20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER. (Ron.. Archie. Cameron) took the chair at. 2.30 p.m., and read papers.
– Dr. EVATT.- My question is addressed to the Minister fac Defence. We all have read the- statement of the honorable gentleman about the outstanding success’ of the first al-British experiment with atomic explosives, at *the Monte Bello Islands. Will the- Minister) subject,, of course, to- security precautions, give’ the
House as early as- practicable, some Malformation about, the details’ of that experiment . so far as. it is reasonably -possible to do sat
– As the leader of the Opposition) has stated, the explosion1 took place at the Monte Bello Islands and,, at present, the scientists who were present on that occasion are making their report which, I understand, will be presented: to Mr. Churchill. Subsequently, I hope to be able to make some announcement on matters relative to the explosion which can Be made public. 1 assure the Leader of the Opposition that I shall give as much information as possible about it to the House.
– <!an the. Minister for Commerce and Agriculture ‘inform me whether it is a fact that- the Australian Government is- now negotiating with the British Government for a substantial increase of the price for beef sold under the fifteen-year meat contract ! Has the Australian Government or the British Government indicated its* desire to abandon the government-to-government buying of beef and revert to private enterprise selling between Australia and Great Britain?
– -TIle annual price negotiations” under the’ terms of the fifteen-year meat agreement are1 now. pro?ceeding in London. Negotiations on the prices’ of mutton and lamb- concluded recently, when an increase’ of 16.6 per cent, on last year’s prices* was agreed upon. Mi; E. A. Brodie and Mr. P. A. Elliott,, the representatives of the beef producers^, who are members of the Australian Meat. B’oa-J and, also the manager of- the board, are now negotiating the requested’ beef price increase-, in London. It: has not been my practice to make- any requested increase public,, because, such a> disclosure- would lend itself to speculative trading. How? ever, we have, submitted to the British Ministry of Food the basis- of a-, price increase. It is the- stated desire.- of the present. British Government to revert from bulk trading to trader-to-trader trading. It is the polley of. the Australian Government to revert to. tradertotrader dealing ir- eat with the United
Kingdom, so long as the meat industry here is not placed at a disadvantage by such a reversion. The terms of the contract permit, on the decision of the United Kingdom Government, the reversion to trader-to-trader dealing. At the present time, as the result of meat rationing, the differences in prices of meat produced in the United Kingdom and that imported, and the shortage generally, the British Government does not see the prospect of an early reversion to tradertotrader dealing, but both governments hope that it will be brought about later.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development whether approximately 1,000,000 tons of good steam but poor gas coal is now at grass in New South “Wales and whether mines that are producing coal of the former quality have been given noice to reduce the rate of their production. I point out that as a result of this action approximately 300 employees at mines in the Cardiff area have been stood down. Is it not a fact that Mr. Norman Mighell-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not introduce the name of any individual into a question that is asked without notice.
– Is it not a fact that, during the early stages of the recent war, a former chairman of the Joint Coal Board directed that steam coal and gas coal be mixed and that the mixed coal was sold? Will tie Minister direct the board to adopt a similar policy and thus obviate causing unemployment in the industry?
– Order! The tendency is again becoming apparent on the part of honorable members to introduce names of individuals into questions that are asked without notice. In future, I shall rule such questions out of order and shall not permit them to be answered.
– I shall obtain from the Minister for National Development the information that the honorable member has sought and will supply it to him as soon as possible.
– I. address a question to the Minister acting for the PostmasterGeneral concerning the large-scale extension of telephone services that has been undertaken in the Hornsby area in New South Wales. Some time ago, in reply tq a question that I addressed to the Minister, he announced that this large scale work would be commenced. It was commenced but was suspended owing to technical difficulties that arose in relation to installations at Hookham’s Corner. When are those difficulties likely to be overcome and when is work likely to be recommenced ?
– Personally, I have no knowledge of the matter that the honorable member has raised. I shall obtain the information for which he has asked and supply it to him as early aif possible.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware that the establishment of Commonwealth Hostels Limited has resulted in retrenchment of a number of members of the Public Service who were previously employed at immigration hostels and that some public servants in the same category who have not been retrenched have been reduced to lower classifications than those in which they were formerly employed in the Public Service? Can he inform the House whether these employees retain the protection of the Public Service Act in relation to their transfer from the Public Service proper to Commonwealth Hostels Limited and whether the dismissals are being carried out in accordance with the priorities normally observed in the Public Service in similar circumstances?
– I have no detailed knowledge of the matters to which the honorable member has referred. I should imagine that as the intake of immigrants has been reduced there has been a corresponding reduction in the staffs required to cater for immigrants in the hostels service. So far as the protection of public service legislation is concerned, my understanding of the position is that such protection would, apply to persons who were formerly permanent members of the Public Service and that those who formerly were temporarily employed in the Public Service would be liable to dismissal on proper notice being given to them. I should assume that with respect to the observance of priorities in effecting these dismissals the normal practice would be followed. However, I shall obtain authoritative information on the matter and, if necessary, furnish a fuller reply to the honorable member later.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture acquaint the House of the precise nature of the American inquiry into a proposed tariff on wool imported into that country? Will the Government inform the United States Administration of the concern that the inquiry has aroused in the Australian wool industry, of the adverse effect that, undoubtedly, such a tariff would have on the Australian economy, and of the possible damage to American-Australian relations that would ensue therefrom?
– I have not in my mind the exact terms of the tariff inquiry that is proceeding at present in the United States of America. The inquiry, which concerns the effect of imported wool on the American textile industry and upon the Federal Treasury of the United States of America in respect of its support price plan, is being conducted on the direction of the President of the United States of America. I shall secure the precise wording of the inquiry direction, if I can do so, and advise any honorable members who are interested in the matter of it. The Australian Government recognizes that vital economic interests of this country could be most seriously affected by the inquiry. The Australian Government, having consulted Australian wool interests, is taking all appropriate steps on its own initiative to defend Australian interests. I am bound to say that, in each of the two previous years, we have encountered quite a serious threat to our wool interests as a result of the view taken by the United States Administration in each of those years that world prices for wool were too high. To-day, the only justifiable basis for this inquiry is a supposition that world wool prices are too low. It makes life pretty difficult to keep up with.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that a committee of inquiry on sugar, the appointment of which the right honorable gentleman announced in March of this year, made its report to the Government on the 18th September? If so, why has the Government not yet made a decision on the report? When will the decision be made?
– The report referred to by the honorable member has been made. It was considered by Cabinet at the earliest possible moment. It is a very long report, as I have some reason to know, because I have read it: It is also a very important one. The matter has been dealt with by Cabinet. Certain formal steps have to be taken after Cabinet has made a decision. I expect that the decision will be announced within the next forty-eight hours.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any official information that he can give to the House about recent proposals for a settlement of the oil dispute between Britain and Iran ?
– We have no information of any consequence, other than that which has appeared in the press, about the negotiations for a settlement of the dispute which have taken place during the last ten days. Our information supports press statements about the more hopeful terms of the last approach to the Iranian Government by the United Kingdom Government, and the response to that approach. I am afraid that I cannot give the honorable gentleman any further information.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that, in his 1949 policy speech, he declared himself to be in favour of a ten-year wheat stabilization plan? Is it also a fact that the Government has proposed now that the plan shall be extended for only twelve months? Why has the right honorable gentleman reversed his previous declaration?
– I shall be very happy to supply to the honorable member a copy of my 1949 policy speech which, with the exception of the photograph on the cover, is an admirable production.
– The photograph was the only good thing in it.
– I said, “with the exception of the photograph “. If I had wanted to make the printed copy of the speech more effective I should have had published on the cover a photograph of the honorable member for Lalor. I need hardly add that the negotiations with relation to wheat are in the extremely competent hands of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– As there is still some confusion in Tasmania regarding the increased benefits provided under the Commonwealth’s national health scheme, aided deliberately, I am afraid, by the Tasmanian Minister for Health, will the Minister for Health indicate the total gain to Tasmania in respect of health benefits this financial year compared with the comparable benefits made available in the financial year 1948-49?
– The total gainoverall, will be to the value of £900,000. The total gain in respect of hospital insurance will be about £350,000.
– I direct to the Minister for Immigration a question that relates to the destruction of the contractual rights of Austrian workmen, as a result of a State government pleading that they are enemy aliens, after having entered into contracts with them. Will the Minister indicate whether the Commonwealth can do anything to re-establish in Austria Australia’s credit, which has been destroyed by this action ?
– I shall obtain the latest information available about the matter to which the honorable member has referred. I am at a loss to understand the honorable member’s reference to the destruction of Australia’s credit in Austria. While I was in Europe recently I took an opportunity to pay a short visit to Vienna, where I discussed immigration with representatives of the Austrian Government. I met with no criticism in relation to the phase of immigration that the honorable member has mentioned that would suggest that there had been any loss of confidence in Australia, although I recall the matter having been mentioned to me by a member of the Austrian Government. I assured the representatives-
– The Western Australian Government is the State government concerned.
– Yes, I am familiar with the facts of the matter to which the honorable member for Fremantle has referred. While in Austria I assured the representatives of the Austrian Government that I would investigate the matter when I returned to Australia, and I propose to do so at the earliest opportunity.
– As the Minister forImmigration has elaborated at great length many matters that are not included in the agreement to bring immigrants from Germany to Australia, will he now make available details of the matters that are included in the agreement?
– I shall see whether I can get the substance of the agreement. I do not know whether the honorable member requires it in its full legal context, but I shall investigate the practicability of making a copy available to any honorable gentleman who may be interested in it.
– Has. the Minister for Defence any explanation to offer regarding a statement made in the South Australian Parliament last Thursday by the Premier that the Minister had given me false information when he told me by letter that he had suggested to the Premier that if his Government desired to have kitchenettes added to hostels, the Commonwealth would be prepared to make a hostel available for that purpose to the State Government on reasonable terms, but that the suggestion met with no response from the South
Australian Premier.- Has the Minister any comment to make with respect to’ the concluding- paragraph of the Premier’s remarks, which are recorded in South Australian Hansard, and which I shall quote-
– Order! The honorable ‘gentlemen is going outside the scope of a question without notice.
– I desire to quote-
-Order,! The honorable member may not make such a quotation.
– I shall state the substance of the Premier’s remarks-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman1 may not do that either. He must ask a question.
– Has the Minister any explanation to offer with respect to the South Australian Premier’s statement that Mr. McBride - that is what he said-
– I rise to order. You, Mr. Speaker, have called the’ honorable member to order and you have directed attention to the fact that he has violated the Standing Orders in not one respect but in many respects. I now ask, Mr. Speaker, if you will exercise your authority and request the honorable member to resume his seat ?
– If the House desires that I shall apply the Standing Orders strictly I shall do so. As I have said on previous occasions, honorable members may ask only one question at a time, and it must relate to a matter that requires the urgent attention of the Minister to whom it is directed. However, many honorable members ask questions that contain not one, but from six to nine separate questions; The proper place for such questions is the noticepaper. If it is the desire of the House, I shall strictly apply the Standing Orders; and I shall commence to do so from this very moment. Has the honorable member a question to address- to a Minister?
– I wish te know whether the Minister has amy comment-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is not entitled to’ ask for comment. If he desires- to ask a- question, it must relate to some point of administration for’ which the Minister for Defence is responsible to this House. In asking, a question without notice, an honorable gentleman may not express opinions, and he may not give information. The Standing Orders also distinctly provide that an honorable gentleman cannot ask for legal advice or for an expression of opinion from a Minister when asking a question.
– I ask the Minister whether he signed a- document that may have been prepared by somebody else or whether he has forgotten a certain conversation that took place between the South Australian Premier and himself on the matter to which I have referred ?
– I have no knowledge of the comment that the South Australian Premier is alleged to have made. I can only repeat, as I have said on a previous occasion in this House, that I discussed the subject of the provision of kitchenettes at the immigration hostel at Gepp’s Cross with the South Australian Premier. That gentleman has made a proposal to me on the matter, and it will receive consideration by the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the remarkable increase of our export trade that is indicated in the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures published to-day which show that the exports for September Were valued at £53,900,000-*-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is giving information. He should be asking for information.
– If I may mention just one more figure, Mr. Speaker, it is the September figure compared with the figure of £39,100-000 for the same month last year. I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the amazing improvement of our trade balance in the last three months, the Government will consider easing import controls, particularly in relation to Taw materials required for industry.
– The matters to which the honorable member has referred have, of course, attracted the attention of the Government, which regards them with a good deal of, pleasure. The problem of the effect that these matters may have on import restrictions is one which is studied with great regularity because, as the honorable member will appreciate, we are npt anxious to maintain controls to the full any longer than is necessary, and we should be happy at any time to be able to institute modifications. The honorable member may be assured that we are watching these facts. We are in constant touch with them, and if and when opportunities arise to modify the rigours of import control we shall be very happy to do so. At the moment, however, that is not a practicable proposition-
– Can the Minister for the Army inform me whether it is a fact that a certain finance company in Sydney is re-possessing motor vehicles that have been purchased on time payment by young men who arc now undergoing military training? Is there any way in which these men can be protected while in camp, and if so has the Government any proposal in connexion with this matter?
– This is the first time that I have heard of the matter mentioned in the honorable member’s question. If he will be good enough to give me details of particular instances, I shall have them thoroughly investigated. If it is possible to help servicemen, the honorable member can rest assured that I shall do so.
– Has it been reported to the Minister for the Army by the military authorities that many members of the Citizen Military Forces are complaining bitterly about the inadequacy and poor quality of the food supplied to them in army camps? If this has not been reported to the Minister, will he call for reports about the matter from his subordinates and ask the fathers and mothers of the trainees to inform him how many times a month they have to supply their sons with hampers of food to supplement the meagre fare provided by the camp authorities? In view of the general and widespread nature of the complaints, will he arrange for members of the Parliament to investigate these matters for themselves ?
– I deprecate very much the repeated efforts of the honorable member to destroy national service training and the Citizen Military For6e.
– That remark is offensive to me, Mr. Speaker, and” I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Which remark?
-. - The remark that I have repeatedly tried to destroy the system of military defence. I ask for a withdrawal of the remark and an apology.
– Order ! The honorable member for Watson has said that the remark is offensive to him. I ask the Minister to withdraw it.
– I readily comply with the Standing Orders, Mr. Speaker. I withdraw the remark.
– And apologize !
-Order! I asked for a withdrawal, and a withdrawal has been made.
– The remark was offensive, sir, and I should like to have an apology.
-Order ! I point out to the honorable gentleman that a decision to demand ah apology is a matter for the Chair. In this case, the honorable member must bear in mind that, whatever the opinion expressed by the Minister may have amounted to, the question contained several matters of opinion.
– I say without equivocation that national service training and the general activities of the Citizen Military Force since this Government has been in office have been carried on smoothly and effectively and have reached the highest standard of efficiency in Australia’s history. I say that, not because it is my view alone, but because it is the view of everybody in Australia whose opinion is worth considering. Newspapers, radio stations and public men throughout Australia, and the chaplains who attend national service training camps, have been unstinted in their appreciation and praise of the way in which national service trainees, and the Citizen Military Force as a whole, have responded to the appeal of this Government and done a job that is second to none in the world. On the subject of food, I challenge the honorable member to tell me of one day on which the food provided in any camp in Australia was inadequate. My department has a copy of the menu for every meal served to the armed forces, and, in addition, it has the reports of orderly sergeants and orderly officers on the comments that they have obtained from the troops who have eaten that food. Finally, I say that national service trainees invariably come out of camp many pounds, and possibly many stone, heavier than when they went into camp.
Honorable members interjecting,
-Order! I ask the House to come to order. The present behaviour of honorable members is out of keeping with the proper conduct of business in this chamber.
– I am amazed that the honorable member for Watson should have made the statement that was embodied in his question to-day, because there has not been a Citizen Military Force camp during the last three mouths. Apparently it has taken the honorable gentleman three months to hear that lads in the Citizen Military Force have not been adequately fed !
– Will the” Minister for the Army make an official comment to the House in relation to the’ reports that recent actions in Korea have resulted in the loss of seven hills, the recapture of five of them by the United Nations forces and the wiping out of one unit of the United Nations forces by the Communist forces? Were Australian troops involved in these actions, and are the reports that I have mentioned true reports ?
– My advice from the Deputy Chief of the General Staff is that only one platoon of the composite British Commonwealth Division is engaged in this action. I have also been advised that the statements that have appeared in the press are somewhat exaggerated. The engagement at present taking place is of an intermittent character between companies and battalions along the Korean battlefront. I have no information on whether Australian forces are engaged in this particular action, but the advice that I have received is that we have no assurance whether or not they are so engaged. As far as I am aware we are not engaged.
Mr. Clark having ashed a question,
– The question is clearly one of policy, and should go on the notice-paper.
– I regret that I did not hear the question. ifr. CLARK. - I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister has said that he did not hear the question. I spoke quite clearly. Am I not entitled to the courtesy of the Prime Minister listening to a question directed to him?
– A Minister is not obliged to answer any question. That is clearly laid down in the Standing Orders. In my view the whole of the honorable member’s question dealt with financial policy, and the Standing Orders provide that questions on policy should not be asked without notice.
– In view of the suggestions recently made by certain senior members of this House that the. Department of Repatriation had not been acting in accord with the law as expressed in the Repatriation Act - and I refer in particular to the Repatriation Commission, the war pensions entitlement appeals tribunals, and the other official tribunals that operate in the various States - will the Prime Minister be good enough to ask officers of the Attorney-General’s Department to confer with officers of the Department of Repatriation with a view to providing the repatriation authorities with a precis and appreciation of the law so that they may have a clear understanding of what is expected of them and so that those persons who, in this Parliament, have been responsible for the law may, not at some future date, be able to say that servants of this Parliament are not carrying out their instructions ?
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the United Nations Economic and Social Council has called upon all nations to incorporate in their national laws the principle of equal pay for both sexes who are doing similar work? Is the right honorable gentleman also aware that the British House of Commons has approved a private member’s bill which applies that principle to men and women in all sections of the Public Service? As Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Charter, and as the present Prime Minister, in- his policy speech in 1949, pledged his Government to deal speedily with this matter, will he inform me whether he contemplates any action to give effect to this pledge to the people of Australia and the United Nations? Can he inform me when the principle will be introduced in the Public Service
– The honorable member for Phillip has refrained from quoting the words used in my policy speech in 1949. If he will restate his question tomorrow and give us the benefit of the words in the policy speech, I shall be happy to answer his question.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Immigration a question regarding the sorry plight of a number of British immigrants, who are miners and live in hostels on the south coast of New South Wales. No employment has been found for them and bills for their board are piling up against them. They have now been threatened with legal action. Can the Minister inform me whether it is a fact that the miners’ federation has closed its books against the admission of new members in order to protect- its members against unemployment, so that consequently it is impossible for new miners to get work? Will the Minister consider the advisability of cancelling the debt incurred by the immigrants to whom I have referred until employment can be found for them?
– I do not know how many men are in the situation to which the honorable member for Cunningham has referred. In discussions with me, he indicated that he had in mind one case, but now apparently he has many cases in mind. I shall be glad to have the details of any persons who are in the situation he has mentioned. The fact that the miners’ federation has closed its books against British miners who have come to this country is a matter in which perhaps he could assist me by persuading the federation to change its .mind. Certain legislation which was recently introduced into this Parliament would make the federation’s action illegal, to the best of my recollection of the position. As the honorable member knows, there are considerable industrial opportunities arising from the expansion . of industry on the south coast of New South Wales and I have no doubt that the immigrants concerned will be suitably placed in a reasonably short time. However, if there is anything the department can do regarding their accommodation, I shall be pleased to examine the position.
– Can the Minister for Air inform me whether any decision has yet been made regarding arrangements for the permanent employment of civilian staff at Royal Australian Air Force stores depots ? If a decision has been made, will the Minister give me some information about the conditions under which the staff is appointed?
– The Government has. decided that at head-quarters and static establishments, about 60 per cent, of the personnel will be civilians and the balance will be serving personnel. We have decided that the stores depot at Toowoomba, in the honorable member’s electorate, will be largely civilianized. I think that this is the* first step in the direction of civilianization. We have 150 personnel there, and it is intended to increase that number to 200. The civilian employees will be public servants, either temporary or permanent, and will be employed under the terms and conditions of the Public Service Act.
– Will the Minister for the Army confer with the Minister for Repatriation, whom he representsin this House, .in an endeavour to overcome the unfortunate situation that exists in the artificial limb factory in the Department of Repatriation in Hobart? This factory manufactures artificial limbs, and, naturally, priority in the fulfilment of orders is given to ex-servicemen. However, as this factory is the only establishment in Tasmania which can supply artificial limbs to persons in that State, it has also endeavoured to undertake to supply civilian requirements. Will the Minister suggest to the Minister for Repatriation that an employee of the State Government be included in this factory in order to overcome the backlog of the civilian orders? At present approximately 30 persons are awaiting the delivery of artificial limbs.
– I shall be pleased to confer with the Minister for Repatriation on the matter to which the honorable member for Franklin has referred. I know how efficient the artificial limb factories conducted by the Department of Repatriation are. They have done a good job. I am sorry to hear that at least 30 persons in Tasmania need artificial limbs, and I am sure that the Minister will be glad to do everything possible to help them. I shall suggest to him the possibility of transferring, at least temporarily until the backlog is overtaken, competent- officers from the mainland to assist in this matter in order to ensure that those persons who are awaiting the delivery of artificial limbs will receive every possible consideration. I shall bring to the notice of the Minister the suggestion of the honorable gentleman that a State official be employed for that purpose. I am sure that the Minister will do everything possible to assist in this matter.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs’ inform me whether any action has been taken on the recommendation of the Foreign Affairs Committee, which is composed entirely of Government members, that the AttorneyGeneral be asked to examine the joint declaration of the preparatory peace conference at Peking to ascertain whether the Australian signatories are guilty of sedition or treason? Will the Minister recognize that continued lack of action, or of an announcement, perpetuates a smear and a slander against Australian citizens, one of whom is one of my constituents ?
– The Attorney-General has not yet reported to me on the matter in question, but I shall discuss it with him, and see whether he can give me the information at an early date.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether it is a fact that under the Australian, New Zealand and United States of America Pacific security pact, which is commonly referred to as the Anzus agreement, no positive obligation rests upon the United States of America to use its military forces to aid the other member nations should any of their territories be attacked? Is it also a fact that Great Britain would consider itself to be automatically at war if any member of the British Commonwealth of Nations were attacked and, consequently, under an obligation to render all aid within its power to that country? If this is so, how does the Minister justify the persistent opposition of the Australian Government to- the right of Great Britain to participate in any way whatsoever in the deliberations of the Anzus organization, the decisions of which could, by involving Australia and New Zealand in war, automatically com-: mit Great Britain to war without affording to Great Britain the right to a voice prior to such a decision being made ?
– My reply to the firstof the honorable member’s questions; it that he, in common with all other honorable gentlemen, knows perfectly well the simple terms of the Anzus treaty under which each of the parties regards itself as attacked if any other party to the treaty is attacked.
– That is not so.
– I reiterate what I have just said.
– Order ! The honorable member for Melbourne is not entitled to debate the question.
– With respect to the remainder of the honorable member’s questions, the facts are simple. They have been, simply described by not only the Prime Minister, but also myself on many occasions both inside and outside this House, and there can be no doubt about them. This is a regional agreement in this part of the world. It has three signatories and, as I have endeavoured on previous occasions to point out in the simplest terms, any extension of the treaty must inevitably be a very considerable extension. It is believed that until this three-power treaty gets into its stride and experience has been gained of its working, it is best to confine it to its present limited membership. Clearly, the inference to be drawn from the question that the honorable member has asked is that Australia is indifferent to the interests of the United Kingdom. On behalf of the Government; I completely reject that inference. To-day, we are as close to Great Britain on all matters of consequence as we have ever been in our history. We may be closer. This is a very mischievous attempt to stir up trouble between Great Britain and Australia. No such trouble arises in this matter. If there were any difficulties of the kind which the honorable member has mischievously implied, how is that, at this moment, representatives of Great Britain, the United States of America, New Zealand, France and Australia are now conferring at Washington on a wide range of matters which overlap those that are dealt with in the Anzus treaty? Those discussions are of a military character and relate to the area to which I am now referring. I again reject the mischievous inference that may be drawn from the question that the honorable member has asked. Australia and the Mother Country were never closer than they are to-day, and any suggestion to the contrary is mischievous.
Bill presented by Mr. McEwen, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
The bill proposes amendments of the Wool Realization (Distribution of Profits) Act 1948 to permit a distribution to persons who have left the wool industry of their full entitlement of profits arising from the operations of the Joint Organization, and to set a final date by which all profits shall be distributed. It was proposed to introduce this measure very much earlier, but, although the Government has fully recognized the anxiety with which many people who- have left the industry have awaited the payment of this money, the opportunity for earlier passage of the legislation was affected by the several postponements of the hearing of the Poulton case, to which I shall refer in a moment.
The origin of the profits is well known. The Joint Organization was established in 1945 to act as the agent of the Governments of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom in the disposal of approximately 10,500,000 bales of dominion wool which had accumulated during the war. Of this . quantity, 6,800,000 bales were Australian. It’ was expected originally that it would take thirteen or fourteen years to complete this disposals operation, but instead, it took a little over five years to sell this vast accumulation of wool, and then concurrently with new clip wool. The last of the Joint Organization wool was sold in the 1951-52 season.
The United Kingdom is entitled to receive half of the profits made by the Joint Organization. After all administrative and other costs have been met, and after the United Kingdom Government has received its share of the profits, approximately £92,000,000 has accrued to Australia. The Joint Organization, which is a company registered in the
United Kingdom, is now in liquidation, lt is expected that a relatively small additional sum, perhaps of the order of £1,000,000 or £2,000,000, will accrue to Australia during the liquidation, chiefly from the sale of the assets of the Joint Organization, which include about 300 wool stores in Australia, and a residual sum realized from the sale of wool. The Joint Organization has done a magnificent job, and I pay a tribute to those, including the Joint Organization subsidiary in Australia - the Australian Wool Realization Commission - who contributed to making it such a financial success and an outstanding example of inter-governmental co-operation.
Until the end of 1948, there were no grounds for assuming that there would be profits, because it was possible that the Joint Organization, in giving effect to its reserve price obligations, might have had to buy in such large quantities of wool that no profits would be made. However, late in. 1948, anticipating that there might be profits, Parliament passed the Wool Realization (Distribution of Profits) Act, which was designed to give precise effect to the several governmental promises that Australian wool-growers would receive profits made from the sale of the wool supplied by them in war-time. It is unnecessary to refer in detail to that act now, beyond saying that it enabled the Government to make advance distributions out of the expected net profit, and to make a final distribution when the full profit had been ascertained. Further, it established the right of all wool-growers who had submitted participating wool during the war to share in all distributions of profits by reference to the value of wool submitted by them for appraisement.
