was a Minister in. the Queensland Government before, during and after World War II., and I know that the main obstacle to the division of land was the shortage of surveyors. The present Queensland Go vernment has announced that it will make available 4,000,000 acres of land for settlement. I believe that half of it will be allotted to ex-servicemen and the other half to other applicants. The Queensland Government has settled many ex-servicemen on the land and they are not overloaded with debt. They are in a position to make a living and they have an opportunity to become independent. The story is different in areas where capital values are very high . such as those that were mentioned by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser).
I believe that honorable members should not seek political kudos from the ex-servicemen. The principle objective should be to provide for the best interests of the ex-servicemen. Australia is reaching a position similar to that of Rome in its palmy days when veteran soldiers were settled on the land. We seem to be in a permanent state of war and must expect to continue war service land settlement so that ex-servicemen will be given an opportunity to gain a stake in the country. In some large pastoral areas of Queensland prickly pear once covered millions of acres of land. As the prickly pear spread, additional land was given to the settlers to assist them to make a living. The prickly pear spread faster than the settlers could manage the land until cactoblastus was introduced and cleared millions of acres of land that had been infested with pear. The land is now being brought to a high state of production and cattle are being fattened on much of it. The State Government has resumed some of the additional land that was granted because it believes that ex-servicemen should have access to agricultural land as well as to pastoral areas. That government has been criticized, but undoubtedly it has placed thousands of ex-servicemen and private citizens on blocks of land from which they are making a good living. The resumption values of large areas of land in Queensland are not as high as they are in other States. The pastoral land is ready for production and needs only fencing. On an area of ten acres an ex-serviceman could grow enough tobacco in some districts to make a profit up to £2,000 a year. Thousands of acres of land of that type is available. Before it was proved to be useful for tobacco growing, it was available for 4s. a square mile. The Queensland Government has not been able to place hundreds of additional settlers because of the refusal of the Treasurer (.Sir Arthur Fadden) to make money available for the irrigation of certain areas so that it would be suitable for tobacco raising. The Treasurer knows this country personally, and has knowledge of its possibilities. For the life of me, I cannot understand, why he has adopted his present attitude towards the Queensland Government, or towards Queensland as a whole. Surely any man, irrespective of the party to which he belongs, should support a scheme under which returned servicemen would be settled on the land in circumstances that would permit them to make a good living. The production of tobacco, for which we are paying dollars, would thereby be increased, and a virile population would be established in a portion of Australia which, at present, is largely unpopulated.
An irrigation, scheme has been prepared, under which, I believe, we should be able, in a year or two, to settle more returned servicemen on the land than could be settled under any other scheme. But it has been strangled because the Treasurer has refused to make loan moneys available for it. I emphasize that high prices would not have to be paid for land resumed in the Mareeba area, or in that covered by the Burdekin River scheme. I do not think the Treasurer will deny that, when he looked at a hydro-electric scheme in the north of Queensland, he said that, as it was a sound financial proposal, assistance from the Commonwealth was not required. Wor would he deny that when he looked at the Burdekin River scheme he said that, because it was not sound financially, it would not be safe for the Commonwealth to give financial assistance to Queensland to implement it. I do not know whether the right honorable gentleman was being funny, or whether he was serious, but those were the statements that he made.
Land suitable for the settlement of exservicemen is available in Queensland. In the town of Ayr, which is on th<> delta of the Burdekin River, an exservicemen’s settlement has been established on very sound lines. If the Burdekin River scheme were implemented, large tracts of land would be rendered suitable for pastoral activities and for the production of citrus fruits and other commodities required by mankind. The development of the scheme would serve the dual purpose of establishing conditions under which exservicemen could be settled on the land in satisfactory circumstances, and of increasing primary production to a great degree. But, for some unknown reason, the Treasurer is opposed to the development of the Burdekin River area, and will not make available the loan funds that are required for that purpose. There is a glut of potatoes in north Queensland, and representatives of the Potato Marketing Board are considering the position. I do not know what they will do, but I suppose they will order the surplus potatoes to be stored, in which event thousands of tons will be ruined. Sugar is almost the only crop that is grown at present in the area between Cairns and Townsville. Some vegetables are grown there, but more are required than are being grown. The necessary production could be undertaken by returned servicemen if land on the Burdekin River were made available for them and assistance provided for irrigation works. Townsville, which has a population of about 30,000, draws its food supplies almost entirely from the north. Mount Isa, which is about 700 miles west of Townsville and has a population of about 7,000, draws its food supplies from the land that I have mentioned, which is being made available for that purpose by the Queensland Labour Government to the greatest possible degree.
There is an assured market for some crops. Land suitable for the production of peanuts is comparatively cheap, and ex-servicemen could be settled upon it at little cost to the country. The market price, of peanuts is £118 a ton, and there is a guaranteed market for them. We should give our returned servicemen an opportunity to produce crops such as tobacco and peanuts, for which the markets are guaranteed. Corn farmers are receiving £3S a ton for corn delivered at the silos. Corn is a very necessary foodstuff, and ex-servicemen should be given an opportunity to produce it. If we place ex-servicemen upon the land under such conditions that they would not be loaded with debt and could rear their families under decent conditions, we should not only discharge our obligations to them but also increase the productivity of the country. The great cry to-day is “Produce or perish”. I intend, not to criticize the Government, but to offer advice. I ask the Government to give consideration to the suggestions that I have made for increasing our production and, at the same time, giving our returned servicemen a fair deal. I assume that the Government is sincere when it says that it desires more production. I say that, provided the necessary financial assistance is made available, an increase of production will be achieved if we settle returned servicemen and other citizens upon suitable land. I do not believe in lavish expenditure without proper supervision of the projects upon which the expenditure is incurred. Proposals to expend millions of pounds cut no ice with me, because I know that huge sums can be wasted.
I believe that the land settlement of ex-servicemen is of importance to our defence. Millions of pounds will be appropriated this year for defence purposes, but the Government will be unable to expend the whole of the money because some of the things that it requires are not available. I suggest that that portion of the defence appropriation be made available for expenditure upon the settlement of ex-servicemen. That would serve the purpose of securing the increase of food production that we need foi defence, and also of providing exservicemen with an opportunity to get on the land quickly. For some reason of which I am ignorant, although I know the surrounding circumstances very well, the Treasurer has hamstrung the Queensland Government in relation to activities that would directly assist the scheme. I am not worried about the refusal of the Queensland Government to join in an agreement with the Commonwealth, because I am convinced that had it done so Queensland would probably now be in the same position as that in which Tasmania finds itself to-day under the agreement with the Commonwealth, with huge sums being expended for very little return. Millions of pounds are being wasted instead of being used wisely. I am not impressed by the Government’s claims about the huge sums that are being expended on land settlement. The wise expenditure of a smaller amount would be of much more benefit to -the nation than the wasting of millions of pounds.
The development of millions of square miles of almost undeveloped country in North Queensland requires the provision of an efficient road system that would enable the settling of ex-servicemen on the land. The undeveloped areas in North Queensland include land that is capable of producing gold and other basic metals and agricultural commodities. The settlement of ex-servicemen, however, is not merely a matter of finding land, but is also a matter of providing means of communication to and from the selected areas. Although the British grain sorghum project in North Queensland has been subjected to a great deal of criticism, it has at least shown the possibilities of the area for land settlement at a later date. It proved that poor land could be made to grow valuable crops. Projects to open up that land are only tentative at the moment, because the United Kingdom Government, as well as the Queensland Government, is concerned in the matter.
The provision of roads in North Queensland is also important from the defence aspect. These huge areas of land could be opened up in conjunction with our immigration programme, but I may not touch on that aspect of the matter at great length during this debate. The area could sustain a large population. Railways are the best method for carrying heavy and long distance freight but, lacking them, main roads would do the necessary job. It is the policy of the Queensland Government, in which I was previously a Minister, to open up that area by means of roads and to develop it in the interests of both ex-service settlers and the people generally. I hope that the Government will give every consideration possible to giving assistance in the development of that area so as to make it available for nien who risked their lives in order to fight for their country and.are entitled to be placed on the land with as little red tape as possible.
.- I rise to speak in this debate largely, I am bound to admit, from force of habit, because since I have been a member of this House 1 have never failed to take an opportunity to address myself to this matter, in which I have a particular interest. I can say without fear of contradiction that although I have always believed what I have said to be substantially correct no government, neither this Government nor any of its predecessors, has ever taken the slightest notice of any suggestion that I have made. It is therefore a subject which I can approach absolutely without inhibitions.
Before putting my own views on the matter I should like to comment on one statement of the. honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce). I think that all honorable members on this side of the chamber appreciated the nonparty spirit in which he approached the subject. He pointed out the great opportunity for large-scale settlement of exservicemen in Queensland, and mentioned the district surrounding Ayr aud the Burdekin River area in particular. He suggested that it was entirely the fault of the Australian Government that loan moneys had not been made available to the Queensland Government to enable it to bring into being great irrigation projects for the development of those areas. I remind him that since this Government has been in office record amounts of loan moneys have been available to Queensland, as to other States. It is no fault of ours if the States have not expended those moneys wisely and according to some system of priority. I am bound to say that I consider that Queensland, like the other States, has regarded loan moneys as an almost endless source for the financing of expenditure of almost every description, much of which is not called for at the present time. The States, by and large, have embarked on projects without any regard to priority. They have been guilty of shockingly bad housekeeping within their own boun daries, and it is quite useless for them at this juncture to come whining to the Commonwealth and to say, “ If only you will give to us more money we shall be able to settle more ex-servicemen on the land and be able to build more dams and develop more areas “. The States have needlessly frittered away the moneys that have been made available to them since the war for the purpose of producing prosperity.
I approach this subject of the land settlement of ex-servicemen from two points of view. In the first place, we entered into a contract with these men. The previous Government must accept the responsibility for that, because it went out of its way deliberately to attract recruits to the forces with the hope of land settlement after the war. It said to them, “ If you fight for your country we shall see that when you come back you will be established on the land that you fought for “. That Government had an obligation to stick to that promise just as we, in our turn, also have an obligation to stick to it. It was a promise made and it is a promise that ought to be kept. The second consideration is from a rather larger, and indeed a more material, point of view, which has been stressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and other responsible honorable members. All honorable members realize that we live in a world that is overcrowded and underfed, and that that position will be aggravated as year follows year. Whatever others may think about it, I, for one, do not believe that we shall be left in undisputed possession of this country unless we make certain use of it. There are people all over the world who are inevitably born to be starved. Hundreds of thousands of them are born to starvation every day.
Mr. Curtin interjecting,
– I think the honorable member will be better off if he keeps his most foolish interjections to himself. Since the honorable gentleman has been a member of this Parliament I have not heard one sensible remark issue from his mouth. He has been merely a buffoon from first to last. He has come here in passing and neither the manner of his coming here nor his conduct in this place has greatly impressed itself upon us. I hope that when he leaves this place he will do so with better grace than marked his coming into it. His departure from this chamber will at least be more applauded than was his entrance into it. We have a duty in this country to put our great land areas to the best use possible. If we do not put it to such use, then the pressure of world events will inevitably force us to do so. I believe that in 100 years time either we, or somebody else, will have closer settlement in this country and I am addressing myself to the problem only because it is my earnest hope that the people who will fulfil that task will be ourselves and our children. I consider the hub of the matter to be finance. The Government has told us that it is difficult at the moment to provide additional moneys for land settlement, and we all know that statement to be true. I have said here before, and I still believe, that right from the start the financing of the land settlement scheme for exservicemen was carried out on a wrong basis. It is said that to-day we cannot get loan moneys to provide more land settlement. I believe that had the then government gone to the country in the years immediately after the war it could have raised, with the greatest ease, any amount that was required for land settlement, say £100,000,000, in a loan called the “War Service. Land Settlement Scheme Loan “.
– It could be done now if the Government tried to do it.
– Yes, it could be done now. I have accented that point before in this chamber, as I shall most likely continue to do, and probably nobody will take much notice. It must be admitted that, at present, land settlement of exservicemen is pretty well bogged down in this country, and that we have not met much more than one-tenth pf our obligation to ex-servicemen in that respect. I commend the Government for having adopted the attitude that if it cannot raise this money out of revenue it will make it available by the use of treasury-bills. In effect, the Government has said that it will get the money in one way or another. I admire that attitude. However, I believe that if a loan were floated speci fically for this purpose every exservicemen’s organization and every progress and citizens organization would be behind it. I still believe that the Government can obtain adequate finances for this scheme, and I suggest that if it cannot raise the money in any other way it should float a loan for this specific purpose.
My second criticism of the existing scheme is that the basis of tenure has been wrong. If the State, or purchasing agent, bought the land and allowed the settler to purchase the freehold over a period of years, the money, as it was repaid, could be turned over again. Thus, we could be enabled to purchase many more farms and to settle many more exservicemen on the land. I know that the great majority of ex-servicemen who desire to settle on the land want to be given the opportunity to obtain freehold blocks. The best farmer not only farms for his own lifetime, but also keeps in mind the future of his children and his grand-children as his successors on the land. That is the secret of the great rural economy of England. In that country, farmers do not hesitate to plan ahead for two, or even three, generations and in the practice of handing on properties from father to son lies the great strength of its rural economy. It is idle to put men on the land except on the basis of personal ownership. That is the prerequisite for continuity and long-term practice and the first assurance that the soil shall be properly looked after. I emphasize, first, that this scheme should be financed by a specific loan for this purpose if adequate finance cannot be obtained in any other way; and secondly, that settlers should have an opportunity to obtain a freehold title so that they will have every reason to look after the land and, at the same time, the repayment of loans may be used in turn to settle more ex-servicemen on the land.
I am sorry that some honorable members opposite have gone out of their way in the course of this debate to attack land-holders as a class, particularly the big squatters. I do not hold any brief for squatters or any other class of landholders, but it is a mistake for any authority which desires to undertake land settlement on a practical basis to attack any section of land-holders. Such an attitude puts the fear of God into them. The greatest disservice that has ever been done to the .cause of closer settlement in this country has been done by the New South Wales Government which lias taken property from land-holders on unjust terms. That Government has not paid fair prices. The result is that landholders live in fear that their land will be resumed and, consequently, are determined to resist resumption to the last because they know the scheme will be carried out at their expense. Whether they happen to be rich or poor they will be considered to he wrong. The New South Wales Government has blackmailed and cheated land-holders in this matter. I shall not apply to it other terms that are unparliamentary, but by its policy it has torpedoed the idea of closer settlement in that State. It has done the cause of closer settlement a grave disservice.
I am sorry that certain honorable .members opposite never miss an opportunity to rail against the landholder. I admit that Government supporters include many land-holders, big and small. At the same time, many members of the Opposition own valuable properties of a different kind; for instance, hotels. But no one suggests that large hotels should be taken over at values that ruled in 1940 to be subdivided into smaller hotels. It would be just as sensible to adopt such an attitude with respect to the liquor trade as it is to regard land-holders in the way in which some members of the Opposition regard them. We shall not be able to carry out a practical closer settlement scheme in this country at the expense of any particular section of the community. Closer settlement is a national responsibility, and we should seek to discharge it in the most painless way possible. A suitable method would be for the Government to finance the land settlement of ex-servicemen by raising a loan specifically for that purpose and by enabling the settler to acquire freehold title. Under such conditions, as I said earlier, repayments of loans by settlers would make available additional money for the settlement of many more exservicemen. I emphasize that I do not set my face against closer settlement. Indeed, I believe it to be most necessary and inevitable. We are repeatedly reminded of our obligation to feed the peoples of many countries. We are fast approaching a stage at which we shall not even be able to continue to feed in a proper way our own people and those who still expect to come to this country. Many of the immigrants who are coming to Australia entertain the reasonable expectation that they will not only be adequately fed but also eventually acquire ownership of land. Coming from overcrowded countries, they believe that it will be possible for them to acquire farms.
Closer settlement on a large scale is essential. This scheme represents only the first leg, and we should ensure its success before we talk about wholesale land settlement. First, we must fulfil our obligation to our ex-servicemen. I regard the settlement of ex-servicemen as being only the beginning of a great closer settlement movement in this country. That is why I desire to see this scheme placed on a proper basis. It is foolish and mischievous for certain members of the Opposition to talk about taking land from its present owners in order to give it to old, or new, Australians. First, let us fulfil our obligation to the ex-servicemen. Having done that, there will be time enough to attend to the settlement of other sections of the community in order to enable them to produce the additional foodstuffs that we need. I do not approach this matter from a sentimental point of view. However, an obligation rests squarely upon the Parliament to honour the promises that were given to members of the fighting forces. I know many men who were splendid soldiers and capable individuals. They had families and they thought that within a reasonable period they would be settled on a closer settlement block. With that idea in mind they continued, after they were demobilized, to qualify for that privilege. They took jobs in primary industries as boundary riders and as station and farm hands. Incidentally, those jobs are not well paid. In many instances, such employees are not even ^properly housed. To-day, five years after the end of World War II., many of those men are still stuck down in such jobs.
