20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have received a letter from Government House dated the 26th March, 1953, that reads as follows-
By direction of the Governor-General who is at present in Sydney I have the honour to refer to your dispatch of the 25th March, 1953, transmitting an address of condolence to Her Majesty the Queen. I am now to convey to you the following reply which His Excellency has received from Her MajestyI sincerely thank the members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia for the kind terms of the message of sympathy which they have sentme on the death of Queen Mary.
– It is my intention to issue a writ for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Dalley in the State of New South Wales in place of the Honorable John Solomon Roscvcar, deceased. The dates in connexion with the election have been fixed as follows: - Date of nomination, Friday, 17th April, 1953; date of polling, Saturday, 9th May, 1953; date of return of writ, on or before Saturday, 20th June, 1953.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill (No. 2) 1952-53.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill 1951-52.
Loan (Temporary Revenue Deficits) Bill 1953.
Without requests -
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1953-54.
Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1952-53.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1951-52.
– Is the Min ister for Health aware that . the special tuberculosis allowance of £9 a week for a man and his wife is not being paid to patients in a number of hospitals who are Buffering from tubercular spinal troubles? I have in mind the case of a young man with a dependent wife and three young children who is likely to be in hospital for many months because of this serious complaint. Will the Minister extend the benefit of the tuberculosis .allowance to include sufferers from the spinal tuberculosis?
– The position is l.bat the special tuberculosis allowance is given- to persons who have infectious tuberculosis for’ the special purpose of making it possible for them to cease work so that they will not infect others. That is the present law, and the system cannot be altered except by an alteration of the law. The cases referred to by the honorable member are eases on all fours with those of other chronic diseases, and they arc treated in exactly the same way. I have a feeling that in the case of tuberculosis something should be done, and the whole matter will he investigated.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he is aware that there . has been some criticism of the fact that the ‘Australian diplomatic post in Moscow is in charge of a charge d’ affaires and not an ambassador? Has the Minister any comment tq make on that matter ?
– It is a fact that the Australian Embassy in Moscow is in charge of a charge d’ affaires which is also the case for different reasons, in respect of a number of our diplomatic posts. We have a very effective officer of the rank of councillor, Mr. MacMillan, in Moscow. He is at present serving his second term of office in Moscow. I understand that he speaks good Russian and I am personally satisfied with the way that he has been reporting. One of the important reasons why we have not placed an ambassador in the ‘post is the excessive cost of living in Moscow for the personnel of the diplomatic post. The figures are not precisely in my mind but. I understand that our post in Moscow is costing two to three times the cost of a post of similar size in any other country.
– Why not abolish it?
– The work is being effectively carried out by the present charge d’ affaires, with whom I am entirely satisfied. The Government sees no reason why it should fill the post of ambassador at the present time.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service . state whether it is true that there are 2,500,000 tons of coal at grass in Australia to-day? When does the Minister consider that the danger level will be reached and retrenchments will inevitably begin? Is the Government trying to establish a local market for the surplus stock of coal? Is it still importing coal from South Africa or India? If so, when did thu last shipments arrive?
– I shall first answer the last part of the honorable member’s question. .1 am unable to say whether the State governments are still importing coal. I should imagine that the contracts they had formerly made have now expired. In any case, I should think that they would be confined to gas coal, in those States where an ample supply of gas coal has not previously been available. I refer now to the first part of the honorable member’s question. Although there is a considerable quantity of coal at grass at present, if the honorable gentleman has in mind coal under the control of the Joint Coal Board, it is. not as great as he has suggested. I am happy to say that industrial user? qf coal have been able to accumulate good stocks and that Australia now has the best reserves of coal, all in all, that it has known for very many years. The Joint Coal Board is trying to stockpile coal of the best quality available. The Commonwealth has taken action to assist in maintaining production by instituting a long service leave scheme and by arranging transfers of coal-miners from uneconomic mines to economic mines that are still looking for labour. As I have previously pointed out to the honorable member for Hunter, there are more than 500 vacancies in New South Wales in mines that are producing good coal. I assure the honorable member that we are doing all we can to develop export markets for coal - there have been some interesting new developments in that direction - and to ensure continuity of supply of coal of tho best quality so that industrial users will be encouraged to continue to use coal and not to revert to other forms of power and heat. The position of the coal industry is very much the concern of my colleague, the Minister for National Development.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service any information, other than that which has appeared in the press, about the disastrous explosion that occurred at Yallourn Inst night? Will the Joint Coal Board he able to assist Victoria to alleviate the very serious shortage of briquettes from the brown coal mines at Yallourn that will almost certainly occur as a result of the explosion?
– I do not know whether the Government is in possession of any information upon this matter other than that which has appeared in the press. I urn certain that the Minister for National Development will give immediate consideration to the matter raised by the honorable member, and I shall bring the question to his notice.
– Has the Minister for Supply been able to assist the Department of Commerce and Agriculture by meeting its request for transport for use to combat fruit fly, which is now prevalent in some districts in Victoria?
– I am glad to say that I have been able to do this. The Minister for Commerce- and Agriculture had his attention drawn to the fruit fly menace in Victoria, and he acted very promptly. He was faced with the difficulty that he did not have at his command sufficient transport to carry the equipment needed for spraying, and, therefore, he made an approach to the Department of Supply. My department, I am glad to say, acted with equal promptitude. It has made available eighteen vehicles already, and it will make an additional eight available in a few days’ time. The first group of vehicles is already on the job. Although the procedure may have been slightly irregular, at least it has helped to stampout the fruit fly menace.
– Did the Prime Minister state in a recent broadcast that he was satisfied that no Communist occupied any position of high rank in the Public Service? If so, will he say what has happened to the nest of traitors allegedly discovered about twelve months ago by the Minister for External Affairs? Were any officers of the Public Service dismissed, disrated or transferred as a result of any inquiries that were instituted, or was it discovered that the idea of a nest of traitors had its birth in the imagination of the Minister for External Affairs in a desperate effort to revive a bogy that has helped the Government on many other occasions?
– -The anxiety of the honorable member on this topic is well understood. With my usual good nature, so that he may be clear about what I have said in any broadcast, I shall make sure that he receives roneoed copies of all the talks I have delivered so far and all those that are to come.
– Some time ago the Minister for Health stated in this House that there would be no modification of the quarantine regulations for the purpose of enabling horses to be brought to Australia to take part in the Olympic Games. However, I understand that the proposal is still being pursued by interested parties. Therefore, I ask the Minister whether he can give an undertaking, before the House goes into recess, that no action will be taken by this Government that would in any way endanger the live-stock population of Australia?
– The honorable member may be assured that the principle on which the Government stands is that nothing shall be done that could possibly jeopardize Australian, live-stock. The quarantine regulations will be enforced for that purpose. I point out, however, that the president of the Equestrian
Society of Australia has asked me for permission to submit to the Government proposals which, he says, will be 100 per cent, foolproof. I have told him that the Government will be prepared to consider the proposals. I understand that the suggestion is that horses shall he quarantined at specified places overseas for a .certain period of time before they come to Australia. Up to the present, I have not received any detailed information of the plan from the society. I am waiting for it and, when I receive it, it will he considered on its merits.
– My question is directed to the Vice-President of the Executive Council. On the 25th February, during the adjournment debate, I referred to the complaints of a number of patients at the Concord Repatriation Hospital in relation to the appointment of a permanent dermatologist. -
-Order! The VicePresident of the Executive Council is not in control of repatriation hospitals.
– I raised this matter -
-If the question concerns repatriation hospitals, it should be placed on the notice-paper.
– I should like to relate the story. Briefly, the facts are that on the 25th February, during the adjournment debate, I raised this matter and was assured by the Vice-President of the Executive Council that a reply would be supplied to me. When am I likely to receive that reply ?
– This is . a misuse of question time.
– As the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, I advise the honorable member that I discussed this matter with my colleague and that he told me this morning that, if he were unable to answer the question to-day, he would communicate with the honorable member by letter as soon as possible. That remark applies also to two other matters.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has any knowledge of the progress being made in the preparation of a document to set out in laymen’s language an explanatory precis pf those sections of the Repatriation Act which deal with onus of proof and benefit of the doubt in relation to entitlement under the act?
– I understand that progress is being made in that matter, and that the document is expected to be available shortly. I shall pursue the matter.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the Government intends to distribute to school children medals commemorating the Coronation? If that be so, how will the medals be distributed ?
– It is not proposed to distribute such medals to school children. A souvenir will be distributed to them, but it will take another form.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Supply, relates to the procedure adopted by his department in connexion with the receipt of tenders. Do late tenders, or tenders received after the advertised closing date, receive the same consideration as those received prior to the closing date? If late tenders do receive the same consideration as those lodged in accordance with the prescribed conditions, will he make inquiries to ascertain the degree to which such a practice is followed? Will he issue a direction to the effect that, in future, late tenders will not be considered?
– The general rule is that if a contractor does not submit his tender within the time prescribed, his tender is not considered. I must qualify that statement’. Speaking from memory - I hope the honorable member will not bind me to this - I think that late tenders are always submitted to the Minister. Normally, the Minister is not required to deal with contracts unless they are on a certain financial level, but I believe that late tenders must be submitted to him. In deciding whether to consider such tenders, consideration is given to the circumstances of each case. On some occasions, it has been, ascertained that a tender has not been received in time owing to a delay in the mails. Sometimes, a late tender is considered because it relates to a matter in respect of which the department urgently requires tenders. Each case is considered upon its merits. If I. have omitted to give the honorable member any information upon this matter that I should give to him, I shall communicate with him later.
– Will the Minister for the Navy say whether a decision has been made to transfer the Royal Australian Naval College from Flinders to Jervis Bay in the Australian Capital Territory? Does the fact that two assessors from the Department of the Navy are at present making investigations at Jervis Bay indicate that such a transfer is under consideration, and that buildings at Jervis Bay now occupied by civilian businesses may be taken over by the Royal Australian Navy?
– A final decision upon the transfer of the Royal Australian Naval College from Flinders to Jervis Bay has not yet been made. The transfer of the college to its traditional home has been considered by the Government, and has been approved in principle. Unfortunately, it could not be undertaken during this financial’ year because other projects have been given a greater priority in the allocation of finance. I was not aware that - two assessors from the Department of the Navy were at Jervis Bay. I shall ascertain why they are there, and I shall inform the honorable member accordingly. Naturally, if the Royal Australian Naval College .was shifted, some compensation might have to be paid, and it would be paid to some of the civilians who are at present occupying some of the premises.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Supply with the explanation that during the last three years, widespread efforts have been made to combat bushfires in South. Australia by voluntary fire-fighting organizations. Will the Minister consider making available to these emergency fire-fighting units by way of a gift, several surplus trucks advertised for sale ‘by the Department of Supply at Finsbury on the 1st April next ?
– I shall certainly con:sider the honorable member’s suggestion. He will realize, of course, that directly we depart from the normal system of sale by tender and interfere with it by making gifts here or special concessions there, we encounter administrative difficulties, and complaints are received from people who say that some one has received favorable treatment to their detriment. However, the worthy cause to which the honorable member for Angas has referred will certainly receive the sympathetic consideration of the Government.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs say whether it is a fact that aid under the Colombo plan is to be extended to Indonesia? If his reply to that question is in the affirmative, can he give an assurance that the relief that will be thereby afforded to the Indonesian budget will not be used by the. Indonesian Government for the purpose of increasing, its armaments and army, which could possibly be used to the detriment of Australia ?
– I desire to address .a question to the Minister for Social Services, and I point out, by way of explanation, that I understand that aborigines in reserves are not eligible for social services benefits. Will the Minister give the House some information about the conditions governing the grant of social services benefits to aborigines?
– We rely on the States in such matters. The States examine the aboriginal natives, and if they have reached certain standards of character and so on, they are issued with exemption certificates, and thereupon become entitled to social services benefits.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture refreshed his memory of the conference at which, the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture advocated that a price of 15s. a bushel should be paid to wheat-growers for wheat used for home consumption, that the price was supported by three States and opposed by three other States, and that he himself used his casting vote to oppose it?
– No, I have not studied any minutes of that conference, if that is what the honorable member means when he asks me whether I have refreshed tuy memory of it, but I assure him that Iris statement is not correct.
– In view of the current report of an increase of the international price of wheat, can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House of the effect that this may have on primary industries, principally with regard to wheat made available for stock feed purposes?
– If there is a renewal of the International Wheat Agreement it may be taken for granted that the maximum wheat price will be higher than the existing maximum price, and to that extent some problem will arise for the poultry industry. The honorable member for Deakin and certain other honorable members have been directing my attention to the problems of the poultry industry that would arise under those circumstances. At present the Government is aiding both the wheat industry and the poultry industry by a very substantial subsidy which amounted to 4s. Id. per bushel last year and will be 2s. 2d. per bushel this year, thus giving the poultry industry an opportunity to adjust itself, to the circumstances of paying the realizable value to the wheat industry for the product which the poultry industry uses as food. However, I do think that an important aspect at this moment lies in the fact that I have been able to arrange with the Minister for Pood in London that Australian eggs exported to the United Kingdom during the next twelve months will return to Australian producers the full price of their sale on the London market in a decontrolled price market, and as this might easily result in a return very substantially higher to Australian producers for their export eggs, that in itself -might solve the whole problem. If.it does not do so, I shall give consideration to circumstances which may then exist.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr. Speaker. You will bc aware, sir, that some of the portraits in King’s Hall and in the corridors of this building bear no legend to identify the subjects. If the matter is within you’1 jurisdiction, will you take steps, in the interests of future generations, to have the necessary identifications attached to those portraits ?
-I shall do so.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any significance in the replacement of a well-known Australianborn citizen as chairman of the newly formed Commonwealth Development Finance Corporation Limited in favour of a director of the Shell Oil Company. As it was announced at the time of the conference of Commonwealth Finance Ministers in London at the end of last year, at which conference it was planned, that this body would play an important part in the economic life of the Commonwealth countries, does the Prime Minister know whether Australia will be given adequate representation on the corporation, and also whether favorable facilities are to be made available to this body in relation to the introduction of capital to this country?
– This body in London is not a body created by Australia, or on which Australia seeks representation. It is a body organized to marshal, for the advantage of British Commonwealth countries including Australia, some of the financial resources available in Great Britain. I am bound to say that the body of people got together in London is very powerful, and includes direct representation of, and subscription by, th, “Sank of England. It is quite true, as the honorable member has said, that Sir Olive Bailleau, as he then was, or Lord Bailleau as he now is, was originally in the panel and ia not now a director. That is not astonishing to me because, when I spoke to him in London at the time of the formation of the original committee, he told me that he would not be able to carry on as a director. He had agreed to join the committee in order to help in the organizing work, but he could not possibly contemplate being a director because of his other very heavy commitments. No significance, therefore, ought, to be attached to the fact that he is not now a director.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service ‘ aware that, coercive action has been taken in recent weeks bv the Australian Council of Trades Unions to prevent certain employees of Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited from accepting considerable sums of money from their employers by way of a bonus on production? Does 1 21S coercive action accord with public policy, and is it also in accordance with public policy that people should be prevented from accepting legitimate incentive payments? Is there any basis of reasonable fart in this day and age for a fear that such payments may be used as a means of sweating employees? If such a fear does exist, would it be possible for incentive payment schemes to be examined by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court or by conciliation commissioner?, with a view to reassuring trade union organizations which apparently have such fears?
– I have some knowledge of the matter to which the honorable gentleman has referred. The policy of this Government has always been to favour properly conducted incentive schemes that contain adequate safeguards against exploitation or practices that may make undue demands upon the workers concerned. That is not merely the policy of the Government. It is also the practice of many trade unionists in this country who do not. as their own practices show, subscribe to the official policy enunciated by the Australian Council of Trades Unions on this matter. Incentive payment schemes have become accepted’ throughout the industrialized countriesof the world as a proper means of reward-“ ing workers who, hy extra skill or effort, are able to achieve better production’ results. That is not merely the practice in other industrial countries, but it is in extensive use inside Australia itself. I i-qq no sensible justification for an attitude which, assuming the safeguards that 1. have mentioned are applied, would mean deprivation to people whose energy, skill and wish in the matter would enable them to gain higher wages and thus a higher standard of living.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs discuss with officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization the possibility of discovering some means to (.’radicate paspalum in areas where it has no pasture value? Is the Minister aware that this grass is a costly nuisance in metropolitan areas, for instance, in Sydney? For example, it stains clothes, livery municipality in Sydney is expending thousands of pounds each year in an effort to remove the nuisance from public places, such as footpaths.