In November, 1949, the first profit distribution under the act . was made. Approximately £25,000,000 was paid out in the middle of 1949-50 wool year, when wool prices reached quite high levels. In the following season, 1950-51, wool prices attained unprecedented heights - the seasonal average price for greasy wool was 144d. per lb. - but, late in that season, they fell substantially, and the somewhat lower levels then established prevailed during the 1951-52 season, when the average price for greasy wool sold at auction was 72d. per lb. In March of this year, this Government arranged for a distribution of a further £25,000,000. Thus, in the last three years, in addition to very satisfactory returns arising from the sale of current clips at high prices, woolgrowers have received two payments totalling £50,000,000, representing profits on wool supplied by them in war-time.
The Government has decided that a programme shall be established for the distribution of the balance of the profits. It has become increasingly evident that a number of wool-growers, who left the wool industry before the high level of wool prices became established, have been experiencing hardship of one form or another. Some are aged and infirm, and have been looking forward to receiving their shares of the profit to assist them to carry on. Careful consideration was given by the Government to the possibility of making special provision to meet cases of hardship by making to the persons concerned an early distribution of their full profit entitlement. This examination showed, however, that it would be exceedingly difficult to determine hardship satisfactorily, and the Government came to the conclusion that the most satisfactory way of dealing with the many cases that had come to its notice would be to make a distribution to all those wool-growers who had left the industry of their full entitlement. As I have said, the people who were affected were those who had left the industry before the higher level of wool prices became established. Such a distribution was not necessary for those who had enjoyed the high wool prices during and after 1949-50. Therefore, after consultation with representatives of the wool-growers’ organizations, the Government decided that he special distribution should be extended only to those who had left the woolgrowing industry before the 1st September, 1949, which marked the opening of both the 1949-50 wool-selling season and the era of higher wool prices.
The Government decided, further, that, after the interim distribution of £25,000,000 in March, 1952, in which all entitled persons participated, there should be further interim distributions to those persons who had remained in the industry after the 1st September, 1949, the object being to make, as provided in the bill, the final distribution not later than the financial year 1954-55. Subject to developments in the Poulton case, the Government’s intention is that there shall be three further such distributions at annual intervals.
Three main factors were responsible for the Government’s decision not to distribute at once all the profits available. First, the level of taxation was, and still is, such that, had the full profit entitlement been distributed to all wool-growers in one distribution, a great majority of them would have retained very little of the money which it was the intention of the Government - indeed, the intention of all governments since 1939 - should be paid to them. The principal beneficiary would have been the Consolidated Revenue, and that would have been contrary to the Commonwealth’s intention. The incomes that most wool-growers received in the 1949-50, 1950-51 and 1951-52 wool seasons put them into such taxation bracket that they would have retained only a very small percentage of any accretion to their incomes by way of Joint Organization profit moneys if there had been only one distribution. The second reason -and from the point of view of the national economy a very important reason - for the Government’s decision not to make a complete distribution of profits was that the addition of approximately £67,000,000 to the currency stream in a period of high wool prices and rising prices in general would have magnified greatly the inflationary problem, the effects of which the Australian economy Is Still feeling. The third reason is that there is still pending in the High Court the Case known as the Poulton case, in which the plaintiff, who is a dealer, not only claimed, as against the grower, to be entitled to payment under the act, but put in issue’ the whole basis of the war-time wool acquisition scheme. The hearing of the case has been completed, but judgment in it has been reserved. In the circumstances, the Government considered that the proper course for it to take was to postpone the completion of distribution of payments under the act. In doing so, it considered that it had to take into account all possible implications, of the Poulton case. So far as the special distribution to persons who have left the industry is concerned, this third reason is the only factor responsible for the delay in making payments of their current full entitlement to such persons. Hox long this situation will prevail will depend on the length of time that the litigation may take to settle.
If, as is hoped, the case is settled very soon, passage of this legislation now will enable the Government to make the special distribution to persons who have left the industry as soon after the court’s judgment as their applications can be dealt with.
The Government recognizes, however, that the legal proceedings could be prolonged by an appeal to the Privy Council. If that eventuality were to occur, adherence of the Government to its decision to postpone, during the litigation, further payments under the act would delay further distribution to those who have left the industry and would negative the Government’s objective of relieving hardship. The Government is anxious to avoid this and wishes, in the event of prolonged litigation, to be able’ to distribute to those who have left the industry at least a portion of their full entitlement, pending settlement of the Poulton case. The Government cannot decide what portion could be safely distributed until it is aware of the total amount involved in payments under the special distribution, but when this is disclosed ‘by the applications from persons entitled to participate in thd special distribution a decision can be made and an appropriate amount distributed. Applications will be called for immediately the legislation is passed.
The bill has, therefore, been drafted to cover the alternative possibilities of a prompt or deferred settlement of the litigation. It is not proposed that these special arrangements should apply to persons who had not left the industry before the 1st September, 1949, that is, to the participants who would normally share in the three annual distributions, and, of course, they would not apply in respect of any profit moneys relating to wool submitted for war-time appraisement through dealers. Such moneys are directly at issue- in the Poulton case, and can be paid only when the court has determined whether the dealer or grower should receive them’. I wish to make it clear that this bill, if passed, will enable the Government to carry through promptly its policy intention to pay out the full entitlement of profit to all of those persons who left the wool industry prior to the 1st September, 1 949.
– If the Minister says that is so, how can he then go on to say - –
– I just wanted to add that the bill provides against the possible contingency of an appeal of the Privy Council in the Poulton case. In such an eventuality the Government would not wish those who have left the industry to be denied any distribution until the appeal had been finally resolve–!, and so the bill provides that in t’ie event of a prolongation of the legal proceedings the Government will make such a proportionate distribution of their entitlement fo the people who have left the industry as, in the judgment of our legal advisers, it shall be prudent to make.
– There is nothing to prevent the Government from doing that in respect of others, if it wishes to do so.
– That is true.
The bill allows payment of the annual instalments to which I have referred as decided by the Government, provided that all the profits are distributed not later than the 30th June, 1955. There would thus be flexibility enabling the Government to make a final distribution much sooner than would otherwise be possible, should that be considered necessary or desirable.
The bill also provides for the creation of a trust fund, to be known as the Wool Disposals Profit Fund. Into this fund will be paid all the profits, including those now held by the Australian Wool Realization Commission, that arose from the operations of the Joint Organization other than those already paid out or reserved for later payment under previous distributions. The interim distribution effected last March was made, as contemplated in section 25 of the existing act, out of an advance made by the Commonwealth Bank to the Australian Wool
Realization Commission. Repayment of this advance would be made out of the Joint Organization profit moneys that the bill authorizes the commission to retain. Legal advice received by the Government suggests the advisability of validating the method of distribution adopted in 1949, and the bill contains a provision to cover this aspect. The profits, amounting to about £1,000,000, derived from the war-time arrangement for the sale of sheepskins to the United Kingdom will also be paid into the trust fund. Payments in subsequent distributions would be made out of the Wool Disposals Profit Fund.
The measure will introduce a completely new part into the existing act so as to enable the Government to make the special distribution to those persons who left the industry before the 1st September, 1949. Each person’s share in that distribution would be calculated as a percentage of the appraised value of all wool that was submitted by him for appraisement in the war years and which was regarded as “ participating wool “ in the war-time scheme. That percentage would be calculated according to the amount in the Wool Disposals Profit Fund at the time of the special distribution and the total appraised value of all participating wool. Persons sharing in the special distribution would receive, in one payment, their full share of all profit moneys held in the fund at that time, provided the Poulton case were settled by then. Otherwise, as I have already indicated, they would receive, as an advance payment, as much as the Government considered could be safely paid out, having regard to the total amount payable under the special distribution and the implications of the Poulton case.
I have foreshadowed further receipts of up to £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 from the Joint Organization in liquidation. These moneys would be paid into the Wool Disposals Profit Fund and, if that occurred before the special distribution was declared, those persons who left the wool industry before the 1st September, 1949, Would, of course, receive their share in the additional moneys as part of the special distribution, together with their due share in any interest -moneys. If, however, as is possible, these moneys are received after the special distribution has been made, those persons would receive, as part of the final distribution, their due share of those accretions and of any interest moneys relating to them.
The moneys remaining in the Wool Disposals Profit Fund after the declaration of the special distribution would be divided among those entitled persons who remained in the industry on and after the 1st September, 1949, together with their share of such new profits as might subsequently be received. It is this money which the Government proposes should be paid out in further annual instalments. Expenses in each distribution would be borne by the participants in the respective distribution.
Participation in the special distribution would be by application, supported by statutory declaration, lodged with the Australian Wool Realization Commission before a specified date which might be extended by the Minister. These applications would form the basis of a list, or lists, showing the names of those who in the opinion of the Minister were entitled to share in the special distribution, and would become the basis for the special distribution. Each person would then be entitled to be paid an amount equal to the declared percentage of the appraised value of participating wool specified in the list against his name. It is proposed that the applications made by persons to participate in this special distribution will be examined by the Australian Wool Realization Commission. The commission has on it a majority of growers, and would make recommendations to the Minister about whether the claims should be considered as coming within the’ provisions of the legislation.
Because of the special groups which are referred to in the existing act, it has been necessary to make specific provision for the treatment, in connexion with the special distribution, of trustees, holders of securities, companies and partnerships. There is also a clause to ensure that, although a person may qualify technically for the special distribution, he may be excluded from payments under it if the Minister considers that in all the circumstances he cannot fairly be re garded as having left the industry before the 1st September, 1949. His overall entitlement, of course, Would not be thereby affected. Under the existing act, payments of less than £1 in any distribution are not made but, because it is now contemplated that there will be five distributions in all, the act is being amended to provide that, as part of the final distribution, the total of such unpaid amounts will be paid to entitled persons provided it exceeds £1. Many of the provisions in the amending bill are of a machinery nature resulting from the alteration of the scheme df the existing act, and I need not refer to them at this stage. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned. . ,
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of collections of duties of customs under customs tariff proposals.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill f°r an act to provide for the validation of collections of duties of excise under excise tariff proposals.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to approve an agreement made between the Commonwealth and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited, and for purposes connected therewith.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
y - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to approve the agreement ‘ made between the Commonwealth and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited for the sale of the
Australian Government’s interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and to repealthe Oil Agreement Acts of 1920, 1924 and 1926. These acts ratified agreements entered into between the Commonwealth and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited for the establishment of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The schedule to the Oil Agreement Act of 1920 contained the provisions of the agreement between the AngloIranian Oil Company Limited and the Commonwealth. The acts of 1924 and 1926 provided for increases in the capital of the company. Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was established in 1920 following the approval of the Parliament to the agreement entered into between the Australian Government and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited. It provided for the formation of a refinery company with a capital of £500,000 in shares of £1 each. It also provided that the Commonwealth should subscribe for and be allotted 250,001 shares and that the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited and its nominees should subscribe for, and be allotted, 249,999 shares of £1 each. It was agreed that the memorandum and articles of association of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and any alteration thereof should be subject to the approval of the Commonwealth and should provide, amongst other things -
The objects of the refinery company were to be -
It was agreed that the technical and commercial management of the refinery company should be left entirely in the hands of the company. In accordance with the provisions of the agreement, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited erected a small refinery at Laverton, in Victoria, which commenced operations in 1924. Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has been a profitable. enterprise. Its business has been principally as a distributing agency in Australia for the products of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited. The company has earned substantial profits, the great bulk of which were re-invested in the business. The profits earned by the company since its inception, and distributed as dividends, have totalled £869,750. The Commonwealth was not in a position to control the operations of the company, first by reason of the fact that the Commonwealth was in a minority on the board of directors, and secondly because the Commonwealth was unable to intervene in the management of the company even if it wished to doso. The constitution of the company has, on a number of occasions, been criticized by the Australian Labour party on the grounds that the Commonwealth was the major shareholder and yet it had no real control over the activities of the company. During the Labour Administration the AngloIranian Oil Company Limited made proposals under which additional capital was to be provided for Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and in 1946 it was agreed in principle to raise the capital of the company to £3,000,000. The Labour Government then required that as the majority shareholder, the Commonwealth should be more adequately represented on the board of directors. The Labour Government had not reached agreement with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited when the present Government came into power.
In 1951 we were advised that the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited proposed to erect a refinery in Australia with a capacity of approximately 3,000,000 tons per annum. The cost of this refinery was to be approximately £40,000,000. We were also advised that in order to ensure satisfactory markets for the production from this refinery it would be necessary to expand the distribution facilities of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited at a cost of approximately £12,300,000. The following proposals were made to the Commonwealth by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited -
These proposals were considered in detail by the Government. It was ultimately decided that, as the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited was prepared to erect such a substantial refinery at its own expense, the Commonwealth should take a half share only in the expansion of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, which would act as a distributing company in Australia for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited. The Government also decided that, as a condition of this arrangement, equality of representation on the board of directors of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited would be necessary. When an agreement in general terms was reached with the Government, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited announced that it proposed to erect a refinery of 3,000,000 tons annual capacity at Kwinana in Western Australia. The Commonwealth and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited then proceeded to the preparation of the formal documents incorporating the agreement reached between the Government and the company.
Before these documents were signed, the Government took the obviously prudent precaution of having them examined by the Commonwealth law officers. They expressed the view that the Commonwealth did not have any valid constitutional power to enter into an arrangement of this nature. Their view was confirmed by Mr. G. Barwick, Q.C., who stated that, in his opinion, the proposed agreement between the Commonwealth and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited was not within the constitutional power of the Commonwealth. In these circumstances, the only alternatives open to the Government were to retain a small minority shareholding in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited or to offer its shareholding in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited. The retention of a small minority shareholding would have been pointless. The offering of the Commonwealth shares for sale to the AngloIranian Oil Company Limited was in accordance with the oil agreement, which provided in Article 15 that neither party to the agreement could sell its holding in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited without the consent in writing of the other party.
The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited agreed that the constitutional position in which the Commonwealth was placed was such that the Commonwealth would need to dispose of its shareholding, and that, in the circumstances, it would take over the Commonwealth shares at a fair and reasonable price. The Government immediately arranged for a valuation of the shares held by the Commonwealth. This was undertaken by a wellknown Melbourne firm of chartered accountants, Messrs. Wilson, Danby and Giddy. It placed a commercial value on the Commonwealth shareholding of £6 10s. a share, or a total value of £2,762,506 10s. for the 425,001 shares held by the Commonwealth. The AngloIranian Oil Company Limited also obtained an independent valuation of the shares, and, after discussion, agreed to accept the offer of the Commonwealth to sell at £6 10s. a share.
The negotiations leading up to the settlement were based entirely upon the understanding that the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited would proceed as rapidly as possible with the erection of its proposed refinery in Western Australia. The Government regards this refinery as of particular significance in the economy of Australia. With a capacity of 3,000,000 tons of petroleum products per annum, it will be capable, upon completion, of meeting about 40 per cent, of the demand for petroleum products in this country, which, in 1956, is expected to approach 7,500,000 tons. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited does not expect that the total production from the refinery will initially find a market in Australia, and portion of the production will be exported.
The importance of this development is such that the Government regards it as particularly gratifying that, as a condition of sale of the Government shareholding in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited agreed to use its best endeavours to complete the Kwinana refinery as soon as practicable.
– Is there any time limit?
– No, The company has agreed to complete the refinery as soon as .practicable.
– When will that be?
– In these days, nobody can forecast accurately the time that will be taken to complete an industrial undertaking of that sort. It has, of course., been necessary, following the -completion of the sale of the Commonwealth shareholding, for the directors representing the Commonwealth on the board of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to resign, and the Commonwealth has .no longer any direct interest in the activities of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, which is now under the sole control of .the AngloIranian Oil Company Limited.
There appear to have been some popular misconceptions of the place of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited in the oil industry in Australia. The original and main objective of the Commonwealth in ‘establishing the company was the development :in Australia of the petroleum refining industry. The company established a small refinery with a capacity of about 120,000 tons per ‘annum, which is about 2 per cent, of our present annual requirements. The motor spirit produced by the refinery requires the addition of both benzol and tetra-ethyl lead to reach the quality required by the Australian market. The refinery is ‘28 years old and is now nearing the end of its useful life in its present form. It has no cracking capacity, and does not produce aviation spirit. These considerations point to the fact that the refinery has no defence significance. This is confirmed ‘by the fact that the refinery was closed from March, 1942, to November, 1946. It was stated before the Tariff Board that it was more economical to close the refinery and import finished products than to import crude oil for processing.
– Was that during the war?
– Yes. That fact, I think, .finally disposes of the argument that the refinery has a defence significance.
– The refinery was closed under a special war-time pool arrangement.
– It was closed throughout four of the most ‘serious war years because it was cheaper to import the refined products than to continue -to operate this small and . rather oldfashioned refinery.
– That is not so. ‘The refinery was closed because the importation o’f the refined products offered the only effective means of bringing oil and petrol through the submarine screen.
– I shall repeat the simple fact, which, I think, is not capable of refutation. The Tariff Board established that, during the four most serious years of the war, it was more economical to import the refined products than to import the crude oil for treatment at the refinery. That finally disposes of the argument that this somewhat oldfashioned refinery in Victoria is of defence significance.
– The right honorable gentleman is decrying :a national -asset.
– The facts cannot he ignored. My statement is not to the detriment of anybody. I merely point out the simple facts, and remind the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that facts are stubborn things to overcome. The refinery is of little significance in relation to the total activities of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. It employs about 40 operatives out of a total number of employees of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited at the end of 1951 of over 2,000.
It has been said that the Government financial interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has enabled some control to be exercised over the prices of petrol and petroleum products in Australia. As the Prime Minister has said, it would be very difficult to find, during the last 25 years, any evidence to support this contention. The existence of prices control by governments has taken the initiative in respect of prices entirely out of the hands of the distributing companies. Even before prices control was instituted, there was no evidence of disagreement between the various distributing organizations on the question of prices. The establishment of the AngloIranian refinery at Kwinana will achieve the principal objective for the establishment of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, namely, the development of the refining industry in this country. Moveover; this will have been achieved without the expenditure of Commonwealth funds.
The size of & refinery erected by any company is determined by its actual and potential market. In 1951, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited held a market in Australia of less than 1,000,000 tons. It would, therefore, have been unreasonable to expect it to build a refinery in excess of this amount. In addition to supplying Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited has a large bunker market in Australia and has also available to it export markets which will be supplied from the Kwinana refinery. Thus, the AngloIranian Oil Company Limited has been able :to plan a refinery of 3,000,000 tons annual capacity which is far in excess of any’ refinery which could have been erected by Com monwealth Oil Refineries Limited to meet its actual and potential market in the future.
In addition to the refinery to be erected by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited, other oil companies, with the support and encouragement of this Government, have decided to erect large refineries in Australia. The Shell Company of Australia Limited is erecting a refinery of about 1,000,000 tons capacity at Geelong, which is expected to be in operation in 1954. The Vacuum Oil Company Limited is erecting a refinery of about the same capacity at Altona in Victoria and production from it is expected to begin in 195.6. Caltex Oil (Australia) Proprietary Limited is to erect a refinery at Kurnell, on Botany Bay, also of about 1,000,000 tons capacity, which is expected to be in operation in 1956. When these four new refineries are in production, refinery production in Australia will be about 6,300,000 tons per annum. A tentative estimate of our consumption of petroleum products in 1956 is 7,500,000 tons per annum. Thus, by 1956 we will have achieved a refinery ‘capacity in this country far in excess of anything that has previously been envisaged.
Governmental financial participation in industrial or commercial activities is” not necessarily good or bad of itself. Each case has to be considered on its merits. The only criterion is the public interest. If some important public purpose is likely, to be achieved by an investment of public funds, then let us do so; but the investment of public moneys for the sake >of so doing is not justified. The “ Australian Government is not looking for investment of its public moneys in (private enterprises for the sake of investment that will return a profit to the Government. If the Government were looking for investment -of its funds in enterprises, it would be more inclined to look in the direction of enterprises the abject of which was the development of natural resources that were beyond the scope o’f -private enterprise, than it would look to distributing organizations.
When the initial investment in Commonwealth ‘Oil Refineries Limited by the Government in 1920 came about, .the clear and stated principal object was the creation of oil refining in Australia. That was understandable. The very name - Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited - reflects that fact. However, the history of the enterprise shows that, apart from a small refinery, by far the greatest part of the activities of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited over the generation in which it has been in existence, has been the wholesale and retail distribution of petroleum products. I venture to believe that if the Government responsible for the initial investment in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited had known how the enterprise would turn out, the original participation by the Government would never have come about. I say this without any reflection on the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited or on Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The course of events has been guided by economic circumstances, which could not have been foreseen.
In the circumstances that exist, the Government clearly has no sensible alternative but to take the action that this bill proposes and which I have described. The Government has valued its association with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and will continue to encourage the great refining project on which the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited is about to embark. We feel certain that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited will continue to expand and to play an important part in the distribution of oil products in Australia.
– Before the debate is resumed, will the Minister make available to the House the important legal opinions upon which the Government has acted? I refer to the opinion of the Commonwealth law officers and that of Mr. Barwick, Q.C., on the constitutional aspect of the oil agreement.
– I am not aware of the convention with respect to making available legal opinions, but I shall confer with the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) and do my best to accede to the request of the Leader of the Opposition.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to explosives.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to make possible the promulgation of regulations specifying the safety measures to be observed when explosives owned by the Commonwealth are being handled or transported by road, rail or sea, and the measures that may be taken for the expeditious handling and movement of explosives required for defence purposes. The bill also provides for the establishment of interdepartmental committees to advise the Minister on the movement of explosives, and empowers the Commonwealth to indemnify persons against actions relating to loss or damage resulting from the handling of Commonwealth explosives.
During the 1939-45 war, it was found that the facilities provided in the various States for handling commercial explosives in small consignments were inadequate for dealing with the explosives imported for manufacture into munitions, the quantities of made-up munitions which were moved by road or rail between munition factories and service depots, or the quantities which were shipped overseas to the fighting forces. It became obvious early in the period of the war that the measures governing the movement of explosives by road, rail and sea could not be observed if the war effort was to be maintained, because of the prohibitions affecting the quantities which could be carried by railway trains, moved by road or handled in ports. Accordingly, the Commonwealth introduced National Security (General) Regulation 66 to enable such movements to take place.
Although the cessation of hostilities greatly reduced the need for the movement of large quantities of explosives, it has been found impracticable in the post-war years to use the normal facilities, and conform to the normal procedures without at the same time causing serious delays and expense in meeting the needs of service departments, the programme of munitions manufacture and other vital defence projects which have developed since the end of the war. It has been found necessary, therefore, to continue the operation of regulation 66 up to the present time. A review recently made at the direction of the Government revealed the need for the Australian Government to have permanent powers governing the safe and expeditious movement of explosives to meet the defence requirements of the Commonwealth in both peace and war. This bill is designed to give the Government such powers.
The bill empowers the GovernorGeneral to make regulations for matters connected with the handling and transportation of Commonwealth explosives. It is proposed to issue a comprehensive set of regulations prescribing in detail the measures to be observed for the safe handling of such explosives. It is also proposed., to establish committees to advise the Minister on matters covered by the bill, and to maintain constant liaison with overseas explosives authorities and to ensure uniformity of practice by the various departments handling explosives. The committees will be representative of the Department of Shipping and Transport, the service departments and the Operational Safety Committee. A set of instructions governing the safe movement of explosives by road has been circulated to the departments concerned, and after the passage of this bill, will be issued as a regulation under the act. In due course, similar regulations will be made to provide for safety precautions to be observed in the movement of explosives by rail and by sea, and for such other measures as may be necessary to reduce, as far as possible, the risks associated with such movements.
A further task of the committees will be to advise the Government on the need for the provision of special facilities at Australian ports for the handling of those explosives which may rightly be regarded as a Commonwealth responsibility. In most ports, certain areas have been set aside for the mooring or anchoring of vessels carrying explosives, and special reserves have been established for the storage of explosives. These facilities have been provided for the handling of commercial explosives in small quantities, and have limitations which generally render them inadequate for the handling of larger shipments or heavier types of made-up munitions used by the Commonwealth. A committee will be established by regulation to make a survey of the facilities available at all Australian ports and to advise the Government on any special facilities which may be necessary to meet ‘ particular Commonwealth requirements.
The bill also provides that the regulations may empower persons to issue orders in relation to any matters provided under the regulations. It is proposed that the Minister shall be empowered to issue such orders, and that he will delegate this power to senior officers in the Services responsible for the actual movement of explosives. This procedure was followed successfully under the powers conferred by National Security (General) Regulation 66. The power to issue orders is necessary to meet the day-to-day problems encountered in moving explosives. The present practice will be followed, however, and orders will be issued only when it is apparent that the existing facilities are inadequate, or where conformity with existing procedures would cause unwarrantable delays.
This bill, and the regulations to be made under it, will ensure that the maximum possible safety precautions shall be used in the transport and handling of Commonwealth explosives. It is recognized, nevertheless, than an accident may occur, and that the Commonwealth may be expected to accept liability for damage or injury to persons or property resulting from the handling or movement of explosives outside the established facilities, or not in accordance with State regulations. Therefore, provision has been made in the bill to enable the Commonwealth to give an indemnity to cover such a contingency. The efficacy of the methods and procedures adopted in the handling of Commonwealth explosives is amply demonstrated by the fact that during and since the war many thousands of tons of munitions and raw materials for the manufacture of explosives have been transported by sea, road and rail without serious incident. The passage of this bill will provide for the expeditious handling of Commonwealth explosives and, at the same time, will ensure that maximum safety provisions shall be observed and adapted as necessary to meet improved methods of handling, and to copewith the problems of the Commonwealth’s expanding munitions manufacturing programme. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom Burke) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 25th September (vide page 2117), on motion by Mr. McBride -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Owing to the temporary indisposition of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), I am deputizing for him on this occasion. He has made a special study of this bill. As one of the leading officials in the Australian trade union movement, and the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions for many years, he has been in touch with the procedures and arrangements made on the subjectmatter of this bill during World War II., and, to a substantial degree, in the post-war period. The Opposition accepts the legislation, and my remarks are a presentation, imperfect no doubt, of the view that would have been expressed by the honorable member for Bendigo.
The background to the bill cannot be described without some reference to the special conditions that operated in the early part of World War II. Those conditions developed to such a degree that a completely unexpected responsibility and burden were thrust on the engineering industries of Australia. Great expansion occurred in the war industries in the shipyards. One result of the long years of depressed trade between the early 1930’s and the outbreak of World War 11. in 1939 was a reduction in the number of the skilled workmen in these special trades. The work force in the engineering trades, boilermaking, blacksmithing, sheet-metal working, and, subsequently, the electrical trades, hadnot been maintained at levels of the highest skills because of that lack of expansion and also because the flow of apprentices had been prejudicially affected. Consequently, when war broke out, and particularly when our communications’ with Great Britain and overseas countries were cut to a substantial degree, additional men were urgently requiredto work in these trades. That led to negotiations between the government of the day, in which the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) was Minister for Labour, and representatives of the tradesunions, who included the present honorable member for Bendigo. As a result of those negotiations, regulations Were passed under the National Security Act, which was the main source of urgent law-making power during the recent war, and those regulations covered the trades that. I mentioned. The object of those regulations was to add. to the skilled work force, primarily for war purposes, additional men, without whose assistance the war effort would have been seriously retarded and, indeed, impeded.