Ear too small a proportion of them have been settled on the land. Neither this Government nor its predecessor has ever given the slightest consideration to anything that I have asked it to do, but I say that if, as a result of our present methods, our record is not satisfactory, it is time for the Government to see whether it can get better results by making a new approach to this all important problem. It is useless to make appeals either in this place, or outside, for increased food production and for money for defence purposes unless the Government is prepared to take every step possible to settle on the land those who are already in this country, particularly exservicemen who are entitled to have fulfilled the promises that were made to them.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) that if we do not undertake an extensive scheme of land settlement within a reasonable period our right to hold this country will be disputed. I also agree with honorable members who have said that we need urgently to increase food production. “We shall not be able to do that unless we undertake a vast land settlement scheme. I also agree wholeheartedly with the honorable member for Henty that we must first settle ex-servicemen on the land in accordance with the promises that were made to them. However, what are the facts? “Within a period of seven years only 5,317 ex-servicemen have been settled on the land.
– In what part of Australia?
– That is the total number of ex-servicemen who have been settled on the land within that period throughout the length and breadth of Australia. The Rural Reconstruction Committee which was set up to inquire into primary production just before the recent war ended, estimated that approximately 80,000 men, who were previously engaged in primary industries, joined the defence forces during the recent war and that of that number approximately 50,000 would desire to settle permanently on the land. If we are to form a judgment in this matter on the basis that only 5,317 ex-servicemen will be settled on the land every seven years, and if we allow for the fact that the rate of settlement is slowing down, the last of those 50,000 will not be settled for another 50 or 60 years.
– They will be settled under the land.
– Yes; they will be settled under the land before they are settled on it. Yet, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), in the course of his present tour abroad, is proclaiming in the capital cities of various countries the necessity to settle immigrants upon the land in Australia. In this matter, the Government must give first priority to Australian ex-servicemen. I am astonished that the Minister for Immigration, in the course of after-dinner speeches, should be telling representatives of governments overseas that vast areas of land are available in Australia for the settlement of immigrants. The fact is that we are not capable of settling any immigrants on the land, because, up to date, Ave have not demonstrated that we are capable of settling those who are already here and are anxious to go on the land. Our experience in respect of the settlement of ex-servicemen of World War I. should have taught us a lesson. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is aware of what happened in the Mallee. He is aware of the failure of governments that held office between the two world wars to settle ex-servicemen on the land. Indeed, the term “ settled “ is the most appropriate that could he applied in many of those instances. The Royal Commission on .Soldier Land Settlement, of which Mr. Justice Pike was chairman, reported that up to 1917 losses incurred in respect of soldier land settlement in this country amounted to £23,000,000. The Rural Reconstruction Committee, which was set up towards the end of World War II. for the purpose of facilitating settlement of ex-servicemen of that conflict on the land, reported that losses in respect of the settlement of exservicemen of World War I. totalled £45,000,000. That is a loss of £1,200 in respect of every settler placed on land.
– And there were thousands of broken hearts.
– Yes, and no doubt the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) knows the story of Millewa. Ex-servicemen settlers were suddenly pushed out into the Mallee country, and after they had worked, toiled, suffered droughts, and used up all their energy in trying to make their holdings pay, they were given a. small sum with which to rehabilitate themselves in industrial occupations in the cities. We are entitled to ask why that occurred.
– What about the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) who sits behind the I.norable member?
– The honorable member for Wannon had an exceptional staying power. He was able to make his holding such a success that to-day he is one of the opulent wool-growers of the country. However, I desire to direct attention to ‘ the cause of the failures among ex-servicemen settlers. Let us ask why they did fail. Why was £1,200 lost upon each ex-serviceman settler of World War I., and why should not such a. catastrophe again occur? One of the reasons why such losses were incurred was that governments paid too much for the land upon which they settled the ex-servicemen. In other words the land was over capitalized. I do not want to take anything from any land-owner, but I want the land-owner to he prevented from taking anything from the men of the community who fought for him and for all of us. A Victorian government bought certain land in the Dandenong district, at Gringegalgona and elsewhere. Immediately it purchased one block of land the land-owners in the vicinity increased their prices and the next time the government wanted to purchase land it had to pay a much higher price for land similar to the first blocks that it purchased. The difference in value was the unearned increment that was being grabbed by the land-owners. I do not attack the land-owning community as individuals because they, like many other people, are not such infidels as not to know what will profit them. However, I say that the Government should ensure that they shall not be allowed to charge ex-servicemen settlers, or any other settlers, increased prices when the increase has been brought about, not through their own efforts, but by the action of the Government or the members of the community.
– The Government aids and abets such persons.
– Yes, it is because of that that there is a difficulty in settling ex-servicemen on the land. At Yarrawonga an irrigation channel as wide as the Murray River itself has been built northward into New South Wales.
– Speak up.
– There are some honorable members who would not be able to understand my arguments no matter how loudly I spoke. The vast channel that I mentioned was built in 1938. A similar channel was excavated southward through Victoria. Let us consider why that irrigated area in New South. Wales is not more closely settled to-day. It is because the land-owners, realizing that this great channel enhanced the value of their land, increased the price from about £10 an acre to £40, £50 or £60 an acre. This price prevented its being made available to ex-servicemen settlers. The channel enables the land to produce about six times as much as it produced before the water was taken to it. Therefore, the land settlement of ex-servicemen in one of the most fertile areas in Australia has been prevented. That is one of the reasons why there are not probably 10,000 exservicemen instead of 5,313 settled on the land to-day. I suggest to the Minister -
-Order ! The honorable member should address me.
– I am continually endeavouring to address the Minister and honorable members of the Parliament through you, Mr. Speaker, and whatever suggestions I make to honorable members I make with all deference through you. The financing of the land settlement of exservicemen in this country should be carefully scrutinized The Government should continue to raise loan money in order to settle ex-servicemen on land, not only in the three minor States, but also in the other States of the Commonwealth. Quite recently I read in the press that the director of war service land settlement in Victoria had said that his commission had not settled an. ex-serviceman on the land nor had it negotiated the purchase of a property since the 30th June. In fact, be was not sure when it would be able to negotiate the purchase of another property. That is a most deplorable situation, and all the talk of the necessity for increased production of primary products, and all the statements stressing the need to have more settlers on the land will result in nothing unless we are willing to obtain the money necessary to put ex-servicemen or others on land upon which they can make a reasonable living. From 1945 to 1947 there was a Labour government in Victoria. That government tried to purchase land in the Western District of the State, which is a beautiful district stretching from Geelong as far west as Warrnambool. It is one of the best parts of the State and is now held by the landed aristocracy. After World. War I. that could have been used for the settlement of ex-servicemen, but they were put out in the Mallee, where the rainfall was totally inadequate to make their land productive. That area has still notbeen used. The Cain Labour Government of Victoria once decided that it would settle ex-servicemen on about 6,700 acres of that good land. It decided to acquire the land at the 1942 valuation, which was about £45,000. That government went out of office and was replaced by a government, of the same political colour as this Government. The new government removed all controls over land, and when this land was put up for auction an offer of £150,000 was received. Having been valued at £150,000 when wool was bringing 200d. per lb., it is obvious that nobody could make a living on it when wool prices decreased. That is one of the reasons why the land settlement of ex-servicemen has failed. Things are left undone mainly because there are two sections of the Parliament. One is animated by altruistic motives of service to the community, and one is inspired by a desire to serve its friends who want to get as much as they can for the land that they are inadequately using. For that reason war service land settlement schemes have failed in the past and are doomed to failure in the future. The land settle- ment of ex-servicemen can only succeed if the settlers be allocated land that will give to them an adequate return for the price that they pay for it. Some honorable members on the Government side agree with that proposition but the way that they see out of the difficulty is that the Government should purchase the land at the market price and make it available to the settlers at a price that will enable them, in the opinion of agricultural experts, to make a living.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Mallee says “ Hear, hear ! “ I say that if there is any unearned increment, or any value added to the land by community effort, that value or increment should not benefit the vendor of land under any circumstances whatsoever.
– What would the honorable member do?
– I would give the community created value to the soldier settler or any other settler going on the land. That sort of thing is done in America and other countries by antispeculation legislation, and it could be done here. Indeed it must be done if we are ultimately to secure the population that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) said was necessary for our future existence. If this country is to be fully populated by the white races we must carry out vast developmental schemes, and the very basis of such a scheme will be the number of people that we can settle on the land to increase our primary production. Any person, irrespective of his party, who believes in the necessity for the development of this country in order that, it shall be made secure from attack from the envious and overcrowded nations of the world, should strain every effort to place at the disposal of every government, Commonwealth and State, every possible pound to enable them to carry out legitimate land settlement schemes to settle the hundreds of persons who are waiting for land. It is estimated that at the present time 28,000 applicants are waiting for land. If it takes as long to deal with those 28.000 applications as it took to deal with the 5,000 applications already dealt with, then the 28,000 persons will not be satisfied for 50 years. We need to settle not only those 28,000 exservicemen, but also thousands and thousands of other men if we are to play our part among the nations of the world. Therefore, the Government should do everything in its power to raise funds for the establishment of ex-servicemen in primary industries, which are the foundation of our national greatness.
.- This is a bill to authorize the raising of money for the purpose of granting financial assistance to the States in connexion with war service land settlement. I support it. Any bill that is designed to provide funds for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land has my full approval. No other comment would be necessary if members of the Opposition had not taken advantage of this debate to discuss other matters. Some of the arguments that they used should be answered. At the outset, I pay a high tribute to the State of Victoria, which has a magnificent record in the field of war service land settlement. Its achievements compare most favorably with those of the other States. The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) said that only 5,313 ex-servicemen had been settled on the land throughout Australia. The honorable gentleman must have been misinformed. If that figure were correct, only 1,070 ex-servicemen outside of Victoria would have been settled on the land because the total number settled in Victoria is 4,243. Of that number, 2,292 have been placed on single unit farms. Probably the honorable member for Burke did not take single unit farms into consideration, but those properties are of vital importance in relation to the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land and applicants who have been allotted such farms must be included in the statistics. New South “Wales has a plan under which two, three or more men may combine to take over a property and then have it subdivided into individual holdings. Men who have been established on the land under that scheme also must be included in the statistics. I strongly object to the use by honorable members opposite of statistics that will not stand analysis. The Commonwealth is not responsible in any way for the settlement of applicants on single unit farms. Victoria has allocated 2,292 of these properties to applicants at a total cost of £8,500,000. Under the general settlement scheme, it has provided 1,951 applicants with properties that cover a total area of 786,000 acres. This year, the Victorian Government has allotted to the Soldier Settlement Commission a sum of £4,050,000, but that is not sufficient to enable the commission to purchase properties in advance for the settlement of applicants next year.
Some good may result from the debate that has taken place on this bill, because the focusing of attention on the problems of war service land settlement must be for the benefit of the nation as a whole. However, no good could result from the statements that were made last night by the honorable member for “Wannon (Mr. McLeod), who took advantage of the opportunity to seek to gain some paltry party political advantage. The honorable gentleman vented his spleen against men who have large land holdings, but I remind him that those who own large areas are not necessarily squatters whose land was handed down to them by their forebears. In the Mallee area, which the honorable member for Burke tried to disparage, there are farmers who started with nothing but who, through their own efforts, have acquired fairly large holdings which they are working to great advantage. These farmers are so efficient that the Mallee produced last year and in the previous year more wheat than was grown in the “Wimmera electorate. That is an achievement of which they have every reason to be proud. The honorable member for “Wannon said that I opposed war service land settlement because I regarded it as socialism. No more untruthful statement has been made in this House. I have always supported the land settlement of ex-servicemen and any bill that will make more money available for that purpose will have my strong support. However, I disagree with the honorable member for “Wannon and the honorable member for Burke on the subject of land valuations. They contend that land should be acquired for the purpose of war service land settlement at 1942 valuations. Members of the Opposition have sought to use this debate as a double-edged sword. They have tried to gain political advantage for the Labour party , by declaring that they alone are interested in the welfare of ex-servicemen. They have also taken advantage of this debate to advocate the acquisition of property at 1942 valuations from small sections of the community in order to help cx-servicemen. That practice would be most unfair.
If honorable members opposite had their way, properties would be acquired compulsorily from a section of the community, as is done by the Labour ‘Government of New South Wales, at the low values that prevailed in 1942, while neighbouring farms could be sold at auction for £15 or £20 more an acre. As one member of the Opposition has said, the exservice.men fought for the whole of Australia. For that reason, the whole of Australia should contribute to the cost of the war service land settlement scheme, which we all support so strongly. It would be most unjust and undemocratic to require a few owners of large properties to sell their land at perhaps only half its true value on the ground of patriotism. The Opposition’s case on this issue is extremely weak. It is like the rest of the Labour party’s socialist policy. No doubt the honorable member for Wannon said that I objected to the war service land settlement scheme in the hope that he would confuse the people who heard his speech on the radio. In Victoria, land is acquired for the settlement of exservicemen at current values by negotiation with the owners. Furthermore, the law provides that experts shall examine each property, after a period of five years or more has elapsed, in order to determine its true productive capacity and value. After each such examination has been made, the price to be charged to the exservicemen will be finally determined and any writing down of value will be chargeable to the general community. That is the only fair method. This system has bren instituted because, during the present period of high prices for primary products, the value of properties might easily be overstated. The State Government has decided to delay the final valuation until a fair estimate can be made. The object is to enable each settler to buy a good property at a price related to its productive capacity so that he will have the opportunity to become a successful pro- ducer and, following established custom, to pass on his farm in good condition to his descendants.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) said that much land apparently was not being used to its best advantage. That appears to be so, but appearances are misleading in many instances. Any inexperienced person who visits the Wimmera or the Mallee will see much land there that apparently is not being used to the best advantage. This is due to the fact that, during World War II. and for some time afterwards, wheatgrowers in those districts planted as much wheat as possible with the result that the soil was in danger of deteriorating. Now, after having made good profits for several seasons, the growers- have been able to introduce the correct system of crop rotation for the first time in many years. Many farmers are using paddocks to grow wheat only once in three years. That is the correct method to use m order to produce good crops. Many members of the Opposition apparently think that land should be cropped every year. The fact that wheat production lias decreased recently is due largely to the fact that farmers have returned to the system of crop rotation and also to the fact that wet conditions have prevailed in many wheat-growing areas in recent seasons.
The problems of which honorable members opposite have spoken so freely during this debate could be solved. I have noticed that there have been no complaints about the war service land settlement scheme from honorable members who represent Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, which are the agent States under the act. They have not said that the sum of £6,000,000 for which the bill provides is too small. Therefore, we may reasonably assume that the agent States arc satisfied with the treatment that they are ‘receiving from the Commonwealth under the terms of their agreements. The complaints have come from representatives of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, which are known as the principal States. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), who is the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Interior, told the Opposition last night that the Government was willing to admit the principal States to the scheme as agent States. Of course, if they became agent States, this Government would require the right to supervise to some degree the method of expending the money made available to them under the scheme. For instance, I believe it would insist that the money should not be used to acquire land at 1942 values but that fair treatment should be accorded to everybody concerned. It is only natural that, if this Government is to provide money for the specific purpose of settling ex-servicemen on the land, it should have the right to exercise some control over the expenditure of the money. In the principal States at present, funds arc allotted to the war service land settlement authorities by the State governments and this Government has no power to influence the method of expending those funds. If the principal States consider that they have not enough money with which to finance war service land settlement, they should agree to become agent States and obtain specific grants from this Government, even if that would mean that this Government would have the right to supervise the expenditure of the money.
– Would the honorable member support the flotation of a loan for the purpose of financing war service land settlement?
– Such a loan would be in the best interests of ex-servicemen on the land. I know that more production is required. Is it necessary for me to remind the Opposition that one of the principal features of the policy of this Government is a programme for increased production? But- 1 emphasize that such, a. programme must be given effect by fair means. Increased production cannot be obtained by resort to the undemocratic manner of acquiring land at its value in 1942. Estates should be purchased under the agreement that is democratic, fair and just, and has the approval of the ex-servicemen themselves. I had not intended to discuss these matters, but I was compelled to do so by the remarks of Opposition members. The bill is clear-cut. Its purpose is to provide an amount of £6,000,000 for the three agent States. I support it.