– As the honorable gentleman clearly knows, there are two attitudes of mind about paspalum. There are. people who think it is good, and people who think it is bad. A great deal “f work has been done in connexion with it, and I shall see that the most recent, conspectus of information on the subject is made available to the honorable gentleman.
– Is the Prime Minuter aware that the recently amended rates paid to poll clerks on election day are lower than the basic wage rates? As the Government is prepared to spend an additional and unnecessary £300,000 on a general election for the House of Representatives, as distinct from the coming Senate election, will the right honorable gentleman consider a further amendment to the rates paid to poll clerks so that they shall at least equal the basic wage rate3?
– I am not aware of the rates paid to poll clerks, but I shall address the matter to my colleague who attends to these matters.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. Some time ago I asked the Minister a question about British immigrant workers at “West Cessnock, Kurri Kurri and in the Belmont area. His reply was that the matter had been handed over to the Minister for the Interior, but that he had made representations to the New South Wales Government with a view to the State Government taking over the administration of the immigrants’ homes. Has the Minister yet received a reply from the New South “Wales Government, because this is a matter of urgency and I do not want to suffer headaches during the recess of this House by meeting more deputations from these people.
– There have been discussions between officers of the Government of New South “Wales and officers of the Public Service, particularly officers of the Treasury. There are also discussions proceeding between my department and the Department of the Interior relating to this matter. I shall ascertain whether I can give a more detailed reply to the honorable member by letter when I obtain further information on the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health, and by way of explanation I point out that in recent years there has been a tremendous increase of the number of people who use hearing aids. The practice has grown up of substituting, sometimes in a short period of six months, new models of hearing aids. It is evident that many of those who sell these articles have the most elementary ideas about testing persons who desire to use them. Can the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether any steps have been taken by the Department of Health to check the procedure in the directions that I have indicated, and if nosteps have been taken, will he ensure that those who recommend aids for hear ing have qualifications at least similar to the qualifications of those who test persons for spectacles? Can the Minister inform the House of the value and cost of the instruments supplied to school children and ex-servicemen under repatriation legislation compared with the value and cost of similar aids sold on the open market?
– Matters of trade in the States are within the province of State parliaments. ‘The Commonwealth laboratory that deals with hearing aids for children and ex-servicemen is quite prepared to examine the various types of hearing aids and report on their efficiency.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Copies of the first-mentioned reports only are available for the use of honorable members.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
Thatso much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent (a) the introduction and a motion for the second reading of a National Health Bill 1953, and (b) the Minister introducing the bill from making his speech on the second reading without limitation of time.
– This is a rather unnecessary motion. The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) apparently intends to bring down a bill to make certain provisions in relation to existing regulations. If he so desires, the Opposition will give him as much time as he requires, but surely he will not take up much time about matters with which we are fully conversant. We do not object to the suspension of the Standing Orders, but this has been made out to be a great mystery. Yet when it is considered, we find there is no mystery in it.
– in reply - This is indeed a great mystery, because the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has abandoned one of his colleagues, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr.- Calwell). The honorable member for Melbourne has been given the task of making arrangements with the Government with regard to matters of procedure in this House. When I spoke to the honorable member for Melbourne before he went away, I informed him that we intended to introduce a bill of this nature. He said. “ If you do, we shall oppose it all the way. We shall not give you leave to introduce it. We shall object to everything you do in your attempt to bring down the measure “. I said, “ In those circumstances, you leave me no alternative but to bring in a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders, and I shall do that’ because although you say you will oppose rae at all stages of the bill, the- forms of the House give me an opportunity to seek to obtain the suspension of the Standing Order? and I have no alternative but to take advantage of those forms”. Now. characteristically, the honorable member for Melbourne being out of the House, the Leader of the Opposition alters the arrangements that have been made and then says that the matter is a great mystery. I suggest that he should compose his differences with the honorable member for Melbourne so that we may have a more harmonious working of this House. The decision made by his colleague left me no alternative but to propose a motion of this kind.
– It is unnecessary.
– I am glad to accept the assurance of the Leader of the Opposition that that is so. If he will go further and assure the House that there will be no opposition to the introduction of the bill, and to the Minister for Health making his second-reading speech on it I shall be glad to accept his assurance. I am not anxious to proceed with the motion.
– Mr. Speaker-
-Does the Leader of the Opposition desire to make a personal explanation ?
Di Evatt. - Yes, I am entitled to make a personal explanation before the motion is put, because the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J.Harrison), who is the leader of the House, has again misrepresented me, as he also misrepresented the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) in the absence of that honorable member. When I spoke to the honorable member for Melbourne about this matter last night I understood that the arrangement made by him with the Vice-President of the Executive Council was that, one way ov the other, the Minister for Health would be given leave to introduce the bill and to make his second-reading speech on it.
– One way or the other?
– I am suggesting the simple way - the way of consent. If the right honorable gentleman wishes to achieve his purpose in some other way, let him do so. He does not seem to understand that when negotiations with the Opposition are not finalized, it is contrary to the practice of this House to indicate to anybody the nature of the arrangements contemplated. The right honorable gentleman has departed from that practice four oi” five times during this sessional period.
– I, too, desire to make a personal explanation. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) having no knowledge whatever of the arrangement made between me and the person whom he chose to represent him in this matter, has now misrepresented me by saying that the arrangements that were agreed upon were not in fact made. I unequivocally inform the right honorable gentleman that my recital of my conversation with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was absolutely correct. When the honorable member for Melbourne informed me of the decision of the Opposition to oppose the introduction of the bill and to try to prevent the Minister for Health from making his second-reading speech on it, I informed him that that decision left me no alternative but to move for the suspension of the Standing Orders. The honorable member for Melbourne knew of my intention, but no approach was made to me by the Leader of the Opposition on the matter. He now seeks to create an impression that I am using the forms of the House for a purpose for which they should not be used. He cannot get away with that. If he authorizes his deputy to make certain arrangements with me, at least he should be honorable enough to abide by them, and not seek to make political capital out of them.
– The right honorable gentleman is merely giving his version of what took place.
– There is no need for the Leader of the Opposition to accept my version; he can accept flip version of his deputy.
– Order !
– It is strange that incidents of this kind occur only after the honorable member for Melbourne has left the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 26th March (vide page 1654), motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill is just a mere framework. It tells the House very little about the Government’s intentions in relation to the Queensland tobacco industry. It merely seeks to authorize the Commonwealth to guarantee the repayment of certain loans, not exceeding £100,000, during the period of three months which commenced on the 19th March last made by the Commonwealth Bank to the Queensland Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board. There is no objection to the passage of the bill. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) in his second-reading speech referred in detail to the tobacco leaf industry, in which honorable members on this side of the House are particularly interested, including my colleagues from Queensland, which is now the principal State in which the industry is established. The Minister adopted an entirely different attitude to this industry from that which ho has adopted to other primary industries. In his second-reading speech, he said -
I have seen most of the Australian primary industries, in their day, in dire straits, but I remember that, by similar processes of negotiations between growers and governments, and, where necessary, processors, the dairy and wheat industries, the dried and canned fruits industries and others have been placed on a basis of real stability.
I submit that such a statement is a complete distortion of the history of rural industries in Australia. It was not only by a process of negotiation, but also by intervention and appropriate authorizing legislation that a system of orderly marketing in States such as Queensland and New South Wales in particular enabled the growers to get a fair deal. These matters cannot be arranged except by intervention of that character. The time has come when the tobacco industry must be examined from exactly the same viewpoint. The Minister also said -
Knowledge of the industry concerned, patience,goodwill and mutual confidence have been the ingredients which have solved the problems of each of those industries, and the same ingredients, will solve the problemsof the tobacco industry.
The Minister did not use similar language when he dealt with other primary industries. He knows perfectly well that the Australian Country party, of which he is a member, has supported the attitude of the Labour party in connexion with orderly and organized marketing. The Minister says that all will be for the best in the best of all possible worlds if the growers are allowed to meet the tobacco manufacturers, and that, somehow or other, justice will be done. The growers have never won justice in any other part of the. world in their dealings with the manufacturers, and they will not obtain justice in Australia unless definite legislative protection is provided for the industry. Why is there such a difference, in the view of the Minister, between the tobacco industry and the wheat industry? The great wheat stabilization scheme, which was engineered by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government, with the assistance of Mr. Scully and others, hud the support to a substantial degree of the present Minister. It was a result of the combined efforts of the Labour party and the Australian Country party. But the doctrine that the Minister now espouses simply will not work. Justice cannot he obtained by leaving the growers to negotiate unaided for a fair price with the people who will not give a fair price readily or will delay negotiations until it is impossible to fix a fair price. “We are up against one of the greatest problems that besets this country. The fact is that the international tobacco trust is firmly entrenched in Australia. The history of this trust is dealt with in many authoritative books, and the facts should be well known to the Government. The price level for Australian tobacco leaf is threatened by the growth of tremendously powerful combinations which force up the prices of finished products to their advantage but keep prices of tobacco leaf down to the disadvantage of the growers. The tobacco trust is a worldwide organization, and it is generally referred to in books that deal with its operations as “ the international tobacco cartel “. This is the organization with which the growers in the north of Queensland are required to deal. T have here a book by H. L. Wilkinson, which contains much illuminating information. The author points out that the American Tobacco Company, after it had obtained a monopoly of the American tobacco trade, soon extended its operations by invading the English trade. He explains how it tried gradually to gain control of the English trade and how new combinations were formed so that the control, when acquired, could be retained. Wilkinson’s book was published many years ago, but it describes a procedure that is now being repeated in Australia. Wilkinson wrote - lt is probable that the growers of tobacco have suffered more severely than any other section of the Australian public by the operation of the Trust. The condition of this industy, and those engaged in it, is in marked contrast with the manufacturing and wholesale distributing side of the tobacco trade.
The proportion of Australian leaf used in Australian manufactured tobacco in 1902 was 27.4 per cent. Thereafter, each year the proportion diminished. It fell successively to 23 per cent., 20 per cent, and 18 per cent, until, in 1913, it was reduced to 10 per cent. The book refers to the early tobacco-growing industry in New South Wales and deals with the consternation that was caused in the Tumut district by the nature of the offers made to the growers by the British-Australian Tobacco Company Limited. The names of the companies that operated then have been changed, but the business practices of the manufacturers remain the same. In fact, their methods have become even more rapacious. The facts are obvious and notorious. Wilkinson wrote, of the period from 1902 to 1914-
Seven-eighths t.i:> nine-tenths of the Australian trade is in the hands of a “Trust” acting through subsidiary companies in Australia, and allied with or controlled by the world-wide British-American Trust.
The “Trust” fixes the prices to be paid to the grower of the tobacco leaf in Australia, and decides the prices to be charged us thu consumer; the lowering of the price ) :i: ! to the Australian tobacco-grower for ~. leaf means that this industry is petering out whilst imports from American plantations, controlled by the Trust, are increasing.
– Was that written before the tariff differentiation?
– Yes. Wilkinson’s book deals with the history of the tobacco industry prior to 1914.
– Of course, the Minister snatches at that fact for the purpose of suggesting that the situation has altered, but I suggest that there has been no change. I have shown that, even during that period, the proportion of Australian leaf included in manufactured tobacco declined steadily as a result of the activities of the tobacco trust. The same tactics are being repeated in Queensland. The manufacturers who belong to .the trust hold the growers in their hands because they are the sole purchasers of tobacco leaf in Australia.
The operations of the tobacco trust in the United States of America have assumed tremendous importance. The American Tobacco Company, which has invaded Australia, was described by the
United States Supreme Court as a trust. The summing up of the court on this subject is quoted in an authoritative book entitled Monopoly and Free Enterprise. The court stated -
The tobacco trust was very bad indeed. Its history was replete with acts that showed “ the existence from the beginning of a purpose to acquire dominion and control of the tobacco trade, not by the mere exertion of the ordinary right to contract and to trade, but by methods devised in order to monopolize the trade by driving competitors out of business, which wore ruthlessly carried out upon the assumption that to work upon the fears or play upon the cupidity of competitors would make success possible.
In its struggle to monopolize .the tobacco industry American Tobacco had resorted to ruinous competition by cutting prices locally, using “ fighting “ brands and bogus independents to draw trade away from real competitors without the need of reducing prices on the trust’s well-established products outside the limited territory in which genuine competitors customarily operated.
The author of the book pointed out that, on the 24th June, 1931, during the depth of the depression, American farmers received for their tobacco leaf the lowest prices paid in a quarter of a century but that, although manufacturing costs were declining and the profits of cigarette companies had reached record levels, a member of the combine raised the price of a brand of cigarettes to a new high peak. He commented -
According to the finding of the Supreme Court, the Big Three also had the power to control prices of leaf tobacco. They used thi3 power to fix ceiling prices for standard grades above which none of them would bid at tobacco auctions. . . .
That is happening here, as the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr Bruce) and other honorable members can tell the House. The comment continued - . . and to refrain from buying the distinctive grades of tobacco for which a rival had made a special classification. They determined the communities in which tobacco auctions would be held.
That is the background of this important problem. We are not dealing with ordinary competition, as the Minister would have us believe, with the normal ebb and flow of offer and counter-offer. We are dealing with one of the most powerful organizations not only in Australia, but also in the world. How can we counter its activities? The Queensland Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board is doing its best, but if the system of purchasing tobacco leaf by negotiation is continued, and if there is no form of legislative intervention, the. position of the tobacco-growers of this country will become worse. I have visited the Mareeba district, and I have seen the efforts made by tobacco-growers there. I believe there are between 500 and 1,000 growers in the district. Their success in manufacturing cigarettes and tobacco, despite great difficulties, is a tribute to their enterprise. The greatest obstacle to their progress is that the organizations that monopolize the tobacco trade at the point of wholesale and retail distribution are not favorable to them. The Government must intervene more actively to give them some protection against thos? organizations.
Some of us who visited Mareeba recently were provided with cigarettes made from tobacco leaf grown in the district. We brought some of the cigarettes to Canberra, and asked people to test them. In every instance, men who knew something about tobacco expressed the opinion that the cigarettes were of the highest quality. I emphasize that they were not manufactured from special leaf. I do not accept the view tha-t the quality of Australian-grown tobacco leaf is so inferior that low prices -should be paid for it. I believe that the organizations that control the manufacture and distribution of cigarettes and tobacco in this country are doing to tobacco-growers in Australia what they have done to tobacco-growers elsewhere in the world. They are trying to keep them down. I-‘ they can do that and obtain a monopoly of, the raw material of the tobacco industry, they will be able to do exactly what they like about the price level. ‘ That aspect of the operations of combines in Australia is not often referred to, but the fact is that the level of prices- in this country is being steadily raised as a result of the operations of private monopolies. That is one of the most important problems that confronts us. It is true that, as a general rule, full competition ensures fair prices, but the objectives of the combines, trusts, monopolies and cartels is to abolish competition so that they will be able to dominate industry from the commencement of production to the final stage of sale to consumers.