I shall not deal in detail with the machinery that was set up under those regulations. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), and, no doubt, other honorable members, will deal with that aspect. However, a central committee was established to supervise State committees which were set up to deal with the general nature of certificates of competency for men who were brought in. hurriedly as amatter of urgency for the prosecution of the war. Local committees also were established to authorize the employment of probationary and trainee tradesmen. Each of those committees consisted of an equal number of employers and employees, and in each instance the chairman was appointed by the Minister for Labour. Various classifications of tradesmen were covered and described under the regulations. First, there were the added tradesmen, who were described as dilutees, and were elevated temporarily to tradesmen’s work in order to meet the war emergency. That fact indicates that both employers and employees, acting jointly in co-operation with the Australian Government, were prepared to suspend temporarily the stringent requirements of apprenticeship and of long training because time was the most precious factor, and the Work had to be done. Secondly, recognized tradesmen were persons who had qualified through apprenticeship, or who had been issued with certificates following, a .satisfactory course of training. Thirdly, there were trainee tradesmen who were members of the defence forces who were being trained in a particular trade. Special provision was made whereby such persons, after their status was acknowledged, were guaranteed prior rights of engagement and promotion before dilutees and trainee tradesmen. The committees could require a test of competency before authorizing the employment of a person or before issuing a certificate; and any person who felt aggrieved at the decision of a local committee had a right of appeal to the central committee.
I have outlined briefly the background to this legislation. These national security regulations, the principles of which were embodied in legislation that was passed during the regime of -the Chifley Government in 1946 and amended in 1947, have substantially stood the test of time. I turn now to the important amendments which this measure seeks to effect. First, there is a provision that an added tradesman, or trainee tradesman, who for a period of seven years has performed work ordinarily performed by a tradesman shall be classified as a recognized tradesman. Secondly, ex-sevicemen of Malaya and Korea are to be entitled to the same benefits that were accorded to ex-servicemen of World War II., including the right, after being trainee tradesmen, to proceed to their appropriate grade, and in that grade to obtain the ordinary rights of preference which the law provides in respect of ex-servicemen. Thirdly, the bill legalizes the power of the committees to determine the qualifications of immigrant tradesmen. This is a new category for which provision must be made in a measure of this kind because immigrants who are tradesmen must be brought into the Australian labour force which is vital to the maintenance as well as to the future development of these basic industries. Fourthly, the bill gives effect to the tenor of the dilution agree ments that were made between the employers, the trade unions and the Government. In my view) this bill, in sub=stance, honours those agreements in not only the letter but also the spirit. Fifthly-, the bill meets to a limited degree the desire of employers that they shall -have complete freedom in making promotions or engagements, subject to the written consent of a local committee which would provide safeguards against harsh, or oppressive action. That provision, which is contained in clause 15, enables an employer, who has reasonable and substantial cause for so doing, to promote or engage a person other than a recognized tradesman. Sixthly, the bill continues the principal act for a further period of three years as from the 2nd September last, on which date the act of 1946 that was passed by the Chifley Government expired, until the 2nd September, 1955.
This measure is supported -by the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the trade unions which are directly concerned with it. The president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, in a message that he forwarded to the honorable member for Bendigo, stated -
The AiC.T.U. has for a considerable period endeavoured to have the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act continued. This attitude has been supported by the metal trades unions. The Government has now decided to introduce the requisite bill and we urge the Labour Party to support it iri the manner in which it is introduced by the Government.
That is the view that the trade unions concerned take of this bill. On the other hand, we have to take into account the fact that these great engineering unions, which have a tremendously long tradition of what I might call conservatism in the protection of their special skills, agreed during the recent war to relax the rigour of their rules in the interests of the nation’s war effort; and the employers concerned did likewise. That action contributed substantially to the industrial War record of Australia which played no mean part iri our struggle for” survival during the recent conflict. The net effect is that the standards of the crafts have been maintained arid that the apprenticeship schemes and systems will be preserved. The importance of those factors for Australian industry and its future is recognized not only by the employers but also by State governments. The development of systems of technical training through special colleges, and most recently through the establishment of a special technical university in New South Wales, are further evidence of that recognition.
I desire to add a few remarks with respect to the way that ex-servicemen have been fitted into this scheme. The honorable member for Bendigo has furnished to me the relevant statistics. The number of ex-servicemen approved by local trades committees as probationary tradesmen in the metal trades between 1946 and 1952 was 3,976, and of that number 3,209 were issued with certificates of ‘ recognition as recognized tradesmen. The number of ex-servicemen who were approved as trainee tradesmen in the same period was 3,220, of which number 2,400 were issued with certificates of recognition as recognized tradesmen. In addition, 2,755 immigrant tradesmen were issued with certificates. With regard to the number of dilutees, to use the popular term, introduced into the metal trades under the dilution of labour arrangements, let me quote from the second-reading speech that the Minister for Labour and National Service in the Chifley Government, Mr. Holloway, the then member for Melbourne Ports, delivered on the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Bill 1946. He cited some impressive figures. He said -
Approximately 50,000 men were added to the diluted trades, and although a largie number of these have now returned to their normal occupations, 24,000 still remain in employment as added tradesmen.
It has been estimated that, to-day, 10,000 of them still remain. That illustrates the success of the scheme, and the necessity for what I call an orderly winding up of the arrangements under which tradesmen, who were partially trained or not completely trained, came to the rescue of these industries during the war. Under this legislation, they will retain their status as tradesmen for the next three years. It is necessary to do that for the next three years just as it is necessary, by the same process of reasoning, to continue in operation the provisions relating to preference for returned servicemen. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said in introducing the other bill, these two measures are, to that degree, dovetailed together. On behalf of the Opposition, I commend these provisions to the House.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has traced some of the background to the introduction of dilutees into industry in the early stages of the last war. I feel that the Minister who acted for the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McBride), in his second-reading speech on this measure, failed to give due credit to the 50,000 good Australians who responded to the country’s call for a real war effort, or to the trade unions which, in the main, were responsible for providing the machinery that permitted the Australian war effort to be geared up in the way in’ which it was. Probably, many trade unionists, who do not know the ramifications of this matter, are wondering why the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the metal trades unions have seen eye to eye with the Government upon this bill. As the Minister knows, the background to the problem is the mutual understanding that resulted in the original agreement.
– We have operated - under agreement from the outset.
– That is correct. I propose to say something about that agreement and about the background to it. I believe the Minister will agree that we should never lose sight of the framework of the agreement, because it gives to the trade union movement the right to say to the Government, as it were, “ This is the proper thing to do for a body of men who responded to a call for dilutees “. The conditions that prevailed at that time left no room for argument about whether dilutee labour should be used. Something had to be done quickly, and it is recorded in history that the response of the trade union movement was one of co-operation with the Government and of appreciation of the national requirements.
There is a need to examine’ the whole of the problem relating to skilled tradesmen. It is a fact that, in 1940, this country was short of 50,000 such tradesmen. When the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Bill 1946 was introduced into the Parliament, there were still 18,000 dilutees in the metal trades alone. The membership of the Amalgamated Engineering Union rose from 28,000 in 1939 to 72,000 in 1944, which was the peak. I cannot understand why the employers oppose legislation of this nature. In 1940, the present Minister for Labour and National Service was able to engender a spirit of understanding between the trade union movement and the Government, and an agreement was drawn up that enabled us to meet our war requirements. Surely, at this stage, the employers do not dispute that the men who provided the sinews of war in the industrial field then should be recognized now in the manner for which this bill makes provision. A measure of this description causes us to ask why Australia was short of 50,000 tradesmen at the outbreak of the last war, and whether a situation of that kind could occur again. If it could occur again, what is the answer to the problem? Should we just drift along, passing bills of this kind, and let the future take care of itself? Or should we, as a nation, do something to ensure that, in the years that lie ahead, Australia will not again be found wanting in the same manner as previously? It is a fact that, in 1940, Australia was suffering from the effects of a breakdown in the national economy from 1939 onwards, when very few industries wanted apprentices. I think I can say without fear of contradiction that, if the metal trade unions had not accepted the view in 1940 that the real danger with which this country was confronted called for swift and resolute action, we could not have made the war effort that was necessary for our defence.
The references that are made re’peatedly in this chamber to what private enterprise can do for this and other countries cause me to ask: What did private enterprise, or any administration of the same political colour as this Government, do to give to thi? country the tradesmen who are essential to a real war effort? It cannot be disputed that, in the ten years between 1930 and 1940, Australia was wide open for expansion, and that that expansion could have been achieved if private enterprise had had the will, vigour, honesty of purpose and national outlook to give Australia the leadership that was so essential. When, from the mid-nineteen ‘thirties onwards, there was talk of war, there was an obligation upon the governments that were in power then to ensure that Australia would be prepared to meet, at least in some way, a national emergency. I have vivid recollections of the position of tradesmen in those years in a great concern like the New South Wales Government railways. Th, Government of that State then was ot the same political complexion as this Government. The New South Wales Railways Department engaged apprentices, but it told them that, when their apprenticeships had concluded, they would be dismissed and would have to take their chance whether they would find jobs in their trades elsewhere. Private enterprise followed the lead of the Government of New South Wales, and it adopted the same attitude to apprentices. For nine or ten years, the number of skilled tradesmen available in this country diminished.
That was the position with which the nation was confronted in 1940. Then, the great Australian trade union movement, the leadership of which is often condemned in this House, recognized the need to do something to provide the men that we needed in industry. It did not concern itself with politics. At that time the present Minister for Labour and National Service paid a glowing tribute to the response that he received from the trade union movement. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, some scrutiny of the original agreement is necessary in order to appreciate fully the approach that the trade union movement made to the great problem with which it was confronted in 1940. The first clause of the agreement recognized that abnormal conditions had been created by the war, and that a temporary relaxation of existing customs affecting the employment of men to do skilled work was necessary. The agreement went on to state that, where it could be shown that tradesmen were not available and production might be prejudiced by a lack of tradesmen,- all the resources of man-power available were to be used to fill the gaps. The second clause stands to the’ credit of the trade union movement and the Government, and to the discredit of private enterprise; It states -
All propositions for _ dilution, will foe consolidated under one Commonwealth Governmentcontrolled scheme.
We hear a lot said in this chamber from time to time about the alleged necessity to hand back to private enterprise every government-owned organization in this country so that it can be run in a way different from that in which the Government i$ running it. But the trade union movement knew that, in a great crisis such as that which existed in 1940, private enterprise could not be trusted. It realized that private enterprise could be trusted only when profits could be made, and that an issue of the kind that then existed could not safely be left in its hands. So it was determined that any agreement reached should be an agreement between the trade union movement and the Government only.
– That is not accurate. The agreement was a three-way agreement at that time.
– I am reading the agreement as it is written. The Minister quoted it in 1946.
– The Minister cannot read;
– The Minister can read, and he knows that what I am saying is correct. He knows that the employers are still against what was done then.
-. - At that time, the late John Hyne: as president of the Metal Trades Association; entered into the agreement on behalf of the association.
– I do not deny that. But the trade union movement demanded, and its demand was accepted by the Government, that all propositions for dilution should be consolidated under ohe Commonwealth Government-controlled scheme; That was provided for in clause 2 df the agreement.
Clause 3 stated that all available engineering tradesmen,- provided they were competent to do the work- required, would be employed, arid that no tradesmen would be debarred on the ground of age or minor disability if the local committee were satisfied that he could perforin the work required of him. All those safeguards were accepted by the government of the day because df the necessity that had arisen. Clause 6 of the agreement reads-
In the event of the provisions Of Clause (5), not being sufficient to meet the demand for skilled tradesmen, applications may be Called from alternative classes of workers willing to be trained and paid as provided in Clause (5).
Those provisions meant that during the period that was laid down, not by the employers but by the local committee, the trainee was to be paid the basic wage, and when he went out into industry he was to be paid the wage applicable to his trade. This agreement will go down iri our history as an acceptance by the trade union movement of its’ abligation to assist in the defence of the nation. Also included iri the agreement, however, was a clause which provided that none of those tradesmen would be called up for military service. I wish the House and the Minister to bear that fact in mirid. We are now drifting back to the very conditions that made that agreement necessary iri 1940.
I turn now to the second question, which is : Can the same situation arise again 1 We hear a lot of talk of war and the imminence of war, and we are aware of the possibility that if this nation is again endangered we may not have as much time to prepare t’o defend ourselves as we had on the last occasion. We may not have time to draw up an agreement to allow dilutees into industry. That is why we should heed the lessons of experience and try to obviate the danger that was inherent iri the lack of tradesmen in 1940. Statutory Rule 287 df 1940 did two things; It left to the Minister the final determination, of what was necessary for the provision of persons, skilled or otherwise, to ari industry that was supplying muniments of war. Secondly, it provided that the men concerned were not to be paid less than the- rate of pay prescribed for’ the trade they were engaged in. This agreement, which was subscribed to by a government of the” same political, colour as the present Government, prescribed that the basic wage was to be paid to those dilutees, plus a margin of 33s. The basic wage of 1940 was £4 3s. a week. That provision was accepted at that time because that total amount was the award rate prescribed for fitters, machinists, and other such tradesmen.
Section 6 of the existing act requires the employer to pay the rates applicable to tradesmen. It was because of that provision that the government of the day was able to obtain volunteers to become, dilutees. Young men. volunteered as dilutees because the reward offered was sufficiently above the basic wage. Since then, however, and since the basic wage has started to spiral, the’ Commonwealth Arbitration Court has- accepted the’ principle- that such wage rates are tied to- a standard associated with the basic wage, as was decided in the 1907 judgment. Also, since then, Conciliation Commissioner Galvin has destroyed the very principle that made it’ possible for the Government in 1940 to obtain recruits for work as dilutees. The government of that time wanted to develop the engineering and associated trades. Whether or not Commissioner Galvin foresaw the effects of his judgment he has struck a mortal blow at the fulfilment of this nation’s future national requirements. He has destroyed the standard that made it possible for the Government in 1940 to obtain volunteers to become dilutees in the metal trades industry.. I know, and members of the Government must know, that at this very moment the training of tradesmen in this country is tapering off. That has been going on for at least three years, because the value of tradesmen’s margins has been destroyed. As a result, an insufficient number of youths is entering service as apprentices. Displayed in the main railway station in Melbourne, the Minister’s own State, is a large notice which calls for apprentices. It does not call for any other kind of junior tradesman. The reason is that the metal trades, industry is again being destroyed, and will languish in the same way as it did in the early 1930?s. I am not sura that Commissioner Galvin:, would understand. He was; so overawed by this continuous clap-trap about the economic effects of high wages that fie lost sight of the broad national issue and of the value of margins in attracting people to engage in certain trades. The Government now has the responsibility to do- something about the matter. Of what use will it be to expend £200,000,000 a year on the requirements of war, as the Government proposes to do, if we are not to have at our disposal the kind of tradesmen necessary to produce the instruments of war.
– The honorable gentleman means the requirements of defence, not of war.
– The honorable member may call it what he likes. If it is to be a matter of defence, then that makes it all the more important, because defence, as opposed to offence, more nearly affects our homes. Why, at a time when we want apprentices and trained men, is the Govern. ment so blind to the nation’s real requirements that it actually insists on- the calling-up of apprentices for military training? In 1940, we needed men to produce arms more than we needed men to bear them. What a difference in the defence outlook of this country we should have if we had a different approach, to this, problem. I put it strongly to the Minister and the Government that at least 10 per cent, of the amount of £200,000,000 that the Government proposes to expend annually on defence should be expended in connexion with the training of tradesmen. We could thereby provide ourselves with the necessary trained men in industry to produce the sinews of war. If we are real Australians with a real care for the security of this country, we shall do so.
– Has all this anything to do with the bill ?
– Yes, because this bill seeks to amend the act that is associated with the training of tradesmen. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) would not know that we are dealing with an amendment of an act that lays down the prescribed wage levels. He would not understand that, because he is one of the people who were able to influence Conciliation Commissioner Galvin to deliver a judgment that has gone further towards injuring the nation in the future than any other judgment has ever gone. Commissioner Galvin was influenced by the honorable member for Warringah. I put it to the Government, with all the emphasis I can command, that if we want this country to be secure we must realize that, owing to the nature of modern warf are, as illustrated by the recent atomic experiment in Western Australia, it might well prove that artisans who are to be partly trained, as provided under the measure, will be found to be wanting in the necessary tradesmenship at a time when they may be required to produce the instruments to be used by us in the next war. Future wars will be fought with instruments produced by highly skilled men. I repeat that at least 10 per cent., or even 5 per cent., of the proposed annual defence expenditure of £200,000,000, should be devoted to a training scheme for young Australians. By expending, say, £10,000,000 each year on such a scheme the Government will, first, guarantee to the nation a reservoir of skilled tradesmen which will be at our disposal in the event of war, making the large-scale production of weapons necessary. Selfreliance in respect of the production of weapons of defence is essential to this nation, which is so far removed geographically from its allies. The second effect of the expenditure of that sum would be that many young Australians would be given a different outlook to that which is now beginning to predominate in this country. It would enable us to train tradesmen properly, instead of training them for six months and then turning them out to find their own way in industry.
The hill impresses me so strongly that 1 cannot emphasize too much the need to do something to develop this reservoir of trained men that is so essential. I repeat that next time we are in danger in war wo may not have as much time as we did in the last war to train men to produce the sinews of defence. If we do not meet the obligation of preparing for our own security, then we do not deserve to hold the heritage that is rightly ours in this country.
.- I view this measure with an approval that is so qualified that it amounts almost to disapprovel. It is unfortunate that seven years after the end of the war war-time emergency measures should still be continued in industry, particularly when they have some objectionable features when one takes a long-term view of the regulation of industrial affairs in Australia. 1 have listened with interest to the impassioned plea of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) for the development of a reserve of skilled tradesmen against the possibility of war. That proposition must meet with the approval of every honorable member. I do not understand how the bill would deal with that situation. The honorable member also strongly attacked Mr. Conciliation Commissioner Galvin. The relationship between what is known as the Galvin award and this bill is one that I fail to perceive. The honorable member said that as a result of the Galvin award the number of youths seeking to be apprenticed to the metal trades had diminished. That statement should be corrected. If my understanding of the figures released over the last few months is correct, then the honorable member’s statement is quite misleading. The dearth of skilled tradesmen in Australia to-day is due largely to the fact that in the past great inducements were offered to young men to enter unskilled occupations and very litle inducement was offered to them to enter upon apprenticeships to skilled trades. Until recently young men did not need to look towards the future : the high wages for unskilled work in industry completely satisfied them. Changing conditions in Australia have largely redressed that situation and caused young men to look ahead. So there are far more applicants for apprenticeships in the skilled trades than there have been for some years past.
As honorable members know, in 1940 when it was essential to get more tradesmen to work in the war industries, it was found necessary to train and admit people, who had a lesser degree of training and skill than the skilled tradesmen, to do tradesmen’s work in industry. An agreement was made between the government, the unions and the employers that men with less skill than tradesmen should be allowed to enter the metal industries to do work normally regarded as tradesmen’s work. As a protection for the tradesmen, the “ dilution agreement. “ was entered into in 1940, which was designed to ensure that tradesmen should not lose their rights as tradesmen during or after the war merely because persons with a lesser degree of skill than that of the tradesmen had been admitted to industry. Shortly afterwards, that agreement was embodied in regulations made under the .National -Security Act, and in 1946, no doubt because the Chifley Government was doubtful of the constitutional validity of the regulations, their effect was embodied ‘in ‘ the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act. When the bill for that act was being debated in the Parliament it was pointed out by members of the present Government that the measure went far beyond the original agreement, and contained many anomalies. It ensured an absolute preference throughout its duration for skilled tradesmen over any “ added tradesmen “ who had entered or were to enter the industry. It provided a means whereby exservicemen could go into industry on a restricted basis, but as against the skilled pre-war tradesmen they could never be more than “ added “ tradesmen, and their rights would always be subsidiary to those of the skilled tradesmen.
– Who told the honorable member that?
– I have reached that conclusion by examining the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act of 1946. If the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) should look at section 43 of that act he would discover that what I have said is clearly set out. The honorable member for Watson is labouring under the same delusion as are many other people, that this act in some way confers a benefit on ex-servicemen.
– It does, too - every benefit.
– In fact, it gives exservicemen a lower status than that of the recognized tradesmen, so the honorable member for Watson’s view is completely wrong. It is a fact that the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act is related to the general scheme of preference for ex-servicemen. The two matters are linked by express reference in the act, but it is wrong to suppose that this act gives ex-servicemen in the metal industry even the same rights as tradesmen. I understand the Government’s desire to continue the provisions of the act, because it is technically linked with the rehabilitation scheme and with the legislation that gives preference to exservicemen. If ex-servicemen’s rights are to be maintained for another three years, as is the -Government’s intention, it is understandable that the Government should desire to continue the operation of this act. However, I had hoped that the amendments to the act would have been more far-reaching than they are. The first objection to the system embodied in the act is that it creates in industry two classes of tradesmen, tho “ recognized “ pre-war skilled tradesman who has served his apprenticeship, and the “ added tradesman “ - the dilutee or the ex-serviceman who has been admitted to the industry. I do not think that it is a good thing in industry that for a long time there should be this sort of distinction between skilled tradesmen.
The second objection is that the act limits the right of the employer to engage or retain in his industry the man whom he believes to be most skilled and efficient.. The act gives an absolute and indefinite preference to the recognized tradesmen, which is wrong. The third objection is that the act removes a whole section of industrial affairs from the control of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and vests a very important function in the local committees. It is quite true that the local committees worked well during the war, and are still working well and smoothly. Perhaps it is understandable that the Government does not wish to abolish committees which are working reasonably well. However, one should consider the effect of this system on our industrial arbitration structure. It is not a good thing that the authority of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should be whittled away, as it is by the scheme of this act. It strikes at the root of our arbitration system which is .that the conditions of industry should be controlled by the court and its instrumentalities. If the powers of the local committees are to be continued then their decisions should be made subject to the overriding authority of the court. The objection of the employers that an absolute preference is given under the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act to tradesmen as against added tradesmen arises from section 43 of the act. I suggest that that section should have been amended by this bill far more effectively than it has been. At present an employer is not able to engage or elevate any added tradesmen to carry out the work of a tradesman when an approved tradesman is available. That provision is to be amended so that in future an employer shall not “ unless he has reasonable and substantial cause for so doing, engage or elevate “ a person other than a recognized tradesman if a recognized tradesman is available. Therefore, in place of the absolute obligation under the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act 1946-1947, this bill proposes to enable the employer to employ an added tradesman if he has reasonable and substantial cause for so doing. The employer will now have a considerably greater degree of discretion in the employment of an added tradesman in preference to a recognized tradesman. Suppose that in a particular shop there are a number of recognized tradesmen, and some dilutees. Some of the dilutees may have been working for many years at their jobs, and when an opportunity for promotion occurs the employer may, with good reason, wish to elevate one of the dilutees instead of a recognized tradesman. Under the present act he can not do so, but according to the bill now before the House he will be allowed to do so if he has reasonable and substantial cause for so doing. However, it is apparent that the ultimate power in this matter will still reside with the local committee. Under the proposed amendments to section 43 of the act the local committee will have the right to decide whether or not the employer had reasonable and substantial ground for doing what he did. Consequently, although a greater discretion will apparently be given to the employer, in fact the local committee will still have the power to decide whether a dilutee can be advanced or employed in preference to a recognized tradesman. Therefore, for another three years the normal relationship of employer and employee will be suspended and the decision as to who shall occupy certain positions in certain factories will remain with the local committees. I do not consider that it is desirable, seven years after the war has ended, that an emergency war-time measure should be perpetuated in this way. It would have been preferable if the amendment had been more far reaching in order to give the employer a real discretion.
.- I support the bill, and I completely disagree with the opinions expressed by the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne). The measure is of personal interest to me because I was an apprentice in the metal trades industry when Australia was overwhelmed by the depression that wrecked the national economy, arid I was unable to complete the full period of apprenticeship because the engineering company to which I was indentured went bankrupt. In those days, it was impossible to transfer apprenticeship indentures because all engineering companies were in difficulties. I and thousands of others were thrown out of work, and the engineering trades were left without apprentices for many years afterwards. I returned to the trade as prospects improved, and was working as a tradesman when the national security regulations that provided for the dilution of labour in industry were promulgated during World War II.
I pay a high tribute to the fine tradesmen in the metal and engineering unions who were responsible for the- training of so many dilutees during the dangerous war years. Many of them were very conservative. They were proud of their crafts, and they were jealous of any intrusion. Had they not unbent, and almost completely reversed their attitude, the war effort in the metal and engineering trades would have failed miserably.
However, without objection, all the craftsmen in the metal’ trades accepted the war-time measure and did a magnificent job- for Australia. They went out of their way to provide every facility and to give all possible help and guidance to menwho left bakers’ carts, farms and all sorts1 of other occupations in order to set foot in engineering shops for the first time. I realize that the employers also contributed to the success of the dilution scheme. The degree- of co-operation was gratifying. The sacrifice made by the tradesmen - and it was a considerable sacrifice - produced a result of which Australia can well be proud. All of them had felt the effects of the depressiononly a few years previously. Most of them had known what it was to be out of work and without any prospect of finding a job. Nevertheless, they agreed to admit a great influx of dilutees to their trades, not knowing whether, on some fateful day in the future, the dilutees might be kept in employment while they were edged out because of their trade union activities, or for some other reason. The older tradesmen, particularly, made a generous sacrifice because many of them realized that they were reaching a stage of life at which they might find themselves unable to work with the speed that some employers demanded at the cost of quality. All -these tradesmen appreciated the seriousness of the threat to Australia, and they gave of their best.
The’ Tradesmen’s Eights Regulation Act has functioned smoothly since it has been in operation, and it has had fruitful results in the engineering trades. Local committees consisting of representatives of the employers and the employees, with chairmen appointed by the Government, have been established in the various States for the purpose of granting certificates to trainees who achieve satisfactory standards of craftsmanship. This bill rightly provides for a similar method of dealing with immigrants. Many tradesmen who have come to Australia during the last few years have served their time as apprentices overseas, but some of them are not able to produce apprenticeship certificates as a result of war-time and post-war upsets in their native countries. They will be able to gain recognition as tradesmen in Australia by passing- an examination to the satisfaction of the local committees. I am particularly interested in the provision for the testing of electrical tradesmen in relation to safety. South Australia is one of the unfortunate States that suffer because unregistered electricians can practise in them. This provision will afford some protection to> properly qualified tradesmen against theactivities’ of men who blow into the State and set themselves up as practising electricians although they are not qualified to do so. I hope that the Playford Government in South Australia will soon emulate the example of other State governments and enact a law to provide for the proper training and registration of electrical tradesmen.