: - It has become increasingly obvious during this debate, and at other times, that the war service land settlement scheme has been used by Government supporters as a means of attacking the Labour governments of New South Wales and Queensland. I have heard great talk about food production. Honorable members opposite have produced a great number of words on that subject, probably in the hope that, later, their words will produce votes for the Liberal party and the AustralianCountry party in those two States. The only correct approach to the matter of land settlement of ex-servicemen is from the standpoint of the interests of the returned soldiers, sailors and airmen themselves. The manner in which Government supporters have used this subject as a means of attacking certain State governments is completely shameful.
I listened with interest last night to the remarks of the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), who took great satisfaction in pointing out to the House that there were on the Government benches a much larger number of ex-servicemen than there were on the Opposition side of the chamber. No doubt that statement is correct, but I do not consider that the Government acquires great merit from such a situation. It is obvious that any political party aspiring to gain seats in this House can, by selecting an ex-serviceman as its candidate in each constituency, ensures that 100 per cent, of its representatives in the Parliament will be ex-servicemen. Any speaker on the Government benches who refers with smug satisfaction to the large number of ex-servicemen on that side of the chamber pays a poor sort of compliment to the remainder of his colleagues. The Government, if it wishes to take pride in the fact that a large number of its supporters arc exservicemen, should take action that will make ex-servicemen proud of it. It has not yet taken that action.
In my opinion, the issue in this debate is perfectly simple. It is this: that war service land settlement, which involves the repatriation and rehabilitation of exservicemen, is completely a Commonwealth responsibility. It was in response to the urging and appeals of the Australian Government that young men came forward to fight for this country in World War II. It was the Commonwealth that made promises to them of rehabilitation and re-establishment schemes, and it is the Commonwealth that should honour such promises now. The machinery for the war service land settlement scheme is not the subject of this debate. The machinery exists, and it can function. Lack of finance is the only factor that is delaying the settlement of exservicemen on the land. The only government that can provide the money for that purpose is this Government. The answer has been given clearly to the Government by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in a most valuable speech on this bill. If the Government wishes to honour its pledges to exservicemen, if it wishes to settle them on the land, and if it is keen to obtain increased production, as the result of war service land settlement schemes, let it tell the people that it requires money specifically for the land settlement of ex-servicemen. If the Government submits the case honestly to the people, they will unhesitatingly provide the required amount. I have not the slightest doubt about that. Any argument relating to the machinery of the scheme is completely superfluous. The whole problem is one of finance, and the complete responsibility for that matter devolves upon the Commonwealth. There, I leave the matter.
.- The House has listened to an extraordinarily interesting contribution to the debate by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser), who likes to deal with one part of a matter only, and brushes aside any difficulties. He considers that the Commonwealth has complete responsibility for the re-establishment of exservicemen, because it urged them to enlist, and called upon them to fight for their country. His remarks left me with the impression that the State governments did not want any one to go to the war, and did not wish to have anything to do with ex-servicemen upon their return to civilian life.
The Chifley Government made the original arrangement under which a State could become a principal State or an agent State. New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland elected to be principal States, and thereby assumed complete responsibility for the acquisition of land for the settlement of exservicemen. In those circumstances, the responsibility of the Commonwealth is defined with perfect clarity. It provides a living allowance for the settler until he is established, and shares the loss’ that may be incured from the resale of the land to him. The suggestion of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory that this Government has completely failed to honour its part of the contract is ridiculous. In the last two years, the Commonwealth, has made more loan moneys available to the States than has ever been provided in the past. But how have the States expended the moneys? The percentage of the allocations that are used by Victoria and New South Wales for their war service land settlement schemes is continually being reduced. I do not wish to repeat figures that have already been given on this subject, but I emphasize that the New South Wales Government has reduced its allocation for war service land settlement from £6,000,000 last year to £2,000,000 for the current financial year. A similar reduction has been effected by the Victorian Government. Yet it was those States that announced that they would accept responsibility for their war service land settlement schemes. The purpose of this bill is to provide the three agent States - South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania - with an amount of £6.000,000 for the land settlement of exservicemen, and, as the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has pointed out, those States have not suggested that they have not been provided with sufficient funds for that purpose. I have no doubt that, if they considered that the allocations were insufficient, they would have made representations to the Commonwealth on the matter.
However, I do not wish to discuss that aspect at length. I propose to submit a view that I have consistently expressed, and which cannot be emphasized sufficiently. Some Opposition members appear to believe that the only way in which production can be increased is to acquire productive land from an owner who is using it well, and subdivide it into smaller units on the off-chance that six new owners will produce as much from the area as was produced by the previous owner.
– The honorable member is talking nonsense.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is entitled to interject when I am speaking because I interject when he is addressing, the House, and I am glad that he takes the opportunity to retaliate. But I believe that he speaks more nonsense than I speak. Yesterday, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) complained about the failure to subdivide a sheep-grazing property in the Western District of Victoria, and the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) replied to his contentions. That property could not carry more sheep than it is carrying at the present time, regardless of the number of holdings into which it might be subdivided. Probably it is the most efficiently operated sheep property in Victoria. The country is light land that is capable of supporting one sheep to- the acre. The honorable member for Wannon, if lie contends that the area, after subdivision, will be capable of carrying more than one sheep to the acre, is talking nonsense. Many similarly ridiculous statements have been made by Opposition members during . this debate.
The next matter that ‘I wish to discuss is the ridiculous policy of some State governments in proclaiming their intention to acquire certain properties. They say to the land-owners, “We may take over your properties, and you may not sell them or do anything with them until we have made up our minds about the matter.” The method is the most effective way in which to drive land out of efficient production. No owner will try to improve his pastures, undertake long-term developmental schemes, or even mend his fences, if an acquisition proclamation has been issued in respect of his land. The process is fantastic and, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), nothing can militate to a greater degree against successful war service land settlement and closer settlement schemes.
I should like the Victorian Government to accept any assistance that can be obtained from the Commonwealth in order to purchase single-unit farms in the eastern half of that State. Perhaps some of those farms have deteriorated somewhat in the hands of elderly owners who have no kith and kin to whom they can leave their holdings. The acquisition ot such properties would provide a quick way in which to establish men on the land. In my opinion, insufficient use has been made of that possibility. We have tended to concentrate on taking over properties in the western and northern districts, and there has not been enough settlement in the fertile, high rainfall area of Gippsland, although I admit that the properties in that part of Victoria are considerably smaller than are those in other parts of the State. Indeed, I do not think that there are any large estates in Gippsland. The majority of the holdings are areas of only a few hundred acres. The development of single-unit farms in Gippsland should be more closely explored than it has been in the past.
That suggestion brings me to the other development that must take .place, namely, the use of new land. It”’ is no great- hardship for a person to clear land, and start a farm from “ scratch “. I have done so, and the hard work certainly has not done me any harm. Many people tend to believe that the capital cost must be spent before the owner takes charge of the farm. In my opinion, the most vigorous steps should be taken to settle undeveloped land, such as that in the far east of Gippsland, where the soil is good and the rainfall satisfactory. The land is timbered; but the removal of the timber can be made quite profitable. The clearing and bringing of new land of that kind into production should be our objective. In the past, our fathers and grandfathers did not seem to mind distances, isolation and lack of transport, but at the present time people cannot see beyond the electric power line, the railway line and the tarmac road. Well, electric power lines, railways and roads can be extended to areas when they have been developed. I am not qualified to speak of conditions in other States, but I consider that undeveloped land can be brought into production in eastern Victoria, and in that interesting part of the far south-western corner of Victoria, which, as I pointed out in my speech during the consideration of the Estimates for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, is suffering from a mineral deficiency that can possibly be corrected. It should not be beyond the wit of man to devise the means by which exservicemen could start with a low capital charge on their properties, and bring their holdings into production. The settlers would derive a great deal of satisfaction from doing so. I cleared my own property, and brought it into production, and apparently hard work has not done rae any harm. A man of 30 years of age, or less, can bring land of that type into production very quickly. I am certain that the land settlement of ex-servicemen, and, ultimately, closer settlement for civilians, will be of much greater value to Australia, if such schemes are not limited to the curious outlook that settlers must begin on land that has already been developed and is in production. Let us direct our attention to undeveloped land and try to devise a scheme of war service land settlement that will give to exservicemen a chance to farm successfully. While the land is being prepared for production, they will be able to get a return from the timber that is growing on it. We should decide whether closer settlement is to be associated with land that is under cultivation or whether it can be linked with huge areas that are completely or partially undeveloped.
.- The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) has directed the attention of honorable members to land that is available for war service land settlement, but the problem is not a shortage of land but a shortage of money. The blame for that deficiency can be laid properly at the feet of the Government. If honorable members read the policy speech that was delivered by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in 1949, they will discover that the Government’s record in the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land constitutes yet another broken promise. He stated -
The Opposition parties contain a majority of members and an overwhelming majority of new candidates who arc ex -servicemen. We shall see to it that there is speedy, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems. Current legislation will be promptly overhauled and anomalies adjusted. We will encourage and speed up soldier land setlement, assist singlefarm as well as group settlement, and aim always at proper security of tenure, without which there is insufficient inducement te. effective farming.
The Prime Minister has fallen down heavily on that promise. The States have been strongly criticized. They made their estimates of essential work that had to be done within their boundaries. They unanimously agreed that they would require £347,000,000 to do all that was required. Then they submitted their programme to the Australian Government and, after a long discussion, the amount, that they were to get from loans was reduced to £247,000,000. On that basis, New South Wales would have received £70,000,000 compared with its original claim for £90,000,000. Finally, this Government cut the amount of loan money for the States to £180,000,000, and New South Wales was allocated £53,000,000. With that money, the NewSouth Wales Government had to ‘do everything that was required of it. The Australian Government has the responsibility of finding the loan money that is required. Because of its failure to get sufficient finance, the States’ programmes were curtailed. In New South Wales the Education Department alone requires £13,000,000. Each year 25,000 more children enter New South Wales schools and expenditure on education cannot be avoided. Many other works are essential. Therefore, when expenditure had to be reduced the vote for war service land settlement had to be cut. Because of the shortage of loan money, the vote for war service land settlement in New South Wales was reduced from £4,000,000 last year to £2,000,000 this year. Honorable members must realize that the £2,000,000 that is available will not be worth nearly so much as the same sum would have been worth in 1951, because the basic wage has risen from £9 to £31 15s. a week. The New South Wales Government must do much with the money that is available besides acquiring land. It must develop the. land, which has to be fenced, equipped and stocked. This year very little money will be available with which to buy new land. Many attacks have been made upon the New South Wales Government in relation to war service land settlement. Honorable members should hear the other side. The Minister for Lands in New South Wales, Mr. Hawkins, is responsible for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land in that State, and this is what he had to say on the matter on the 23rd July last -
The recent Loan Council meeting completely exploded the claim by the Leader of the Country Party (Colonel Bruxner) that the States controlled the Loan Council. The complete financial dictatorship exercised by the Federal Government over the State loan programmes hud never been more clearly demonstrated. As a result, there would have to be drastic cuts in advances and developmental finance for soldier settlement this year, and no now commitments to buy land for soldier settlement could lui Hinde for the time being. Instead of the £2 million that was available for soldier settlement this year, at least £G million was needed to ensure full-scale progress.
It was futile for Colonel Bruxner to blame lbc State Government for this state of affairs. His action in doing so was sheer politics.
This year’s cuts followed a Com mon wealth - enforced reduction in last year’s State loan programme that hit soldier settlement along with most other State loan activities.
It was a matter of national concern that State funds for the settlement of ex-servicemen and, through that, the State’s food production programme should bc so callously slashed at such a critical time.
Land for soldier settlement could now be bought more freely than at any stage in the last two years. Material and labour for developmental work were also easier, and the stage was set for a record year of settlement had the Commonwealth Government guaranteed the loan funds as approved by the Loan Council in accordance with established practice.
On the 4th August last, Mr. Hawkins released to the press details of the effects of cuts in financial aid under the war service land settlement scheme. He stated -
Principal cuts would apply to houses, utility trucks, stock and fencing. While the cuts were severe they were inescapable because of the reduced loan funds available to the State for 1952-1053 and because of the failure of the Commonwealth to make a special grant foi soldier settlement as a food production priority.
With half of the £2 million soldier settlement vote already committed for land, only £1 million was left to meet development work and . advances for stock, plant and equipment on 150 new farms coming forward, as well as a carry over from recently settled farms.
It would take about £COO,000 to cover the absolute minimum necessities in stock, plant and equipment for the 150 new settlers, and for recent settlers who did not yet have all their essential requirements. ‘
This left only £400,000 for developmental work, farm .buildings and houses that, if provided on the usual scale, would take £1,000,000 on their own.
He had endeavoured to apply the cuts so as to cause the least possible interference with the development of full production on new soldier settlement farms, but even so, the men would get the bare essentials for occupying and working their farms. Details of the main cuts were: -
Houses: No further finance for building houses or renovating existing ones. Finance cancelled for houses already approved but not yet commenced. Homes already under construction to be completed but no expenditure over £2,000 to be allowed. £300 to be provided for building a temporary residence.
Farm Buildings: Advances for utility shed (£400) and, on dairy farms hayshed and feed stalls (£450) and dairy, bails, and yards (£550) to stand, except that utility sheds are cancelled where settlers are in the third year on their farms.
Stock: Cuts of approximately 33 per cent, in amount available to buy stock for soldier settlement farms.
Utility Trucks: No further finance for utility trucks. Finance for horse transport only.
Fencing: Advances to cover the cost of labour for fencing eliminated. Advances for subdivision restricted to material for 2 miles of fencing. The Department will in future fence only the external .boundaries of ballot estates but will supply material for the settlers to fence block boundaries themselves.
There were other minor cuts in plant on some types of farms. Because of the cuts, soldier settlers would* now have to do more pioneering in their first years than their more fortunate colleagues. They would have to live in temporary quarters, do their own fencing and more of their own developmental work and rely on horse transport instead of motor vehicles.
He regretted the necessity for the cuts, but men who were keen to get their own farms and were willing to work would still have every prospect of success under the Scheme. The drastic curtailment of loan funds for soldier settlement, arising from the Commonwealth Government’s refusal to guarantee loans to the extent approved by the Loan Council had made it impossible to provide funds for improvements, stock and plant on the same scale as before.
On the 8th August last, Mr. Hawkins released to the press another statement in which he commented on a statement by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), who had blamed the New South Wales Government for the cuts in the war service land settlement scheme. Mr. Hawkins stated -
The Commonwealth Government’s dictatorial action in slashing the 1952-53 Loan programme approved by the Loan Council was solely responsible for the cuts in financial aid to soldier settlers in New South Wales. As a result, the New South Wales Government had had to curtail all projects finance from loan funds.
The needs of soldier settlement as a priority food production measure were undoubtedly taken into account by the Loan Council in passing its programme, but not by the Commonwealth when it fixed the amounts of loan money the States could expend this year.
In the same statement, Mr. Hawkins attacked the Minister’s suggestion that the Commonwealth had no voice in the New South Wales war service land settlement scheme, and described it as a fiction. Mr. Hawkins added -
The Commonwealth had always insisted on having a say in the New South Wales soldier settlement scheme out of all proportion to the financial contribution it made. The need to get Commonwealth agreement on the suitability of every property acquired had constantly hampered progress, and been a constant source of friction.
Just how far soldier settlement would have got in the eastern States if the Commonwealth had full responsibility, as it had in Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia, could he seen from Mr. Kent Hughes own figures.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman must not refer to a Minister by name.
– I am quoting a statement.
– I cannot help that. The Standing Order that covers the point is perfectly clear.
– The statement continued -
For the £25,000,000 it had spent on soldier settlement in Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, the Commonwealth hail settled at December 3 let last only 9.18 exservicemen. That meant a cost of £27,000 per man settled.
While the Minister for the Interior had referred slightingly to a total expenditure of £41,000,000 on soldier settlement by New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, he had neglected to mention that those three States had settled 3,762 settlers - at an average cost of £11,000 a man. That was more than four times the number of settlers for less than twice the total outlay. The Commonwealth had contributed less than £1,000,000 - mostly for living allowances - out of over £22,000,000 spent on the soldier settlement scheme by the New South Wales Government.
I thought that it would be interesting to quote the views of the New South Wales Minister for Lands upon this matter.
– No wonder the Liberal party almost lost Toorak.