My considered view is that the prosperity of our tobacco industry is even more important to the defence of Australia than to the tobacco-growers. Mareeba, in the north of Queensland, was a very important centre during World War II. The airstrips constructed there during the war could be used by the heaviest bombing aircraft. They arc still in almost perfect condition, but they are not being used now. The indirect defence value of industries in the north of Australia is enormous. Successful industries, such as the sugar industry, contribute indirectly to the defence potential of this country by encouraging the establishment of adequate communication systems and townships in the north of t’h is continent. If the sugar industry had not been established in Queensland by the efforts of pioneers in the political and public life of that State, it would have been impossible for us to hold the north of Australia during World War ill. The Queensland tobacco-growers are making an indirect contribution to the defence of Australia by producing, under difficult circumstances, a commodity which is hard to grow. Their efforts are inspiring.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture should apply to the tobacco industry the general principles that the Australian Country party, and the Labour party too, believe should bc applied to all rural industries. The industry should be stabilized. It should not bc compelled to rely upon bargains made with private interests. We do not rely upon such bargains in. connexion with wheat and other primary products. We expect the legislature to intervene to protect the interests of the wheat-growers and the producers of other foodstuffs. Although the Australian Country party makes a pretence of attacking governmental intervention on the ground that it is socialistic, it is in favour of such intervention ‘ to protect the interests of the primary producers who support it. It realizes that that is the practical approach to the problems of those people. The Australian Country party adopted the successful policies for the protection of rural industries and the organized marketing of their products that were put into operation by Labour governments. That is the approach that the Government should make to the problem of the Australian tobacco industry. The industry must be protected, and the tobacco-growers must be ensured of an adequate return for their efforts. That is the approach that has been made to the problems of the dairying industry and the wheat-growing industry. That is the approach that should be made also to the problems of the tobacco industry. The operations of the powerful group of tobacco manufacturing companies are not confined to Australia. Their influence and direct control extend throughout the world. A prosperous Australian tobacco industry would be of great value as a protection against excessive prices being charged for tobacco and cigarettes in this country, and would make a great contribution to defence by encouraging the development of the portions of Australia in which it is established.
The bill i3 only a framework. Wo accept it, but we point out that, behind it, there lies the problem of the trusts and combines which, by making competition impossible in certain sections of our economy, are forcing up the price level of this country.
– I am astonished at the new-found interest of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in the prosperity and stability of the Australian tobacco industry. When I was listening to his remarks about the tobacco trust, I wondered why he did not initiate legislation to protect the industry when he was the Attorney-General of this country and had the power to do so. At that time, our tobacco industry was in an infinitely worse plight than to-day. I remember that, for two years, when the tobaccogrowers were receiving an average price of only 30d. per lb. for their tobacco, I made representations repeatedly to thi then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for a guaranteed price of 3s. per lb. I remember also that the Labour Government that was in power then would not do anything to assist the growers in that way. The right honorable gentleman was in a position to frame the necessary legislation, but the Government of which he was a member had no interest in the problems of the tobaccogrowers. In effect, it gave a subsidy of £650,000 to the cartel that he now condemns, and helped it to continue to make an annual profit of £1,000,000. That was the attitude adopted by the right honorable gentleman to the industry when the prices paid for Australian tobacco leaf were lower than costs of production. It was left to this Government to assist the industry in various ways. To-day, the average price paid for Australian leaf is about 7s. Gd. per lb. I know that the industry is not yet out of the wood. I have no- love for the cartel which the right honorable gentleman has condemned, because I have a knowledge of the problems that the industry has to face in this respect. As one who has worked for about 30 years in the stabilization of various primary industries, I want to see this industry stabilized. I commend the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for his persistent efforts to solve this problem. Conference after conference has bren held, and negotiations have been conducted between buyer and seller in fi.n endeavour to effect stabilization so that this industry may be placed permanently on a sound basis and be worthwhile to Australia.
I do not wish to misquote the Leader of the Opposition, but I understand that lie has condemned the present system of buying tobacco. I remind him that the growers themselves abandoned the appraisal method in 1947, and asked for the introduction of the auction system. As one who has had a great deal to do with stabilization methods and the sale of primary products, I emphasize that I do not like that system. I, for one, would not have recommended it for any particular industry, with the possible exception of the wool industry, which is dependent to a large degree upon overseas buyers. The wool industry has a different approach, and probably the more correct approach to this matter for its purposes. However. I do not like the auction system in a? small industry, because the growers are placed too much at the mercy of the buyers. I believe in stabilized marketing boards.
The tobacco-growers in Queensland decided to adopt the auction system, and are now experiencing, to a degree, some of the problems inherent in that system. They are helped, above all, hy their own initiative. They have started a manufacturing interest of their own in order to foster a competitive spirit to assist the,: to obtain improved prices for their leaf, uy sympathy lies principally with the growers, but I realize at the same time that we have to be fair to the buyers. Because of a bad season last year, some growers have tried to dispose of their leaf in an unmarketable condition. A responsibility devolves upon the growers _ to grade their leaf properly, and if that is done, a satisfactory arrangement can bo made for its disposal. I am awaiting with interest the Minister’s report of the result of the conference held yesterday, and I hope he will be able to indicate that further progress has ‘been made towards the final stabilization of this industry. Growers should always realize that they have an obligation to put properly graded leaf on the market.
When the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the buyers were not very helpful to the growers concerning the grading. The honorable gentleman gave some assistance to the buyers in respect of grading arrangements, and the buyers eliminated two of the lower grades so that they would get leaf of better quality at a slightly higher price. In effect, they paid no more than before for a better grade of leaf. The Minister’s effort on that occasion was upset by the cartel, which was not very cooperative in the matter. The House should bear the history of this industry in mind. Large quantities of tobacco must be imported for the innumerable smoker5 throughout Australia. Imports of tobacco cannot be so restricted that Australians will not be . able to smoke. The imports should be- finely balanced to meet the needs of the country, always having regard to our right to sell our product on our own market, provided we produce an article of .quality.
I consider that the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was an empty one. He set out, not to discuss the bill to any substantial degree, but to attack the cartel.
In doing so, he had only one purpose in mind, which was to try to make himself, a good fellow with the tobacco-growers in Queensland for the forthcoming Senate elections.
– That is an unworthy suggestion.
– The same thought as was expressed by the honorable member for Fisher occurred to me.
– The honorable member for Lalor, when he was the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, did not give any financial assistance to the growers-
– What a dreadful lie! It is a complete falsehood.
– The honorable gentleman did not give any financial assistance in the form of a guarantee.
– A falsehood!
– I asked the honorable gentleman repeatedly, on behalf of the growers, to increase the price by approximately 5M. per lb. in order to give an average price of 3s. per lb. That statement is not a lie.
– I have bowled the honorable member out before on this matter.
– If the honorable member for Lalor is using such words as “ lie “ and “ falsehood he is definitely out of order. He is speaking to the honorable member for Fisher, and I have not been able to hear his interjections clearly.
– I admit that I used those words.
Mi: SPEAKER-Order! The honorable gentleman must withdraw them.
– I withdraw them.
– I throw the charge to the honorable member for Lalor that when he was the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, he repeatedly refused to give a guaranteed average price of 3s. per lb. Let him deny, if he can, that the Chifley Labour Government continued to pay a subsidy of £650,000 a vear to assist the cartel that the Leader of the Opposition has condemned this morning. Of course, it does not suit the right honorable gentleman to support the carter in view of the approaching Senate elections. I am concerned only with the expansion of the tobacco industry, and the welfare of the growers, because the development of the industry will be to the advantage of Australia.
The industry must be stabilized. How can it be stabilized other than by the policy that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has adopted? He is negotiating with the buyers and with the board representing the growers in Queensland in an endeavour to find a satisfactory basis for the conduct of the industry. We must get a basis of grading, and price consistent with the grading. If the buyers refuse to participate in such an arrangement, the Minister will have to take further action. He has indicated that he will do so, if that should bc necessary, in order to save the industry. The Minister has gone to the trouble of approaching the growers in their own district in order to discuss this matter with them. He has met the board on several occasions so as to ascertain its views. The board, through its chairman, has indicated that the tobacco leaf which is now unsold was not in a marketable condition, and offered to grade the leaf, and return it to the market. That is the reason why this finance is required. The leaf is not in a saleable condition, because the growers have not complied with the conditions necessary to market it in a proper way. In the meantime, the growers, who must wait until the grading is done, require financial assistance. The Minister has introduced this bill to meet that circumstance. The money will be made available to the board for distribution to the growers pending the sale of the leaf. As quantities of tobacco become available as a result of the tobacco having been graded to requirements, sales will be made by mutual agreement or by auction. The Government has done the right thing in introducing this legislation. I commend the approach of the Minister to the matter, because in every sense he has done a first-class job. His background of experience and his association with stabilized and orderly marketing of every kind have enabled him to carry out his responsibilities as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture with a high degree of efficiency. He has shown his sympathy. not only for the tobacco industry, but also for all primary industries. He can say with truth that he has helped this Government to bring them to a satisfactory state in -which not only costs of production are being paid to the primary producers, but also prices that are encouraging them to increase production. It is because of this great success in the stabilization of primary industries that we can proudly claim, that production . is expanding and that primary producers are satisfied. I congratulate the Minister and I commend the bill because of the help it will give to the tobacco-growers in their time of need.
.- The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) accused the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) of having spoken in order to secure from the tobaccogrowers support for the Labour party in the coming Senate election. I have been in this Parliament and another Parliament for a total of 30 years and I have found that if a member of Parliament attends to the interests of his electors and helps them, they appreciate it, and that that appreciation assists him in a State, Senate or general election as the case may be. I make no bones about the fact that when I do anything in the Parliament it is in the interests of my electors with the twin objects of assisting them and obtaining their support later on so that they will re-elect me. The Leader of the Opposition directed attention to an important factor which I shall emphasize. I have admired members of the Australian Country party in this Parliament for their magnificent efforts in the interests of the industries, including wheat, dairying and wool industries, in which they are personally interested. W hy does not the tobacco industry receive the same treatment and consideration from those honorable members as is received by the industries that I have mentioned? This bill provides for a guarantee to be given by the Government to the Commonwealth Bank in order to enable the bank to advance up to a maximum amount of £100,000 for the purchase of Australian tobacco that was unsold in 1951 and 1952. A conference was held between a representative of the Commonwealth, the Secretary of the Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board, Mr. Short, and a representative of the manufacturers, the results of which have been lauded.
The monopoly tobacco manufacturing companies have refused to buy the tobacco with which the bill is concerned. I shall certainly recommend to the tobacco-growers that they accept the advance to be made under the measure, but I point out that unless the Government takes some action to force the manufacturers to buy more Australian leaf the growers could be in a worse position after this legislation has been passed than they are at present. The money advanced as a result of the measure will provide temporary relief; but if, when next year’s crop is harvested, the manufacturing companies refuse to buy it - there is no power under the bill to make them buy it - the growers would have this year’s and next year’s unsold crops on their hands, and in addition would be in debt to the Government for the amount of the advance made to them. They would be absolutely at the mercy of the manufacturers and could be crushed by them.
On the 18th Mardi, I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) what interests were represented at the conference to which he hnd referred. He said that representatives of the Commonwealth, Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board and manufacturers had attended the conference. In the precis of his second-reading speech, which has been, circulated, the Minister mentions Mr. Crawford, the Commonwealth representative, and Mr. Short, the representative of the Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board, but, for some strange reason, he does not mention the identity of the representative of the manufacturers. The reason is that if he informed us of that gentleman’s identity we should know that he was a representative of one of the monopoly companies.
– Did hot the growers accept the report?
– The matter with which I am dealing is the identity of the representative of the manufacturing interests. Why does the Minister make a mystery of his identity in the precis of his secondreading speech ? Why does he not give us the name of the manufacturers’ representative as well as the names of the other two representatives? The Minister said that the manufacturers’ representative co-operated very well in the conference. In fact, however, that gentleman’s cooperation amounted to nothing, because he gave no undertaking. I can picture the conference,, with the representative of the monopoly company sitting there and ensuring that, the Minister made no mistake, and did not encroach on the interests of manufacturers, and commiting his principals . to nothing. The manufacturers do not mind the Government paying out money to help the growers. They take no responsibility in connexion with it. I say that unless the Government is prepared to enforce the sale of the unsold tobacco the growers will be completely crushed, and the bill will do more harm than good. If the manufacturers refuse to buy the leaf then the tobacco-growers, as I have said, will be saddled with two crops and also with a debt to the Commonwealth Bank. The precis of the Minister’s speech contains the following statement : -
Many growers, and, indeed, some State governments, have felt that a course could be adopted by the Commonwealth Government which would provide a quick and simple solution to all the problems of the Australian tobacco-growers. Broadly stated, the idea canvassed is that the Commonwealth should, by use of its customs and excise powers, impose an absolute compulsion on. Australian manufacturers to buy the whole of the Aus tralian crop at prices satisfactory to growers. In particular, these proposals have involved suggestions of restriction upon imports of tobacco until the Australian crop has been purchased; or the conditioning of import permits by a requirement that a stated quantity of Australian leaf should be bought as a condition precedent to the issue of an import permit; or that some wide differential should be established between the costs of Australian and imported leaf by either a higher customs duty or a differential excise.
Then the Minister explained why this could not be done. He said -
This is not the occasion on which to examine any such proposals in detail. But I can say that courses of action of this character have had consideration. To some there are obstacles, such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade or the Provisions of the Ottawa Agreement, which in respect of British duties require that no new protective duties shall be imposed and no existing duty shall be increased on United Kingdom goods to an amount in excess of a recommendation of the Tariff Board. The avenue of an approach to the Tariff Board is always open to the industry, but has not been availed of in recent years. . . .
The Government has restricted the importation of many goods from Great Britain and could quite easily restrict the importation of some of the tobacco that is now entering the country from that source. Moreover, the Government provides dollars for the purchase of tobacco from America, and it could quite easily restrict the importation of some of that tobacco by not making a certain number of dollars available. It is mere piffle and nonsense to talk about tariffs, and the necessity to apply to the Tariff Board, when there is a definite power at hand that is being exercised at the present time to restrict the inflow of goods from Great Britain and the United States of America. The fact that the Government will make a certain amount of money available in respect of the 1951-52 tobacco crop shows that buyers are in control of our tobacco industry. After money has been advanced by the Commonwealth, there will still be no guarantee that buyers will buy tha leaf. The Minister said -
There is one step the Government has taken under the customs power - to double the percentage of Australian leaf which must be blended with imported leaf in order that the imported leaf may become entitled1 to a lower rate of duty.
Therefore, the Government is subsidizing overseas tobacco monopolies by lowering the duties on imported tobacco. I am quite sure that these monopolies have been given more money by the Government through relief from customs duties, than the growers will receive from the Government by the provision of the proposed £100,000. The whole situation could be altered if the Government would use its import restriction powers.
– Is the honorable member opposing the bill?
– The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) would not be here to-day if the Queensland Government had not subsidized the peanut industry. That subsidy was much more liberal than the proposed Commonwealth subsidy to the tobacco industry.
Mr. Adermann interjecting,
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Fisher is continually interrupting the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce). As you, Mr. Speaker, do not allow interruptions when other honorable members are speaking, I suggest that the honorable member for Leichhardt should be allowed to proceed uninterrupted.
– Order ! I am sure that the honorable member for Fisher will not resist the direction of the Chair.
– I will recommend to the growers that they should accept the Government’s offer, but I warn the Government that unless the tobacco monopolies are forced to buy Australian tobacco this bill will cause more trouble for the growers than they suffered before, because as well as not being able to sell their tobacco they will owe money to the Government. If tobacco sales are delayed and tobacco is left unstored it deteriorates and has to be regraded. That is an expensive business for the growers. There are more than 1,000 tobacco-growers, and they employ a considerable amount of labour. The industry is growing on the lines of the sugar industry and governments should endeavour to establish the tobacco industry on the same basis as the sugar industry. I have seen the tobacco industry destroyed once, and I am afraid that it will be destroyed again before it can be established on a solid basis. The tobacco trusts are the most powerful in the world, even more powerful than the oil and rubber trusts. Naturally they will use every endeavour to get control of our tobacco market. When the tobacco crop that preceded the one now being dealt with was harvested, the tobacco buyers bought the leaf and then bought all sorts of rubbish, stems and so on, that was intended for use as fertilizer. T suggest that the tobacco trusts used that rubbish in poor grades of tobacco that should not be put on the market. They then use that poor tobacco as an argument against buying Queensland tobacco.