Now is the time when it is more than ever important for us to protect the rights of tradesmen. The economic policy of this Government threatens to cause a depression and bring about a return of the conditions that I experienced many years ago, when apprentices could not find employment in the metal trades. I do not propose to defend Mr. Galvin, the conciliation commissioner, whose award for the metal trades has been criticized by the honorable -member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison). I have been mistaken for Mr. Commissioner Galvin in South Australia and I agree with the honorable member for Blaxland that apprentices in the metal trades should be accorded more consideration than they have been accorded in the past. I believe that, in the near future, the mistake made by Conciliation Commissioner Galvin will be rectified. I heartily commend the bill, and I regret that support for it has come principally from members of the Opposition, while honorable members on the Government side of the House have remained silent.
.- I support the bill, because I consider that it represents the best that we may expect from this Government. I have had wide experience in the metal trades, and I was among those who helped to establish the local -committees that deal with tradesmen’s rights. The shortage nf tradesmen when “World “War II. broke out was due to only one cause. As the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) has said, during the depression employers approached the_ arbitration authorities and obtained permission to cancel the indentures of apprentices. Hundreds of thousands of tradesmen were thrown out of work. The New Zealand Government advertised in Australia for tradesmen, and offered to pay their fares to New Zealand, with the result that many Australians, who were able to leave their families, migrated to New Zealand and left Australia short of vital tradesmen when war occurred. Panic reigned as soon as war was declared. A government of the kind that had denied to apprentices the right to work during the years from 1930 to 1939, and which had almost starved them into submission, lost its head in the fateful year of 1939. “Where are our tradesmen? Where are our apprentices ? “, it demanded. Then it made a penitent approach to the trade unions. I know the facts, because I was an executive officer of the Boilermakers Society of Australia at the time.
Shipbuilders were most important persons on the day that war broke out, although the Government had regarded them only a day previously as men who should be starved into submission and forced to accept sub-standard conditions of work. It decided, when the nation was threatened, that it must find qualified shipbuilders at all costs. The unions responded patriotically, as they always do. Patriotism is bred in the trade union movement. The Government asked the unions to help it to establish some sort of organization with which to provide tradesmen and trainees for key industries. I admit now that, at that time, I was violently opposed to any plan that would interfere with conditions in my craft. I worked for seven years to qualify for my trade, and, unlike trainees to-day, I attended college at the expense of my parents. Therefore, I sought to protect my craft against intrusion, and I maintained my opposition to the Government’s proposal as long as possible. However, I decided eventually that it was essential, in the interests of Australia, that some organization should be established to deal with the matter. After many weary days and nights of research and organization, and after much travelling, we decided to agree to the establishment of a local committee consisting of two representatives of the employers, two representatives of the employees, and a chairman appointed by the Government. The first chairman of the New South Wales committee was Mr. Bellemore. Mr. Apsey, who became the chairman upon the death of Mr. Bellemore. is a man of the highest integrity, of whom we may well be proud.
– He is good enough to be a member of the Labour party.
– I do not desire to associate Mr. Apsey with party politics in this debate. He was a fit and proper person to occupy the important office of chairman of the committee. However, the employers, ever ready to exploit any weakness that they could detect, considered that they could make capital out of the system, and sought to elevate many men. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was one of the greatest transgressors in that respect. It wanted hundreds of dilutees in its workshops in order that it might take advantage of the cost-plus system, which was in operation at that time. The more men employed on a job, the greater would be the cost, and, consequently, the greater would be the profits. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited had no patriotism in the real sense of the word. Its patriotism was confined to £ s. d., and shareholders’ dividends. The union put its foot down hard, and stopped that practice. We made the scheme work smoothly and efficiently.
Unlike the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), I consider that the system has been of assistance to exservicemen. I shall explain my reason for expressing that view. Let us suppose that a young man was at a dead end before the outbreak of World War II. He was out of work, and without hope. He enlisted in one of the services, and was trained as a welder. Upon his discharge, .he could be regarded as a probationary tradesman. His trade efficiency would be assessed at 60 per cent, or 80 per cent., and the employer would pay him accordingly. The difference between the wage that he received from the employer, and the award rate, was paid by the Government. As soon as the became 100 per cent, efficient, the union recognized him as a tradesman, and admitted him to its membership. From that time, he could look forward to a successful future. Consequently, the system has been of assistance to exservicemen.
The honorable member, for Evans also referred to the difficulty of obtaining apprentices. He expressed the view that youths were not prepared to undergo training in order to equip themselves for a trade. They wanted to get “ big money “ quickly. I mention, in passing, that even “ big money “ does not purchase very much nowadays. However, the employers made, violent attacks on the conditions of apprentices for a long time. For 40 years, the Boilermakers Society of Australia fought for the recognition of the principle of daylight training of apprentices. For 40 years the employers strenuously opposed that claim. Eventually, by dint of superior organization, the union established the right of an apprentice to undergo training on at least half a day a week at the employer’s expense.
– When was that?
– Only a few years ago. The principle was established when a Labour government was in office. However, the employers are renewing their violent attacks upon that principle, and are seeking its abolition. To-day, we must be realists. Let us keep our feet on the ground. As a tradesman, I detect a tendency on the part of employers to cause their employees to become a race of process workers. The employers are not greatly concerned about the future of the ordinary apprentices. Once tradesmen fall into that trap and accept mass dilution and mass process working, the trade will be killed, and the worker himself will be subjected to oven attack by the employing class. To-day, the only protection that the working man possesses against the employer is his craft. That is the only weapon with which he can prise any concession from his boss.
I shall now mention a fact that has been overlooked in this debate. I regret that the Minister for Labour and National .Service (Mr. Holt) is not in the chamber, but I see his secretary in the place reserved for officials.
- (Hon. Archie Cameron). Order! The honorable member may not make any reference to the presence of officials in the chamber.
– I hope that the Secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service will take heed of this matter. During World War II., we were prepared to accept the principle of dilution and, by so doing, we sacrificed the results that we had gained from our struggles over the years to set up a craft of which we were justifiably proud. I suppose that the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) is proud of his craft. Would he accept a dilution arrangement ? No, sir! The British Medical Association would not be a party to such an arrangement. There are so-called refugee doctors in Australia who are clamouring for the right to practise, and some towns are without the services of doctors, yet the British Medical Association refuses to allow refugee doctors to practise in Australia until they have fulfilled certain requirements. What was good enough for the trade unions during World War II. was not good enough for the British Medical Association. However, when we accepted that agreement the Commonwealth Arbitration Court immediately fixed the wage for a welder in the boilermaking industry at 4s. a week in excess of that of a marker-off, who is the man who sets out and, in reality, creates the job. The man who had five, six or seven years’ apprenticeship was adjudged by the court as inferior, in respect of his knowledge of the trade, to the welder. That disparity was fixed for the purpose of causing dissatisfaction among different classes of tradesmen. That was an established fact. The union .had to deal with many matters of that kind, and the position was not corrected until two or three years ago. Imagine what would happen if one of those worthy men of the law, who have been appointed to an industrial tribunal, told the designer of a ship that he was inferior, in his knowledge of his business, to a welder !
One provision in the bill is an insult to British immigrants. The House should bear in mind that the greatest tradesmen an the world are of British .stock. However, British tradesmen who come to Australia are obliged to make application to a local committee for permission to be elevated as tradesmen. When a British immigrant, who is a boilermaker, comes to Australia, he brings his clearance from his union and hands it to the Boilermakers Society of Australia. He is then given a permit to enable him to work in an establishment for 28 days. At the end of that period, a delegate reports to the union whether the man is a fit and proper person to become a member of the Boilermakers Society of Australia. If the report is favorable to the applicant, he is admitted to the union forthwith. However, the Minister for Immigration has some knowledge of forged passports in the hands of some persons who have come to Australia from central Europe. The unions have had similar trouble with indentures in the bands of immigrants from that part of the world. I urge the Minister not to make this provision applicable to British immigrants, because reciprocal arrangements already exist between unions in Australia and similar unions in the United Kingdom. The Amalgamated Engineers Union is a world-wide organization, and this provision may be regarded as a slight to it. Delegates are appointed by a union to a local committee, and they verify the classification of a particular member. In fairness to British immigrants, the Minister should spare them the indignity of having to prove to a committee that they are Qualified tradesmen. I believe that the Minister has enough common sense to approach this matter in the proper manner, especially when the suggestion is made by an honorable member who has considerable experience of trade union affairs. I have been a member of the executive of my organization, a union organizer, and a member of various trade committees. I repeat that it is an insult to the intelligence of the average British tradesman to require him to go before a committee in order to justify the qualifications that he possesses. He brings his recommendation from the organization of which he was a member in the United Kingdom, and I consider that the word of a British union should be sufficient, even for a government of the low calibre of the present Government.
.- I approach this bill with somewhat mixed feelings, although I admit that the dilution system by having more tradesmen available provides an opportunity for more lads to become apprenticed te various trades. However, my principal purpose in participating in this debate is to reply to some of the remarks of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin). Like the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin), he stated that he supported this bill in its entirety. Both honorable gentlemen claimed that they were tradesmen. The honorable member for Watson said that he was a tradesman, and the honorable member for Kingston said that he, like some other unfortunate youths, wag serving his apprenticeship when the financial depression hit this country during the 1930’s, and that later he was accepted as a dilutee. I believe that from the stand-point of a tradesman, this bill is excellent in catering for a certain class of person, namely, young fellows who were between the ages of 16 and 21 years during the depression. They fared worst because they were denied opportunities to learn a trade. However, such opportunities existed for youths in the early 1920’s yet many who were of apprenticeship age at that time gained enrolment under the reconstruction training scheme by declaring that they had not had an opportunity to learn a trade. The fact was that those men were too lazy to learn a trade when they were young, or failed to do so because they preferred to make more money in unskilled callings. Men of that type, as they grow older, realize their mistake and find it nice to be able to get in on some scheme of the kind to which this measure relates.
The only reason that I support the bill is that it will foster the apprenticeship system. I should like to see provision made to give opportunities to men within certain age groups who are not covered by the measure. I welcome the fact that thebill will be automatically repealed three years hence. As the honorable member for Watson Las said, the majority of tradesmen, like professional men, are jealous of their skill an tradesmen should not be asked to make concessions which professional men are not asked to make, and, indeed, would not be prepared to make in any circumstances.
The honorable member for Watson made several misleading statements. I recall reading a personal announcement that was made recently in respect of the honorablemember and in which the public was informed that he was 54 years of age.
– That is correct.
– The honorable member, when he was speaking a few minutes ago, led the House to believe that he served his apprenticeship during the depression years.
Mr.Curtin. - I did not say that.
– The honorable member endeavoured to lead the House to believe that he suffered all sorts of hardships because he was an apprentice during the depression years. If he is now 54 years of age, he would have completed his apprenticeship before the depression occured. The honorable member also claimed that provision was not made for daylight training for apprentices until a few years ago. He is the first honorable gentleman from New South Wales who has laid himself open to a charge of talking nonsense in that respect. The apprenticeship authorities in that State claim to be much more progressive than are those in other States. When I commenced my apprenticeshipin 1915, daylight training was in vogue and parents of apprentices were obliged to ensure that the latter attendeda technical college at least halfaday a week.
– Daylight trainingwas made available many years ago, butonly foryouths apprenticed to governmental authorities.
– The honorable gentlemanendeavoured to convey the impression that no provision whatsoever was made for the daylight trainingof appren tices until a few years ago. Daylight training was provided for apprentices in private enterprise many years ago. The honorable gentleman also complained that the British Medical Association would never be prepared to allow dilutees to enter the medical profession. It is not the British Medical Association that adopts this attitude but the various State governments. I should hate to think of the possibility that thehonorable member might qualify as a medical practitioner under such a scheme and that I might have the misfortune to have him perform an operation on me.
I approach this measure with mixed feelings.. I repeat that I am glad that it will automatically be repealed three years hence. The time has arrived when the system of admitting dilutees into trades, particularly those like the metal trades which involve years of careful training and are well worth following, should be discontinued. I qualify that statement in respect of men who were really denied opportunities to learn a trade when they were of apprenticeship age during the depression and , who did not qualify for training under the reconstruction training scheme. I wish that the object of this measure was not to continue but to abolish the present scheme.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee withoutamendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 7th October (vide page 2568), on motion by Mr. Ericj. Harrison -
Thatthe bill be now read a second time.
Mr.POLLARD (Lalor) [8.0].- This bill,which seeks to amendthe Cotton Bounty Act 1951, is designed to increase from9½d. to 14d.perlb.thebounty guaranteedto cottonproducers in Queensland in respect of seedcotton fromthe beginningof the 1953 cottonseason, and to provide that,in the following seasons, the bounty may continue to be paid, but at a rate, fixed by regulation, not less than the present rate of 9½d. per lb. It could be higher. It could reach the maximum level of 14d. per lb.
I think the measure is justified. The Labour party supported the Cotton Bounty Act 1951, which provided for the payment of a guaranteed bounty of 9£d. per lb. for the 1951 season. Since 1951, inflation has continued, production costs have risen, and the difficulties of cotton producers are still very great. In view of those facts, and bearing in mind also that the bounty guaranteed for the 1951 season did not have the effect of causing cotton-growers to increase their production to the degree that was expected, the action of the Government in proposing that the bounty on seed cotton shall be increased to 14d. per lb. is amply justified. I am not certain that the bounty provisions for 1951 or 1952 had any material effect upon the cottongrowing industry in Queensland. As far as I have been able to ascertain, during the year 1951 the Government was not called upon to make any payment to Queensland cotton-growers in respect of the crop produced in that year. That was due to the fact that world prices for cotton remained relatively high and, therefore, that it was not necessary for the cotton-growers to avail themselves of the bounty of 9$d. per lb. in respect of seed cotton. As far as growers, are concerned, the measure has one advantage. They know that, if the world price of cotton were to fall and the price at which cotton could be landed in Australia from overseas were to fall also, they would be able to claim a bounty of up to 14d. per lb. under this measure if they were unable to obtain the import parity price for their cotton.
It is unfortunate that the Government, whilst proposing that the amount of the bounty for the forthcoming season shall be fixed at 14d. per lb., has put into the bill a provision that would enable it, of its own volition, by regulation and without consulting the Parliament, to continue to pay the bounty in subsequent years at a rate not lower than 9£d. per lb. and not higher than 14d. per lb. I think that provision is open to very severe criticism. It is true that, in justi- fication of the provision, the Government has pointed out that it will consult with leaders of the cotton industry and with various authorities about the rate at which the bounty shall be paid in subsequent years, but it appears to me that this is an attempt, and apparently a successful attempt, by the Government to take into its own hands the fixation of the bounty, without providing safeguards that would ensure that public moneys would not be squandered or expended unnecessarily, or that the rate of the bounty in years to come will not be reduced below a figure that will ensure the preservation of the industry.
I believe that there is a place for cottongrowing in the Australian economy. The north of Queensland, the north of Western Australia and the Northern Territory require to be developed more than do other parts of Australia. I do not know whether cotton-growing has yet been tried in Western Australia, but I know that the cotton-growing industry has’ had a long, chequered and, in some instances, relatively successful career in Queensland. It is true that, for a number of years, the industry has been propped up and assisted by bounty and tariff provisions, but it has had its set-backs. At the present time, Australia requires between 80,000 and 100,000 bales of cotton a year. The cotton growers of Queensland have demonstrated that they can grow cotton successfully, but they are not at present growing more than about 1,500 bales in a year. .1 believe that that will be the approximate size of the cotton harvest this year. Honorable members from Queensland will correct me if I am wrong about that. An annual production of 1,500 bales of cotton in Australia compared with our annual requirements of from 80,000 to 100,000 bales a year, is rather a poor effort, and represents a very low rate of production indeed. It is true that, during the last war, owing to a scarcity of labour and mechanical equipment, to the more profitable prices at which other primary products could be sold, and to the fact that other primary products could be produced on cotton-growing land relatively more easily than cotton, Queensland cottonproducers saw fit to go in for dairying and for other forms of primary production.
In a sense, that was not a loss to the Australian economy, because, during the war, dairying production was all-important to the people of Australia, to the people of the United Kingdom and to the Allied Forces that were supplied from this country.
It is to the credit of the cotton-growers of Queensland that they are well organized. Long ago, they accepted and utilized the provisions of the Queensland marketing legislation, and established a cotton marketing board, co-operative ginneries and seed-crushing plants. After the war, when they were concerned about the future of their industry, and saw that primary products other than cotton might not remain buoyant in price, they approached the Chifley Government and sought its assistance. They asked it to provide some guarantee for their industry, to encourage them to undertake cottongrowing on a larger scale. The Chifley Government referred their request to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report in, I think, January, 1949. After a most exhaustive inquiry into the ramifications of the industry, and after taking evidence from representatives growers’ organizations, from the manager, and other officials of the Queensland Cotton Marketing Board, from the Director of Agriculture of the Commonwealth Department of Commerce and Agriculture, from representatives of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and from people engaged in the cotton weaving or cotton fabrication trade, the Tariff Board came to the conclusion that the request by the industry for assistance was justified. But it came to the conclusion also that the request for a bounty upon seed cotton of 9½d. per lb. was not justified. The Tariff Board referred, in relatively strong terms, to the fact that, in its opinion, the cotton-growing industry in Queensland was, not conducted upon what could be considered an efficient and economic basis. It recommended that assistance to the industry, if any, should be along the lines of a continuation of the existing tariff protection and an alleviation of the burden of debt in respect of the ginneries which the industry had established cooperatively at Rockhampton and at two other centres in Queensland. In addition, the industry had established an oil extraction mill. The finance for the establishment of the cotton ginneries for processing the seed cotton acquired from the farmers had been obtained from the Commonwealth Bank. The debt in respect of the ginneries amounted to £66,000. The Tariff Board considered that that debt, having regard to the quantity of cotton seed that was processed by the ginneries, imposed a very heavy burden upon the industry in Queensland. The recommendation of the board that the debt should be liquidated was adopted by the Chifley Government. The debt of £66,000 on the ginneries was obliterated, and the industry no longer had to carry that rather heavy burden.
The Tariff Board stated emphatically that, if the industry in Queensland was to be successful, a number of very important factors had to be taken into consideration. The board stated that evidence tendered to it by agriculturalists had proved that cotton yields in Queensland were substantially heavier when irrigation methods were used. It pointed out, in addition, that at the time of the inquiry it had become the practice in Queensland to grow cotton on areas as small as from 6 to 15 acres. The board stated that, in view of increasing costs, a more economic area would be approximately 100 acres. It was felt that, if cotton were grown on areas of that size, there would be a greater spread of the costs of production. More importantly, it was considered that, with areas of about 100 acres, cotton .producers would be able to use mechanical equipment for the cultivation and picking of their cotton. About two years ago I visited a cotton farm in the Burdekin Valley. I had not previously seen cotton growing in Australia, although I had seen it grown in Egypt. On that small cotton farm I saw the farmer, dragging a cornsack behind him along the furrows, laboriously pick the cotton bolls from the bushes, place them in the bag, and then drag it to the next bush. That appeared to me to be an arduous, cumbersome and undoubtedly expensive task. I should imagine that that type of work would not attract any farmer into cottongrowing, however good the price that might be paid for cotton. It is now known thai mechanical cotton pickers ha’ve been in use in the United States of America, Russia, Egypt and other cotton-growing countries for many year’s. That factor was, ho doubt, considered by the Tariff Board when it made a recommendation that large areas under cotton could be more economically worked than could small areas. The board also pointed out another most interesting fact, which was that during the war the Volume of cotton grown in Queensland dropped to approximately 50 per cent, of the pre-war level. It also pointed out that, whereas before the war, when larger areas were cultivated, the cost of ginning cotton amounted to only .693d. per lb., the crop’ harvested in 1949 was so small that the cost of ginning it was 7.S3d, per lb. Honorable members will realize, therefore, that the question of what constitutes a satisfactory price foi- cotton is dependent not only on sound agricultural practices, the utilization of mechanical equipment and the farming of areas of a suitable size, but also very largely on the handling of a comparatively large’ output by the ginneries1 or processing mills. It is to be hoped, therefore, that this proposed guarantee of 14d. per lb, by way of bounty, will encourage growers to sow additional areas of cotton in Queensland. I wish to make it quite clear, however, that the Government will not actually pay 14d. per lb. bonus to anybody unless the landed price of imported cotton and cotton seed falls below 14d. per lb.
– I am certainly . not opposed to it and, like the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) I- believe that we should encourage the cotton-growing industry. It is estimated that Australia, which now consumes between 70,000 and 80,000 bales of cotton annually, only 1,250 or 1,500 bales of which is produced locally, will within ten years require 300,000 bales a year. Cotton is a desirable type of tropical agriculture in my opinion and in the opinion of other members of the Labour party. In view of our undoubted need for more population in the north, I consider that it is a type of agriculture that
We might well encourage, not only be cause it is: desirable of itself but also from the point o’f view of its value in the rotational crop system”. The growing of cotton can be beneficially associated with the’ dairying industry, because’ farmers can rotate cotton crops with pastures. It was emphasized very strongly by the agriculturalists who’ gave evidence before the Tariff Board that, wherever practicable, cotton culture should be carried out under conditions of irrigation. The increase of yield under irrigation is astonishing.- Experiments have shown that the yield under irrigation is about three times the yield obtained by dry farming.
I regret that the Government- has not seen fit to provide finance, either through the Queensland Government dr direct, to encourage the development of irrigation potentialities of the Burdekin Valley. I do not know whether cotton is grown in great quantities in the Burdekin Valley to-day, but I know that it is grown experimentally there. I have seen it grown there on a small farm under dryfarming conditions. If the Burdekin River were dammed to make irrigation water available, there is no question that cotton culture could become one df our great successful industries of the future. I therefore express very strongly the view that it is desirable for the Government to do everything possible to hasten the development of irrigation in Queensland, particularly in the Burdekin Valley. I am not allowed to roam very far from the -subject of cotton during this debate, but I think I have emphasized that irrigation is desirable for cotton production, and that all the bounties and guarantees that may be provided will be robbed of their real value if further government assistance is not provided to enable cotton to be grown under the most economic circumstances.
Another interesting aspect of the cotton industry, which could be of immense economic value to Australia is that after the cotton has been ginned the seed that is left is crushed, and from it comes cottonseed oil, which is in great demand by margarine manufacturers. The production, of cotton, therefore, assists in the prdduiction of a wholesome foodstuff and also assists’ beef raisers to dispose tff premier Jus, which: is first quality beef fat. Perhaps more important still is the fact that cottonseed meal which is obtained by crushing cotton seed, is probably the highest protein concentrate that is available for the feeding of dairy cattle.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the bill?
– -Yes, I am in favour of it, though I emphasize that, under it, in actual fact the Government will not be giving any real financial assistance to the cotton-growers. It is offering to growers a measure of security that may, under certain circumstances, cost it some money, brit there are no indications at the’ moment that the price of either cotton of cottonseed imported to Australia will fall to a level that would necessitate payment by the Government of the amounts guaranteed. I prefer to aline myself with the Labour forces of this country, which believe that security is important to our primary producers. Insofar as we can assist to provide such security, we are always ready, as member’s of a party that has the welfare of this country at heart, to give such assistance. Cottonseed meal, a by-product of the cotton industry of Queensland has, as I have said, perhaps the highest protein content of any concentrate that is available to the dairy industry, and it would be desirable to justify the fostering of cotton growing iii this country for that reason alone, if for no other, because after all the dairying industry is One of our great basic agricultural industries. I had experience of feeding dairy cattle on cottonseed meal before the war. Such feed is not now avaliable owing to the decreased production of cotton in Queensland. I know that it is impossible to obtain the same results from any other known protein food. Dairymen would welcome a vast increase of production of this kind of concentrate. Nowadays dairy farmers are largely dependent on concentrates like linseed meal, which is obtained by crushing seed imported from India. It would be infinitely preferable for us to produce these agricultural ancillaries ourselves rather than . to rely on the importation of protein meals from other countries. On- behalf of the Opposition I commend the1 bill to the House. We very sincerely hope that it will hot be necessary foi” the Government to disburse any money under its provisions. We also assure the primary producers of Queensland that we are watchful arid interested, both in- respect of their State’s great irrigation potentialities’ arid of the potentiality of thistropical industry. In these circumstances I am pleased to be associated with support of the measure.
I do not profess to be an authority oil cotton production. My association, with cotton growing consists mainly of some acquaintance with the economics tff cotton growing, and gleanings gained from agriculturalists who know something about it, and the results of my ownpersonal observations. I speak as ari Australian who desires to see his country indulge in diversified forms of agriculture that will be for the ultimate welfare, not only of agriculturalists, but of the whole community. In these circumstances the Opposition supports the bill and hope3 that it will give to cotton farmers a measure of security that will encourage them to put larger areas under Cotton than they have hitherto done.
.- The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has given what I might term a “ qualified blessing “ to the bill. I think it can be taken for granted that a considerable number of honorable members agree that the cotton industry is worthy of support from the Government in a way that will ensure it, over a long period of year3, that security that any primary industry must have if it is to plan for extension and development. I consider that the bill is good, and is worthy of support, but I state quite definitely that I, too, give it only a qualified blessing because I think that, although it is good as far as it goes, it does not go far enough. I wish to make some reference to the reasons that have caused me to make that remark. The honorable member for Lalor introduced some matters that I do not consider to be particularly applicable to the bill. His introduction of them, however, justifies my making some reference to them in reply. He referred, for instance, to the possibility of a considerable extension of cotton growing, not only in Queensland but also in other areas. It has been an accepted fact in Queensland that increased irrigation facilities are essential if there is to be any great expansion of the cotton-growing industry. I do not quarrel with that statement, but there has been a considerable amount of cotton grown under irrigation in the Burdekin Valley area, so much in fact that several of the new cottonpicking machines which have been introduced by the Cotton Marketing Board now operate there permanently during the picking season. As. soon as the Queensland Government is in a position to place before the Australian Government a sound economic proposition regarding the further damming of the Burdekin River and the increased irrigation of the valley, this Government will be only too willing to help in the development of such a proposal. This Parliament has debated the development of the Burdekin area many times, so I do not propose to labour the matter any further. However, I remember pointing out at least two years ago that when this Government assumed office it found very great faults in the scheme then proposed by the Queensland Government for the damming of the Burdekin River, and it decided that the scheme could not be justified on either technical or economic grounds. No proposal has yet been put before the Australian Government which has been shown to be thoroughly sound. One of the economic proposals put forward in justification for the scheme was that the land to be irrigated could be utilized to produce another 100,000 tons of sugar. However, that suggestion was made at a time when the Australian and overseas markets for sugar were completely saturated, and when there was no possibility of selling any extra sugar, even if it had been produced. Therefore, that proposal was found to be unsound. To the present, in spite of many requests for further investigation, no sound proposal has been put to the Commonwealth. As soon as such a proposal is “submitted, I can assure honorable members that it will have not only my own support,- but also that of every other honorable member on this side of the House, who represents a Queensland electorate.