– And it will lose Flinders. Some interesting estimates have been made by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. In a report on the decline of Australian primary production, prepared by a private research organization, the following passage appears: -
Australian primary production, on average, must be increased by more than a third by I960. Natural increase, together with the present rate of immigration, will, it is estimated, raise Australia’s population from S.32 millions at the end of 1950, to 10.92 millions by I960, an increase of 37 per cent, in tcn years. If Australians are in future to eat the same quantity of food per person as they are doing at present, and if Australia is to export the same quantities of primary goods as she did after the four years after the war, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics estimates that food production must exceed the average production of those four years, 1946-7 to 1949-50, as follows.
Then certain percentages are set out. At the present time, our production of food is less than it was 25 years ago. This Government is passing the buck to the States. It is not trying to help them by providing the finance necessary for the development of our agricultural land. The Government should find the money that the States need for that purpose, and should make provision for the appropriation of more than the £6,000,000 envisaged by this bill. I approve of the proposal to make £6,000,000 available for this purpose. My complaint about the bill is that that sum is not enough. I believe that every £1 that we expend to settle men on the land, especially ex-servicemen, will, as it were, turn to gold.
– The Government is not sincere.
– I know it is not. It is blaming the States, and trying to pass the buck. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has suggested that a special loan be floated to raise money for this purpose. The workers of this country have £850,000,000 deposited in the savings banks. I believe that if they were asked to contribute the money necessary to enable ex-servicemen to be settled upon the land, they would do so. Every £1 devoted to that purpose would be repaid a hundredfold.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Ekic J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Woes . . . . . . 34
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 6.66 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 27th August, (vide page 648), on motion by Sir Earle Page -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill seeks to amend a piece of legislation that the Chifley Government placed on the statute-books of this country. I had the honour to bring down that bill in 1946 and I shall read some of the remarks that I made on that occasion on behalf of the government of the day. I said -
This is a bill which I am confident will commend itself to both sides of the House. It deals with the transfer to national ownership of the external telecommunication services now owned and operated by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and the establishment of a statutory corporation to operate both radio and cable services linking Australia with other countries. This bill is one of a number of similar pieces of legislation which will be enacted by the parliaments of all self-governing countries in the British Commonwealth and Empire. It therefore does not represent a purely local conception. The step being taken in Australia is part of a united Empire-wide unified plan, recommended by the British Commonwealth Telecommunications Conference held in London in July and August, 1945, and accepted in principle by all responsible governments of the Empire, subject to ratification by the respective parliaments.
The governments of the several countries concerned with external communications ratified the agreement, which this Parliament also ratified in 1946, and the Overseas Telecommunications Commission was established in this country. The Government proposes to amend that legislation in certain respects, and the Opposition does not offer any objection to the proposed amendments. The Government has done the Opposition honour by maintaining the legislation that it inherited from the Chifley Government. I commend the Government for that and I give to the bill more than mere support, because the Government, by introducing it has placed its imprimatur on one of the finest pieces of socialization that has been enacted by either this or any other parliament. Part I. of the first schedule to the bill, under the heading Acquisition of operating companies, provides as follows : -
Each Partner Government in whose territory a local company is operating external telecommunication services shall purchase all the shares in the local company which it does not already own or otherwise acquire the local company s undertaking to such extent as it lias not already done so.
So the Government that wishes to get rid of a number of government undertakings by giving them away to its friends, is at least maintaining this scheme of socialization as effectively as did the Chifley Government. The schedules also provide that “ His Majesty’s Government in the Commonweath of Australia “ shall acquire “Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited “. That provision is identical with a provision in the 1946 act. It is passing strange that this Government, which practically gave away its shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited recently, is approving of the proposal to take over the telecommunications section of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and run it as a Government enterprise.
The scheme established under the 1946 act is working well. The Overseas Telecommunications Commission has done a splendid job. It has shown a profit in each year of its operations. Its profits over the last six years have amounted to almost £400,000. The fact that it is making a profit would not, of course, prevent the Government from giving it away if it made up its mind to do so, but for the time being, at any rate, this enterprise is safe. The Overseas Telecommunications Commission has set its profits aside for extensions and improvements to coastal and international stations in Australia. It has done even better than that. Two years ago it was able to reduce the rates for cable and radio messages to some foreign countries. This Government, which has increased postal, telephonic and telegraph charges inside Australia, has at least one instrumentality, established by a Labour Government, which, despite all the increasing costs to which all governments are subject, has been able to reduce some_ of its charges on messages to other countries.
The bill seeks to do two things. It will make, in the agreement that was entered into five and a half years ago, certain alterations that have become necessary as a result of certain constitutional changes that have taken place within the British Commonwealth of Nations during those years. Since the 1946 act was passed Pakistan and Ceylon have become self-governing dominions, and India has become a republic inside the British Commonwealth, a paradox that would not have been dreamt of when the 1946 legislation was before us. It is necessary to alter the terms of the agreement in order to permit these new countries of the Commonwealth to become partner-members of the interCommonwealth of Nations body that is concerned with the conduct of this great undertaking. We also need to make provision for any partner government to withdraw from the agreement should it so desire. Such provision is contained in the legislation. I understand that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) has advised the Government that such a step is necessary. Alterations are also to be made in respect of the schedules as they affect the internal workings of the instrumentality. The Opposition does not disagree with either set of alterations.
The Minister took a considerable time to explain what has happened, and we are indeed grateful for the trouble that he took to advise the House about the history of this venture.
– It will probably save time at the committee stage.
– There will be no criticism at the committee stage. As a matter of fact, I hope that anything said then will be as illuminating as the Minister’s statement was. There are, however, several matters, with which the Minister did not deal, which should be mentioned. I shall traverse briefly the facts as they affect the employees of the commission. The alterations to be made to the principal act are consequential on decisions reached in respect of the employees. The first class of employees of the commission consists of 60 former employees of the Postmaster-General’3 Department who were taken over by the commission in 1946. They were all Commonwealth public servants who had transferred to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in 1942. They retained all their existing and accruing rights in respect of superannuation, furlough, recreation leave and sick leave. Their case was clear enough. There were, however, 600 other persons who became employees of the commission. They all were former employees of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and at the time of the passage of the 1946 legislation the Chifley Government indicated that a special committee would investigate the granting of furlough rights to these persons, who up to that time, had had no such rights. That committee has had meetings over the years and reached a. decision that is incorporated in the bill, clause 6 of which covers the grant of furlough rights to those 600 persons, the date of commencement of service, for the purpose of the computation of furlough entitlement, to be the date on which they entered the service of the commission, but this shall not apply in cases where the date of commencement was prior to May, 1922.
Other persons, numbering 200, were taken over by the commission in 1946 from Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. They had been formerly employees of Cable and Wireless Limited. All their existing and accruing rights were then preserved but, in addition, provision is made in the bill for such persons to be granted certain furlough rights in order that all officers of the commission, who now number 900 persons, will have long service leave rights. That problem is solved by the legislation, which provides a. satisfactory conclusion to a long period of investigation and discussion by the trade union that represents the employees, as well as by the commission itself, by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and by other bodies. All other rights and benefits, such as superannuation and pensions, annual and sick leave, hours of duty, and other conditions of employment, will now he uniform throughout the whole of this service. That is something to be thankful for. It will end the belief on the part of some people that some employees who went, to the commission from one service have enjoyed better rights than were enjoyed by others who went from another service.
Fro vision is also made that women employees of the commission shall be placed on the same basis in respect of retiring age as that which relates to women employees of the Public Service. The women who went over to the commission from Cable and Wireless Limited would have retired at the age of 55 years, but they may now continue to pay into the superannuation fund and retire at the age of 65 years, as do women employees of the Public Service.
Meteorological telegrams, which used to be supplied by the commission at its own expense to the Department of the Interior, will now be paid for by that department. That is a wise provision, because there is no good reason why this instrumentality should distribute valuable weather information for nothing.
Another provision in the bill concerns the conditions relating to promotion. The provisions covering the Promotion Appeals Board and the Disciplinary Appeals Board are to be brought into line with similar provisions in the Commonwealth Public Service. It is also worthy of note that the conditions of entry to the service will now become uniform with those operating in the Public Service. The alterations that are to be made by the bill are, improvements in every respect, and the Opposition supports the measure.
– It must be obvious to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) and to those honorable members who sit behind him, that this bill provides a striking example of the good job that a nationalized industry can do in looking after communications and such matters that have relationship to the national welfare. The achievements of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission resulted from certain stresses of national importance which made it essential to take communications over from, private enterprise. Eventually, in the interests of the nation as a whole, the Chifley Labour Government was . obliged to place this activity completely under governmental control. Members of the Opposition note with pleasure that this measure contains nothing that will interfere with that principle. Having regard to the attitude of Government supporters towards any semblance of nationalism, that fact is refreshing. Furthermore, the commission provides evidence of the success of governmental management of activities in respect of which private enterprise had failed.
– The commission is a combination of the Postal Department and Amalgamated “Wireless (Australasia) Limited, which is a private organization.
– That is not the whole of the story. The success of the commission in a sphere in which private enterprise had failed is evidence of the wisdom of Labour’s policy of national control of activities that vitally affect the safety and welfare of the nation. The problem of control of telecommunications had been considered by previous non-Labour governments in which the present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) was a Minister; but it remained for the Chifley Labour Government to find a solution of it. It is well to remember that the real problem of ensuring the maintenance and efficiency of communications between members of the British Commonwealth of Nations arose in 1928 mainly as a result of the advent of beam wireless. Subsequently, private enterprise revealed its inability to discharge that task; and the Chifley Government introduced the principal act in 1946 not because it desired merely to nationalize this activity but solely in order to protect the vital interests of members of the British Commonwealth of Nations in the light of scientific and technical developments in this sphere. The object of that measure was to provide for the establishment and operation of overseas telegraph, telephone and other like services by the Commonwealth, and it was introduced as a result of conferences that had been held during the two preceding years. The final conference, which was held in London in 1945, was attended by representatives of all countries within the British Commonwealth of Nations. Reports of the proceedings of that conference show that it realized that private enter prise was not capable of maintaining; “those communications in the interests of the safety of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
As I have said, the principal act was rendered necessary as a result of the advent of beam wireless. Keen competition for control of that new method of communication immediately arose among private interests. The introduction of beam wireless practically imperilled the existence of the vast cable organization that previously enjoyed a monopoly in this field. The new method rendered communication by cable practically obsolete. In addition, governments recognized the implications of beam wireless from a security standpoint. Unfortunately, no constructive action was taken along those lines until experience during the recent war emphasized the importance of those implications. I have no hesitation in saying that Communists, for instance, could gain complete control of a country once they had gained control of its telecommunications and general transport systems. For that reason, honorable members opposite should applaud the action of the Chifley Government in introducing the principal act in 1946 which ensured that telecommunications should be adequately safeguarded. I propose to quote significant extracts from the First Annual Report of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia), which deal with events in this sphere up to the 3rd June, 1949.
– “We should not like the honorable member to deal with the whole history of this subject.
– Government supporters do not wish to be reminded of that history, because they refuse to appreciate the real value of the legislation that the Chifley Government introduced in 1946. The first report of the commission stated -
The principal result of the recommendations of the conference was that a comprehensive merger of the cable and wireless interests in the United Kingdom was effected in 1020-
At that time private enterprise exercised sole control in this sphere - and a new company, which subsequently became known as Cable and Wireless Limited, was formed to take over the telecommunications interests and services of the various organizations which it replaced. The merger company, in which the stock was privately owned, was established with a capital of £30,000,000 and waa given an exclusive franchise for the operation of the external telecommunications services of the United Kingdom, including the radiotelegraph services, but excluding the international radiotelephone services and the coast station service with ships at sea, responsibility for which remained with the Post Office. The company also became the owner of the world-wide network of submarine cables linking Great Britain with the Dominions, the Colonics, India and various foreign points. Under the merger plan an advisory committee was constituted to exercise a measure of control over policy and rates in the interest of telegraph users. The committee, on which all the British Commonwealth governments were represented, has since been re-named the Commonwealth Communications Council.
These arrangements, however, did not fulfil the hopes attending their adoption. During the world-wide trade depression of the early thirties, the company experienced difficulty in paying dividends on its share capital, and after further conferences the original plan was amended in a number of ways. This new basis of operation likewise failed to .provide a permanent solution of the problem of securing a co-ordinated and well-balanced system of cable and radio communications between British Commonwealth countries. Discussions between the governments were accordingly renewed-
During that period the present Minister for Health was a Minister in a previous non-Labour government in this Parliament. The report continued -
Several proposals relating to the telecommunications services in Australia were also presented for the consideration of the Australian Government. Hatters were still in >in unsettled position when the war of 1930-4:’) broke out, and the complications which this introduced eventually made it necessary to examine the whole problem afresh.
A government of which the Minister for Health was a member had before it, during the nine years that it held office before the advent of a Labour Government in 1941, evidence which showed the low state of efficiency of interdominion communications. Yet it did nothing about, the matter. When war broke out in 1939 the complications introduced eventually made it necessary to examine the whole matter afresh. The First Annual Report of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) reads, inter alia -
This was done at a conference held in London in 1944. At this conference, after consideration of a plan for the continuance on a wider basis of the arrangements then in operation, agreement was” eventually reached on proposals for the transfer to public ownership of the external cable and wireless services of the British Commonwealth and Empire as a whole. The general framework of the plan was that the existing services should be taken over by the Government within whose territories they were functioning, and that national authorities should be set up to operate the services so acquired. These proposals, which were given further consideration at the Commonwealth Telecommunications Conference held in London in 1945, were adopted in a slightly modified form at that Conference, and were subsequently accepted by all the Governments concerned, each of which agreed to take appropriate action to give effect to the plan within the territories under its control, lt is noteworthy that the plan finally adopted was’ based in essentials upon proposals put forward by the representatives of the Australian and New Zealand Governments. For this reason it was referred to at the time as the “ Anzac Plan “.
I emphasize the following part of the report -
It is noteworthy that the plan finally adopted was based in essentials upon proposals put forward by the representatives df the Australian and New Zealand Governments. For this reason it was referred to at the time as the “ Anzac Plan “.
Honorable members of the Labour party look back with a great deal of pride to the fact that because of the actions of Labour governments the great telecommunications system between the countries of the British Commonwealth carries with it the word Anzac. Because of that we take this opportunity of throwing into the teeth of the Government the fact that nationalization by a Labour government has been accepted by the British Commonwealth and has succeeded to such a degree that the Minister, when bringing in this bill, admitted that the only alterations necessary were mere machinery alterations to the original scheme introduced by Labour. The view has often been expressed by this Government that no matter what industry be nationalized it will become inefficient and show a loss.
– Tell the House about some more industries that you would like to nationalize.
– Order !
– If the honorable member were in your position, Mr. Speaker, he might make the field of the debate wide enough to allow many matters to be introduced. However, I know that you will restrict me to the contents of the bill. Now let us consider what the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) has done. Let us consider the second annual report of this organization that took over after private enterprise had failed. At page 11 of that report seven matters are detailed in which this nationalized project has been successful and in which private enterprise has failed. That shows that a nationalized undertaking can be more- efficient and can give better service at a cheaper rate than can an organization conducted by private enterprise. All the reports of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) are available for anybody to read.
– “We are coming on.
– Yes, even the honorable member who interjected will understand what I am now going to put. I refer honorable members to page 14 of the Third Annual Report of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia). In doing so I cannot repeat too often that in addition to giving an excellent service to the British Commonwealth during a period of war, and in addition to setting up an organization founded on the Australian principle of co-operation that has now been accepted throughout the British Commonwealth, this industry was able to show in its third annual report that for the year ended the 30th June, 1949, it made” a net profit of £62,923. The latest published report of this organization embraces the nine months to the 31st March, 1950. Again the organization that has the word “Anzac” incorporated in its titles because of the actions of Australian and New Zealand Labour Governments, showed a profit, this time of £66,557. Therefore, the increase of the annual net profit was equivalent to £25,000. Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) is an interlocked concern, as was shown by the Minister in his second-reading speech, and all the nations of the British Commonwealth have some part to play in its organization.
Government Supporters. - Hear, hear !
– I realize that honorable members on the Government side who have just said, “ Hear, hear “ are anxious that this matter shall be dealt with as quickly as possible because not one of them can criticize this nationalized project. It cannot be criticized about its financial affairs, its efficiency, or the service that it gives.
Perhaps I should not refer to what I now intend to say because it may give to the Government an idea that there is something to be made out of this organization. However that may be, paragraph 109 of the first general report of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board reads -
As to the Board’s work, while there is already some measure of achievement, the Board wishes to make clear that a great deal requires to be done towards the better ordering and increased efficiency of the cable and radio systems of which the National Bodies are now the owners. The pressure of foreign competition, especially in radio services, i3 heavy. It is desirable that some of the National Bodies should strengthen their radio systems and that these should be more fully integrated with the cable system of the United Kingdom National Body. The objective is a balanced integrated system of cable and radio competent to provide all the Commonwealth’s telecommunication needs both in peace and in war. This can be achieved provided that the National Bodies continue to resist foreign demands for radio circuits which would take revenue away from the Commonwealth commonuser system.