There has been an investigation intonorth Queensland tobacco. I believe that arsenic was found in it at one time, but there would be more arsenic ill one cabbage than there would be in ten pounds of tobacco. Arsenic is used in the production of all our food,- and probably it does more good than harm. I have been told that the Minister has no power to conduct art investigation into the quality of imported cigarettes and tobacco, but I suggest that if Australian cigarettes were graded according to the quality of overseascigarettes, many more would be soldThere is much overseas rubbish put on the market to-day. High-grade products like Benson and Hedges, Pibroch and other cigarettes, are very satisfactory, but they are also very expensive. Many north Queeusland cigarettes are better than the majority of imported cigarettes. However, tobacco monopolies do not want anybody t.o manufacture cigarettes and tobacco in competition with them, becausethey know that they would lose their power to destroy our tobacco industry if there was a co-operative body manufacturing the Australian product in competition with them.
I appreciate this gesture of the Government, although it is only a gesture. The tobacco-growers can only accept the offer made and this measure will give them some relief. However, I would like the Minister to explain whether he intends to make a sum of money available to the growers each year. If he should do so it would not cost the Government any more in the long run because it would form what may be termed a revolving fund. Moreover, ‘ the Government should endeavour to force manufacturers to use Australian leaf. Of course there is high-grade and low-grade tobacco leaf, the same as there is high and low grade wool, wheat and peanuts; but we must endeavour to do our best for the » tobacco industry. Nobody should be able to say that north Queensland tobacco is inferior to the imported leaf and should be regraded. Of course it is to the interest of the tobacco companies to regard our tobacco as inferior. I point out that it has to be matured for twelve months before it can be manufactured.
– Why do they not mature it?
– I have just pointed out that it is matured for twelve months. However, if they are not paid for the unsold leaf they have no money with which to build factories or to construct more maturing bins. There are two co-operative organizations in Queensland; one represents the manufacturers and growers, and the other consists of growers only. The growers are shareholders in both concerns, which put most of their profits back into the industry with the object of ensuring that the farmers will get the full benefits of their labour. When so large a proportion of the 1951-52 crop remained unsold, the co-operative organizations did not have the money with which to effect improvements to buildings, or to construct more bins in which to mature the leaf. In his second-reading speech the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said -
The Minister for Trade and Customs and I have brought growers and manufacturers together, and my colleague has taken action to double the prescribed percentages. The Minister for Trade and Customs has already announced that, from the 1st April, 1953, manufacturers will have to blend 6 per cent, of Australian leaf in cigarettes, and 10 per cent, in tobacco, if they are to qualify for the lower rate of duty.
The Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board approached the Minister for Trade and Customs with a request that Australian manufacturers be required to use 15 per cent, of Australian leaf in cigarettes and 20 per cent, in other forms of manufactured tobacco in order to qualify for the customs rebate. However, the Minister announced that the requirement would be only 6 per cent, for cigarettes and 10 per cent, for other tobacco. That announcement was made in a press statement issued in August, 1952. Recently, the Minister decided that the concessions should be granted in two instalments. From the 1st J January of this year manufacturers would be required to use 3 per cent, of Australian leaf in cigarettes and 5 per cent, in other tobaccos, and from the 1st July they would be required to use 6 per cent, and 10 per cent, respectively of Australian tobacco. The delay in the granting of that concession adversely affected the sale of tobacco, and the fact that the benefit was divided into two” sections, one becoming effective six months after the other, still further prejudiced the market against the growers. The general situation in regard to the tobacco industry is well known. In that industry, as in other primary industries, orderly marketing is essential. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has a wide knowledge of the processes of orderly marketing. I accept this legislation purely as an interim measure to meet the immediate situation.
.- I welcome the action of the Government in introducing this bill, not because it affects any State other than Queensland, but because of the assurance given by the Minister that any benefits extended to the Queensland growers will be extended also, if necessary, to the growers of Western Australia. By comparison with the Queensland tobacco crop, that of Western Australia is relatively small, but tobaccogrowing is a very important industry in the latter State because it has enabled the opening up and development of land which has been hitherto neglected. The industry is all the more important to Western Australia, because, during the last two years, many ex-servicemen have entered it, and have settled on newly opened up land. Thus, whatever has been done in respect to Queensland will probably have to be done for the growers of Western Australia also. There is this difference between Queensland and Western Australia - in Western Australia there is no tobacco marketing board, but I imagine that it would be very- simple for the Commonwealth to enter into an arrangement with the Government of Western Australia to advance money to the growers on the unsold part of their crop.
The tobacco industry presents a problem. So far as the growers are concerned it is a struggling industry. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and th?. honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce), who followed him, both suggested varying remedies, and in doing so tended to over-simplify the problem. The Leader of the Opposition said there should be a stabilization scheme, as if that disposed of all difficulties immediately. The honorable member for Leichhardt endorsed the suggestion, and said that we should ban the importation of tobacco or impose a. much higher tariff on it. I maintain that each primary industry should be considered on its merits. The honorable member for Leichhardt said that the tobacco-growers should be treated in the same way as the wool-growers, the dairymen and other primary producers. He overlooked the fact that each primary industry has problems peculiar to itself. All the primary industries he mentioned have, in fact, received varied treatment from the Government. He mentioned the wool industry at some length, apparently overlooking the fact that the woolgrowers insist upon the maintenance of the public auction system, which the tobacco-growers are to-day so strongly opposing. Practically all the other primary industries depend in large measure upon the existence of an extensive overseas market. For Australian tobacco leaf there is no potential overseas market. Indeed, our problem is to compete with the overseas tobacco. Up to date, the evidence points to the conclusion that, despite a tariff of at least 100 per cent., Australian leaf has not been able to compete successfully with overseas leaf, even though the importation of cigarettes from overseas has been limited to 20 per cent, of the figure for the base year. In the circumstances, therefore, it is apparent that Australian leaf cannot compete successfully with the overseas product because the public demand is still for imported leaf and imported cigarettes. It may be that at one time public taste was more ready to accept local tobacco. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out, for instance, that in the early part of this century Australian leaf constituted 27 per cent, of the total quantity of tobacco smoked here. Since then the public taste has apparently altered. That being so, the Australian tobacco-growers must either meet the demands of the consuming public by growing different types of tobacco and by producing a different standard of leaf, or they must combine with the manufacturers to alter the taste of the Australian consumers.
I fail to see how the Leader” of the Opposition can justify his attack on the alleged tobacco monopoly when all the facts point to the conclusion that if the Australian tobacco-manufacturing companies were concerned only with making money they would, if possible, buy more Australian leaf in order to qualify for the customs rebate. The simple fact is that the Australian consumer wants thesort of cigarette that the manufacturers are supplying to-day. The’ manufacturer recognizes that, in his own interests, he can use only a limited percentage of Australian leaf. If he could use more Australian leaf and still manufacture a satisfactory product it is quite obvious that he would, in his own interest, buy and use more Australian leaf.
The alternative proposal seems to be that we should force the manufacturers touse more Australian leaf and so, if possible,, change the taste of the Australian consumers. If we attempted to do that, we should bc faced with the problem of competing with the product of overseas manufacturers, and it would seem, despite what the Leader of the Opposition has said, that the Australian monopoly is not ascomplete as has been suggested. It is evident that any marked change in the quality of Australian manufactured tobacco would lead to a public demand for tobacco manufactured overseas. It seemsto me quite obvious that the accusationslevelled by the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) against the Leader of the Opposition were justified, and that the Leader of the Opposition was in fact merely making a speech for political purposes, bearing in mind the impending Senate elections. The right; honorable gentleman made no real attempt to come to terms with the tobacco marketing problem. The only logical approach would be to assist the growers to develop a uniform system of grading and appraisment of their leaf. All sorts of accusations are made by the growers against the manufacturers. The growers say that at one time they produced leaf of a certain, standard and got a good price for it, but that in another part of the country at the same time of year they were paid a much lower price for leaf of the same kind and quality. That creates a suspicious atmosphere between the growers and the manufacturers. I point out, however, that there is no conclusive evidence of the degree to which the growers are victimized in that way, if indeed they are victimized at all. There is a strong feeling among the growers that they are being victimized. In Western Australia there is the feeling that the manufacturers buy large quantities of leaf in the eastern States, and then come to Western Australia to pick up the balance of their requirements as cheaply as possible, and that in Western Australia they reject leaf of a standard and grade similar to that for which they paid top prices in the eastern States. We shall not know how much truth there is in that belief until we establish a uniform system for the grading and appraisement of tobacco leaf throughout Australia. That is the first requirement.
When standards are established, and the manufacturers make known the quantities of leaf of various standards that they require and the prices that they are prepared to pay for such tobacco, the Government will be able to determine more easily the proportion of Australian leaf that should be included in manufactured tobacco. This is the most reasonable approach to the problem. The Government will be able to declare that all tobacco in various grades is worth using and can then insist that it be used in manufactured tobacco. At present, the growers and the manufacturers disagree about the percentage of Australian leaf that is usable. The growers complain that the manufacturers are not buying all the usable leaf that they produce. There may be room for argument on thi 8 issue, but it seems to me that the manufacturers would be taking a very short-sighted view if they rejected usable Australian leaf because, by doing so, they would be involving themselves in unnecessary expenditure for the importation of tobacco leaf. The difficulty is to determine where the truth lies in this controversy. In the long run, we must establish fixed standards for Australian leaf and decide what standards appeal to the Australian palate. Then, if necessary, we can decide whether it is desirable to change the tastes of Australian consumers, if possible, to conform to the types of tobacco that can be grown in this coun try. The remedy suggested by. the honorable member for Leichhardt of imposing even more severe restrictions on imports and levying even higher tariffs is unreasonable. It reminds me of a community which was established in Australia and which was determined to be self-supporting at all costs. It grew its own tobacco, but the leaf was so rank and coarse that it could be used only in the form of snuff. Australian consumers will not put up with that sort of treatment. I repeat that we must establish a fair system of grading and appraisement before we can hope to make a satisfactory arrangement for the marketing of Australian tobacco. This bill represents only the first stage of a solution of the problems of the local tobacco-growing industry. It has my support for that reason, but I hope that the Government will go a long way further than this towards providing a satisfactory solution.
, seem to be well aware of the importance to Australia of the tobacco-growing industry. The honorable member for Forrest seemed to be concerned more with the interests of the tobacco-manufacturing monopoly than with the quality of the cigarettes and other products that it supplies to the public. He took the side of the manufacturers and defended their attitude in their conflict with the growers. He did not seem to have a proper appreciation of the great importance of the industry to Australia. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has pointed out that the tobacco-growing industry is making a great contribution to the development of Australia by promoting the use of land in northern Australia in a way that will lead to an increase of population in that region. Northern Queensland, the Northern Territory, and the northern part of Western Australia have great potentialities for settlement. The expansion of the tobacco-leaf industry will encourage new settlers and thus will lead to the development of areas of the continent that have been neglected for too long. No task is of greater importance to Australia than the settlement and development of those regions. The tobacco-loaf industry is important also because, if it is expanded sufficiently, it will aid the national economy by saving the expenditure of dollars on imported tobacco. Notwithstanding its importance, however, the industry is, if not languishing, at any rate making very little progress. It is strange that this should be so when Australia is one of the few countries in the world in which there is a constant shortage of cigarettes and tobacco.
The tremendous tobacco manufacturing monopoly, which I shall discuss in detail later, is giving neither the growers of leaf nor the consumers of the manufactured products a fair deal. The needs of Australian smokers are not adequately met. Members of this Parliament who have made extensive tours overseas recently have informed us that, wherever they went .in the British Isles, on the Continent and in the United States of America, cigarettes and tobacco were readily available in shops. Australia appears to be the only country in which such commodities are kept under the counter. A smoker must “ know somebody “ before he can obtain Australian cigarettes. Why ‘ should this state of affairs exist in Australia? I submit that there are two reasons for it. First, as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, the tobacco trade in Australia is in the hands of a monopoly. This fact must be emphasized repeatedly, because I believe that members of the general public are not fully aware of the truth. People believe that, because many brands of cigarettes and tobacco are advertised and marketed by different tobacco companies, there is real competition in the industry. The truth is that practically all these brands of cigarettes and tobacco, and ail the companies which market them, are owned and controlled, lock, stock and barrel, by one mighty corporation, the British Tobacco Company (Australia) Limited, which, in turn, is owned and controlled by other interests in Great Britain and the United States of America. The monopoly has a- stranglehold on Australia, and it should be broken in the interests of the Australian consuming public and the infant tobacco-
Ur. TV. if. Bourke. growing industry, which should be allowed to make the important contribution to national development of which it is capable.
The British Tobacco Company (Australia) Limited has a nominal capital of £12,500,000. It is one of the largest companies operating in this country. An American visitor recently remarked, with justification, that one of the dominant factors in our economy is the fact that huge monopolies are gaining control of an increasing proportion of the country’s activities. Nothing is being done to counteract this alarming trend. The operations of the tobacco combine provide a classic example of the fact. The British Tobacco Company (Australia) Limited has a paid capital of £12,421,369. The Wild Cat Monthly of the 7th April, 1951, declared that this great holding company covered the lion’s share of the Australian tobacco trade. That was an understatement of the truth. The journal reported that the company was registered in Victoria in 1927, but had originated in England in 1904 and had been registered in Loudon to take over the tobacco importing, distributing and manufacturing activities of various Australian companies. Four Australian companies are controlled by the British Tobacco Company (Australia) Limited. Perhaps the best known of these is W. D. and H. O. Wills (Australia) Limited,. which produces and markets Ardath, Capstan, Log Cabin, Vice Regal, Westward Ho, Wild Woodbine, Garrick, Gold Flake, State Express and Temple Bar brands of cut tobacco and cigarettes. The second company wholly owned by the combine is the British Australasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited, which markets Champion, Havelock, Signet, Sunlight and- Centennial plug and cut tobaccoes. A third subsidiary company, States Tobacco Company Proprietary, manufactures Monopole, Matador and other brands of cigars. The fourth company is Carreras Limited, which operated until recently as an independent company and marketed the popular Craven A and Turf cigarettes. It was absorbed, and its products are now controlled by the monopoly. A fifth company, S. T. Leigh and Company Proprietary Limited, which is controlled by the combine, makes packages and tins for tobacco and cigarettes.
It is a deplorable state of affairs that these companies, ostensibly competing but actually owned and controlled by the one group, should be allowed to treat the growers unfairly and exploit the public. They are allowed to manage the distribution of tobacco products in Australia without restriction of any sort. Probably many other honorable members have been approached, as I have been, by small shop-keepers who have been unable to obtain quotas of tobacco and cigarettes for sale to their customers. Traders are always eager to obtain such quotas because they represent a worth while line of stock. However, in order to be allotted a regular supply, they must approach the monopoly and ask it to be gracious enough to help them. The distribution activities of the combine are cloaked in anonymity and a general air of mystery. Letters must be written to a post office box number without any name. Replies to such letters bear an indecipherable signature and also mention no name. This is the mysterious, underhand fashion in which the tobacco monopoly controls the distribution of its products throughout Australia. During World War II, the Government of the day controlled the distribution of cigarettes and tobacco, but it handed control back to the monopoly after hostilities had ended. The combine, operating behind closed doors and in the undercover way that I have described, then established its own arbitrary and capricious system of distribution, which provides another cause for dissatisfaction with its activities. I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Motion (by Sir Earle Page) agreed to -
That leave he given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the provision of pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, and of medical and dental services.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill bc. now read a second time.
I thank the House for giving me these facilities to introduce this national health bill and to make a full statement on our national health programme. Life and health are of prime importance. Without them no other activities can be undertaken. Therefore, I hope that this measure, like other measures of first-class importance with which I have been associated with the object of bringing about close co-operation with the States and with industrial organizations, will have a long life. The Financial Agreement, the Federal Aid Roads Scheme, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Australian Agricultural Council and the various export marketing measures are all over twenty years old, and look like going on for ever. I hope th’ = charter of national health will have a similar long life, and the same experience oi; general approval, especially as many attempts which have been made over the last 30 years to crystallize this health problem in legislation have just failed within sight. of the finishing post.
This measure has major objectives of the most far-reaching importance. Pledges have been made on behalf of the Government when various measures dealing with national health services have been introduced to the House during the last three years and on other occasions that, at the appropriate time, a bill would be introduced which would consolidate within the framework of one statute the health services which would lay the foundation for a national health scheme for the Commonwealth. During its three years in office, this Government, in honouring these pledges, has endeavoured to bring into being a national health scheme that will remove from the people worry and anxiety caused by the costs of sickness, and give confidence in the permanence and solvency of the scheme. The costs of medical and surgical treatment and hospital care have grown enormously through advances in medical science Immediate action must be taken to combat them before the community is overwhelmed. The Government’s scheme aims at reducing costs to the patient, lessening sickness and creating confidence in the community.