The act which this measure will amend originally provided for a bounty of 9£d. per lb. on seed cotton of certain grades. The bounty was to be in force for five years from January, 1951, and it was decided upon after efforts had been made from time to time by those interested in re-establishing the Queensland . cotton industry, so that it would become a reasonably important factor in the economy of the country and would be able to contribute something towards our defence potential should we again need to import huge quantities of cotton as we did during the last war. Representations were made to the previous Australian Government, and also to this Government in its early stages, that a bounty of 9$d. per lb. on seed cotton should be paid. The honorable member for Lalor has already directed attention to the fact that the Tariff Board reported adversely upon the proposal to pay such a bounty. Although the Tariff Board did not recommend the payment of a bounty, it recommended ‘ that the cotton-growing industry should be relieved of certain obligations in regard to payment for ginneries. I consider that the previous Government made a serious mistake in not ignoring the report of the Tariff Board, which was based solely on economic grounds, and which paid no attention to the wider aspects of the industry. It is now history that as soon as feasible after this Government assumed office, the request of the cottongrowing industry for a guaranteed bounty of 9£d. per lb. was granted. The Minister, when introducing this bill, said -
The Government’s decision took into account that diversification of the economy was desirable, that a thriving cotton industry was necessary for Australia’s full industrial development, and that cotton growing is one of the few primary industries for which there is a large domestic demand unsatisfied by local production, and having an important defence potential.
No one can quarrel with the accuracy of that statement, and no one can deny that the arguments for his view now exist even more strongly than in 1951, when they were first put forward. The Minister also said -
The guaranteed return of 9-Jd. per lb. was granted to introduce into the industry an element of stability during a period when developmental programmes in research, mechanisation and irrigation, which permit the eventual establishment of the industry on a permanent and efficient footing were coming to fruition.
The Minister might also have said that there were other perfectly sound arguments to justify the granting of a guaranteed price to the industry. For example, because of developments in primary production in recent years, such industries as dairying, and industries carried on in conjunction with the .cotton-growing industry, were offering a far more profitable return than cotton growing and, consequently, cotton growers were apt to turn their efforts to those other industries’. The honorable member for Lalor said that that was not a loss to the Australian economy. That is so, but it had the effect of slowly doing to death an important industry. That argument prevailed with the Government, and it decided that it was desirable to place this young industry on a footing comparable with that of other primary industries so that it would have a chance not only a of survival but also of development. A further argument in favour of a guaranteed price lies in the rising costs which affect all other industries and which have been taken into account in other industries in determining a reasonable return. These matters all have a bearing on the submissions that I propose to make later.
Already the guaranteed return of 9£d. per lb. has had some effect on the development of the cotton-growing industry. Certainly it did not result in a very great increase of the cotton acreage during last year’s planting, the results of which are being harvested now, but that was because of the serious drought which prevailed in the cotton-growing areas at about the time of planting. Last year, applications to the Cotton Marketing Board for seed were sufficient in the initial stages for the planting of at least 15,000 acres, but unfortunately, as the result of the drought, only about 5,000 acres were eventually planted with cotton seed. The fact that there has not been any great increase of acreage following the granting of the 9½d. guaranteed price must not be attributed to any fault of the industry and must not be considered an indication of the ineffectiveness of the guaranteed price. The Cotton Marketing Board, realizing fully the wisdom of increasing the mechanizaton of the industry, purchased last year seven new cotton-picking machines of the latest type from America. They added those machines to the five that were in operation, but which were becoming obsolescent and were not sufficient in number to enable the board to service the great area under cotton. The Cotton Marketing Board, relying on the stability provided by the guaranteed prices, purchased these seven machines at a cost of about £32,000. Yet, if it is to plan properly for the development of the cotton industry, it must purchase still more machines of that type. The machines are extremely efficient, as I know, because I recently saw them in operation. The Cotton Marketing Board has had to commit itself to this expenditure, and has accepted an obligation to pay for these machines over the next seven years. If it has to further service the industry, it must have much greater stability than that provided by a guaranteed price for only one year. I have been informed that already the shortage of machines has caused the Cotton Marketing Board to refuse seed to growers, who wanted to plant several thousand acres more of cotton for the coming season, because the applications for seed were made with the stipulation that the board should provide machines for the harvesting of the cotton. That has not been possible with the present machinery owned by the board.
It was realized about six months ago that the present guaranteed price was no longer sufficient to give real stability to this industry and to allow developmental programmes, research and mechanization to be carried on. The increasing costs of cultivation and the sound economic position of other industries were factors that were still operating, and the board considered that in view of those factors it was desirable that the guaranteed price should be increased. The increased sum of 14d. per lb. that is sought for seed cotton will still keep the guaranteed price within the scope previously referred to, and there is unlikely »to be any demand on the Australian Government for ‘payment ‘Of -the subsidy ‘for a “considerable period to come. A <case was >put forward for the increase of the subsidy to 14d. per lb., such increase to ‘apply for the remainder o’f the ‘period covered by the 1951 act. A statement was made -not long ago to the effect that the Government ‘had agreed ito increase the guarantee and I do >not think that any particular qualification was attached to that statement except ‘that it was likely to -be ‘varied if ginning costs were ‘not reduced. As ‘the honorable member for Lalor said, the cost of ginning has always been a dangerous factor in production costs generally, largely because a considerable amount of capital is necessary to establish the ginneries, and because the ‘overhead costs associated with running them can be ‘reduced to a reasonable figure only by having a large turnover. ,So far that has not been possible. The Government expected the increase to foster production, which would enable ginning costs to be reduced and thus place the industry on a sounder economic footing. However, when the announcement was made in those terms, growers understood that the new guarantee of l’4d. per lb. for seed cotton would apply for the remainder of the present five-year period, not to a one year period.
It seems to me, though my views are open to correction, that the bill does not completely provide for such a guarantee.
It certainly provides that the present guaranteed price of 9§d. per lb. for seed cotton shall be increased to 14d. for the forthcoming season, but there is also a proviso that the guarantee may be varied by regulation, although it may not be reduced to less than 9$d. per lb. I realize that the price can be varied either up or down, according to circumstances, and there is some advantage for the industry in the fact that the Minister may increase the price without having to withhold his decision while protracted investigations are made, or pending legislative action by this Parliament. That will relieve the industry of the danger that is apparent in many Other primary industries, which sometimes have to wait for many months, while extensive investigations are made, before they can benefit from price adjustments. A straight-out declaration that ‘ihe ‘hew -guaranteed price would apply ‘until ‘the end of 19’55 would -assure stability in ‘the industry. I am afraid that lack of stability will have an adverse effect upon it by hampering long-range planning by the Cotton Marketing Board on behalf of the growers. Small farmers cannot afford to buy expensive machinery in order ‘to put the cotton industry on an economic footing. ‘Therefore, the b&ard must ‘expend many thousands Of pounds on ‘harvesting ‘machines and other equipment. It committed itself last year ‘to a total expenditure of more than £30,000 over a period of eight years. .Therefore, before it can be expected ‘to assume further heavy obligations on behalf of ‘the growers, it must “be given a reasonable “assurance that, over a period of years, the return to the industry will be such as will enable it to meet its commitments. That is why I said at the outset of my speech that my blessing upon the bill was qualified.
The -measure, of co’urse, is desirable, and it will be welcomed by the growers because, for the coming .year at least, it will guarantee a price of at least 14d”. per lb. for seed cotton. It will be an advantage for the industry to know that, if sound reasons for an increase of that price can be advanced to the Minister, such an increase can be granted without lengthy delay. ‘However, practical men will say, “ We are not certain what will happen after next year, and, therefore, we will not commit ourselves finally and definitely to engage exclusively in cotton production “.
– - Th e price could ‘be as low as 9f d. per lb. again after next year.
– Yes, in the worst circumstances, but also it could be 16d. pet lb.
– That is true.
– The indefiniteness of the plan is a weakness, and, therefore, I urge that earnest consideration be given to my comments. The bill could be amended in the Senate. My remarks have been made solely with a desire to assist the Government and in the knowledge that the Government will welcome assistance. It appears to me that the Government may >not (have realized yet the full ‘implications of the plan for which the bill provides. Under this plan, the Cotton Marketing Board will ‘not ‘be able to plan effectively for . more than about a year in advance. That period is not , nearly sufficient. I consider also that the target of 60,000 acres that the Australian Agricultural ‘Council has set to be .realized in. 1957-58 is most unlikely to be realized unless the growers are definitely assured of reasonable prices for more than one year ahead. I support the “bill .because, as far as it goes, it is good. However, I should be much happier if it went .further still. Therefore, I urge the ‘Government to give earnest .attention to my comments with the object of improving what -already is .a mound measure.
.- In the early stages - of Australia’s development, we -received our cotton, first, from Egypt, and, later, from the United States of America. The demand for cotton is now so great that the establishment of a healthy cotton-growing industry in this country has become -of vital importance. Cotton is used for a wide variety of purposes in every walk of life. The motor vehicle industry, for instance, is expanding very rapidly, and cotton is needed for the manufacture <of tyres for motor vehicles. It is used by every civilized race from the -time of birth to the time of death, from the first “napkin placed on .a baby to the winding «sheet for the -dead. Cotton .even makes -a ‘first-class, surface for race-courses. The Whinstanes ginnery in Queensland is .adjacent to the Doomben race-course, -and .cotton waste discarded by the ginnery, which has been used to cover the course, has .proved -to be the best possible .surface for horse racing. ‘State -governments expend a great deal of money in order to provide sweat-rags if-or workers whom they employ on arduous and dirty jobs. Cotton rags are used extensively by railway-men, coal-miners, and workers in ‘other heavy industries. The Queensland ‘Government imports large quantities of cotton goods at great cost in order to (supply the requirements of its employees. The athletic -singlet is another important product of the cotton “industry. We ‘all know how a man takes pride in himself in the -prime of his youth, and likes to show off his muscles by wearing an ‘athletic ‘singlet. Cotton is the base of many materials that are beloved of “the ladies. ‘Thus, it is used in every -phase -of life, and is, “therefore, important to our ‘domestic economy.
I have made .these comments in order to impress upon the ‘Government the necessity for the establishment ‘of a healthy Australian cotton industry. I agree almost .entirely with the remarks that have “been made b,y the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson). Cotton-growing was taken up with great enthusiasm when -the industry was first established in Queensland. Much cotton was ,gr.own in the Theodore irrigation area, the Rockhampton district, and the electorate that the present Minister -for Lands in Queensland represents in the State Parliament. However, the price fell, -and .the ‘growers automatically abandoned cotton production and devoted themselves to dairying and other pursuits. That emphasizes the importance of stabilizing the cotton industry, as the honorable -member for Dawson advocated, so that it -can compete against the -attractions of .other forms .of primary production. Members of the Australian Country party in this House are keen advocates -of the interests of primary producers, but most of them are chiefly interested in the classes -of production with which they .are associated. All primary production is of vital importance to .Australia, and the cotton industry has more to do with the well-being of the people than has any other primary industry. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) can tell the House, if he wishes to do ‘so, a very .good story .about the -early history :of cotton-growing in Queensland. It relates to an occasion when the Premier of .the day took ia party of members of various political parties to the cottongrowing area. I shall not tell the ‘story to-night, because it would take -me ‘too long, but it is -a good story and I hope that the honorable member for Wide Bay will tell it to his ‘colleagues, because I am sure that they will ‘enjoy it. The guarantee of 14d. per lb. for seed cotton is excellent, but, like the honorable member for Dawson, I should like to know, that it would apply at least until 1955. We cannot reasonably expect the farmers to engage in a new form of production unless they have some assurance that they will obtain a reasonable return for the labour and the capital that they invest in the project. The present guaranteed price is of no significance, because world prices exceed 9Jd. per lb. However, I should like to know that, if cotton prices fell overseas with the result that growers tried to dump their product in Australia, local growers would be protected by tariff barriers and reinforced by subsidy so that they could profitably carry on with the task of producing cotton for Australia. The development of a healthy cotton industry in Australia also would enable us to save dollars.
The bill does not go so far as I should like. The honorable member for Dawson touched on the fringe of what might- be done. This legislation should be designed to meet conditions for years to come so that the cotton industry will be thoroughly stabilized. Like other members of the Opposition, I accept the bill. One Government supporter has asked me why I accept this legislation if I am not satisfied with it. I accept the bill because it is the best of a bad bargain. We often have to follow that course. Apparently, the honorable member for Dawson accepts the measure although he has expressed the opinion that he is not completely in agreement with it. In my opinion, the bill should be carefully examined in the Senate with a view to overcoming the objections that I have expressed to it. I do not consider that sufficient thought has been given to the measure with the object of inducing people to grow cotton, not for one year or two years, but for many years. I support the bill in the sure and certain hope that when the’ Labour party is returned to office, it will carry on the good work, and will definitely stabilize the cotton industry.
It is hardly necessary for me to tell the House that cotton can be grown in almost every part of Queensland. I have said a good deal about Queensland since I have been a member of this House.
The land is suitable for growing cotton and, with the provision of irrigation schemes, there is no doubt that people will engage in the industry, provided they have the necessary guarantees for the future.
– I support the bill. This legislation has been introduced at the request of the Queensland Cotton Board and the Queensland Government and provides a guarantee of 14d. per lb. payable by the Commonwealth. I remind the House that assistance granted by the Commonwealth has made cotton growing possible in Queensland in the past. When the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister, cotton interests in Queensland and New South Wales received assistance from the Commonwealth for the first time. Since then, confidence has grown steadily that cotton will prove a valuable crop in Australia. The industry is of great value, not only for the reason stated by the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce), but also from the stand-point of defence and the national economy. The bulk of our requirements of raw cotton is imported from the dollar area. For that reason alone, any impetus that can be given to cotton growing is more important to-day than ever before.
Cotton is probably the best crop that can be grown by a new settler, provided seasonal conditions are kind to him. It is easy to sow, and is early. The harvesting of the crop is arduous, but the work is reduced considerably with the use of mechanical pickers. Cotton has been, and can be grown profitably in association with other primary industries including the grazing industry. Probably no other industry has had more rocky existence in its early life than the cotton industry. Unfortunately, in the pioneering stages, Australians did not have an adequate knowledge of the conditions required for cotton growing. We had a similarly unfortunate experience with tobacco growing. However, the British Australian Cotton Association was established in Great Britain and invested money in. the establishment of ginneries in every district in Queensland where it seemed that cotton would be a useful crop.
The planting of cotton at that time established a record that has not been exceeded in later years.
Unfortunately, a great mistake was made on that occasion. The British Australian Cotton Association advised the Queensland Government that no ratoon cotton should be ginned, because it feared that the boll weevil would bc developed in this country, even if the germ had not arrived from the United States of America. That decision disheartened cotton-growers and only one-quarter of the previous year’s crop was grown in the following year. That was the first debacle in the cotton industry in this country. Since that time, the industry has experienced the disadvantages of drought conditions, whilst improved prices for other primary products have induced cotton-growers to turn to those industries. Cotton-growers have struggled along for many years since the payment of the first bounty on this product. The Commonwealth has granted bounties and other forms of assistance as the price of cotton has risen in other countries, and as the prices of other primary products have increased. Consequently, the bounty has been raised from a few pence per lb. to 9Ad. per lb., and, under this bill, will be increased to 14d. per lb.
As has been mentioned in this debate, a. number of mechanical pickers are available that will enable the crop to be harvested more cheaply and quickly than has been possible in the past. The mechanical aids will do away with much of the drudgery, and the use of child labour which were not acceptable to a family for more than one year. The advent of mechanical pickers, the application of scientific knowledge and the crossing and growing of new varieties will enable the industry to recover from the debacle which was caused when Queensland interests urged the production of sufficient durango seed for the whole of our cotton crop. That seed eventually proved a failure, because it yielded too great a stalk, particularly when grown on richer lands and our great scrublands, and the growers were deprived of a great yield of cotton bolls. To-day a wealth of knowledge is available to growers through the Queensland Cotton Board and the Queensland Department of Agriculture. Experts came to Australia from India and the United States of America to advise us on cotton-growing, and young Australian scientists are assisting the grower. That wealth of experience and knowledge provides us with an opportunity to give an impetus to this great and valued industry. I emphasize that cotton can be grown as an adjunct to many other industries in the rural areas. The development of diversified farming would assist business people who have stood by cotton-growers, as they have stood by most other primary producers, in the hope that, eventually, they will achieve some success.
The Queensland Government has decided on occasions to undertake irrigation schemes. It formulated a plan for the construction of the Nathan Dam, and a party of members of Parliament, including the honorable member for Leichhardt and myself, journeyed to the Dawson Valley for the purpose of viewing this great project, based on the American system, to provide water in order to ensure the successful growing of cotton. It was at this place that the stories, to which the honorable member for Leichhardt referred, were told. Had the Nathan Dam been constructed and had water from the irrigation scheme been available for cotton growing, the success of that industry would have been as assured as the growing of cotton in the Nile Valley. For centuries, the Egyptian economy has been dependent upon the Nile. Cotton grown in that fertile valley supplied the requirements of Europe for hundreds of years and, together with American cotton, continues to supply the demands of the world. I hope that Australia will profit, from that example, and devote more attention to the provision of irrigation schemes for the growing of cotton. With an assured water supply, all the disabilities of that industry will disappear. Australian-grown cotton will relieve us of the necessity to import large supplies of cotton, and thereby save us valuable dollars.
I sincerely hope that this bill will prove successful in stimulating cotton growing in this country. It makes provision for the1 granting of assistance that has been sought by the industry and the Queensland Government, which has the responsibility of fostering the industry and guiding its destiny. I hope that, as the industry succeeds, it will be possible for us to reduce the amount of assistance that will be provided under this legislation. Perhaps after 1953, if the industry is prosperous, the Government will be able to reduce1 the guarantee to the present figu’re of 9½d. per lb., so that the general community will not feel that a burden has been placed upon it unnecessarily. I am sure that every honorable member wishes that the hopes expressed by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) in his second-reading speech will be realized, and that cotton will save us many valuable dollars, provide employment for large numbers of people, and justify the establishment of a permanent secondary industry that will be of untold value to the people in the future.
.- I rise to support the bill. I find myself in agreement with the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) on this legislation, which proposes that a guaranteed price of 14d. per lb. shall be paid for seed cotton. The industry has requested that such assistance be granted. However, like the honorable member for Leichhardt, I ‘ am disappointed that all the Government has done is to make provision for the payment of the guaranteed price. Cotton was first grown in Australia in 1860. At that time, the American Civil War was in progress and an acute shortage of cotton existed throughout the world. Those factors were mainly responsible for the establishment of the industry in this country. However, when the American Civil War ended and coloured labour again become available in the industry in the United States of America the industry in Australia commenced to languish. In 1920, a serious attempt was made to revive it. In that year the Empire Cotton Corporation was established and the Queensland Government, from its limited resources, guaranteed a price of 5£d. per lb. for seed cotton. Production increased from 46,000 lb. in 1920 to 11,770,000 lb. in 1923 and up till 1925 Queensland-grown cotton wa’s exported and sold on the world’s markets in competition with cotton grown in Egypt and other countries. Having regard to the position in which the industry finds itself to-day, it can, like the tobacco industry, be described as one of the Cinderella industries of Australia. The industry itself, with assistance that it received from the Queensland Government, has been enabled to construct three ginneries. In recent years, it has been enabled to procure mechanical pickers and other equipment from abroad. Since 1920, the Queensland Government has been anxious to establish the industry on a firm foundation, and, at a time when we hear so much talk about the necessity to increase primary production, this industry should receive every possible assistance from the National Government also. If such assistance were forthcoming, the industry would be capable in a relatively short period of producing 100,000 bales annually.
In 1934, the industry achieved its record production which was 17,070 bales or, approximately, 27,000,000 lb. of seed cotton. By 1945, production had decreased to only 1,S20 bales. The main reasons for the decrease were the shortage of labour under war-time conditions and increases of prices for primary products which induced growers to turn to other forms of production. This industry can be most profitably worked in association with the dairying industry, that is, ou a cotton-grassland-crop rotation. That method is being followed in Queensland. I agree with the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) that the only way to establish the industry on a sound foundation is by providing adequate irrigation. This Government should give some indication that it realizes the importance of the industry from a defence point of view and that we must produce our cotton requirements just as we produce our requirements of sugar, wheat and other products. This Government should give to the growers and those who are prepared to enter the industry sufficient encouragement to plan ahead. It is all very well for Government supporters to express satisfaction with the Government’s proposal to increase the guaranteed price to 14d. per lb. The growers .require some indication of what the price is likely to be five, or ten, years hence. No one can be expected to invest capital in an industry unless he is given an assurance that its product will be enabled .to compete with .the overseas product. .1 repeat that up till 1925 Queenslandgrown cotton was. exported and was sold on overseas markets in competition with that grown in other countries. When the Defence Preparations Act was passed we were told that it would empower the Government to divert manpower and material to essential industries. There can be no doubt that cotton is essential to our defence programme. However, apart from increasing the guaranteed price to 14d. per lb. the Government has not attempted to evolve a long-range plan for the industry or to give to it any other inducement that would enable it to be established on a firm basis.
Government supporters, particularly honorable members who come from Queensland, should be conscious of the needs of the cotton industry if it is to be established on a firm basis. Cotton can be grown successfully in -extensive areas which, to-day, are only sparsely populated. At a time when the complaint is generally heard that too many people are congregating in our capital cities, this Government should stabilize the industry in order to enable it to attract more’ people to the land. If we should ever become involved in another world war, we might find ourselves cut off from our present sources of supplies overseas. Therefore, we should ensure constant supplies to meet not only the needs of war industries and the armed forces, but also civilian requirements. For those reasons, the Government should do all in its power to stabilize the cotton industry. The Opposition supports the measure but believes that the Government should go further and indicate to the Cotton Marketing Board that it is prepared to evolve a long-term plan .of development for the industry. The Government should consult with the board in an effort to enable the industry to deal with the problems that confront it.
– I was interested to hear the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) refer to the cotton industry as .a Cinderella industry, because I am reminded that he and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr.. Pollard), who led this debate on behalf ©f the Opposition, were members of the Chifley Ministry prior to 1949. I am also reminded that the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce), the only other member of the Opposition who has so far participated in this debate, was for a considerable period a Minister in the Queensland Labour Government. When they criticized this Government for failing to give adequate assistance to the cotton-growing industry, I was reminded that both the Chifley Government and the Queensland Labour Government did practically nothing to help the industry.
– A sum of £67,000 was made available to the industry.
– That sum was made available in respect of capital costs involved in the establishment and maintenance of ginneries and was not assistance to the cotton-growers. The way to encourage an industry is to encourage the producer directly. Although those honorable members have criticized this Government for its alleged lack of action, governments which they supported did not attempt to increase the guaranteed price for seed cotton in the light of the evidence that had been submitted to the Tariff Board that inquired into the industry in 1948. I was surprised to hear the criticism that the honorable member for Leichhardt uttered because if any government has ever been a knocker of an industry it has been the Queensland Labour Government insofar as its actions in relation to the establishment -of the cotton industry are concerned.
– That is not true.
– Order !
– It is true, and ample proof of that statement is available. Perhaps, I can best present that proof by reviewing the history of the industry. I was surprised when I heard the honorable member for Leichhardt say that he remembered when it was established in 1860. Perhaps, I misunderstood what he said. As the honorable member for Kennedy has said, the industry was established in 1860 when the American civil war was in progress and at a time when it was. impossible for Australia to obtain adequate supplies of cotton from the United States of America. The industry recorded its maximum production of 17,070 bales in 1934. In that year, the Queensland Government guaranteed a price of 5£d. per lb. and, as a result, production increased. In 1941, the Australian Government took over that liability from the Queensland Government and substituted a guaranteed price of 5£d. per lb. In 1951, as the Minister has pointed out, this Government increased the guaranteed price to 9½d. per lb. Having regard to the statements by honorable members opposite that the Chifley Government and the Queensland Labour Government did all in their power to assist the industry, it is rather astounding that, in 1949, the last year of office of the Chifley Government, total production of raw cotton had decreased from the maximum production of 17,500 bales in 1934 to only 1,000 bales. That is a complete answer to statements that the honorable member for Lalor made.
I agree that every effort should be made to establish the industry on a firm basis. I dealt at length with this subject in my maiden speech in- this House. During the last few years, Australia has expended from 20,000,000 to 25,000,000 dollars on the purchase of raw cotton. We use approximately 100,000 bales of cotton a year. We have 80 or 90 spinning mills which must be kept supplied. During the last few years, the world production of cotton has been insufficient to meet the demand. It is only in the last year that production has slightly exceeded consumption, and I believe that that is/ the reason why there has been a slight decline in the world parity price. The ginneries of Queensland are capable of processing 30,000 bales of cotton a year. Therefore, it is unnecessary for Australia to contemplate an increase of its ginnery capacity for a considerable period. Under the conditions that prevail in this country at present, it will bo a very long time before we produce 30,000 bales of cotton a year.
One of the major problems encountered by the industry over the years concerns the picking of cotton. America has led the world in the mechanization of indus- trial processes, but it was only comparatively recently that it became interested in a mechanical cotton picker. As honorable members know, America has a very large black labour force. Up to the outbreak of World War I., a large percentage of that labour force was employed upon the American cotton fields, but the first and second world wars caused a tremendous diversion of black labour from those fields. The Americans saw that they were likely to encounter problems in their cotton industry, and they realized that, if they did not begin to design and produce a mechanical cotton picker, the industry would collapse entirely owing to excessive production costs. So they produced one. I have had the good fortune to see it in operation. It is an excellent machine, which is quite capable of picking satisfactorily the major portion of any cotton crop.
– Does it waste much ?
– It does not ‘waste a great deal. There are occasions when, owing to seasonal conditions, the whole of the cotton plant does not mature at the same time, and on such occasions it is necessary to put the machine over the crop twice. But if cotton could be grown in this country under irrigation, I believe that that problem _ would be solved to a large degree. I shall deal with irrigation in a moment. In my opinion, the Labour Government of Queensland has let down the cotton industry in that State in connexion with mechanical pickers. If the Queensland Government wanted to give real assistance to the cotton industry, it should make available enough mechanical pickers to deal with all the cotton produced in certain periods. I have been told by the manager of the Queensland Cotton Marketing Board that, last year, the board received a great number of requests for mechanical pickers from farmers who said that they would plant cotton only if pickers could be made available to them when their crops had matured.
– What is the cost of these machines?