This organization has rendered to the British Commonwealth a service that should call for the highest commendation from every honorable member here. Neither this Government nor the government of any member nation of the British Commonwealth should allow private enterprise to do anything that will interfere with this essential network of telecommunications that is rendering such a wonderful service to the British Commonwealth.
.- It was very interesting to hear socialist comments about this nationalized industry. They fail to give credit to the private enterprise that established this industry and initiated the improvements that made the previous system of communications obsolete. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) issued a warning. I also want to issue a warning. It has been proved time and time again that when a service is nationalized, it becomes moribund and resists improvements. Consequently it falls behind in efficiency. The socialists’ desire to expound their theories on nationalization and to be. proud of something that has been . successful in the nationalized field leads them to forget that this organization was developed originally by private enterprise and that it became efficient and was rendering the old system of communications obsolete when it was nationalized. When a system is nationalized the whole thing becomes static and no further improvement takes place. That is the warning that I want to issue and I shall not take up the time of the House any further.
– I am sorry to annoy the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) by attempting to say a few words. I recall that last year he aspired to a title. I think it was “ Lord Garbage “. Judged by his recent attempts to prevent honorable members from speaking on the adjournment of the House, he seems to be aspiring to the title of “Lord Gagster “.
-Order! The honorable member might as well sit down if he wants to continue as he has started.
– In relation to what the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) has said-
– Address yourself to the bill.
– Order ! The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) must not interject.
– The honorable member for Gwydir said that this was a socialist measure. I inform him that, if these communications services had not been taken over by Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) they would have been in a very bad way by now. We are pleased to know that great improvements have occurred since the commission was established in 1946 with the imprimatur of the present honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who was then Minister for Information. It will be remembered that he’ introduced the legislation which set up the commission.
I propose to comment on several aspects of the bill chiefly because I was associated with communications before I became a member of this Parliament. I commend the bill because the main effect of its provisions will be beneficial to employees of Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia). The honorable member for Melbourne said that he was pleased with the bill because its provisions indicated that the Government approved of this socialist organization. All the governments concerned in the agreement that was authorized by the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946 are not Labour governments, but they support this socialist scheme wholeheartedly. That is a gratifying state of affairs. The bill is principally a machinery measure, which will have the effect of enabling the commission to operate more smoothly. The act will be made more flexible in order to meet the requirements of changing circumstances within the British Commonwealth of Nations. New nations are growing within the Commonwealth, and eventually they will wish to become parties to the telecommunications agreement with which this measure deals. The bill includes a provision that will permit new partners to be admitted.
Other important provisions refer to employees of Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia). Candidates for appointment as junior officers will be able to gain entry to the service of the commission in future without being required to pass special examinations. Under the terms of the hill, the passing of certain public examinations will qualify candidates for appointment. That is a wise provision, and it will facilitate the recruiting of officers. The furlough rights of officers of the commission will be extended and will be made identical with those of officers of the Public Service. My only objection to that provision is that, in my opinion, Public Service furlough rights are not good enough. However, I am pleased to know that officers of the commission will be at least on equal terms with public servants in this respect. Officers who transferred to the service of the commission from private telecommunications companies will be allowed to retain the rights to which they were entitled as employees of those companies. Those rights, in some instances, date back to 1922. Another clause provides that employees of the commission shall have rights, in relation to appeals against promotions, similar to those of public service officers. This means that employees who wish to appeal against promotions or transfers will have the protection of an appeal board on which they will be directly represented. The conditions of female employees of the commission will be raised to the standards that apply in the Public Service. Females will be permitted to remain in the service of the commission until they reach the age of 60 years, and superannuation rights will accrue to them as though they were members of the Public Service. I commend the Minister for having introduced a measure that will improve the conditions of about 600 Australians who are giving good service to the community.
– vn reply - I thank honorable members generally, and especially the members of the Opposition who have spoken during this debate, for the friendly reception that they have accorded to this measure. I hope that, when I introduce a bill to provide for a national health scheme on another occasion, they will receive it with equally warm approval. I propose to refer briefly to some of the comments that have been made, and particularly to those of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison). The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) kept his remarks free of party politics. This is a matter that ought to be above party politics.
It is worth while to recall that in 1944, at the time of the conference that led to the conclusion of the agreement between the partner governments for the establishment of the present telecommunications system within the British Commonwealth, a national government led by Mr. Churchill was in office in the United Kingdom. As the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) has said, many of the parties to the present agreement are not Labour governments. Never theless, they are trying to improve the telecommunications organization, which they consider to be of great importance. My interest in the subject of overseas telecommunications dates back 30 years to the time when Sir Ernest Fisk started to develop beam wireless communication in Australia. Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited was established, partly under government ownership, in order to develop this new method of communication, which rendered almost entirely obsolete the international cable services that had been established by various governments at a cost of many millions of pounds. The cable service across the Pacific Ocean, for example, was a joint venture undertaken by the Canadian Government and the Australian Government. Throughout the ‘twenties, the difficulties caused by the introduction of beam wireless communication were the cause of great concern to the governments that were part-owners of cable services. The government of which I was a member attempted to overcome the various problems that had developed but had not succeeded in doing so when it was defeated in 1929. It had tried to make an arrangement somewhat along the lines of the present arrangement, under which the Postal Department, instead of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited operates the overseas wireless communications service entirely. I discussed the matter with Mr. Bruce, now Lord Bruce, soon after the Labour Government was defeated in 1931. He remarked that the overseas communications services were still in as much of a mess as they had been in when the Labour ‘ Government took office. Therefore, I am not inclined to give more credit to one political party than to another for the settlement that has been achieved.
The re-organization of overseas telecommunications was the result of a prolonged and concerted attack on the problem by many governments, all of which deserve a great deal of credit. T was glad to hear the honorable member for Blaxland, in praising this nationalized organization, express eagerness to fix charges that will enable it to make profits from its operations. I support that view. I believe that people should pay for everything they receive. , The practice is good for individual character and, in this instance, it will, help the nation.
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.
Debate resumed from the 11th September (vide page 1312), on motion byMr. McEwen -
That the bil) be now read a second time.
.- This is a relatively important measure to amend the Dried Emits Export Control Act. It has been introduced, apparently, %.t the behest of the Dried Fruits Control Board. There Ls no reason for us to take exception to the main provisions of the bill. The Australian dried fruits industry is a very efficient industry, which practises co-operative marketing and general organization perhaps more extensively than does any other Australian primary industry. It has had a long and interesting history and to-day, as I understand the situation, it stands on its own feet with relatively little government assistance apart from the protection given to it by Commonwealth and State legislation in respect of overseas and domestic marketing. Most of the growers in Victoria and South Australia, and to a lesser degree those in New South ‘Wales, are ex-servicemen of World War I. with a sprinkling of ex-servicemen of World War II.
The Dried Fruits Control Board apparently has decided, presumably under pressure from growers, commercial interests and other sources, that it will be able to conduct its business more effectively if its membership is increased from eight to eleven persons. Personally, I very much doubt whether it will be improved to any great degree by such an increase. However, I freely admit that, as a result of the expansion of the industry in Victoria and South Australia, it is probably only fair that additional representation be accorded to those
States. The increase may not result in greater efficiency, but at least the growers in those States will be represented on the board more or less in accordance with their numerical preponderance. The bill provides that one member of the board shall be a person with experience of the marketing of dried fruits. I do not quarrel with that provision. “ In my opinion, a marketing board, the majority of the members of which are the representatives of the growers, can he substantially strengthened by the appointment of a person possessing commercial knowledge of the industry. I am not one of those primary producers who is so blind as to believe that an efficient primary producer can be the be-all and end-all in a marketing organization in which cooperative effort is involved. For that reason, I have always approved the appointment to marketing boards of representatives of interests of that kind.
– The honorable member, when he was the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, refused to accept my amendment to give similar representation on the Australian Apple and Pear Board.
– The Australian Apple and Pear Board is another instrumentality. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) should realize that provision was made, in the legislation to which he refers, for one of the members of that board to be a representative of the marketing section of the industry; and I ensured that the chairman, who was the nominee of the government, should be a man who had spent a life-time, not in growing apples and pears, but in the commercial branch of that industry.
– That is correct.
– Consequently, the honorable gentleman’s criticism of me in that respect is somewhat at sea. The Minister has wisely retained in the bill before the House the provision that one member of the Dried Fruits Control Board shall possess marketing experience. As the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I made it my business to ensure that, when the Australian Wheat Board was re-constituted, a qualified accountant should be attached to it, or appointed to’ it. He was able to analyse, as an independent authority, various accountancy systems, and the accounts of the board, and was in a position to offer expert financial advice to other members of the board. I do not quarrel with the extension of that policy with respect to the Dried Fruits Control Board.
However, I do quarrel seriously with, and strongly challenge, the wisdom of the Government in making provision, in proposed section 9, that members of the boa ixl shall, in rotation, occupy the position of chairman. In my opinion, the chairman of a great instrumentality that is responsible for the marketing of an Australian product within the Commonwealth and abroad, should be the nominee of the government. He should be skilled, as far as possible, in all branches of that industry, should be versatile and courageous, and should have a strong sense of duty. Such qualifications would fit bini adequately to represent the government at all times, and to preside efficiently over the marketing instrumentality. However, proposed section 9 provides that members of the board, in rotation, shall occupy the position of chairman. I have no doubt that, if I have misunderstood that provision, the Minister will correct me. Perhaps a producer member or, for that matter, a marketing or commercial member of the board may be elected chairman. He may be an expert grower, or an efficient commercial representative, but he may not possess the qualifications required of a chairman. The holder of that office should be capable of presiding over meetings of the board, and guiding its destinies. I cannot illustrate my contention better than to point out that whilst you, Mr. Speaker, are able, I consider myself completely unfitted to occupy the chair. That is not in my line, sir.
– Order ! The occupation of the chair is not under discussion.
– However, you, Mr. Speaker, provide an excellent example of the point that I am endeavouring to make. I consider the system under which members of the board, in rotation, will occupy the position of chairman, to be unwise, and not calculated to make for the efficient functioning and management of such an instrumentality. I hope that the Minister will concede the force of my contention, and make provision for the Government’s nominee to be the chairman of the Dried Fruits Control Board.
– The bill does not provide that members of the board, in rotation, shall occupy the position of chairman. Members of the board will elect the chairman.
– The Minister explains that members of the board, in rotation, will not occupy the position of chairman. But the bill provides the next best thing to that. Members of the board will elect their own chairman annually and so may change the chairman.
– A similar provision was made in the Dried Fruits Export Control Bill, which was introduced by the honorable gentleman when he was the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– I do not think that 1 introduced such a bill.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Lalor to address the Chair. This dialogue is out of order.
– I refuse to be sidetracked by the Minister’s interjections. He knows perfectly well that when members of a board are permitted to elect the chairman, the appointment is often made on the basis of good fellowship. A practice grows up whereby members say, “ Well, Bill is a decent sort of bloke. We shall elect him .chairman next year.” That frequently happens in the election of the chairman of an instrumentality of this kind. The qualifications of a person to hold such a position are not always the only factor taken into consideration by those who elect a chairman.
I have one other criticism to offer on the bill. From time to time., the Minister has pointed out that boards of this kind are completely free from ministerial interference and control. It is strange, then, that this bill provides for power to make regulations controlling the export of dried fruits. Proposed section 13 (1.) reads as follows: -
For the purpose of enabling the board effectively to control the export, and the sale and distribution after export, of Australian dried fruits, the regulations may prohibit the export from the Commonwealth of dried fruits- ls not that an interference, on the part of the Minister, who must approve regulations for the efficient working of this organization, with the complete autonomy of the Dried Fruits Control Board ? Power is given to promulgate regulations in order to prohibit the export of dried fruits - (ra) except by a person who holds a licence granted as prescribed; and (!<) except in accordance with such conditions and restrictions as are prescribed after recommendation to the Minister by the Board.
The Minister need not necessarily accept the recommendations of the board. Bte has authority to order that citizen A or merchant B be granted a licence, under certain conditions, and to dismiss a recommendation to the contrary furnished to him by the board. I realize that the Minister will reply that the board could not function without an authority of that kind. I inform him that I am in favour of the granting of such an authority, but I point to this matter as an illustration of the fact that the Minister does . not., and cannot, in the very nature of things, divest himself entirely of authority to exercise an important and powerful control over an instrumentality of this sort.
Some of the criticisms of the bill that I have made are important in certain respects, whilst others are of a minor kind, The dried fruits industry deserves the greatest measure of support that can be granted to it by this Parliament. It is a splendid example of the co-operative spirit, and of what can be achieved by self help. The industry has received assistance at various times from all political parties in this Parliament. I hope that the Minister will concede the point that I have made about the appointment of the chairman of the board. On behalf of the Opposition, I support the bill.
.- The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) seemed to agree with the bill at the beginning and the end of his speech, but tried to find some fault with it in the middle of his address.
His speech was not effective from the standpoint of the Opposition. I support the bill, and I am gratified to note that a greater number of the members of the Dried Fruits Control Board will be representatives of -the growers than has been the case in the past. Honorable members, if they will examine the personnel of the board, will find that provision is made for the appointment of seven growerrepresentatives, and that the remaining four members will be the nominees of the Government. The Australian Country party has always fought strongly for the principle that growers shall have a majority of representatives on boards of this kind. The honorable member for Lalor complained that the chairman of the board would be elected by the members of it. I disagree with his view on that matter. I cannot visualize a better arrangement than that members of the board shall elect one of their number as the chairman. After all, the members of the board should have a thorough knowledge of the industry, and surely they are able to elect one of their number who will make a suitable chairman and will act in the best interests of the industry.
The dried fruits industry, as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and the honorable member for Lalor pointed out has been highly organized for many years, and, as such, has been recognized as an example that primary and even secondary industries could follow with advantage. Sometimes growers have not been completely satisfied with what has been done by the board, and some have not always agreed, with the Australian Dried Fruits Association. Nevertheless, I believe that approximately 9S per cent, of the growers of dried fruits are members of that organization and are enthusiastic about its activities.
The honorable member for Lalor will doubtless recall that, when he was the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, he arranged with Great Britain a fiveyear marketing plan for the sale of dried fruits. The price for the first two years was fixed, and, thereafter, negotiations were to take place each year with the British Ministry of Food with a view to arranging prices for the remaining three years. At the time when the deal was arranged the Australian Dried Fruits Association and the then Minister were satisfied that the price for the first two years would be quite satisfactory.
– We hoped that the price would be satisfactory. It was all we could get.
– The prices that were paid for the harvests in 1949 and 1950 were most unsatisfactory to the growers of dried fruits.
– The prices were approved, and recommended by the hoard.
– I do not doubt that. Unfortunately, the board and the then Minister did not seem to realize that prices in Australia were rising, and that the cost of production was increasing to such a degree that the prices arranged with the British Ministry of Food for the harvests in 1949 and 1950 were in some cases below the cost of production. After 1950, negotiations were conducted on two occasions by the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture with the United Kingdom authorities. Representatives of growers went overseas and negotiated with the British Ministry of Food on the matter, and the results have been highly satisfactory. Some of the prices have been increased by approximately 100 per cent., and the latter part of the arrangement is working particularly well. One representative of growers from Victoria and one from Western Australia are to proceed abroad within the next month for the purpose of negotiating with the United Kingdom authorities prices for our 1953 harvest. Although some rumours have been current that other countries will have good harvests of dried fruits, we trust that the price for our next harvest will be at least as satisfactory as that obtained for the last’ crop. Growers of dried fruits seldom enjoy a good harvest and a good price simultaneously. In this industry, it is possible to obtain what appears to be a record crop, but bad conditions could spoil the fruit and make it unmarketable. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has helped the industry. By scientific deductions its officers can tell from an examination of the early vines the size of the crop that will be borne in the following year if the season be normal. Officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization have already forecast that the dried fruits crop next year will be the best on record if the season be good.
I have received one complaint about this bill. A grower has informed me that he is not convinced that all growers are fully acquainted with the provisions of the bill. He has stated in a letter that members of the Dried Fruits Control Board were present at a conference that was held on the 1st September last at Robinvale, but that delegates were not told anything about the proposed measure. I protest against that omission. In future, any legislation affecting the industry should be explained fully to the growers.
– Who should have given the information to the conference? The Minister ?