The concept and design of the scheme have been worked out carefully to secure the following results: -
The scheme is already working smoothly on a very wide scale, and considerable progress has been made in the following directions : -
A notable feature of this national health scheme is its universal application in all its phases over the whole of Australia. In particular, the essence of hospital insurance and medical benefit insurance is that a contributor to an approved organization anywhere in Australia is able to enjoy its benefits, no matter where he becomes ill. It has been possible to undertake these measures largely by a system of executive acts under existing legislation. This loose legislation and action by regulation, however, form an unsound basis for a national health scheme. The foundation of a national health scheme must be a sense of security and continuity of policy. Such a firm foundation is essential to the building up of insurance organizations and the development of harmonious relationships with those professions which deal with the healing art. Therefore, the measure now brought before the House is designed to put into statute form all phases of the national health scheme. The fact that the Government has been fortunate in being able to implement the various methods it has adopted up to date under a system of regulation has enabled it to discover from actual experience defects or anomalies, and now permanently to remedy them by legislation. Consequently, this new measure repeals all the old relevant acts and provides a completely new and definite structure which can give confidence to all the elements of the co-operative partnership in health that the Government has brought into being. The elements of this partnership consist of the Government, the community, the individual, the professions and voluntary insurance organizations.
The great danger in any governmentaided health scheme is the tendency to develop a psychology of dependence and diminished personal and community responsibility. The fundamental aim of any social security scheme should be to raise the individual to a level at which he can help himself. Any such scheme should contain elements that encourage selfreliance and a sense of personal responsibility. Also, it should stress the obligation of the individual to make at least a part of his contribution directly to the functioning and cost of the scheme. The Government is doing this by a unique device of stimulating voluntary insurance by government aid which tremendously increases the value of the premium in medical security. This will bring into being an enormous organization working to lessen all sickness. For instance, life assurance companies are endowing research into heart disease-the greatest killer disease of modern times. In the United States of America, 87,000,000 people have insured themselves for medical and hospital care without any government aid. In Australia, by the Government’s method, the cost of insurance will be less per family per week than is now spent on amusements and luxuries. An examination of the various phases of the Government’s national health scheme will show how this aim has been followed consistently.
We began with the child and the gift of free milk. Distribution of milk in the schools is handled by the Departments of Education in thevarious States in such a manner as to encourage in the child a community spirit and sense of leadership. The effect of this is already noticeable in the way the children take pride in being given appropriate duties in distribution of the milk class by class. In similar manner, although the life-saving drugs are given free to the public on production of a doctor’s prescription, a study of the bill will show the manner in which the organizations of the medical and pharmaceutical professions are given responsibility in policing and disciplining the functioning pf the scheme. This function, which the organizations have voluntarily assumed, has already resulted in very great financial saving to the Government and better use of the drugs themselves. In the case of voluntary insurance organizations which handle the distribution of hospital and medical benefits, various means have been mutually agreed upon to improve efficiency and economy. Foi instance, the organizations distribute the Government’s benefit and are paid in arrear. This means that an organization must present the receipted bill from the hospital or doctor for the whole amount due before receiving the Government’s contribution. The organization itself, of course, has financial responsibility for the benefit it pays from its own funds, and the steps it takes to safeguard its own funds automatically safeguard the Government’s contribution as well.
Universal experience shows that if the whole cost is paid without any direct personal contribution, abuses readily creep in. In the first place, the patient does not value as much as he ought any service he receives apparently for nothing. I n the second place, there is not the samp check on dishonest suppliers of services as there is if the recipient always has to make some contribution himself. To lessen such abuses, the medical benefit system will provide that the total value of the insurance benefit plus the Government’s contribution is always slightly less than the actual fee. In the scheme generally, this matter of possible abuse by a very small percentage has been recognized and neutralized to the greatest degree possible by the spontaneous provision, through the medical and pharmaceutical official organizations, of supervisory and disciplinary committees whoa. powers of control and supervision are fully set out in this measure.
The most pleasing feature of the operation of the whole scheme since its inception has been the great public spirit show, by the organized professions, and . the evidence of their determination to stamp out opportunities .for abuse and, if an abuse occurs, to close all loopholes of procedure that may make abuse possible in the future. Net only has this taken place, but, in the pensioner medical service, 1. have been struck by the public spirit of many recipients who resent any inclination to imposition. During the last three years, therefore, the greatest contribution made has been, not merely the provision of the scheme, excellently though it is working, but the development of an everrising community spirit of partnership and self-help.
The bill has been designed as a whole to provide an integrated service. The provision of health services on a national pale requires the participation of doctors, chemists and others, and each has a part to play. For these reasons, this bill is divided into its several parts. First, there are those parts which authorize the provision of specific services, such as medical benefits, the pensioner medical service, hospital benefits and pharmaceutical benefits, as well as other national health services, which are authorized to be provided in Part II. Then there are the general parts which have application to more than one particular part. These are, Part VI., dealing with medical and hospital benefit organizations, and Part VIII. dealing with committees of inquiry, as well as the miscellaneous part. I shall now deal with the parts as they occur in the bill.
Parts I. and II. are the preliminary and national health services parts, and set out general administrative provisions and authorize arrangements for important public health functions. In Part III., arrangements for providing a comprehensive medical benefits scheme are outlined. This part authorizes the payment of Commonwealth benefits of the amounts set out in the schedule to the bill in respect of the various treatments, procedures and operations, which are carried out by medical practitioners. Between 700 and 800 procedures are itemized. These payments will be made to registered medical benefits organizations, which provide for their own contributors a fund benefit at least equivalent in scope and amount to the First Schedule to the bill. If a person is a contributor, he will be insured by the organization in respect of his wife and dependants and the Commonwealth benefit will be available to him for the medical expenses of his whole family.
The Commonwealth medical benefits to be paid are most comprehensive and are set out in the First and Second Schedules to the bill. Benefits in the First Schedule which cover the ordinary services provided by a general medical practitioner, must be matched by the organizations, and it is confidently expected that most organizations will also provide the Second Schedule benefits, which are mainly of a specialist nature. Thus, an insured person will receive a total benefit of at least double the amount shown in the First Schedule, and will also receive double the Second Schedule amounts if lie is so insured. Thus, for a very modest weekly contribution, the contributor and all his dependants will receive very substantial benefits, which will cover the major portion of his medical expenses in the event of sickness, leaving him with only a nominal sum to pay.
It is recognized that there will be people who, because of age or chronic infirmity will be unable to join such organizations, but it is hoped that as the scheme develops and the organizations become stronger financially, they will” be able to give an increasingly wide cover to these persons. Experience in the operation of voluntary hospital insurance organizations has shown that as the number of insured people increases, it becomes possible to progressively reduce and, in some cases, remove, the qualifications of membership and entitlement to benefit, which are imposed by such organizations. Because of this experience, it is confidently expected that organizations conducting medical benefits funds will soon be able to reconsider the provisions in their rules relating to age limits and limitations on benefits, waiting periods and so-called chronic illnesses.
By providing a full and complete medical and pharmaceutical service to pensioners and their dependants in Part IV. of this bill, the Government has met the needs of this main group which would normally be unable to insure. It must be remembered that the pensioner medical service is available to all receiving an invalid, age or widow’s pension, as, well as those in receipt of a service pension under the Repatriation Act, or a tuberculosis allowance. The experience of the organizations to which I have already referred, together with the departmental experience which is being gained in administering the pensioner medical service, will be a valuable guide. in deciding what steps are necessary to meet the case of people normally unable to insure for medical or hospital benefits. Provision to meet these cases is made in clause 2S of the bill.
The pensioner medical service in Part IV. of the bill is provided to the pensioner group and their dependants, and under clause 84 this group is also provided with a full range of medicines free of charge. Because this service is free, it is probably more susceptible to abuse than medical and hospital benefits, where the contributor has an interest in keeping claims to a minimum. For this reason, particular care has been taken to provide control in the part dealing with committees of inquiry as well as in clauses 35 to 37 of the part. The medical profession, and indeed pensioners themselves, have displayed a strong desire to see that this most generous arrangement is not abused. The tremendous value of the pensioner medical service will be more readily appreciated from the fact that there are over 535,000 people enrolled in the scheme, and over 4,000,000 individual services have been rendered up to the end of last year by 3,700 doctors who participate in the scheme. In addition, over 3,000,000 individual prescriptions have been supplied under the scheme.
Part V. deals with hospital benefits. This Government recognizes the parlous financial plight into which hospital finances have drifted. We desire to increase hospital revenues, not only by direct assistance to the State, but by the scheme of hospital insurance which we are convinced can extricate hospitals from their financial difficulties in the long term. However, nothing can alter the fact that the provision, management and control of hospitals is a State function. and the States must accept their responsibility to conduct their hospitals efficiently. They must also accept the responsibility for determining the fees payable by patients. I should like to make it quite clear that my Government has not, and will not, determine the level of fees payable in public or private hospitals. This is a matter entirely for the hospital authority or State concerned. Hospital benefits agreements have been entered into with all States and contain virtually identical provisions with only slight modifications to meet varying hospital setups in each State. So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, each State has been given the same terms; that is, 8s. a day is payable in respect of patients in public hospitals with 12s. a day for pensioners and their dependants. Under these agreements the States have been left entirely free to determine their own hospital finances and administrative policies and the Commonwealth has not, and will not, interfere in these matters. In view of recent misleading election propaganda, it is necessary for me to make this position clear.
In January, 1951, the Commonwealth offered all States an identical hospital benefits agreement. The main essence of this agreement was that the Government gave up the control the Chifley Government had assumed in 1945 over State hospital policy and charges, and left the States absolutely free to impose charges, or not to impose charges on their own hospital patients. At the same time the Government offered to all State governments 8s. a day for all free beds and 12s. a day for pensioners in public beds and for all beds for which the people insured themselves, provided the States devised a method of increasing their hospital revenues to enable them to give better hospital services, which guaranteed making beds available for sick patients who, when well, had insured themselves so that hospital beds could be paid for without any personal anxiety about money. This freedom to fix their own hospital policies and charges was restored to all States. Each State has used it in a different way to get increased revenues.
Certain States, at their own discretion, as they are now completely free agents in this respect, imposed varying charges for beds in their public wards on those who could pay. Practically all those persons insured for the full amount of the charge. Some States have imposed special hospital taxes, keeping their public beds free, but all States charge differing rates for private and intermediate wards. Thus, it is obvious that the various State governments have utilized their freedom to act as they wished in imposing their own charges. For every free bed in every State, the Commonwealth Government gives 8s. a day. The important issue is that present hospital revenues throughout Australia are inadequate to maintain efficient hospital services. Unless revenues are increased, no funds will be available to keep the building and maintenance programme in line with an increasing population, increasing needs, and modern improvements in technique.
Part V. of this bill authorizes the continuance of agreements which have been made with every State, whereby the Commonwealth pays the State 8s. a day for an ordinary patient, and 12s. a day for those patients who would normally be unable to insure, that is, pensioners and their dependants. In addition, persons who are contributors to registered insurance organizations will receive an additional Commonwealth benefit of 4s. a day which, added to the organization benefit, will cover the whole or the major part of the hospital cost. The action of the Government in paying an additional 4s. a day, making 12s. a day in all towards the hospital costs of insured people, gives a direct incentive to people to become insured and make reasonable provision for themselves by the payment of a small weekly amount to meet these sudden costs when they occur. In addition, the action of the Government in encouraging people to insure, and adding to the amount available to them in times of illness, has the direct effect of making available in the aggregate a very substantial additional amount of income to the hospital system. A couple of weeks ago I was informed that the deficits of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the Sydney Hospital which had reached such alarming proportions last June as to cause the authorities to consider the closing of several hundred beds, have already been brought within manageable ‘ limits, and it is expected that they will be eliminated by the end of the financial year.
As I have explained, the Government desires to encourage the system of voluntary insurance against hospital and medical costs. In the parts of the bill dealing with medical and hospital benefits respectively, provision is made for Commonwealth benefits to be paid through registered organizations. Clauses 66 to SI provide the machinery for the registration of medical benefit and hospital insurance organizations, including provisions for the review of their activities and the general supervision of their overall management. It is not intended that the Commonwealth should intrude into the day-to-day affairs of these organizations, but, as the Government’s contribution encourages people to join, we realize that it is our responsibility to see that only organizations with a good record, and whose management is efficient, are registered. Official announcements will lie made from time to time in the press of the organizations which are registered for the purpose both of medical and hospital benefits, and the public should take care to see that they join only those organizations which have been approved by the Commonwealth for these purposes.
Clause 70 provides for the establishment of a registration committee consisting of the Commonwealth Actuary and two senior officers of the Department of Health. This will be an expert committee which will investigate every application for registration and advise on the policy which should be followed by these organizations. In addition, the committee will watch the overall trend of these insurance organizations so that from an actuarial and financial point of view the contributors’ interests will be preserved.
The supply of drugs and medicines to persons undergoing medical treatment 13 an integral part of that treatment, and because of the high cost of recently developed drugs and their potency, particularly the antibiotic group, the cost of treatment can be most burdensome. For this reason life-saving and diseasepreventing drugs are being provided free under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme to all persons. In addition, pensioners receive a full range of medicines, free of charge, simply on the prescription of their doctor. A further provision now authorizes the supply of drugs to patients under emergency conditions direct by the doctor, who normally carries a limited category of emergency drugs in his bag. It has been found by experience that chemists are often closed when drugs are required for the treatment of sick people and therefore when a doctor visits a patient he must have drugs in his bag for emergency treatment. Provision is made in this measure for the first time in this respect. Thus, the pharmaceutical benefits scheme provided in this bill is most comprehensive and covers all those cases where it is desirable in the patient’s interest that the drug should be provided under this scheme. Here again, because the scheme is free, it ‘is susceptible to abuse and special care has been taken to ensure close supervision of the drugs provided and of the participation in the scheme of the medical and pharmaceutical professions. Committees of inquiry, some of which have already been in operation for several months, are being established with the full co-operation of the professions concerned and these committees are giving the Government the best advice available to guide the operation of this scheme and to ensure that wastage is kept to a minimum and that the most efficient use is made of valuable drugs.
C have refrained from dealing with these matters in detail because, in response to a widespread demand they have been set down fully in an explanatory booklet entitled National Health, a copy of which is in process of being delivered to every home in Australia.
Part VIII. of the bill provides for the establishment of medical services committees of inquiry and pharmaceutical services committees of inquiry which will deal with their respective spheres in the bill as a whole. It is notable that the professions concerned have fully cooperated with the Government in agreeing to the constitution and functions of these committees, and I am confident that with the advice and guidance which these committees, both State and Federal, will give, we can look forward to the utmost co-operation and efficiency in the administration of all the provisions of the national health scheme.
Part IX. provides certain machinery clauses, including the provision that the cost of the services will be provided out of the National “Welfare Fund.
Before commending the bill to the House, I express my appreciation to the representatives of the medical and pharmaceutical professions, the voluntary health organizations and the various Commonwealth and State officials concerned for their co-operation in the planning of the measures in the bill. The British Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical Guild of Australia have given me the benefit of their advice and guidance at all times, whilst the representatives of insurance organizations and friendly societies have thrown their full resources behind these proposals. I am sure that this spirit of co-operation will find an immediate and widespread public response, and I am confident that the people of Australia will readily avail themselves of the means provided in this bill to ensure a full and efficient health service on a national basis. The partnership of the Government and the individual, and the union of government aid with voluntary effort to present a united front against disease, have been outlined. The great advantage of the combination of this system of government aid with existing voluntary systems is that it does not disturb past practice, but stimulates progressive, orderly evolution of better and better standards. No fresh problems of controls or variation of existing practices are raised. The intimate doctorpatient relationship is retained. The scheme can expand very quickly because it needs simply an extension of existing insurance organizations.