– I cannot give the figure offhand, but I know that about three years ago the price of a machine was about £3,500. The farmers of Queensland wanted a guarantee that mechanical pickers would be made available if they planted cotton, but the board could not meet all the requests that were made. As I have said, the Queensland Government has let the cotton industry down. It knew that it was necessary to give substantial assistance to the industry, and it should have made finance available for the importation of a sufficient number of mechanical pickers to enable the cottongrowers to solve the problem of picking their cotton.
I turn now to another great problem with which the industry is confronted. It is the problem of irrigation, which was mentioned by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). The honorable gentleman referred to the Burdekin River scheme. He knows that the present estimate of the cost of implementing that scheme is about £70,000,000. Reports by experts acting on behalf of the Commonwealth have shown that an investment of £70,000,000 ‘in the Burdekin River scheme would not be an economic proposition.
– What has that got to do with it?
– It has a lot to do with it. Does the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) suggest that cottongrowing areas should be irrigated with waters from the Burdekin River? I assure him that it would be impossible to grow enough cotton in that area to justify a capital expenditure of £70,000,000.
– Other crops could be grown.
– Order !
– If other crops were grown, the acreage available for “cotton production in that area would be reduced. The logical approach to the problem would be to construct small weirs on many of the smaller streams in Queensland. If that were done, large areas of cottongrowing land could be irrigated. I point out that cotton-growing areas are fairly widely spread. Most of the cotton grown in Queensland at the present time is produced in the area represented by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce). I know that he would express views similar to those that I have expressed if he were in the House now.
– Where is he?
– He is unavoidably absent. Many areas in Queensland other than the Capricornia area are suitable for cotton growing. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has mentioned that one of the areas in which cotton was first grown in Queensland is the Lockyer area, which is represented by the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Cameron). If weirs were constructed on small streams in that part of Queensland, irrigated land would be made available for the production of cotton. Cotton was grown at one time in the Texas area of Queensland, and ,it could be grown there again. The point that I am making is that the Queensland Labour Government, during the many years it has been in office, has had full responsibility for the development of irrigation schemes to assist primary production, but it has done nothing in that connexion.
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
– I rise to order. You. Mr. Speaker, have called the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to order at least three times while the honorable member for Petrie has been speaking upon this measure. I know that we must make allowances for the temperament of the honorable member for Lalor, but 3 do not believe that he should be permitted to interrupt the debate as often as he has done. I ask you to protect the honorable member for Petrie.
– I have called the attention of the honorable member for Lalor to his conduct two or three times. I ask him finally to refrain from interjecting, and also to refrain from conversing aloud, which is definitely prohibited by the Standing Orders.
– I do not mind the interjections of the honorable member for Lalor, but it is a little irritating when he says repeatedly, “ It is not true “. Interjections of that kind suggest a lack of knowledge on his part. I am pleased that I have been interrupted, because the interruption gives me an opportunity to repeat what I was saying a moment ago.
-Order! Repetition is not desirable. There has been too much of it to-night already.
– Perhaps honorable members have forgotten that I was blaming, the Labour Government of Queensland for its failure to assist the cotton-growing industry in that State by providing, suitable irrigation schemes. One becomes tired of listening to members of the Opposition praising the Queensland Government and saying that this Government has fallen down on its job. I say that the Queensland Government has. fallen down on its. job, just as the Chifley Government did. It remained for this Government to give the Australian cotton industry a guaranteed price of 9£ per lb. for seed cotton in 1951, which made the return from the cotton-growing industry comparable with the return from dairying production. This bill seeks to increase the guaranteed price of cotton to 14d. per lb., which would again make the return from cottongrowing comparable with that from dairying production.
– Cheer up.
– We know that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) does not appreciate anything that instructs him. Being restricted to the narrow confines of East Sydney, he cannot be expected to be interested in primary production in a large State such as Queensland. Cotton has a tremendous defence value, but at the present time we are producing only from 1,000 to 2,000 bales a year, although we are using about 100,000 bales a year. We should encourage cotton-growing for defence purposes1.
The honorable member for Lalor has pointed out that the cotton-growing industry is complementary to the dairying industry. Some people suggest that the effect of an expansion of our cotton industry would be to put a part of our valuable dairying industry out of production. Those people do not realize that cotton-growing is complementary to dairving, not a - substitute for it. The rotation of cotton crops and other crops improves the value of the land on which the crops are grown. I agree with the suggestion of the honorable member for Dawson (“Mr. Davidson) that the guaranteed price of 14d. per lb. for seed cotton should remain in operation for more; than one year. I realize that, under the- terms of this measure, the price of 14d’. per lb. could remain in operation for a period longer than one year, but I point out that, if the Government believed that economic circumstances justified a. reduction of the price in 1954 or 1955, the reduction could be effected merely by the promulgation of a regulation. I ask the Government to keep in mind the remarks that have been made upon that matter by honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill.
– Before I call the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), I want to point out to the House that, during the hour and three-quarters that I have listened to this debate, I have heard practically nothing but repetition of the same arguments by speaker after speaker, ranging from the American Civil War to the present day. I warn other honorable gentlemen that, if they speak upon this motion, I shall expect to hear something new from them. The present proceedings are a sad travesty of parliamentary procedure.
– I rise to make a few remarks on this bill because I consider that cottongrowing could be a most important industry in this country and could be of great importance to the Northern Territory. The industry could quite easily be established in the Northern Territory if the Government were to exhibit some drive and foresight. This bill has been introduced chiefly with the object of providing assistance to Queensland to extend that State’s .acreage under cotton. The Commonwealth has, in the Northern Territory, under its own absolute control, an area that it may develop as it pleases, yet the Government is making no effort to encourage cotton-growing there. I shall quote from the second-reading speech of the Vice-President of the Executive Council’ (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who introduced the bill, to demonstrate the lines upon which the Government is thinking. He said -
The Government’s decision took into account that diversification of the economy was desirable, that a thriving cotton industry was neces- sary for Australia’s full industrial development, anil- that cotton-growing is one of the- few primary industries for which there is a large’ domestic demand unsatisfied by local production’ and which has an import;ant’ defence potential’.
All-1 these’ conditions’ apply- to the’ Northern Territory. The Government’ could establish the industry in the’ territory and’ thereby provide’ a mean’s- of settling’ there a” permanent’ agricultural population that would-be of value from the defence point of view: It would also make’ possible” the’ establishment’ iri the territory of a flourishing’ secondary” industry to process the cotton grown there. The Northern Territory definitely’ has’ possibilities’ for cotton-Growing: We have land there similar iri1 extent’ arid characteristics’ to the cotton-growing areas of America arid Egypt, and I think- that it would require little effort to establish the industry there. Its establishment would also fit in with the Government’s expressed intention of proceeding with’ a comprehensive agricultural’ policy for’ the territory.
We know’ that at present the Government is preoccupied with experiments in producing other agricultural commodities, such as rice,- tobacco and peanuts, in certain areas. Here is a crop that Could be rotated with other crops in the territory. Places such as- Katherine^ Adelaide River and Daly River spring readily to mind iri relation’ to cotton-growing. Cottongrowing is- nothing new iri the territory. It- is riot merely in the’ experimental stages there, because it has been grown in the territory for many years past. In fact cotton grows wild on the levee banks of the Daly River, where there were cotton plantations twenty years ago. The factthat if grows wild establishes beyond any possible doubt that it is a suitable crop foi” the territory and can thrive’ under the conditions that exist- there.- The Government should, therefore, explore the possibilities of cotton-growing in that- $art of its own territory.-
The seed available for the planting of the 1952 cotton’ crop in Queensland was estimated to be sufficient for the planting of 15;000 acres. I believe that, owing to drought and other conditions, that amount of seed was not planted. The” target of 60,000 acrés set by the committee that inquired into cotton-growing possibilities in. Australia’, should cause” the Government to ponder on whether Queensland alone could cultivate such an acreage of cotton. I say that it would be feasible,, let- alone desirable, for at least 10,000 or 15,000’ acres of this target to- be allotted to- the Northern Territory. If 5,000 acres were set aside for cotton-growing at each of the three localities I have mentioned the industry could be firmly established and would provide the means to support’ a permanent and vigorous population.
The maximum guarantee to be provided under the bill is 14d. per lb. I contend, that that guarantee is not sufficient to encourage cotton-growing, in the Northern Territory. Transport, fertilizer and labour costs entitle the territory to somewhat better consideration than is offered- in the bill. If the Government is not prepared to increase this guarantee, then it should be prepared to provide facilities for the establishment of the industry in the territory. It sHould establish, at each of the centres that I have mentioned. a machinery pool comprising, riot only cultivation and initial working plant, but also picking machines such asthe honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard)’ ha”s mentioned. It should also, in the initial’ stages, subsidize the provision’ of fertilizer, which now costs’ in (lie territory £30 to £35 for freight, alone. I- think that the territory has a good case for a subsidy to establish the industry there. It should also obtain some form, of assistance in the way of transport from the farms to the markets. If is well known that we have” rio’ markets iri (he territory for locally grown cotton. Our cotton has to be sent to Brisbane for sale, and it is only logical and fair that some method of transporting cotton cheaply to’ marketing centres be worked out by the Government. The Government has its own shipping line operating to Darwin.
Some’ means of assistance should be evolved to enable cotton-growers in the territory to produce on somewhat equal terms to’ those enjoyed by Queensland cottons-growers. That is a reasonable plea to make to the Government. Although it may cost the Government some money, the establishment of a cotton industry in the territory must eventually pay dividends out of all proportion to the expenditure involved.
A disturbing feature of the bill is the provision that in 1953 the guarantee made under the bill can be scaled downward to a, minimum of 9½d. per lb. A one-year guarantee is not sufficient to encourage anybody to engage in a new industry. I say that if we are to have any support for a new industry it is necessary that any subsidy be on a long-term basis and not on a year to year basis. The Government should guarantee Northern Territory cotton-growers a certain price for their product for perhaps five or eight years, and examine the position at the end of that period to ascertain what is then necessary. It is hopeless to try to start any industry in the territory on the basis of a yearly guarantee. That applies not only to cotton but also to the other commodities for the production of which the Government intends to provide in the territory. If the Government does not come forward with something more positive in the way of guarantees or subsidies, not only will the cotton-growing industry in Australia as a whole suffer, but it will never be established satisfactorily in. the Northern Territory. I suggest to the Vice-President of the Executive Council that he give consideration, now or at a later stage, to the provision of assistance to cotton-growers in the Northern Territory on a long-term basis, and that the Government also establish machinery pools and other forms of assistance to the industry and give it a fair go to become established. If it does so I think that the territory will play an equal part with Queensland in supplying the cotton requirements of Australia.
.- One of the most interesting things about this debate has been the fact that the majority of speakers on this subject represent Queensland electorates. I was interested to hear the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) advance a claim in this matter on behalf of his electorate. If we consider the history of the cotton industry all over the world we shall find that in all its phases it has been bound up with, or dominated by, geographical factors that had no relation to the growing of cotton. The Blouse should remember that the main cotton-marketing industry of the world was at one time centred in Liverpool, purely because Liverpool occupied a certain geographical position. We should also bear in mind the fact that the largest cotton manufacturing industries of the world were established in the Clyde Valley in Scotland, purely because that valley was the part of the United Kingdom which had the climatic conditions most suitable for the manufacture of cotton. It had the right temperatures and the right humidity, and at the time the industry was established there it was important that cotton be processed at the right humidity. However, the cotton industry was supplanted there by the shipbuilding industry, toward which conditions in the Clyde Valley were more favorable, and the cotton industry moved to the slightly less suitable areas of Lancashire. The problem of humidity has been overcome in modern times to a large degree as a result of the development of air conditioning techniques. Those techniques have enabled the establishment, to a limited degree, of the cotton manufacturing industry in Australia.
I have made these remarks because I think that they are of interest. Queensland, and, as I have learned to-night, the Northern Territory, are, by virtue of their geographical position, the places in this Commonwealth most likely to be of use in the future development of a vital industry. I believe that the cotton industry is vital, not only because of the number of things that are produced from cotton itself, but also because of the by-products of cotton seed. I shall read to the House a list of the commodities that are obtained from cotton seed. They include : kernels, hulls and linters. From the kernels are obtained crude oil, cake and meal; from the hulls, stock feed, fertilizer, fibre, packing material, insulating material, potash ; from the linters is obtained stuffing materia], surgical dressings, low-grade yarns, and cellulose. Further by-products include refined oils, protein stock feeds, for dairy cattle, beef cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry, deodorised oil, washing powders, acid oils, candles, waterproofing, insulating materials, and so on. We obtain materials for mattresses and upholstery, fillings for cushions and pillows and absorbent cottons for bandages. We also get wicks, twine, paper in different forms, cellophane, explosives, plastics., rayon, laquers, enamels, shortenings, margarine, salad oil and dressings, other oils, medicinal preparations and cosmetics. Wo also obtain certain parts used in the manufacture of motor cars, materials used in the electrical industry, toilet preparations and so on. All these important materials are produced from cotton seed. I shall not try to deal individually with these items and the uses to which they can be put, but what I have said indicates the great value of this industry to Australia.
We should always keep two matters in mind when dealing with the cotton industry. One is the need for the goods that are obtained from cotton, and the other is the necessity for populating Australia, particularly the northern parts, as quickly as possible. I have been pleased to note that in most of its aspects this debate has been conducted on a non-party level, in that the members representing Queensland electorates have been almost unanimous in their belief that the cotton-growing industry should be fostered and developed. There are not many industries in Queensland that are of great importance to the Commonwealth, but the few that we have are vitally important.
– Tobacco is grown in Queensland, but nothing has been done to develop the tobacco-growing industry.
– No, that is a responsibility of the Queensland Government to a certain extent, but to a certain extent it is also a responsibility of this Government. I regret to have to say that I am of the opinion that the tobacco industry in Australia is largely in. the hands of a monopoly, and I hope that in time something will be done to alter that situation. The only major industries that we have in Queensland are wheat-growing, woolgrowing, cattle-raising and sugar-growing. The most important industry that we have from the point of view of the numbers employed is the sugar industry. More Queensland people are employed in the sugar industry than in any other industry.
– Order! The subject under discussion is cotton.
– I appreciate that Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, but the point that I intend to make is that the sugar industry has been neglected, just as the cotton industry has been neglected, because neither of those industries has received prices for the goods produced which would make them economically sound. I hope that in the near future there will be an increase of the price of cotton, and I consider that this measure should not only stabilize the price of cotton, but should do it for a longer period than is at present contemplated. On that point I am critical of the Government, because I believe that if we are to induce people to enter and remain in the cottongrowing industry, we must give them a guarantee of security for a reasonable period in the future. One of the greatest handicaps of the cotton industry is that labour for picking the cotton bolls is very expensive, although the introduction of cotton-picking machinery, about which we have heard, will help to overcome that handicap. Most cotton-growers work on a small acreage, and consequently they cannot buy expensive cotton-picking machines for themselves. I believe that purchasing the machines and making them available to the growers is probably the only useful function of the Cotton Marketing Board. If these machines were not used there would have to be some form of co-operative picking worked out among the growers.
This industry must be given security so that it will be placed upon an equal footing with competitive industries. The cotton industry is bound up with the dairying- industry because cotton crops can be used in rotation upon land that can also be used for dairying. Approximately one-third of the area of a 100-acre farm could be used the whole time to grow cotton, while two-thirds of it could be used for dairying. However, this whole matter resolves itself into a question of whether the income received from growing cotton can be made comparable with the income from growing sugar or green crops, or from conducting dairying activities. It is a proven fact that cotton has come off third or fourth best in competition with other industries during the past few years. It is essential that we should develop this industry in the Commonwealth and to do so we must give greater security of price to those in the industry than is contemplated by this measure. Several honorable members opposite have criticized the Government about this measure. They have evidently forgotten that in 1946 the Chifley Government introduced a guaranteed price of less than 5d. per lb. for seed cotton. I desire to read the report of the Tariff Board concerning the price fixed by the Labour government. The Tariff Board reported -
When the guarantee of a return to growers of 15d. per lb. of raw cotton was extended from 1946 to 1951, there seemed a strong probability that world prices of cotton would be so high that the guarantee would cost the Commonwealth Government nothing;
The figures mentioned are in respect of raw cotton. Honorable- members opposite should not be particularly proud of a Labour government fixing a price for cotton for five years which, in the estimation of its advisers, would not have cost it anything. That was not the correct way to secure the future of the cotton industry. This Government is prepared to increase the price of cotton by almost three times the price introduced by the Chifley Government. However, I regret that this Government is not stabilizing the price in the industry for long enough. If we are to get the industry on its feet, and in the interest of the Commonwealth it is essential that we should do so, the price should be guaranteed for a longer period than is contemplated in the bill.
– The Government would be entitled to claim that what it is doing in this bill is a contribution to the defence of the Commonwealth if the amount that it intended to expend was a sum that was really worthwhile. However, we find that the guarantee that the Government proposes to give will, perhaps, amount to a subsidy of 2d. per lb. on about 1,250 bales of raw cotton which is to be harvested this year. The Government has stated that the subsidy will cost £15,000. Does the Government expect us to believe that £15,000 will do anything towards the defence of. the northern part of the continent? The statement of the Minister in this respect is completely silly. I have no objection to any government spending money for the defence of Australia, because unless we defend the. north of Australia we cannot defend any part of it. Let us develop the north in a proper fashion. Do not let us pretend to ourselves that by the expenditure of £15,000 this year, or £25,000 next year, we shall do anything to populate or develop the northern part of our continent.
This bill has been discussed as if it were a measure that applied solely to Queensland. It is true that most of the cotton so far grown in Australia has been grown in Queensland, but cotton can be grown in any part of the north of Australia, and cannot be grown south of, let us say, “ the Brisbane line “. We should encourage the growth of cotton everywhere in Australia north of the Carnarvon-Bundaberg line which divides Australia in two. We shall not defend the north of Australia and enable people to grow cotton, sugar, tobacco or anything else, unless we are prepared to spend millions of pounds. I suggest that the expenditure of millions of pounds in this way will be a cheap insurance for the people who live in the more settled parts of the continent. If we are to grow cotton in Queensland, the Northern Territory or Western Australia - which has not yet been mentioned - we must dam the rivers in the areas subject to monsoonal rains. Through aeons of years the rains have carved deep gorges through the land. We must harness the Ord River in Western Australia and the Katherine river roughly 220 miles south of Darwin, the Daly River and all the Queensland rivers that flow to the Gulf of Carpentaria, if we are to provide irrigation for the north. To do that will cost many millions of pounds, and then we shall not grow a few thousand bales of cotton a year but hundreds of thousands. It would be a good thing if an all-party committee could be formed from both houses of the Parliament, consisting of members who visited the north recently at the invitation of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). That committee could draw up a report to be used in the construction of a real measure to develop our north. The northern parts of Australia are populated by only a fraction of the number of people required to hold them. There are only 6,000 people in the first third of it, in Western Australia, 13,000 in the second third, which is the Northern Territory, and about 280,000 in the remaining third, most of whom are jammed between the mountain range and the sea, where they grow sugar instead of cotton. I flew over the Ord River valley for almost 60 miles, and there is no doubt in my mind that, if that great river were dammed, the Kimberleys could be irrigated and much cotton could be grown there. It was my privilege to stay overnight at the Kimberley research station that is conducted by officers of the Western Australian Department of Agriculture and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and I saw cotton and many other plants being grown there.
It is obvious to me that, if we can introduce water to land in any part of Australia, we can grow almost anything on it. This is the most waterless continent of them all. About one-third of the country has an annual rainfall of less than 10 inches, and much of that land is in the northern part of the continent. The Australian Government, whether it be this Government to-day or a Labour government to-morrow, should help the Western Australian Government to construct the dam on the Ord River and bank its water back for nearly 60 miles to Argyle Downs Station, where my plane landed. Then, I am sure, we could grow cotton successfully in that area. There are deep gorges where the Katherine River could be dammed. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has another experimental station on the Katherine River where it produces cotton, tobacco, and all sorts of other crops. Many valuable products can be grown in the northern part of Australia, as they are grown at Whyalla, if we bring water to it as we brought water to Whyalla from Morgan on the Murray River. There are other rivers in the Northern Territory and Western Australia that I have not mentioned. For example, there are the West Baines River and the East Baines River. The
pilot who flew the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mi-. Nelson) and me in a Dragon Rapide over that territory traversed the whole area in order to point out to us the places at which dams could be erected. If we have any regard for the fate of our children and our grandchildren, we shall make sure that the problem of developing the north is tackled soon. This bill is all very well as far as it goes, but it does not represent even a reasonably worthwhile contribution to a solution of that problem.
– It is a first step.
– But we have not much time to take steps, whether they be first, second or third. Who can tell us how long we shall remain in undisputed possession of this part of the British Commonwealth, which we are proud to call the Commonwealth of Australia?
– Why did not the honorable gentleman recommend that the vote for the Royal Australian Air Force be increased this year ?
– That is another matter that is worthy of consideration, but the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon) ought to wrestle with the problem in the Cabinet room. If he fails there, I shall be glad to lend him a helping hand, but, for the moment, I must confine my remarks to the bill. Therefore, I refer again to cotton. Tobacco is also involved in the development of Northern Australia, but, unfortunately, you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, have ruled that burning question out of order, and I cannot say much about it. However, all those problems are linked.
We ought to develop every industry, whether it be primary or secondary, that we are able to develop in northern Australia, because the continued emptiness of that vast area constitutes a threat to our right to exist in any other part of Australia. I listened with interest to the honorable member for the Northern Territory, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) as well as the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) and the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) who, like honorable members on this side of the House, support the bill. I do not oppose the measure, but I maintain that we are not facing up to the problems of northern Australia. To say that this bill will help defence is to exaggerate the truth very considerably.
– Cotton is of defence value.
– Then let us develop the cotton industry in a big way, instead of contracting to expend only £15,000 a year by guaranteeing a payment of 2d. per lb. for seed cotton for this year, next year or even the next ten years. Let us expend a great deal of money on capital development in northern Australia so that a great cotton industry may be established there. That is the way to tackle the problem. This Government last year brought down a measure that guaranteed a price of 9½d. per lb. for seed cotton. I give it credit for having done so. Now it proposes to increase the guarantee to 14d. Last year’s enactment did not mean that it had to pay 9£d. per lb. for seed cotton, and this bill does not mean that it will have to pay 14d. per lb. this year. Last year, the cotton crop sold for about 12d. per lb. Therefore, the Government is committed to a payment of only about 2d. per lb. The Chifley Government wrote off an amount of £66,000 on behalf of the cotton industry during its term of office. This Government will not be involved in the same expense, at least for another two years, if the rate of expenditure under the terms of this bill is to be only £15,000 a year. What is an item of £15,000 in a budget of £900,000,000?
If we are going to talk seriously about defence, let us mean what we say and act, accordingly, in a big way. I hope that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and the Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who presented the bill to the House, will consult the various honorable members on both sides of the House who know something of the Northern Territory, even if they were there only for a fortnight. At least, seeing is believing, and they have seen the territory. They all worked hard during their visit and learned something more about its problems than is known to those who have not had an opportunity to visit it. I hope the Minister for Air will place a few aircraft at the disposal of other honorable members so that they, too, can go to the northern part of Australia and learn something of its problems.
– I should be very happy to do so.
– I am glad to have that assurance. I hope that the party Whips will take notice of it and arrange for members to visit that part of Australia as soon as the House goes into recess, because the sooner more of us can examine the situation, the better will it be for Australia as a whole.
I pay a tribute to the scientists and other research officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the States of Queensland and Western Australia, who are. doing their best to develop strains of cotton, tobacco and other commodities that can be grown profitably in the north of Australia. On my journey from Darwin to Alice Springs, and as far west as Wyndham, in Western Australia, I collected samples of cotton grown in different districts. Cotton is actually grown in private gardens in Alice Spring3, where many residents are proud of their ability to raise it. The growth of cotton in large quantities would, as the Minister has pointed out, save Australia a great deal of dollar expenditure, which is very desirable at a time when the world is so dollar-hungry. The more people we bring into the empty northern spaces of this continent the better will it be for us. The development of industries in the north will help the defence of the country. 1 remind the House again that we shall not be left in undisputed possession of a halfempty continent for more than another twenty years at the most. Therefore, instead of worrying too much about the people who live in the big centres of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart, we ought to turn our minds to northern Australia, which we hold very tenuously and the continued possession of which is vital to our existence as a people of European origin in a part of the world that, geographically and historically, belongs to Asia. If the Government will say, “We have gone as far as we can go at the moment, but we shall go very much further next year “, I welcome this debate because those who have contributed to it will have achieved a worthwhile result.
– We have just listened to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), in one of his most expansive moods, throwing millions of pounds about with abandon and, in his imagination, developing northern Australia on a grand scale. All of us, of course, are in favour of developing the north as quickly as possible. However, I remind the honorable gentleman that, if he has criticized anybody, he has criticized the Government of which he was a member. He talked about damming the Ord River and making cotton sprout everywhere from Bundaberg to Carnarvon, but I remind him that the former Labour Government did not even guarantee a price of 9£d. per lb. for seed cotton. If we are to talk on this rather grandiloquent scale, at least let us endeavour to relate our remarks to reality. All honorable members, especially those who come from Queensland, the Northern Territory and other parts of Australia where cotton growing is a practical reality, welcome this bill. Most of us recall that this subject was raised by the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) in his maiden speech in this House, and that he and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) have since raised it again on various occasions.
The guaranteed price of 9-Jd. per lb. for seed cotton was first asked for in order to ensure that cotton-growers should receive prices commensurate with the prices that were being received by farmers in the same localities for other primary products. That was the basis of the figure. It is all very well to say that the guarantee is too small or that it should have applied over a longer period, but honorable members who consider the basis on which it was established must surely agree that it has afforded a great deal of assistance. It is important that we should try to encourage the cotton industry, and, therefore, the inducement to engage in cotton production should be as great as is the inducement to engage’ in other primary industries in areas where cotton can be grown. That appears to me to be a rational basis on which to found a subsidy, a guaranteed price, or any other form of financial aid designed to encourage cotton growing. The correct way to fix a subsidy or guaranteed price is not to select some target figure and say, “ This will encourage the industry “. The proper method is to try to estimate the amount of money that will be required to provide an effective inducement to engage in that industry. If the amount required should be only £15,000 for one year, and perhaps £20,000 or £25,000 in another year, that is not evidence that the Government is niggardly. It is evidence of the fact that the Government has calculated the necessary inducement on the basis of the financial returns obtained from other primary industries. Therefore, criticism of this Government on the ground that it proposes to expend only £15,000 next year, and perhaps £25,000 in the succeeding year, for the assistance of the cotton industry, has no substance. One of the main features to be considered in relation to the cotton industry is that its development will help to diversify the economy of the countryside where the industry is established. Cotton should be an adjunct to other industries such as the dairying industry. If we look at this matter realistically, we find that it does not involve great public works, huge dams, and irrigation schemes on a large scale at a cost of millions of pounds. When we consider the establishment of the cotton industry on that basis,, we are leaving the grounds of economic common sense, and are contemplating the development of the industry on a completely uneconomic basis. There are many areas, especially in Queensland, where cottongrowing can be encouraged without such vast expenditure. I have in mind such areas as the Lockyer district and the Brisbane Valley district, where irrigation is already available on a fairly extensive scale, and where there are considerable possibilities of further development not only at much less cost than great works such as the Burdekin Valley scheme or the even more remote Ord River scheme, but also at a much faster rate. The production of cotton will be taking place much more quickly in those districts than would be the case if we were to rely on the construction of major works for that purpose. I remind the House that the cotton which has been produced iri Queensland has been grown largely by dry farming methods. Irrigation is necessary if cotton is to be grown efficiently. The reason is that under dry farming conditions, not all the crop matures at the one time, and the expense of picking it is thereby greatly increased. With irrigation, the whole crop matures almost simultaneously, with a corresponding reduction in the price of seed cotton.