– It is contended that the members of the board who were present at the conference should have done so, but they may be able to explain why they did not make a statement on the matter. I support the bill and congratulate the Minister on having made the board even more representative of the growers. All those who are associated with the industry look forward to negotiations that will be even more successful than those that have been conducted in the past.
.- I claim the indulgence of the House to express personal satisfaction with the bill and to commend the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) on its introduction. I believe that the bill approximates a state of perfection so far as primary industry is concerned. I look forward to the day when the principle that is enunciated in this bill will be extended to include all other primary industries. The growers of dried fruits are engaged in production that is of great importance to Australia and to the countries overseas where these products are marketed. Some people suggest that producers should be confined to the task of production. Others go even further and suggest that although growers are competent to produce commodities, they are not competent to market them to the hest advantage. This bill provides a classic example of a group of people engaging successfully in an industry and at the same time being recognized as competent to market their commodity themselves.
I was greatly disappointed with the observations on the bill that were made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). His statement in criticism of it appeared to me to be a gratuitous insult to the people who are engaged in the industry, because he suggested that they would be likely to elect the least worthy of their members to be the chairman of the Dried Fruits Control Board. That is an insult in particular to the grower members of the board. I know from experience - and the honorable member for Lalor must know also - that the growers, having the opportunity to elect their own chairman, will elect the fittest person to hold that important office. Primary industries in general have suffered from the principle that was foisted upon them by the honorable member for Lalor when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The Australian Government of that day conceived it to be its duty to appoint the chairmen of boards established for the marketing of primary products. I am happy to note that this Government has departed from that principle.
Provision has been made in the bill to augment the number of members on the board. Previously, Victoria, which exports the largest quantity of dried fruits, had two members on the board. Now it is to have three. South Australia had one member, and it will now have two because of the relative importance of the industry to that State. Western Australia will continue to have one member, and New South Wales also will have one. Commercial interests which are engaged in the actual marketing and distribution of the commodity will have two representatives on the board. The Government will have one member. In addition, the Government proposes to nominate a member who is experienced in the marketing of dried fruits in the consuming countries so that the total number of members on the board will be increased from eight to eleven. However, the balance will be held reasonably well inasmuch as the growers will have a majority and will have the right, which is fundamental to democratic production, to market their commodity in their own way. For that reason, if for no other, the Government is to be commended. I wish that the same principle could have been extended to all primary industries. If that had been done, many of the mistakes that have occurred might have been avoided, and many that are likely in the future could be prevented.
.- As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has said, the Opposition does not oppose this bill, but we shall offer some comment on it. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) is now a convert to the principle that one may take control of certain products from the hands of the growers and transfer it to a board, and so deprive the growers of the marketing of their products in the interests of growers as a whole. Thehonorable member appears to be mellowing in his views and that may be a good thing for the House and for thehonorable member himself. The honorable gentleman indulged in a practicethat he cannot resist by stating that, in his opinion, the work of the honorablemember for Lalor had been detrimental to the primary industries. He referred,, of course, to the time when the honorable member for Lalor rendered such signal service to the country as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The truth is that when the honorable memberwas Minister he organized and put intooperation schemes that had long been sought by far-sighted wheat-growers and did not do so without the wheat-growers’” approval.
– The honorable member will get on !
– I am confident that I shall do so. The honorable member for Lalor put to the wheat-growers a proposal that they vote themselves into a scheme. It was the scheme to which the honorable member for Riverina has referred.
– There was a priceless exception.
– Yes, and I fear that the priceless member for Riverina was one. The truth is that the wheat-growers of Australia, despite the oratory of the honorable member for Riverina and some of his colleagues, decided that the honorable member for Lalor was right. They agreed, by an overwhelming majority, to enter the scheme. Their decision was noteworthy in the history of referendums in Australia because a majority vote in favour of the scheme was cast in every State. The decision was reached by the growers themselves. It is impossible to say whether they will win or lose as time goes on. But considering the current situation and the history of fluctuations in primary industries, the proposition submitted by the Minister of that day was a sound one and was accepted as such by the growers. It introduced organized marketing into Australia and, to my knowledge, that has been sought by organized farmers for years. I shall leave the matter there. The honorable member for Riverina was wrong when he stated that the honorable member for Lalor had offered a gratuitous insult to the members of the Dried Fruits Control Board. A very efficient member of the board might not be competent to act as its chairman.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) said that the main purpose of the bill was to meet the wish of the industry that the Dried Fruits Export Control Act 1924-1938 be amended to reconstitute the Dried Fruits Control Board. He reminded honorable members that the board was set up by statute nearly 30 years ago to regulate and supervise the export trade in dried vine fruits. He stated also that the States have had representation to a degree roughly approximating the volume of dried fruits produced in the different States. The Opposition has no objection to that procedure. We believe that this is one of Australia’s most valuable industries. Like all primary industries it is influenced by the vagaries of seasons and prices fluctuations. As the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has pointed out, growers seldom achieve the happy position where maximum prices coincide with maximum production. The explanation is simple. When supply is short, prices are high. High production in foreign, countries in relation to the demand makes prices recede. It may be that the volume of sales and the level of prices of our exports are determined by the purchasing power of the people of the countries to which they are sent. We could help to promote greater sales of Australian dried vine fruits overseas if, by action in the international sphere, we attempted to increase consumer demand in other countries.
– These fruits are subject to an Empire preference tariff.
– That is so. The board, in its report, has thanked the Minister and Mr. Tonkin, the departmental member, for preserving the preference margin. The report states that, in 1950-51, the crop in Western Australia was adversely affected by heavy rain3, which fell at the worst possible time. It appears, however, that the small volume of production in that year will be offset, to some degree, by a greater volume of production this year.
The report then deals with a matter that is vital to the industry as a whole. It states -
The Board realizes the necessity of keeping abreast of improvements in production, processing and packing, and marketing methods, and to this end, on behalf of the Board, Mr. Malloch undertook to return from England via America, where he visited- the growing areas and packing houses of California.
I am certain that the Minister will agree, that if- we wish to derive the maximum benefit from this valuable industry, it is vitally important to give full consideration to production and packaging methods. It has been stated from time to time that the manner in which Australian goods have been prepared for export has done a great deal of damage to our export trade. A short time ago, I talked with a- young businessman who had returned to this country from Singapore. He told me that Australian oranges had been virtually forced out of the Singapore market by Californian oranges. He expressed the opinion that that was due to the preparation, packaging and uniformity of grading of Californian oranges. He said that in all consignments of those oranges there were only the slightest variations. He admitted that Australian methods of grading were far from efficient, and did not come anywhere near the American standard. He said that, even on ordinary standards of sorting and grading, Australian exporters had a great deal to learn.
This young man had been engaged in the export industry since his boyhood. He confirmed, earlier reports that I had received that, when export prices were high and demand was great, Australian exporters did not consider the long-term effect upon our export industries of the methods that they employed. It is true that, in the flush period when almost anythink could be sold in the eastern markets at fabulous prices, all kinds of people endeavoured to get into the export trade. Many of them did so only because they wished to profit from the tremendous prosperity of those markets. Some of them obtained export quotas. It is abundantly clear that they did a great deal of harm to Australia by sending overseas goods that were described inaccurately or were not true to label, by charging high prices and by indulging in a variety of other undesirable practices. One of the major lessons that Australian exporters and businessmen generally must learn is that exports must he not only competitive from the standpoint of value but also attractively packed. From the stories that I have heard, it appears that those considerations are even more important in eastern markets than in other markets. The young businessman to whom I have referred informed me thai certain lines of goods sent to the Singapore market were sold by virtue of their packaging alone. Purchasers in Singapore place implicit trust in certain overseas merchants. Even if the quality of the goods sent to them by those merchants be not in accordance with the label, they tend to regard that as being due to an accident. They do not regard it as a departure from standardof business practice ordinarily adopted by the merchants. He told me that, conversely, one bad consignment from a merchant who was not well established in the Singapore market could ruin his trade connexions there, no matter how good previous consignments had been. One bad consignment, or one consignment not in accordance with the sample or with the label, could put an end to a merchant’s trade connexions in Singapore. Therefore, it is of vital importance that, in addition to the production research work that the board is undertaking with the assistance of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, we should devote our attention to devising better methods of packaging and preparing dried fruits for export.
– The Australian Dried Fruits Association is an expert on packaging.
– I agree. I am not fully conversant with the ramifications of this industry, which, in Western Australia, is relatively small. The fact remains that, according to reports we have received, this country can learn a good deal from exporters in other lands. We must consider the tastes, prejudices and other influences that’ affect Eastern markets. The board states in its report that it is endeavouring to achieve better publicity for Australian dried fruits in the United Kingdom, and that it has submitted four recommendations upon that matter to the Minister for his urgent attention. As the report relates to the year 1950-51, 1 am certain that the Minister has those recommendations under consideration.
Finally, let me refer to a matter that is, perhaps, the hobby horse of the Opposition. The board has stated that, in 1950-51, Australian dried fruits could not be shipped to New Zealand speedily. That statement emphasizes the necessity for Australia to develop and maintain shipping services for the carriage of Australian goods overseas. The board has made representations to the New Zealand Government and to shipping authorities with a view to preventing a recurrence of those shipping delays. The point is only a small one, but it highlights the claim that the Opposition has made time and again that Australian exporters of dried vine fruits and other primary products are dependent completely upon shipping services and, therefore, that we should develop an efficient shipping service of our own. Perhaps I have dealt with the report at wearisome length, but it is a very interesting document about a very interesting subject. Thi3 industry, whichis important to Australia, might well be expanded. I believe that it could be expanded considerably, certainly in “Western Autsralia. Such expansion depends, not only on the land available for the production of vine fruits, but also upon the long-range demand for them throughout the world. We have recognized centres for the disposal of our exports of these fruits, but efforts should be made to introduce them to countries in which, at present, they are not used or known. With those comments, I give my general support to the measure.
– Mr.. Speaker-
Government supporters interjecting,
– I understand why honorable gentlemen opposite said “ Oh “ when I rose to speak. They are wondering why I wish to intervene in this debate. It was pleasant to hear the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) speak in favour of organized marketing of primary products, because he is an advocate of the right of private individuals to dispose of their goods as they like. When other primary products have been under discussion, I have heard him talk about the inequity of interference with the right of an individual to deal as he likes with his products. I am pleased that Government supporters, including the honorable member for Riverina, recognize that it is necessary to establish a proper system for the distribution and sale of primary products. I know something about the handling of dried fruits, because I had a little to do with them a few years ago. Before the Dried Fruits Control Board was established, merchants resorted to all kinds of tricks. Some of them put two-crown fruit into three-crown boxes, sent the consignment to New
Zealand and other countries and, having received payment on the basis of that grading, paid the producer on the basis of the lower grading, and pocketed the difference. They got away with that in those days. Therefore, I am pleased that Government supporters now recognize that the export of these fruits should be subjected to proper control.
I believe that the board is concerned especially with vine fruits, which, up to the present time, we have not been able to preserve in tins with much success. I was interested to hear the forecast of a big crop of vine fruits this year, and to learn that we have experts who can assess the size of a crop by examining the vines, even before the shoots have appeared. Apparently, they base their calculations on the size of the buds and other factors. That statement recalled to my mind the fact that, in recent years, many people have been writing to newspapers and complaining that a lot of vine fruit is not being’ dried, and that the juice is being squeezed from it and used to make alcoholic drinks of one kind and another. They have raised great objections to the fruit being used for that purpose, because they contend that it could be used to better advantage if it were dried. When I read that a great quantity of dried fruits will be available this year, I wondered what would happen if some distillers were short of grapes, and, as they have done previously, offered such high prices for vine fruit that growers came to the conclusion that it would be better for them to sell their crop to the distillers than to dried fruits undertakings. The bill will not compel growers to dry their fruit. The decision on that matter is to be left entirely to the growers themselves. I suppose that that principle is in accord with the desires and the expressed opinions of the honorable member for Riverina.
We have heard much criticism of government boards, including boards that were established during the term of office, as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, of the honorable member forLalor (Mr. Pollard) . People talk loosely about bureaucrats and other persons being able to hold the whole community to ransom.
This bill seeks to establish the kind of board about which honorable members opposite have complained so much in the past, but which the Labour party favours. The proposed board will have eleven members, seven of whom are to be elected by the growers themselves. It will have the power to tell growers how much of their product they may sell in any particular State, and how much may be exported. It will have complete control of the conditions of sale of dried fruits. The Government supporters who are so complacently supporting this measure must surely have had their tongues in their cheeks on some occasions in the past when they spoke about the responsibility of boards for the prevalence of the high retail prices of certain commodities, the right to free competition, and the claim that the laws of supply and demand would bring prices to their own level. We on this side of the chamber do not object to the bill, because we have always contended that the primary producer should have the right to participate in the control of any organization concerned with the disposal of his product. That principle has been in the Labour party’s platform for many years.
Clause 7 of the bill reads -
Sections thirteen, fourteen and fifteen of the Principal Act are repealed and the following section is inserted in their stead: - “13. - (1) For the purpose of enabling the Board effectively to control the export, and the sale and distribution after export, of Australian dried fruits, the regulations may prohibit the export from the Commonwealth of dried fruits -
except by’a person who holds a licence granted as prescribed; and
except in accordance with such conditions and restrictions as are prescribed after recommendation to the Minister by the Board “.
That clause shows definitely that Government supporters are prepared to establish a board with autocratic powers in relation to dried fruits, which will be able to dictate to growers how and where they may sell their product.
I turn now to the wisdom of controlling the dried fruits industry. We are hoping for a big increase of the area of irrigated land in this country, particularly in New South Wales from the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric power scheme. I believe that when our great irrigation projects have been brought to fruition we shall find it necessary to expand primary production in the direction of increased production of dried fruits in the districts affected by the projects. It may be possible to use the water made available by the projects for the growing of oranges or rice, but I consider that the production of dried fruits will be mainly affected. I commend the Government and the Minister for having been far-sighted enough to realize the necessity of now putting the industry on a firm basis. We all are familiar with the risk3 that attend the growing of dried vine fruits. A big frost may ruin a whole crop. A rainstorm and humid conditions at harvest time may destroy the work of a year. It is necessary, therefore, to have borne proper control of, and continuity in, the industry. Although only seven members of the proposed board are to be representatives of the producers, I am sure that they will watch carefully the interests of the people whom they will represent. The growing of dried vine fruits is also a risky business in that once a man has embarked on the production of dried fruits he is completely committed to it and cannot switch to some other form of primary production. It Ls necessary, therefore, for producers of dried fruits to be assured of some continuity in relation to the disposal of their crops.
We do not disagree with this measure, the main purpose of which is to give increased representation on the board to primary producers. I know that that provision is agreeable to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). The honorable member for Lalor had something to say about the rotation of chairmen. I agree with the Minister that that is a matter that should rest with the board itself. I expect that if the board has had a good chairman for one year it will re-elect him to office for the next year. I do not object to that system, although I know that the honorable member for Lalor does not approve of it. He ha3 always been of the opinion that, in relation to such matters, which affect the community so vitally, the chairman of the relevant board should be appointed by the Government, and so provide a satisfactory liaison between the Government and the board. I appreciate the honorable member’s desire to protect the public in this manner, but I consider that the proposed hoard will function satisfactorily under the provisions of the measure.
I wish to emphasize my hope that the board and the Minister will both take cognizance of the fact that we in this country are looking to a great expansion of our irrigated areas, and the possibilities of increased production of dried fruits, and that they will do everything possible to assist in this direction. Our wool, for which we obtain a high price overseas, and also our wheat, incur heavy freight charges relative to the prices received in comparison with the freight charges on dried fruits relative to the prices received for them. I consider that dried fruits are a most suitable export for us to develop. We must not lose sight of the fact that we may have to meet stiffer competition in the United Kingdom, which is the main overseas market for our dried fruits, from countries that lie nearer to the United Kingdom. We know that the currant is not an indigenous fruit in Australia, and that other countries can also grow it easily. I therefore urge the board to put the industry on a firm and stable basis so that it will be able to market its product overseas to the best possible advantage. I have no doubt that growers in Australia will be compelled to produce dried fruits at a price that will enable them to compete with other countries overseas.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) read an extract from a report of the board in relation to endeavours to improve production. I consider the improvement of production to be essential if we are not to reach a stage at which the industry will be able to supply only the home demand. With all due respect to the values of dried fruits as a food, and to the statements of medical men concerning them, generally speaking the Australian people do not eat as much dried fruits as might be desirable. We must take note of the desires and habits of the people, and we cannot force on them a food that they do not desire. 1 urge that the board shall consist of men who understand the industry and who will ensure that every encouragement shall be given to the producers to maintain continuity of production.