This new conception of a national health scheme is the pattern democracy is seeking. With these comments, I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1755).
– This bill is important to the tobacco-growers of southern Queensland, and particularly those in my electorate. It will authorize the Government to guarantee repayment to the Commonwealth Bank of loan moneys advanced to the Queensland Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board for the purpose of assisting growers of unsold tobacco leaf of the 1951-52 crop. The guarantee, of a maximum of £100,000,. is intended to tide the growers over until such time as their unsold leaf has been regraded and resubmitted for sale. In addition, the Commonwealth is also making a gift of £4,000 to the board for the extra expense it has incurred during the time that the tobacco leaf concerned has remained unsold. The remarks of honorable members opposite force one to the only possible conclusion that the Opposition is more concerned with the interests of the big tobacco combines and their profits than with the interests of the growers and the board. We on this side of the House are more concerned with the interests of the growers and with seeing the industry placed in a sound position so that it will prosper and be able to fulfil the target of 16,000 acres under tobacco in the Commonwealth that was set at the last meeting in Canberra of the Australian Agricultural Council. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) is to be congratulated on the measure. He is one of the few people who are familiar with the intricacies of this industry right from its inception until to-day. The problem that has arisen, in Queensland particularly, with respect to the marketing of tobacco leaf, has arisen because of the different grades of tobacco. It is remarkable that there is always political difficulty in Queensland in connexion with negotiations between the State Government and primary industries. In other States difficulties in respect of the marketing of primary products seem to be ironed out without much trouble, and arrangements are concluded on an amicable basis. I have come to the conclusion that the Queensland Government has attempted to make this a purely political matter with the aim of embarrassing this Government. It was evident from the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) i.o-day that he is preparing the way for the coming Senate election campaign. I have always been a supporter of orderly marketing systems and co-operative systems in relation to our primary industries. Like the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) I have been in the tobacco business for about 25 or 30 years. By next August I shall have been a growers’ representative on one marketing board for 25 years. I consider, therefore, that I can speak with some knowledge on the marketing of primary products.
Another instance of the concern of the Opposition with the interests of the big combines was aptly given by the honorable member for Fisher when he said that the Labour Government paid a subsidy to the big importing v firms of £650,000 a year. He also mentioned the refusal of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Labour Government, to give the tobacco-growers a subsidy or the guaranteed price for which they had been asking for years. I am sure that the Minister will see that the industry will be put on a sound basis. A study of the prices that have been paid for tobacco grown in the various States in the years from 1945-46 to 1951-52 is interesting. In every one of those years Queensland topped the market for tobacco. The highest average price paid in the 1951 soiling season was the Queensland average of 172d. per lb. In that year the price for Victorian and Western Australian leaf was 170d. per lb. With the concurrence of the House I shall incorporate the full list in Ilansard.
– I should like to see i(: so that we shall know what we are doing.
– It is only a small list.
– Then let me examine it.
Mr. Speaker having examined the list proposed to be incorporated,
– The list appears to me to be suitable for inclusion in Hansard. Is leave granted for its inclusion?
– No. I have not seen the list and it might be all hocus pocus for all I know.
Leave not granted.
– We shall gag the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) when he speaks to the measure.
– You will gag me because you cannot get your own way.
– I have been threatened.
– I should say the honorable gentleman enjoyed it.
– In view of the fact that leave to incorporate the list in Hansard has been refused, I shall read it to the House. It reads as follows : -
The highest prices received were, for the 1951 selling season, Queensland 17 2d. per lb., and Victoria 170d. per lb. For the 1952 selling season the highest price received was, Western Australia 170d. per lb. The trouble in Queensland arose from the fact that the grading was not good, and did not allow buyers to pay prices for tobacco that were fair to both growers and buyers. Five hundred tons of tobacco was carried over last year and not sold. It was re-submitted this year, but when I attended the sales in Brisbane I discovered that, the only buyer there was the British Australasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited. I was quite disappointed because of that, and I did not blame the growers for cancelling the sale. I have not much knowledge of the grading of tobacco, and I considered that the growers were quite right in taking the action that they did take. However, since that time about 120 tons of tobacco have been extracted out of that 500 tons, because the growers have stated that it is not fit for smoking. That is ample evidence of the Minister’s wisdom in deciding to negotiate with the growers and manufacturers in order to establish a fair grade of tobacco. I am mainly concerned with the growers’ interests, but the Government, of course, must concern itself not only with the growers but also with the tobacco manufacturers and the smokers. I do not consider that it is fair to force anyone to smoke low-grade tobacco. If one looked into the bales of tobacco at the Brisbane sale, one would have seen hands of poor tobacco which should not have been included with the good tobacco in those bales. Because the tobacco was so mixed the manufacturers refused to bid for the bales.
Much has been said to-day about the duties on imported tobacco. Perhaps it would in’terest honorable members to know that about 44,000,000 lb. of tobacco is used in Australia each year. Only about 7,000,000 lb. of Australian tobacco is blended with that total quantity, but, according to the recent increase in percentages, the quantity blended will gradually increase to about 34,000,000 lb. Honorable members will therefore perceive that even then about 10,000,000 lb. of tobacco and cigarettes will have to bo imported. .Therefore, if a complete embargo or a heavier duty should be placed upon imported tobacco the smokers of Australia will be deprived of some of their supplies. The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) said that the Government should enforce the blending of increased quantities of Australian tobacco before the preferential duty on their imported tobacco should be applied. Originally the percentages to be blended were 3 per cent, and 6 per cent. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) recently announced that the percentages would be increased to 6 per cent, and 10 per cent., but then dis- covered that there was not sufficient matured leaf in the Commonwealth for his direction to be carried out. Then he adopted the idea that there should be a progressive increase in the quantity blended, and he announced that 4£ per cent, and 7 per cent, would be blended immediately, and later those percentages would be progressively increased to 0 per cent, and 10 per cent. I understand that as our industry grows the Government will still further increase the quantities to be blended.
I believe that a conference was held in Sydney yesterday, which was presided over by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and which was attended by representatives of the tobacco-growers and manufacturers. An early investigation held in Queensland brought nil tobacco interests closer together, and its report completely satisfied all parties. I consider that the result of the Sydney conference will also be of great benefit to all concerned in the tobacco industry. I again congratulate the Minister for making this money available. I know exactly how the growers received the news of the Government’s decision, because in my electorate there are between 300 and 400 growers. They believe that the money from the Government will be of great assistance to them to tide them over until the new tobacco crops are harvested.
.- My remarks on this measure will be very brief. Of all Australia’s primary industries, tobacco-growing has probably run the most hazardous course. Only twice in the history of the industry has it had any reasonable security. The first time was when the Scullin Government gave it such tariff protection that it was absolutely secure. Unfortunately, after that Government’s defeat, that form of protection was destroyed and the industry reverted to its former unfortunate position. The second time that it enjoyed comparative security was during the last war, when in 1941 a government of which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) was a member, introduced National Security Regulations to control tobacco-growing and the sale and handling of tobacco. A tobacco marketing board was set up under the control of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and although, the growers did not enjoy all the advantages that they believed they were entitled to, sit least they enjoyed some measure of security. Some authorities have been cited to-day, and some accusations have been irresponsibly bandied about the chamber. In 1942, when the Curtin Government assumed office, tobaccogrowers were granted a 10 per cent, increase of the price of tobacco. In 1943 the Curtin Government granted a further 10 per cent, increase, and in 1948 premiums were granted on all tobacco leaf. A premium of ls. was payable on leaf valued at 27d. per lb., and so on. That system operated under the National Security Regulations in a reasonably satisfactory fashion. Following the cessation of hostilities and the defeat of the Labour Government’s prices referendum and the marketing of primary products referendum, the industry itself asked for relief from war-time regulations and suggested that the system of appraisement be abandoned. I agreed to “that request. Now the industry is operating under the open market auction system, and there are no powers available to the Australian Government to enable it “to take control and protect the industry, and there are no price protection facilities operating throughout all the States. The Minister is now in a position in which he has to bring down this measure, but he is not able to offer the protection to the industry that it greatly needs.
The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) spoke rather caustically today. I always endeavour to be accurate and truthful in my statements, and if I arn proved to have been not truthful, I am the very first to withdraw. I have had occasion to rebuke the honorable member for Fisher before, and I now rebuke him again for some of his statements. He said that previous Labour governments have not assisted the tobaccogrowers in any way. but that a subsidy of £650,000 was paid to manufacturers. I can find no reference to a subsidy of that nature having been paid by any government at any time. I now refer honorable members to the AuditorGeneral’s report of 1947. I refer them to a sub-heading, “ Assistance to Primary Producers “, and I suggest that if the assistance mentioned under this subheading had been granted to anybody other than primary producers the AuditorGeneral certainly would not have headed this sub-section of his report “Assistance to Primary Producers “. The AuditorGeneral said -
During 1940-47 the expenditure shown hereunder was incurred in assistance to primary production, and charged to post-war 1939-45 charges Division 108 under the heading “ Tobacco “.
The honorable member for Fisher further stated that a subsidy of £74,000 had been paid in 1947.
– That is not correct.
– The honorable member might suggest that that subsidy was paid to manufacturers, but, for example, this Government pays a subsidy on stock feed. Would he say that that subsidy was paid to anybody other than wheatgrowers? It is paid not to individual wheat-growers, but to the Australian Wheat Board, which subsequently disburses it to the growers. The same principle holds with regard to subsidies to tobacco-growers. The Minister- for Commerce and Agriculture must now suffer some exposure of inaccuracies. Recently, in answer to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), he stated that it was his policy to give adequate protection to the tobacco industry, hut that he was prevented from doing so because the Chifley Government had endorsed the provisional agreement of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. It i3 true that the Chifley Government participated in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, but in 1950 this Government endorsed its action. It is also true that if the Minister considers that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade is an obstacle to helping the tobacco-growers he has a remedy at hand because this Government can withdraw from the agreement. Therefore, his allegations about the Chifley Government having prevented this Government from assisting tobacco-growers is not correct.
I endorse the measure of temporary assistance which the Government proposes to give to the tobacco industry in this bill. The growers are labouring under great difficulties. Sales of their product have been held up because their leaf has had to be regraded. The Queensland Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board has stated that more than 130 tons of tobacco offered at its recent sale was not adequately graded. The Minister has said that that is unusual. It is hoped that the growers will learn from that experience of the imperative need for the proper grading of their product. The Minister has said that he hopes to be able to solve the problems of the industry by negotiation; but because of the obstacles that have been placed in his way by the members of his own Government, I doubt very much whether he will ever solve them unless negotiations are also accompanied by strong action.
The Minister lias said that he does not want to use a “blunt instrument” approach. Experience of tho marketing of primary, products indicates that nothing but a. “ blunt instrument “ approach will bc adequate. The Commonwealth has had to ask the States to pass supplementary legislation or to agree to hand over to the Commonwealth the necessary power to enable it to provide for the orderly marketing of primary products of all kinds. The tobaccogrowers are prepared to try the open market system. The weapons with which Labour would deal with these problems were destroyed by the members of this Government and their supporters. We tackled the problem in the Australian Agricultural Council. To the State Ministers for Agriculture, we said, in effect, “ The growers are prepared to accept organized marketing for the whole of Australia. Will you cooperate with us in the same manner as you did in relation to wheat?” The Ministers who refused to do so were of the same political kidney as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. We were not responsible for’ that decision. We placed no obstacles in the way. The Minister has other weapons at his dis.posal. He should use them, unless he is prepared to leave the tobacco industry of Queensland in deep water.
.- In view of the pressure of time, I shall make only a few brief observations on this bill. It was not my intention to take part in this debate, and I would not have done so, but certain statements made by Opposition members must be challenged. The tobacco industry of Australia is of great potential value to our economy. The day is not far distant when tobacco will be one of Australia’s major crops. If tobacco-growing is to attain that degree of importance to our national economy, the attitude of politicians to the industry must certainly not follow the lines indicated by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), a former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The tobacco industry will flourish so long as no attempt is made to use it as a party political weapon, as the Leader of the Opposition did this morning.
I deplore the fact that the right honorable gentleman saw fit to base his remarks on matter contained in a book published as long ago as 1914. The right honorable gentleman said that certain legislative action should be taken to protect tho industry, but he knows perfectly well that such action has already been taken. He is well aware that the customs duty imposed on imported leaf makes the cost of that leaf approximately double the cost of Australian leaf. He also knows that special differential duties are provided in the tariff to ensure that a percentage of Australian leaf shall be used in all tobacco manufactured in Australia. So, the legislative action for which he has so plaintively asked has already been taken to protect the Australian industry, lt is obvious that the right honorable gentleman has his eye on the forthcoming Senate election, and is endeavouring to gain a political advantage for the benefit of the party which he leads. With his customary oily phrases, he hopes to make the people believe that the Government has neglect-d its duty to introduce legislation to protect the tobacco-growing industry. He knows quite well that adequate protective legislation is already on the statute-book.
The speech of the Leader of the Opposion did not contain one positive suggestion. In no part of it did he indicate his ideas of what should he done to assist the industry. He endeavoured to convince the people that if he ever became Prime Minister he would place the industry on a proper basis. The honorable member for Lalor endeavoured to associate tho Labour party with the progress of the industry. He traced the association of his party with events that had occurred in the tobacco industry when Labour governments were in office. I emphasize that the advancement of the Australian tobacco industry has nothing whatever te do with politicians. The industry has advanced solely because of the efforts of the tobacco-growers, who have pioneered and developed their industry.
The tobacco industry will become an important Australian industry if it is not interfered with. Two factors at present retard its progress. One is the attempt to introduce politics into the marketing of tobacco. I applaud the attitude adopted to the industry by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), who has steadfastly refused to allow party political considerations to influence his judgment in dealing with it. That is not true of a certain individual who is associated with the South Queensland Co-operative Tobacco Growers Association. Unfortunately, he has allowed political considerations to influence his judgment to some degree. I believe that he has been responsible, to a great degree, for the failure of the growers to sell their crops at the recent auction sales. Nobody can expect manufacturers to purchase tobacco if it is baled in such a way as to make it impossible for potential buyers to assess the grades of leaf packed in each bale. If bales consist of mixtures of leaf of different qualities, potential buyers must open the bales in order to assess the average quality of its contents. It is impossible to estimate the value of a bale of tobacco which is packed in that way. The mixing of varying grades of leaf has not been confined only to the bales. Buyers have noticed that varying grades are also packed in “ hands “, which are small bundles of leaves. I do not criticize buyers who refuse to bid at auction for leaf packed in that way.
The Minister made a sensible approach to the marketing board when he suggested that the bales should be opened and re-graded. The board refused to comply with the suggestion for a complete regrading of the hands, but agreed to re-grade the bales. The manufacturers have agreed to buy all re-graded bales so long as the leaf is not fixed green nondescript, weevil-infested or damaged by the luper grub. The re-graded tobacco is suitable for manufacture into cigarettes. All the grades of tobacco, other than those which I have mentioned, are acceptable to the manufacturers, who are prepared to buy them. Because of the delay occasioned when bales have to be opened up for re-grading, the growers are financially embarrassed. Some time must elapse before the re-graded bales can be sold, and, accordingly, the Government has agreed to make available a sum not exceeding £100,000 to assist the growers until their crop can be disposed of. Nobody can possibly cavil at that decision.
Why should the Opposition seek to. make political capital out of this bill? Every one agrees “with its provisions. Opposition members have done nothing for the tobacco-growers, who know, however, that they have received cooperation from this Government. The Minister can fairly claim that the Government is playing its part in giving the industry the encouragement and assistance that it needs. I wholeheartedly support the bill, and commend the Minister for the manner in which he has acted as a link between the growers and manufacturers. If governments in the future adopt a similar policy to that adopted by this Government, the tobacco industry will become prosperous, and will develop into a great national asset.
.- The Opposition does not contend that this measure is not of some assistance to the tobacco-growers. We merely say that the hill does not grant to the industry the assistance that it deserves. The Opposition would go much further than the Government kas gone in protecting the growers. We do not suggest that the growers should be encouraged to produce inferior leaf, and that the Government or the manufacturer should be under an obligation to buy inferior loaf. The tobacco industry provides employment for many Australian people, and is assisting to open up areas where settlement is urgently needed. Therefore, the Government must go much further than it has gone in this measure to assist the industry.