It is easy to talk- about the defence value of this, that and the other industry, arid it is common practice, when people desire’ to advocate the development of an industry or the construction of roads’, to stress their defence value. But it appears to me to be quite unreal to imagine that there will be a sudden increase in the growing of cotton in Northern Australia, with a corresponding increase in population, in time to have a real defence value. Of course, the defence value of cotton exists, and its value in ordinary industry exists, but when the honorable member for Melbourne charges this Government with having founded the whole bill On the defence value of cotton, he goes far beyond the Government’s proposal. The Government recognizes clearly the defence value of cotton, and has given that factor due consideration, but no one has claimed that the sudden expansion of cotton-growing in Northern Australia is a practical possibility on a scale that will populate the north and immediately make its defence secure.
I shall now discuss some Other aspects of cotton-growing in Queensland. The necessity for the increase in the guarantee is largely due to the fact that the industry’s own costs have increased, but I point out that, even under the previous guarantee of 9$ per lb. of seed cotton, there was quite a substantial increase in cotton-growing in Queensland. This Government can justly take pride iri that matter. The area planted increased from 4,000 acres in 1950-51 to nearly 15,000 acres iri 1951-52. Had it not béen for the severe drought from which practically . the whole of Queensland suffered last year, there is little doubt that the figures would have been évén higher, arid that the quantity of cotton harvested would have been proportionately greater. How-1 ever, there can be little doubt that the increase in the guarantee will give a powerful stimulus to cotton-growing in Queensland.
One advantage of the guarantee is that it possesses the virtues of flexibility. It may be varied by regulation so as to provide a continuing stimulus to the production of cotton. A number of other things can be said about cotton-growing in Queensland, but I shall draw the attention of the House to only two of them. The first is that the Queensland Government is providing, through the Cotton Marketing Board, mechanical pickers, because the cost of the harvesting of cotton depends upon the availability of those pickers to the farmers. The State Government is providing pickers through the cotton board, but with characteristic ineptitude, is not providing enough of them.
– It is a national matter.
– Order ! Interjections must cease.
– The honorable member is being very provocative.
-Order! He is not the only one who - is being provocative.
– I use the words “ characteristic ineptitude because t am willing to believe that it is ineptitude, and riot just malevolence, on the part of the State Government. I Quorum formed.’] I Was about to conclude my remarks on this matter when the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) directed attention to the state of the House, because it had become apparent that the few members of the Labour party remaining iri the House could rio longer bear to hear criticism of the failure of the Queensland Labour Government to do anything to encourage cotton-growing in that State. I conclude by reminding Oppose tion members of one more fact; Regardless of their criticism Of the guarantee oft the ground that it is inadequate, the fact remains that under the bad management of the Labour Government, the production of cotton iri Australia fell from 17,000 to 1,000 bales. With that statement, I leave the House to judge whether the revival of cotton-growing in Australia owes anything at all to the previous Labour Government.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Drury) adjourned.
National Service - Compulsory Acqui sition of Land - Hansard: Photostat Copiesof Documents - Commonwealth Hostels Limited - The: Parliament : Personal Attacks - Repatriation - War Gratuity.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I should like to refer briefly to the national service training scheme. Members of the Opposition seem to have a poor opinion of it, if we are to judge from the number of questions that they have asked about it, and comments that they have passed upon it in the House recently. I emphasize that the Labour party also opposed the introduction of the scheme. At the outset, I desire to pay the highest possible tribute to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) for the manner in which he has administered this scheme. I compliment him upon his ability and skill in that matter. This is the most successful organization of its kind that has ever been put into operation by any government. The scheme is operating like clock-work. No hitches have occurred anywhere. The whole scheme is a credit to the Minister. I recognize that he has been ably assisted by the officers and non-commissioned officers who are instructing the national service trainees, but they are carrying out his directions. The whole scheme redounds to the credit of the Minister and the Government. I shall have more to say about that matter later.
I have taken the trouble, and I doubt whether members of the Opposition have taken similar trouble, to visit camps for the purpose of seeing national service trainees on the day of their arrival and during their first week of training, and their passing out parades. I could not help but be impressed by the difference in the make-up and the bearing of the trainees when they entered camp, and later at the conclusion of their period of training. They are a credit to Australia. They are well-disciplined, and have character. The system has helped to build healthy bodies, and the youths are better citizens for the training. Last but not least; I point out that they are under the supervision of padres, which gives them a better spiritual outlook on life. Complaints have been made that the food that is served at these camps is of poor quality. Such complaints are sheer rubbish. My son is now undergoing training at one of these camps.When he entered the camp six weeks ago, his weight was 10 stone whereas to-day it is 11 stone. That is evidence of the fact that food that is served at these camps is of good quality. In addition, when I have visited these camps I have taken the opportunity to inspect the food that is provided for the trainees. I can only say that if the honorable member forWatson (Mr. Curtin) really complains about the quality of that food, he himself must be very well fed indeed. The amenities that are provided at these camps compare more than favorably with those that were provided at similar camps when I was a young man. To-day, the Government provides at these camps washing machines, electric irons, dishwashing machines, hot plates for the service of meals, spring beds, cupboards, first-rate housing accommodation, electric light and hot and cold water for toilet purposes.
– Order ! There is too much conversation in the House.
– Members of the Opposition, apparently, are unwilling to recognize the fact that amenities of the kind that I have mentioned are provided at these camps.
I have received several letters from persons who describe themselves as conscientious objectors and who object to their sons undergoing training under the national service training scheme. Icannot comprehend the attitude that such persons adopt in this matter.Are they content that the sons of other citizens should be obliged to enter these camps for the purpose of being trained to defend their country should Australia be attacked, or, like the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), are they content to rely upon old soldiers to defend them should another war break out?
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! If the House is not prepared to behave itself, I can quickly suspend the sitting.
– I am unable to understand the protests of conscientious objectors to the training of their sons under the national service training scheme, whether it be taken on religious, political or any other grounds. I have no sympathy whatsoever with persons who, apparently, are content that the sons of other citizens should defend them whilst they themselves refuse to allow their own sons to make any contribution towards defence preparations. The sons of such persons could very well undertake non-combatant duties of various kinds which are of an essential nature. I emphasize that, as a result of the discoveries of uranium deposits in this country, Australia, to-day, is a rich prize for any aggressor. A country which, previously, might not have had the faintest incentive to attack Australia, now has good reason to regard this country in a different light, if only from the point of view of our newly discovered mineral wealth. The national service training scheme must be continued, regardless of any opposition to it. I have always supported it, and I shall continue to do so. I deplore the fact that members of the Opposition do not hesitate to attempt to make party political capital out of this matter. For instance, the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), in an earlier debate, implied that these lads were being trained to fight on foreign soil.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– In the House, last week, the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) denied the truth of certain statements that I had made. He declared them to be completely without foundation, invited me to obtain verification of the statements that he made in the course of his denials, and suggested that I should then withdraw my statements. The honorable member alleged that the New South Wales Government was guilty of political partisanship in that, over six years ago, it had resumed land that belonged to his brother and himself and had failed to make any payment to them in respect of the resumption. As the honorable member’s statements received wide publicity, I took the opportunity on the motion for the adjournment the following night to state the facts as I then understood them. I explained that the failure of the New South Wales Government to pay the honorable member and his brother for the land in question was in no sense due to political partisanship on its part, because ite Valuer-General had valued the land at £1,900 whilst the honorable member and his brother demanded a price of £11,306 and declined to take the opportunity to place the matter before the Land and Valuation Court which could have settled it without any cost to the honorable member and his brother in the event that the court increased the Valuer-General’s valuation of £1,900 by even ls. If the honorable member had been prepared to allow the matter to rest there, I should have been prepared to do likewise. My purpose was not to make any charge against him but to refute the charge of political partisanship that he had made against the New South Wales Government and in respect of which he raised matters concerning his private affairs in a debate in this chamber. I confined my statements to the three points that I have already indicated.
The honorable member, in replying to those statements, made a long explanation in the course of which he said that -
The statements made by the honorable member are simply untrue. There is no truth in them.
He then invited me to obtain verification of his denials and, subsequently, to withdraw the statements that I made earlier. I repeat that I acted upon what I believed to be reliable information. As the honorable member invited me to do, I have since obtained further information in respect of the matter. I have obtained from the New South
Wales Ministry for Housing, against which the honorable member levelled his charge of political partisanship, photostat copies of the claims that the honorable member and his brother made and the document relating to the Valuer-General’svaluation. Both of those documents of which I hold photostat copies in my hand show that the figures that I cited were correct. I propose to quote from those photostat copies. The first reads -
To the Housing Commission of New South Wales -
Higgins (Buildings) Ltd. owners.
Honorable members know that the owners of that company are the honorable member for Bennelong and his brother with, perhaps, other members of his family. The document continues -
Lot 1. DP 18700, Cope and Penrose Streets, Lane Cove - Torrens Title - Vacant Land - Value £6,656, Compensation. £4,650.
The second document reads -
Area taken - 5 a. 2. r. 24. p.
Amount of claim - £11,306.
This claim is made in respect of 5 acres 2 roods 24 perches of land, being Lot 1, Deposited Plan 18700, situate in the Municipality of Lane Cove, Parish of Willoughby, County of Cumberland and State of New South Wales, resumed for housing purposes.
Land&c. - £1,930. (One thousand, Nine hundred and Thirty pounds.)
That document is signed by the ValuerGeneral of New South Wales.
Mr.Wilson. - I rise to order ! I point out that it is a criminal offence for any person to disclose official secrets. I submit that the photostat copies from which the honorable member is quoting are copies of confidential documents of a department of the New SouthWales Government, and it would appear that official secrets have been disclosed to the honorable member. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to give a ruling whether it is right and proper for an honorable mem ber to disclose in this House official secrets of a State government department.
– I have no knowledge of whether the copies from which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is quoting are photostat copies of secret documents. Such facts can be determined only by the New South Wales Government. The matter is completely outside my responsibility.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Bennelong will welcome the attempt that the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) has made to have this matter suppressed. The documents from which I amreading are not copies of official secrets. I obtained them in my capacity as a member of this Parliament from the Ministry for Housing in New South Wales because the honorable member himself invited me to obtain verification of the statements that I had made in respect of his charge of political partisanship against that authority ; and, in doing so, the honorable member raised matters that concerned his private affairs in the course of a debate in this House. He went out of his way on a second occasion to deny the truth of the statements that I made. Reference to the Hansard report of my remarks will show that I confined myself to citing the Valuer-General’s valuation of £1,900, the claim for a price of £11,300 by the honorable member and his brother-
– Not for the land.
Mr. ALLAN FRASER.I confined myself to citing that valuation and that price and to the fact that the honorable member and his brother had declined to take the matter to the Land and Valuation Court for determination. The truth of each of those statements is provided by these photostat copies of the relevant documents. I shall be glad to make these copies available to any honorable member who wishes to examine them. The honorable member for Bennelong has said, “ Not for the land “. The claim is for the resumption of the land, and it is divided into two parts - £4,650 for compensation and £6,656 for the value of the land. The Valuer-General has taken both those claims into consideration. Has .valuation in respect of both the value of the land and of compensation for the honorable .member and his brother is £1,9.30, which is exactly the figure that J stated previously.
I have no interest in carrying the matter any further. Because the honorable member denied the truth of the statement that I made, I have taken this opportunity to present photostat copies of the documents to the House. With the consent of honorable members, I incorporate them in Hansard. They are as follows : - [Insertion of photostats delayed pending consideration by the House of ruling by Mr. Speaker (vide report of proceedings of the 16th October).]
.- I have no objection to the incorporation of the documents in Hansard, .especially as copies of them are, apparently, easily obtainable by members of the public. I do not suppose that, in the hands of the New South Wales Government, the documents are very secret in any event. I do not .object to the incorporation of the documents in Hansard, but I say if is extraordinary that the New South Wales Government should make available to a private citizen information about the private affairs of other citizens whose land in New -South Wales has been resumed. That is amazing, and, from the standpoint of the public interest, I deplore it very much. Nothing in New South Wales appears to be sacrosanct any longer.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has returned to the attack to-night, -and has denied the statements that I made last week in explanation of this matter. The photostat copies that he has ‘produced are evidence of the truth of the assertions that I made when I denied what he said in this chamber last week. There is no -doubt, as I explained to the House then, that the claim is made up of two parts. There is a claim for about £6,6DO in respect of the value .of the land resumed, and another claim for about £4,600 for compensation .for ‘disturbance of business, loss -of profits, legal costs, architect’s fees and other matters. - It is diabolical that charges of this natura should be made against .private citizens who ‘are performing their ordinary business functions. Having heard those charges made in -this public place, one might imagine that the firm of which I am a director has received something that it ought not to have received, or that it had done something «to injure the public purse. I understand that Mr Olive Evatt said something to that effect in the New South Wales Parliament last week. It is true that the .company “has made a claim, but it has not yet received a penny from the New South Wales Government.
I have been charged with declining to go to the Land and Valuation Court. That charge is quite untrue, because I have not declined to do so. We have made a claim. Either party to the-dispute is in a position to bring the matter before the court. We have engaged solicitors and valuers, and negotiation’s are still proceeding between the ‘parties. We have not yet been advised by our legal representatives to bring the matter before the court, but the New South Wales Government could bring it before the court for determination at any time it desired to do .so. I repeat that we have not declined to go before the Land and Valuation Court, to which the matter must go ultimately.
I challenge any one to say that this claim is not fair. In 1927, 25 years .ago, the company bought the land for £4,0.0.0. The land was resumed in 1946, and now the company is claiming £6,656 for it. Can any one say, with justice, that that is profiteering? For 25 years, the company received no interest upon the money which it invested in the land, and during most of that time it was compelled to pay rates and taxes in respect of it. ‘We bought the land for £4,000, and we have claimed about £6,600 for it. We have claimed about £4,000 as compensation. The company -employed an architect to prepare plans and specifications for 31 cottages. I believe that I said last week that the figure was ‘34, but I have discovered that it is 31. Those plans and specifications were passed by the local municipal council. We enter ed into contracts with ex-servicemen to build .homes for them on the estate-. Sewerage- facilities, were’ provided-, and a guarantee was paid- in respect of them. The company incurred other expenses in clearing the land and’ providing other facilities; In respect of those expenses, it has claimed as compensation only a sum of about £4,60.0. Last week, I did not remember that something had occurred which added insult to injury. Before the State authorities would connect the sewerage system to the estate, they required a guarantee of revenue, because at the time the area was sparsely populated. For year after year, the company had to make good the deficiency of revenue from the extension of the sewerage system. The New South Wales Government resumed the land in 1946. From then until 1949, when a sufficient number of cottages had been built to discharge the- guarantee, it allowed the company to continue to pay the guarantee, although it had been deprived of use of the land.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro has asserted that he was- correct when he said that we had claimed £11,000 for the land. Any one who knows anything about business of this type realizes that claims of this kind are divided into two parts - a claim in respect of the value of the land and a claim for compensation. The sum of approximately £11,000 is made up of two sums of that kind. The photostat copies of the documents that the honorable member has produced do not disclose all the information that we have given to the Valuer-General about this matter. They are only the formal documents. We have given much more information to the department of the Valuer-General, and I should be very happy if the honorable member would produce photostat copies of the documents which contain that information, and of a letter that was written to Mr. McGirr, as Premier of the State, in which he was asked specifically what the Government proposed to do with the land. In reply, Mr. McGirr said, as I explained last week, that the Government intended to build houses upon it. My brother pointed out that it was the business of the company to build houses, that it had already arranged contracts with eleven exservicemen for the construction of houses, and had prepared plans and specifications for 31 cottages. He said that if the Government, took, the land, it would deprive the people of those houses, but he was told’ that the Housing Commission of New South Wales; had to have land on which all necessary facilities were available so that it. could begin operations quickly. That meant, in effect, that, the rights of the private citizen in the community were being, trodden upon. The private citizen was being thrown to the wolves. It did not matter what happened to him, as long as the Government was satisfied. He could be thrown into the street, . so that the Government could use the facilities that had been provided by the initiative, energy and money of this company.
I ask the House to bear in mind that, for 25 years, the company was deprived of the use of at least £4,000 of its money, and that it’ is still being deprived of it. Nevertheless, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has tried to persuade honorable members, that there is something corrupt or wrong about the action of the company. I think that is a scandal. A man. who does that should be thoroughly ashamed of himself. It was not my desire to mix my private affairs with the affairs of the House. I cited this case as a specific instance, of which I had knowledge, of the Housing Commission of New South Wales acting in a manner detrimental to the public interest. I pointed out that one of the first cottages built by the commission on- the estate was allotted - unfairly, as I believe - to the- federal president of the Australian Labour party, and the former president of the New South Wales branch of it, Mr. Ferguson, notwithstanding that he was holding down three jobs at that time; one of which was the very highly paid post of secretary of a railways union. It is shocking that private citizens who have pioneered housing estates and who are doing work that is in the best interests of the people should be- charged with having claimed money to which they are- not entitled. The position would have been different, perhaps,, if the company had received- some -money. Then, it might have been- argued that it had received too much money, although. I should have dis*puted that.
– Order !’ The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I hope, in the few minutes at my disposal to put this matter in its proper perspective.
– We shall have all the sewerage from East Sydney now.
– I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) has suggested that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is going to give the House all the sewerage from East Sydney. That remark is offensive, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I did not hear the expression, but it is certainly unparliamentary. The Minister must withdraw it.
– The honorable member for East Sydney is here-
– Order ! Attention has been called to an unparliamentary expression. If it was used it must be withdrawn.
– It is withdrawn.
– Having listened to the remarks of the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), one might imagine that he was the person against whom the charges were made originally, but, in fact, it was the honorable member himself who made unsubstantiated and unsupported charges against the Housing Commission of New South Wales and the New South Wales Government. Now, he says that there is something reprehensible about the conduct of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), who has accepted an invitation to produce evidence in support of the denial that he made. The honorable member for Bennelong said originally that the commission and the New South Wales Government had acted in a partisan way in refusing his brother and himself, in association with Higgins (Buildings) Limited, payment for land that had been acquired by the commission. The honorable gentleman has admitted to-night that one of the reasons why payment has been delayed is that negotiations are still proceeding. He has said that the company has engaged solicitors and valuers, and that negotiations for a settlement of the claim are still proceeding.
The honorable member accused the New South Wales Government of acting in a partisan way, and he invited’ the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, whose figures he challenged, to produce evidence in support of those figures. When the honorable member for Eden-Monaro produced that evidence, the honorable member for Bennelong said that he had done something of which he should be ashamed. Much as the honorable member for Bennelong may protest, there can be no doubt that the documents that have been produced by the honorable member for EdenMonaro refer not to two transactions, but to one transaction. The documents show that a claim has been made for £11,306 and that the valuation of the ValuerGeneral is £1,930. It cannot be disputed that the document refers to one transaction. The honorable member for Bennelong and. his brother are asking the New South Wales Government for a sum of £11,306 in respect of something which the department of the Valuer-General in New South Wales - that is not a political organization or a political body - has valued at £1,930. The honorable member for Bennelong has said that there is nothing wrong about that, because no payment has been made. Apparently he admits that, if payment had been made, there would have been a great deal wrong with this transaction. Then, merely because the New South Wales Government refused the unreasonable claim of the honorable member and hia brother who are associated in this particular company, he takes advantage of his position in this Parliament to make an attack upon it. I wish to ask the honorable member for Bennelong to answer a few questions that have not been cleared up. He stated that in 1927 the company acquired the land concerned for £4,000. I should like the honorable member to tell me whether this building company held the land since 1927 without having erected on it any dwelling and without disposing of any portion of it, or whether it is a fact that the company has already built several dwellings on it and has disposed of them and is now making this claim on the New South Wales Government, not in relation to the land that cost £4,000, but in relation to a portion of it only. It was rather interesting to hear the honorable gentleman contend that the sum claimed as compensation includes an amount for loss of profits. He tried to make against the New South “Wales Government the further implication that it is delaying the erection of homes for ex-servicemen. Again he was using the cloak of patriotism to hide the activities of this company.
I ask the honorable member whether he considers that the company is entitled to make a claim against profits on dwellings that it might have erected if the Housing Commission of New South Wales had not acquired the land. It is obvious that there is not much more to be said in regard to the matter. What the honorable member for Bennelong tried to establish in this Parliament was not that there had been some dispute over the claim and that some negotiations were proceeding in regard to a settlement. He attempted, instead, to imply that, because he happened to be a Liberal party member of this Parliament and to be associated with the Liberal party in New South Wales, the New South Wales Labour Government was deliberately withholding payment of an amount to which he and his brother, and the company with which they are associated, were legitimately entitled. I consider that under the circumstances the New South Wales Government was entitled to make available the documents, copies of which have been produced. Why should they not be made available? It was the honorable gentleman’s own invitation to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro that caused them to be produced here, yet when they are produced he objects to their production. The fact is that he and his brother, and the company with which they are associated, were asking £11,300 for something that the department of the Valuer-General in New South Wales declared to be worth only £1,930.
I consider that the New South Wales Government has come out of this matter very well, and that it has been actually able to show the honorable member for Bennelong, and the party which is supporting him, in a very unfavorable light. The honorable member for Bennelong has suggested some corrupt action on the part of the New South Wales Government. What member of the New South Wales Government would benefit as a result of the claim of the honorable member and his brother not being acceded to? No individual member of the New South Wales Government could benefit from it, and no individual New South Wales Minister or member of the New South Wales Labour party has been guilty of corruption. The actual fact is that the New South Wales Government has,, by its action, which was supported by the evidence produced by the Valuer-General, merely been protecting the interests of the citizens of New South Wales against the undue exploitation that was attempted by the company with which the honorable member is associated. I consider that the only reasonable way in which this matter can be concluded is for the honorable member for Bennelong to rise in his place and withdraw his charges against the New South Wales Government and apologize to the honorable member for EdenMonaro.
– It is the height of the ridiculous to hear the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) spew out words about the protection of the rights of the individual, because if ever there was a dictator in spirit and in mind, if ever there was a man who has coercion at the bottom of his heart, it is the honorable member for East Sydney. Every honorable member on this side of this House who listened to his argument will take his words for what they are worth. I am glad to see him in close alliance with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser). Birds of a feather! The point that arises in this debate is that both the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and the honorable member for East Sydney seem to consider that there is something grievously wrong in the principle that a private citizen should have the right to protect his own interests and insist on his rights under the law. Those two honorable members do not believe in the rule of law in this country so far as the New South Wales Labour Government is concerned. When a socialist government’s interests are concerned, they are opposed to the right of a private citizen to fight against the unequal might of the State. What happened in New South Wales ? The former socialist Government of New .South Wales, under Mr. McGirr, attempted to confiscate the property of certain private citizens. Eventually the High Court found in favor of the ;private .citizens. In its judgment in the Pye case, it held that the attempted confiscation could not be carried out under the then law of New South Wales. The .attempt .of the New South Wales Government was therefore frustrated. The .High Court protected Pye Brothers Limited .and every sensible citizen would .agree that the company was justified in standing up for its rights. The same consideration applies to the honorable member for ^Bennelong. Admittedly ,two Labour members are in favour of depriving him of his rights, but it is significant that no decent citizen has contended that the honorable member should be deprived o’f them. The fundamental question at issue tonight is whether a private citizen has rights against ia .socialist government. The honorable .member for East ‘ Sydney and the honora’ble .member for !Eden-:Monaro believe that when a socialist government expresses its will .the private citizen Should compliantly .lie down and be steam-rolled by that government. The question that has arisen is whether a ‘(private citizen has rights which can be asserted against the State in exactly the same way ,as they may be asserted against -other private individuals. .1 consider that the honorable member for Bennelong is performing a great service by standing , Up against the State as Pye Brothers Limited did, when they proved that the private individual has .rights and that ‘the rule of law applies to both citizen and State alike. Such rights are not the same kind as the honorable member .for East Sydney exercised when he claimed privilege, as -a .member of this Parliament, at the time he was put into the witness *box and was asked to prove whether .a certain document had been stolen from a .government file. He was not prepared to go .into the witness box as a private citizen land f ace an examination. Instead, he crawled into the witness .box .and claimed parliamentary ‘privilege. .Let us get the record ^straight. I think there is one fact that should .be made abundantly clear. The honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, in their usual snide fashion-
– I withdraw the word “ snide, “, and say that in ‘their usual fashion they have tried to prove that there was only one transaction and that the value -of the land .concerned was only ‘£1,9.3.0. The ,pr.o.of of the pudding happens to be. in the -eating thereof. The honorable member for Bennelong .and his brother offered the Housing Commission of .New South Wales £5,100 for the return -of .seventeen lots of land. That means ‘that “they offered it £300 for each lot. In view of that >offer could .anybody who had any knowledge of commerce or business claim that the valuation placed on the land by the New South Wales Valuer-General of £1,900 for all the land was in any way realistic? There are two other facts which I should like to make .clear in relation to this matter, because I consider that if the honorable member for East Sydney .and his satellite, the honorable .member for Eden-Monaro, did not “hear what was said it is .right to point out that the claim madefy the honorable member for Bennelong, or the Cramer brothers, was., first, in respect of land that was acquired in 1925 at a cost of £4,000. That was an undeveloped .piece of land in <an undeveloped area, which was acquired by men of vision who were prepared to take the chance of a .profit on it in the future. Are we to .agree that because these men of enterprise .and courage went out into the backblocks and ‘bought this land, and put in sewerage and paid insurance .premiums, they are to he penalized? Of course not! Every decent citizen will applaud them for their action. I wish to compare the spirit of the ‘honorable member for Bennelong -with the spirit :of the honorable -member for .Eden-Monaro. .The honorable member .for Bennelong is a mau who tried to create something, and to build houses that would ,go to exservicemen. For what -kind of creation is the honorable member for Eden-Monaro responsible? Only the creation in this House of discord and destruction and of class hatred and bitterness .of a kind that it is wicked to have to listen to. The honorable member raises no objection to my remarks, because he knows deep in his heart that they are correct. Here we have a public-spirited man assailed by another man who has not even one public-spirited action, or a creative or constructive action, to his .credit. I shall leave honorable members to judge whether the case stated by the honorable member for Bennelong, or the allegation of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, is correct. I do not say anything about the charges made about Mr. J. A. Ferguson. He is out of politics and I think that it is wise to let the dead bury their dead. It does, however, seem to be strange that the Housing Commission of New South Wales should have been able to provide him with this particular block of land in such a short time.