.- The fact that two honorable members from metropolitan electorates - the honorablemember for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) and the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) - have participated in the debate must naturally lead to approval of the bill by one who represents in this chamber a considerable section of the dried fruits industry. As the House is probably aware, a large proportion of Australian dried fruits is grown in the electorate which I have the honour to represent, particularly in the Murray irrigation areas. Presumably the honorable member for Perth and the honorable member for Port Adelaide were speaking on behalf of the consumers because, quite clearly, dried fruits are not grown in the City of Perth or in the vicinity of Port Adelaide. If they were, perhaps neither of those honorable gentlemen would be sitting in this chamber now. The honorable member for Port Adelaide suggested that the bill contains no provision that the growers shall be compelled to dry their fruits. As we know, quite a lot of fruit has been sent to distilleries in the last few years, and perhaps a disappointing proportion of it has been dried. However that may be, I hope that no government constituted by the parties now in office will ever presume to dictate to the growers, without their consent, how they shall dispose of their fruit. I hope that, for the sake of the growers in the future, the honorable member for Port Adelaide has not expressed the secret views of the Opposition on this subject.
The honorable member also chided the Government, in his pleasant way, in relation to the establishment of the board. The fact is that the board was established many years ago and, so far as supporters of the Liberal and Australian Country parties are concerned, there is no inconsistency in this bill because, whereas we believe most fervently in grower control we also believe, as a matter of principle, in orderly marketing. The Dried Fruits Control Board was established in order to fulfil our object of ensuring the orderly marketing of dried fruits. Honorable members who have participated in this brief debate have recognized that the Government has introduced, this measure in order to give- effect to recommendations of the dried fruits industry. The bill makes provision for machinery to enable this expanding industry to achieve its objectives more readily. Dried fruits are not. to be placed in a category with many other primary products. Prices for the last few years have not been princely and, until recently, growers have experienced many vicissitudes. The industry is more directly affected by seasonal adversity than is any other branch of primary production. Severe rain during the drying period in summer will practically destroy the: greater part of the crop ; consequently it is always the prayer of growers that the summer will be long and reasonably hot.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide did a service to the industry when he reminded the House of the increasing numbers who are entering it. In South Australia, the industry has been- established at three new settlements for ex-servicemen: Loxton, Cooltong - which is near Renmark - and Loveday - which is near Barmera. Although those settlements cover considerable areas they represent merely a beginning. It is true that the Australian producers experience strong competition from, the United States of America, Turkey and Greece, and that, in the United States of America, growers arc heavily subsidized. Nevertheless, the market for dried fruits may well be unlimited, and the industry will certainly l>e assisted by honorable members, who represent metropolitan interests, such as the two honorable members to whom I have referred, if they will continue to evince enthusiasm on behalf of the producers. I am glad that the Government has introduced this measure. I also note with pleasure that on this occasion, unhappily a rare occurrence in this chamber, honorable members generally have shown a degree of unanimity with the Government in its endeavour to fulfil the desires of this important and growing industry.
.- As almost the whole of the area in which the dried fruits industry is. carried on in
Western Australia, is situated in my electorate,. I should be sadly lacking in my duty if I failed on this occasion to convey to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) the appreciation of growers in that State of his introduction of this, measure. Although the amendments that the bill seeks to effect do not increase, the numerical strength of the representation of growers, in Western Australia, on the Dried Fruits Control Board, and although it does not propose any mal.or alteration of existing conditions, it is in accordance with the views that have, been expressed on behalf of the industry as a whole.
I was- somewhat astonished to hear honorable members opposite pay a tribute to- the honorable- member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) who, they claimed1, established the Dried Fruits Control Board when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government. Such a claim, of course, is completely groundless. This- board was in existence long before the honorable member ever became a minister. Indeed, it was one of the first boards to be established as a result of the efforts of any section of primary ‘producers to organize the marketing of their product;, and it was as a result of the success that this board achieved that other sections of primary producers realized that effective organized marketing can be assured only in accordance with the principle that products shall remain the property of the growers- and be marketed under the control of representatives whom they elect for that purpose. When other sections of primary producers realized the truth, of that principle, they immediately emulated the example that was set by those engaged in the dr-ied fruits industry.
It is true that the honorable member for Lalor, when he was Minister for Trade and Customs, set up certain marketing boards. but such boards controlled the marketing of products to the entire exclusion of the growers. Those boards were established and operated completely under government domination, and, therefore, they did not fulfil the desires of primary producers: That is the vital difference that exists between Labour’s policy and the policy of this Government in respect of the organized marketing of primary products. This Government recognizes that the growers retain ownership of their products until they are disposed of and, that being so, they have the right, through their elected representatives, to determine how those products shall be marketed. On the other hand, the policy of the Australian Labour party is that marketing boards shall be established on a socialistic basis, that is that primary products become the property of the Government once they come within the control of such boards and that they shall be marketed in accordance with the desires not of the growers but of the Government. The honorable member for Lalor established many marketing boards on that basis. On the other hand, the primary producers desire a marketing system that is based on recognition of the principle that the fruits of labour belong to the labourer and that he shall decide how his product shall be disposed of. All that the primary producers require governments to do is to introduce legislation that will place the marketing of their products completely under their own control.
– That is a good thing.
– I trust that the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Davies) will continue to support that principle in the future. In instances in which growers have been enabled to control the marketing of their products they have not abused that power; and they will not do so in the future.
I should like to examine for a moment the manner in which this legislation has operated up to date. The Dried Fruits Control Board has recognized that its primary duty is to ensure that home consumption demands shall first be met and at reasonable prices. Indeed, in the past, growers have frequently made their products available at concessional prices on the home market. They have acted in accordance with that principle in circumstances in which they could have obtained higher prices had they cared to be rapacious, either by raising the home price to a figure equal to the overseas price or by exporting the major proportion of their production and refusing to supply the requirements of the home market. Organized marketing in which growers exercise complete control need not cause any apprehension on the part of consumers. Primary producers have invariably shown that they must always bear in mind the welfare of the community. That is not so strange, because primary producers are individualists. Their sense of responsibility has been developed largely because of the fact that they cannot expect to obtain help but must rely completely upon their own resources. That principle characterizes their thinking and living; and they observe the same principle in respect of all matters of national importance.
I confess that the industry in Western Australia is not in a satisfactory condition. Like most activities that have been commenced from small pioneering efforts the industry has developed without foreseeing the possibility of economic difficulties. Consequently, there is an urgent need for some form of organization in the industry in . Western Australia if its future welfare and expansion are to be assured. For that reason, the Dried Fruits Control Board should engage to a great degree in research, particularly in States which, like Western Australia, are still in their early developmental stage. Unfortunately, a conservative attitude exists in the dried fruits industry. There is a fear that over-production will occur.
– Safety first.
– I recognize the principle of safety first, but, having regard to the world-wide demand for increased food production, who is capable of drawing a line and saying that production shall go so far and no further? When the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) or any other person is able to assure me that human beings can control seasonal conditions, I shall be prepared to agree to a proposal that primary production shall be deliberately limited.
– I did not go so far as that.
– What I have said is inherent in the interjection that the honorable member made. No one can say of any section of primary producers that they will not experience disastrous seasonal conditions next year, or at any time in the future. As a result of the limitation of primary production many people are deprived of necessaries and, indeed, in some instances, are reduced to starvation. Consequently, it is wrong to limit primary production. I should like the Dried Fruits Control Board and the growers themselves to adopt a wider outlook in respect of the expansion of the industry. They should not fear its expansion. Production does not need to be expanded in conditions that are uneconomic, but it must be expanded to meet home-consumption requirements and the growing demand of our overseas market whenever it is economical to do so. Western Australia at present exports a comparatively small quantity of goods. Because of its geographical situation and because we are trying to raise the standard of living of Asiatic peoples, a great and natural market for Western Australian goods is growing up in the countries bordering the Indian Ocean.
Two main objectives should be kept in mind by growers and their organizations. First, other than by limiting production to economic areas, they should not be too conservative. They should not attempt to produce in uneconomic areas or under uneconomic conditions, but they should encourage expansion elsewhere. Secondly, they should carefully examine the economic position of some growers in Western Australia. Growers will contribute funds to the Dried Fruits Control Board, and that money can be devoted to undertaking some further inquiry - because several inquiries have already been held and have got us nowhere - in order to find the best means whereby growers who are in difficulties may be helped. Such an inquiry could discover way3 of overcoming the difficulties of growers and could also discover the areas where the industry could expand naturally a!nd economically. Such an examination would be of great assistance to the industry and would help it to meet the growing demand within Western Australia, whose population is increasing at a greater rate than is that of any other State, and also the undeniably expanding markets in countries to the north of Australia. Western Australia is the natural source of supply for such countries. On behalf of the growers whom I have the honour to represent, I commend the Government for having brought down this bill, which will confirm and implement the policy of grower-controlled organized marketing. It will do that without limiting the freedom of the grower and without altering the protection already given to the consuming public.
.- The fine frenzy of the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) has left me with the feeling that honorable members have been discussing the Grapes of Wrath. Having recovered from has address, I realize that we are discussing the Australian dried fruits industry. The contribution of the honorable member for Moore discloses several fascinating facets of the industry. He suggested that markets could be developed in the countries to the north of Western Australia, which is something that has been overlooked in the past, and his recommendations to the conservative members of this wellestablished primary industry are most timely.
I listened to the admonitions of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) concerning the consumer section of the community, and I say to him that although the succulent fruit in various delectable forms does grow in his electorate, it is to the workers’ Christmas pudding that he looks for his market, and that in those circumstances he and I have a community of interest.
My main object in speaking to this measure is to say that I am naturally a supporter of the dried fruits industry. Although my knowledge of the industry could be written on my thumb nail, I appreciate that its difficulties are not so limited. I well remember the Minister’s second-reading speech on this matter. I have also noticed in the rural newspapers that I sometimes read, that throughout the whole of the articles, letters and discussions about the dried fruits industry runs a thread of anxiety as to what is to happen to an industry whose products have been efficiently marketed bv a board for at least 30 years, and which from time to time has gone through periods of change and vicissitude. I am not competent to judge the capacities of the proposed members of the Dried Fruits Control Board, but the objectives of the measure are in the main supported by the Opposition.
The Minister and some honorable members have voiced concern about the future of the industry, rather than the success of the board. I consider that to be a sensible attitude. If this industry has sustained itself for 30 years and is still carrying on, and if those who controlled it under an orderly marketing system have been successful, adjustments to ensure greater efficiency are all to the good. However, may we ask whether that is the problem that is being attacked by this legislation jr is the legislation designed to help the industry in- the future. As the honorable member for Moore pointed out, the proposed new board will have to be more progressive in the future and will have to use all the forces of propaganda that this century and this country can provide.
The Minister said that Australia’s dried fruits faced increasing competition in overseas markets. He then said -
At present -they are in a rather different category in this respect from some products, for example, meat, cheese and wool, staple commodities in world- short supply.
It is well known that there are no better dried fruits than Australia’s. It may be that there is some element in our climate or our soil that makes our dried fruits, Tike our wines, of such excellent quality. Our wines are justly famous, and would have been more so had we not fallen into the snobbery of calling them by continental names. Our dried fruits have a great competitor in the dried fruits industry of California, but we have a tremendous sale in Canada. Whilst it is conceded that the reason for that is the system of Empire preference, the market is still very good. However, we’ must develop our markets in the United Kingdom and in other countries that we have not yet exploited. I believe that T know something about marketing propaganda, and so far as Australia’s trade opportunities are concerned we are always the first casualty in any international advertising war. We never seem to hit the highlights, and, although our goods have quality and continuity of quality from year to’ year, we have not the know-how to present our .goods as successfully as others present theirs. The main reason, of course, is that we do not spend enough money on advertising. In order to have good advertising campaigns we must employ experts in writing advertisements. Such experts cost plenty of money because they command large salaries whether they are selling soap or raisins. The Government should ensure that the propaganda necessary to sell our dried fruits in the hazards of competitive markets shall be the best that we can afford. Australia is not going to win markets such as those in the United Kingdom, and in countries to our north, unless our advertising is cleveland compelling. The information gathered by trade commissions sponsored by the Department of Commerce “ and Agriculture has taught us a lot about merchandising in other parts pf the world. The susceptibilities and inclinations of buyers in one market may be diametrically opposed to those of buyers in another market. For instance, the publicity of our goods in Indonesia should be completely different from our publicity in the United Kingdom. Again, a slicker line in advertising must be taken for the American and Canadian markets. In spite of all these difficulties, I am confident that a proper application of the correct publicity and the expenditure of a fair amount will ensure a stable future for this important Australian industry.
We must first make sure that the proposed Dried Fruits Control Board will be efficient. Sometimes a grower may know all about growing, but he may be completely hopeless at marketing or selling, and, indeed, he may be a big handicap when such matters are under consideration. The additional members that will be provided for -this board must be selected in the light of their ability to keep ‘the industry alive and to ensure its expansion. I must say that the publicity campaign in relation to wool has been magnificent. When the Australian Wool Board and other organizations decided to advertise our wool overseas, they first surveyed possible markets. Then they introduced advertising matter into highpriced magazines in the United Kingdom. They advertised in magazines like
Britannia and- Eve and W omanis Soma, in those, magazines the wool advertisements read like fiction - stories. The advertisements were beautifully illustrated and smoothly conveyed 011] propaganda. Indeed, they were most effective. Having interested the buying public in England, and having conveyed the British Commonwealth angle- on wool, they have done a magnificent job to ensure- the survival of our great staple industry. They are now- advertising in cheaper newspapers and magazines and are thus- seeking a wider public. Their efforts-have been splendid and sound. If the Dried Fruits Control Board and other merchandising authorities would follow the advertising and propaganda methods of the Australian Wool Board they would achieve equally good results. In a market such as the United Kingdom we must persuade the canny British buyer that the goods that we have to sell are good. Once they are assured of that, our market wiM be stable and enduring. If we can advertise through the magazines that are always, read by the same class of people, the great middle class of the British Isles, we shall’ obtain a market that is worth while and that will last for years. After that propaganda has succeeded there will bo scope for a further campaign to reach, a wider public through the more popular magazines and newspapers.
The Minister has indicated that his first objective is to try to increase the home market for dried fruits by judicious publicity.. Some years ago there was a tremendous and an effective campaign to increase the. Australian consumption of our dried fruits. These products- were made extremely attractive. The cartons in which they were packed were- colourful, and the newspaper advertisements and shop window displays were very effective; Since that time> publicity for dried fruitshas fallen into the doldrums and. the presssure upon the home market has been reduced although, as the representative of a Sydney industrial area, I can- assure the Minister that this market is far from ex i arreted. The export surplus must be sold in competition with. Californian dried fruits, which are very attractively presented to. the. consumers. The growers, of California buy- pages of space in the
Saturday Evening Post and. go to town properly with four-colour advertisements that are a delight to read. If we are to sell our product overseas, we must support it with good propaganda. It will be necessary to expend considerable sums on sales promotion in countries that are keenly consumer-conscious and that, like to be told how good an article is before they buy it.
We are indebted to the honorable member for Moore for his opinion about the prospective market for our dried fruits in adjacent countries. I had not thought that there would be large consumer groups in- those countries, but the honorable member has said that they are there, and I am grateful for the information. This vital industry must be sustained. We must ensure that it shall be able to survive the continual ebb and flow of market conditions. It has weathered the storm under ordinary marketing control for 30 years, and it should be encouraged to continue on those- lines. My view, as an outsider in relation to the dried fruits industry- but as a specialist in some forms, of propaganda, is that greater attention, should be paid to the advertising of dried fruits than has been paid previously. The expenditure of considerable sums on sales promotion would be well worth while. First, the industry should1 move in on the- home market, where there is a large demand and where prices are. high. Secondly, it should engage in a first-class promotion campaign overseas-. I am sure that such a- campaign would produce gratifying results. The difficulties that appear tei beset the industry at present will be quickly overcome if the Dried Fruits Control Board accepts and acts- on those suggestions.
– wi reply - I thank, honorable- members on both sides of the House for their support of this- bill. The. purpose of the measure is clear and easily understandable. It is simply to strengthen the Dried Fruits Control. Board, first,, by extending the period of office of its members from two to three-years so that. there shall be greater opportunity, for continuity of policy; secondly,, by- adding to the membership two’’ representatives of the growers from each of the principal producing States; and, thirdly, by adding to the appointed membership a person chosen for his knowledge and experience of marketing. To judge from all that has been said by honorable members who have spoken, it is clear that the purpose of the bill is considered to be good.