It is apparent from the speeches that have been made during this debate that the great tobacco trust in this country is exploiting the smoking community and the growers. I am not satisfied that all the statements which have been made about inferior leaf have been justified. The growers, with the assistance of Labour governments in particular, have greatly improved the quality of their product. The only way in which the industry can reach the standards of production adopted elsewhere is to give it the necessary encouragement and protection. No primary or secondary industry has ever reached a state of excellence without profiting from years of experience. Some Australian tobacco-growers are able to produce leaf equal in quality to imported leaf. It may be true that some of the tobacco produced in the past has not been of a high standard, and, consequently, has remained unsold. However, the tobacco trust does not want to buy Australian leaf. Its attitude is much the same as that adopted by the monopolies which control the manufacture of rubber goods in Australia. Consider what the manufacturers of rubber goods have done. When overseas supplies of raw rubber were difficult to obtain, they were happy to buy the rubber produced in Australia’s external territories. However, as soon as they could obtain plentiful supplies of cheaper foreign rubber, much of which is produced on their own properties, they boycotted rubber grown in Papua and New Guinea on the ground that it was of inferior quality. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) knows that, for the past twelve months, Australian manufacturers of rubber goods have not purchased raw rubber from Australian terri- tories. Like the tobacco trust, they have” complained that the local product ia inferior to the imported product.
I have participated in this debate principally for the purpose of answering statements that were made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture recently in answer to a question that I had asked in relation to .the power of the Government to ban the importation of tobaccoleaf until the Australian crop had been used. The Minister said that, under the terms of the General Agreement on Tariffs, and Trade, to which Australia is a party, it was impossible for the Government to ban the importation of tobacco. He evert went so far as to suggest that, when the former Labour Government became a party to the agreement, I had voted in favour of an agreement which I did not understand. The honorable gentleman had the effrontery to say that he did not mind educating me on the subject. I suggest that, in fact, the Minister should educate himself. Either he honestly expressed a mistaken belief, or he deliberately tried to mislead the House. The truth is that the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) had been urging the Government to impose an embargo on the importation of tobacco and that the Minister realized that the Queensland tobacco-growers would probably be influenced by the fact that the Government, had neglected their interests and would decide to vote against its candidates at the forthcoming Senate election. Therefore, the honorable gentleman rushed in to fill the gap and made a typically wild statement, no doubt in the hope that it would not be checked. As honorable membersknow, at question-time we haveno opportunity to correct the numerousmiisstatements that are made by Ministers in answer to questions. I wish the Minister would specify the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which, according to him, prevent the Government from imposing an embargo on imported’ tobacco leaf in order to afford protection; to the local industry.
The honorable gentleman tried to convey the impression that the Government, was eager to protect Australian growers, but was unable to do so because of the- action of the former Labour Government in entering into the agreement. In fact, the critics of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade have attacked it mainly on the ground that it contains too many escape clauses and is not sufficiently binding on the signatory nations. Furthermore, the Minister knows that the agreement remains in force for three years and continues until it is specifically terminated by some action of one of the signatory nations. The Government can withdraw from the agreement at once if it wishes to do so. The agreement also specifically entitles signatory nations to preserve existing stabilization schemes and to establish new stabilization schemes for other products. The Government could act under that provision. The Australian tobacco industry is in danger. The growers have been unable to sell a large proportion of their crop. Obviously, therefore, they will not be inclined to increase the acreage under production, and, in fact, will be tempted to discontinue production altogether. The agreement includes special provisions which authorize signatory governments to withdraw certain commodity items if circumstances affecting their production change. The Government has dodged the issue by attempting to convince the Parliament, and the Queensland tobacco-growers, that the agreement prevents it from giving effect to its wishes. There is nothing in the agreement to prevent the Government from banning the importation of foreign tobacco, imposing higher duties, or restricting imports until the great tobacco combine buys the output of the Australian growers.
Much enlightening information about the operations of the tobacco trust, both in Australia and overseas, has been supplied by other honorable members in the course of this debate. The evidence that they have supplied is sufficient to prove that the monopoly is inimical to the public interest. Therefore, in my opinion, the industry ought to be nationalized. Notwithstanding the efforts of Government supporters to defend the trust, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has demonstrated, by reference to international authorities which have made the closest examination of the opera- tions of the trust, that its activities areagainst the public interest. The Government should not close down the Parliament until it has provided for the protection of the Australian tobacco-growing industry. It proposes that the Parliament shall go into recess for five or sixmonths so that some of its members cango overseas to take part in the Coronationfestivities while urgent problems of thischaracter are awaiting solution. Matters of such great importance should not be neglected. I have carefully studied the speech made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but I have not been able to ascertain the precise measure of assistance that the Government proposes to give to the growers. The proposal is extremely vague. Under certain conditions, the growers will be paid 50 per cent, of the value, not of their entire crop, but of that portion of the crop that is considered to be above a certain standard. Under certain other conditions, the payment can rise to 70 per cent, of the value, of the acceptable portion of the crop. Furthermore, the Minister has admitted that a large proportion of this tobacco leaf may remain on the hands of the Government because the monopoly will probably refuse to buy it.
The Government could act in many ways to force the hands of the monopoly. We do not suggest that the manufacturers should be forced to buy Australian tobacco leaf regardless of its quality, but we are not satisfied that the industry is being treated fairly. We are very sceptical of the statement that local leaf is sub-standard.. Australian tobacco leaf is supposed to be sold by auction, but everybody knows that there is no such thing as a genuine auction sale of tobacco leaf in this country. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) showed the link between the various manufacturing companies, which in fact belong to a single trust. When the representatives of the combines go to an auction sale, they know in advance what prices they will bid for tobacco. They will not purchase tobacco at prices above the amounts that they have decided upon. Thus, there is no protection for the growers under the present system. They never know whether they will be able to sell the leaf that they produce or, if they can sell it, what price they will receive for it. Payment of advances to the growers to tide them over a difficult period is not enough. The growers do not ask that inferior leaf be forced upon the manufacturers. They merely ask that they be given adequate protection. They want to be assured that, if they produce leaf of a good standard, they will be able to dispose of it at a reasonable price. It is a sorry state of affairs in which the monopoly determines in advance what the growers shall receive for their crop. The continued existence of such a state of affairs proves the truth of the claim that we have repeatedly made that the Government is only the tool of the great monopolies. It is either powerless or unwilling to act against the interests of the monopolies. They decide the policies of the Government, and that is why the measure now before the House has been introduced. It represents only an attempt to appease the Queensland tobacco-growers, who have been angered by the treatment that they have received from the Government. All that the Government wants to do is to save at the forthcoming Senate election the votes of the tobacco-growers and those who are dependent on them. However, all its efforts will be in vain. I am confident that the Government will suffer another major defeat and that the Queensland tobacco-growers and other primary producers will not have much longer to wait for a progressive Labour government to come to office. The growers should regard this measure only as an expedient which will tide them over their difficulties until Labour takes control and introduces legislation that will benefit them and the entire Australian community.
– I propose to outline the history of the Australian tobacco industry for the enlightenment of honorable members who may have been misled by the statements of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). We should not try to influence votes at the forthcoming Senate election when we debate an important measure of this character. Our responsibility is to protect the interests of the growers, who obviously will benefit from this measure. The tobacco industry has never had security under any Australian government. The Labour party was in power for eight years, but it made no attempt to assist the tobacco-growers during that period. This Government, after only a brief period of office, has provided assistance for many needy industries, and now it is tackling the problems of the tobacco-growers, which are numerous and complicated. The growers of tobacco leaf have been at odds with the manufacturers since the industry was established. It was established, not, as the honorable member for East Sydney said in his ignorance, just a few years ago, but, to my knowledge, at least 40 years ago. I have here the report of a royal commission which inquired into rail services for the Texas district of Queensland in 1928. I was a member of that commission. Evidence that was given before it by tobacco-growers showed that buyers were reluctant to purchase their product. The growers were aggrieved by the lack of competition amongst the manufacturers and were discouraged by the endless series of complaints that the buyers made against local leaf. One year, the buyers would urge the growers to produce tobacco with a different flavour. Next year, they would say that the leaf should be brighter. In the following year, they would say that the leaf should be kiln-dried, that some other variety should be grown, or that the tobacco tasted of turpentine or eucalyptus. Manufacturers apparently tried to discourage the growers aa much as possible. These difficulties have always beset the industry. The trouble lies in the method of selling tobacco leaf. The remedy lies in our hands.
This bill will provide temporary relief that will enable the growers to remain in the industry until it can be placed on a new and sound basis. The industry can do more than any other industry to promote development in northern Australia, and, therefore, we must make it strong and independent. The tobacco industry has not succeeded because it has not been given the degree of assistance that all political parties have agreed to give to other industries. It would be sad if the problem of assisting the industry were brought into the realm of party politics. I warn the honorable member for East Sydney not to follow, that line. The development of the tobacco industry would be of great value to this country, because it would encourage the development and population of sparsely populated areas of Australia, provide employment both in the factory and in the field, and render unnecessary a great deal of the expenditure that we incur now upon imported tobacco. If I had my way, I should not permit the importation in any one year of a quantity of tobacco greater than the quantity of good Australian leaf that was available. I should assist the tobacco industry through the tariff machine. My attitude to the establishment of secondary industries in this country is well known to all honorable members. At one time, I was almost an extremist in my determination to ensure that Australian manufacturers should be given an opportunity to produce in Australian factories the hats, boots, farm implements and everything else required by governments and private individuals in this country. We have given the manufacturing side of our tobacco industry a great opportunity to succeed, but we must take steps to prevent it from placing obstacles in the way of the success of the primary producers of the industry.
The present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has done more for the Australian tobacco industry than has any other occupant of that office during the 40 years that the industry has been in existence. The growers are organized, and their organization is in touch with the Government. I hope that, soon, 300 per cent, of the suitable tobacco produced in Australia will be consumed by the Australian people. Years ago, the Federal Government of Canada instituted a system under which the production of tobacco in the provinces of Canada most suitable for tobacco-growing reached such a level that 100 per cent, of the weight of tobacco consumed in that country was produced there. Our objective is that all of the tobacco consumed in Australia shall be produced here. That objective will be achieved only if we assist the tobacco-growers by ensuring that all tobacco of suitable grades that they produce will be consumed in Australia. Years ago, Queenslanders were told that they could not produce butter in Queensland owing to unsuitable seasonable conditions, and that cream produced there would become sour. For a time, much inferior cream was delivered to factories in Queensland, but, as the factories were disposed to be friendly to the dairymen, all difficulties were eventually overcome. To-day, the Queensland dairying industry is almost the biggest in Australia.
We assisted our dairying industry, our orange industry and our potato industry by tariff protection. We must give similar protection to our tobacco industry, but that protection must be confined only to tobacco of a required standard. All such tobacco should be consumed in Australia. We must try to ensure that existing tobacco manufacturers will use Australian leaf. If we cannot do so, we must develop within the tobacco industry cooperative enterprises of the kind that have been responsible for the success of our sugar industry and other rural industries. I hope that the Minister will succeed in persuading the Commonwealth IBank to make an advance to the industry, so that tobacco-growers can remain on the land. I hope also that the Government will give a guarantee that, from now onwards, all Australian tobacco leaf of good quality will be processed in Australian factories and consumed by Australian pipe and cigarette smokers.
– in reply - I am grateful to the members on the Government side of the House, who have made most constructive suggestions in the course of this debate. I am sorry that I cannot make a similar remark about any member of the Labour party, but no honorable member opposite has made a constructive contribution to the debate. It is clear that it has been left to the members of the Government parties to exhibit a real understanding of the problems of the Australian tobaccogrowing industry, and to make a constructive approach to the problems of the industry. One would have thought that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), at least, would have come into the House equipped to make constructive proposals, but he gave us only “ stump “ stuff of a kind heard in the Sydney Domain or on the Yarra bank. He indulged in a diatribe against trusts and monopolies, fortified by quotations from a book written some time before 1914 by a man named Wilkinson. The right honorable gentleman was reluctant to disclose the name of the author, and he did so only in response to an inquiry.
What is the record of the Government of which he was a member in connexion with the companies that he attacked this morning? Until 1950, there remained upon the statute-book of this country legislation, sponsored by the Lyons Government, under which Australian tobacco manufacturers, who used imported tobacco leaf, were entitled to a rebate of excise duty only if they blended stated percentages of Australian leaf with the imported leaf. As far back as 1935, the Lyons Government stipulated that, to become entitled to the rebate of duty, the importing companies had to use 2$ per cent, of Australian leaf in cigarettes and 13 per cent, in pipe tobacco. In 1938, a government in which I was a Minister increased the percentages to 3 per cent, in the case of cigarettes and 15 per cent, in the case of pipe tobacco. It was provided by statute that a rebate of duty could not be claimed unless cigarettes and pipe tobacco contained those percentages of Australian leaf. Then the scene changed. The present Leader of the Opposition became Deputy Prime Minister and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) - the man who hates monopolies - became Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. They sponsored legislation under which the percentages of Australian leaf to which I have referred were altered to 3 per cent, and 5 per cent. Under the regime of the Labour party, rebates of duty upon cigarettes and pipe tobacco were regulated, not by statute, but by the personal decision of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I have been informed that rebates of as much as £1,750,000 were authorized in one year. That was the contribution that a Labour government was prepared to make to the companies that honorable members opposite attack now !
What was the record of Labour in office during the war years? During those years, Labour governments were not inhibited by any limitation of their authority imposed by the Constitution. They had power to prescribe whatever requirements they considered to be neces-sary. In those days, the Labour party could have required tobacco manufacturers in Australia, to incorporate a certain percentage of Australian leaf in their products. There was no need to offer the companies an inducement of more than £1,000,000 a year to blend Australian tobacco with imported tobacco. The companies could have been forced to do so under a national security regulation - a piece of paper. But the Labour party did not avail itself of that opportunity to assist Australian tobacco-growers. From 1941 until 1946 or 1947, nothing more than a regulation issued under the National Security Act would have been necessary to make obligatory the use of certain percentages of Australian leaf in cigarettes and pipe tobacco, but the Labour party continued to offer no inducement to tobacco manufacturers to use Australian tobacco voluntarily. It paid back to the companies that honorable members opposite attack now as monopolies - perhaps “paid back” is not the correct term. The Labour party relieved those companies of an obligation to pay duty upon their products at a certain rate. That concession cost the revenue more than £1,000,000 a year. That is the record of Labour in office.
Honorable members opposite have been exposed as willing to try to gain cheap political advantage from the problems of this great Australian primary industry. Again, they have incited one section of the Australian community to hate another section. That is typical of the Labour party. On the industrial front and in dealing with relations between governments and industries, Labour never approaches problems in a constructive manner. Its policy is always to incite one section of the Australian people to hate another section. That is a nationdestroying policy which has bitten deeply into the vitals of this country on the industrial front. Labour, by its close contact with trade unions, has succeeded in persuading millions of good Australians to believe that there should be nothing in their hearts for certain of their fellow-Australians but fear, hatred and prejudice. Labour will have nothing to do with negotiation between governments and industries. It wants only governmental action. The attitude of the socialist, wherever he is found, is “Never negotiate with the parties concerned, but always lay down the law “. Every socialist is an incipient dictator. I say that every Labour member of this House, in his secret heart, is a dictator.
The charge made against me by Labour is that I have brought together the two parties in this great Australian industry and have asked them to sit round ti table and try to work out in harmony a formula for solving in an enduring manner the problems of the industry. Labour regards the fact that L have invited the parties to negotiate as justification for an attack upon me. This is just a continuation of the typical dictatorial and authoritarian attitude of the Labour party in office. However, the Labour party has had its opportunity to do its job. It possessed dictatorial powers in war-time, and was not inhibited by the Constitution in the exercise of them. The auction system was terminated, and a ban was placed on the conduct of negotiations between grower and manufacturer. The Government took possession of all the leaf, graded it, and placed a price upon it. The Australian tobaccogrowers have no need to exercise their imaginations if they want to know what might happen to them if the Labour party again assumes office. The growers endured those conditions for six or seven years under the Labour Government, and the story may be read in Hansard. Many honorable members complained that the growers were “ taken for a ride “ in those years by the Labour Government.