I believe that the honorable member for Bennelong has made out a positive case in favour of his claim that he is entitled to, and should be granted, the full amount he has sought. As he has said, in the final analysis the matter will have to be decided by the judiciary. However, it was open to the New South Wales Government, all along the line, to submit a claim to the New South Wales Land and Valuation Court. It has not done so, and .the honorable member for Bennelong is now prepared, I take it from his remarks, to allow the matter to go to that court for decision. I consider that by raking over this matter here to-night the honorable member for EdenMonaro and the honorable member for East Sydney have attempted to prejudice the course of justice in this country and deprive an ‘honorable member, who is a inspected .citizen, of his rights. I think that .every. decent citizen will be repelled by his course of action. Any one -who has .listened to the honorable member for Bennelong to-night would agree that he is entitled to an apology from both honorable members.
. -Every parliament has its legislation. £pr acquiring ,land. This Parliament has had such legislation since the first days of federation, and whatever govern ment may be in power it acts in a similar fashion to any government of any State. It acquires the land that it decides that it needs for public purposes at a valuation determined by its officers. If there is any merit in what the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) has .said in his pathetic speech to-night, this Government is just as guilty as the New South Wales .Government because it is acquiring land all over Australia at prices that are not .even one-third of the current value of the land.
– All over Australia, and if the Government will allow me access to the records of the Department of the Interior I shall prove how land has been so acquired in the same way for the last 50 years. The matter of the resumption of land at Essendon for the building of an airport came before the last Labour Government. That Government stated a case to the High Court, and paid the. expenses of the case so that people living on the land .required might obtain a fair price for their property. The court awarded .the appellants approximately twice as much as the Department of the Interior was prepared to offer. Those resumptions were made under an act that was passed by a non-Labour government. We felt -that justice was best done by taking that action.
– Why did not the Labour Government settle the matter itself5?
– We referred the case to the court, and accepted the . court’s verdict. From complaints that I have received, I know that this Government is not paying what people believe to be a fair price for the land it resumes, but most of the people from whom land is being acquired are not -wealthy,’ and they have to settle in -the end ,for what the ‘Government offers. What ‘this -Government has done, and what .every other government has done, in respect of land .acquired by ,the .Commonwealth, ,has been done by (the .Ne,w .South Wales Government ,in the case of the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. -Cramer,). The New South Wales Government offered .him what it -would , have offered anybody, else, but he poses as a martyr in .this Parliament, ..drags in -bis. own personal affairs: attacks the New South Wales Government, and says, “Look how they are robbing me “. The facts are that the New South Wales Government is offering him £1,900 for land that he values at £11,000, but upon which he was prepared to pay rates at the New South Wales Valuer-General’s valuation of £1,900. After paying rates at that lower valuation he claims that the land is worth £11,000. The Minister for the Navy supported him and said that he was entitled to receive £11,000 and that a socialist government was robbing him. It may be that the Valuer-General who valued this land is a good supporter of the Liberal party, but he decided what was a fair valuation. No member of the New South Wales Government determines the value of land, because that is the province of its Valuer-General. If he values land at too low a price he does not do it because of his alleged socialist feelings, but because he believes that the people of New South Wales should not be asked to pay inflated prices. Instead of wasting the time of this House and trying to score points off the New South Wales Government because it will not help him, he should go to the court, get justice and accept it. He and his fellow land salesmen - and I do not attack land salesmen because of their profession - seem to have a habit of looking after their own interests. Not many of them die in poverty. Therefore, he should look after his own interests and go to court about the matter. The plaintive effort of the Minister for the Navy in trying to build a case around his injured friend convinced not even the honorable member himself. It was really pathetic.
.- It is significant that the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) had to call to his defence the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon), who in most unbecoming and unparliamentary language shocked the House. It is apparent that the devastating attacks made on the honorable member for Bennelong by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) sank him long before the Minister for the
Navy came to his assistance. The broadside launched by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has left the honorable member for Bennelong without a feather to fly with.. I believe that this matter has been settled in the public mind, and I believe that you, Mr. Speaker, will no doubt pass your own quiet judgment in your own mind upon this matter in favour of the Labour party.
I now mention a matter that I brought before the House a few days ago in regard to Commonwealth Hostels Limited. I had received a letter from the New South Wales branch of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia in which a number of allegations were made against Commonwealth Hostels Limited, but time did not permit me to quote extensively from it. I have not as yet received any reply from the Minister to whose attention I brought the matter. Many serious charges were laid against Commonwealth Hostels Limited by a responsible officer of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia. He pointed out that men were being dismissed from this organization while officers in higher positions, receiving exhorbitant salaries, were being maintained in employment. I asked the Minister whether he would investigate the charges and ascertain what could be done to remedy the state of affairs that the Federated Clerks Union alleged to exist. In support of my statements I now ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard the letter sent to me by the Federated Clerks Union of Australia, and a number of other documents which are copies of the official .documents of Commonwealth Hostels Limited.
– We are not aware of the contents of those documents.
– I ask that this be done because a few days ago the House agreed to a similar request by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight).
– I read my letter to honorable members.
– If the honorable member did so it was done in a way that nobody could understand. I could read this letter to the House and it would then be automatically incorporated in Hansard, but I do not wish to take up the time of other honorable members who have urgent matters to discuss. Surely the Government has no objection to these documents being incorporated in Hansard1.* Surely it has nothing to hide ? I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) whether he is prepared to allow all the correspondence that I have mentioned to be incorporated in Hansard.* In doing so I say that if I am not given this permission it is open to any honorable member on this side to reverse the position at any time, and I am not exactly dumb. That of course is not a threat, it is a general observation. I again ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether he is prepared to allow me to have incorporated in Hansard the official case presented by the Federated Clerks Union of Australia in support of the charges that that union has levelled at Commonwealth Hostels Limited? As the Minister does not seem prepared to accede to my request, I place on record my regret that the Government is running away from these charges. What has happened to-night should prove conclusively to people outside the Parliament, and to honorable members of the Parliament, that the Government is ashamed of the way in which it is conducting Commonwealth Hostels Limited because it is afraid to have the charges incorporated in Hansard. This matter will be fully pursued because I expect an answer and a responsible employees’ organization expects an answer. I express my regret and contempt for a Government that runs away from charges such as this. .
. It is my sincere belief that since you have occupied the chair Mr. Speaker, you have done a great deal to reduce the type of personal attack previously witnessed in this Parliament. The charges flung across the House to-night can remind any sensible listener only of a kindergarten.
Now I wish to comment upon a matter raised at question time to-day about the food available to the Citizen Military Forces and national service trainees. The matter was raised by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin). The kind of aspersions being cast by some honorable members opposite upon the food that we are providing for servicemen are doing a great discredit to the honorable members themselves, and to the country. Moreover, they are not true.
– Tell that to the mothers and fathers.
– I do not intend to reply to silly interjections. I am talking about substantive facts. Since the national service training scheme was introduced I have visited the national service trainees on each occasion that a course has been conducted in Tasmania. I saw what they were doing and what they were being given to eat, and I am certain that these men are being treated better than ever was the case before in the history of our military services.
I began my service in the Royal Australian Air Force as an AC2, which is recognized as being the lowest form of human life in the Air Force. My comrades and I were then fed, clothed and paid on a reasonably adequate basis, but the young fellows in national service units and the Citizen Military Force to-day are being given things that we never even dreamed of receiving in those days only a few years ago. It is fair to say that these men are well clothed, extremely well fed, and well looked after by their officers.
– And they are aware of the fact, too.
– I am sure that the honorable gentleman is right. I have visited camps almost from week to week in order to see the sort of instruction that has been given to various courses of national service trainees, and I am convinced that servicemen in this country have never before been given the kind of treatment that these young men are being given. To suggest that any soldier of the Citizen Military Force, or any national service trainee, i3 being starved of rations is sheer nonsense. If honorable members opposite who have made suCh charges would go to any of these army camps and examine the modern kitchens, of a type that was unknown in my time, and the food that is supplied to the men, they would not be so irresponsible as to suggest that the trainees have been made to go short of food. I do not want to labour this subject. I merely add the comment that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) and the Mi,,ister for Defence (Mr. McBride) h;*.is done- a magnificent job - and I hope that nobody will suggest I am a *’ Yes man “ - in. providing the best kind of training and the best possible conditions for national service trainees and other soldiers. I am disgusted that any honorable member should suggest that these young men are not getting what they deserve. They are getting everything they deserve.
– I disagree with the statement by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) is doing a magnificent job, because I can refer to one case, at any rate, which proves that the Minister is a prize bungler. I refer to this matter to-night because. the Minister challenged me last week, when I first made the charge against him, to supply him with the name of the person involved. I did so, but, although a week has since elapsed, he has not yet produced the file that he promised to produce. Furthermore, although I told him earlier to-night that I intended to raise the subject again during the adjournment- debate, I notice that he is not in the chamber at present.
– He will be here soon-.
– Last week I directed attention to an example of bad administration by the Minister. : told the House that I knew of a mother who had lost her son during the last war and Had been paid his allotment for three years following has death, and that, when she applied for the son’s war gratuity, she was advised that she was not entitled to it because the Government had decided to deduct the allotment payments that she had received during the three years after her son had been killed from the amount of the gratuity. I told the House that I had written to the Minister-
– When was the soldier killed?
– He was on the Japanese vessel that was sunk by mistake by the American fleet off the coast of Borneo.
– When the Labour. Government was in power ?
– Surely the honorable member is not suggesting that the Labour Government fired the torpedo?
– The bungling occurred when the Labour Government was in power. ‘
– I am talking about the refusal of the authorities to pay the gratuity to the man’s mother, and that did not occur until last year.
– That is not a matter for the Minister for the Army.
– The Minister for the Army said that my statements were not true. I said, last week, when I first raised this matter in the House, that I had written to the Minister and asked him to forego the claim to the allotment money and to pay the amount of the gratuity to the mother in full. I waited for some time, but received no letter from him. I wrote to the woman to inform her that I intended to write again to the Minister. She then advised me that she had received the- gratuity about a week previously. That meant that the money had already been paid to her when the Minister eventually wrote to tell me that the matter was still under review. Weeks later, I received from, him a letter in which he was pleased to advise rae that the department had decided to pay the gratuity to the woman. I have mentioned the matter in order to show how badly some of the acts in relation to ex-servicemen are administered.
I first wrote to the Minister on this subject on the 11th May. 1951. I received a, letter from him on the 23rd August, and this is what he had to say about: the matter then -
I have ascertained that Mrs.- was overpaid1 the sum of £234 16s. due- to the payment of an allotment to her being continued for more than three years after the presumed date of her son’s death on 1st July, 1942. This overpayment was partially offset by deferred pay and other credits, and the balance of £184 12s. was written off as a charge against public- funds.
There is nothing in Army records which would justify the complaints made by Mrs. - . On the contrary, Mrs.- has not made nar application for her son’s Avar gratuity. The prescribed application form has’ now been forwarded to Mrs.- and will be dealt with as soon as it has been returned completed tn the Army Command Paymaster at Keswick Barracks.
The instructions governing the payment of war gratuity in deceased cases are somewhat complicated and I cannot say yet, on the information available to me, whether Mrs. - has any entitlement to war gratuity in respect of her son’s service. I shall write to you when her application has been received aud considered by the prescribed authority.
On the 30th May, the woman received a letter from the Australian Military Forces Central Command at Keswick Barracks in the following terms: -
Advice has been received through Army headquarters’, Melbourne, that you are desirous of applying for the war gratuity.
Yet the Minister wrote to me on the 23rd August that no application had been made for the gratuity and that he did not know yet whether the woman was entitled to it when, in fact, she had received notification thirteen days previously that the sum of £242 0s. 4d. had that day been paid into her bank account. On the 17th September, the Minister wrote to me as follows : -
I now wish to inform you that Mrs.- lodged an application for the war gratuity. The claim was, considered by the prescribed authority and Mrs.- was credited with £200 os.
I leave it to the House to determine whether or not the Minister is a prize bungler and whether or not the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was justified in remarking that he was more like a goanna sitting on a stump, puffing out its gills, than a Minister of the Crown.
– I am glad to have the opportunity to give some of the facts of this case to the House. The correspondence to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has referred was exchanged sixteen months ago, but he raised the matter in this House only a few days ago on the ground that some misdemeanour had been committed by officers of the Department of the Army. What a poor, hopeless, desperate character he is ! How futile he must be if, having been unable to find any cause for complaint in the administration of the Department of the Army, he must go back in desperation to events that took place sixteen months ago! What are the facts? The Department of the Army has nothing whatever to do with the payment of war gratuity.
– Why did the Minister write me a letter ?
– Because of the honorable gentleman’s ignorance.
– Order !
– War gratuity is dealt with by a prescribed authority, which was set up by the Labour Government. That authority is the War Gratuity Board, and I have acted merely as a transmitting agency between the board and the honorable member. I have no-thing to do with the conduct of the board, and I cannot interfere with it in any way. It operates under its own constitution, and there is no appeal from its decisions. That board has tendered certain advice to me. The honorable member raised this matter last week, sixteen months after the correspondence had been exchanged, and I transmitted the relevant documents to the War Gratuity Board and asked it to examine his comments and supply me with its reply to them. I did not expect to receive a reply within 4S hours. In fact, I should not wish the board to deal with the matter hastily. I want it to concentrate on the task of dealing as quickly as possible with claims for war gratuity and not to waste its time on humbug.
Thursday, 9 October 1952
– I remember distinctly during the general election campaign in 1949 that it was a general topic of conversation among people that when the Liberal party and the Australian Country party assumed office, it would take them approximately nine years to clean up the horrible mess made by the socialist administration. That forecast has been borne out to-night by the statements of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). He referred to an incident which began originally in 1942, when an unfortunate serviceman lost his life. At that time, the Labour Government was in power and, to its eternal discredit, saw fit to appoint as Minister for the Army a man known throughout Queensland as a conscientious objector. I do not know whether that appointment was the Labour party’s idea of humour, but it will never be forgotten by men who wore a uniform in the defence of this country. They received the most gratuitous insult ever given to men who’ offered their lives for their native land. Can the House imagine the reaction of men in uniform on foreign shores when the Labour Government played such a filthy trick as that?
I return to the story told by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who claimed that this incident happened in 1942.
– The death occurred in 1942.
– For some years later, the allotments were paid to the deceased servicemen’s next-of-kin. That fact indicates that there was bungling and inadequate control of the Department of the Army under the administration of a Labour Minister. It has taken the present Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) only a short space of time, compared with what we considered would be necessary, to clean up the mess that a Labour government made of the defence of this country. It is well known that it is not the policy of the Australian Labour party to do anything for defence. I have been a member of this chamber since 1949, and in that time I have heard the former Leader of the Labour party, whom Opposition members continually eulogize, the late Mr. J. B. Chifley, refuse to associate himself with any campaign to induce men to join the services in order to protect this country. Such an attitude is to the eternal disgrace of the Socialist party. Let us not forget it. There is no doubt in the mind of any decent Australian citizen that the national service training scheme implemented by the Minister for the Army has been an outstanding success, and has surpassed the expectations of everybody, including members of the Labour party. It is acknowledged to be a. success by even the small percentage of the troops who unwillingly go into camp. Even these, on their discharge, freely admit that they have enjoyed the camp and have benefited mentally and physically from the training.
The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) has spoken about the alleged inadequacy of the food supplied to national service trainees. I suggest that if the honorable member were sincere, he would visit the camps in order to see the work that is done by the boys. They are doing work which he did not have the courage to offer to . do. If the honorable member were to visit the camps, he would realize that 90 per cent, of the trainees are better fed in the army establishments than they are in their own homes, because they are given a balanced diet worked out by a dietitian. The food is plentiful. There is no shortage of it in any camp. I have visited camps frequently, and have seen the troops on parade at their passingout ceremonies and at army tattoos in Brisbane. Any honorable member who is not biased against the scheme and not perverted in his thoughts regarding it, will openly and sincerely admit that the Minister for the Army has done a job beyond the expectations of anybody. No Minister for the Army in the history of Australia has done a better job than he has done, and full credit should be given to him for it. He is a returned veteran who served with distinction in World War I. I commend his work.
.As my name has been mentioned in this debate, I shall say a few words about the matter. Apparently the question which I asked this afternoon about the food supplied to national service trainees has got under the skins of Government supporters. All I asked was that I be given the right to visit national service training camps. We hear a great deal about the war heroes on the other side of the chamber, and I point out, for the edification of Government supporters, that perhaps I had much more to do with the military before some of them were born. I do not wish to wrap the Union Jack around me, and create an aura of patriotism which some honorable members adopt for vote-catching purposes. I remind the House that the third part of the question which I asked this afternoon reads as follows: -
In view of the general and widespread nature of the complaints which we receive from mothers and fathers-
– From conscientious objectors ?
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! The House must come to order, or I shall leave the Chair. It is after midnight.
– I have little knowledge of conscientious objectors, although I am aware that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was urgently needed somewhere else when war broke out in 1914. I ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) to listen patiently to the third part of my question, which is as follows : -
In view of the general and widespread nature of the complaints, will he arrange for members of the Parliament to investigate these matters for themselves?
I have not asked for more than that. I do not want any other privileges accorded to me. The Minister is proud of his national service training scheme, but if he wants some little points on organization, he may be able to get them from members of the Opposition.
– I gave the honorable member an invitation.
– I want the right to accompany the Minister unannounced to the camp. I do not want the news of our visit to be telegraphed to the camp a week or so before it is due to take place, as is usual in the Public Service. I should like to arrange a visit at a lunch-hour or other meal-hour at any camp which is within easy reach of Sydney. Mothers and fathers of national service trainees are deeply concerned about the food provided for their sons.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Let honorable members opposite try to laugh this matter off as best they can. Mothers have complained, and they have the right to complain if they think that their sons are not receiving proper food when they are in camp. The platitudes that have been voiced by Government supporters about damaging the morale of the army, navy and air force, are completely irrelevant to this issue. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) has told us what he did when he was in the Royal Australian Air Force. I do not want to know anything about that. I want to know what the national service trainees are given to eat, and whether they are getting enough to eat. I should like to ascertain whether the quality of the food is worthy of a good Australian lad when he is in camp. Are the racketeers handling the food, as they have in the past? The Department of the Army may pay for high-quality food as it has done in the past, but I should like to know whether it is receiving food of the standard for which it is paying. Are the boys given food of the quality that they deserve? Complaints from mothers and fathers about the quality of the food served in camps are reaching our offices from day to day. All that those who make the complaints ask is that the Minister make it possible for their local member to visit a camp in order to see the conditions for himself. We do not trust the word of Ministers of this Government. Their word is neither here nor there to me. I want to see the food with my own eyes. The mothers of the trainees do not care whom they offend when they are worried about their sons. If the claims that I have made should be found to be without foundation, I shall be the first to congratulate the Minister. I challenge him to reply to my charges. All I ask is that he should give me authority to visit these camps-
– Unannounced and unaccompanied. If the Minister has nothing to be afraid of he should not hesitate to give me authority to visit, unannounced and unaccompanied, any army, naval, or air force establishments in New South Wales in order to give me an opportunity to inspect conditions at such establishments. If I should find that food of good quality is being served to trainees, I shall be the first to congratulate the Minister publicly.
– The debate that has detained the House for the last hour and a half does not reflect credit upon the Parliament. Some honorable members have made statements which I can only describe as unfortunate. If it is reasonable for members of any party to cast reflections upon the character of members of another party - I say this from the bottom of my heart to the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) - any one who has had anything to do with war would never be capable of saying that another person had failed to do a job of work during a war in defence of his country, because that is the basest reflection that any one could make upon another person.
– I will say what I like.
– I address that observation also to my colleague on this side of the chamber who made the remark that prompted the statement that was made by the honorable member for Watson. I can only describe such statements as evil and bad-mannered. There has never been a more generous or kindly Minister for the Army than the present occupant of that position:and the Army will back up that statement. Some of his predecessors may have been equally kind and generous but none of themhasbeen more generous orkinder than the present Minister. Whilst I amaware that the case that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) cited related to departmental administration -all of us know that the Public Service cannot do everything properly all the time -the raising ofsuch a matter in the Parliament isnot only badbutalsoimmoral.
– The Minister asked me to do so.
– All honorable members appreciate what happens when a man is killed on war service and his widow and dependants have to be provided for. One of the great responsibilities of this countryis to look after the widows of servicemen ; but to make of such matters apolitical football is shocking and objectionable. When honorable members speak about the problems that are associated with the training of young men under the national service training scheme, they should recall the simple and elementary factthat this nation has been built upon the endeavour in the face ofhardship andthe greatness of people, who sacrificed themselves in the interests of truth, honesty and sincerity. The statements that have been made that national service traineesare not being supplied with food of good qualityare tobe deplored. I remind the honorable member for Watson of the background, for the last 200 years, of those who have been midshipmen in the British Navy, to which this nation, of which the honorable member himself is a vibrant citizen, owes its existence and prosperity. Such men develop the sinews of ournation. I can only deplore thefact that honorable members should take up the time of the House in making complaints that some trainees are not being supplied with treacle on their pies. Are any , of these trainees suffering from malnutrition? Such complaints are utter nonsense. It is adarned good thing that, at last,this country has the courage to make of defence, not a tribute to bepaid by only a proportion of thepeople, but a responsibility to be borne by all our citizens. The Parliament has cause to be ashamed of the debate that has taken place in this chamber during the last hour and ahalf.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Thefollowing papers were presented : -
Northern Territory (Administration) Act -
Crown Lands Ordinance-Reasons for resumption of Berrimah Aboriginal Reserve.
War Service Homes Act - Annual Reportfor 1951-52.
Houseadjournedat 12.17 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Land Settlementof ex-Servicemen.
Hasthe Governmentassumed certain financial responsibility withrespect tosoldier settlement ; if so, why is it that, seven years after the war, ex-servicemenhavenot been fully repatriated andrehabilitated?
Is it a fact that thereare , 2,000 farms in New South Wales, already inspected,surveyed and ready for occupation, which cannot be acquired owing to lackof further money for soldier settlement? 3.Are there 17,000ex-servicemenstillhold- ing qualifying certificates in New South Wales, andis there atotal of about 25,000 in the Commonwealth still waiting forfarms?
Inview oftheexisting financial difficulties, and the urgent food and export demands of the nation, will he consider the launching of a£50;000,000 soldier settlement loan to facilitatetheplacing ofex-servicemen on the land?
Would nottherisk ofany inflationary effect ofsucha loan be justified by the placement of30,000 men in rural production? 6.Will he consider the launching of an additional £50,000,000loan for the settlement onthelandof Australian civilianswithparticular application to trained farmers who are working in industry because of inability to obtain land, and a further £50,000,000 loan for settlementof experienced migrants on small holdings for the intense farmingof areas on the European pattern?
SirArthurFadden. - The answers to the honorable member’squestions are as follows:- 1.Duringdiscussions ontheformulation of thewarservicelandsettlement scheme,the Commonwealth Government offered to find all capital moneys for the acquisition and development of land and the making of advances to settlers.Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia acceptedtheCommonwealth’s offer and settlement of a large portion ofthe applicants in those States has been effected. New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria rejected the offer and elected to finance settlement in their own States with the Commonwealthmaking certain financial contributions as a repatriation measure to the eligible ex-servicemen allottedfarms.
Mr.Hasluck. -Qn the24th September,thehonorable memberfor Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked the following questions: -
In viewofthe recent decision by shipowners in the northern hemisphere to reduce United Kingdom to Australiafreights, will pressurebe exercised by the Minister for Shipping andTransport to secure a reduction of the fantastic timber’freights between Australia and New Zealand?Is it a fact that the freight on timber shipped from Australia to New Zealand is approximately double that on timber shipped from Vancouverto Australia, although the distance from Australia to New Zealand is approximately one-fifthof that : from Australia to Vancouver? ‘These highfreights arecontributing to the outpricing ofNew South Waleshard woods sent toNew Zealand.
The questions asked by thehonorable member have been brought tothenotice of the Ministerfor Shipping and Transport, who has advised me as follows : -
The current freight rates on timber shipped from Sydney and Newcastle to New Zealand main ports are -
Up to 20ft.lengths, 48s. (Aust.) per 100 super. feet. 20 to 25 ft. lengths, 50s.6d. (Aust.) per 100super. feet. 25 to 30 ft. lengths, 52s. (Aust.) per 100 super. feet. 30 to 35 ft. lengths, 53s. 3d. (Aust.)per 100super. feet. 35 to 40 ft.lengths, 54s. l0d.(Aust.)per 100 super. feet.
The rates on timber shipped from outports suchasCoff’sHarbour are3s. 9d. per100 super. feet higher. The rate from Vancouver to Australia is at present 34s. 4d. (Aust.) per 100 super. feet. However,this tradeis highly competitive and the freightrate hasvaried considerably in the past fewmonths, at one stage beingashigh as 88s.5d. per 100 super. feet.Shipping interests expectthisrate to settle at approximately 45s.(Aust.). The reasonsgivenfor the higher freight rate onthe shorter New Zealand haul are -
Thereis not thesame degree of competitioninthe Australia-New Zealand trade us exists inthe trade between Vancouver and Australia.
The efficiency of the loading and discharging facilities in Australia and New Zealand does not compare favorably with the facilities available for loading softwoods in America.
The Australia-New Zealand trade is in hardwoods and VancouverAustralia in softwoods and the freight ratesfor hardwoods are generally higher than for softwoods.
A more accurate view is obtained by comparing the Australia-New Zealand rate with the Australia-America rate of 61s.1d. (Aust.) per 100 super. feet and Australia-United Kingdom rate of97s.1d. (Aust.)per 100 super. feet because in these trades there is not the same degree of competition as exists in the VancouverAustralia trade. This comparison also discounts the effect of the specialized and efficient softwood loading equipment in American ports and relates to timber of a similar nature. When compared with freight rates in timber trades other than the Van-‘ couver-Australia trade, the Australia-New Zealand rate does not appear to be disproportionately high. Until recently there was no competition in New Zealand against Australian hardwoods which sold freely but during recent months 1 am advised a British firm has been quoting at a highly competitive price for the delivery of Malayan timber in New Zealand. It is understood that Australian hardwoods are superior but the price quoted for Malayan timber is sufficiently attractive for this timber to compete in some uses, so restricting the demand for New South Wales timber.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 October 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19521008_reps_20_219/>.