The function of the Dried Emits Control Board apparently is not generally understood, and therefore I shall try to explain it briefly. The function of the board is to control dried fruits exports, not, as the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) apparently believes, to control the sale of all Australian dried fruits. The honorable member said that the board decided how much of the crop was to be sold in South Australia, how much in Victoria, and so forth. The board has no authority whatever in relation to the sale of dried fruits in Australia.
– It has control over the quantity.
– It has no authority in relation to the quantity to be sold in Australia, the States in which the crop shall be sold, the circumstances of its disposal, or the prices to be paid.
– But the board’s control over exports automatically enables it to control local sales.
– That is not so. I shall explain the scope of the board’s duties if the honorable member will have patience.
The dried fruits industry was the first primary industry in Australia to organize itself completely. It did so through the agency of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, and it has remained probably the best and most completely organized of all our primary industries. Under its system of organization, possession of dried fruits remains almost 100 per cent, in the hands of the growers’ association, which decides how much of the crop shall be sold in Australia and how much shall be exported. Only after that decision has been made does the Dried Fruits Control Board assume authority in respect of exports. The need for a system of export control arose from experience, much of which was bitter. Naturally, the overseas market frequently offered higher prices than were available on the local market. On other occasions, of course, that position was reversed. In such circumstances, merchants tried to sell all the fruit in their possession on the more attractive market.- Thus, for example, a merchant scrambling to sell dried fruits on the overseas market would shave his quotations with the result that another merchant would shave his quotations further still until, in the end, overseas quotations were reduced to parity with local prices. In that way, the advantage of higher overseas prices was lost. The same circumstances applied when the situation was reversed and local prices were higher than those offered overseas.
One primary industry after another has sought to avoid the tremendous economic loss caused by such competition. Two devices have been used in order to achieve the desired result. One device is to eliminate competition by establishing monopolistic control of exports in order to prevent the use of cut-throat tactics. The second device is to equalize the returns from the overseas market and the local market, if they are at different levels, by establishing a pool. The dried fruits industry was the first primary industry to realize clearly that its needs demanded the establishment .of a pool. A pool was formed as a result of organization within the industry. The growers realized that, in order to conduct the pool to the best advantage, they needed an authority to control exports, which could be established only under a Commonwealth statute. Therefore, they asked the Government of the day to establish an export control board. That body was established 30 years ago. Since then, the dried fruits industry has been a. shining example to other industries, which have copied its methods. It is to the high credit of the growers that, even though the industry has enjoyed a complete monopoly in both the domestic and the export market, they have never sought to exploit the public of Australia or to do anything discreditable in their conduct of overseas marketing.
– The James case solidified the whole situation.
– The desire of the growers to conduct the affairs of their own industry was not unchallenged by the merchants, and, as the honorable member for Port Adelaide has said, the
James case was probably the final and critical incident in respect of dried fruits marketing. The termination of that case represented a milestone in the history of the marketing of primary products generally. I have explained generally how the Dried Fruits Control Board fits into the management of the affairs of the industry. It also facilitated the sale of dried fruits in the special circumstances that developed during World War IT., when the United Kingdom Ministry of Food monopolized the importation of many important foodstuffs. The Dried Fruits Control Board then became the instrument foi canalizing dried fruits to the Ministry of Food and negotiating prices.
There has been an ideological difference of approach to the problems of price negotiation between the Labour party and the present Government. The former Labour government, as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has often made clear, took the view that primary products that came under government control could properly be sold by the Government according to its best judgment. This Government has taken the contrary view that a primary product remains the private property of the individuals who have worked and risked their capital in order to produce it, even after it has been placed in a pool under the control of a board.
– The Minister is a little confused. The Labour Government took the view in war-time that it had to accept responsibility for products that it had acquired when everybody else sought to evade responsibility.
– I do not want to misrepresent the honorable gentleman, but I have a vivid recollection of statements that he made in this House during debates in which I participated from the Opposition side.
– I have always emphasized that there should be a residual power.
– At any rate the honorable gentleman will admit that there has been an ideological difference between the view of the Labour socialist party and that of this Government on such matters. I am trying to illustrate the view of this Government that, ‘in selling products to the British Ministry of Food, it should not lose sight of the fact that it is dealing with the property of a groat group of individual primary producers. For that reason, since I have been Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I have not only called representatives of the producers into consultation, but also have actually sent them to London in order to conduct negotiations with the Ministry of Food for the sale of their commodity. I have done that in connexion with meat, dairy products, dried fruits, and canned fruits, and I am glad to say that it has been possible to offer some guidance to the representatives of the producers at those negotiations without depriving them of their status.
The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) reminded the House that the Labour Government entered into a contract for the sale of dried fruits to the British Ministry of Food which specified a price that was to remain firm for the first two years of operation of the contract.
– That was done on the recommendation of the Dried Fruits Control Board and with its approval. There was no interference by the Government at that time.
– I have studied the file on this subject carefully, and the honorable gentleman’s statement is not completely in accordance with the facts.
– It is.
– That is not so. I shall make the file available to the honorable- member if he wishes to refresh his memory.
– I accept the offer.
– The attitude of the Dried Fruit3 Control *Board was that, if the Government of the day considered that the arrangement was the best it could make, the board could do nothing further about the matter. It agreed that the Government should make what it considered to be the best possible deal.
– The board accepted the contract.
– It could do nothing else. It could not reject the contract. The whole truth is that the Government failed to realize that it was then in an era of rising prices and that it waa plain bad business to sell any product at a price bound by contract for two years. Before the first year of the contract had passed, it became obvious that the deal was disastrously bad. The growers had the unhappy experience of suffering from the effects of a bad business deal at a time of bad seasonal conditions.
When I ‘became the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture two and a half years ago, this industry was completely in the doldrums as the result of a combination of low production through bad seasons, and the bad prices fixed two years earlier. A few months later, .representatives of the growers, in accordance with arrangements made by me, went to London for the first time in the history of the industry with a view to negotiating a new agreement on prices. By a coincidence, I was in London at that time to -discuss wool matters, and the Dried Fruits Control Board, with my approval, asked the British Ministry of Food to agree to an increase of price. The existing ‘contract price of sultanas w.as -£56 a ton. The board decided to -ask for £73 a ton. Now, the British Ministry of Food is a tough dealer. The members of the board, and the Australian Trade Commissioner, could not persuade it to increase its offer beyond £70 .a ton. The British Ministry of Food said, in effect, “£70 a ton - finish “. At that time, we obtained some news .about crop prospects in other parts of the world, and I said to members of the board, “ My advice to you is to break off negotiations with the British Ministry of Food and return to Australia. You have the opportunity to do so. The Ministry of Food has refused to -accept your offer. You can wait until it wants to discuss the price with you “. The representatives of the board took my advice, and, three months later, they obtained £100 sterling a ton for tho fruit. In other words, they obtained an additional £87 10s. a ton in Australian currency. Therefore, in the renewed contract for each 15,000 tons of dried fruits, the advice which I gave to the representatives of the board was worth -almost £500,000. My recollection is that about 25.000 tons were sent to the United Kingdom that year on these terms. I consider that this Government has Deen able to do a service, in “broad approach and in particular experience, to this industry.
The dried fruits industry to-day, as the result of a combination of higher prices and an increased volume of production, is in a much healthier condition that it was two or three years ago. I believe that there are good prospects for the industry, but honorable members .should not ‘Overlook the fact that our principal competitors in the markets of the world are the Mediterranean countries, whose costs of production and .standard of living are much lower than ‘our own, and the United States !of America, which produces a vast .quantity of dried and canned fa-nits. The United .States of America has a business practice, when it does not achieve the full disposal of ‘its products on its domestic markets, -of dumping the surplus on overseas markets. We ha-ve encountered that policy with canned fruits and dried fruits on various occasions. Therefore, it is necessary for us to have a planned, and not an irrational expansion of the dried fruits industry. The governments of the Commonwealth and the States, and the industry itself, are in agreement on that matter. The Dried Fruits Control Board is just one machine iri the organization of the industry which, if it is employed properly, can make a most important and useful contribution to the maintenance of stability, the achievement of sales of dried fruits overseas on the best possible terms, and the establishment of planned expansion in the industry.
Honorable members may not be aware that the dried fruits industry is an im- portant earner of dollars. The United Kingdom Government, whilst it is most eager to have as much of our dried fruits as possible because they are the most highly -concentrated foods with the exception of animal and fish products, willingly approves of our selling a considerable quantity of our dried fruits to
Canada in order to earn dollars for the sterling bloc. I inform the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) that the Dried Fruits Control Board is not unaware of the need for effective publicity and propaganda for the industry. I am told that an amount of £250,000’has been expended over the years by the board for that purpose. Approximately £28,000 has also been expended on research, although, tha responsibilities of the board are in respect of export and not in respect of production. I am glad that the House approves the bill, and I hope that it will have a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section four of the Principal Act is amended by omittingsub-sections (2.), (3.), (4.), (5.), (5A.), (6.)and (7.) and inserting in their stead the following sub-sections: - “ (2.) The Board shall consist of- (a)
When I was making my second-reading speech, I unfortunately, overlooked the fact that no provision has been made for the appointment of an employees’ representative to the Dried Fruits Control Board. The workers of Australia, and particularly employees in the dried fruits industry, will be horrified to learn that my remark causes Government supporters to give vent to a dismal moan. The workers are a most important factor in the production of dried fruits, and generally co-operate ardently with their employers.
– The honorable gentleman overlooks the fact that I supported the appointment of a representative of the employees to the Australian Apple and Pear Board.
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) is an exception among honorable gentlemen opposite. The dismal moans, to which I referred, emanated principally from members of the Australian Country party, who, more than any others, are dependent upon employees for production in the primary industries. I have not raised this matter with the idea of promoting a storm of protest. I make the suggestion in all seriousness, because experience has proved conclusively that the appointment of a representative of employees to a board of this kind has been conductive to the maintenance of peace in the industry concerned. The representative of the employees has the opportunity to increase his knowledge of the industry, and to bring to the notice of the captains of the industry matters of which they have not been aware. Honorable members will recollect that earlier this evening we saw an interesting film in the Senate clubroom -
-I rise to order. Is not the honorable member for Lalor making a second-reading speech on this clause? On his own admission, he emitted to refer in his second-reading speech, to the necessity for the appointment of a representative of employees to the Dried Fruits Control Board.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - Order! The honorable member for Lalor has stated that he is submitting a proposal which is relevant to the clause under consideration and to which he omitted to refer in his secondreading speech. He may proceed.
– The film exhibited in the Senate clubroom clearly demons strated the better understanding which exists between the captains pf industry and their employees when an explanation is readily given by the employers about the need for a particular course of action. Apparently some Government supporters, particularly members of the Australian Country party, were not impressed by that film, and did not learn any lesson from it. I am gratified that, for many years, up-to-date captains of industry in private enterprise have recognized the importance of consultations with representatives of their employees. They frnquently hold round table conferences with representatives of the trade unions concerned in the conduct and welfare pf their industries. For that reason, I propose to submit an amendment to clause 3 with the object of providing for the appointment of a representative of employees to the Dried Fruits Control Board.
– Such an appointment was made to the Australian Apple and Pear Board.
– When I was the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, provision was made in various amending hills for the appointment of representatives of employees to certain boards, such as the Australian Wheat Board, the Australian Meat Board, the Australian Egg Board, the Australian Dairy Produce Board, and the Australian Apple and Pear Board. I did not hear on any occasion even the greatest tory complain about, or object to, the appointment of a representative of employees-
– The honorable member was deaf.
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) was born deaf, and it is a pity that he was not horn dumb. Had he been born dumb, he would have more sense, and people would not have to suffer his stupidity. I was saying that I did not recollect any complaint about the appointment of a representative of the employees to any of those boards.
– That is not true.
– If the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) is aware of an exception to my statement, he may inform me of it later. I have no recollection of any complaint on that ground. Apparently he has in mind a complaint about the appointment of a representative of the employees to the Australian Apple and Pear Board. But even if such a complaint had been made, it would merely indicate that the representative of the employees had been more awake to the practices of the honorable member for McMillan than were the employees’ representatives on other authorities. . However, the fact remains that I cannot recollect any complaint about thu appointment of representatives of the employees to any of those boards. Indeed, many members of those authorities have intimated to me personally from time to time that the presence of representatives of employees on those authorities was a. decided advantage, and that such appointees played a notable and worthy part in making known to the members of their organizations the problems of their respective industries and, thereby, they obtained a greater degree of co-operation than would otherwise have been possible. Sometimes, the representatives of the employees successfully obtained improved conditions for the workers in the respective industries, because they were in personal contact with the captains of the industry at meetings of the boards and were able to impress upon the employers the views of the workers. That position occurred with respect to the Australian Dairy Produce Board, because the representatives of the employees frequently visited the butter factories, and also with respect to the Australian Egg Board and doubtless to other authorities. The practice of appointing a representative of the employees to a board of this kind has h”.en so successful that even this Government has not seen fit to remove such appointees from office.
The Chifley Labour Government decided, as a matter of policy, that not more than twelve persons should be appointed to a board of this kind. The appointment of a representative of the employees to the Dried Fruits Control Board will increase the personnel of that instrumentality to twelve. I appeal to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) to accept my proposal, which I submit in good faith, because I believe that the appointment of a representative of the employees to the board will be of decided advantage to the industry as a whole. I think thai oven the conservative honorable member for McMillan will agree with my view, that is, if he has an opinion of his own and is not a slavish follower of some of the most conservative members in the ranks of the Liberal party. I have heard even the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) wax eloquent about the improved spirit of co-operation that exists between employers and employees. Recently, he got onto his hind legs for the purpose of expounding the marvellous things that have been done in America as the result of co-operation between those two sections of industry. I am sure that if there is any reluctance on the part of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to accede to my request, the Minister for External Affairs who has had more experience, may whisper in his ear and get him to accept the very reasonable proposition that I am about to put to the committee. I move as an amendment–
That, at the end of proposed sub-section ( 2. ) the following paragraph be added: - “ (h) a representative of employees.”
. -The Government cannot accept the amendment. The whole basis of the case that was made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was that there should be employee representation on an organization which was engaged in industry.
– Or in marketing, which is industry.
– This board has nothing whatever to do with industry. It achieves status only when a product has been produced and packed and is ready for sale. This board has no status in relation to conditions of labour and will not be called upon to exercise authority or even express a view in respect of them. It will have no status or opportunity to negotiate if there should be a labour dispute. So I say that there can be no opportunity for this board, or for an employees’ representative if one were appointed to it, to contribute anything towards the problems of industry such as those that have been described by the honorable member for Lalor. I invite honorable members to consider the scope of this board. It can be charged with the responsibility of negotiating the sale of millions of pounds worth of the products of growers. I cannot imagine that there could be any justifiable case for a representative of a union to sit on the board and cast a vote on the price at which other people’s property is to be sold. The growers’ representatives are on the board as representatives of the owners of the property. Their task is to try to make the best deal they can in realizing its sale. To give a union representative an opportunity to exercise an influence on the selling price would be completely indefensible in equity and would contribute nothing useful to peace in industry. The Government will not accept the amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - Order! There is too much noise and this cross-fire must cease.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the amendment , (Mr. Pollard’s) be agreed. to.
The committee divided. (The Deputy ChairmanMr. j. Bowden.)
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of the bill- by leave- taken as awhole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; re port adopted.
Bill-byleave–read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) propose d==
That the House donow adjourn.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J.Harrison) put—
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker- Hon. ArchieCameron.)
Question so resolved in. the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented
Common wealth Bank Act - Balance-sheets of Commonwealth Bank and Commonwealth Sayings Bank as at 30th June, 1952; together with Auditor-General’s reports thereon.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for postal purposes - Osborne, New South Wales.
Public Service Arbitration Act Determinations - 1952 -
No. 57 - Postal Telecommunication Technicians’ Association (Australia) and others.
No. 50 - Australian Workers’ Union.
No. 62 - Transport Workers’ Union of Australia and others.
The following answers to questions were, circulated: -
Will the Treasurer inform me of the progress that has been made with the repayment of superannuation contributions that were deducted from the salaries of retired public servants who were recalled to duty during the war period? Have all claims been duly met? Whatactionhas been taken regarding those former publicservants who were affected by the legislation that was enacted last year but who died before their claims for refunds could he submitted to the Treasury?
I now inform the honorable member that all payments have now been authorized with the exception of twelve cases in which further investigation is necessary. With regard to those who were pensioners at the time the legislation was enacted last year but who died before they could submit a claim, the amount of the refund has been paid automatically to their estates.
Supply, upon notice -
House adjourned at 11.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 September 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520917_reps_20_219/>.