The growers submitted to the Labour Government a schedule of average prices. The price of, say, 2s. per lb. would be transferred into the schedule of prices for tho varying grades of tobacco. The growers would complain, with justification, that the prices were not sufficiently high, and the Labour Minister for Commerce and Agriculture would intervene and say, in effect, “ We are all for you. We shall increase the price this year by 10 per cent. Next year, we shall increase it by 7 per cent.” Those assurances sounded very satisfactory, but events disproved them. Every time the Labour Government added, say, 15 per cent, to the basic price its officers degraded the leaf, so that, in the final analysis, the average return to the growers at the end of a season was not increased at all. For that reason the growers felt impelled to demand that the Labour Government, as soon as it could no longer exercise its war-time dictatorial authority, should abandon its control of the industry, and permit the re-establishment of the open auction system. From the minute the Labour Government bowed to the demands of the growers in 1947 and permitted the resumption of auctions, the price of tobacco to growers rose - and in a short time - not by 10 per cent, but by 100 per cent. That fact disclosed the manner in which the Labour party had arbitrarily held down tho price of the leaf to the growers. Indeed, the whole history of the Labour party’s relation to the primary industries shows that a Labour government has no sympathy for the primary producer. For instance, a Labour government called for a report to ascertain a reasonable price for butter, and deducted Id. or 2d. per lb. from the figure recommended by the experts. In that way, a Labour government held down the price of butter to the primary producers. When the present Government assumed office, the return to the butter producer was about 2s. 2£d*. per lb. To-day, the return is 4s. lid. per lb. Let the Labour party try to persuade the dairyfarmers that their industry will benefit from a change of government !
A similar story may be told about wheat. It remained for this Government to do the decent thing in respect of that proportion of the Australian wheat crop which is used by other industries in this country. Whenever the Labour party is in office, the effect on primary industries is destructive and depressing. However, it is not necessary for me to remind primary producers of those facts. The man on the land is perfectly well aware of the situation. Opposition members have asked in this debate, in effect, “ Why do you not introduce a stabilization scheme? Do not consult the growers of the product, or the people who have to provide millions of pounds to buy it. Let the Minister, aided by some government officials, devise a stabilization scheme and impose it upon the producers concerned “. That is not our style. But this debate has served as a fair warning to the primary producers, who have had a fair sickener of Labour governments, that the Labour party has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. Honorable members opposite are only waiting for the day when they can get back into office and re-impose bureaucratic control over the primary industries. We will not stand for that.
Opposition members do not display even the elementary knowledge that it is not so simple to have a stabilization scheme for a complex commodity like tobacco as it is for a homogeneous product like wheat or butter. It is one thing to work out a stabilization scheme and marketing arrangement for wheat or butter, which can be handed over to the primary processor such as the flour miller or the butter factory. The processing is, in fact, a simple operation. The position is different when we are dealing with complex products like wool, tobacco, or meat. There are thousands of identifiable types of wool in this country, literally scores of identifiable types of tobacco, and an almost unlimited variety of types of meat. Consequently, it has not been possible for any government to work out an acceptable stabilization scheme or marketing arrangement for those extraordinarily complex products. People have made suggestions for such schemes, but their ideas have not been acceptable to the industries concerned.
Tor that reason, I profoundly believe that the interests of the Australian tobacco-growers will be best served if they work out a marketing arrangement with the manufacturers, with the Government acting the part of an honest broker. Such an arrangement must be satisfactory to the people whose money is at stake, and the Government must safeguard the in- terests of the Australian smoking community who are greatly concerned in this matter.
What does the Labour party care for Australian smokers? At the most, 20O tons of tobacco leaf are unsold. But it is being sold at a fairly steady rate. Is the fact that a few tons have not yet been sold any reason why an embargo should be placed on the importation of tobacco, so that we may enforce the sale of a quantity of tobacco that is approximately one per cent, of the Australian usage? What result would such an embargo produce? The result would be an immediate and acute shortage of tobacco for the Australian smoker. Tobacco would disappear under the counter, as almost every product disappears under the counter when it is subjected to the meddle and muddle of Labour administration. We shall not take that course.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) are talking mumbo-jumbo when they say that the commitments entered into by the Labour Government under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade leave Australia free to impose embargoes or restrictions in order to protect Australian industry. An embargo may be imposed in order to protect our currency, but not to protect our industries. The Labour Government signed away our rights to protect them. It is true that we can denounce the agreement ; but we cannot denounce it in respect of tobacco alone. We can denounce it only in respect of every section of trade. The effect of denouncing the agreement would be to place Australia in a position in which we should lose whatever advantages there are of being a signatory and no other countries which remained party to the agreement would be entitled to enter into arrangements with use which were different from those to which they were party with other countries under the agreement. That is the simple and literal truth of our position under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
I am confident that an agreement will be developed within the next few weeks between the growers and manufacturers in this country that will stabilize, the
Australian tobacco-growing industry. I have made it clear at the conferences I have attended that if the parties fail to reach an agreement, the Government will not allow the matter to rest at that point. The Government is determined that an efficient tobacco-growing industry shall be established in Australia, and that the product shall be sold at prices which will provide a decent standard of living for the growers of all the Australian leaf of good quality that is well graded and suited to the smoking tastes of the public.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- [ listened to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen)-
Motion (by Eric J. Harrison) agreed to-
That the question be now put.
Bill agreed to.
Bill - reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
AtomicEnergy Bill 1953.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill 1953.
Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Bill 1953.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 2- (1.) Sections five, ten, twelve and fourteen of this Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-three. (2.) Section eleven of this Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-two.
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave outsub-clauses (1.) and (2.), insert the following subclause : - “ (1.) Sections five, ten, eleven, twelve andfourteen of this Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on the first day of July. One thousand nine hundred and fifty-two.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This matter arises out of the amendment that was agreed to by the committee yesterday. An examination which was made before the amended bill was transmitted to the Senate revealed that some anomalies would be created unless the scope of the amendment was extended. The Senate asks us, in effect, to get rid of the difficulty. The bill, as passed by this House, provided for the commencement of clause 2 on the 1st July, 1952, and of the other clauses amending the furlough provisions of the principal act on the 1st January, 1953. This difference in the dates of effect could have had several unfortunate consequences.
First, the act, if amended in this way, would have provided, in respect of the period from the 1st July, 1952, to the 31st December, 1952, for the grant of furlough under section 73 to officers with not less than twenty years’ service and, under section 74, for the grant of extended leave in lieu of furlough to officers with less than fifteen years’ service. That is, officers who retired on reaching the prescribed retiring age or on invalidity, or the dependants of an officer who died within that period after eighteen years’ service, would have no eligibility for furlough or payment in lieu thereof. Secondly, as all the amendments to the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act are to have effect from the 1st July, 1952, a temporary employee who resigned after that date with more than fifteen years’ service but less than twenty years’ service, will, by virtue of the amendment, become eligible for the grant of pay in lieu of furlough for up to six months. A permanent officer of the Commonwealth Service who retired after more than fifteen but less than twenty years’ service, between the 1st July and the 31st December, 1952, will not be eligible for the grant unless the bill is passed as amended in the Senate. It is most desirable that the conditions of furlough in this respect should be uniform for all employees of the Commonwealth, whether or not they are permanent officers of the Public Service. More instances could be given of the anomalies and inconsistencies between the furlough conditions of permanent officers and temporary employees which will result if the bill is not amended as proposed. In other words, the amendment made by the Senate is undoubtedly beneficial and will prevent irritating and unjust anomalies from arising from what we did in this House yesterday.
– I appreciate the explanation made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The anomalies with which the amendment is designed to deal flow from a decision of this House last night, and the Opposition will support the amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next meeting.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - H. T. U. Pember.
Defence Production - J. E. Dent, G.
Frohlich, E. Jamieson.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determinations - 1953 -
No. 6 - Repatriation Department Medical Officers’ Association.
No. 8. - Hospital Employees’ Federation of Australasia.
No. 9- Commonwealth Works Supervisors’ Association.
No. 10 - Australian Broadcasting Commission Staff Association.
No. 12 - Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia.
No. 13 - Civil Air Operations Officers’ Association of Australia.
No. 15 - Amalgamated Engineering Union and others.
No. 16 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 17 - Vehicle Builders Employees’ Federation of Australia.
No. 18 - Electrical Trades Union of Australia.
Stevedoring Industry Act - Third Annual Report and financial accounts of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board,for year 1951-52.
Superannuation Act - Superannuation Board - Twenty-seventh Annual Report, foryear 1948-49.
House adjourned at 4.17 p.m. to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Royal Australian Navy.
z asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1035-1952 authorizes exemption from sales tax in respect of machinery implements and apparatus (and parts therefor) for use in the mining industry, in carrying out mining operations, and in the treatment of the products of those operations. This provision applies to coal-mining operations as well as other mining operations.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The Commonwealth is providing assistance to the State of Queensland for the construction of roads and the improvement of stock routes in the channel country of Queensland, in accordance with the terms of the States Grants (Encouragement of Heat Production) Act 1949. The Commonwealth’s assistance takes the form of meeting the full cost of specified roads and cattle loading points, and half the cost of improvements to specified stock routes. The total payments made to the State under the act to date amount to £583,000.
on asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to. the honorable member’s questions are asfollows : -
It is assumed that the honorable member’squestions refer to the Trans-Australian Railway.
22nd October, 1917.
£0,900,000 to the 30th June, X918. 3. (a) Nil. (b) £1,200>000. (o) £5,700,000. Up to 1920, the Commonwealth Works Loan Fund was financed from investments of the Notes Fund and other Commonwealth trust funds. Approximately £5,300,000 of the capital cost of the Trans-Australian Railway was financed from investments of the Notes Fund in Commonwealth securities. When the note issue was handed over to the Commonwealth Bank in 1920, debt to the amount of £3,400,000 in respect of the east-west railway was redeemed from portion of the accumulated profits of the Notes Fund.
To provide this information it would be necessary to extract details from records for the past 35 years. This would take some time and involve a considerable amount of work which, I - feel, would not be justified by the small value of the information thus obtained.
Loan moneys were provided for the purpose of meeting construction costs, including equipment, plant and rolling stock of the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta-Port Pirie railway.
See answer to 5. Originally, the loans were subject to interest at rates varying from 2 1/4 per cent, to G per cent., but these rates have been varied from time to time by conversion operations. The debt on account of the railway forms part of the public debt of theCommonwealth which matures at various dates and is being redeemed in the ordinary way through the National Debt Sinking Fund.
s. - On the 10th March the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked me a question relating toweekly broadcasts. I promised that T would supply the names of the broadcasting stations which relay my talk under the title of “ Man to Man “. The stations concerned as are under : -
Queensland. - 4BK-AK Brisbane, 4CA Cairns, 4LG Longreach, 4IP Ipswich, 4MK Mackay. 4GY Gympie, 4AY Ayr, 4TO Townsville.
ATe«’ South Wales- SUE Sydney, 2G/T Orange, 2KO Newcastle, 2NZ Inverell, 2LM Lismore, 2WL Wollongong, 2WG Wagga, 2TM Tamworth, 2AD Armidale, 2MO Gunnedah, 2 DU Dubbo, 2CA Canberra.
Victoria. - 3DB Melbourne, 3HA Hamilton, 3TR Sale, 3BA Ballarat, 3SR Shepparton, 3SH Swan Hill, 3BO Bendigo, 3GL Geelong.
South Australia. -5AD Adelaide, 5PI Crystal Brook, 5MU Murray Bridge, 5SE Mount Gambier.
Western Australia. - 6PR Perth, 6TZ Collie, 6CI Bunbury.
Tasmania. - 7HT Hobart, 7EX Launceston, 7BU Burnie.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions, so far as theCommonwealth Government is concerned, are as follows: -
s. - On the 10th March the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) asked me a series of questions about the western coal-fields and I said I would confer with the Minister for National Development who has supplied the following answer: -
There has been some reorganization of mining in the western district of New South Wales due to the fact that those who previously purchased the coal were not prepared to continue to do so because they did /10t think that its quality justified the price asked for it. I do not think that this situation will result in serious hardship for those employed at the mines which are involved. There are some 420 vacancies in the coalmining industry and it should, therefore, prove practical for those who lose employment at one mine to obtain it at another. I am informed, however, that some men may need to accept employment in districts other than the western district. The continued existence of vacancies follows from the Commonwealth policy of stockpiling coal and of rearranging long service leave for employees. The Commonwealth is not prepared to subsidize western rail freights. Any question of concessional rail freights is purely one for the New South Wales Government. The Minister for National Development confers from time to time with New South Wales Ministers concerned with the coal industry. This arrangement is at present working satisfactorily.
s. - On the 26th February the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) asked me the following question : -
Is the Prime Minister aware that lectures for students at our universities are delayed to enable boys who are doing national service training in camps to attend the complete course of their lectures outside their training period? Is he also aware that students attending trade classes at technical colleges do not enjoy this privilege? Is the right honorable gentleman further aware that a big percentage of technical students who are attending technical colleges failed in their examinations last year because they were unable to attend their full course of lectures? Will he make provision for technical college students to obtain leave to attend their full course of lectures during the period that they are in national service training camps and thus enable them to continue their valuable studies without interruption?
In pursuance of my promise to ascertain the details of the subject I now advise the honorable member as follows : -
Once a person has commenced national service training the Army makes no distinction between national service mon who arc university students and those who are students at technical colleges, and any facilities for the granting of leave from national service training apply equally.
The question of the effect of national service training on the studies of students has been given the deepest consideration and after conference and discussion with the various educational authorities and Department of Labour and National Service, it was decided, with the agreement of the education authorities, that university students would be called up at the end of their first year of studies and that technical college students would be called up at the end of the third year of their course.
The services agreed to arrange their training period to ensure the maximum period of service could be rendered during the students’ long vacation, whilst the education authorities agreed to adjust the commencement of the academic year to ensure the minimum of interruption to the studies of students. 1 am informed that where, because of their need to render national service, students miss the commencement of the academic year the universities and technical colleges have, where necessary, provided special tutorials to enable the national serviceman to catch up on his studies.
I have no information on the effect of national service training on the ability of technical students to pass their examinations, but it is apparent that students generally arc not so seriously inconvenienced by the need to perform national service that they should be granted leave from national service training other than where exceptional hardship can be proved; instructions now provide that leave may be granted in such cases.
s. - On the 18th March the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) asked me the following question: -
I have received information that no Public Service entrance examination will be held in South Australia this year and the responsible authorities cannot say when the examination will be held. Will the Prime Minister investigate this matter and ensure that temporary public servants in South Australia will have an equal opportunity with public servants in other States to become permanent public servants?
I now wish to advise the honorable member that Commonwealth Public Service examinations will be held as usual this year in South Australia.
n.- On the 26th March, and again earlier to-day, the honorable members for Hume (Mr. Fuller) and Darling (Mr. Clark) respectively, asked questions concerning an alleged proposal for a home-consumption price of 15s. a bushel for wheat, and whether I had voted against such a proposal. I have since studied the records of a conference between the Commonwealth and State Ministers for Agriculture on wheat stabilization held on the 2nd October, 1952. I find that the honorable members must have been referring to a proposal advanced by the Minister for Agriculture of New South Wales that the return to wheat-growers for wheat sold for consumption in Australia should be increased to 15s. a bushel by the Commonwealth paying from Consolidated Revenue the difference between the price fixed as authorized by State legislation, viz., the cost of production, and the suggested 15s. a bushel. I certainly voted against this proposal as it is quite outside the province of such a meeting to decide that the Commonwealth Treasury should be required to find millions of pounds either for this or for any other purpose. The question as addressed to me by the honorable memebr for Hume was based on the assertion that “three States agreed to a home-consumption price for wheat of 15s. a bushel “, and the question of the honorable member for Darling wa3 similarly couched. No State has ever proposed, let alone agreed, that the home-consumption selling price should be raised to 15s.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 March 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19530327_reps_20_221/>.